Surreal Estate: A Historical Case Study of the East Village + Lower East Side’s Squatter

Urban Planning Thesis

Daleen Saah

Elliott Sclar, advisor

This thesis served as a historical case study of the squatter movement of New York City’s East Village and Lower East Side from the 1970s-2000s. Informal squats form in Western cities experiencing blight and abandonment, with a plethora of vacant buildings reclaimed by a population unaccounted for by the “for-profit” housing market. The civic action taken in East Village and Lower East Side resulted in eleven buildings previously owned by the city to be converted into low-income cooperatives through an urban homesteading program. By examining the squatter movement as it relates to gentrification, this thesis aimed to pull key demographic patterns to indicate how the neighborhood changed during its transition from disinvestment to reinvestment, as well as investigated the feasibility of urban homesteading as an alternative solution to housing crisis.