We’re Staying: Urban Redevelopment and the Struggle for Housing Justice in Puerto Rican New York

Thursday, February 15, 2024, 5 - 6pm

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Pphoto by Dana Scherer

Photo by Dana Scherer

Lorrin Thomas explores how residents of three New York Puerto Rican communities responded to city officials’ broken promises for fair housing access in the 20th century as part of the virtual Intersectional Justice Lecture Series. In San Juan Hill, the Manhattan neighborhood razed to make way for Lincoln Center, “slum clearance” pushed out thousands of Puerto Rican families in the 1950s. Many moved to the South Bronx, the country’s poorest congressional district which became famous in the 1970s for its thousands of burned-out tenements, or to the Lower East Side (Loisaida), where by 1970 20% of buildings were abandoned and every block was marked by vacant lots. By tracing the stories of regeneration that emerged, we will see how the most powerful ideas for stabilizing debilitated communities came not from city planners or other experts but from collaborations among community leaders, residents, and grassroots organizations. 

Registration for this Zoom event is required. Click here to register.

Lorrin Thomas’s research explores ideas about rights and equality in the twentieth century Americas. She is an associate professor of history at Rutgers University – Camden and is the author of Puerto Rican Citizen: History and Political Identity in Twentieth Century New York City (University of Chicago Press, 2010) and Rethinking the Struggle for Puerto Rican Rights (Routledge, 2018), co-authored with Aldo Lauria Santiago. Her current book-in-progress examines debates about equal opportunity and Latinx civil rights in the 1970s.

This series is co-organized by the Office of Student Affairs and Nada Ayad, Associate Dean of HSS, as a continuation of a reading and discussion series for first-year students that was held as part of the Fall 2020 new student orientation. In the spirit of The Cooper Union mission, the Black Student Union and the Cooper Climate Coalition, along with several other Cooper students and faculty, were deeply involved in the articulation of the program as well as in contributing to the reading list and suggesting speakers.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

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