Ours To Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners In New York City

Paperback | November 7, 2016

byAmy Starecheski

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Though New York’s Lower East Side today is home to high-end condos and hip restaurants, it was for decades an infamous site of blight, open-air drug dealing, and class conflict—an emblematic example of the tattered state of 1970s and ’80s Manhattan.
 
Those decades of strife, however, also gave the Lower East Side something unusual: a radical movement that blended urban homesteading and European-style squatting in a way never before seen in the United States. Ours to Lose tells the oral history of that movement through a close look at a diverse group of Lower East Side squatters who occupied abandoned city-owned buildings in the 1980s, fought to keep them for decades, and eventually began a long, complicated process to turn their illegal occupancy into legal cooperative ownership. Amy Starecheski here not only tells a little-known New York story, she also shows how property shapes our sense of ourselves as social beings and explores the ethics of homeownership and debt in post-recession America.

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Though New York’s Lower East Side today is home to high-end condos and hip restaurants, it was for decades an infamous site of blight, open-air drug dealing, and class conflict—an emblematic example of the tattered state of 1970s and ’80s Manhattan.   Those decades of strife, however, also gave the Lower East Side something unusual: a ...

Amy Starecheski is co-director of the Oral History Master of Arts program at Columbia University. She won first prize in the 2016 SAPIENS-Allegra competition. 
Format:PaperbackDimensions:344 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:November 7, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022639994X

ISBN - 13:9780226399942

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

The Narrators
The Eleven Buildings
Introduction
 
Chapter 1: From Drug Murder to Door Ceremony: Claiming Buildings, Building Claims
 
Chapter 2: Who Deserves Housing? The Battle for East Thirteenth Street
 
Chapter 3: Making the Deal: Debating the Values of Housing
 
Chapter 4: Why Work? The Values of Labor
 
Chapter 5: Making Claims on the Past and the Future: Debt, Kinship, History, and the Temporality of Homeownership
 
Conclusion

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Notes
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“This original ethnography of a successful group of Lower East Side squatters in what is considered the ultimate luxury city—downtown Manhattan—turns the right to the city into an ambivalent struggle to gain property rights.  It examines how residents’ political commitments to collective and inclusive values are confronted by difficult choices and hard work in an effort to retain abandoned housing that is home to poor and otherwise homeless friends and families. The social dynamics of squatters transformation into owners is described with compassion and pride as Starecheski faces the contradictions inherent in this housing conversion.”