Delivered Vacant

Director: Nora Jacobson

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


Eight years in the making, Nora Jacobson's Delivered Vacant is a history of urban transition remarkable for its detail and depth. It recounts the destruction of Hoboken, New Jersey's traditional, ethnic, blue-collar community in the face of a wave of yuppie gentrification. The displacement of the elderly and the poor from their apartments and rooming houses is not, however, a simple archetypal tale of greed and speculation. Jacobson interviews everyone from tenants to developers, from the reform mayor to housing activists fighting to keep their homes

The resulting chronicle is a wonderful document of Reagan-era growth and the damage and desolation it so often left in its wake. For a while the real estate boom that finally reached Hoboken in the mid eighties precipitated a classic urban renewal. The poor and new immigrants from Latin America and the Indian subcontinent became the victims of development oriented to relatively rich New Yorkers. When they eventually organized and fought back, there emerged a new political leadership, both as part of city government and outside of it, that was able to win some small, temporary victories. Rent boards and ordinances against condominium development were instituted. In the meantime long-term residents had been harassed, or pushed, and in many cases burned, out of their apartments in frightening episodes. Jacobson herself was forced to leave her apartment when it was set aflame.

The characters are not all black and white; at least one pair of developers are enlightened and in fact contributed to the making of the film, whereas one lone woman sold out her tenant group by making a separate deal with a builder for her own benefit. Jacobson doesn't fall back on simplistic resolutions in order to win converts. The ultimate collapse of the market and the empty condos now lining the streets are prophetic justice, but few heroes or absolute villains people this American parable.

Saturday Jan 23 10:00 pm
Egyptian Theatre

Monday Jan 25 10:00 am
Holiday Village Cinema I

Wednesday Jan 27 1:00 pm
Holiday Village Cinema I

Friday Jan 29 4:00 pm
Holiday Village Cinema I


— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details


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