HERE TO STAY
THE HISTORY OF THE COOPER SQUARE COMMITTEE +
WHY COMMUNITY LAND TRUSTS ARE NECESSARY TO SUSTAIN AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN NYC
Kellen Auditorium – New School – 66 5th Ave, nyc
Cooper Square Committee Founder
Director of the CS Mutual Housing Association
Chairwoman of the CS CLT BOD
Director of Picture the Homeless
As a part of the School of Design Strategies Urban Colloquium II, we welcome four historic members of the Cooper Square Committee to share key lessons from the organization’s five decade history and explain why community ownership of land is necessary to sustaining affordable housing in NYC. A conversation hosted by professor William Morrish.
The story of the creation of the Cooper Square Community Land Trust (CLT) is one of the great ongoing American epics of community resistance to displacement. As poet and long-term tenant of Cooper Square Chris Brandt describes, “it’s a story of resistance to real estate in New York City’s Lower East Side. Real estate works by moving people around.” As such, in 1959, when local activists and tenants formed the Cooper Square Committee (CSC) to stop Robert Moses’s destructive Urban Renewal plans, their slogan declared: ‘Cooper Square, Here to Stay!’ In so doing, they have asserted a right to the city, community, and home. Over the next five decades, residents of this historic immigrant neighborhood, stood firm against the fragmentary tides of urban renewal, planned shrinkage, and gentrification. Since 1961 when CSC released the Alternative Plan for Cooper Square, NYC’s first community based plan, the organization has consistently matched radical organizing with constructive community planning. In recent decades the Cooper Square Committee won their decade long battle bringing 21 formerly city-owned buildings and almost 400 units under community control within NYC’s only active Community Land Trust. Land is decomodified through its removal from the speculative property market and is stewarded by the community as permanently affordable housing.