Gentrification is a process experienced by cities around the world. It exemplifies the shift from an industrial economy to a service economy. Yet, the fact that manufacturing is still an important part of urban economies should not be ignored. Manufacturing is being threatened by the process of gentrification. The loss of manufacturing affects the employment and housing opportunities of inner city residents. The debate around gentrification has concentrated on its causes, while its effects on the existing communities has been largely unexplored. What work has been done has largely concentrated on the effects of gentrification on housing. The effect on work and the linkages between home and work for working class residents has gone unexplored. This doctoral dissertation research project explores the effect of gentrification on small manufacturers and blue collar-workers in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The project asks the following questions: 1) To what extent has gentrification caused manufacturing displacement? 2) How has the job market changed as a result of gentrification? and 3) How has gentrification affected the residential and employment opportunities of working-class people in Williamsburg? In-depth interviews with key informants, business owners and workers will provide data on the changing structure of opportunity for working-class residents and the changing geography of their work, home, and social networks. The findings will demonstrate where manufacturing jobs move within the metropolitan region and explore the ability of working-class residents to maintain their socioeconomic levels in an area undergoing industrial displacement. It is expected that the study will demonstrate that manufacturers are being displaced because of gentrification and that those who lose these jobs are unlikely to find jobs at equal skill and pay levels.
The proposed research looks at how a global process like gentrification affects a local neighborhood and the population that lives there. It analyzes the nature of urban change, the directions in which that change may lead, and the implication of this change not only for local neighborhoods, but for cities in general. In the process of gentrification, de-industrialization may be encouraged, so much so that the city loses its productive base. There may be a greater homogeneity not only of the economic base, but of the populations within urban neighborhoods as well, jeopardizing the economically and culturally diverse populations that are such a vital element to central cities. This research opens up the field of gentrification to examine the links between home and work in gentrifying areas and to analyze the effects of gentrification on labor and labor markets. This research has potential implications for urban policies on zoning, industrial retention, job creation, and affordable housing. It may also impact the literature of spatial mismatch and skills mismatch and the racialized and gendered patterns of work and residence. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this award also will provide support to enable a promising student to establish a strong independent research career.