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Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State

Book launch for Samuel Stein’s “Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State,” with Samuel Stein, Raquel Namuche, Rob Robinson, Shellyne Rodriguez and Esteban Girón.

Recorded at Verso Books in Brooklyn, February 25, 2019.

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Our cities are changing. Global real estate is now a $217 trillion dollar industry, 36 times the value of all the gold ever mined. It makes up 60% of the world's assets, and the most powerful person in the world—the president of the United States—made his name as a landlord and real estate developer.

As Samuel Stein makes clear in his tightly argued book, it’s through the seemingly innocuous profession of city planners that we can best understand the transformations underway. Planners provide a window into the practical dynamics of urban change: the way the state uses and is used by organized capital, and the power of landlords and developers at every level of government. But crucially, planners also possess some of the powers we must leverage if we ever wish to reclaim our cities from real estate capital.

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About the speakers:

Samuel Stein studies geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and teaches urban studies at Hunter College. His writing on planning politics been published by Jacobin, The Journal of Urban Affairs, Metropolitics, and many other magazines and journals. In addition to studying and teaching urban geography, he worked as a researcher, organizer, and planner on numerous New York City union campaigns, tenant mobilizations, and public policy initiatives.

Raquel Namuche is a long-time tenant organizer. Born in Peru and raised in Queens, she is an organizer with the Ridgewood Tenants Union, an independent tenant-led housing group she started in 2014.

Rob Robinson was a co-founder and member of the Leadership Committee of the Take Back the Land Movement and a staff volunteer at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI). He came into the land and housing movement after spending two years homeless on the streets of Miami and ten months in a New York City Homeless shelter.

Shellyne Rodriguez is a community organizer and a visual artist. As an organizer, she is an active member of radical grassroots collective Take Back the Bronx, who agitate and organize for community control of land and housing. As an artist, her work is a decolonial baroque practice which utilizes text, drawing, painting, found materials, and sculpture to depict subjects and spaces in contention with subjugation.

Esteban Girón is a member of the Crown Heights Tenant Union and serves on the board of Tenants PAC. He lives in Crown Heights with his husband Sean and his dog Chicochu, spending his days making life miserable for his landlord and the developers & politicians who are trying to empty his neighborhood of working-class people of color.