The Death and Gentrification of Great American Cities

Sharon Zukin's new book takes a different look at the urbanity championed in Jane Jacobs' seminal book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", arguing that gentrification is tearing up the authenticity of places.

"But if Ms. Jacobs is much hailed as an urban prophet, Ms. Zukin is a heretic on her canonization. She views Ms. Jacobs as a passionate and prescient writer, but also one who failed to reckon with steroidal gentrification and the pervasive hunger of the upper middle class for ever more homogenous neighborhoods.

The pattern in places like Williamsburg and Atlantic Yards, Ms. Zukin said, is dreary and inexorable: Middle-class 'pioneers' buy brownstones and row houses. City officials rezone to allow luxury towers, which swell the value of the brownstones. And banks and real estate companies unleash a river of capital, flushing out the people who gave the neighborhoods character."

Zukin's book looks specifically at Greenwich Village, the neighborhood where Jacobs lived for many years and the idealized urban neighborhood her book encouraged.

Full Story: A Contrarian’s Lament in a Blitz of Gentrification



The Myth of Gentrification

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The Myth of Gentrification

Jane Jacobs understood that gentrification can hurt cities. Some neighborhoods can eventually get too pricey, which can kill precious diversity. It surprised some of us that she didn't have a real solution for this problem in her book. It's one of the few problems she didn't fully address.

But even in the best cities, there's never a shortage of cheap neighborhoods awaiting the urban pioneers that always start the cycle of gentrification. And the cycle takes so long that by the time these neighborhoods get too pricey, the formerly gentrified neighborhoods may have "slummed" because of their lack of diversity. So I see it as a perpetually self-correcting cycle.

Zoning changes from the city can mess up this natural process, so it must be used with the utmost caution.

A contrarian's contrarian

Soo tired of these anti-gentrification diatribes. When the Village was funky, was the Upper-East side? No. I lived in character-full Clinton hill, Brooklyn when you had to look over your backside at every block. Give me boring class middle class neighborhoods where my kid can walk down the street and not get his ass whupped for being the wrong color.

For so long, we bemoned the condition of our cities, and when the middle class finally decided was safe enough to move in, all the hipper than though crowd can do is to nostalgically dream of a neighborhood that never existed. When they where the only ones in the know, and now all of Bergen County is in on the jig. The more cities come back, the more diversity will follow, just give it time to mature.

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