“I really appreciated Bill Weinberg’s history of Tompkins Square Park….The still-visible Olmstead landscape puts it in conversation with parks in other parts of Manhattan, or in other cities, for that matter. More importantly, retelling the history of struggle and resistance gives visitors a different way of looking at U. S. history – a Howard Zinn moment, if you will. It’s hard for many people to see the history of New York in a nuanced way (this city is all about forgetting and building bigger projects) and class-based histories are not the way that most Americans understand themselves….
“I have to say that the biggest revelation for me came from speaking with Maggie Wrigley about how her squat attained legal status. Here I’m also taking a cue from the reaction of my colleague who is co-teaching the class. He’s a good democrat, no doubt, but he’s more wedded to traditional ideas about public vs. private property than I am. He asked me some good, nuts-and-bolts questions that I was having a hard time answering until I ran into Maggie… It was fascinating to me to hear how the various parties negotiate (or resist) definitions of ‘ownership’ and stability.”
–Eric Sandeen, American Studies Program Director, University of Wyoming
It is so hard to decide upon a particular highlight of the tours. I think I would have to say entering the squats, and meeting the squatters, an experience that was different each time even when we met the same hosts. Heading into Paz’s apartment while he was jamming with his friends http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9ayKqwAh1c …again to Paz’s apartment on a second tour, this time hearing instead of music, the gripping story of how he and others created their spaces out of the bare bones of broken buildings. From campfires to radiant heat floors!
Each tour lead us from one squat to another, from one person’s home to another’s, greeting a variety of people, in apartments in contrasting stages of renovation; through it all there was that amazing energy, the shared struggle of creating one’s personal space. It was a different dynamic than any I have encountered, a strong sense of community far beyond that of my bland suburban neighborhood.