Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Columbia U. psychiatrist talks urban renewal at UVA

History of the Health Sciences Lecture Series 2007/08


3 October 2007, Wednesday, 12:30-1:30 pm

Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D., Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York NY;
M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A., Family Medicine and Center on Health Disparities, UVA;
Maurice D. Cox, B.Arch., Architecture, UVA, and Charlottesville City Council

Urban renewal projects in the 1950s-1970s bulldozed entire districts and traumatically displaced hundreds of African American communities. The residents of these areas experienced “root shock” from the destruction of their physical and emotional ecosystems. With this perspective on urban renewal, including projects like Charlottesville’s Vinegar Hill, what can we learn about the health status of urban African Americans and the health of our cities and neighborhoods?

Issue #19.41 :: 10/05/2007 - 10/11/2007
Urban renewal start of chaos for displaced: Vinegar Hill razing "still plagues us'
BY SCOTT WEAVER, C-ville Weekly

During the 1960s, city planners and developers bulldozed hundreds of predominately African-American communities across the nation to make way for freeways, public buildings and private development. Such projects were grouped under the name “urban renewal,” though they displaced thousands of citizens nationwide. Charlottesville’s Vinegar Hill was one of those communities.

Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, a professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University, spoke at the UVA School of Medicine on October 3 about the physical and emotional impact of these projects on the people displaced. She called it “Root Shock,” the destruction of one’s known world. Maurice Cox, associate professor of architecture and former mayor and, as was announced at press time, new Director of Design for the National Endowment for the Arts, spoke following Fullilove.

“Urban renewal echoes and reverberates” into the present, said Fullilove in her presentation. “Our cities are fractured. They’re not full of cancer. Metaphors of cancer and blight have been horrible metaphors to work with.”

In the mid ‘60s, the 20-acre area of Vinegar Hill was razed, displacing families and dozens of businesses. Much of that community was moved to public housing in Westhaven, located in a little-accessible nook between 10th and West Main streets. “The loss of memory and identification still plagues us,” Cox said to the crowd of UVA students. [...]

Meanwhile, what was once the center of Charlottesville’s African-American community is currently awaiting the construction of a nine-story condo that City Council approved last month. While the city will receive $300,000 in proffers for affordable housing from the developers, Cox says the city missed the opportunity to integrate a wide range of affordable housing. [...]

Full Story

Maurice Cox, advocate for urban renewal (Courtesy C-ville Weekly)

Maurice Cox served on City Council 1996-2004. He was present when I delivered my first speech on urban renewal June 5, 2000, the night of the hearing to name the 9th/10th Connector after Sally Hemings. But Cox took no action, not even a symbolic statement of condemnation of urban renewal. In 2003 he lent his support to sell the Levy Avenue consolidated parcel, now a parking lot, property stolen three decades ago that the Housing Authority has been unable to unload ("Levy Avenue Design Workshop," Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association Newsletter, Summer 2003).

Levy Avenue rents for $1 a year.

"While the city will receive $300,000 in proffers for affordable housing..." This is a false statement made by Scott Weaver. The donation was for urban renewal and to be given to the Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The money could fund redevelopment of parking lots or public housing.

In November 2005 City Council passed a city charter amendment to redefine affordable housing to add eminent domain to seize private property for use by third parties, which is a felony. A Virginia Senate committee blocked the amendment until the Unconstitutional powers were removed. The donation is actually for gentrification because there's less affordable housing now than when the urban renewal agency was established 1954.

The letter that stopped Charlottesville's affordable housing amendment, Jan. 5, 2006

New report on eminent domain and African-Americans: urban renewal display Feb 24

"Between 1949 and 1973 … 2,532 projects were carried out in 992 cities that displaced one million people, two-thirds of them African American,” making blacks “five times more likely to be displaced than they should have been given their numbers in the population."

“Eminent domain has become what the founding fathers sought to prevent: a tool that takes from the poor and the politically weak to give to the rich and politically powerful,” concludes Dr. Mindy Fullilove in her report titled, “Eminent Domain & African Americans: What is the Price of the Commons?”

Eminent Domain & African Americans is the first in a series of independently authored reports published by the Institute for Justice, Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse, which examine the different aspects of eminent domain abuse from the vantage point of noted national experts.

Read the full 10-page report.

In the endnotes, the author cites a Roanoke newspaper article as an example of sources that have estimated the one million figure for the urban renewal diaspora from 1949-1973. This number does not include people displaced by eminent domain for other purposes or since 1973. "Street by Street, Block by Block: How Urban Renewal Uprooted Black Roanoke" by Mary Bishop, The Roanoke Times, Jan 29, 1995 [...]


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