The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion: Signs of the TimesInterboro
In the storefront window of an otherwise unremarkable real estate office a few blocks from our office in Downtown Brooklyn, one can witness—amid the clutter of posters advertising eye-poppingly-priced triple-mint brownstones, full-service starters, Newswalk duplexes, and other “picturesque Park Slope gems”.
Here are two ubiquitous signs making two very different—if not contradictory—statements about urban space and how people should use it. The sign on the right, which advertises the real estate office’s compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s mandate that it not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin, is the open housing movement’s most prominent emblem—its presence in real estate offices, lending institutions, and apartment buildings across the country the spoil of a patient, hard-fought victory in the ongoing struggle to make more communities more accessible to more people.
The smaller sign on the left is a prominent emblem earned by the agents of another struggle, namely the struggle to limit your constitutional right to assemble. Quite contrary to the sign on the right, the sign on the left marks an attempt to make a space less accessible.
The “equal housing opportunity” sign is serious business. It represents a policy that in turn represents a national housing strategy that regulates housing everywhere in the U.S. The “No Loitering” Sign doesn’t really represent a policy at all: while most municipalities have loitering ordinances that vaguely prohibit, for example, “remain[ing] in any one place with no apparent purpose,” “No Loitering” Signs don’t designate officially recognized “No Loitering” zones, even when they proclaim, presumably in an effort to sound more official, how many feet from the sign one can’t loiter. Posting an “equal housing opportunity” sign is required by law: failure to display it prominently is evidence of a discriminatory housing practice and can result in a lawsuit. Posting a “No Loitering” Sign is at best a guerilla tactic—an attempt to regulate a space that isn’t necessarily the sign poster’s to regulate. 
Redrawing the Lines
These ordinary and otherwise unremarkable artifacts give a small glimpse into the everyday struggles over who gets to live, hang out, work, or play where and for how long. They illustrate that access to urban space is governed by a diverse, contingent, and often contradictory set of policies, practices, and physical artifacts. Legitimate and illegitimate, official and unofficial, strategic and tactical, intentional and habitual, these policies, practices, and physical artifacts are the subject of this book. Without trying to be comprehensive, the book examines a few of them that, like the “No Loitering” Sign and the Fair Housing Act, have been used by planners, policymakers, developers, real estate brokers, community activists, and other urban actors to draw, erase, or redraw the lines that divide. The book inventories these weapons of exclusion and inclusion, describes how they have been used, assesses their legacy, and speculates about how they might be deployed (or retired) for the sake of more open cities in which more people have more access to more places.
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