Black Corona

Black Corona: Race and the Politics of Place in an Urban Community

Steven Gregory
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Black Corona
    Book Description:

    InBlack Corona, Steven Gregory examines political culture and activism in an African-American neighborhood in New York City. Using historical and ethnographic research, he challenges the view that black urban communities are "socially disorganized." Gregory demonstrates instead how working-class and middle-class African Americans construct and negotiate complex and deeply historical political identities and institutions through struggles over the built environment and neighborhood quality of life. With its emphasis on the lived experiences of African Americans,Black Coronaprovides a fresh and innovative contribution to the study of the dynamic interplay of race, class, and space in contemporary urban communities. It questions the accuracy of the widely used trope of the dysfunctional "black ghetto," which, the author asserts, has often been deployed to depoliticize issues of racial and economic inequality in the United States. By contrast, Gregory argues that the urban experience of African Americans is more diverse than is generally acknowledged and that it is only by attending to the history and politics of black identity and community life that we can come to appreciate this complexity.

    This is the first modern ethnography to focus on black working-class and middle-class life and politics. Unlike books that enumerate the ways in which black communities have been rendered powerless by urban political processes and by changing urban economies,Black Coronademonstrates the range of ways in which African Americans continue to organize and struggle for social justice and community empowerment. Although it discusses the experiences of one community, its implications resonate far more widely.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3931-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    • [Map]
      (pp. 2-2)
    • CHAPTER ONE Introduction
      (pp. 3-19)

      Jacob Govan pushed aside the venetian blinds covering the windows of his enclosed porch and pointed to the Antioch Baptist Church, a small white brick building across the street. “Used to be the El Dorado Moving Picture Theater,” he remarked, matter-of-factly. John Booker, who had arranged my interview with Govan, listened attentively, punctuating each statement with an enthusiastic nod of his head. At ninety-two Jake was still active in community affairs despite the trouble he had getting around when his arthritis “kicked up.”

      “And that’s the building the Corona Congregational Church bought back then,” Govan continued, sifting through a huge...

    • CHAPTER TWO Making Community
      (pp. 20-54)

      At the turn of the twentieth century, Corona was growing in leaps and bounds as real estate developers purchased and subdivided the farms and private estates that surrounded the old village center for development as working and middle-class housing. Italian, German Irish, and other first- and second-generation immigrants, many abandoning the crowded tenements of Manhattan’s lower east side, found work in construction, transportation, and other industries supporting this development, as well as in local ceramic, garment, and other light manufacturing firms. By the time of its incorporation as a town in 1897, the Long Island Railroad and electric trolleys companies...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Movement
      (pp. 55-84)

      In 1957 Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at a rally sponsored by the Jamaica branch of the NAACP held at the same Elmhurst hall where black leaders had been snubbed during Harry Truman’s visit, and only blocks from where Booker T. Washington had spoken on the subject of Negro progress almost a half century before. A Queens newspaper reported the next day, “Non-violent resistance to segregation was urged last night in Queens by the man who persuaded 50,000 Montgomery, Alabama, Negroes to quit riding segregated buses” (Long Island Star Journal13 November 1957).

      For residents of Corona who attended the...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The State and the War on Politics
      (pp. 85-106)

      In 1961 the City Planning Commission (CPC) of New York launched a study of the community development needs of north-central Queens under the auspices of the city’s Community Renewal Program (City Planning Commission 1963). The Federal Housing Act of 1961, a Kennedy administration “New Frontier” initiative, had authorized $2.5 billion for urban renewal, enabling the production of subsidized housing for families with below-median incomes in neighborhoods such as Corona–East Elmhurst (Mollenkopf 1983). In June the CPC designated the northern portion of Corona, north of Northern Boulevard and adjacent to the site planned for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Race and the Politics of Place
      (pp. 109-138)

      On a February evening in 1987 Community Board 4’s Neighborhood Stabilization Committee met in the basement of a co-op apartment building on the southern border of Corona, one block from the massive and predominantly black Lefrak City housing development. Helma Goldmark, chair of the all-white committee and a resident of the well-kept Sherwood Village co-ops, took her place alongside three other committee members at a folding table that had been set up in the back of the brightly lit community room. A handful of white and black residents, two uniformed police officers, and other invited guests chatted among themselves as...

    • CHAPTER SIX A Piece of the Rock
      (pp. 139-178)

      “I think blacks missed the boat,” George Lopez said wryly, rattling the ice in his tumbler and then glancing up at John Booker. “Right in front of my office,” he continued, “the Koreans are all opening up businesses. And blacks only have a numbers drop. We’re still waiting for the last figure to come out. That’s the way I put it. Next door, the Korean’s got his store fixed up stacking oranges.”

      Booker slid to the edge of the leather sofa, eyes flashing with interest. George Lopez, a Howard University–trained dentist and state assembly district leader, was one of...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Up Against the Authority
      (pp. 181-217)

      On march 2, 1994, a Continental jetliner skidded off Runway 13-31 at LaGuardia Airport, dipping its massive, cone-shaped nose into Flushing Bay. Although there were no injuries, the incident followed a U.S. Air accident two years earlier that resulted in the deaths of twenty-seven people. The mishap in March increased political pressure to expedite plans already under way to construct a runway safety overrun on land reclaimed from Flushing Bay. The proposed overrun would add 460 feet of landfill to Runway 13-31, inciting alarm and opposition among the people of East Elmhurst.

      LaGuardia Airport, operated by the Port Authority of...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Politics of Hearing and Telling
      (pp. 218-247)

      On thursday, July 28, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) convened the second of two public hearing on the AGT’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS, a two-thousand-page report assessing the environmental impact of the Port Authority’s airport access proposal, was prepared by FAA consultants in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The hearing was held at Saint Peter’s Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, not far from the East Fifty-ninth...

    • CHAPTER NINE Conclusion
      (pp. 248-252)

      John bell had invited me to the East Elmhurst–Corona Civic Association’s 1995 Scholarship Dinner Dance held at the flamboyant Starlight Ballroom in Jackson Heights. Bell was being awarded the Civic Association’s Pioneer Award for his community activism over the past forty years. Dressed in a crisp tuxedo, he whisked back and forth between the glitzy lobby and the ballroom, escorting guests to the four tables he had reserved for the occasion. Two were filled with people from the Corona Congregational Church where Bell worshiped. His extended family, some visiting from North Carolina, sat at a third. Bell seated me...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 253-266)
  9. References Cited
    (pp. 267-278)
  10. Index
    (pp. 279-282)