Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

New York's (city and state) Growth Machine

New York's Growth Machine, diagram
From page 13 of the below-cited report.

The Public Accountability Initiative has a great report, The Committee to Save 1% New York: How a Small Group of Big Business Interests and Billionaires are Hijacking New York State’s Public Policy Agenda on Behalf of the One Percent, about the "Community to Save New York" and how its agenda reflects the big business agenda of its funders-founders.

According to the report, while the stated Board of Directors is comprised of representatives from chambers of commerce and other businesses around the state, the actual business of the group is conducted by the three person executive committee, made up of the executive director of the group, along with:

Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) president Steven Spinola, and Tishman Speyer CEO Rob Speyer (also a large donor to the Committee). The Partnership represents big business CEOs in New York City, and REBNY represents wealthy real estate interests, including many billionaires.  Notably, Speyer’s father Jerry sits on the board of both REBNY and the Partnership.

The group's founding, existence, and operation illustrates both the Growth Machine thesis of Harvey Molotoch and urban sociology in terms of "the why" and the Urban Regime theory from political science in terms of "the how" such groups organize and execute their agenda.

From the abstract of "City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place": 

A city and, more generally, any locality, is conceived as the areal expression of the interests of some land-based elite. Such an elite is seen to profit through the increasing intensification of the land use of the area in which its members hold a common interest. An elite competes with other land-based elites in an effort to have growth-inducing resources invested within its own area as opposed to that of another. Governmental authority, at the local and nonlocal levels, is utilized to assist in achieving this growth at the expense of competing localities. Conditions of community life are largely a consequence of the social, economic, and political forces embodied in this growth machine. 

From "Now What?  The continuing evolution of Urban Regime Analysis" by Professor Clarence Stone (emphasis in underline added):

An urban regime can be preliminarily defined as the informal arrangements through which a locality is governed (Stone 1989). Because governance is about sustained efforts, it is important to think in agenda terms rather than about stand-alone issues. By agenda I mean the set of challenges which policy makers accord priority. A concern with agendas takes us away from focusing on short-term controversies and instead directs attention to continuing efforts and the level of weight they carry in the political life of a community. Rather than treating issues as if they are disconnected, a governance perspective calls for considering how any given issue fits into a flow of decisions and actions. This approach enlarges the scope of what is being analyzed, looking at the forest not a particular tree here or there. (emphasis added, in this paragraph and below)

In discussing Atlanta, Stone writes: "Land use, transportation, and housing formed an interrelated agenda that the city's major economic interests were keen to advance;" and

By looking closely at the policy role of business leaders and how their position in the civic structure of a community enabled that role, he identified connections between Atlanta's governing coalition and the resources it brought to bear, and on to the scheme of cooperation that made this informal system work. In his own way, Hunter had identified the key elements in an urban regime – governing coalition, agenda, resources, and mode of cooperation. These elements could be brought into the next debate about analyzing local politics, a debate about structural determinism.

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