Blog Archives

The University, Neighborhood Revitalization, and Civic Engagement: Toward Civic Engagement

This essay analyzes and syntheses key theories and concepts on neighborhood change from the literature on anchor institutions, university engagement, gentrification, neighborhood effects, Cold War, Black liberation studies, urban political economy, and city building. To deepen understanding of the Columbia University experience, we complemented the literature analysis with an examination of the New York Times and Amsterdam newspapers from 1950 to 1970. The study argues that higher education’s approach to neighborhood revitalization during the urban renewal age, as well as in the post-1990 period, produced undesirable results and failed to spawn either social transformation or build the neighborly community espoused by Lee Benson and Ira Harkavy. The essay explains the reasons why and concludes with a section on a more robust strategy higher education can pursue in the quest to bring about desirable change in the university neighborhood.

Are We Still Going Through the Empty Ritual of Participation? Inner-City Residents’ and Other Grassroots Stakeholders’ Perceptions of Public Input and Neighborhood Revitalization

This article revisits Arnstein’s “ladder of citizen participation” focusing on inner-city residents’ perceptions of public input in neighborhood revitalization projects. It draws from data collected in Buffalo, New York for a larger project that aimed to address negative externalities caused
by neighborhood change. Data were collected using focus groups in neighborhoods in the early stages of revitalization. Nine focus groups took place across three neighborhoods experiencing encroachment from hospitals and universities. Data analysis was guided by standpoint theory, which
focuses on amplifying the voices of groups traditionally disenfranchised from planning processes. The findings suggest that the shortcomings of public input identified by Arnstein a half century ago remain problematic. Residents continue to perceive limited access to urban planning processes
and believe outcomes do not prioritize their interests. This is particularly problematic in minority, working-class neighborhoods when institutionally driven development occurs. Recommendations emphasize enhancing planners’ fidelity to strategies that expand citizen control.