The housing crisis won’t be solved through any one approach, least of all a photography triennial.
The housing crisis won’t be solved through any one approach, least of all a photography triennial. Solutions weren’t much on offer anyway at New York Now: Home, which ended its run at the Museum of the City of New York late last month. Instead, the show illuminated how personal attachments to home intersect with the politics of housing, partly by foregrounding (perhaps counterintuitively to some) low-density neighborhoods from Staten Island to Queens. In Paul Moakley’s photographs of a “pre-prom party” in Tottenville, young people pout against vinyl siding backdrops and Tuscan-style kitchen backsplashes, visual signifiers of the 1990s, when housing construction on Staten Island boomed before being sharply restricted.
The consequences of this thwarted production showed up in Roy Baizan’s depictions of Mott Haven, on which developers, chased out of more politically connected neighborhoods, increasingly set their sights. Recalling the Department of Finance’s oddly competent 1940s tax photographs, Baizan’s black-and-white portraits of tenements, high-rise blocks, and storefronts attempt a revaluation of properties previously devalued because of local residents’ race and class. The photographic juxtaposition of these neighborhoods ultimately reveals how a city with extreme housing needs must negotiate competing visions of home.