Brooklyn College Professor Lectures on Gentrification and Changing Cities



Sharon Zukin, Ph.D. from Brooklyn College spoke about her research on gentrification in cities in a presentation entitled ‘New York Shopping Streets: Globalization and Gentrification in a Changing City.’

Zukin focused on one question for her research: what is a local shopping street? She and about a dozen research partners have studied six cities around the world for about 10 years to answer this question.  These cities include New York, Toronto, Amsterdam, Berlin, Tokyo and Shanghai.

“The shopping streets are economic spaces, social spaces, and they’re cultural spaces. To understand how they work and what they mean, you really have to go into all the different ways that they function: economically, socially, and culturally” Zukin said.

Focusing primarily on the New York research, Zukin discussed two shopping streets that she has intensely studied: Orchard Street on the Lower East Side and Fulton Street in Bedford Stuyvesant.  Each case study was 6 blocks long and the area was surveyed top to bottom.

Zukin and her associates took note of every store on every block and what was sold in each to get a better understanding of what cultures and atmospheres the streets had.

To stay true to her word, Zukin did indeed examine how these streets function and how these functions have changed over time. It turns out that both areas have one main thing in common. Orchard Street and Fulton Street are both centers of heavy gentrification.  This means that wealthier people are moving in and therefore changing which stores and attractions open up and are successful.

These shopping streets are also prime examples of diversification and culture mixing. Different ethnicities, religions and languages all come together on these streets. The well-known term “melting-pot” that is synonymous with New York City is tangible here.

Alije Koci, a junior commuter who lives on the Upper West Side, has first-hand experience living among this mix of cultures and people.

“There is so much diversity in the city,” she says, “Anywhere you go, there is always a mixture of different races and people. That’s what makes the city unique.”

Zukin further made her talk relatable to her audience by discussing how students also play a role in how cities change.

A word defined in the lecture which was especially poignant to students in the audience was studentrification. Using that suffix, which means ‘to become,’ Zukin created a word to describe how the economic culture of an area impacts where students choose to live in the city. Students cannot afford to live in the most expensive parts of town and when they are priced out of those sections, cheaper areas experience studentrification.

Dominika Wrozynski, Ph.D. and assistant professor of English, attended the talk and agreed that for students living in New York, the topic was relevant.

“The two streets she focused on-Orchard and Fulton-are just a subway ride away. So even if someone was not familiar with her[ Zukin’s] examples, he or she could actually go and observe her research in action,” Wrozynski said.