Disruption at the Doorstep

McElroy, Erin
Urban Omnibus

A new assemblage of digital tools promises to reduce friction in the management of urban real estate — to help prospective renters virtually experience potential units without the hassle of trekking all over the city; to help landlords ensure that those potential renters will be good neighbors and responsible tenants; and to enable those new renters, their arms encumbered with moving boxes, to glide right through their apartment buildings’ secure entries. Property technology, or “proptech,” promises easy passage through, and close monitoring of, buildings networked via sensors and cameras to biometric databases and screening platforms. Yet as Erin McElroy demonstrates, proptech’s promises of security and convenience tend not to apply to poor and working-class tenants of color, who are instead finding themselves targeted by what are fast becoming new instruments of surveillance and harassment in housing complexes across New York City.