Zoning Out

In college, I was fortunate to take a class with one of the foremost experts on public policy, Theodore Lowi. What I remember most about Lowi, and the class, is a chapter from his book, The End of Liberalism, that focused on redistricting, rebuilding and rezoning in American cities, namely Chicago, and the adverse affect it had on minority populations in those cities.

I was again reminded of Lowi upon reading a wonderful piece that Good just ran on the public housing project Cabrini-Green in Chicago. With the City of Chicago now looking to massively overhaul public housing, Good asks, “when you get rid of the slums, where do you put the people?”

It’s a problem that’s being faced in a not too dissimilar way in New York City. Rezoning approved by the Planning Commission will remake 125th Street in Harlem into a “regional business hub with office towers and more than 2,000 new units of market-rate condominiums.”

As the New York Times explains, “Opponents say the plan would displace dozens of small businesses, does not offer enough moderate-income housing and does too little to protect the area’s historic buildings.” Fortunately, two young law students – Giselle Schuetz and Kathleen Meyers, both 24 – are challenging the rezoning armed with a 110-year-old law. (More coverage at VOTE: Voices of the Everyday People)

Lowi challenged us to look beneath the surface of public policies. It’s good to know there are writers and students out there who are taking his lesson and using it.
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