Student Work

  • Design and Urban Ecologies (MS)

    Charles Chawalko

    Illuminating Illusions: Southbridge Towers & The Mythos of Privatization

    As New York City faces a seemingly perpetual housing crisis. Our affordable housing systems are under attack from a variety of forces such as real estate, governmental oversight, and self-interest. My home is one of the battlefields in this very struggle. My thesis is a two-pronged approach towards re-discovering the history of my housing complex and re-establishing why it is important to preserve.

    ‘Illuminating Illusions’ first utilizes the Mitchell-Lama cooperative–Southbridge Towers as a case study exploring the dynamics of the re-development of Lower Manhattan that led to its construction and its existence thereafter. This history is lost in forty years of social stratification, growing inequality, and ever-increasing local property values. A battle has erupted over whether or not to reconstitute the apartment complex as a market-rate cooperative through an offering plan known as the Black Book.

    The second phase features an in-the-field intervention and strategy to fend off privatization and the dissolution of the structures that allow housing to remain affordable. The goal of this multifaceted strategy is to mediate the ideological divide between those who support privatization and those who support maintaining Mitchell-Lama. This campaign is composed of constructing a power dynamic analysis of the complex, drafting an informative flier series to provide nonpartisan Black Book analysis, and developing a strategy for independent candidates to be successful in the Board of Directors election. 

    This thesis was done in conjunction with the Southbridge Towers Shareholders Association.