Letter from the Editor

The Spring/Summer Issue of the Hunter College Urban Review takes a pause to reflect on impermanence. We released the call for submissions in a time before broad availability of a vaccine in the US, during the darkest days of a full winter in the COVID-19 pandemic. In the time since, we have lived through reopenings and the looming threat of another shutdown; we are in a state of collective flux. 

Still, impermanence is a transformative state. As planners and policymakers, our work is to engage our capacity to imagine a world beyond oppressive barriers. The kind of thinking that emboldened Cori Bush’s action to extend the eviction moratorium, created the world’s first Transgender District in San Francisco using historic preservation procedures, or inspired the architects of the Red Deal to design a plan for climate action beyond the colonial state. 

This issue of the Review is transformative in its own right. We received the most submissions in response to our call for pitches in recent memory. As a result, our team of editors, copy editors, and reviewers made up more than 10% of the entire student body. The accepted pieces represent a more diverse pool of participants, subject matters, and modes of expression than ever before. And this edition is our first fully online publication. Now this impressive group of contributors can more easily share their work with the world, and the world can better engage with the urban issues we find most captivating. 

Contributors explored impermanence from many different angles, taking on issues of justice in the built environment and policy. In “Open Streets: An Uneven Operation,” Phoebe Allen, Jennifer Hendricks, and Jessica Kane evaluate the ways the Open Streets initiative changes neighborhood flows at different times in different parts of the city. Kathleen Ross considers the value of NIMBYism in planning, and how planners can engage with the psychological impacts of communities’ permanent connection to place. Taina Benjamin reports on how intractable racial disparities in healthcare impact the immediate needs of vaccine distribution. Max Marinoff looks at the true toll of the pandemic on the rental market in New York City. Kevin Ritter reviews the movie, Nomadland, from an urban planning lens.

Another group of writers took on the implications of impermanence on the neighborhood scale. Jordan Vogelsang explores how landmarking impacts communities in the throes of rapid gentrification in his piece, “The Cost of Permanence.” Brenda Lau considers the future of an important and historic building in Chinatown marred by fire. An interview with the executive director of UPROSE, Elizabeth Yeampierre, discusses the impacts of the Industry City development on her community in Sunset Park with Gabriel Lefferts. Kenneth Rivas explores what permanent, official status could mean for an informal settlement in Mumbai, India. 

The Spring/Summer Issue is also remarkably visual. Bryan Belmont examines how gentrification disrupts the permanent-seeming features of his neighborhood in Flatlands, Brooklyn in a photo essay. Chris Belfiore shows the impacts of the COVID shutdown on New York City through an original drawing. In her photo essay, Nina Young highlights the ways a recent development project in Pittsburgh mirrors the disruption of urban renewal projects of the past. 

The past year and a half of exaggerated impermanence inspired us to consider the fixed things in our lives and urban contexts. In grappling with another semester of unpredictable and rapid transformations, we have been forced to use the skill Imara Jones names “to think in ‘ands,’” beyond the binaries of yes and no, impermanence and permanence. As we become professional planners and policymakers, may we all harness the power of liberatory imagination. 

Sus Labowitz, Editor in Chief

Sus Labowitz is a master’s in urban planning student at CUNY’s Hunter College. Their research interests include surveillance, internet policy, and queer and trans urban spaces.

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