Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Mon Aug 16 09:04:59 PDT 1999

Wojtek Sokolowski wrote:

>2. Public spaces. There are no public spaces in suburban sprawl -
>everything is private, including shopping malls. Tha means that security
>guards have every right to kick you out, if they do not lik eyou behavior
>(e.g. if you distribute Mumia Abu Jamal literature or sell alternative
>art). City strets, by contrast are public spaces - they can house
>commercial areas that are open to the public (as opposed to paying
>customers). Add to that other puboi cspaces, such as plazas, parks, subway
>stations etc.

NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani has effectively privatized one of the great public spaces in the U.S., Central Park. Though the city still owns the park, it's managed by the Central Park Conservancy, whose chair is Wall Street hedge fund hotshot Richard Gilder (who was also a major stockholder in Valu-Jet Airlines). It's now illegal to hold any kind of event involving more than a handful of people without a permit - and permits are not easy to come by. You can even be arrested for carrying a protest sign in the park. Not on the grounds of prohibiting speech of course - on quality of life grounds.

It's also very difficult to hold any kind of demo now on the streets of the city. Rudy's blocked off City Hall Park and the steps of City Hall, formerly great spots for venting. Demonstrators are given permits, if they get them at all, that safely pen them behind police lines safely away from targets. At the June 18 anti-G8 demo, two young women were arrested for chalking on the sidewalk - and since they didn't have ID, they had to spend the night in jail. People have been arrested for handing out flyers and selling art on the street. (See Robert Lederman's ARTIST site <> for more.) Neighborhoods are being turned over to Business Improvement Districts, with private police forces that govern all sorts of behavior - in the name of quality of life, of course. I don't know what's happening in other cities, but I suspect they're moving down similar paths. This isn't an externality of gentrification - it's part of the strategy.


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