Selling the Lower East Side: Culture, Real Estate, and Resistance in New York, 1880-2000by Christopher Mele
The Lower East Side of Manhattan is rich in stories -- of poor immigrants who flocked there in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; of beatniks, hippies, and artists who peopled it midcentury; and of the real estate developers and politicians who have always shaped what is now called the "East Village." Today, the real estate industry exploits images of trendy squalor presented on Broadway, in films, and in other media to lure members of the middle class to enjoy a commodified, sanitized version of the neighborhood.
In this sweeping account, Christopher Mele analyzes the political and cultural forces that have influenced the development of this distinctive community. He describes late nineteenth-century notions of the Lower East Side as a place of entrenched poverty, ethnic plurality, political activism, and "low" culture that elicited feelings of revulsion and fear among the city's elite and middle classes. The resulting -- and ongoing -- struggle between government and residents over affordable and decent housing has in turn affected real estate practices and urban development policies.
Mele explores the ways that developers, media executives, and others have co-opted the area's characteristics -- analyzing the East Village as a "style provider" where what is being marketed is "difference." The result is a visionary look at how political and economic actions transform neighborhoods and at what happens when a neighborhood is what is being "consumed."
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