What We See Blog

Timothy J. Elliott - Tue Jan 06, 2015 @ 01:47PM
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Every year, the President of the United States delivers a speech about the current state of our union. The traditional address has always been one directional. This year, the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, or USDAC, is looking to change that. The USDAC is not government agency; it is a collective of people making the world a better place using art and culture in new and creative ways. They are taking the idea of the presidential address and transforming that tradition into a multifaceted dialogue between members of communities across the nation. These engaging communal gatherings will be called the People’s State of the Union. From January 23-30, everyone is invited to come together into story circles and share experiences that:

  • Tell a story about a moment you felt true belonging—or the opposite—in this country or in your community.
  • Describe an experience that showed you something new or important about the state of our union.
  • Share about a time you stood together with people in your community.

Each story will be transcribed online to form a greater patchwork where the dialogue can continue. Shortly after January 30, the USDAC National Cabinet will discuss common elements that arise in order to identify the true state of the union. At the same time, poets nationwide will collaborate to create the “2015 People’s State of the Union Address,” based on the stories shared online. The Address will be read on February 1 at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City and will also be available online in video and text.

This is the largest call for creative communal action of this kind in history. The USDAC is encouraging anyone to host a story circle or a gathering with multiple story circles their area. The deadline to sign up to host is January 8. For more information about hosting, click here.

Arlene Goldbard, author of New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development and contributor to What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs both released via New Village Press, is one of the creative minds involved in the USDAC where she serves as the Chief Policy Wonk. Arlene is a respected voice in community development, cultural activism, and social justice.

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Emily Brain - Mon Jan 27, 2014 @ 12:25PM
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In an interview with Dave Hill of theguardian.com, contributing author to What We See, Jan Gehl discusses London—it’s streets, cycling, and notion of creating cities for people:

But, despite his impatience with London's uneven progress, Gehl's preference in all areas of his field is for purposeful incremental change. The term "urban renewal" has become synonymous with top-downgrand projets that destroy more than they create and end up being more trouble than they are worth to all but the few who profit from them. Gehl says his company has been involved a several projects to change poorly-designed and maintained housing estates for the better, preferring to replace only some of the dwellings rather than sweep the whole lot away, and concentrating on humanising and re-ordering open areas to correct what he describes as "the modernist mistake" by turning these into "spaces for people to enjoy, rather than voids."

A brief video from the National Building Museum included with this article features Gehl as he attempts to answer the question: What makes a city intelligent? He provides a compelling answer and concludes with a mention of Jane Jacobs—reiterating her approach to community building:

"Jane Jacobs embraced her words and said, “Hey guys if we let these planners and these traffic engineers as they had started we would have made all the great American cities dead instead of them being alive”'

Read the full article here.

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Lynne Elizabeth - Wed Dec 18, 2013 @ 10:30AM
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As an advocate of What We See, your engagement in the community has kept the conversations real and your purchases of our books have kept our mission alive. However, book sales alone, cover half the publishing costs, the other half comes from funding. Thats why, in a bid to underwrite the next year of publishing, What We See’s publisher, New Village Press is calling all well-wishers, enthusiasts, advocates & patrons to join their Community Supported Publishing!

Support us in building vibrant, healthy and compassionate communities. Celebrate and reward the ingenuity and compassion of people rebuilding society. Help make the world a better place. Enable New Village Press to continue its work—the kind of specialized publishing commercial publishers fail to risk—and join the creative, citizen-initiated, social transformation movement. Together, we can lift society out of stuck places in ways that argument, armies, and legislation can never accomplish.

Please help spread the message and/or place your contribution here.

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Emily Brain - Fri Nov 22, 2013 @ 01:11PM
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Last night - in conjunction with the presentation of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal - the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) hosted their annual Jane Jacobs Forum at The Times Center, New York. A panel of leading women in the fields of architecture and planning, landscape architecture, development, community development, business and the arts, discussed the topic of Women as City Builders.

Invited to bring What We See, publisher New Village Press was honored to hear MAS President, Vin Cipolla, use the theme of the book as a launch for his introductory remarks. Contributing author, Roberta Brandes Gratz and co-editor, Lynne Elizabeth were delighted to chat with event attendees and even sign a few books! 

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Emily Brain - Fri Nov 15, 2013 @ 12:25PM
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New Village Press, publisher of What We See was invited by The Municipal Arts Society of New York and The Rockefeller Foundation to attend the presentation of the Jane Jacobs Medal 2013 Awards Ceremony, honoring Bette Midler for Lifetime Leadership and Ian Marvy for New Ideas and Activism.


Since founding the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 1995, award-winning actress and singer, Bette Midler has been a passionate and influential advocate for the city’s most forgotten spaces; parks and community gardens in underserved neighborhoods. NYRP has revitalized neglected parks in upper Manhattan; restored storm-ravaged parks in Queens and Brooklyn; and transformed a derelict stretch of shoreline into Sherman Creek Park, a waterfront gem featuring the first boathouse on the Harlem River in over 100 years. Midler led the charge to save 114 community gardens from development, and NYRP continues to maintain and program 52 of them, with concentrations in East Harlem, Central Brooklyn and the South Bronx. Together with Mayor Bloomberg, Midler launched the MillionTreesNYC initiative, which is now slated to reach its ambitious goal to full two years ahead of schedule.


Ian-Marvy-2.jpgBy nurturing a new generation of young leaders through the operation of a socially-responsible urban farming enterprise, Ian Marvy co-founded Added Value in 2001, with the aim of building Brooklyn’s Red Hook into a more sustainable neighborhood. Partnering with neighbours, civil society, City, State and Federal governments to transform acres of unused land into vibrant urban farms. These farms serve as community centers where thousands of men and women, young and old, learn and grow together. They are inspiring platforms that promote community development, economic activity and environmental sustainability.

Under Marvy’s leadership, Added Value has demonstrated that urban agriculture is a powerful catalyst to activate public space  and motivate youth to positively engage with their community. They have pioneered innovative programs that support food access for low income communities, educational initiatives for public school students and agricultural projects benefiting urban and rural New Yorkers. Marvy is an Echoing Green Fellow, a Petra Social Justice Fellow, a Union Square Awardee, and the National Resource Defense Council/Earth Day Environmental Activist of the Year. He is the creator of the Five Borough Farm report and frequently consults on new projects, for funders, and government on urban agricultural projects.

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Lynne Elizabeth - Tue Mar 26, 2013 @ 02:06PM
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Congratulations to two What We See authors, Chester Hartman and Ron Shiffman for receiving the 2013 Cushing Niles Dolbeare Lifetime Service Award and the Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership, respectively.

Mr. Hartman, contributor to What We See, received the Cushing Niles Dolbeare Lifetime Service Award from the National Low Income Housing Colalition for his lifetime of scholarship and formative influence on urban and housing policy. Mr. Hartman, who is now PRRAC’s Director of Research, was the organization’s first executive director, from 1990-2003, and helped build the organization into an important source for civil rights policy and research. He is also an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Department of Sociology, where he is a member of SEIU Local 500, and the Coalition of Academic Labor, which he helped organize and create.

Ron Shiffman, contributor to What We See and the lead editor for Beyond Zuccotti Park, was awarded the Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership last week, after the awards ceremony was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. For more than fifty years, Mr. Shiffman has been working to promote community-based activism. His work to rebuild Bedford-Stuyvesant through economic development programs inspired the creation of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, which he, along with Dr. George Raymond, founded in 1964. The center continues to empower low- and moderate-income communities in New York to plan for and realize their futures. In recent years, Mr. Shiffman has advised Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, an organization that incorporates voices from the Brooklyn community in planning and development.

We at New Village Press are honored to have Mr. Hartman and Mr. Shiffman as authors and friends. Please visit this site for the full media release on Mr. Hartman and here for Mr. Shiffman’s reception speech.


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Laura Leone - Thu Feb 14, 2013 @ 12:40PM
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Mary Rowe, vice president of the Municipal Art Society of New York and contributor to What We See, and Kate Ascher, author of The Works and The Heights, recently organized the Jane Jacobs Revisited: A Bellagio Conference. The conference gathered twenty participants across city-building disciplines to mark the 50th anniversary of Jane Jacobs’s seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and took place at the Bellagio Center at Villa Serbellino, a center for learning and discussion operated by the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy. On the agenda was to discuss the city principles Jane Jacobs promulgated in her book and address their applicability in the global cities of today.

Michelle Young of Untapped Cities reported that "the programming included 3 minute Pecha Kuccha presentations on examples today that represented Jacobs’ principles and over four days of group discussion in different configurations of participants." Furthermore, Mary Rowe told her, “It’s a Jane Jacobs world now,” and that Jacobs “was an early identifier of complexity, a supporter of organic design and diversities of all kinds, and believed everything was relational–nothing has a single cause. She had an extreme resistance to big, universal, grand one size fits all efforts from the public or private sector and believed physical, economic and ethical processes needed to interact to create the process of the city. Today there is a growing sense of what sustainable, organic, livable cities should be but there is a need to discuss the obstacles to that occurring.”

The Bellagio Framework, as put forth by the participants of Jane Jacobs Revisited is as follows:

The purpose of the city is to provide sustainable environments that allow all people to live, work, and achieve their aspirations in an environment that supports self-determination and promotes that common good.

1. Build a city of choices, an urban archipelago that offers diversity and fosters innovation.

2. Make places that promote socioeconomic mixing, openness, and cultural exchange.

3. Actively integrate nature and the city in shared spaces that bring people joy.

4. Ensure environmental health and human security.

5. Encourage compact land use with diverse physical grain, matching density, infrastructure and local conditions.

Special thanks to filmmaker Don Downey and the perseverance of Mary Rowe and Kate Ascher for allowing this video from Jane Jacobs Revisited to be shared.

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Megan Holmes - Thu Oct 11, 2012 @ 03:43PM
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Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Judith Rodin has announced that Ronald Shiffman will receive the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership for his extensive commitment to community development. Ron Shiffman is a contributing author to the book What We See.

shiffman.jpgFor more than fifty years, Mr. Shiffman has been working to promote community-based activism. His work to rebuild Bedford-Stuyvesant through economic development programs inspired the creation of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, which he, along with Dr. George Raymond, founded in 1964. The center continues to empower low- and moderate-income communities in New York to plan for and realize their futures. In recent years, Mr. Shiffman has advised Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, an organization that incorporates voices from the Brooklyn community in planning and development.

The announcement of this award parallels the recent publication of Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation for Public Space (New Village Press, October 2, 2012) for which Ron Shiffman is the lead editor. The book Beyond Zuccotti Park was conceived in response to the forced clearance of Occupy activities from public plazas throughout the country and examines the importance of public space as a critical civic forum for citizen expression. Forty contributing authors offer original essays about public space, including where and how people can congregate publicly today and whose voices are heard. The book is part of a larger national initiative also led by Ron Shiffman—Democracy, Equity, and Public Space. Mr. Shiffman will present Beyond Zuccotti Park October 19 at the 2012 MAS (Municipal Art Society) Summit for New York City.


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Megan Holmes - Wed Sep 26, 2012 @ 12:55PM
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As we approach a change of seasons, we hope that you continue to walk your city and explore new urban places. There are many events occurring in-between now and the festival weekend in May. Subscribe to the e-newsletter to keep up to date!

Learn about walks from around the world with the new Jane's Walk Blog! It starts us in Toronto, Canada in the historical Ashbridge neighborhood, with great pictures and information. For those in the Toronto area, Jane's Walk is partnering with the 4th annual free Riverside WALKfest, October 20, 2012. It should be a blast, with walks for all interests and ages!

Jane's Walk School Edition, established 2008, continues to engage students in urban planning, local history, and community-building. This fall, two schools met in downtown Toronto for an exchange and an afternoon of neighbourhood storytelling. 

It's not too early to start thinking about Jane's Walk 2013. It will be happening May 4 and 5, email info@janeswalk.net to find out more!

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Megan Holmes - Thu Aug 09, 2012 @ 01:36PM
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What We See contributors Janette Sadik-Khan, Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Saskia Sassen, Ron Shiffman, Michael Sorkin, and Lynne Elizabeth will be featured in New Village Press's newest book Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space.


Beyond Zuccotti Park, to be released on September 11, 2012, examines the importance of public space as a community forum for citizen expression. Actions against Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have spotlighted US Constitutional rights to freedom of assembly. The book puts issues of democracy and civic engagement into the center of built environment dialogue by addressing where and how people can congregate publicly today, whose voices are heard, and the factors that limit the participation of minorities. It also gives fresh attention to the planning, design, and programming of public space.

Beyond Zuccotti Park was conceived in response to the forced clearance of Occupy activities from public plazas throughout the country. Its distinguished editors are advocates of participatory civic process: Ron Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. AIA, Director Emeritus, Pratt Center for Community Development and Professor, Pratt Institute Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment; Rick Bell, Executive Director, American Institute of Architects, New York; Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, ACSA Distinguished Professor, School of Architecture, City College of New York, CUNY; Lynne Elizabeth, Director, New Village Press; Anastassia Fisyak, Urban Planning Fellow, Pratt Center for Community Development; and Anusha Venkataraman, Assistant Director, El Puente Green Light District. Beyond Zuccotti Park’s foreword was penned by Michael Kimmelman, chief architecture critic of the New York Times and Pulitzer Prize finalist.

The AIANY Center for Architecture will hold multiple events in celebration of Beyond Zuccotti Park:

  • Exhibit Opening– September 6 (runs through 9/22) – Beyond Zuccotti Park: Exhibition as Occupation
  • Book Launch– September 10 – presenters: Peter Marcuse, professor emeritus of Urban Planning at Columbia University, Sadra Shahab, Iranian urban planner and civil rights activist, and Nikki Stern, political, social, and cultural commentator
  • Public Workshops– September 16 – commemorating the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street


“This book, like Zuccotti [Park] itself, is a site of vigorous conversation, hard thinking, and bold proposals.” 

—Mike Wallace, coauthor of Pulitzer Prize-winning Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898


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