Is the institutionalization of urban movements inevitable? A comparison of the opportunities for sustained squatting in New York City and Amsterdam


In this article the opportunity structures of New York City and Amsterdam for organized squatting are compared. New York City knew two distinct squatting waves, with an intermission of several years. The literature on US urban movements predicts transformation through cooptation and repression. Only the first wave, in which housing activists used squatting as a tactic, fits this prediction. The second wave of squatting in New York City, and squatting in Amsterdam in general, escaped cooptation because they involved a squatters’ movement proper, in which squatting was not only a tactic but also central to its existence. Compared to Amsterdam, squatting in New York was hampered by technical difficulties and political isolation. Stricter protection of private property made New York squatters restrict themselves to publicly‐owned abandoned buildings. Turf conflicts tended to develop on the neighbourhood level when these buildings were later claimed for the development of low‐income housing. In Amsterdam this type of conflict was rare because of the broad support for low‐income (re)development. Instead, Amsterdam saw citywide protest directed at the real estate sector and municipal authorities.