Divergent Paths--Rapid Neighborhood Change and the Cultural Ecosystem
Urban Studies and Planning
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.