Tag Archives: cycling

The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space on the Lower East Side

The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space is amazing. Its very existence, its declaration of ongoing resistance against gentrification and displacement, and the many wonderful urban spaces to be found on the Lower East Side. A testament to all those who have fought to build community and to preserve it in that face of brutal development pressures driven by the commodification of land.

Ah, the Lower East Side…

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For so long it was only known to me through Neil Smith’s work, his descriptions of the battles over Tompkins Square Park and a vibrancy in the squatting/camping/we-will-not-be-moved-from-these-spaces organising that I always found so inspiring.

I saw it on the map, saw this museum marked there and so we headed that way after the inspiration of Harlem — where better to go?

Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space

As a living history of urban activism, the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) chronicles the East Village community’s history of grassroots action. It celebrates the local activists who transformed abandoned spaces and vacant lots into vibrant community spaces and gardens. Many of these innovative, sustainable concepts and designs have since spread out to the rest of the city and beyond.

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We wandered through the small museum staffed by volunteers — hardly a museum, a wonderful community space of two rooms, one ground floor and the basement where a video is running. The walls of both are lined with pictures and stories of the people who squatted these buildings to create and save housing, transformed vacant lots into vibrant gardens and community spaces, developed movements to push for political will in support of bicycles over cars, as well as cycling lanes, bike racks and respect. This building itself was squatted, which is how this place can exist at all. Every community should have such an accessible shopfront space telling such important stories, with people wandering in and out.

I got a birthday present there! The Architecture of Change , edited by Jerilou Hammett and Maggie Wrigley, an amazing collection of 36 articles from DESIGNER/builder magazine describing movement and struggle around space, design, art, architecture, education and justice (so far, I am only a quarter of the way through) around the country. I opened it up and within the first few pages found a picture of the Vilchis brothers lounging around Boyle heights which made me so happy.

I was less happy that the article failed to mention Union de Vecinos, co-founded by Leonardo and one of the grassroots organisations in LA that I love and admire most. Opportunity lost, they have so much to teach. Ah well.

Tompkins Square Park is still a cool public space full of life and people (though perhaps too much concrete), a very different one than Smith described if I remember rightly (but so much bigger than I was expecting! So maybe my memory is faulty…but still closes at midnight, so no one is welcome to sleep here). And look, Charlie Parker Place.

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A public park alongside a medley of community gardens, they are everywhere, and I was truly smitten. Especially after reading the love and fierce resistance it took to first build and then keep them.

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I wish we’d have had more time here to see some of the other radical spots here, but we were heading over to Williamsburg to meet my cousin. We had a quick walk to the metro — and a quick stop in Bluestockings bookstore on the way. I sent them a lot of emails in my PM Press days, and their amazing selection did not disappoint. Two of the books I’ve worked on under Postcolonial Fiction (!) by Gary Phillips and James Kilgore — seeing that is such a pleasure:

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On the way — Joe Strummer saying know your rights:

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Housing co-ops:

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Such cool city streets and a wealth of things to see and places to eat (omg the best pastrami sandwiches ever at Harry and Ida’s Meat & Supply Co), we loved this place:

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New YorkAnd finally, a wonderful map of the radical spaces of the Lower East Side produce by the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space — I wish we had had more time to explore! Get the pdf here.

 

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street art graffiti art and art etc.

I’ve gotten over myself finally and am almost back to sunniness…and I’m sitting here pleasantly tired, think I biked over 10 miles today, almost bit it too, made me happy about the small things in life like a face, and no broken bones of course. Some stupid city official felt it necessary to cut a square out of the road about 1X3 feet and I’d say a good 6 inches deep…hitting that at high speed on a road bike almost brought on a strong attack of religion. As I flew I swear I prayed, but I hit the ground safely though my front wheel isn’t so happy…That was in South Central off course.

Anyways, I’m back to things I love about LA because I’m leaving I’m leaving I’m leaving (I’m singing this, I’d like to write a ska tune about it, with lots of horns and a mellow reggae section in the middle). I believe this is graffitti, though I could be wrong, somehow, though, I don’t belive it is a city comissioned art piece though it’s kept up…

I like it though, it’s just around the corner from the Morrison Hotel on Pico. I suppose when the building finally sells it will get painted over. These two are from Pico Union, but Selena has definitely seen much better days

She used to be directly opposite from a mural of Princess Diana…I always wondered what exactly Lady Di was doing in the heart of the largest Central American population outside of Central America…she did get painted over years ago, and I still regret that I never got a shot of her. But they have painted this mural which is beautiful

I shan’t get started on the war or who exactly are the Americans fighting it, they’re all recruited from this neighborhood though, fucking recruitment centers in high schools, immoral is what it is.

And art etc? Check this thing out

What is it?? I have no idea…it looks like one of the forts I built with my brothers back in the day…much nicer though, we didn’t have access to that kind of material. I like building forts, how long has it been since I built a blanket fort in the middle of the living room? Might be fun to do, I’d take in a bottle of wine, lots of pillows and a couple of good novels and just chill…

Anyways, here’s my contribution, a little still life

Bet that kid is sad he ever forgot his toys and let me get my hands on them! Hope he comes back to collect them, nothing sadder than toys ownerless and unplayed with!