The search among urbanites for that ideal “authentic” neighborhood, rife with rustic brownstones, a diverse, culturally robust population, artisans, galleries, vendors, mom-and-pop shops, and familiar pubs pulsating with local music, has not only become banal, it’s destroying the very “authenticity” being pursued. So confirms the research of Sharon Zukin, a professor of sociology at CUNY, who discusses her look into the history and effects of New York City’s pattern of gentrification in today’s Big Think interview.
The stream of hipsters (which, per the SoHo model, gradually turns to young professionals, then the occasional lawyer, then hedge-funders) “pioneering” new neighborhood with a more classic, chain-store-less urban feel harms the areas both by dramatically driving-up the cost of living and generating a new and oppressive ideal of taste.
As Zukin explains, the logic of gentrification is almost absurdly self-defeating, as the hunt for authenticity is inevitably followed up with lobbies for new zoning laws, and Starbucks, condos, IKEAs, and strangely hip sushi bars begin to pop up awkwardly alongside the newly formed monuments of counter-culture.
Zukin also outlines the historic pace of gentrification and why it has accelerated so dramatically since the 1980’s and provides a fascinating description of the social dynamics that have shaped the history of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.