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Public land plays a central role in contemporary urban planning struggles. Using a comparative case study approach focused on the north-eastern US cities of Newark and New York City, we uncover patterns of land acquisition and dispossession that fit five broad and often overlapping periods in planning history: City Beautiful, metropolitan reorganization, deindustrialization, and devaluation, followed by hyper-commodification in New York City and redevelopment amidst disinvestment in Newark. Through this periodization, we find that accumulation and alienation of urban public land has largely taken place through two modes of municipalization (targeted and reactive) and two modes of privatization (community-led and capital-led). Uncovering these complex and contradictory processes strengthens the case for a more intentional approach to public land than either city’s leadership is currently pursuing, but which social movements have persistently demanded – one which prioritizes democratic decision-making in long-term land management, as well as public access, use and purpose.


This article was published online 12/31/2018. A print edition is forthcoming in a special issue of International Planning Studies entitled, "The Politics of Land: Dominant Regimes, Situated Practices and Antagonisms" edited by Nina Gribat and Barbara Pizzo. DOI: 10.1080/13563475.2018.1559043.



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