Friday, December 28, 2012


Here's one more arsenal-related observation about Florida's The Villages: interestingly, most residential neighborhoods in The Villages lack curbs:

In fact, with the exception of the gravel patch in the foreground (which has a fire hydrant placed strategically on it) there is not an inch of road frontage on this street that is not a curb cut for a driveway. It's actually quite ingenious, in a Dr. Evil kind of way. We have seen how FIRE HYDRANTS, FIRE ZONES, and RESIDENTIAL PARKING PERMITS can be used to keep non-residents out of a residential neighborhood by restricting parking, but not building curbs is actually a much simpler, much more straightforward weapon for this. Not only is there no place to park - there is no place to even pull over and rest. It's bound to make any visitor feel like a 21st century Flying Dutchman.

The Blockbuster

While we're on the topic of weapons of exclusion and inclusion in pop culture, check out this fascinating All in the Family episode about blockbusting:

It's a very interesting episode, and in Part II, Meathead does a decent job of describing the blockbusting game. On the other hand, the episode's racial dynamics are pretty messed up. It is unfortunate, for example, that the writers chose to make the blockbuster black. With a black blockbuster, the lesson of the episode is that it is wrong to exploit your own people. The black man takes the heat, and the primarily white audience of the show is relieved of having to confront the racial injustice that is at the heart of blockbusting, and the essential truth revealed by the Kerner Commission just four years before this episode aired, namely, that "white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it." This racial dynamic is only reinforced at the end of the episode, when Archie Bunker goes out to rally the neighborhood to not sell out and be duped by the black man.

TV Nation - The "Public" Beaches of Greenwich, CT

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Communities sometimes organize to try to ban "for sale" signs in front of homes. Why? What's interesting is that the "for sale" sign ban has been used to promote residential integration and segregation. Indeed the "for sale" sign ban is one of those ambiguous, double-agent weapons that--like ADULT SWIM, APARTMENT SIZE, NEIGHBORHOOD COMPOSITION RULE and others that remind us that how a weapon is used is often more important than what it is.

One the one hand, "for sale" signs can be (and indeed have been) used by unscrupulous, blockbusting real estate brokers to pedal panic in white neighborhoods. A big, colorful "for sale" sign in front of house signals a homeowner's decision to leave town; a cluster of such signs is likely to incite paranoia and fears of a racial turnover, which in turn incites white flight. Demand goes down, property values plummet, and said unscrupulous broker is standing by, ready to swoop in, buy up, and flip the properties to black families for twice what he bought them for. For this reason, the “for sale” sign ban is sometimes used by Civil Rights groups and integrationists: ban the sign, and you take away one of the blockbuster's chief tools. (Using the same argument, the same groups have also unsuccessfully tried to ban "sold" signs). But the "for sale" sign ban has also been used by racists to maintain or promote segregation. Especially in the pre-internet era, simple, handmade signs made it possible for people to sell homes without the aid of real estate brokers. Banning "for sale" signs makes it more necessary to go through brokers, who, with through their multiple listing service, segregated classifieds, and racist code of ethics, would ensure that a white home would not be sold to a black family and vice versa.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


We recently took a field trip to Florida's The Villages, officially the largest retirement community in the world. The Villages is fascinating for many reasons, but here we'd like to focus on one particularly Arsenal-worthy reason, namely, that fact that it is essentially fake GATED COMMUNITY. 

Now there are a lot of fake things in The Villages. There are fake train stations:

fake shipwrecks:

fake histories:

and trompe l'oeil around every corner:

On Lake Sumter (a man-made lake), there is even a fake lighthouse!

That is to say the designers behind The Villages are great at faking it. For the most part, this is fairly benign, and even a little fun (although it can at times be a bit creepy).

But here's an instance of something really sinister: it's essentially a fake gated community. Since most of The Villages is served by State and County roads, The Villages can't be a gated community, since you cannot deny access to a public road to non-residents.

Here's how The Villages gets around this. It starts with a sign that reads "The Villages Residential Entrance."

Next to the sign is a gate and security hut:

Notice that the lane on the right is for residents while the lane on the left--nearest the security booth--is for visitors.

Again, this is a public road. How can this exist?

Basically, the whole thing is an elaborate hoax meant to make outsiders think it's a gated community (and thereby turn around): the gate opens automatically regardless of what lane you're in, and the guard has no authority to deny access to anyone (although he could presumably alert The Villages security to the infiltration of anyone who might look like they don't belong). 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Arsenal of Exclusion at Boston's Urbano Project

Interboro is beyond honored that Urbano in Boston chose our forthcoming book on exclusion and inclusion in the built environment as its 2012 - 2013 theme. From their website: "Urbano's 2013 project theme is Narratives of Exclusion: Racial and Cultural Boundaries in the Urban Landscape, inspired by architect and urban planners Interboro Partners' recent book The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion. Interboro Partners' Dan D'Oca, Tobias Armborst, and Georgeen Theodore explore ways in which urban design and architecture influence culture and relationships, and how urban planners can challenge segregation, exclusion, and boundaries between communities."

Join Urbano on Saturday, July 28 for an interactive cross-genre summer literary slam! You can find more about the event here.

If you are in Boston please go to this event and support this amazing organization. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion in Mashable

Interboro and the Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion are featured in this article about income inequality in Mashable.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Edward T. "Ned" Coll

Here's a great piece in the History News Network by our pal Andrew W. Kahrl on Edward T. "Ned" Coll, an amazing, unsung hero of open cities everywhere. We highly recommend this reading in advance of your July 4th celebrations!    

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Beverly Hills and NIMBYism

There's a nice piece in Salon's Dream City blog about the controversy surrounding Los Angeles's West Side Subway Extension. To make a long story short, Beverly Hills is trying to derail a planned alignment under Beverly Hills High School. Their argument is that as planned, the subway could ignite pockets of methane gas located under the school and basically blow it up. Their proposed alternative is to run it under Santa Monica Boulevard, which planners criticize for being too close to a fault line. Dream City implies that this is a classic NIMBYist plot (which it probably is), but the article also looks at NIMBYism more broadly, looking at how DISCRETIONARY REVIEW, CITIZEN ADVISORY COMMITTEES, California's ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT and other post-urban renewal mechanisms meant to give localities more decision-making power facilitate NIMBYism (something we have written about here, here, and here. The article also alerted us to two very interesting studies on the psychology of NIMBYism: Toby Ord's “The Reversal Test: Eliminating Status Quo Bias in Applied Ethics,” which introduces "status quo bias" as "an irrational desire for things to stay exactly as they are, even when change would be beneficial," and David Ropeik's “How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts,” which deals with “prospect theory,” or the theory that the sting of losing something is more intensely felt than the pleasure felt from some gain. Combine these with good old fashioned racism and you have a recipe for our built environment. 

Monday, April 23, 2012


There's another sad story about low-income housing and segregation in today's New York Times, this one from Texas. It's a familiar enough story about nimbyism, but it's interesting to point out the "weapon" that nimbyists successfully used to steer low-income housing units towards poor, minority neighborhoods. To decide where low-income units go, a scoring system is used in which "COMMUNITY SUPPORT" is the second-biggest point-getter (behind financial feasibility). Not surprisingly, more organized communities--which are typically among the wealthier communities--(which are typically among the more nimbyist communities), don't support low-income housing, and the units follow the path of least resistance. As a nonprofit developer quoted in the article put it: “Usually your more organized neighborhoods and communities are ones that have more resources, and those are the ones that are going to get organized more quickly if they don’t want you there.”   

Friday, April 6, 2012

Urban Renewal Brochures from 1956

Who did 1956 URBAN RENEWAL propaganda better, New York City or Baltimore? You decide:

The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion on 99% Invisible

The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion is the topic of the latest edition of the awesome radio show 99% Invisible! Check it out here.

In the show Dan gives a tour of some of Baltimore's "exclusionary offerings," including the "museum of exclusion" that is Greenmount Avenue. Here are some pictures of some of the weapons that Dan talked about:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Right to the Westchester Lifestyle

If you ever want an example of how incredibly clueless Americans are about the effects of segregation, read the comments in this New York Times article about the ongoing troubles in the Westchester Desegregation case (which is depressing even without the comments). Here are some gems:

"Housing is not a function of race, its a function of economics that determine where you live, you have to earn the necessary income to be able to purchase and maintain a home. Thats the American dream, get an education, work hard, have a family, buy a home and save for the future generation."

"People moved to Westchester to have a certain lifestyle. That is their right. If poor Hispanics and black people want to move here they should have to have the money to do it."

"I don't care who you are, if you intend to build subsidized housing next to my nice house, I'm going to scream bloody murder. I've worked hard for 20 years, my house is a significant investment for me, and no government hack has the the right to cut it's value by half or more simply by fiat."

Sunday, April 1, 2012


None of us were in fraternities, and neither do any of us have a particular soft spot for people who join them. Nonetheless, to our running list of victims of the Arsenal of Exclusion—which includes blacks, the poor, Jews, the homeless, immigrants, teenagers, the disabled, revelers, tourists, farmers, beach-goers, homosexuals, straight people, and people without children—we have to add the frat boy. Why? Because there is a weapon of exclusion—the FRAT BAN—aimed right at them, and just as liberal, ACLU attorneys sometimes defend the free speech rights of racists, bigots, homophobes, and other individuals and groups whose political positions are antithetical to their own, so too must we defend the frat boy against those who wish to exclude him and deny his right to the city.

As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, “The regimes of boarding houses, fraternity houses, and the like present urban problems. More people occupy a given space; more cars rather continuously pass by; more cars are parked; noise travels with crowds.” And as Patricia E. Salkin and Amy Lavine point out in “Zoning for Off-Campus Fraternity and Sorority Houses,” fraternities also “tend to encourage dangerous drinking behaviors, and, at their worst, they engage in highly offensive and sometimes criminal hazing rituals.” When frat houses are located off-campus, conflicts with the community are common. At least one town in Maine (Gorham), frustrated by the “rowdy” behavior of frat boys from the University of Southern Maine, instituted a ban on any future fraternity or sorority houses, and adopted new regulations on existing ones, including an annual license fee and semi-annual safety code inspections. “Fraternities have proven themselves to be anti-social and antithetical to a family way of life,” remarked Gorham Town Councilor Burleigh Loveitt.

In many respects, attitudes towards fraternities reflect attitudes towards group homes, sober-living facilities, and Section 8 housing. And like these alternative housing models, fraternities are often affordable. In Gorham, a member of the University of Southern Maine’s Sigma Nu fraternity estimated that the cost of living at the Sigma Nu fraternity house is about $750 less per year than living on campus. “If it wasn’t for this housing,” he told the Gorham Planning Board, “I wouldn’t be attending the university.” Still, the pervasiveness of fraternity and sorority houses—Salkin and Lavine write that by 1990, nearly 700,000 students at hundreds of colleges and universities belonged to fraternities or sororities—and the relatively small number of frat bans in place around the country, suggests that they are somehow more palatable than group homes, sober-living facilities, and Section 8 housing, which are far more often the source of exclusionary zoning and ordinances.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


What do Mayors of Pacific Northwest cities have against sitting? Seattle, Portland, Olympia, Anchorage, Berkeley, and San Francisco all have ordinances that restrict sitting on sidewalks. The ordinances have different names, from “Sidewalk Management Plan” (Portland), to “Pedestrian Interference Ordinance” (Olympia), to the slightly less Orwellian “sit / lie ban” (Seattle), but all are weapons against that scourge of downtowns everywhere: sitting on the sidewalk.

It all started in Seattle, where, in 1993, then-City Attorney Mark Sidran introduced a “sit / lie ban” as part of a package of “civility laws” created to entice businesses to lease downtown offices and storefronts. Gradually, other cities in the Northwest cities followed suit, with Portland’s, Anchorage’s, and San Francisco’s bans all taking effect between 2009 and 2011.

Why ban sidewalk sitting? To “clean up” downtown streets of the homeless, of course. Some of the ordinances are quite explicit about this, while others are not. In an official video explaining Portland’s Sidewalk Management Plan, for example, the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff explains: “As you see we have multiple users on our sidewalks, going from one of our transit stops, visiting one of our mini-retailers in downtown Portland, or just travelling from Point A to Point B. So you can see as a city we have to be able to manage usage of the sidewalks.” (The evidence doesn’t bode well for those who deny that the homeless are the intended targets: between August 2007 and June 2008, 72.3 percent of the 159 people receiving warnings or citations for violating the Sit-Lie law were homeless.)

All of the ordinances work in more less the same way, by criminalizing sitting or reclining on downtown sidewalks for a period of time, usually 6AM until 12AM or so. However Portland’s Sidewalk Management Plan is interesting in that it proposes a 6' - 8' "pedestrian use zone" in which pedestrians "must move immediately to accommodate the multiple users of the sidewalk." Importantly, the zone measures out from the property line, ruling out leaning on (or sleeping on) buildings.

Quite honestly as New Yorkers, it’s hard for us not to scoff at this nonsense. If such ordinances aren’t needed in midtown Manhattan—which hosts some of the busiest, most diverse sidewalks in the world—are they really needed in the relatively serene downtowns of the Pacific Northwest?


This post in the Huffington Post caught out attention this morning. Included in the list of the "12 Worst Schools for Free Speech in 2012" is the University of Cincinnati, which has a "free speech zone" that limits “all demonstrations, pickets, and rallies” to a free speech zone that takes up just 0.1% of its campus.

We haven't written about FREE SPEECH ZONES here, which clearly deserve a place in the Arsenal of Exclusion.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble." Something like a “free speech zone,” or a special area set aside for the practice of free speech, would therefore be unnecessary, would it not? If one existed, would free speech therefore be prohibited outside it? If so, wouldn’t this violate the First Amendment?

As Orwellian as it sounds, free speech zones not only exist, but are used regularly to control political dissent. Colleges instituted free speech zones during the Vietnam-era protests of the 1960s and 1970s, but according to The National Lawyers Guild, a “pattern of behavior that stifles First Amendment rights” emerged from 1999’s World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. Subsequently, throughout the 2000s, free speech zones were a regular presence at national conventions, presidential debates, war demonstrations, and pretty much any public appearance of George W. Bush.

Groups like the ACLU have challenged the constitutionality of free speech zones, but a lot of criticism has been aimed at the free speech zones themselves, which, in most cases, have been too small, too harsh, and too out of the way. Most famous was the free speech zone designated for the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Enclosed by jersey barriers, barbed wire, and a chain link fence, and separated from the convention by service roads, train tracks, and a parking lot, it became known as the “protest pen” or “the cage.” A Judge who visited it before the convention commented that "One cannot conceive of other elements put in place to make a space more of an affront to the idea of free expression than the designated demonstration zone."

The constitutionality of free speech zones is ambiguous. Court decisions stipulating that the time, place, and manner of expression can be regulated and that protesters don’t have a right to a "captive audience" have led some to believe in their constitutionality, but others argue that the right to free speech implies a right to be heard – a right that is severely undermined when protesters are put in a cage and tucked behind a parking lot. Regardless, free speech zones are on the rise, and are starting to be used to control protesters at Occupy rallies around the country. Fortunately, there is resistance. A Google image search reveals many variations of the same theme. Graphically challenged though they are, they strike us as just about right:

Friday, March 30, 2012


We were reading Antero Pietila's Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped American City, and came across a reference to religious quotas. Pietila tells an interesting story about The Maylander apartment building, a 507-unit building near Johns Hopkins that was finished in 1951. Three years after the Supreme Court deemed restrictive covenants unenforceable in Shelley v. Kraemer, the management company behind the Marylander instituted a quota for Jews: until the building was 75 percent occupied, no more than 12 percent of tenants could be Jewish.

We wondered, what is the history of using RACIAL AND RELIGIOUS QUOTAS in housing? With some internet research, we came across the fascinating story of Starrett City. In an effort to achieve a tenant mix of 55 percent white and 45 percent black or Hispanic, managers of Brooklyn’s Starrett City—a 46-building moderate-income housing development that opened in 1974—enforced a racial quota. As whites were vastly outnumbered by blacks and Hispanics on the waiting list, enforcing the quota meant giving preferential treatment to whites. As Robert C. Rosenberg, the general manager of Starrett City said in a 1988 interview with The New York Times, “We have understood from the very beginning that this is a form of discrimination, but there is no other way effectively to bring about large-scale integrated communities.”

Starrett City wasn’t the only development to use racial quotas for purposes of integration. Developers of Chicago’s Atrium Village, a 309-unit housing complex built in 1979 as a buffer between Cabrini-Green and the city’s Gold Coast, used quotas to achieve a 50 / 50 split between blacks and whites (State housing officials and HUD proposed a 70 / 30 ratio, fearing that anything over 30 percent was a tipping point, but the coalition of churches behind the project objected). Quotas were also used in developments in Boston and Charleston. (Quotas have also been used in Singapore since 1989 to create a balance between Singapore’s Malay, Indian, and Chinese populations.)

Racial quotas were challenged by the Reagan administration, for whom racial integration wasn’t exactly a priority. In a suit filed in 1984, the United States Justice Department, led by William Bradford Reynolds, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, successfully argued that racial quotas violated the Fair Housing Act, and ended the programs at Starrett City and Atrium Village. As critics have pointed out, this was smart politicking on Reagan’s part: Reagan was able to strike a blow against affirmative action while claiming to take a stand for blacks (the quotas were originally challenged by the NAACP in 1980). At issue here was an age-old (and ongoing) disagreement about the intention of the Fair Housing Act. Is it, as Rosenburg put it, “to bring about an integrated society and not have two separate societies,” or, as Reynolds and his team would argue, to refrain from discriminating against any individual on the basis of race?

Interestingly, Starrett City has managed to remain integrated without the quotas. In 2000, of the 14,620 people living in Starrett City, 44.7 percent are African American, 38 percent are White, 18.4 percent are Hispanic or Latino, and 4.1 percent are Asian.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Crowdsourcing Images of Stoops in Popular Culture

Interboro is collecting examples of people hanging out on stoops in movies, TV shows, and on album covers. If you have images of stoop scenes, or can remember a stoop scene in a movie, TV show, or album cover, please leave a comment below or send us an email at Pasted below are a few examples. We would appreciate your help with this!

Monday, March 26, 2012


White people don't ride the public bus in Baltimore. This isn't a fact--I haven't actually found any statistics--but a suspicion informed by 1) my own experience riding the number 36, 3, and 8 buses, 2) a morning spent browsing Twitter feeds and blog posts on the topic, and 3) most importantly, for this post, spending a lot of time waiting for the northbound number 3 bus in front of Penn Station. Baltimore boosters sometimes bemoan the fact that the first thing visitors to their fine city see when they emerge from Penn Station is a phalanx of surface and structured parking lots, but another of Baltimore's epidemics--segregation--is also on proud display just steps from the station's front door. It is here, on Charles Street between Mt. Royal and Lanvale, where perceptive tourists will notice the following phenomenon: two cues of bus passengers, 100 or so feet apart from each-other, and almost completely segregated by race. The "weapon" of segregation in this case? The free CAMPUS SHUTTLE that connects Johns Hopkins's Homewood campus to Baltimore's downtown. Almost invariably, the white passengers on the line to the south are waiting for the free "Hopkins Shuttle" and the African American passengers to the north are waiting for the 3, 11, 61, or 64 bus. (Only Johns Hopkins students are allowed to ride the Hopkins Shuttle.)

From an exclusion / inclusion perspective, the campus shuttle is ambiguous. One the one hand, as evidenced by the lines outside Penn Station, it creates very visible segregation. Moreover, isolating students in a private, familiar, safe bus reinforces the "student bubble" that itself reinforces and perpetuates "town and gown" dynamics, and a sense that the city "out there" or "off campus" is a foreign, dangerous place that students should avoid encounters with. The bus is a great democratic public space. Unlike a plane and perhaps more so than a subway, a bus sometimes feels like a place in itself. Especially when there is a FLAT FARE, buses can be diverse spaces of encounter, where it's not hard to strike up a conversation with someone who is very different than you. Buses can thus remind us that despite whatever voluntary bubble we seclude ourselves in (student, tourist, commuter, etc.), there is a public infrastructure that is shared by everyone who lives, works, or shops in the city. For these reasons, the bus offers a valuable learning opportunity for college students; isolating students in a private, familiar, safe bus is dangerous, but from this perspective it's also a missed opportunity.

On the other hand, who's to say that these students would leave the campus at all if not for the shuttle? Baltimore can be a dangerous place, and the public bus can indeed be unreliable. Most students who come to schools like Johns Hopkins, MICA, and Goucher are coming from segregated, suburban environments. For some of my MICA students, the "College Town" shuttle established rapprochement: they used the shuttle to help bust their bubble, so to speak, but once they started becoming comfortable off campus, they threw it away and started using the public bus.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


APARTMENT SIZE is a good example of a weapon that violates the spirit of the Fair Housing Act without necessarily violating its letter. Because families need larger apartments than, say, young, childless singles or empty-nesters, builders can use apartment size as a proxy for tenant types. If you're a town and you want to attract ratables, or if you're a developer who thinks it will be easier to lease and maintain apartments for singles, build studios and one-bedrooms and you're likely to get your wish. (Building only studios and one-bedrooms is also an effective means of attracting whites, since minority households are almost always more likely to be family households than white households.) Thus it is small apartment units that are typically exclusionary. But here's an interesting case in which the opposite is true - a case in which a minority groups felt discriminated against on the grounds that a builder planned units that were too big. As reported by New York World, "Manhattan State Supreme Court judge has halted a city-sponsored affordable housing development planned in Brooklyn, asserting it illegally excludes prospective black and Hispanic occupants." How so? In the plan blocked by the court, more than 40 percent of the apartments would have three or four bedrooms, which, the plaintiffs' successfully argued, favors the area’s Hasidic Jewish community to the detriment of other residents in the area.

As the New York World points out, the ruling challenges the city’s routine practice of offering preferences for scarce low-cost apartments to residents of the community district hosting the project. It's worth pointing out that this disturbingly anachronistic practice could itself be in the Arsenal of Exclusion, since in a segregated environment, offering preferences for units to residents of the community district hosting the units will obviously only led to further segregation. (Interestingly, it was one of the practices that ACLU of Maryland cited in Thompson v. HUD to make the case that HUD and Housing Authority of Baltimore City were discriminatory in their siting of public housing projects).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Andrew W. Kahrl's The Land Was Ours

We're looking forward to reading Andrew Kahrl's The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South, which is set to be released in the coming weeks. Here is a flyer from Harvard University Press:

From the description: "A century ago a surprising amount of southern beachfront property was owned and populated by African Americans. In a path-breaking combination of social and environmental history, Kahrl shows how the rise and fall of Jim Crow and the growing prosperity of the Sunbelt have transformed both communities and ecosystems along the southern coastline."

Andrew W. Kahrl is Assistant Professor of History at Marquette University, not to mention a contributor to The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion! (Andrew wrote a great piece about the use of BEACH TAGS by municipalities, private homeowners’ associations, and clubs and resorts to restrict access to beaches, swimming pools, and other recreational amenities to residents and their guests, dues paying club members, or hotel and resort patrons.) We wish Andrew the best of luck with his new book!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


There's a great article in the NYTimes today about SHABBAT ELEVATORS. A Shabbat elevator (they are also called "Sabbath elevators," "Shabbos elevators," and "automatic elevators"), is an elevator that stops on every floor so that Orthodox Jews--who are forbidden from operating machinery on the Sabbath and who therefore cannot push the elevator buttons--can still use the elevator to access their apartments. The article does a great job of outlining some of the issues here: on the one hand, the elevators--like the ERUV and the SUKKAH BALCONY-- allow Orthodox Jews to live in modern urban environments, and are therefore a positive thing. However unlike the eruv and the Sukkah Balcony, Shabbat Elevators can be really annoying to non-Jews. Shabbat Elevators are a great example of what legal scholar (and Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion contributor) Lior Jacob Strahilevitz calls an "exclusionary amenity:" while they are an amenity to Orthodox Jews, they seriously inconvenience non-Jews who are forced to endure long waits for no good reason, and who therefore might opt to live in a building that doesn't have them. From this perspective, Shabbat elevators have a segregating effect. Indeed, the article points out that brokers sometimes leave Shabbat elevators off their advertisements for fear of violating the Fair Housing Act: "Apartments must be marketed to the general public, and saying there is such an elevator could very likely be interpreted as targeting a single group and excluding others."

At the risk of offending Jews, we should point out that exclusionary amenities exist in all religions. A community prayer speaker that wakes Muslims up at the crack of dawn for prayer and non-Muslims up at the crack of dawn for no good reason at all would be an example, as would the presence of a church in a private community to which residents had to pay a mandatory maintenance due (as is the case in the private community of Ave Maria in Naples, FL).

The article is also interesting for the tactics that building owners and residents use to avoid conflict. (e.g. building owners can program the elevators to shoot up to the penthouse and then work their way down, or exchange "Shabbat" and "normal" operations mode every five minutes, while residents can jump into a regular elevator and hope their fellow passengers head to a floor near their own destination).

Saturday, March 3, 2012


A student of ours alerted us to this terrific essay about OCCUPANCY STANDARDS by Ellen Pader, an Associate Professor of Regional Planning at UMass Amherst. What is an occupancy standard? In a nutshell, it's a rule that outlines how many people can live in a dwelling unit. The most widely followed standard is HUD's: no more than two people per bedroom. As Pader points out, while the standards take up only a few lines in state health and safety codes, they have a disproportionately large impact on the ethnic, racial, social, and economic structure of communities. Here's Pader: "When fewer people are permitted to share a unit, it means larger families may be priced out of the market or forced to move into run-down neighborhoods with larger, less expensive homes and often poorer quality services . . . and schools. In practice, this tends to segregate neighborhoods by race, ethnicity, and class."

Standards, of course, are cultural constructs: what is "too close for comfort" for one person might not be for someone else. The paper does not, however, make a case to abolish occupancy standards, only to give households the opportunity to decide for themselves what they consider acceptable and preferred living arrangements. The argument is for "a definition of equality that recognizes difference, not one that touts sameness as a social goal."

A highly recommended read!


To our running list of victims of the Arsenal of Exclusion (which includes blacks, the poor, Jews, the homeless, immigrants, teenagers, the disabled, revelers, tourists, farmers, beach-goers, frat boys, straight people, and people without children), we have to include patrons of strip clubs. A great article on Salon called "Taking sex out of the city," describes recent weapons in the war against sex-oriented businesses, including midnight curfews, making it a crime for performers to come within six feet of an audience member, and a nude dancing ban (which could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court). The article is also smart for pointing out an entrenched double-standard: as “neon-signed sleaze-baskets” are increasingly targeted, “sex-positive” boutique establishments like Babeland and the Pleasure Chest get a pass. As the author puts it: "As urban amenities of all types have upscaled, from gyms to coffee shops to cupcake emporiums, so too have sex stores, offering a gentler experience at a premium price."

Friday, March 2, 2012


While researching HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATIONS and CONDITIONS, COVENANTS, AND RESTRICTIONS, our intern James Estrada stumbled upon this great series of articles about CLOTHESLINE BANS and the "right to dry" movement that has sprung up to confront them.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

George Romney

On our reading list this week: Charles M. Lamb’s excellent book about housing segregation in suburban America since 1960 called, well, Housing Segregation in Suburban America Since 1960. On our minds: George Romney, Republican Governor of Michigan, father of Mitt, and, most importantly for our purposes, really awesome, super progressive HUD Secretary under Nixon. As Lamb writes, “Romney is remembered not only for his enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, but also for his innovative plans to racially and economically integrate the suburbs.” Despite being a Republican, Romney believed that strong federal policy could avert society-wide repercussions of isolating the poor and minorities in deteriorating cities. Here’s Lamb: "What was needed then, according to Romney, was equality of results as well as equality of opportunity. The secretary assumed that federal policy should seek to ensure that actual economic and racial integration take place in the suburbs. The time was right to open the suburbs to all, build racially balanced new communities, and make the cities more pleasant places to reside." Sounds like our kind of HUD Secretary!

Romney spearheaded two programs to achieve his goals: "Operation Breakthrough" and "Open Communities." The first was conceived as a program for the massive building of mass-produced low and moderate-income housing. But as the name suggests, Operation Breakthrough also had an integrationist agenda (although "dispersal" was Nixon's term of choice): in order to receive HUD money for sewer grants and the like, suburban communities would be required to waive restrictive requirements in their building codes and zoning ordinances. This "big stick" approach was obviously unpopular, and HUD was predictably accused of being socialistic and even totalitarian: protests of Breakthrough projects popped up in Indianapolis, Wilmington, Houston, Kalamazoo, and other cities, and the program produced far fewer units than it had hoped. "Open Communities," a "clandestine" policy designed by Romney and his aides with virtually no White House involvement. A precursor to the MTO program, the goal of Open Communities was to provide African-Americans with housing in white suburbs that they were previously unwelcome in (Lamb quotes a 1969 memo from Romney's Special Assistant John Chapin, stating that "the white suburban noose around the black in the city core is morally wrong, economically, inefficient, socially destructive, and politically destructive"). As with today's Housing Mobility programs, SMSAs with high segregation and little or no affordable housing were targeted. Unlike Operation Breakthrough, however, Open Communities was based on carrots: participating communities received sewer and water grants, open space grants, and funding for urban renewal.

Open Communities had a long, somewhat tortured history that you can read about in Lamb's book. In the meantime, it might be appropriate to wonder why Mitt’s old man isn’t getting more attention in this Republican primary season. Why, in a debate, or even in an interview, has no one asked Mitt about his father’s legacy? If someone had, we would of course see how far the apple has fallen from the tree. We'd also have to consider how radical it would be today for anyone to say things like "We've got to put an end to the idea of moving to suburban areas and living only among people of the same economic and social class" (George Romney, 1969), or [The racial face-off between the cities and suburbs] is the most potentially explosive situation that our nation faces" (George Romney, 1970). As any reader of this blog or others like it know, it's not like these issues are any less important today than they were then.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Please Linger

Here's a nice article about "No Loitering" signs in Atlantic Cities.

By chance we just found our first "No Loafing" sign. Check it out:

What is the difference between loitering and loafing anyway? Why is this sign so careful to prohibit both? Anyone have any ideas?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion in Esquire

Yes, you read right, the Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion has been published in Esquire Magazine. Check it out here. Esquire asked Interboro Partners to recreate the U.S. map to reflect the state of things this year, and this was our response. Here is some text we wrote to go along with the illustration:

Recent books like Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City celebrate the capacity of cities to bring people together to hook up, swap ideas, and influence and inspire each-other, but it’s important to remember that our cities are pretty good at keeping people apart, too. More than forty years have passed since the Fair Housing Act outlawed discrimination in the sale, rental, and marketing of homes, in mortgage lending, and in zoning, and still most Americans live in communities that are racially, economically, generationally, and even politically and religiously segregated.

How can we explain this? What produces segregation? Is racial segregation merely the legacy of policies and practices—like racial zoning or racial and religious covenants—that the Fair Housing Act illegalized? Or are there newer, subtler things that continue to produce racially homogeneous communities?

This map—and the forthcoming book that it appears in—is meant to support that latter claim. Hidden in the map are forty commonly-used, contemporary “weapons” in what we call the “Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion,” a collection of policies and practices that are used by architects, planners, policy-makers, developers, real estate brokers, community activists, neighborhood associations, and individuals to wage the ongoing war between integration and segregation, between NIMBY (not in my back yard), and WIMBY (welcome in my back yard).

Friday, January 27, 2012


This is pretty incredible. From NPR: "Microsoft is under fire this week over a patent it was granted that's been dubbed the "avoid ghetto" feature for GPS devices. The new feature is meant to help pedestrians avoid unsafe neighborhoods, bad weather and difficult terrain by taking information from maps, weather reports, crime statistics and demographics, and creating directions that, according to the patent, take "the user through neighborhoods with violent crime statistics below a certain threshold."

Just the other day we were lecturing about the Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion, talking about how GPS NAVIGATION can actually be a weapon of inclusion, since while there is a "fastest route" option and a "scenic route" option, there is no "avoid ghetto" option. Was someone at Microsoft at our lecture? Did they receive a leaked copy of our manuscript? We're flattered that people are using the book as a toolkit, but we were hoping people would use the tools that are about inclusion!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Relman, Dane, & Colfax is a pretty righteous law practice. Their cases are pretty good fodder for The Arsenal of Exclusion, based as they are on one or another evil, exclusionary weapon (for example, the BLOOD RELATIVE ORDINANCE). One of the cases featured on their website today is Kennedy v. City of Zanesville, which centers on a predominantly white county that for decades has refused to service an African-American neighborhood with water. From the Relman website: "The sixty-seven plaintiffs in the case had alleged that the City of Zanesville, Muskingum County, and the East Muskingum Water Authority refused to provide them public water service for over fifty years because they live in Coal Run, the one predominately African-American neighborhood in a virtually all-white county. The Coal Run plaintiffs live within one mile of public water lines alongside the Zanesville city limits, but were denied public water service for nearly fifty years. As a result, they had to haul water from the city, collect rainwater, and store water in cisterns, where it often became dangerous for consumption. During the same time period, white residents on the same street were provided with water."

To paraphrase a talking head from a video about the case: "This is something out of the 1940s."

The tactics didn't necessarily have the effect of uprooting the community, but it did make life difficult in it (the community is called "Coal Run" because it is between two mines, both of which have polluted groundwater). Thankfully, Relman, Dane, & Colfax is really good at fighting against the evil forces of exclusion. A federal court jury returned verdicts totaling nearly $11 million against the City of Zanesville, Ohio, Muskingum County, Ohio, and the East Muskingum Water Authority for "illegally denying water service to a predominately African-American community on the basis of race." The jury also awarded $80,000 in damages to Fair Housing Advocates Association.

As with Thompson v. HUD, maps played a key rule in making the case. In the map below, you can clearly see that the water line stops where the black peoples' homes start:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Interboro's Holding Pattern at MoMA PS1

We don't post too often about the work we do on this blog (we post about it on our main website), but we would like to take some time to tell you about a project we did for MoMA PS1 this past summer called Holding Pattern. We like to think of it as a project about inclusion.

First, some background: every year, MoMA PS1 commissions an architecture firm to design and build a setting for big, Saturday afternoon parties called “Warm Ups” that are held in MoMA PS1’s courtyard. The program is: provide seating and shade for the roughly 6,000 visitors who visit the Warm Up every Saturday between June and September. The budget is small, and you have to build everything yourself in 4 months.

When we first started to think about what to design, we thought about two things: First: what happens to the stuff from a project after the project is over? Does it get thrown out? Could we design and build something that could be put it to a different use once the party is over? Second: PS1 is located in the borough of Queens, the most diverse, vibrant, and exciting part of New York City. And while MoMA PS1 is a great, community-friendly institution, in some ways, it can seem a little insulated from the great stuff on the other side of the 16-foot tall concrete walls that surround its courtyard. Look at the view from Checker Management, a taxi stand across the street:

Might there be a way to undermine this wall?

We spent a lot of time in the neighborhood, talking to people. The first person we talked to was the owner of Checker Taxi Management, Mike. To make the wait between taxi shifts a little nicer, Mike built a small, impromptu plaza with plastic chairs and tables, a shade awning, and a few planters. Here drivers sit, talk, play board games and drink coffee. We thought this was an interesting space and it suggested to us that the Warm Up’s PS1s programmatic requirements—seating, shade, and a water feature—sometimes overlap with the needs of the Warm Up’s neighbors.

This gave us an idea for a kind of radical recycling that tries to strengthen MoMA PS1’s ties to the neighborhood by matching Warm Up’s programmatic needs with the needs of its neighbors. We went around the neighborhood, and asked every business we found the following question: is there something you need that we could design, use in the courtyard during the Warm Up, then donate in the fall, once the Warm Up is over?

Now that the Fall has come and gone, we can look back at the process:

With this approach, we radically expanded our client group, from one client (the museum) to fifty clients, from the LIC School of Ballet to 5pointz Aerosol Art Center, to the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens. Holding Pattern operates like an urban design project, developing an environment that responds to multiple, very different and sometimes changing desires (something that a fixed piece of architecture could never do).

The project then became something effectively designed by people in the neighborhood. We hoped that by doing this, we could help strengthen the ties between MoMA PS1 and Long Island City. Towards this goal, we also also invited neighborhood institutions to make use of MoMA PS1’s courtyard for programs of their own making. These included B-Boy Workshops with 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Ballet Workshops with LIC School of Ballet, Readings with the Queens Library, Qulit-making Workshops with New York Irish Center, Bike Maintenance Workshops with Recycle-A-Bicycle and more. It was great to see people in the neighborhood take ownership of MoMA PS1 in this way: