Theorizing Urban Ecological Development: Anti-Homelessness, Value, and Green Infrastructure

Authors: Eric Goldfischer*, University of Minnesota - Minneapolis
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Homelessness, Green Economy, Urban Development, Value
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In recent years, cities have turned heavily toward green infrastructure projects that focus on revitalizing “devalued” spaces, ranging from infrastructure reclamation projects (Loughran 2014; Brash 2012) to the commodified clean-up of formerly polluted areas (Curran and Hamilton 2013; Checker 2012) to the addition of environmentally sustainable transportation options such as bikeways to urban landscapes (Immergluck and Balan 2018). This paper examines the production of value in green infrastructure projects as part of a broader framework of ecological development in New York City as it occurs through their relationship to visible homelessness. I first suggest that we should understand these projects as ecological development projects because they articulate ecological goals as central to the production of value through land rent that characterizes these endeavors. Comparing ecological development to Neil Smith’s (1996) framework of revanchist development reveals key differences in aesthetics and governance, but also reveals a crucial shared trait: the centrality of visible homelessness in the production of value through landscape redesign. Based on a close collaboration with a homeless-led activist organization, ethnographic observation of citywide community planning efforts, and interviews with planners and developers, I argue that ecological development represents a “new frontier” of anti-homelessness. I show that while these projects may not appear anti-homeless on the surface, the particular way in which they produce value reproduces the economic and ecological conditions and imaginaries that make anti-homelessness so central to urban valuescape.

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