Selling the Lower East Side: Culture, Real Estate, and Resistance in New York, 1880-2000

Overview

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...
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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Mele (sociology, SUNY at Buffalo) examines a century of changes in the Lower East Side neighborhoods of New York City, drawing on the research of the new urban sociology school to demonstrate how cultural perceptions of this distinctive area are essential to the confluence of political/economic land usage and the resistance of residents against neighborhood transformation. He demonstrates how redevelopers symbolically include the ambiance of the bohemian, avant-garde, and dangerous aspects of the Lower East Side while working toward their displacement. Mele provides a comprehensive analysis of the neighborhood's transformation, complete with useful maps, photographs, and an extensive bibliography. The material is directed toward an educated reader well versed in urban affairs. Recommended for academic libraries.--Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816631827
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Series: Globalization and Community Series
  • Pages: 361
  • Sales rank: 997,807
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface vii
Acknowledgments xv
1 The Struggle over Space 1
2 Different and Inferior: The Ghetto at the Turn of the Century 31
3 Utopian Metropolis versus the Legacy of the Slum 78
4 Reengineering the Ghetto: Ethnicity, Race, and Cultural Divisions in the 1950s 120
5 A Brief Psychedelic Detour: Hip Urban Renewal and the Invention of the East Village 153
6 Urban Malaise, Community Abandonment, and Underground Subcultures of Decay 180
7 Developing the East Village: Eighties Counterculture in the Service of Urban Capital 220
8 Targeting the Middle Class: Cultures of Resistance and Class Warfare 255
9 The Production of Desire: Urban Development and Community Resistance at the End of the Twentieth Century 281
Notes 311
Bibliography 337
Index 357
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