Crisis-scapes: an edited collection of texts on city, public spaces and crisis in Athens and beyond

The new book Crisis-scapes is fully available for free to download from

or google books:

It is based on a conference carried out in May 2014 by the ESRC Future Research Leaders project the City at the time of Crisis.

How is family housing property reshaping welfare regimes?

A presentation and discussion on the first results of a European research project on housing markets and welfare state transformations.

Co-organised by Massimo Bricocoli, Stefania Sabatinelli and Lidia Manzo

WEDNESDAY 17th SEPTEMBER 2014, 15.00 – 18.30
Aula Gamma, Scuola di Architettura e Società, Politecnico di Milano

Download the full program here.


Book Review Releases ::: “THE NEIGHBORHOOD: OUR PLAYGROUND” Towards the ‘spatial turn’ in Social and Urban Theory

A book review of my first theoretical essay by Federico Savini (University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research)  has just been released on the Academic journal Cidades, Comunidades e Territórios, 27 (Dez/2013), pp.73-75 ISSN: 2182-3030.

I am glad to share this critical analysis of my very early reflections on urban theory and research practice that, actually, came out from the first year of doctoral school at the University of Trento!

Here the book review

Staying Put: an anti-gentrification handbook for council estates in London

Challenging the “New Urban Renewal”: Gathering the Tools Necessary to Halt the Social Cleansing of Council Estates and Developing Community-led Alternatives for Sustaining Existing Communities

This handbook explains why the regeneration of council estates often results in established communities being broken up and moved away, and housing becoming more expensive. It is designed to help local communities learn about gentrification and the alternatives they can fight for. Through the experiences of council tenants, leaseholders and the wider community in London, it contains ideas, stories, tools and resources.

Staying Put: An Anti-gentrification Handbook for Council Estates in London is a collaboration between Just Space, Southwark Notes Archives Group, the London Tenants Federation and Prof. Loretta Lees funded by an Antipode Foundation Scholar-Activist Project Award. It is free to download and use by any individuals, community groups and campaigns, students, teachers, researchers…

Please find the electronic version at

Gentrificación de sensibilidades. Política y estética en un barrio en transformación de la Ciudad de Nueva York

Spanish Resumen

Este artículo examina cómo la producción de ” autenticidad urbana ” para los usuarios cada vez más prósperos (Hackworth, 2002) puede ocultar los mecanismos de poder y de clase en el contexto de la gentrificación y el desplazamiento. Se sugiere un tratamiento relacionado de algunos de los principios teóricos y metodológicos relativos a la gentrificación, el diseño urbano y el proceso de creación de límites. La forma Super- gentrificación que se discutirá en el texto, se enmarca como un proceso relacionado con los conceptos arquitectónicos de límites, umbrales y transición. Yo sostengo que el modo distintivo en el que los gentrificadores perciben los problemas estéticos y de diseño urbano se asocia con la forma en que ejercen el poder, se construyen significados diversos y se construye la sociabilidad. Esto es lo que finalmente se define como “el aburguesamiento de las sensibilidades”.

El caso que se desarrolla remite al paisaje urbano de Nueva York y, más concretamente, a la estética de los brownstones Brooklyn de Park Slope. El enfoque metodológico se basa en un diseño de estudio etnográfico de caso. Los elementos visuales (en forma de diagramas, contenido , información gráfica y fotografías) contribuyen a una mejor comprensión tanto de la declaración del problema y el campo de la investigación espacial.

Palabras clave: Super-Gentrification, diseño urbano, límites sociales, autenticidad, Brooklyn.

English Abstract (The Gentrification of Sensibilities: Politics and Aesthetics in a NYC changing neighborhood)

This article examines how the production of “urban authenticity” for progressively more affluent users (Hackworth, 2002) may uncover the mechanism of power and class in the context of gentrification and displacement. It is suggested that addressing some theoretical and methodological principles that can be related to gentrification, urban design and the process of boundary-making can be studied in reference to each other. Accordingly, as it will be discussed, the way Super-gentrification evolves during the time is framed as a process related with the architectural concepts of boundaries, thresholds, and transition. I argue that the distinctive mode in which gentrifiers perceive aesthetic issues and urban design is associated with the way they exert power, construct diverse meanings and enact sociality. This is what I finally defined as “gentrification of sensibilities,” which come together to secure the ground for a “cultural claim” on gentrification literature.
The setting comes from the New York urban scenery and, more specifically, from the aesthetic of brownstones and row houses in Brooklyn’s neighborhood of Park Slope. The methodological approach is based upon an ethnographic/case study design, and done so for all analyzed scales (neighborhood urban area; out-group forms of relationship; many different and geographically spread out community institutions as in neighborhood private settings; in-group lifestyle; residence housing unit). The visual elements (in the form of diagrams, info-graphic contents, and photographs) contribute to a better understanding of both the problem statement and the spatial research field.

Key Words: Super-Gentrification, urban design, Social boundaries, authenticity, Brooklyn.

Download the full paper here.

Published in Quid 16. Revista de Área de Estudios Urbanos, Issue on “Ciudades neoliberales”: políticas urbanas, diseño y justicia social, No 3 (2013), pp. 62- 94. ISSN: 2250-4060

GIMME SHELTER. Bill de Blasio’s plan for cheap homes rests on shaky foundations (The Economist)

Homes in New York

20140510_USC851“WE ARE approaching a crisis in the housing situation,” a member of a task force set up by New York city’s mayor declared. “Unless radical action is taken, something drastic will happen.” Those words were spoken in 1920; but to listen to Bill de Blasio, the current mayor, not much has changed. When he campaigned against the growing gap between the rich and the rest last year, soaring apartment prices were his most potent exhibit.

On May 5th he revealed what he wants to do about it: he plans to add 200,000 more affordable housing units over the coming decade by preserving existing ones and encouraging the construction of more.

New York has certainly become less affordable. Between 2005 and 2012, the median inflation-adjusted rent in the city rose 11%, while the median renter’s income rose only 2%, according to the Furman Centre at New York University. It reckons that 54% of New York tenants spent more than 30% of their income on rent (the usual cutoff for “affordable”), up from 40% in 2000.

Plutocrats bear some of the blame. Like London, Miami and other desirable cities, New York has become a playground for billionaires. Developers can earn more selling luxury flats to oligarchs than basic ones to firefighters. But as a driver of the housing shortage, inequality is less important than demand and supply. On the demand side, New York has an enviable problem: people desperately want to live there. After decades of decline, its population resumed growing in the 1990s, reaching a new high of 8m in 2000, 8.2m in 2010 and 8.4m last year. Neither the attack on the Twin Towers, nor Hurricane Sandy nor, it seems, even the financial crisis have put people off. Talented and ambitious folk have more fun, and make more money, when living close to each other.

New York’s housing supply has long struggled to match demand, but especially since 2008, when the recession and the freezing of mortgage markets caused the number of permits issued for new residential units to fall (see chart). Fewer permits have been issued since 2010 than in 2008, even as the number of households has grown by roughly 85,000.

Activity has started to recover, but supply is still constrained by a lack of land and Byzantine rules about what can be built. New York seems like a tall city, but building height is heavily restricted. On average, developers may erect six square feet of floor space per square foot of land, says Richard Green, an economist at the University of Southern California; in Hong Kong, another dense coastal city, it’s closer to 20. Nearly 5% of units are designated for historic preservation, mostly in Manhattan.

Mr de Blasio sensibly wants to boost supply through increased density, but the mechanism he has chosen is problematic. “Mandatory inclusionary zoning” would raise permissible density in some areas, but developers would have to ensure that a minimum proportion of units meets the city’s definition of affordable. Forcing developers to build less profitable units acts as a tax, which could discourage, rather than encourage, supply. Jenny Schuetz, also at USC, says similar schemes in San Francisco and Boston’s suburbs have produced fewer affordable units than hoped, either because developers chose to build elsewhere or because they struck deals that weakened the requirements.

It would be more effective to hack back the regulations that discourage supply and raise costs. These include rent controls and the indiscriminate award of historic designations—which preserve the view for those who live in pretty, low-rise neighbourhoods like Greenwich Village, but put them out of bounds for everyone else.

(Source: The Economist, May 10th 2014 | From the print edition, United States)

«Give me a break! I’€™m from Brooklyn, we’re not fancy» Ph.D. Dissertation on the neighborhood of Park Slope, New York City

On April 14 2014, I have finally (successfully) defended my Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Research. The discussion was held in English at the Sociology Department of the University of Trento (Italy) with a doctoral committee chaired by Sharon Zukin with Jerome Krase and Tom Slater. My study was focused on institutions, housing and lifestyles in the Super-gentrification process of Brooklyn’s Park Slope, whereby I have held a twenty-months long affiliation as Visiting Doctoral Researcher at The City University of New York.

Here the thesis-library references, the abstract and some materials (visual also) that remind the defence-day!

2014. Manzo, L.K.C. «Give me a break! I’m from Brooklyn, we’re not fancy». Institutions, Housing and Lifestyles in Super-gentrification process. A Field and Historical research in Park Slope, New York City, The University of Trento, Unitn-eprints PhD.


In an attempt to make concrete linkages between neighborhood change and the boundary-making paradigm, this field and longitudinal study of a New York City’€™s neighborhood, addresses the influences of displacement, housing- abandonment and resettlement in Super-gentrification processes on 1) the types of institutions that emerged to represent different class interests; 2) the types of social groups that came to inhabit the neighborhood; 3) the pattern of that evolution over time; 4) the particular goals, values, and morals that such community organizations evolved; and 5) the social status displays carried out in cultured consumption in housing and leisure.

Employing a multi-methodological and theoretical approach, the study follows the evolution and development of neighborhood change over forty years through the analysis of social groups and their community organizations (looking at archival documents for the past and by in-depth interviews, shadowing and ethnographic observation for the present time), census data analysis, archival/documental research, and visual data.

Community organizations emerged, on the one hand, to represent different class interests – improvement, mandated, ideological -€“ and to emphasize liberal progressive values, on the other. This emergence followed historical and geographical patterns of accelerating gentrification. The study argues that four waves of gentrification showed up across the time and tended to concentrate in four different neighborhood areas, where the incoming groups formed parallel boundary shifts.

Accordingly, I found that different waves of gentrification were associated with the emergence of different types of Gentrifiers over time, and this had to do with the changing role of post-industrial cities within the American economy, the processes of government/local institution interventions in the neighborhood housing market, the changes in class interests, morals and ideologies, and the increased aestheticized re-scriptings of neighborhood housing choices and lifestyles. Such aesthetic appreciation operated for gentrifiers as a visible marker of social status.

As residential displacement, the disappearance of “old”€ local stores, and their replacement of upscale shops entailed forms of social inequality that enhanced the lifestyle of new waves of gentrifiers (raising housing values and rents) while, at the same time, forced out morally (by alienation) or practically (by displacement) long-term residents, who helped produce the neighborhood socio-cultural fabric. Diversity and aesthetic appeal seemed to underlie the motives of wealthier, well-educated newcomers to move into the neighborhood. Interestingly, those have not been changing throughout the different waves of gentrifiers who came to inhabit the community in the last 40 years. However – during the process of Super-gentrification -€“ I found that the more they populate the neighborhood, the more it becomes homogenized and less richly diverse, still quite progressive but in a different way. I would say, in a privileged progressive way.

Despite the fact that the moral order of these institutions has always been the one of community solidarity, culture, education, and growth, I observed at the same time the playing out of the most common paradox of gentrifiers. The desire of diversity and the producing of difference. This is, I believe, the central problem of gentrification: the balance between, or the combination of, pleasure and power. Balancing pleasure and power is a social, political, and moral problem. It brings together many of the concerns about gentrification, the desire for (and the loss of) diversity, and expresses the central thesis of this study.

PDF (Thesis Front Cover) – Cover Image

PDF (Thesis Abstract) – Supplemental Material

PDF (Thesis Preface) – Supplemental Material

DO THE RIGHT THING with Community-based collaborative research!

On March 30 2014, Impact-HUB Milan invited me (as social innovator!!!) to talk about “Community-based collaborative research (CBCR)” during the Soul Tea #3 at “Do the Right Thing” [Fà la Cosa Giusta], the Italian exhibition of critical consuming and sustenible lifestyle fair at Milanocity, Milan (Italy).

Inspired by such an audience, I spoke about how communities partnering with social scientists in collaborative inquiry can produce new culturally-situated knowledge and action to promote social justice and equity.

Here some little memories, together with Marta Lasen Impact HUB Milan, Giulia Barbieri SocialFarming and Perigeo.


Guest Lecture of Tom Slater, April 15th 2014 10:30 am @ Sociology Faculty, Trento University




Download the lecture invitation here.