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13/02/1970 Cooper Square

New York City, United States

COMMUNITY CONTROL OVER LAND

In 1959, an urban vision for Lower Manhattan was revealed. Orchestrated by New York City's infamous urban planner, Robert Moses, the Cooper Square Urban Renewal Plan proposed the construction of new housing and an expressway that would carve through Lower Manhattan. This plan entailed displacing existing tenements and small businesses, affecting a total of 2,400 households in predominantly low-income communities.

 

Outraged by the potential displacement resulting from the proposed plan, residents of the Cooper Square area swiftly organized and established the Cooper Square Committee (CSC) to oppose it. Collaborating with a local coalition, the committee held over a hundred community meetings, ultimately crafting an alternative plan published in 1961.

 

“The community at Cooper Square had seen what Robert Moses had done to the Bronx and were ready to counter the plan with their own proposal,” describes Monxo López, a board member of the Cooper Square Community Land Trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently, the Cooper Square Community Land Trust oversees land spanning several blocks in the Lower East Side of New York City. This land is permanently removed from the real estate market and leased to building owners on a long-term basis, mitigating speculation and contributing to the preservation of permanent affordability.

 

In the 1960s and 1970s, the city faced a fiscal crisis that led to disinvestment in low-income neighborhoods and a moratorium on funds for low-income housing development in 1969. With no funding for new housing, the committee had to revise its alternate plan, shifting its focus from new developments to repairing existing tenements.

 

Beyond acquiring buildings from the city, the CSC sought to safeguard existing residents from displacement and help them to control their own housing. In 1991, the CSC established the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association, responsible for overseeing more than 300 housing units and 20 commercial spaces in the urban renewal area.

 

In the early 1990s, the city consented to transfer the initial buildings to the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association, along with the land beneath those buildings, marking the inception of the Cooper Square Community Land Trust, the first of its kind in New York State.

 

Currently, the Cooper Square Community Land Trust oversees land spanning several blocks in the Lower East Side of New York City. This land is permanently removed from the real estate market and leased to building owners on a long-term basis, mitigating speculation and contributing to the preservation of permanent affordability. Cooper Square serves as a model where community control has been reinstated over the land on which residents live.

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