A few weeks ago, ORLI+ was engaged in yet another successful #CivicArtLab, the fourth iteration of the event that brings together artists, designers, the general public, and social practice experts annually for three days of exhibitions, talks and workshops. ORLI+ has collaborated with GreenspaceNYC for more than 4 years now, and we have held several talks and workshops on community resilience and how natural hazards affect front line communities as a whole.
ORLI+’s Community Build A Workshop: LES/Chinatown Stakeholder Mapping
On Sunday, October 7, ORLI+ led a Build-A-Workshop for Community Resilience: LES/Chinatown Stakeholder Mapping workshop on the third and final day of #CivicArtLab 2018. The event brought together design professionals and like-minded individuals from the general public and the socially engaged art world together for a two hour discussion and workshop on the various stakeholders that were existing before Hurricane Sandy, and how they communicated with each other in the storms aftermath. The event was geared towards understanding and breaking down the relationships of various players in the Post-Sandy resilience planning, design, and construction in the Lower East Side and Chinatown, but also in the City as a whole, as each community was affected in a different way.
Arnstein's Ladder of Participation
ORLI+ co-founder, Leonel Lima Ponce began the brief presentation by explaining Sherry Arnstein’s “Ladder of Participation.” We believe that this is an essential step in beginning In 1969, Sherry Arnstein began documenting citizen involvement in planning processes in the United States, and described a “ladder of citizen participation” that showed participation ranging from high to low. The ladder is a guide to seeing who has power when important decisions are being made. It has survived for so long because people continue to confront processes that refuse to consider anything beyond the bottom rungs. There are a total of 8 levels or ‘rungs,’ and those eight rungs are further categorized into three types; Non Participation, Tokenism, and Citizen Control. The various rungs on the ladder are as follows: (01) Manipulation and (02) Therapy (bottom rungs). Both are considered non-participative. The aim is to educate the participants. (03) is Informing; a most important first step to legitimate participation. But too frequently the emphasis is on a one-way flow of information. There is no mechanism for feedback in this rung. (04) is Consultation. Again, a this is a legitimate step towards participation, but misses the mark in terms of the level of meaningful engagement. Neighborhood meetings and public enquiries are encountered here, but Arnstein still feels that this is just a ‘window dressing ritual.’ An example of (05), Placation, would be a selection of hand-picked ‘worthy’ people onto committees. This allows citizens to advise or plan themselves but retains for power holders the right to judge the legitimacy or feasibility of the advice. In number (06) Partnership, power is in fact redistributed through negotiation between citizens and power holders. Planning and decision-making responsibilities are shared, for example through joint committees and task forces. Number (07), delegation is having a clear majority of seats on committees with delegated powers to make decisions. The public now has the power to assure accountability of the program to themselves. The final rung, Citizen Control, is the most robust level of participation. The people handle the entire job of planning, policy making and managing a plan, ie, complete neighborhood corporation and delegation.
ORLI+ You!: Community Resilience Spinner
After the brief presentation from Leonel, we took a shot at the ORLI+ You!: Community Resilience Spinner game board activity which engaged and educated participants of the various types of stakeholders that may be involved with a project in their community. Different examples of stakeholders were shown and profiled with an added opportunity for users to create and input their own visions of ideal community resilience stakeholders onto the spinner. The '+' shaped center of the board corresponds to the four ORLI+ resilience and operation principles including design, research, engagement, and empowerment. The questions that were considered during the game were:
1. When climate disasters or emergencies happen, who works together to help with recovery and reconstruction?
2. How do these groups build better, more resilient communities,
3. Who is included and who is excluded?
4. How can we improve these relationships?
5. What is the usual role of the stakeholder in a disaster/resilience situation?
6. Who would YOU talk to when rebounding from a disaster?
The mapping exercise began with a group discussion of the various stakeholder types and their roles, specifically revolving around the post-Sandy context. Some questions that we had the group considered were: What groups of people came together for one another after the storm? How did they organize themselves and in what ways were their efforts successful? ORLI+ facilitators stated their experience with some community groups in Long Island and New York City, and how we’ve been connected with them since Sandy. We learned many things from being connected to them, such as how they assess their community assets themselves, how they communicate and interact with each other after the storm, how they get involved in advocacy efforts and how they organize themselves.
One of the workshop participants, Ruben Ramales, co-founder of the Queens Foundation for Architecture, explained his experience with Sandy and spoke about local institutions and community members, two very important stakeholders in the resilience discussion. Community members can be residents, grassroots groups, and local professionals, just to name a few, and their roles can be serving as local hubs, gathering spaces, and community leadership, he says. He goes on to pick up the ‘Local institutions’ stakeholder card, which can be churches and places of worship, social clubs, community centers, libraries, schools, and so on. One place that did not show up on one of the cards was bars. He spoke about his experience going to one of the oldest and most historic bars in NYC, Neirs Tavern in Woodhaven, Queens. He goes there quite often, to meet up with friends, local leaders, and community advocates. This bar is not merely a place for drinks, but represents a multi-generational community hub for locals. His community never really had a “community center,” and thus the Neirs Tavern filled this gap and became an unofficial community meeting place for local residents.
Travis Harris, another workshop participant, spoke about his experience living in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. He was 14 years old at the time, and was living in the projects, in one of the outer parishes in New Orleans. He explained that right before Katrina hit, even though most of his friends and neighbors were told to evacuate, they did not really have a choice whether to stay or to leave. If they left, they would be risking losing another period of time without pay because they would be leaving their jobs and livelihoods. They needed to stay to continue to make money for their families. His own father stayed during the storm while the rest of his family evacuated. This took a toll on his family, and many other families throughout New Orleans.
He also spoke of the role of celebrities post disaster. Their power and wanting to give back is usually welcome, but misdirected efforts can adversely affect the very communities they are trying to help. One of which was most active after Katrina, was Brad Pitt and his non-profit, the Make It Right Foundation. They started a project to rebuild dozens of destroyed homes in the Lower Ninth Ward. To date, they have all been completed, however, many of them continue to fall into disrepair. The homeowners blame shoddy construction techniques, and cheap materials as the culprit.
ORLI+, and our partners at GreenspaceNYC, recently won the "practical disruption" prize as part of the Climate of Dissent Protest Design Competition put on by Studio BLEAK. We are beyond excited to have been selected and to begin connecting with more activists and community advocates, to move our proposition forward in the next coming months.
We based our competition proposal on the current US Army Corp of Engineer (USACE) Coastal Storm Risk Management Project, the “New York And New Jersey Harbor & Tributaries Focus Area Feasibility Study”.
We call our proposal, "EXPEDITION: BARRIER FREE ROCKAWAY;" a march along the Rockaway Peninsula which aims to highlight key figures related to the USACE coastal storm risk management project. The proposed storm surge impacts have been studied with minimal input from affected communities and advocates, and the proposed project alternatives have not been shared with the public in a transparent or inclusive way.
The expedition will also highlight key activists and organizations with NYC and their advocacy and community building initiatives. The goals of our action are the following:
1. To bring attention to the rushed process by which the US Army Corps of Engineers has unveiled a proposal to construct a storm surge barrier in Lower NY Harbor.
2. To highlight environmental, economic, and equity concerns about the proposals, and the lack of community input and participation in the process.
3. To provide the Army Corps and the public with a history of grassroots alternatives.
4. To support collaboration across disciplines towards comprehensive and sustainable resilient planning solutions for NYC and beyond.
From the organizers, Studio BLEAK:
"CLIMATE OF DISSENT was a design competition that asked architects to design like activists.
It began as a response to the immense issue of global warming, with a charge that architecture must do more to address this crisis. Drawing inspiration from political and cultural dissent unfolding in our country and around the world, the competition sought to blend architectural design with action design, encouraging architectural thinkers to use their unique spatial and organizational skills to dream up an act of protest that addressed climate change. No sites, no budget and no timelines were given as parameters - participants built their action designs from the ground up, referencing the creative tactics of the competition’s activist partners.
With participants from 15 countries, the responses were vast and varied. The jury, consisting of creative activists, architects and educators, chose three speculative prizes and one practical prize which will be developed and implemented as a realized action.
From marches and blockades to festivals and new religions, we hope the results of this contest serve in some way to push for solutions to the crises of our world, blending architectural design, activism and all other disciplines that strive for social and environmental justice."
We will be working with Studio BLEAK and the competition partners over the next several months to plan this collective action. Be sure to follow ORLI+ on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram for the latest updates related to this action!