All for the Taking: 21st-Century Urban Renewal
In a highly controversial and precedent-setting decision in mid-2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution permitted local governments to use their power of eminent domain to forcibly acquire private property and transfer it to another private owner. In so doing, the Court put its stamp of approval on a nationwide epidemic of eminent domain abuse. This timely and thought-provoking documentary provides an insightful case study of the uses and abuses of the power of eminent domain by the city of Philadelphia as it attempts to redefine itself through “urban renewal” and planned gentrification.
On April 18, 2001, the City of Philadelphia approved the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) — the most ambitious urban renewal project in its history. With a proposed budget of $1.6 billion over five years, the NTI is designed to reverse a 50-year pattern of population decline, brought about in part by the city’s earlier wave of postwar urban renewal. Through the use of eminent domain, the city has authorized the seizure of thousands of homes — mostly owned or rented by the elderly, the poor, and by people of color — in order to create a massive land bank to entice private developers to rebuild some of its most historic neighborhoods.
The film explores the consequences of the city’s urban renewal policies on the lifelong residents of the communities affected and places their opposition to the city in the context of an increasingly global economic order that devalues labor, local economies, and the sense of community that once formed the core of urban America. The film demonstrates that urban renewal and eminent domain policies are usually aimed at community residents who are unaware of their rights and are easily confused and frightened by the powerful forces that are changing their neighborhoods and disrupting their lives.
“All for the Taking” examines the personal struggles of residents impacted by Philadelphia’s urban renewal program and illustrates how housing activists are fighting eminent domain abuse. Background commentary is provided by Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Prof. of Clinical Public Health, Columbia Univ., and author of “Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It,” and by Scott Bullock, a senior attorney who litigates cases involving property rights and free speech for the Institute for Justice, in Washington, D.C.
This powerful documentary will engage students and generate analysis and discussion in a variety of courses in sociology and social issues, urban studies, American studies, ethnic studies, development studies, and public policy. It was produced by George McCollough.