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  • From Slum Clearance to Economic Development: A Retrospective of Redevelopment Policies in New York State

    New York has always been an innovator in the field of urban redevelopment, continually experimenting with new programs aimed at ridding our cities of blighted areas and creating better living, working, and recreational areas. But as Charles Abrams, the renowned New York City housing and urban affairs scholar, cautioned, “[e]ach innovation creates its own precedent, forging another outward link to its further extension.” Although less well known than urban theorists and planners such as Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and Robert Moses, Abrams was instrumental in shaping slum clearance, public housing, and redevelopment policies in New York and across the country, and his ideas continue to resonate in contemporary discussions about economic and community development. A housing reformer and civil rights lawyer, Abrams was motivated by his belief that poverty and discrimination were “intolerable in a society based on the premise of equality.” He coined the phrase “socialism for the rich and private enterprise for the poor,” and as his biographer, A. Scott Henderson, explained: “[h]e championed various policies because he assumed a democratic society was obliged to provide its citizens with equal rights and certain social provisions, such as affordable housing and municipal services.”