Youth and cities : planning with low-income youth and urban youth cultures in New York City and Paris
Author(s)Knorr, Lilian (Lilian M.)
Planning with low-income youth and urban youth cultures in New York City and Paris
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Lawrence J. Vale.
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Are the cities of North America and Europe governed, built, and planned by authorities to encourage youth development or facilitate repression? Youth and Cities: Planning with Low- Income Youth and Urban Youth Cultures in New York City and Paris is an investigation into the experience of urban youth by (1) examining the impact of youth policy regimes and neoliberal urbanization processes on the challenges young people face, the opportunities they have and the capacities they can build; and (2) looking at the myriad ways that young people utilize and transform urban space in their everyday lives through their cultural activities, such as hip hop, skateboarding, pick-up basketball and graffiti. Combining empirical research with urban theory, the project seeks to develop a set of conceptual tools for understanding the relationship between youth, the state and the urban environment. Young people are avid users of urban space, yet urban environments and governance practices only variably encourage the development of youth cultural movements. In the context of heightened anxiety about youth violence and growing youth unemployment, a central question behind this project is: what is the potential role of urban planning and design in promoting the wellbeing of young people living in low-income communities? The project's overall objective is to explore the potential role of urban planning and design in improving youth contexts and outcomes. Case studies are based on research in Paris and New York City, due to their vibrant youth cultures, high densities, and different governance strategies regarding the spatial practices of urban youth. As such, the two cities represent different physical landscapes and policy environments for young people. In Paris, the state is actively involved in the youth field and so, young people have a richly developed environment of resources. Many young people, however, feel cordoned off to such facilities and so seek greater engagement with the city as a whole. The Paris case shows that the provision of amenities is not tantamount to extending the 'right to the city' to young people. Conversely, in New York City, there is still much hesitance towards recognizing youth through the allocation of urban space and as such, young people depend largely on private actors and community organizers for spatial resources. The urban design politics of these landscapes reveal the tension between neoliberal urbanization processes and positive youth development. Spatially, policy in New York City shifted from making cities more habitable for young people to making youth more manageable for cities. Socially, urban policy moved from supporting social programs to facilitating market interests. The goal of reducing youth's footprint on the built environment - to render them invisible, so to speak - results in landscapes that provide fewer and fewer opportunities for young people to transform and appropriate urban space. In Paris, decades of place-making have entrenched youth space in the city, making it harder for the state to disinvest young people of their spatial resources. Despite different youth policy regimes and urban landscapes, young people in both cities are avid users of urban space and are captivated by similar cultural movements. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork with young hip hop artists and local youth, the project identifies the ways that young people use the built environment to express themselves. By analyzing the visual cultures of the environments they transform, their use of social media to promote their goals, and the ephemeral ways that they appropriate space, I propose a model of freestyle urbanism. In New York in particular, young people with few spatial resources use and transform leftover spaces such as parking lots, alleyways, and abandoned buildings to meet their needs. These spaces enable a form of urban use and intervention that transforms space spontaneously and ephemerally.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 2014.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 287-302).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.