Beginning in 1949, federal law allowed cities across the country to declare that a piece of land was “blighted” - a subjective determination made by government agencies that often led to the displacement of low-income people of color. Cities could then acquire the “blighted” land, relocate the people living there, raze the homes and buildings that were already in place, and make way for new public and private development. Development in the plan areas sometimes happened, like Lincoln Center, and sometimes didn’t, like many still-vacant lots in East New York and Bushwick.
Many urban renewal plans remain active today, and where they exist, they set restrictions on what can be built in an area.
Properties that fall within designated urban renewal areas have that information on their individual NYCommons property pages, which are updated automatically from urbanreviewer.org, a website created by volunteers coordinated by 596 Acres. This information can lead you to promises that the government made about particular properties that you can organize around.
In 2018, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development published its own online tool to make urban renewal area information more available to the public. It can be found at www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/community/urban-renewal-areas.page. The HPD page includes a map and list of the plans, but unlike urbanreviewer.org, it does not show the planned use of each parcel.