Urban Studies Book Review
In the book “There Goes the Hood” by Lance Freeman, Lance Freeman is out on a quest to truly figure out what impact gentrification has on neighborhoods that are directly linked to it. To fully understand the meaning of the book we first need to understand what gentrification is, “to transform a run-down or aging neighborhood into a more prosperous one, e.g. through investment in remodeling buildings or houses” (Webster Dictionary). But the difference in this definition and the Urban Studies dictionary is that the Urban Studies definition includes the actual living aspects of the neighborhood. Meaning in remodeling a neighborhood for the sake of it being more prosperous we are losing all other aspects of the neighborhood that makes it what it is in the first place. Examples of that are the culture, the language, the religion, the cultural integration in the building structures and so forth. In removing a neighborhood for the purpose of making it prosperous is unrealistic. Questions that could and should be raised is what makes a neighborhood un- prosperous, unvalued, and run down that the government claims the right to take it down and run the people who live there out. These questions along with other concerns are addressed in the book with full satisfaction.
In reading this book I have learned to hate the political system and government more now than I already did before. Yes I am aware of a lot of the cruel and absurd things the government and people with money can do but in reading this they have taken it to a whole other level. The fact that people with money have the opportunity to say that a neighborhood is unworthy of existing just because it may be on the poorer side is just insane. Questions I ask myself then are what makes the neighborhood poor and who exactly goes out looking for these neighborhoods? But in realizing that the majority of the people who are using gentrification to their advantage are for the most part rich white men and they being ignorant and very judgmental usually go for the neighborhoods that are classified as the hood or slum. In the book the two areas in which Lance Freeman study are Harlem and Clinton Hill, neighborhoods that for the most part get a bad rap. To be honest I had only heard of Harlem before reading this book and I didn’t think it was a terrible place. Yes it once had an extremely bad rap which encouraged people not to go there but recently it has picked up and gotten better but because of its past it still gets a bad image. I had never heard of Clinton Hill before reading the book and now that I’ve read the book I would love to go and visit it for the sake of extra research. Lance Freeman does something that is unlike many other writers he focuses not on the statistics but the actual findings he himself does while visiting the neighborhoods and through the interviewing of the people who are directly affected by the issue. “Despite all the changes, however, one could also point to conditions that symbolized anything but gentrification. Public housing are still major features of the landscape, and abandoned buildings and vacant lots have not yet completely disappeared. …Despite all the talk of gentrification, one would not confuse Harlem with Park Slope or the Upper West Side, two other New York neighborhoods with a history of gentrification. As a visitor from Australia remarked to me, ‘Harlem seems to be resisting gentrification pretty well’” (Freeman, 29). In reading the book we become more and more aware of how Harlem is somehow resisting gentrification and that it is not something that should be of concern for the people. But even after reading the book I am still unclear has to who decides if gentrification occurs, and how does it even begin in the first place. What justifies a person’s ability to overtake an entire neighborhood for the sake of making a new one that is supposed to be bigger and better but to be honest it never is bigger and better it just causes more displacement of people and a new creation of a new hood somewhere else. What is the sense in that? Another shocker from the book is the two sided argument, in picking up the book I expected everything within the book would be bashing the topic and implementation of gentrification but to my surprise there were some positive aspects to the whole issue of gentrification.
A specific example from the text that surprised me where the comments about gentrification being a positive aspect in a neighborhood, one being their neighborhood is brought into the limelight of the mainstream American culture, their neighborhood becomes something people other than themselves talk about. As well as the bringing of businesses into the area that other neighborhoods may take for granted because those qualities are so prominent in other neighborhoods. And the greatest aspect was the concept of upward mobility without having to leave the comfort of home, where they’ve grown up for years now. But then the negative aspects of gentrification of course shut down a lot of these thoughts. “In Clinton Hill and Harlem, gentrification thus poses dilemma. It was acknowledged to bring good, but it also created a foreboding of things to come. A fear of displacement hung in the air. This fear of displacement played a significant role in the negative sentiment that was sometimes expressed toward gentrification”(Freeman,94).The main one being why is necessary to have the whites be the sole reason for a neighborhood to improve, that only brings more issues of discrimination, redlining, and overall a push to keep the white rich men up on top so the rest can be pushed down and kept underneath them. It is an incredible concept and one that has been used for years now. In thinking of gentrification I think of colonialism, we have just adapted the concept to modern day life, changing the name so it sounds fancier and more socially accepting.
The book is directly connected to our studies in class because it incorporates a lot of what we have talked about from spacing(its privatization, gendered), the breakup of cities in general to specific areas, community involvement/ advocacy, private versus public spacing and most importantly Gentrification and the Image of a city. It is obvious how Freeman address gentrification because it is one of his main ides in writing the book but the image of a city isn’t as clear. The way I take it and understand this topic is that the reasoning behind gentrification is how a city is viewed in the public eye. Depending on how you view a city depends on how successful or tragic it is. When told a name of the city you automatically have a picture or image in your mind stating all its flaws and perfections which is what I mean by the topic of city imaging. It is an interesting concept and something I think more Urban Studies writers, professors and people in general need to elaborate more one.