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.