Gentrification is typically seen as the process by which an area becomes wealthier, often resulting in changes to the inhabitants, businesses, recreational facilities, and cultural events. It is happening in places all around the globe, and as an illustration of this, here Anthony Ruggiero looks at the recent history of gentrification of the area of Brooklyn in New York City.
Time has always had a way of bringing about changes. During the latetwentieth century and into the twenty-first century, Brooklyn has undergone these changes through the process of gentrification. The book, The World InBrooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, edited by Judith N.DeSena and Timothy Shortell (Amazon US| Amazon UK), discussed how the changes brought about by gentrification impacted Brooklyn not only culturally, but also aesthetically. Gentrification prompted changes in the population, industry and community, and the redevelopment of parks. At St. Joseph’s College, these changes were recognized and discussed through different brochures that advertised walking tours of these areas. The school itself also experienced developments and modifications made to its buildings.
Impacts of Gentrification
Throughout the years, Brooklyn has been recognized for its diverse population. According to DeSena and Shortell, these individuals are not just native-born; a large number of the population is foreign-born. This includes individuals from the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Eastern Asia, South America, Mexico and Central America, as well as South East Asia.For example, people from Caribbean countries are the largest immigrant group, with approximately 302,000 Caribbean people making up the foreign-born population.However, as parts of Brooklyn continued to experience gentrification, and the cost of living and obtaining an education increased, newcomers to the borough became less from majority foreign groups (blacks and Latinos), and more from white and Asian backgrounds, and more wealthier and educated homeowners.As wealthier homeowners continued to move into areas in northern Brooklyn, studies show the displacement of black homeowners who could not afford the increased cost of living that their new neighbors could afford.
Along with the change in population, gentrification also affected industry and the communities close to it. A prime example of this in Brooklyn is seen in Williamsburg. Initially, Williamsburg was a working-class community, made up of immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe, with a large number of manufacturing firms; DeSena and Shortell described the landscape of the neighborhood as, “gritty and disinvested.”However, as the early 2000s carried on, businesses such as cafés, trendy thrift stores, vegetarian restaurants, lofts, galleries, and clubs opened; this business attracted new, younger, and more artistic individuals and students.Thus, the landscape began to alternate. An example of this would be an image provided by DeSena and Shortell, which displayed the transformation of a rundown, hardware store into a boutique.Another example of the changed community is the summer event of the Williamsburg Walk. Created by the Department of Transportation, the Williamsburg Walk was designed to celebrate the neighborhood’s individualism and artistry. Although many of the newer inhabitants of Williamsburg were in attendance, many longer-standing residents of Williamsburg, such as those form poorer Hispanic and Polish backgrounds, rarely attended the walk, highlighting the divide gentrification has created within the community.
The Changes in Different Areas
St. Joseph’s College experienced changes, as well as the surrounding Clinton Hill area. According to a brochure,Clinton Hill in Bloom, the original allure of Clinton Hill was the mansions that belonged to oil tycoon Charles Pratt, as well as the brownstones surrounding the area. However, years later, the site of the mansions is what is now St. Joseph’s College and several apartment complexes. Even so, after interest in the history of the area remerged in the 1980s, it once again saw a resurgence as many people came to open houses and on walking tours to see the history and brownstones.Despite this resurgence in interest the Clinton Hill area had always maintained a stable community. Another brochure, published by St. Joseph’s College, Our Neighborhood…Clinton Hill, discussed that industry made its way to the neighborhood in the form of supermarkets, antique shops, art supply stores, and health food stores.
Further areas that were impacted by gentrification were the parks in Brooklyn. An example of this is Prospect Park. Built to rival Central Park in Manhattan, Prospect Park was a sight of much crime during the 1970s. After an outcry from the neighborhood to revive the park, Mayor of New York City at the time, Ed Koch, gave money to restoration projects, which were successful. However, according to DeSena and Shortell, the renewal of the park area attracted new businesses that have contributed to the gentrification in the area, as many of the residents could not afford the higher prices of the new businesses.A walking tour of the Fort Greene Park brochure in the St Joseph’s College archive recognized these different restoration projects. The tour called for further funds to be raised for the awareness of the park in order to fund The Atlantic Terminal Renewal Area project to restore the park.These restoration projects spanned different areas around Brooklyn, once again showing the power and reach of gentrification.
The gentrification of Brooklyn has had its positive and negative affects. On the one hand, failing areas such as Williamsburg and Prospect Park were restored with new renewal projects and industry, attracting new people in the process. However, in attracting new people, the original inhabitants of the area have been pushed out. DeSena and Shortell’s bookoffers prime examples of these effects. The brochures provided by St. Joseph’s College also demonstrate that gentrification during this time had its effects in different areas in Brooklyn as well. And though the effects of gentrification are evident today, only time will tell how gentrification evolves in Brooklyn and the wider New York City area.
This article has frequent references to the book The World In Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, which is edited by Judith N.DeSena and Timothy Shortell. This book is available here: Amazon US| Amazon UK
What do you think about gentrification? Does it impact your area?
DeSena, Judith N., and Timothy Shortell. The World In Brooklyn: Gentrification,
Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in A Global City.2012: 10-16
The World In Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in A Global City, pg.11.
St. Joseph’s College, NY, Clinton Hill in Bloom, McEntegart Hall Archives, St. Joseph’s College Brooklyn, NY, Brooklyn, NY. 1986
St. Joseph’s College, NY, Our Neighborhood…Clinton Hil1
St. Joseph’s College, NY, Fort Greene’s Finest The Park Blocks, McEntegart Hall Archives, St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn NY, Brooklyn, NY. 1986
DeSena, Judith N., and Timothy Shortell. The World In Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in A Global City. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2012.
St. Joseph’s College, NY, Clinton Hill in Bloom, McEntegart Hall Archives, St. Joseph’s College Brooklyn, NY, Brooklyn, NY. 1986.
St. Joseph’s College, NY,Fort Greene’s Finest The Park Blocks,McEntegart Hall Archives, St. Joseph’s