The privatization of public space

During a 30-year-period, New York City demographic makeup and economic structure shifted profoundly to comply with the demands of globalization. This new shift on the economy brought on a change in government attitudes towards city space.

According to Shephard and Smithsimon, globalization brought on a type of conception of urban life that they call “neoliberalist urbanism”. The creation of a “good business climate” was conceived as part of a bigger branding of the city at large.

In the 1970 and 1980s, New York was being known mostly for its crime. In order to draw investment in, the government went through a lengthy process of rebranding the city as a fashion, finance and media capital of the world.

As a way to accommodate the new business elite of the emerging service and information economy, the government took on strategies that, according to them, were designed to improve the quality of life.Among these strategies, the most common ones were the gentrification of old neighborhoods, the increased of policing (“Zero Tolerance” campaigns) and the displacement of lower income populations from Manhattan and to the outer Burroughs.

During this shift, a new form of organization, the Business Improvement District emerged as a privatized solution for the management of public space. 

During the 1970’s the city experienced a huge financial crisis. As a response to this crisis, businesses formed coalitions that could handle affairs that, up until that moment, were considered to be the responsibilities of the government.

This form of organization, the Business Improvement Districts, is an association of business from a particular neighborhood that are taxed every yearly in order to fund extra public services.

Ever since their inception, BID’s have proliferated across New York and the rest of the country–part of their basic services include sanitation, security and management of public events (such as fairs, etc).

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