The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York [NOOK Book]

Overview

Considered one of the city's most notorious industrial slums in the 1940s and 1950s, Brownstone Brooklyn by the 1980s had become a post-industrial landscape of hip bars, yoga studios, and beautifully renovated, wildly expensive townhouses. In The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn, Suleiman Osman offers a groundbreaking history of this unexpected transformation. Challenging the conventional wisdom that New York City's renaissance started in the 1990s, Osman locates the origins of gentrification in Brooklyn in the ...
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The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York

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Overview

Considered one of the city's most notorious industrial slums in the 1940s and 1950s, Brownstone Brooklyn by the 1980s had become a post-industrial landscape of hip bars, yoga studios, and beautifully renovated, wildly expensive townhouses. In The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn, Suleiman Osman offers a groundbreaking history of this unexpected transformation. Challenging the conventional wisdom that New York City's renaissance started in the 1990s, Osman locates the origins of gentrification in Brooklyn in the cultural upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. Gentrification began as a grassroots movement led by young and idealistic white college graduates searching for "authenticity" and life outside the burgeoning suburbs. Where postwar city leaders championed slum clearance and modern architecture, "brownstoners" (as they called themselves) fought for a new romantic urban ideal that celebrated historic buildings, industrial lofts and traditional ethnic neighborhoods as a refuge from an increasingly technocratic society. Osman examines the emergence of a "slow-growth" progressive coalition as brownstoners joined with poorer residents to battle city planners and local machine politicians. But as brownstoners migrated into poorer areas, race and class tensions emerged, and by the 1980s, as newspapers parodied yuppies and anti-gentrification activists marched through increasingly expensive neighborhoods, brownstoners debated whether their search for authenticity had been a success or failure.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Osman has told the story with great insight and drama through an eclectic and well-selected set of historical sources and a felicitous writerly prose." —American Historical Review

"[B]rilliant...For those looking for an incredibly thought-provoking, detailed account of the motivations, confrontations, and at times hypocrisies, of the gentrification movement, Suleiman Osman's The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn is a must-read." —Carolina Planning Journal

"Absorbing." —The New Yorker

"The most important current book on New York." —New York Post

"Leaves the reader deeply informed.... The story of Brooklyn's gentrification needed to be written, and Osman does it well." —Times Literary Supplement

"Insightful.... An exceptionally well-researched book that will retain validity for years to come." —Library Journal

"A timely and compelling history." —Buildings & Landscapes

"An impressive new book...a rich and refreshingly ambivalent account of how a new urban ideal—one riddled with contradictions—emerged in Brooklyn between the end of World War II and the late 1970s. The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn is a first-rate work of history, especially for a debut effort by a young scholar. Osman impresses with sweeping ruminations on the meanings of modernism and what he dubs the 'literature of gentrification' while also remaining grounded in nuts-and-bolts archival research."
—Bookforum

"A brilliant study of an American 'pro urban ideal,' which opened up just after World War II, when it seemed all America was rejecting cities and their values. Suleiman Osman shows Brooklynites fighting each other for decades. Did anybody win? We can see now, decades later, how intellectually fruitful this fight has been, how it has 'blossomed into a postindustrial slow growth movement' that is still growing."—Marshall Berman, author of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air

"Finally we have a history of gentrification that isn't primarily an exercise in identifying good guys and bad guys. And what a history it is! In this superb study, Suleiman Osman gives us a highly readable and well balanced account of the complex forces at work in Brownstone Brooklyn in the 1960s and 70s, a pivotal era for America and its cities. By looking closely at one small part of the urban landscape, Osman has been able to give us one of the most satisfying accounts to date of some of the fundamental shifts in American life in an era when the industrial economy bottomed out, a venerable New Deal coalition collapsed, new activist groups appeared, a new conservatism was born, and American inner city neighborhoods became a crucible for new attitudes about architecture, urban life and the role of place and community activism. In the process we get incisive, often startling, insights into figures we thought we knew."—Robert Bruegmann, author of Sprawl: A Compact History

"Inventing Brownstone Brooklyn gives readers a rich and compelling story of competing urban visions. The power and inner contradictions of the gentrification impulse come alive in these pages."-Daniel T. Rodgers, author of Age of Fracture

"In this richly nuanced account, Suleiman Osman follows Brooklyn's gentrifiers-small in number but outsized in influence-as they reclaimed brownstones and remade urban space. Osman's discussion of the connections between gentrification, urban reform politics, and the 1960s counterculture is especially illuminating."-Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania

"This fine-grained history portrays gentrifiers as the first Moderns who are both rooted in the growth of big business and the professions and rebelling against the soulless city built by corporations and the state. Osman adroitly traces the paradoxes of gentrification from an elusive search for authenticity to the fears of the urban middle class."—Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places

"Osman...sheds new light on the history of the Brownstone belt and how it began to convey the charm and authenticity gentrifiers admire so much. Although the story Suleiman tells is specific to the Western quadrant of one New York borough, the lesson is universal." —American Prospect

Library Journal
Osman (American studies, George Washington Univ.) chronicles the urban gentrification movement that began in 1960s Brooklyn and dramatically transformed blighted areas into a prosperous and thriving cityscape. An expansion of his doctoral dissertation, this insightful work focuses on what he terms the "Brownstoner" phenomenon that arose as a result of the evolution of the city's economy from an industrial to a service one. People relocated to Brooklyn, mostly from Manhattan, and acquired the classic 19th-century structures known as brownstones, so-called because of their facades, and renovated them, thus rejuvenating their neighborhoods. It's a startling tale of how an influx of upper middle-class professionals came to Brooklyn, often displacing the longtime residents, many of whom were poor minorities or blue-collar whites. He also shows how these "reborn" neighborhoods ultimately became so expensive that they not only hindered later newcomers from finding affordable homes but also forced out small businesses, creating upscale urban "ghettoes." VERDICT This is an exceptionally well-researched book that will retain validity for years to come. In spite of some overly dense material interspersed throughout the otherwise absorbing historical accounts, it should be strongly appealing to urban historians and other academics.—Richard Drezen, Brooklyn, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199832040
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/9/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,122,300
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Suleiman Osman is Assistant Professor of American Studies at George Washington University. He grew up in Brooklyn's Park Slope and now lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
1. Urban Wilderness
2. Concord Village
3. The Middle Cityscape
4. The Two Machines in the Garden
5. The Highway in the Garden
6. Inventing Brownstone Brooklyn
7. The Neighborhood Movement
Conclusion: Brownstone Brooklyn Invented
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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