Divergent Paths--Rapid Neighborhood Change and the Cultural Ecosystem

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Culture and Social Wellbeing in New York City—2014-2017
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Arts and Humanities
Social Welfare
Urban Studies and Planning
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This paper considers the impact of rapid neighborhood change on the cultural ecology of Fort Greene and surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods based on qualitative study undertaken during 2016 for the NYC project. The paper argues that rapid neighborhood change causes an attenuation of the organic neighborhood connections among artists, creative businesses, cultural organizations, and cultural participants—that is, the neighborhood cultural ecology. Cumulatively these changes in cultural ecology further weaken the neighborhood ecosystem and introduce an additional source of inequality with respect to the wellbeing of the City’s communities. In response to rapid neighborhood change, different cultural agents find themselves on divergent paths as they respond to challenges and seize opportunities. The paper identifies and illustrates four trajectories: 1) the uprooted and replanted—organizations and individuals for whom rapid neighborhood change has made their existing modus operandi and/or location untenable; 2) flourishers—organizations and individuals that have been able to benefit from the economic and social effects of a neighborhood undergoing rapid change; 3) adaptors and transplants—organizations and individuals, both locals and outsiders, that have devised survival strategies in the face of increasing challenges; and 4) new growth—new cultural entities that have seen the emergent ecology as an opportunity. These trajectories, posed as more a set of hypotheses than a set of findings, are based on approximately 40 interviews conducted during 2016 and supplemented by references from those interviews.

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<p>This paper is a companion paper to Chapter 5, “Community Perspectives on Culture and Social Wellbeing in New York City,” of <em>The Social Wellbeing of New York City’s Neighborhoods: The Contribution of Culture and the Arts</em> (Stern and Seifert, March 2017). Qualitative study for the NYC project included interviews during 2016 with 46 individuals from 32 organizations based in Brooklyn (Fort Greene), Manhattan (East Harlem), and Queens (Corona and Flushing). The Appendix lists all interviewees. </p> <p>The Culture and Social Wellbeing in New York City project was undertaken by SIAP in collaboration with Reinvestment Fund, a community development financial institution, with support by the Surdna Foundation, the NYC Cultural Agenda Fund in the New York Community Trust, and the University of Pennsylvania. The research was conducted between 2014 and 2017.</p>
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