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)

Make It Visible. What Is Zoning?

The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a non-profit organization that uses art and design to break down complex urban issues — from street vendor regulations to perspectives on micro-apartments — into simple, accessible, visual explanations. After hearing of the difficulties its community partners had relating the complexities of zoning to their constituents, CUP set out to create a toolkit and workshop to better explain the code. The resulting What Is Zoning? toolkit is the second in CUP’s Envisioning Development series that explores topics and processes key to what is built in our cities. CUP Executive Director Christine Gaspar sat down with us to walk through the core concepts of New York City zoning, the organization’s methods for breaking down complexity and empowering citizens, and the lessons that process provides for building more inclusive, truly public processes.

Read more on Urban Omnibus

Basically, the essence of Death & Life




In honor of  the 50th anniversary edition of Jane Jacobs’ influential book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Fortune has republished one of Jacobs’ earlier articles in which the urban activist laid out the case against modernist planners.

What $1500/month can rent you around New York City? Let’s find out!

“The prettiest apartment of the bunch is in a 1890 brownstone in Sunset Park. The parlor-floor 1BR features a bay window, french doors, crown molding, ceiling medallions, and decorative fireplace. It was also recently repainted. It’s asking $1,600/month.”

Welcome back to Curbed Comparisons, a column that explores what one can rent for a set dollar amount in various New York City neighborhoods.

[Curbed NY, 11/27]

Williamsburg Homes, With Neighborliness in Mind

When the architect Carmi Bee first moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn decades ago, the favored activity of his neighbors was to lounge on the stoops of their brownstones, getting to know one another.

“Now that the area’s become gentrified, you don’t see it,” Mr. Bee said, and then laughed. “They’re all working to pay the mortgage, I guess.”

Thus, Mr. Bee, a principal of RKT&B Architects and Urban Designers, said he enjoyed designing a group of 12 contemporary row houses in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that may bring back the former days of stoop-gathering.

Read more on the NYTimes

China: home to the world’s least affordable housing markets

Five big Chinese cities rank among the priciest housing markets in the world, surpassing notoriously expensive cities like Tokyo, London and New York, based on calculations by the International Monetary Fund. In fact, seven out of 10 of the world’s least affordable markets–Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Chongqing–are now in China.

[Atlantic Cities, 7/1]

Seeing Gentrification behind the Window of a Sicilian Bakery

Steetnotes 21 coverWhat scholars think of as gentrification is often associated with more expensive and aesthetically elegant cafes, restaurants, and boutiques that appeal to the high-class consumers’ tastes.  Yet, it also means the displacement of working class residents and their stores.  There happened to a bakery in the south part of Park Slope, a place where coffee cost less than a dollar, but the rent jumped up from four thousand dollars a month to a whopping five thousand dollars a month. So, what might be the real face of this transition?  Perhaps, the face of Signora Enrica, one of two old Sicilian sisters who used to own an old-fashion Italian Bakery.

Read my last article on Streetnotes (2013) 21: 25-28

“Seeing Gentrification behind the Window of a Sicilian Bakery: Reflexive Ethnography and documentary practice in Brooklyn”

Lives Of NYC’s Public Housing [Photo Essay]

Yvonne Shields, Sous-Chef NYCHA Resident: Highbridge Gardens (Bronx) Credit: City Limits

By number, it’s a city – a large one. As of this past January, 403,736 people live in 2,596 apartment buildings owned and run by the New York City Housing Authority. That population is bigger than Miami, Oakland and Tulsa.

NYCHA buildings do not comprise a city of course. But their people, history, importance and problems are no less critical and complicated.

See this amazing photo essay published on-line by City Limits:

We the People: The Citizens of NYCHA