Just City: Growing Up on the Upper West Side When Housing Was a Human Right


Product Details

$29.95  $27.85
Fordham University Press
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.1 X 1.0 inches | 1.15 pounds

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About the Author

Jennifer Baum is a filmmaker turned writer. Her writing has been published in New York Daily News, Guernica, Jacobin, The Village Voice, The Phoenix Jewish News, Canadian Jewish Outlook, The Jewish Observer Los Angeles, MUTHA, Hip Mama, and Newfound, which nominated her essay, A Different Set of Rules, for a Pushcart award. Baum teaches composition at Montclair State University and occasionally works as a freelance editor, most recently for a series of reports for the World Bank on poverty in Ghana.


Just City provides a deep and thoroughly contextualized understanding of subsidized housing for the middle- and lower-class in postwar Manhattan: the goals that brought politicians to create it; its actual development on the streets of New York; its rise and fall in popularity; and the broader state of mind that made such widespread urban policies possible. The book is a fascinating combination of memoir and urban studies.---Jennifer A. Low, professor emerita at Florida Atlantic University and author of Dramatic Spaces: Scenography and Spectatorial Perceptions
Mitchell Lama housing was always more than low-cost apartments in tower blocks. For many sponsors and residents, cooperation and mutual aid were just as important as shelter. Jennifer Baum captures that broader spirit in this readable autobiographical account, integrating personal memoir and housing policy analysis. For a rising generation excited about housing cooperation, Baum's vivid description of the promise and challenge of earlier efforts is instructive.---Nicholas Dagen Bloom, Hunter College, City University of New York
In Just City Jenny Baum has achieved something memorable: she has excavated her own specifically etched memories of growing up in the subsidized housing of Manhattan's Upper West Side and allowed them to open up into a broad and deeply researched exploration of this remarkable urban experiment. This perspicacious book speaks as much to New York of the 1970s as it does to modern America as it invites all of us city dwellers to look back to our points of origin and ahead to the kinds of cities we might long for--and work to bring about--in the future.---Michael Frank, author of One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World
Jennifer Baum's Just City conjures up a vivid not-so-distant past where working- and middle-class families of all races shared a landscape of collective vision, common good values and abundant social capital before the forces of privatization and gentrification consumed most of the Upper West Side. Baum's family, friends and neighbors live again in this historical memoir, showcasing marvelous and surprising ways Urban Renewal and public policy worked as a tool for building an urban middle class in the second half of the 20th Century, with Mitchell-Lama housing anchoring a diverse neighborhood where both grit and glamour flourished.---Gregory Jost, Writer & Speaker, Inside the Redlines
Since the 1960s, the RNA House Mitchell Lama cooperative has provided affordable housing on the Upper West Side to a diverse mix of New Yorkers. Jennifer Baum's Just City provides a thoughtful reflection on how this development was a vital part of New York and a vital haven for New Yorkers over more than a half century. Baum is a passionate advocate for the importance of affordable housing, and her book tells an empathetic and readable story of her family, her community and her city.---Annemarie Sammartino, author of Freedomland: Co-op City and the Story of New York