Once known for slum-like conditions in its immigrant and working-class neighborhoods, New York City’s downtown now features luxury housing, chic boutiques and hotels, and, most notably, a vibrant nightlife culture. While a burgeoning bar scene can be viewed as a positive sign of urban transformation, tensions lurk beneath, reflecting the social conflicts within postindustrial cities. Upscaling Downtown examines the perspectives and actions of disparate social groups who have been affected by or played a role in the nightlife of the Lower East Side, East Village, and Bowery. Using the social world of bars as windows into understanding urban development, Richard Ocejo argues that the gentrifying neighborhoods of postindustrial cities are increasingly influenced by upscale commercial projects, causing significant conflicts for the people involved.
Ocejo explores what community institutions, such as neighborhood bars, gain or lose amid gentrification. He considers why residents continue unsuccessfully to protest the arrival of new bars, how new bar owners produce a nightlife culture that attracts visitors rather than locals, and how government actors, including elected officials and the police, regulate and encourage nightlife culture. By focusing on commercial newcomers and the residents who protest local changes, Ocejo illustrates the contested and dynamic process of neighborhood growth.
Delving into the social ecosystem of one emblematic section of Manhattan, Upscaling Downtown sheds fresh light on the tensions and consequences of urban progress.
Richard E. Ocejo is assistant professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. He is the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork.
"Using bars as a barometer for gentrification, Ocejo explores the dynamics of change on New York City's Bowery, once a working-class neighborhood best known for its cheap hotels and skid-row denizens. . . . The lens on gentrification is unique, and the study contributes to a thriving body of work that explores the conflicts that emerge in formerly downtrodden neighborhoods when luxury housing, restaurants catering to a well-to-do crowd, and evolving concepts of quality of life displace long-term residents. . . . The strongly grounded analysis is enlivened by many interviews and casual conversations, illustrative of the hours of research and observation that informed the narrative and attest to the author's commitment to the project."--Choice
"A beautifully conceived and elegantly executed book that employs a magnifying glass to understand New York City. Focusing on bars in downtown Manhattan, Ocejo reveals the changing face of New York City in all its richness and complexity, enabling us to understand the key players in gentrification over time--old-timers, new arrivals, politicians, business owners, and activists--and how they interact and influence each other."--William B. Helmreich, author of The New York Nobody Knows
"From the artist cabarets of Montmartre and the juke joints of Harlem to the speakeasies of Chicago, the urban demimonde has long been integral to city identity. In today's city, nightlife plays an even more elevated role in places like New York's downtown, where once blighted districts are now thriving nocturnal playgrounds. Ocejo's thorough and thoroughly engaging work shines a light on the city after dark. It is the best book yet to examine the serious business of urban frivolity."--Richard Lloyd, author of Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City
Table of Contents:
INTRODUCTION Night and Day 1
CHAPTER 1 The Bowery and Its Bars 19
CHAPTER 2 Growing Nightlife Scenes 54
CHAPTER 3 Weaving a Nostalgia Narrative 86
CHAPTER 4 Entrepreneurial Spirits 117
CHAPTER 5 Regulating Nightlife Scenes 149
CHAPTER 6 The Limits of Local Democracy 181
CONCLUSION Upscaling New York 209
METHODOLOGICAL APPENDIX Studying the Social Ecosystem of Bars 221