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The battle of Lincoln Square: neighbourhood culture and the rise of resistance to urban renewal

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This article considers the organized resistance to urban renewal at Lincoln Square in New York between 1956 and 1959. The Lincoln Square Urban Renewal Project cleared ground for acres of luxury slab-block tower housing, facilities for Fordham University and its much-heralded centrepiece, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Lincoln Center gave urban renewal its most high-minded mission: providing the nation with an image of cultural maturity and urban resurgence for use in the Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union. Organized resistance to relocation at Lincoln Square brought growing discontent with urban renewal to the attention of a citywide audience. Most importantly, the Lincoln Square resisters defended the complex social world of their old neighbourhood and revealed a vision of urban culture diametrically opposed to that on offer at Lincoln Center. They showed that endangered domestic spaces were complemented by an elaborate and also imperilled public world made up of informal commercial connections between the neighbourhood's residents and businesspeople. Ultimately, this resistance not only raised the alarm over urban renewal, but provided the glimmer of a new urban vision based on the complexity of the urban neighbourhood not the simplicity of the modern superblock.
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Keywords: Lincoln Center; Lincoln Square; New York; culture; resistance; urban renewal

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of American Civilization and Urban Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

Publication date: 2009-10-01

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