Building Urban Communes

by Raven Cotyledon

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (the commune people) have had rural communes in Virginia and Missouri for decades. Which is great, except, as someone pointed out, most people live in the cities these days in the United States.

Building a commune in the city is a little different than starting a rural commune. It’s harder to grow food in the city.  It’s harder to create cottage industries in the city. It’s harder to find land/property/places in the city. People are less trusting in the city. People have less time in the city. People are more distracted in the city.

 

300px-Amsterdam_-_Young_musicians_-_1250 (1)

Co-ops and cohousing communities have flourished in urban areas. Ganas, on Staten Island, New York, has been going strong for nearly forty years. But these communities require less commitment than egalitarian, income-sharing communities–that is, communes.

I helped build a commune in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the 1990s.  I am currently helping to create one in Queens, New York. I can tell you that it isn’t easy, for all the reasons that I listed above and more.

But it is possible. Our Cambridge community lasted five years. There have been FEC related communities (or attempts at communities) in Seattle and Baltimore and Richmond, Virginia,  and Columbus, Ohio, and there are currently (besides Cotyledon, our commune in Queens) communes in Washington, DC, and Portland, Oregon. I have been particularly watching Compersia, the commune in DC.  They seem to have a bunch of members and look like they are going strong.

But cities are hard on communes. I don’t know of any that have lasted longer than ten years. Yet.

We’re working to change that.  Hopefully you can check this space in ten years to find out how we did it.  I’m certainly curious. But I think that urban communes are the leading edge of the communities movement.

building-urban-communes

____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community
  • Sumner Nichols

 

Thanks!

 

Advertisements
Building Urban Communes

Communities Conference Workshops

Here is the workshop and partial presentation schedule for the upcoming Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  The below links are to blog posts on these elements.  There is a posted full program (with short descriptions for every workshop are in the newly published program).  

big-meal
Cambia lunch

Saturday September 1st

9:30 to noon

1:30 to 3 PM

4 to 5:30 PM

Sunday September 2

9:30 to 11

There is still time to register for this amazing event.  Twin Oaks Community is hosting this event in central Virginia Aug 31st thru Sept 2.  There is also great Labor Day (Sept 3) program at Cambia Community, less than one mile from the Twin Oaks Conference site.

TO 50 group shot
Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary – Circa 2017
Communities Conference Workshops

My Favorite Things

by Raven

Here are some recent photos from this blog of the joys of Communal Living:

5619_10153828747773659_7194582767908720510_n

The folks at Kibbutz Mishol

If you look carefully you can see god hiding

The pool at Cambia

EW Labor 1

Working together at East Wind

cotyledon crew

The Cotyledon crew

5003 (3)

Cooking at Le Manoir

IMG_9922

Saturnalia at Compersia

No automatic alt text available.

The Twin Oaks Feminist Zine

farmingwithholesstill6

An overview of East Brook Community Farm

ChickensChickens at Acorn

And from communes yet to be:

DV Trees

The land at Donald’s View

Map-1

A map of possible land for Full Circle

My Favorite Things

Introducing Cotyledon

by Raven

Cotyledon is a egalitarian, income-sharing residential community in Queens, New York, dedicated to environmental and food justice, radical sharing, personal growth and accountability, clear communication, and simple, cooperative living.

IMG_0054

The outside of the building we are in.

IMG_0083

A view of the living room

IMG_0082

Another view of the living room

The Cotyledon members:

dna plus snake

DNA

Gil and tracks

Gil

IMG_20180119_111106

Raven

cotyledon crew

And the three of us together

SHHR View

This is Smiling Hogshead Ranch, one project the three of us are involved with.

We are staying in a 4 bedroom apartment in Astoria, but we have a plan to eventually grow and move into a larger home, staying close to Western Queens.

We are also currently looking for a new member of our commune.

 

 

Introducing Cotyledon

Getting Beyond Two, Three, or Four Folks

  by Raven

 

These are the early days at Cotyledon, the income sharing community we are forming in NYC.  We are not even two months old.  There were four of us but one person decided to live somewhere else, so now we will be three.  This is not a good direction to go in.

IMG_0054
The building Cotyledon is in.

I helped build a commune in Cambridge, MA, in the nineties, that got up to six adults and two kids at one point.  It was after we dropped down to four adults that we fell apart.  A four person community is very vulnerable.  We lost two more folks and we were gone.  I’ve heard of at least one other community that fell apart for similar reasons.

As the manager of Commune Life, I’m hearing of a bunch of new communities–most at this point consist of three or four folks.  Many have a couple at their center.  I’ve written about how some communities with a couple at their center fail to work out.  I’ve noticed that some of these communities have different dynamics, some of which still may turn out to be problematic.

I’m, also acutely aware of the new communes that don’t work out, or are transitioning out of income sharing.  It’s hard to build these communities to last and, I think, growing them beyond a small number of people is an important part of the process.

in , , on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.  Sarah Rice
Acorn, now

I talked with someone at Acorn about how they survived.  They were down to six people at one point early in their history and down to two people at another.   I asked how they managed to get past that.   I was told there were two reasons for their survival.  One was Ira Wallace, a strong person, and the other was Twin Oaks, a strong community nearby.

And how did Twin Oaks survive?  In her book,   A Walden Two Experiment, Kat Kinkade wrote that in 1969 Twin Oaks was down to ten members and dropping.   They decided to get rid of the entrance-fee.  It meant that anyone could come and people started coming.

I find Kat Kinkade amazing.  She was part of starting three communes (Twin Oaks, Acorn, and East Wind) and all three are still going strong. Folks have told me that her philosophy was to build up communities fast and I figure that she knew something.

 

I don’t have an answer to this but I’m well aware that staying small is a barrier.   I’ve talked with GPaul at Compersia about this and they are working on growing.  They are up to six folks now.

I believe that having some openness and flexibility while remaining true to your basic principles is part of what is needed. It’s a balancing act but I think it’s what you need to do to get beyond being two, three, or four.

 

Getting Beyond Two, Three, or Four Folks