So you think your neighborhood is gentrifying, what can you do?
Research. In many cities today, most building and land transactions are now available to be viewed in online databases if you know where to look. Check to see if your area has a GIS map that lists the property owner you may be trying to find. In New York City, you may access this info through the ACRIS system. You can also find more zoning information on a particular lot through the NYC GIS map. Actual zoning definitions and explanations can usually be found in your area’s planning department website.
Once you have a better understanding of the regulations of how land is used in your area, it is also important to figure out who has power over the change you want to see. Areas in the United States have a range of configurations of how land use is controlled, from it being in the hands of a few – such as a mayor – or in a large body such as a city council or planning commission. Look into what model exists in your region and how power is both wielded by those people and put in check by others, including the general public. This exercise is in understanding power is known as power-mapping.
Community Organizing. Quoting this definition, community organizing is
“a process where people who live in proximity to each other come together into an organization that acts in their shared self-interest. A core goal of community organizing is to generate durable power for an organization representing the community, allowing it to influence key decision-makers on a range of issues over time.”
Community organizing is a long term strategy to develop both a shared understanding, leadership model and communication structure between community members towards a goal which may be quickly winnable or ongoing for years and sometimes decades. Good organizing requires both thinking through the language that will grab the attention of the audience you want to support of and of your target that can make the changes you want. It also demands an understanding of the assets and limitations of your growing group; everyone has things that they are good or bad at. Good organizers are able to assess this quickly and find a number of ways that community members can be involved based on their skills and time commitment to your cause.
Is there another group nearby doing the same thing you want to do or something similar? Go talk to them! When able, don’t reinvent the wheel and instead think about how you can support existing struggles and social movements in mutually beneficial ways.
Direct Action. One simple definition for direct action is
“the use of immediately effective acts, such as strikes, demonstrations, or sabotage, to achieve a political or social end.”
Direct actions can range in scope based on the goal, level of risk participants are willing to engage in and skill of those who are planning it. BAN as a direct action oriented network engages in a number of tactics, from passive petition and phone bank campaigns to more aggressive rallies and marches. It is important to create clear markers of what success means for your group and to plan out a number of scenarios that may be possible as a part of your direct action. Read more on how to think through an action.