Book Review Preview: How to Kill a City

By Dennis E. Gale

Peter Moskowitz. How to Kill a City. (New York: Nation Books, 2017)

Journalist Moskowitz pens a provocative book arguing that gentrification — in virtually all of its dimensions — destroys communities. An impassioned writer, he centers his critique on case studies of four U.S. cities: New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York. Through a series of interviews, direct observations of local conditions, and citations of various published sources he argues that the forces of gentrification are destroying the social diversity of neighborhood life.

Despite his myriad attacks on gentrification and its impacts on working class people, Moskowitz is quick to acknowledge that, yes, he too is a gentrifier. In his native New York, he and his friends patronize clubs and bars in areas undergoing reinvestment. He acknowledges that some of these establishments have replaced other businesses once catering to the needs of low- and moderate-income families. And shifting demographic patterns have replaced racial and ethnic populations with college-educated elites. He skewers the public and private sectors, both of which, he insists, court wealth, income, and public revenues at the expense of long-term residents.

Moskowitz shows that even Detroit and New Orleans, two cities long challenged by population losses, physical decline, and financial disparities, are nonetheless experiencing moderate levels of public and private reinvestment. In both cases, city leaders have adopted policies catalyzing middle-income housing construction and renovation. At the other extreme, he writes, San Francisco and New York, both metropolises seemingly overwhelmed by the forces of gentrification, demonstrate the extent to which the Weltanschauung of urban life can undergo fundamental changes. Nothing illustrates this better than Moskowitz’s colorful walking tour across Manhattan, in which he reveals his deep nostalgia for the city of his youthful memories.

Readers seeking a balanced treatment of gentrification will probably be disappointed by this book. On the other hand, those dedicated to the proposition that gentrification’s overall costs outweigh its benefits will find plentiful grist for the mill.

The full book review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.

Dennis E. Gale
Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University
Lecturer, Stanford University
Dennis.Gale@fulbrightmail.org

CALL FOR PAPERS: JUA Special Issue on Black Meccas of the South

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JANUARY 15, 2018

Call for Papers: JUA Special Issue
Black Meccas of the South

The Journal of Urban Affairs invites article submissions for a special issue on “Black Meccas of the South,” guest edited by Kali-Ahset Amen (Emory University) and Deirdre Oakley (Georgia State University).

Employing an inter-American framework to interrogate and reposition the Black Mecca landscape, this special issue will: (1) attend to the time-specific, particular and undertheorized character of southern cities as actual and possible Black Meccas; (2) contend with the conceptual limitations of U.S.-centric, northern, and nation-bound categories of urban black place-making; and (3) explore the significance of economic, cultural, and people flows between hemispheric southern spaces (e.g. U.S. Deep South, the Caribbean, and coastal regions of Central and South America) in the making and re-scaling of black/Afro-descendant urban place and space. For this special issue, we invite submissions of empirical, theoretical, and review papers that examine these issues in relation to urban Afro-descendant populations along a number of place-making dimensions.

Interested authors should submit a 150-word abstract to the guest editors by email at JUAblackmeccas@gmail.com. Abstracts must be received by January 15, 2018. Following the review of abstracts, selected authors must submit final papers to the guest editors for initial evaluation by March 30, 2018. Once evaluated, the guest editors will instruct the authors to upload their papers to Scholar One for peer review. Questions about this special issue should be submitted to the email above.

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Overview. In the U.S. context, the term Black Mecca has typically referred to cities where African Americans have better employment opportunities, a large black middle class, a black political elite, historically black colleges and universities, as well as prominent incubators of black arts, music, culture and other innovations. Depending on their location, such cities may or may not feature black demographic majorities. In the North and Mid-West, New York, NY and Chicago, IL have been regarded as black cultural meccas since the 1920s. An anchor for black middle class strivers, Washington, D.C. long reigned as a Mid-Atlantic mecca, bearing the moniker “Chocolate City.” Atlanta, GA emerged as the archetypal, modern Black Mecca, first noted in a 1971 Ebony Magazine article touting this southern city as a place where “[b]lack folks have more, live better, accomplish more and deal with whites more effectively than they do anywhere else in the South—or North” (Garland 1971: 152).*

Black Meccas are at a crossroads. Today, widening social inequality confounds the prosperity narrative at the core of the Black Mecca ideal. Major U.S. cities are facing structural transformations (e.g. gentrification, suburbanization of poverty, labor deskilling, and redistricting) that have diminished or reconfigured traditional political-economic and place-based markers of the Black Mecca. Persistent anti-black racism only compounds the racial taint of these shifts. While similar pressures affect all Black Meccas, southern cities like Atlanta, Miami, FL and Charlotte, NC have shown modest resilience as sites of black opportunity and are even growing as destinations for black migration. Some black migrants are heading South from northern metropolitan areas once known as Black Meccas; others are emigrating across national borders to and from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America; still others have relocated from coastal southern cities in the wake of man-made and natural disasters. In view of these realities, we suggest that relational and comparative analytics are needed to understand racial and place formation in historical and emergent Black Meccas of the South in particular.

Regional and racial place-making reconsidered: Black Meccas of the Inter-American South. Our interest in the South responds to the northern and western regional bias dominant in African American urban historiography until the turn of the millennium. We seek to engage an expanding volume of scholarship which investigates, on the one hand, contemporary urban cultures of the black U.S. South, and varied articulations of blackness in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, on the other. The cultural, economic, environmental, and political ties among these geographies are long-standing, as are their variegated linkages to U.S. imperial and racial projects.

Since the 1990s, urbanists have connected local processes of place-making to global systemic processes that reinscribe space within a global political and cultural economy. Likewise, interdisciplinary scholars of the “new Southern studies” framework appeal to the analysis of a transnational South that locates regional processes within a global context. Along these lines, we define the inter-American South as a transoceanic geography that includes the U.S. Deep South, the Caribbean, and coastal regions of Central and South America with significant densities of Afro-descendant populations. We urge attention to trans-local and transnational processes that shape the conditions out of which Black Meccas emerge, decline, shift, or fail to exist at all. Attending to the interplay of urbanization, racialization, and black empowerment in Latin American and Caribbean cities is of key importance because they have been significant centers of innovation for Afro-descendant populations. In many cases, they are places from which Afro-descendants have migrated to Black Meccas of the U.S. South over the generations. With this broader framing in mind, we seek to highlight the interconnectedness of southern places and peoples, even as we probe local singularities of black agency and spatiality.

*Phyl Garland “Atlanta: Black Mecca of the South” Ebony Magazine, August 1971, pp. 152-160.

  1. Submit 150-word abstract to JUAblackmeccas@gmail.com by January 15, 2018.
  2. Selected authors must submit final papers to the guest editors by March 30, 2017 to the email above.
  3. Once evaluated, the guest editors will instruct the authors to upload their papers to Scholar One for peer review.
  4. Questions about this special issue should be submitted to JUAblackmeccas@gmail.com.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Special Issue on “Cities, Networks, & Urban Policy”

Special Issue of Journal of Urban Affairs on “Cities, Networks, & Urban Policy”

The Journal of Urban Affairs invites article submissions for a special issue on “Cities, Networks, & Urban Policy,” guest edited by Zachary Neal (Michigan State University) and Ben Derudder (Universiteit Gent). References to ‘urban networks’ in scientific books and articles have grown exponentially over the past years. Research on the topic now extends across many social and natural science disciplines and over many scales of analysis from the intra-urban formation of social networks among neighbours, to the regional formation of transportation networks between cities, to the formation of transnational economic networks between global cities. Papers in this special issue will explore the ways that research on cities and networks has, or can, inform urban policy (broadly construed).

We welcome empirical, theoretical, and review papers. Additionally, we welcome papers adopting quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods approaches. However, all papers submitted for this special issue should (a) foreground the role of networks (broadly construed) in cities and (b) should conclude with or discuss implications for urban policy (also broadly construed).

Interested authors should submit their manuscript first to the guest editors by email (zpneal@msu.edu & ben.derudder@ugent.be). Following an initial review to confirm the manuscript meets the aims of the special issue, instructions for formal submission to the journal will be provided. Initial submissions must be received by 15 March 2018.

Questions about the journal, special issue, or suitability of a particular manuscript or idea can be directed to Zachary Neal at zpneal@msu.edu.

CALL FOR PROPOSALS: ANIMALS IN THE CITY

CALL FOR PROPOSALS: ANIMALS IN THE CITY
Symposium, Journal of Urban Affairs
Laura A. Reese, Editor
Global Urban Studies Program
Michigan State University

Public policies and other issues related to animals in the city have not been well explored; yet, issues of animal welfare have long been tied to municipal politics.  Historically, regulations designed to protect the urban populace and property from animals have existed as long as humans and animals have lived in close proximity in cities and, in the US, have been determined to be legitimate exercises of police powers on the parts of state and local governments.  Surveys have indicated that mayors ranked animal-related issues as the most common complaint to their offices.  The issue of companion animals in the city illustrates the complexity of conflicting public effort to cope with pets as objects of affection, economic value, respect, or abuse.  However, contemporary cities also include non-companion animals such live-stock and chickens as part of urban farming, wild animals whose shrinking habitats have caused them to part of the urban environment, stray and feral animals as the result of economic distress, and hybrids such as “coydogs” resulting from interactions between companion animals and wild animals.

This symposium will include papers that focus on the environmental, health, safety, ethical, and cultural implications of animals in the city and the human-animals interactions that result.  Global comparisons would be particularly welcome.  While certainly not exhaustive some potential topics are listed below:

  • What are the sources of stray and feral dogs and cats in urban areas? How can those sources be managed (etiology-human behavior change, economic conditions) through policy instead of managing the symptoms?
  • What are the health and regulatory implications of urban animal husbandry in dense urban areas?
  • How do urban animal issues intersect with cultural and sociological views and practices? Does such interaction help or hinder the development and implementation of animal welfare policy?
  • What are the potential health implications of the connections between urban environmental degradation (standing polluted water, lead paint and asbestos in buildings) and the health of animals and humans in cities?
  • What are the relationships between the human/animal bond, human and animal abuse, and other forms of criminality such as dog fighting? Is stray dog aggression a sentinel of a violent human community? How are different forms of animal cruelty in urban areas connected to other interpersonal problems?
  • What do model urban animal welfare ordinances look like and where have they been applied?
  • What types of models are there for cooperative service production related to animal welfare and animal control between NGOs and the public sector? How can awareness and engagement of community and stakeholders be raised?
  • What are the interactions between roaming companion animals and other urban wildlife?

Authors are encouraged to submit article proposals to Laura A. Reese (reesela@msu.edu.) by December 1, 2017.  These will be reviewed and specific papers selected by December 31, 2017.  The final articles will be due by June 30, 2018.  Please send proposals along with contact information and a curriculum vita via email to:

Laura A. Reese, Director, Global Urban Studies Program, Michigan State University, reesela@msu.edu.

Special Issue: Urban Transformations and Spectacles in Brazil

Guest editor: Xuefei Ren

This special issue presents a set of articles that critically examine the changing urban governance, politics, and rights to the city in Brazil in the wake of two mega-events: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. To date, much of the critical geography scholarship on mega-events has been framed in the narrative of accumulation by dispossession, by focusing on the negative consequences of mega-events such as displacement and gentrification. The articles in this special issue build on but also move beyond the dispossession literature, by situating Brazil’s experience with urban structuring in complex layers of historical and institutional contexts. Based on fresh fieldwork and the latest data, the articles collectively examine emerging trends in urban governance in Brazil, through examples such as the launching of major infrastructure projects, evolution of favela housing policies, mobilization led by housing rights activists against removal, the June 2013 protests, and the “rights to the city” movement across major urban centers in the country. One comparative article contrasts Rio 2016 with the Beijing 2008 Olympics, and highlights how global city ambitions have played out differently in China and Brazil, two emerging economies that operate under different political regimes.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Aspirational urbanism from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro: Olympic cities in the Global South and contradictions, by Xuefei Ren

2. Neoliberalization and mega-events: The transition of Rio de Janeiro’’s hybrid urban order, by Luiz Cesar de Queiroz Ribeiro & Orlando Alves dos Santos Junior

3. Rio de Janeiro’’s Olympic dispossessions, by Daniel Bin

4. Evictions and housing policy evolution in Rio de Janeiro: An ANT perspective, by Hector Becerril

5. Undoing the right to the city: World Cup investments and informal settlements in Fortaleza, Brazil, by Clarissa F. Sampaio Freitas

6. Removal, resistance and the right to the olympic city: The case of Vila Autodromo in Rio de Janeiro, by Sukari Ivester

7. Community resistance and the inclusive city: Devising strategies in São Paulo, by Maureen M. Donaghy

8. The politics of contested urban space: The 2013 protest movement in Brazil, by Thomas J. Vicino & Anjuli Fahlberg

Xuefei Ren is an Associate Professor of Global Urban Studies & Sociology at Michigan State University and a Managing Editor of the Journal of Urban Affairs

Does spatial assimilation lead to reproduction of gentrification in the global city?

By Richard J. Smith

My thinking about gentrification formed as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan at church. After a weekend service trip on Detroit’s west side with Habitat for Humanity, I casually mentioned to our associate pastor how great it was to see all the new investment in downtown Detroit. He responded, “But it’s displacing the poor.” This message stuck with me when I became a Presidential Management Fellow at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

My personal experience living in gentrifying cities paralleled my professional career. When I worked for HUD in the Office of Community Renewal, we administered the Federal Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community program as well as the Renewal Community program. We often wondered if the program, which was designed to direct both public and private resources to high poverty neighborhoods, would really benefit the residents by bringing jobs, or just bring gentrification and force people to move. Many of our grantees, desperate for tax revenues, wanted gentrification and this challenged HUD’s simultaneous mission to both develop cities and provide fair housing protections.

One of my responsibilities in the office was to work with scholars doing research on EZs. I met Marc Wallace just as he was finishing. I helped Kil Huh, now of Pew Charitable Trusts, print out all the strategic plans. I sent Patrick Kline, now an economist at Berkeley, copies of the winning and losing EZ/EC census tracts so he could do a natural experiment. Watching these scholars, I decided to do my own dissertation work and decided to focus on immigrant and minority entrepreneurship. Having published two articles about EZs, I learned that reviewers don’t want to review articles about these programs. When Jeffrey Zak attended one presentation I gave at APPAM, he told me it was a waste time for anyone to study them because incentives would be too small to have an impact, or too large that they just got capitalized in land rents (i.e., gentrified the neighborhood).

It is only fitting that I co-wrote this paper in Detroit, after spending 15 years outside of Michigan. When I came to Wayne State University, I bought the 10th of 76 condo units in a former Jeep showroom using down payment assistance from the state. This condo development was a risky move–it would be several years to get the 15th unit sold. Fallout from the 2008 recession froze many of in the development pipeline, so gentrification looked like an impossible fantasy. Since Federal regulations required random assignment of appraisals, and the only comparable properties were foreclosure sales, banks in Detroit could not lend at the price the developer asked. Further, the Fire Department set a “let it burn” policy for abandoned buildings and each mayor pledged to accelerate demolitions. We are now demolishing over 3500 abandoned buildings a year, a rate that surpasses that of most states.

The Cass Corridor was not the first gentrifying neighborhood I lived in. I thought I was saving the city by contributing to the tax base. But I am also saving someone else money by paying a mortgage by contributing to shareholder value. In Washington, DC, I lived a few blocks from Derek Hyra where he wrote his book about the Shaw Neighborhood. I saw Rev. Fauntroy speak about how he piloted the model cities program in our neighborhood 30 years prior by strategically placing affordable housing, a new library, and other amenities. The last time I visited the neighborhood, I saw my rent controlled house undergoing renovation—presumably being converted to market rate. In Oakland California, I lived behind Novella Carpenter, author of Ghost Town Farms, a book about how she navigated a chop shop, Buddhist temple and local bureaucracy to grow vegetables on a brownfield site. I woke up to the sound of her goats. Her house was Pepto Bismol pink and she would sometimes feed her chickens in the backyard. In one year, I saw each of the four crack houses on the block get shut down as the Friday night art crawls only grew bigger. Artists’ lofts across the street and the Black Muslim Barber Shop down the street held the block together. I can share these anecdotes in a blog.  For two decades now, I’ve lived in places where you can see capital investment advance one block at a time. When I return to these places, I look for vestiges of continuity of place like flyers of resistance. Sometimes those have moved on to the next neighborhood as well.

One puzzle I noticed when putting together descriptive statistics from my dissertation was that the immigrant population increased dramatically from 1990 to 2010 in the EZ/ECs and RCs. The population decline would have been much greater had it not been for immigration. I wondered what local governments were doing to encourage immigration to cities generally, not just in EZ/ECs and RCs. As a follow-up for my dissertation research, I wanted to see if urban neighborhoods were increasing or decreasing immigrant populations. I was able to obtain some internal funding to purchase the new Geolytics Time Series Research Database and a graduate student assistant.

I hired Catherine Schmitt-Sands, a computer scientist turned political scientist, and we spent a year and a half data mining 13,000 local government websites to categorize local government initiatives. She also did the analysis and wrote up the first draft of this paper. At that time, I met Theodore Pride, a sociologist, when he was doing some work on the United Way’s Neighborhood Network program evaluation. He asked me to serve on his dissertation committee because he was interested in gentrification in a working-class neighborhood on the west side of Detroit. He had grown up in a public housing development nearby and he returned from studying out of state, he did not recognize the neighborhood that he had grown up in. I hired him as a part-time research assistant to work on this project. This experienced showed me the benefits of putting together an interdisciplinary team whose personal histories lead them to approach the research in different ways.

Ted wasted no time being provocative. He argued that any kind of immigrant welcoming initiative would be a form of gentrification. He suggested that gentrification was a by-product of spatial assimilation (i.e., people of color moving into privileged white neighborhoods in suburbs) He argued that Whites would be more comfortable moving to inner city neighborhoods if they lived in suburban that were experiencing spatial assimilation. It turns out that the two processes are correlated at the level of the metropolitan area, but Ted was wrong about the Whites—in 2010 on average they are still leaving gentrifying neighborhoods.

Our big take away was that the number of gentrifying neighborhoods has doubled since 1980, and it appears to be accelerating. Spatial assimilation, on the other hand, has plateaued. Upon reflection, the mechanism is very complex, and reviewers were quick to point this out. By using a color-blind definition of gentrification, we might actually be seeing capital flows in other ways—incumbent upgrading, funds transfers to residents to fix up homes, or empty nesters returning to the neighborhood they grew up in. In Ted’s dissertation research, he found that in one low-income neighborhood, property values doubled in one year after an aggressive marketing campaign by the local community organization. We both agree that gentrification research could look very different in 2020, if we still have Census data to analyze.

These are the sorts of personal reflections I can say in a blog, but don’t come from our data per say. Ted challenged me to think critically as I look outside my window and see the new kind of development partially block my skyline view of my luxury apartment I learned how fast the phases of gentrification can flow when excess capital has too little desirable places to chase after. Detroit and is currently planning a fourth publicly financed stadium for soccer. The financing for Little Caesars Arena, new home to the Red Wings and Pistons, came in the form of a loan taken from the local school budget during emergency management. Michigan places localities and school districts under emergency management if they do not have a balanced budget. The law authorizes EMs to sell anything, break any contract except repayment of bonds. After some regulatory changes and the world’s largest municipal bankruptcy, Wall Street was more or less forced by the courts to dump capital into the city. Bondholders were given land in exchange for a “haircut” with the condition that they develop the land, rather than hold it. One development is a new basketball and hockey arena gentrifying the neighborhood between Wayne State and downtown Detroit. This development triggered an intense community benefits movement in the city. As part of negotiation with local residents, Chris Illich agreed to restore the Historic Park hotel, hire city residents, care for local Cass Park, set aside retail space for local businesses, and create an internship program with the public schools. When making these commitments publicly, he said that he did so because he knew that his company was the custodian of a sacred legacy and that the Tigers and Red Wings belonged to all of us. Consequently, the City of Detroit became the first city to codify a community benefits process in an ordinance, a process that is still contested.

I would like to thank the UAA Awards Committee and chair Kirk McClure for their hard work. I would also like to thank George Galster for not submitting a paper for the conference award that year as well as serving as a faculty mentor. I went to San Diego with Ted to accept the award. Catherine couldn’t make it, but she is currently a Senior Lecturer at the Mike Illich School of Business, soon to open at the Little Caesars Arena with a new sports management concentration.

Our study does not test any hypotheses about the impact of gentrification on residents. For that you’ll have to see some of my other work co-authored with Amanda Lehning and Kyeongmo Kim. We look at age old question: Does gentrification make us sick, or are we just sick of gentrification?

Richard J. Smith, MFA, MSW, PhD
Associate Professor
School of Social Work
Wayne State University
smithrichardj@wayne.edu

The article “Does spatial assimilation lead to reproduction of gentrification in the global city?” by Richard J. Smith, Theodore Thomas Pride & Catherine E. Schmitt-Sands, was published in Volume 39, Issue 6 of the Journal of Urban Affairs. It is currently available to read for free without a subscription. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review Preview: The New Brooklyn

By Tony Filipovitch

Kay S. Hymowitz, The New Brooklyn: What It Takes to Bring Back a City (Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield, 2017). 

Kay Hymowitz offers a nuanced defense of gentrification as a process of creative destruction, one that results in winners and losers (although sometimes in unanticipated ways).  As she says in her conclusion, “…expensive, gentrifying cities like Brooklyn are far better off than their cheap-rent counterparts” (p. 156).  In the introduction, she sets out to explore how a “left-for-dead city” became “just about the coolest place on earth and the paragon of the postindustrial creative city” (p. 3).  She chooses Brooklyn to study this process because it is a “… microcosm [of] the economic, demographic, and social forces behind the perplexing creative destruction of the more successful urban centers in today’s advanced economies” (p. 10).  Along the way, she lays out her case in colorful, breezy prose told as a tale of seven neighborhoods.

Kay Hymowitz is a contributing editor at City Journal, the house organ for the Manhattan Institute.  She was trained in English literature rather than social science, and this book is better taken as journalism or an opinion piece rather than scholarly research (although she does relate a lively story).  Her idiosyncratic selection of neighborhoods should be seen as illustrative, but not demonstrative.  And, while the work is heavily footnoted, the notes are often to journalistic and other online sources.  Finally, her conclusions are only loosely supported by the data she presents.  That said, I really enjoyed this book.  She tells a good story, one that cannot be ignored, even if I don’t particularly agree with the conclusions she draws from her story.  She has given me a lot to think about, and offered some interesting hypotheses to pursue more rigorously.

Tony Filipovitch, Minnesota State University Mankato
Anthony.Filipovitch@mnsu.edu