Writing a discussion paragraph

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Please write a 200 words discussion paragraph as the following description. And a 100-200 words response to the following word file. Thank you.

This week’s readings will focus on the Lower East Side area as an example of gentrification and displacement. There are several perspectives that we should focus on.

A. Chris Mele: The focus here is divided into three periods. First, in the 1950s, slumlords in the LES saw the opportunities to profit from Puerto Rican tenants who were settling in the area at the time (also in Spanish Harlem and Chelsea). Urban renewal at the time also provided advantages to the slumlords because as the housing stocks decreased, the slumlords found increasing housing demands. Second, in the period of 1959-1969, manufacturing went into a long-term decline. Jobs went to the South or overseas. Unions sold out and worked out sweet deals with sweatshops. Puerto Ricans who worked the manufacturing jobs did not have the same kind of upward mobilities that the Europeans did at the end of the 19th Century. Third, by 1970s, the tenants inability to pay higher rents together with the discrimination by landlords set off a wave of disinvestment in the LES. This was a time of housing abandonment and landlords stopped paying property taxes.

B. Smith, Duncan and Reid: these authors argued that the period from 1976 to 1985 was a period of transition, moving from disinvestment to reinvestment. There are several indicators for reinvestment (which indicates gentrification). First is the partnership between developers, the city, building managers, brokers etcetc. Second is the deterioration of buildings; this is not a cause of reinvestment but the strategy for reinvestment, because deterioration allowed the landlords to force the tenants to move out (stopping heat and water for example), which brought in wealthier tenants. Third is tax arrears or tax delinquencies. The idea is that: if the landlord find his/her properties becoming valuable again, the landlords could begin to pay for tax redemption in order to stop foreclosure on the properties. By using the last indicator of reinvestment, the authors identified two periods of declines of tax delinquencies, which means, there were two periods of reinvestment being kicked off (preparing the ways for wealthier tenants). First is 1977-1979; second is post-1980; these two periods saw the drops of tax delinquencies. Likewise, in the first period, developmental pressures were coming from Greenwich Village, Gramercy Park, Chinatown, and Financial District; in the second period, developmental pressures were taking place at the border of Alphabet City (Ave D and so on) areas. The authors argued that gentrification is a matter of opening up “new” frontiers and it is a different process.

C, William Sites: Sites argued that gentrification is a politically guided process. It is politically guided by the New York City government through various means, including: 421a, J-51, as-of-right building, pre-development method (closed door meeting and deals), weakening rent regulations, as well as changing of zoning codes (as discussed last week). These means allow the city government to facilitate capital intensive development. Politics are not outside of development but are fundamental to development; likewise, NYC Mayor Koch (or any other liberals) could argue that government is blocking development and should be out of the way for the nature of the economy to take its course; however, this “naturalness” of development is politically induced through selectively government actions. Gentrification and displacement in LES was essentially a subsidized process.

D. Susan Roberts: Roberts argued that gentrification is an end result of social triage, and the latter is the expression of planned shrinkage, which assumes that city has its life cycle. The argument begins with how social scientists have used the life cycle concept to describe and analyze the city (as a living organism; in evolution terms; via successions and invasions and so on). Slums were contagious diseases that needed to be removed from the living organism of the city. These concepts were later adopted by politicians in making cases for federal and local budget cuts. First is the concept of benign neglect. The assumption is that there is an organic whole with declining parts; the declining parts were beneficial to the whole. Second is planned shrinkage, which assumes that certain areas of the city are shrinking, and it is a natural cycle for it to shrink. Just like war, there are some that are “left to die” and some “remain alive.” If an area is to be left to die, the purpose of the state is not to continue its life but to end it faster by pulling out resources. Therefore, areas like LES, Harlem, East Harlem, South Bronx were all subjected to planned shrinkage because of structural fires (and this indicated that these were dying areas). Roberts argued that the “dying areas” were politically induced; to argue for a reduction of resources is to ensure its death; moreover, planned shrinkage is linked to gentrification because it prepared the founds for a “rebirth” by driving out the low-income tenants and by channeling resources into the “alive” areas (gentrifying areas).

This is a graph of New York City arsons. As you can see, the number of fires began to decline in the 1980s. According to the above viewpoints, the decline can be referred to as the beginning of gentrification from across the City, but specifically to the LES. Please answer the following discussion questions:

How do you interpret the number of arsons before and after the 1980s? In other words, what is the meaning of arsons before and after 1980s? Please use South Bronx and People’s Firehouse as your reference points.

It can be argued that arsons provided a passage way for gentrification. Why was it profitable or “useful” to burn down the buildings? Can burning down buildings be considered as the beginning of gentrification?

Films link:

SOUTH BRONX: “The Fire Next Door”(1977)

People’s Firehouse


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