Community Builders

Community Builders

Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Community Builders
    Book Description:

    In the 1980s the failure of corporate strategies and trickle-down economics led to gross inequalities among many U.S. neighborhoods and cities. By examining and comparing a gentrifying and a low-income neighborhood in two medium-sized cities, Gordana Rabrenovic shows how the problems they faced are typical of a number of neighborhoods nationwide. In particular, Rabrenovic focuses on the relationship between neighborhood associations and urban restructuring, arguing persuasively that the success of neighborhood associations depends more on the city in which the neighborhood is located than on the neighborhood itself. Her tale discusses two very different cities with distinct political economies: Albany, a healthy service sector city, and Schenectady, a declining manufacturing city. Acknowledging both the value and limits of collective action, Rabrenovic addresses issues of particular relevance in urban areas, such as land use and crime, as well as the need for neighborhood organizations to forge links with local elites and other neighborhoods, and to engage and bring together poor and minority residents. Her analysis of neighborhood-based mobilization, preservation, and revitalization illuminates the ways in which grassroots issues intersect with prevailing political agendas and the national economy, as well as how issues such as race and class affect daily community politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0347-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Tables and Maps
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  5. 1 Introduction: Economic Restructuring, Urban Change, and Neighborhoods in Crisis
    (pp. 1-14)

    Every day drug trafficking, street violence, and inadequate city services threaten the quality of life in thousands of American residential neighborhoods, while ongoing ethnic conflict and land-use battles polarize them. That cities have problems is not news, but the current deterioration of life in urban communities has a new cause: economic restructuring. The increase in jobs in the service sector and high-tech industry in the 1970s and 1980s and the decrease in manufacturing jobs have wounded America’s cities (Bluestone and Harrison 1982; Stanback and Noyelle 1982; Mollenkopf 1983): That the jobs now available are fewer in number and lower in...

  6. 2 Neighborhood Associations as Place-Based Collective Actors
    (pp. 15-37)

    Most people in the United States today find moving from town to town an unrealistic strategy for establishing a private haven from the problems of the public world. In-Hated housing prices, limited transportation systems, and the lack of attractive alternatives to are leading many of us to make change happen in a different way: by staying where we are and organizing to overcome problems facing our communities (Hirschman 1970). Contrary to the models of public-choice theorists (Tiebout 1956; Peterson 1981), residents of contemporary U.S. cities no longer engage in a constant quest for a new community with better shopping areas,...

  7. 3 Albany, the Restructured City: State Government, Its Political Machine, and Neighborhood Politics
    (pp. 38-63)

    The best way to approach Albany is along the east bank of the Hudson River. After miles and miles of low-rise towns and countryside, a beautiful urban skyline appears, dominated by the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, a complex of tall government buildings, a museum, and a theater. It is the symbol of the new postindustrial city.

    Albany has a long tradition of being an important place. Grand old structures like the state capitol and the court-house point to the long presence of the state government, just as new buildings testify to the city’s significance as a financial...

  8. 4 Center Square and Its Neighborhood Association: Organizing for Success
    (pp. 64-91)

    What can we learn about community organizing from a neighborhood association in a gentrified neighborhood in a healthy service-sector city? The Center Square Neighborhood Association (CSNA) in Albany fits Castells’s criteria for a successful urban movement: It expresses its interests clearly, and its members know what their goals are; it uses the media and the advice of experts, forms connections with officials in the local government structure, and still remains relatively autonomous (1983: 328).

    With CSNA’s long history of successful fights with city officials and real-estate developers, members have learned to use the media well and are not afraid to...

  9. 5 Arbor Hill: Revitalizing an Inner-City Neighborhood
    (pp. 92-119)

    The Arbor Hill Neighborhood Association shares organizational characteristics with the Center Square Neighborhood Association, which created a model for collective action widely emulated in Albany.

    Arbor Hill’s problems differ from Center Square’s, however. As is typical of poor neighborhoods, its association plays a far more limited role than those in middle-class neighborhoods and is not the most successful way of mobilizing a community. Arbor Hill thus has a much richer history of neighborhood mobilization than Center Square does. Its residents have formed a wider range of neighborhood-based organizations and have used not only advocacy but also protest and community development...

  10. 6 Schenectady, the Declining City: General Electric, Deindustrialization, and Strategies for the City’s Renewal
    (pp. 120-142)

    Schenectady developed as an important center of production, research, and innovation because of huge manufacturing profits in the late nineteenth century and the growth of General Electric (GE), home based there, into a powerful corporation. However, in the 1970s, as the economy became more global, U.S. manufacturing faced greater competition from abroad. The economic role of industrial cities declined as companies like GE closed their old plants, shrank their labor forces, and started to diversify and invest in other areas of the economy and other parts of the world.

    Deindustrialization in Schenectady was similar to restructuring in other industrial cities...

  11. 7 The Stockade: Defending the Gentrified Neighborhood in a Declining Industrial City
    (pp. 143-163)

    The Stockade (also known simply as “Stockade,”) is a neighborhood cherished for its historic past that continues to be a desirable place to live despite the changes in Schenectady’s economy. Its strength lies in its population: a stable core of residents with the resources and dedication to preserve this oasis in the city. Like the residents of other poor cities, residents of the Stockade face problems: how to maintain the residential amenities of their neighborhood, and how to protect themselves from the overall decline of the city—especially from the attendant increase in crime.

    The Stockade, a Historic District neighborhood,...

  12. 8 Hamilton Hill: A Low-Income Neighborhood Struggling for Survival
    (pp. 164-190)

    In neighborhoods that face the double disadvantage of being poor in a poor city, there are limits to how far lobbying and protest strategies can go in improving residential life. In such neighborhoods it is difficult for neighborhood associations to mobilize needed resources, define common interests, and overcome neighborhood fragmentation, even if they do everything right. The political, economic, and social fragmentation common in U.S. cities is particularly detrimental in poor neighborhoods, because it pits one weak group of residents against another. It also reduces the possibility of using protest—the only resource the poor have, some researchers believe—to...

  13. 9 Neighborhoods, Strategies, and the City Context
    (pp. 191-212)

    Many residents of cities and neighborhoods across the United States are struggling to keep their communities livable by improving the delivery of municipal services, and by increasing citizen participation in local decision making. Innovative city and neighborhood programs show that residents, social agencies, organizations, and businesses have not given up on cities and can work together to address urban decline. In Hartford, Connecticut, Aetna, a large insurance agency, works with the local schools and provides resources for minority students to attend college. Volunteer doctors and nurses have addressed the lack of medical care in Racine, Wisconsin, by establishing free neighborhood...

    (pp. 213-226)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 227-234)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)