A City within a City: Community Development and the Struggle over Harlem, 1961-2001

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A City within a City: Community Development and the Struggle over Harlem, 1961-2001

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Title: A City within a City: Community Development and the Struggle over Harlem, 1961-2001
Author: Goldstein, Brian David
Citation: Goldstein, Brian David. 2013. A City within a City: Community Development and the Struggle over Harlem, 1961-2001. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation examines the idea of community development in the last four decades of the twentieth century through the example of the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and, in doing so, explains the broader transformation of the American city in these decades. Frustration with top-down urban redevelopment and the rise of Black Power brought new demands to Harlem, as citizens insisted on the need for “community control” over their built environment. In attempting to bring this goal to life, Harlemites created new community-based organizations that promised to realize a radically inclusive, cooperative ideal of a neighborhood built by and for the benefit of its predominantly low-income, African-American residents. For several reasons, including continued reliance on the public sector, dominant leaders, changing sociological understandings of poverty, and the intransigence of activists, however, such organizations came to advance a narrower approach in Harlem in succeeding years. By the 1980s, they pursued a moderate vision of Harlem’s future, prioritizing commercial projects instead of development that served residents’ many needs, emphasizing economic integration, and eschewing goals of broad structural change. In examining community design centers, community development corporations, self-help housing, and other neighborhood-based strategies, I conclude that local actors achieved their longstanding aspiration that they could become central to the process of development in Harlem and similar places, but built a dramatically different reality than the idealistic hope that had fueled demands for community control in the late 1960s. This ironic outcome reveals the unexpected, radical roots of urban landscapes that by the end of the century were characterized by increasing privatization, economic gentrification, and commercial redevelopment. Likewise, it demonstrates that such dramatic changes in American cities were not simply imposed on unwitting neighborhoods by outsiders or the result of abstract forces, but were in part produced by residents themselves. Understanding the mutable nature of community development helps to explain both the complicated course of urban development in the aftermath of modernist planning and the lasting, often contradictory consequences of the radical demands that emerged from the 1960s, two areas that historians have only begun to examine in detail.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10860151
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