Hackney Independent presents
A story of good intentions
A documentary about gentrification and regeneration in the predominantly African-American neighbourhood of East Liberty in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Playing at the Dalston Rio on May Day Bank Holiday – May 7
On this coming May Day Bank Holiday Monday, the Dalston Rio will be hosting the British premiere of East of Liberty, a documentary about gentrification and regeneration in the predominantly African-American neighbourhood of East Liberty in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
East Liberty was once one of Pennsylvania’s most prosperous areas, but disastrous urban planning in the 1960s saw both the central business area collapse and tower blocks erected leaving residents isolated in the sky.
But change is again coming to East Liberty. The traffic in the centre is once again flowing after being rerouted in the 60’s, the tower blocks are coming down and new shops are offering everything from yoga to organic food.
Everybody, seemingly, was a winner
But then voices, excluded, marginalised and anxious began to emerge…
Chris Ivey, a seasoned filmmaker in Pittsburgh, first started working on the project in May 2005.
He found himself filming a publicity stunt in which paint bombs were being launched by employees of the regeneration company from a giant catapult at a soon-to-be demolished tower block, East Mall. But, amidst the revelry, he found residents far from happy:
“I was hired to document the tearing down of the high rises. At the same time I interviewed some of the residents who lived in the high rises and they weren’t happy at all because of the spectacle that was before them. They were really angry. It was their home, it was where they used to live, some for 30 years or more. Even though in many ways it wasn’t the best place to live it was all they had and to see strangers having fun by shooting paintballs at the block left them furious.”
And so began a journey of investigation in which previous silent rage was given space to talk.
The film first debuted in the US last Autumn, and the response has astounded the director:
“The reception here has been really incredible. It’s the most talked about thing in the city right now. There’s been loads of coverage in the papers and everybody around town is talking about it. All the screenings have sold out. The people at the screenings are really passionate – they’re always asking what they can do to get involved.”
Chris Ivey will be attending the event and answering questions at the end. On the prospect of showing the documentary here in London he said:
“I’m really looking to forward to coming to Hackney to show my film. Gentrification isn’t just happening here in the States, it’s also happening all over the world too. Sometimes it’s race, and sometimes it’s class, but it always comes down to the money – who has it and who doesn’t, and if you don’t have it you’ll get screwed.”
East of Liberty will be shown at the Dalston Rio at 1pm on May Day Bank Holiday – May 7. The price of admission is £4.
Community groups in Hackney have warned the government not to plunder National Lottery funds to pay for the London Olympics in 2012.
The government is considering dipping into the fund to make up for a shortfall in the soaring costs of the Games. However, the people who rely on the funding have said the move could spell disaster for hundreds of community projects.
Jim Armstrong, the Laburnum Boat Club co-ordinator, said his organisation relied on Lottery funding.
The club, based in Laburnum Street, Haggerston, was boosted by a £90,000 Lottery grant in 2005 which gave young people with disabilities the chance to go sailing and canoeing.
“The Lottery is an important source of funding for community groups in Hackney,” said Mr Armstrong.
“We support the Olympics, but not at the expense of community groups and would be saddened if there was any threat to our funding in the future.”
Liz Hughes, of the Haggerston Pool Trust, said: “We think before the Olympic organisers take any more they should make their case about how the Olympics is really going to benefit community groups.
“We want the government to be much more specific about what the legacy will be and how it will make up for all the projects which lose out.”
The National Lottery is already set to contribute £1.5 billion towards the 2012 cost, which will be raised through Lottery games.
However, with the final bill likely to top £3.3 billion, the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, has not ruled out further contributions.
Projects in Hackney have benefited from a staggering £141 million since the National Lottery began 12 years ago.
Last year, the Stoke Newington Woodcraft Folk were given a £6,700 grant to send 25 children to the Global Village International Camp in Kent.
Hackney Cultural Carnival Arts received £5,000 to help organise the Fusion East Carnival finale in Bethnal Green.
The Hoxton-based arts charity, Standpoint Studios, was given £5,000 to carry out educational workshops in primary schools.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said the benefits of the Olympics would outstrip the losses to other projects.
She said: “It’s been made clear that money from the Lottery will be used to go to the Olympics.
“The Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and will transform society and improve millions of lives.
“It will bring immense benefits to the country in exactly the areas that the Lottery was set up for in the first place.”
Event takes place on Tuesday January 16, 2007
3.00pm: Open for Tours
4.30pm: Sunset Bonfire
7.30pm: Broadcast of ITV’s ‘Disappearing London’ featuring the campaign
Fresh food will be served!
Extracts from the press release:
‘Please come to show the strength of support to showcase this precious part of Lea Valley’s heritage rather than the ‘Green’ Olympics plan to bulldoze 100-year-old Manor Garden Allotments.
David Mackay, Author of the original Stratford City plan and lead Architect for the Barcelona Olympic Village and Port – flagged up as the most successful Olympics for regeneration recently – wrote, ‘Unfortunately London has lost this opportunity by deciding to agree to cover the existing recreation facilities with the silliest architecture seen for years with no real concern for a legacy. So far as Legacy is concerned we are being asked to look at the Emperor’s New Clothes – so delicate that nobody can see them. If carried out, and with only five years to go, the Olympic legacy is more likely to be like a Hollywood set for a ghost town or an abandoned Expo site.’
The eviction date is set to be 2nd April at the latest.
Manor Gardens, bequeathed to be allotments ‘in perpetuity’ by their original owner the ‘ Right Hon’ Major Villiers, sit in the North central section of the Olympic Park. The LDA plan to remove them to make a footpath to the stadia and now to house a screen, destroying in the process a century of devoted cultivation and a close-knit community rooted in this irreplaceable site. Old timers, Tom and Albert, have been growing veg and keeping fit here for 54 and 58 years respectively, taking over from their fathers. 10 year old Boris, whose parents are members, nags them to come to the plot and wants to hand his plot down to his son. Members trust in the permanence of the site led one plot holder to scatter his brother’s ashes on his plot.
However this diverse community of Turks Cypriots, Greeks, Jamaicans, Africans and Brits welcome the potential for regeneration brought by the Olympic development. Rather than being moved out of the way they want to offer their contribution which seems to them to be entirely consistent with the Olympic and Government ambitions. They believe to remove the allotment gardens would be to rip out the ‘healthy heart’ of the Olympic Park area as well as to fragment the community.
Even if the Manor Gardening community could be protected by relocation there is growing opposition from people local to the relocation site on Marsh Lane fields. If planning permission is granted it would only be for seven years after which the Society may be moved again. Yet it would take at least twenty years, plus the right conditions, to re-establish our current food production levels and to create a similarly viable community.
As plot holder Armagan and her friend Cavide said, ‘We could make the London Olympics different from all other Olympics. Having the allotments in the Olympic Park and preserving them for the Legacy Park would send out the message world wide that the UK really does care after all.’
But do the LDA and the Mayor care about local grown initiatives even when they are successful examples, like Manor Garden Allotments, of the Governments own strategies such as the London Food and the Biodiversity Strategies?
Writer and supporter of the campaign to incorporate the allotments, Iain Sinclair says, ‘We don’t want it (the Olympic Park) imagining for us. We don’t want it over-imagined. We want to imagine it for ourselves. Please preserve the soul of the place as represented by the beautiful Manor Garden Allotments.’
At the end of the day the TV will be turned on in the Community Shed to show the broadcast of ‘Disappearing London’ featuring Manor Garden Allotments on ITV at 7.30pm.’
This event is open to everybody but the organisers would appreciate an acknowlegement of intention from those coming so that they can gauge attendence. Please firstname.lastname@example.org
The ferocious war of words between Hackney Labour Party and Hackney Independent continues.
The reality is that whole chunks of Hackney have been handed over to public and private property developers and are being converted to blocks of exclusive one and two-bedroom flats which are to be sold or let at prices that are increasingly beyond the means of even the middle classes for whom they are intended. The original residents of Hackney have two choices, live in squalor or move out.
– Arthur Shuter
The saga began during the May elections when a number of inaccurate allegations were made against us in Labour Party election material: that Hackney Independent is against Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and only into “trendy issues such as Dalston theatre”!
The truth of the matter is that Hackney Independent had never commented on ASBOs, not least because in Haggerston ward only one had ever been issued, making it an issue irrelevant to local people at that time. But as ASBOs seem to be feature of the government’s agenda for some time to come we have opened a debate on the issue and given space in our Winter newsletter to a local teenager to air his views on the subject.
As for Dalston Theatre, which we did not mention in our election material, it’s hard to take seriously the idea that the eviction of hard-working shop-keepers and the demolition of an historical landmark for the sake of 19-story tower blocks of private flats is somehow a “trendy” issue.
Hackney Independent ran a completely positive election campaign that didn’t stoop to political smears and personal attacks on any of our opponents. Rightly or wrongly, we chose not to walk in the gutter. Perhaps we were naïve, but we genuinely believed – and still believe – that the reason most people get turned off by politics is just the kind of empty mud-slinging and spin that New Labour excels at.
Events have veered off at an even stranger angle in recent weeks with allegations from Haggerston Councillor Jonathan McShane in the Hackney Gazette. McShane states that Hackney Independent are opposed to CCTV on purely civil liberties grounds, that we are campaigning for the 2012 Olympics bid to be transferred to Paris and, most bizarrely, that we want a brothel to be opened in Gillett Square, Dalston!
In reference to CCTV, this was an article published in our free newsletter this summer entitled `Who benefits from `ASBOTV’?’ The piece was a detailed examination of the sinister Digital Bridge project on the Haberdasher and Charles square estates. This is a proposed scheme in which residents, for a fee, can gain access to local CCTV cameras through their own television set. (See Summer 2006 newsletter on this website.)
The conclusion of this article was clear: `Hackney Independent have never had an “official position” on CCTV. We would like to start a real debate on the issue that doesn’t just accept New Labour’s solutions. After speaking to local people and doing surveys on estates we know that many people in Haggerston are pro-CCTV.’
OLYMPICS – GETTING A FAIR DEAL
The Olympics is coming to London in 2012. There is nothing that Hackney Independent or anybody else can do or say to change this fact. But what we can do is to try and ensure that the Olympic project benefits everybody rather than just the property developers and the politicians’ egos in City Hall. That means
*construction work that is well-paid, unionised and primarily draws its labour from the local area
*other forms of employment to meet a minimum standard London wage (as TELCO have campaigned for)
*social housing rather than private developments
*a building programme that respects local green space rather than bulldozing over it
*consultation that’s a genuine dialogue with local residents rather than the snooty dismissal to opposition that is always generated by the urban elite.
Hackney Independent has no illusions that that the Olympics is about sport. It is about business and making money. As this process unfolds in the coming years we will work with others to ensure as much of the billions spent on this project benefits the working classes of East London as is possible. Having said that, we are sadly under no illusions that the usual fat-cats and prima-donna politicians will be those who most benefit…
Unfortunately, it may prove to be the case that the people of London – after 2012 and beyond – will wish that Paris had won this white-elephant after all. (Those interested in a critical analysis of 2012 are recommended the games monitor website at www.gamesmonitor.org.uk.)
PIMP MY PUBLIC SERVICES
The accusation that we are for building a brothel in Gillett Street has been adequately responded to in the letters pages of the Hackney Gazette, copies of which can be found in the `letters’ section of this website.
As Carl Taylor wrote: `Hackney Independent has no desire to see a brothel built in Gillett Square, or elsewhere.’ Arthur Shuter made the point: `The reality is that whole chunks of Hackney have been handed over to public and private property developers and are being converted to blocks of exclusive one and two-bedroom flats which are to be sold or let at prices that are increasingly beyond the means of even the middle classes for whom they are intended. The original residents of Hackney have two choices, live in squalor or move out.’
THE REAL ISSUES
Since the elections Hackney Independent has distributed two newsletters across the ward and organised two Kids Cinema shows, Labour has not put out a newsletter in the ward. The Hackney Labour website shows no updates since May. What a contrast to the months running up to the council elections when Labour was putting out regular newsletters and updating their website. We have said it before and we will say it again now: Labour lies to the working class during elections and ignores us in between.
Rather than address the real issues of social cleansing and the displacement of the poor in their vision of Hackney’s future, Labour can only resort to lies and spin. Pipe’s `I Love Hackney’ sloganeering is a piece of empty gush. Yes, Jules, we too `love’ Hackney – but we want a Hackney that values all its residents not just those who can afford to move in and live here.
Despite Mayor Pipe’s jubilant post-election address that Hackney Independent `are finished’, the group is still actively campaigning as a part of and with the working class of Hackney. We will continue to do so – on real issues rather than the fiction that Hackney Labour Party accuses us of dealing with. Councillor McShane says he looks forward to challenging Hackney Independent at the next local elections. We should remind Cllr McShane that the battle for ideas and campaigning takes place in the here and now – not just every four years at election time. This is the battle that Hackney Independent is engaged in at this moment.
A big debate has kicked off following the announcement by a Channel 4 Property Show that Hackney is ‘the worst place to live in Britain’.
The young professionals who have been buying houses in the area have used their privileged positions in the media to jump to Hackney’s defence. This article from the BBC’s website is a hilarious example: “As a resident of the borough -albeit for only the last four months – let me tell you one thing: the findings are rubbish. For many of us, this pearl of cultural diversity and tolerance in north-east London is little short of an earthly Eden. Bars, restaurants, parks, canals reminiscent of the great days of Venice – we have it all on our doorstep”.
Middle class mayor Jules Pipe has been publicly defending Hackney, criticising the programme and claiming that “their survey takes no account of the things that really make a place great; people, architecture, culture, nightlife, parks”. He has asked everyone in the borough to “wear your I love Hackney badge with pride” in protest at the TV show.
Unfortunately for the Mayor, many residents seem to have taken a rather different view. “Where are all the letters of love for Hackney?” asked the Gazette as it printed a page full of angry letters attacking Pipe and complaining about “rotting windows, cockroaches rats, burnt out cars, no playgrounds for children” and pointing out the levels of crime in the area.
“The worst place to live, how right you are” wrote a resident from Haggerston Estate. These very different reactions clearly show that there are now two very different realities in Hackney – one for those who can afford to enjoy the bars, boutiques and ‘architecture’ and another where basic needs like decent housing are not being met.
The angry letters in the Gazette have exposed Pipe’s pathetic ‘I love Hackney’ campaign as a classic piece of New Labour pin. Rather than tackling any of the real problems faced by most working people all the council have to offer is an empty slogan.
Despite Jules Pipe’s attempts to present himself as a man of the people, defending “poorer people” against the “middle class snobs” at Channel 4, it’s clear that the council seem far more interested in attracting profiteering developers and posh professionals into the area with ‘culture’ and ‘nightlife’ than sorting out conditions on council estates.
The real truth of what New Labour have planned for Hackney was grimly spelled out on the Channel 4 property show: “Property developers, who are expecting big returns resulting from the Olympic games covet the area. It might be the least pleasant place to live in the UK, but you’d be a fool not to invest here…”
Council Plan to demolish over 500 homes and hand open space to developers
I simply do not believe that there is sufficient ‘underused’ land on these 28 estates to fit in 550 homes, so the Council must be defining areas as ‘underused’ which residents do in fact use. To the Council and the developers, ‘underused’ probably means ‘not making money’.
– Janine Booth
Now the elections are out of the way and Hackney Labour have power until 2010, they are turning on our estates. The council want to knock down over 500 homes and build on open spaces and car parks. Surprise, surprise, the new homes will be for housing associations or for private sale.
Estates targeted so far are Suffolk, Fellows Court, Wenlock Barn, St John’s, St Leonards, De Beauvoir and Haberdashers. But this is only the beginning – the Council want to buld on 13 sites on Wenlock Barn alone. Expect more estates to be included later.
Instead of focussing on the task of spending our rents and service charges on cleaning and repairing our homes, the council’s main push is to hand over sites to developers. Most estates are already overcrowded and we need green spaces, playgrounds and parking. Hackney Independent sees these spaces as being vital to our community. Labour sees them as an opportunity to bring in their developer friends.
The council plans will bring chaos to estates that are already overcrowded. Even the council admit that Hackney has the third highest level of over-crowding in England. How will these plans help matters? Worse still, the plan is for at least 3 out of every 10 new homes built on our estates to be private – for homeowners or high renters. You can bet that the end result will be more than 3 out of 10.
A council report states that extra funds will be put into the targeted estates to “assist residents to consent.” – in other words they are trying to bribe residents into going along with their privatising agenda! Of course this also means less money for other estates. The report also states that “Shoreditch Trust representatives have been involved in the development of this strategy.” We spoke to some of the elected resident representatives and the plans are news to them! Worse still the Council claim they are carrying out “early consultation” for the proposals but a council insider has told Hackney Independent that the decisions have already been made.
Any new building in Hackney should be council housing for overcrowded tenants, and young people needing a place of their own – and shouldn’t take away space on existing estates. We need to campaign against these plans and stop Hackney Council from flattening council flats and destroying play areas and replacing them with private homes. This isn’t just an issue for those already targeted by the council. Your estate could be next!
Hackney Independent’s summary of the council’s plans is available here on our website as a pdf.
Council Jargon Explained
The proposals for the ‘Next Estate Regeneration Programme’ are written in council jargon. Here we pick out some of the quotes and tell you what they actually mean:
“We aim to continue tenure diversification”
This means they want fewer council tenants and more private renters and home owners.
This means knocking council houses down.
“Land assembly and decanting”
Dividing up any open space into packages for developers and getting the tenants out.
This means building on any available open space.
What people are saying about the council’s plans
“I simply do not believe that there is sufficient ‘underused’ land on these 28 estates to fit in 550 homes, so the Council must be defining areas as ‘underused’ which residents do in fact use. To the Council and the developers, ‘underused’ probably means ‘not making money’.”
“Hackney Council won’t be happy until they’ve sold the entire estate off”
Harry, Wenlock Barn
“I don’t want local green spaces used for development”
Ian, Wenlock Barn
“Have you seen Hackney Today recently? An article states ‘I love Hackney because of its green spaces’”
Tony Butler, Hackney Independent
In 1900 the Boundary Estate, just north of Brick Lane in the Whitechapel area of east London, became Britain’s first council estate – and, following a vote last week, it will continue to be so for the forseeable future.
Last week the tenants of the Boundary and 3 other East End estates voted to reject the intense campaigning and enticements offered by vested interests to transfer their homes to a private Housing Association landlord. Despite a lack of investment in their homes due to funding cuts by central government, they chose to stay with Tower Hamlets Council as their landlord.
Successive recent Tory and New Labour governments have committed major resources in an attempt to coerce tenants into accepting privatisation. Deliberate long term underfunding of maintenace and refurbishment services is intended to ‘encourage’ tenants to vote ‘the right way’. In Tower Hamlets hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent on persuasive campaigning. An army of professional ‘consultants’ and campaign managers were installed in the area; estate security guards were forced to become part of the Yes campaign and help distribute glossy promotional material.
Yet, despite the hard sell, all 4 estates voted overwhelmingly No. They joined the growing trend of now over 80 other No votes by tenants against privatisation. This is despite knowing that no extra funding is likely to be made available by central government for necessary improvements. In the London borough of Camden £283 million was already promised by central government, for a major refurbishment programme, prior to the vote. But after tenants delivered a No vote in New Labour’s flagship borough the £283 million was spitefully withdrawn. In Waltham Forest, north-east London, where tenants voted Yes a few years ago, a quango – ‘Gresham Homes’ – has taken over management of the Council housing stock. But they have been so blatantly incompetent that the government auditors have for several years refused to allow the delivery of promised extra funding for upgrading of the housing stock. So even if tenants vote Yes, they don’t always get what’s promised.
We are pleased to announce that the Planning Committee have unanimously thrown out a plan for a massive new development after opposition from an effective community campaign.
Not in Hackney, obviously, but in neighbouring Tower Hamlets. Their planning committee voted 8-0 to turn down plans by Genesis Housing Group and CRISIS to build a 23 storey tower block with 270 bedsits for single homeless people in the middle of a council estate off Columbia Road and a stone’s throw from the Haggerston Ward boundary.
If this had been in Hackney, the New Labour bloc vote would have pushed the plans through as they don’t like turning down developers. The difference in Tower Hamlets is that New Labour councillors face 3 other parties actively competing for votes and the very real prospect of losing power – so all parties have to at least pretend to listen to the people.