Right to Sit 

Investigative Photo Essay Project 2023

Design and Urban Ecologies - The New School, Parsons

This project is a means to explore the ways in which residents can exercise their right to the city and the ways in which the city puts up physical or more invisibilized barriers excluding residents from their right to exist in public space or right to the city as a whole.

These benches, bus stops, and diy constructed surfaces are a necessary public service, and represent how the city prioritizes its residents' comfort, health, safety, and wellbeing when capital is not involved. A paying customer can sit inside a warm booth at a restaurant, or a couch at a coffee shop as they drink their latte. However, these places exclude large swaths of New York City’s population.

I am interested in how these places could also represent spaces of communal luxury or have aspects of the utopia that is described in Everything For Everyone by M.E. O’Brien and Eman Abdelhadi. This analysis focuses on the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and goes on to examine the disparity between pre-war prioritization of white resident’s access to public space, refuge, and comfort and the contemporary disinvestment in the neighborhood due to systemic racist practices like redlining. The disinvestment becomes evident in the physicality of public space and the prioritization of private comfort over the communal. In the contemporary, public space becomes a luxury available for use only to the white and wealthy. The bench, in this analysis represents the physicality of the city and how capital investment changes over time and space.

Thus, this analysis asks the questions, what do places for recoup and relaxation look like outside of capitalist reproduction? How are they constructed? How do they feel? Where are they?