Organizing from Below in New York City, U.S. and Globally Challenging Displacement from Above

On January 31st, a global gathering took place in New York City that brought together representatives from over 90 organizations to share their community struggles against displacement and their dreams for another world. Movement for Justice in El Barrio, a women of color-led community organization in East Harlem, convened the NYC Encuentro for Humanity and Against Displacement. This, the fifth Encuentro the group has organized, was the first broad citywide gathering to shine a spotlight on Mayor De Blasio’s rezoning plan, calling it a “luxury housing plan” and highlighting the massive amounts of luxury housing that will be built in what are now low-income communities of color.

Movement invited “those who are struggling for housing, for freedom, for justice, for love, for a voice, for a space to exist, for the preservation of our communities, for peace, for their community, for dignity, for humanity.” They stated in the invitation to the Encuentro, “Power seeks to divide and marginalize us as people of color, as women, as transgender, lesbian and gay, as youth, as the elderly, as workers, as the homeless, as immigrants, as tenants. We must resist division. We must seek to come together…to build something new and beautiful.”

This year’s Encuentro featured round table discussions among groups fighting against Mayor De Blasio’s “rezoning imposed from above.” During the first “Conversation from Below,” Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council and David Tieu of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, both member groups of the new Citywide Alliance Against Displacement, shared about the devastation that development and rezoning from above have caused their communities. The Mayor, whose biggest financial backers are real estate industry players, has come under the criticism that real estate interests are driving this construction of luxury housing in what are now low-income communities of color throughout NYC.

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