You're using an unsupported browser. This site may not look optimal.

Van Alen Book Club: The Fires: How a Computer Formula, Big Ideas, and the Best of Intentions Burned Down New York City-and Determined the Future of Cities by Joe Flood

We’re excited to invite both prospective and existing participants of the Van Alen Book Club to join as we take a tech-urbanist lens to the nuanced relationship of race and policy in 1970s New York City, documented in the page turner The Fires: How a Computer Formula, Big Ideas, and the Best of Intentions Burned Down New York City—and Determined the Future of Cities by Joe Flood.

The book brings together recent discussions on utopian smart city schemes and the jarring terrain of a city on the brink of collapse. We’ll discuss the story of how a deal between the city and RAND Corporation resulted in an unprecedented computer-modelled withdrawal of fire protection service from the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The flames that engulfed neighborhoods in the following years embodied the vexing relationship between discrimination, technology, and civil service—challenges that are more relevant than ever today.

The conversation will be led by Gretchen Hildebran, a documentary filmmaker whose work explores the connections between politics, policy, and human experience. Her 2004 film “Worth Saving,” about the first overdose prevention program in the U.S., was presented in HBO’s “Frame by Frame” documentary showcase. “Out in the Heartland” (2005) followed the struggles of gay parents in Kentucky facing anti-gay legislation. Since graduating from Stanford’s documentary program in 2005, Hildebran shot Ramona Diaz’s “The Learning” (2011) and has edited for clients such as the History Channel, PBS, and the United Nations Development Programme. “Decade of Fire”—a people’s history of why the Bronx burned down in the 1970s—was selected for this year’s filmmaker lab at the IFP, and will be attending IFP’s Film Week marketplace in September.

We’ll continue our tradition of providing drinks and a light dinner.

Please note, registration for this event is full. To be added to the wait list, please email Anne Guiney.