Temporal Analysis for Residential Displacement and Dispossession: Capital and the Development of A New York Neighborhood

Authors: Jessica Miller*, Montclair State University
Topics: United States, Migration, Historical Geography
Keywords: Displacement; gentrification; waterfront development; urban development; urban history, silence in archives
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Researchers have often called for micro-scale analyses of residential displacement, and more
recently, for work that acknowledges the importance of temporal and spatial relationships that
influence current iterations of residential displacement. Relying on historic texts and images
found in New York City archives, this work documents the developmental history of Gowanus,
which has held a prominent place in New York City history since before the 1600s, when
Europeans began to create farms and mills based on indigenous knowledge of the landscape.
Over time, several groups of developers and industrialists dominated this space my morphing
the tidal wetland into an industrial waterway, capitalizing on the waterfront as a commodity. Most
recently, residents who can afford luxury rentals with views of waterfront have moved into the
area. At the same time, city plans and the United States Environmental Protection Agency are
addressing the legacy of contamination in the area. The varying access and attitude toward the
canal over time continue to impact the development in the area, with some people being forced
out, while others are moving in. This paper argues that the current form of gentrification is
distinctive from the past, as wealthy residents now choose to live along this polluted waterway,
increasing residential displacement pressure. This work builds on the growing literature on
residential displacement to argue that even with embedded silence in archives, investigating the
long-range historic patterns of development can be a useful method for understanding current
iterations of development and displacement

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