The Future of Us All: Race and Neighborhood Politics in New York City

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Overview

Before the next century is out, Americans of African, Asian, and Latin American ancestry will outnumber those of European origin. In the Elmhurst-Corona neighborhood of Queens, New York City, the transition occurred during the 1970s, and the area's two-decade experience of multiracial diversity offers us an early look at the future of urban America. The result of more than a dozen years' work, this remarkable book immerses us in Elmhurst-Corona's social and political life from the 1960s through the 1990s.

First settled in 1652, Elmhurst-Corona by 1960 housed a mix of Germans, Irish, Italians, and other "white ethnics." In 1990 this population made up less than a fifth of its residents; Latin American and Asian immigrants and African Americans comprised the majority. The Future of Us All focuses on the combined impact of racial change, immigrant settlement, governmental decentralization, and assaults on local quality of life which stemmed from the city's 1975 fiscal crisis and the policies of its last three mayors. The book examines the ways in which residents—in everyday interactions, block and tenant associations, houses of worship, small business coalitions, civic rituals, incidents of ethnic and racial hostility, and political struggles against overdevelopment, for more schools, and for youth programs—have forged and tested alliances across lines of race, ethnicity, and language.

From the telling local details of daily life to the larger economic and regional frameworks, this account of a neighborhood's transformation illuminates the issues that American communities will be grappling with in the coming decades.

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Editorial Reviews

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"For more than a decade, Roger Sanjek immersed himself in the life of a New York City neighborhood on the leading edge of racial and ethnic transition. This rich and readable account of the community life of Elmhurst-Corona is the result. Sanjek shows us people gradually overcoming racial and ethnic categories to recognize each other and work together, forging a vibrant neighborhood politics that sometimes prevails over the 'permanent government.'"—Frances Fox Piven, author of The Breaking of the American Social Compact

"The dramatic demographic shift in Elmhurst-Corona makes a great story, full of intrigue and personalities, but without the racial violence seen elsewhere in New York City or in Los Angeles. For this reason our nation's leaders would do well to read Roger Sanjek's account of the neighborhood's transformation. And they should pay special attention to how the women in the community-white, black, Latina, Asian, American-born and immigrant-provided the critical leadership during this transition by 'listening to each other.' It behooves the rest of us to listen as well, because this book is about the future of us all!"—Evelyn Hu-DeHart, University of Colorado at Boulder

"Roger Sanjek is an extremely knowledgeable anthropologist, tough-minded and with a great knack for synthesis. He is also a street-wise New Yorker who cares deeply about his city. In its skillful interweaving of urban and global political economy with local issues of ethnic diversity and quality of life, The Future of Us All has few equals among recent portrayals of late twentieth-century urban transformation."—Ulf Hannerz, Stockholm University

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction: A Window on America's Great Transition 1
Pt. I A Neighborhood in New York City 17
1 Elmhurst-Corona, 1652-1960 19
2 The Social Order of New York City 28
Pt. II City and Neighborhood Remade: 1960-1980 39
3 Racial Change and Decentralization 41
4 The Impact of the New Immigration 61
5 Fiscal Crisis and Land-Use Struggles 83
Plates 103
Pt. III City and Neighborhood at Odds: 1980-1996 117
6 New York's Three Economies 119
7 Mayoral Ideologies 141
8 Mayoral Practice 165
9 Assaults on the Quality of Life 185
Pt. IV The Transformation of Neighborhood Politics 213
10 The New Multicultural Geography of Elmhurst-Corona 215
11 Solidarity and Conflict among White Americans 229
12 Continuities in Civic Politics 256
13 Innovations in Civic Politics 280
14 The Politics of Place 300
15 Bonds of Interracial Cooperation 332
Conclusion: The Future of Us All 367
Notes 395
References 427
Index 451
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