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Collection Scope and Content Note


The Progressive Cities and Neighborhood Planning Collection, collected by Pierre Clavel, documents a significant group of city planners, other city and state officials, cities and professional organizations that made contributions to urban governance and the physical and social quality of urban life in the period from 1970 through the 1990s.

The "Progressive Cities and Neighborhood Planning 1969-2005 Collection" constitutes a subset of the City and Regional Planning Archives in the Cornell University Library. That collection is most extensively described in a catalogue for the exhibition, "Urban America: Documenting the Planners" compiled by Cornell archivists Elaine Engst and Thomas Hickerson in 1985. That catalogue referenced 91 collections of papers and records held by the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Cornell University Library. The catalogue organized the material by periods: "The Beginnings", starting at about the start of the 20th century, "Planning in the Twenties," "Planning and the New Deal," and "Contemporary Planning," encompassing the postwar period through the 1960s. The last of these periods specified such topics as housing legislation, urban renewal, Philadelphia, PA, Regional Plan Association, Shopping Centers, Historic Preservation, American Planning Association, and Planners and Social Action.

The current set of materials complements these earlier ones by covering a significant group of city planners, other city and state officials, cities and professional organizations that made contributions to urban governance and the physical and social quality of urban life in the period from 1970 through the 1990s.

In the context of the earlier materials and their organization, "Progressive Cities and Neighborhood Planning 1969-2005" reflects the concerns that were nascent in the "Planning and Social Action" grouping for the 1960s period. In the 1960s what the planners experienced and contributed to was a set of social movements, typically in protest of the effects of many urban programs of the time like urban renewal and the highway program. Paul Davidoff and Walter Thabit were major leaders, -- though there were dozens of others, professional planners but also citizen activists. Books like Lily Hoffman, The Politics of Knowledge (1989), Robert Goodman, After the Planners (1972), and Martin and Carolyn Needleman, Guerillas in the Bureaucracy (1974) give some of the background.

What happened after about 1970 was the transformation of social movement energy to the attempt to capture real institutions and operate them in service of similar causes -- social justice, equality, and neighborhood "rights" not to have their communities destroyed. Prominent -- perhaps the most prominent -- examples were the takeovers of city governments by movement activists, now typically calling themselves "progressives", and the creation of neighborhood based community development corporations, often alongside grassroots based planning exercises such as those Reardon pioneered in East St. Louis and New York City.

The current collection is organized around cases of such developments in institutions. "Planning" is the way in to each topic, but by no means all of what is covered. And along the way, papers, articles, interviews and occasional video tapes of a gallery of actors is touched on, some heroic -- Nick Carbone and John Alschuler in Hartford; Norman Krumholz, Ernie Bonner, Roldo Bartimole, and Dennis Kucinich in Cleveland; Derek Shearer, Ruth Goldway, Denny Zane in Santa Monica; Eve Bach, Gus Newport, Veronika Fukson, and Ed Kirshner in Berkeley; Peter Dreier, Mel King in Boston; Rob Mier, Art Vazquez, Doug Gills, Kari Moe, Bob Giloth, Liz Hollander in Chicago.

It is important that this collection is about cities and neighborhood institutions as much as it is about the people. For as they shifted from movement base to the more formal institutions of government or neighborhood development corporation, they encountered and mastered new challenges: formalization toward organizations with rules and traditions; the challenge of opening their work to a broader clientele -- e.g. the whole city -- while maintaining their original purposes. In the process they rose to new levels as individuals, and their institutions developed new capabilities. It is arguable that cities, for example, developed enhanced capacities to act as units representing all of their citizenry as a result of the entrance into government of "progressives" in the 1970s and 1980s.

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