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The Edge Becomes the Center: An Oral History of Gentrification in the 21st Century
     

The Edge Becomes the Center: An Oral History of Gentrification in the 21st Century

by DW Gibson
 

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Winner of the 2015 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize!The groundbreaking oral history that tells the stories of New Yorkers effecting and affected by gentrificationIf you live in a city—and every year, more and more Americans do—you’ve seen firsthand how gentrification has transformed our surroundings, altering the way cities look, feel, cost, and even

Overview

Winner of the 2015 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize!The groundbreaking oral history that tells the stories of New Yorkers effecting and affected by gentrificationIf you live in a city—and every year, more and more Americans do—you’ve seen firsthand how gentrification has transformed our surroundings, altering the way cities look, feel, cost, and even smell.Over the last few years, journalists, policymakers, critics, and historians have all tried to explain just what it is that happens when new money and new residents flow into established neighborhoods, yet we’ve had very little access to the human side of the gentrification phenomenon. The Edge Becomes the Center captures the stories of the many kinds of people—brokers, buyers, sellers, renters, landlords, artists, contractors, politicians, and everyone in between—who are shaping and being shaped by the new New York City.In this extraordinary oral history, DW Gibson takes gentrification out of the op-ed columns and textbooks and brings it to life, showing us what urban change looks and feels like by exposing us to the voices of the people living through it. Drawing on the plainspoken, casually authoritative tradition of Jane Jacobs and Studs Terkel, The Edge Becomes the Center is an inviting and essential portrait of the way we live now.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Parul Sehgal
Throughout, Mr. Gibson is a skilled and sensitive interlocutor with an eye for the revealing gesture…Gibson lets the city speak for itself, and it speaks with charm, swagger and heartening resilience. Still, the conclusion carries notes of a requiem.
Publishers Weekly
★ 03/23/2015
In this impressive and multifaceted oral history, Gibson (Not Working) explores “how gentrification affects lives” by interviewing a wide range of people living and working in New York City. As the author makes his way through the gentrified and gentrifying portions of Brooklyn (Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Red Hook) and Manhattan (the Lower East Side, Chelsea, Harlem), he interviews real estate agents, contractors, landlords, renters, housing lawyers, community organizers, city government workers, architects, artists, a squatter, a drug dealer, and an investment banker, among others. Common themes include displacement, the contradictory class positions people occupy, the rising homeless population and their “criminalization,” the declining stock of affordable housing due to buyouts and deregulation, the way universities (particularly NYU and Columbia) have become some of the biggest landowners in the city, the ballooning waiting list for public housing, absentee landownership, and the forces of capitalism versus democracy. Central to this work are the distinctive voices of the New Yorkers Gibson interviews, the niches they carve out for themselves, and the myriad ways they are molding, and being molded, by their neighborhoods. Gibson manages to capture a global city in flux, in grave danger of losing its diversity—and hence all that makes it special—with its focus on capital investment over the needs of its people. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, the Gernert Company. (May)
The Paris Review
“A generous, vigorous, and enlightening look at class and space in New York; it ought to be required reading...Gibson has found vibrant humanity in a subject that is, paradoxically, lacking in it...The Edge Becomes the Center raises critical questions about what we expect from our cities and how groups become communities. Mainly, though, it’s a joy to read, its chorus of voices a reminder of oral history’s power. Anyone who cares about the shape and gestalt of life in New York—and anyone who believes in cities as centers of culture—will come away moved.”
Francisco Goldman
“Whatever I thought of New York gentrification before reading THE EDGE BECOMES THE CENTER, it’s all up in the air now, dispersed into the dazzling, extremely intelligent, funny, expert multifarious speech of the people DW Gibson interviewed for this amazing book. Reading it has transformed my understanding of the urban experience generally, humanizing and explaining, brilliantly, what before had seemed intimidating, abstract, even monstrous. A piece of masterful human scale architecture in itself, THE EDGE BECOMES THE CENTER feels like ‘a new part of New York,’ a vital new center of the city’s perpetual conversation with itself and the world.”
Suketu Mehta
“This might be the most important city book of the year, essential reading for anyone who cares about New York, or life in the metropolis anywhere. Gibson has managed to get a diverse group of New Yorkers to open up their hearts and minds about gentrification, the defining civic issue of our time. I raced through the book, traveling with Gibson as he surfs from story to story in the great, imperiled city. A riveting, timely portrait of the greatest, richest, unfairest city in the world.”
Joseph O’Neill
“As, building by building, the ‘undiscovered’ neighborhoods of New York City are assimilated into the portfolios of hedge funds and the beneficiaries of inequality, DW Gibson captures precarious voices that might otherwise go unheard forever. This is an indispensable, enthralling work of social history.”
Mark Binelli
“21st century New York, which Bill de Blasio decried as A Tale of Two Cities, has yet to reveal its Dickens. But with THE EDGE BECOMES THE CENTER, DW Gibson makes a strong claim to being its Studs Terkel. A riveting exploration of gentrification and its discontents, as told by a refreshingly panoramic chorus of voices.”
The New York Times
“A noisy, tender tour of New York much in the mode of Studs Terkel...Mr. Gibson is a skilled and sensitive interlocutor with an eye for the revealing gesture...Mr. Gibson lets the city speak for itself, and it speaks with charm, swagger and heartening resilience.”
Joseph ONeill
“As, building by building, the ‘undiscovered’ neighborhoods of New York City are assimilated into the portfolios of hedge funds and the beneficiaries of inequality, DW Gibson captures precarious voices that might otherwise go unheard forever. This is an indispensable, enthralling work of social history.”
From the Publisher
"A generous, vigorous, and enlightening look at class and space in New York; it ought to be required reading...Gibson has found vibrant humanity in a subject that is, paradoxically, lacking in it...The Edge Becomes the Center raises critical questions about what we expect from our cities and how groups become communities. Mainly, though, it’s a joy to read, its chorus of voices a reminder of oral history’s power. Anyone who cares about the shape and gestalt of life in New York—and anyone who believes in cities as centers of culture—will come away moved." —The Paris Review

"Impressive and multifaceted oral history...Central to this work are the distinctive voices of the New Yorkers Gibson interviews, the niches they carve out for themselves, and the myriad ways they are molding, and being molded, by their neighborhoods. Gibson manages to capture a global city in flux, in grave danger of losing its diversity—and hence all that makes it special—with its focus on capital investment over the needs of its people." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"Throughout, the wise women and the cool guys with significant street cred are verbose, articulate, and self-confident. They are, after all, New Yorkers. Gibson, their interlocutor, is unquestionably passionate...sociology about current urban life, with the edgy, pungent flavor of the Big Apple." —Kirkus

“Whatever I thought of New York gentrification before reading THE EDGE BECOMES THE CENTER, it’s all up in the air now, dispersed into the dazzling, extremely intelligent, funny, expert multifarious speech of the people DW Gibson interviewed for this amazing book.  Reading it has transformed my understanding of the urban experience generally, humanizing and explaining, brilliantly, what before had seemed intimidating, abstract, even monstrous. A piece of masterful human scale architecture in itself, THE EDGE BECOMES THE CENTER feels like ‘a new part of New York,’ a vital new center of the city’s perpetual conversation with itself and the world.” —Francisco Goldman, author of The Interior Circuit:  A Mexico City Chronicle

“This might be the most important city book of the year, essential reading for anyone who cares about New York, or life in the metropolis anywhere. Gibson has managed to get a diverse group of New Yorkers to open up their hearts and minds about gentrification, the defining civic issue of our time. I raced through the book, traveling with Gibson as he surfs from story to story in the great, imperiled city. A riveting, timely portrait of the greatest, richest, unfairest city in the world.” —Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City
 
 “As, building by building, the ‘undiscovered’ neighborhoods of New York City are assimilated into the portfolios of hedge funds and the beneficiaries of inequality, DW Gibson captures precarious voices that might otherwise go unheard forever.  This is an indispensable, enthralling work of social history."—Joseph O’Neill, author of The Dog and Netherland
 
“21st century New York, which Bill de Blasio decried as A Tale of Two Cities, has yet to reveal its Dickens. But with THE EDGE BECOMES THE CENTER, DW Gibson makes a strong claim to being its Studs Terkel. A riveting exploration of gentrification and its discontents, as told by a refreshingly panoramic chorus of voices.”—Mark Binelli, author of Detroit City Is the Place to Be


 

Kirkus Reviews
2015-03-01
A New York journalist finds the vox populi of the metropolis in regard to the vexing problem of gentrification. Offered in the mode of Studs Terkel's effective and affecting oral histories, these interviews are restricted to one subject. Gentrification seems to be a law of nature in the boroughs of New York City, as new skyscraping residential towers cast their long shadows and high-rise condos invade historic districts. In this natural follow-up to his previous book, Not Working: People Talk About Losing a Job and Finding Their Way in Today's Changing Economy (2012), Gibson chronicles his interviews with typical New Yorkers about the sad effects. He follows the developers, the lawyers, and the wealthy usurpers, as well as the artists, the shopkeepers, and the community organizers. He visited the housing court, the projects, and the lofts, and he provides a voice for a variety of people, registering grievances about owners who refuse to maintain their buildings, hoping to drive their rent-controlled tenants out. Gibson also voices landlords' complaints about slovenly tenants. The residents want respect, safety, and the coffee shops that are emblematic of decent neighborhoods; the owners want profits. "Community" is the most common noun in the conversations with these aggrieved victims of gentrification. Throughout, the wise women and the cool guys with significant street cred are verbose, articulate, and self-confident. They are, after all, New Yorkers. Gibson, their interlocutor, is unquestionably passionate about the causes of those whose neighborhoods are transmuted and become out of their reach and those whose flops, pads, and squats are transformed into unoccupied palatial apartments for plutocrats. The author's tract is earnestly sincere, though it is diminished by its unrelieved specificity. Not quite Terkel or Jane Jacobs redux, but Gibson delivers adequate sociology about current urban life, with the edgy, pungent flavor of the Big Apple.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781468308617
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
05/12/2015
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
541,812
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
 

Praise for Not Working: 

“A book with fascinating range and a fresh perspective [that shows] how powerful the genre of oral history can be.” —San Francisco Chronicle 

“Wrenching . . . Wide-ranging . . . This book is so important.” —New York Daily News 

“A powerful and heart-wrenching story that is unfortunately replicated far too many times by far too many people” —Ken Burns 

Meet the Author

DW Gibson is the author of Not Working: People Talk About Losing a Job and Finding Their Way in Today’s Changing Economy. His work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The New York Observer, The Daily Beast, BOMB, and The Caravan. Gibson serves as director of Writers Omi at Ledig House in Ghent, New York, which is part of the Omi International Arts Center. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.

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