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After Tompkins Square Park: Degentrification and the Revanchist City

  • Neil Smith
Chapter

Abstract

After the stretch-limo optimism of the 1980s was rear-ended in the financial crash of 1987, then totalled by the onset of economic depression two years later, real estate agents and urban commentators quickly began deploying the language of ‘de-gentrification’ to represent the apparent reversal of urban change in the 1990s. ‘With the realty boom gone bust in once gentrifying neighborhoods’, writes one newspaper reporter, ‘co-op converters and speculators who worked the streets and avenues... have fallen on hard times. That, in turn, has left some residents complaining of poor security and shoddy maintenance, while others are unable to sell their once-pricey apartments in buildings where a bank foreclosed on a converter’. ‘Degentrification’, explains one New York realtor, ‘is a reversal of the gentrification process’: in the 1990s, unlike the 1980s, ‘there is no demand for pioneering, transitional, recently discovered locations’. Those few real estate deals that are transacted, he suggests, have retrenched to ‘prime areas’.1 ‘In the 1970s, the theory was that a few gentrified areas would have a contagious effect and pull up neighboring districts’ but ‘that didn’t happen’, says another commentator. Most bluntly, in the words of census bureau demographer Larry Long, ‘gentrification has come and gone’.2

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Notes

  1. 1.
    C. V. Bagli, ‘“De-gentrification” Can Hit When Boom Goes Bust’, New York Observer, 5–12 August 1991, p. 1.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
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  3. 5.
    R. A. Beauregard, Voices of Decline (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1993).Google Scholar
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    N. Smith, ‘From Renaissance to Restructuring: Gentrification, the Frontier and Urban Change’, in N. Smith and P. Williams (eds), Gentrification of the City (Allen & Unwin, London, 1986)Google Scholar
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    N. Smith, ‘Tompkins Square: Riots, Rents and Redskins’, Portable Lower East Side, 6 (1989), pp. 1–36.Google Scholar
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    N. Smith, ‘New City, New Frontier: The Lower East Side as Wild West’, in M. Sorkin (ed.), Variations on a Theme Park. The New American City and the End of Public Space (Hill and Wang, New York, 1992), pp. 61–93.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    R. Gilmore, ‘Terror Austerity Race Gender Excess Theater’, in Gooding-Williams (ed.), Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising (Routledge, New York, 1993), pp. 23–37.Google Scholar
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  9. 13.
    R. Gooding-Williams (ed.), Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising (Routledge, New York, 1993).Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    S. Ferguson, ‘Should Tompkins Square be like Gramercy’, Village Voice, 11 June 1991 p. 20.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    S. Ferguson, ‘The Park is Gone’, Village Voice, 18 June 1991, p. 25.Google Scholar
  12. 29.
    F. Engels, The Housing Question (Progress, Moscow, 1975).Google Scholar
  13. 37.
    S. Sassen, The Global City (Princeton University Press, 1991).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Neil Smith 1996

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  • Neil Smith

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