American Sociological Association

Gentrification in Three Paradoxes

As recently as 2006, students walked into the first day of my urban sociology course at Brooklyn College without knowing the term “gentrification.” Within a few years, however, even students who lived in neighborhoods that seemed unlikely candidates were claiming that their area was undergoing this transformation. Many point to new residents who are close to their age but visibly different: artists, students, or “hipsters” living on their own rather than with their families, and mostly white. Or students tell me that while their new neighbors are paying higher rents for renovated apartments, landlords are reducing services to longtime tenants’ housing in order to persuade them to leave. Although the rent on an occupied apartment might be subject to state‐mandated control, a landlord can raise the rent on a vacant one. Meanwhile, longtime homeowners are inundated with solicitations from doorbell‐ringing real estate agents and investors to sell their property. Half a century after middle‐class flight from these very neighborhoods, gentrification is coming in as blockbusting in reverse.


Sharon Zukin





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