Urban Renewal Politics: Slum Clearance in Newark

By Harold Kaplan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII

The Grass Roots

Slum clearance projects directly touch the lives of many individuals and often provoke organized political action among those affected. 1 Those initially and most immediately affected are the site residents and businessmen who will be displaced and relocated. Perhaps the most common form of grass roots action in urban renewal is the ad hoc committee of residents and businessmen bent on blocking clearance in their neighborhood. The neighborhoods that surround a project and the neighborhoods that absorb displaced persons are also prone to organize, usually in opposition to the redevelopment agency's policies. Thus, the immediate popular responses that most clearance projects seem to engender are hostile. Most housing officials view grass roots movements with some trepidation.

The role of grass roots opposition in Newark's redevelopment program has been insignificant. Not once between 1949 and 1960 did a neighborhood committee succeed in altering or delaying NHA's plans for an area. The opposition of site residents, small businesses, and neighborhood associations may present a serious threat to some redevelopment agencies; to NHA such opposition is a minor irritant.

There are two aspects to the insignificance of grass roots opposition in Newark. Organized and sustained opposition at the grass roots level has seldom appeared. When it has appeared, moreover, it has lacked access to the key public officials and has been unable to penetrate the network of regular renewal participants. The following pages examine both of these aspects: the conditions under which organized opposition to a project does or does not appear, and the reasons that this opposition, even when present and well organized, has proved notably unsuccessful. This, then, is

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