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New People in Old Neighborhoods

New People in Old Neighborhoods: The Role of Immigrants in Rejuvenating New York's Communities

Louis Winnick
Copyright Date: 1990
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 324
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  • Book Info
    New People in Old Neighborhoods
    Book Description:

    The recent wave of immigration into this country has given rise to myriad concerns-from the worries about the impact of immigration on the nation's economy to questions about whether multilingual education should be used in public schools. The resulting debates have overshadowed some very good news: this influx of New Immigrants has resulted in an astonishing rebirth of many of our older, decaying cities. Nowhere has this demographic renewal been more apparent than in New York City, as Louis Winnick demonstrates inNew People in Old Neighborhoods, a timely and perceptive study of the effects of immigration in Brooklyn's Sunset Park.

    Sunset Park was born of the late nineteenth century flood of immigrants who developed a prosperous waterfront commerce; by the end of World War I the community had achieved a thriving maturity. Yet the decades following World War II brought about a period of urban decay lifted only by the post-1965 influx of more than 20,000 immigrants, most notably from Asia and the Caribbean Basin. These New Immigrants not only revived the dying community but enriched it with greater ethnic diversity than it had ever known.

    Winnick combines data on ethnic change and living patterns with data on employment, housing, school enrollment, and subway ridership to study the revitalization of Sunset Park. He discusses the ethnic composition and characteristics of the new immigrants; trends in self-employment and entrepreneurship ("microcapitalism"); immigrant impact upon retailing, manufacturing, and the lower echelons of the service industries; skill and education levels; and presence in the professions. Winnick also discusses the immigrants' positive effect on faltering New York systems, such as the subways and public schools, and places immigrant renewal within the larger context of overall housing and economic regeneration in New York City.

    New People in Old Neighborhoodsviews today's immigrants as the historic heirs to the community builders of the last century, and offers important insights into the often-troubled yet transforming relationship between the nation and its foreign-born population. The future of these immigrants will be a yardstick to measure the quality and performance of our cities and their neighborhoods in the years ahead.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-559-7
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. Prologue and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xii-xx)

    It is virtually certain that the immigration reforms of 1965 will enter the national annals bearing this epigraph: A modest enactment that mushroomed, unplanned, into a towering monument to unpremeditated policy. Though no one so intended, the renewed flows of the foreign-born are, and for some years have been, the dominant component of U.S. population growth. The full dimensions of that Congressional stroke were slow to seep into public consciousness. But by now there is keen and cumulating awareness that the 1965 law, together with its legislative progeny, are radically reshaping the social and economic contours of American society. Historians...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    This study focuses upon a modest neighborhood in Brooklyn that became a time capsule of America’s immigrant experience. It was born out of the massive tides of migration from European lands in the second half of the nineteenth century and nurtured by those that followed in the first decades of the twentieth. In more recent decades, it has been transformed by migrations from a far broader cross section of the globe, conspicuously from the Caribbean Basin and Asia. That transformation is still going on. The latest wave of immigration has no determinate end nor are its consequences wholly foreseeable. What...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Study’s Perspective
    (pp. 7-18)

    Although the book’s emphasis is on the shifting fortunes of one neighborhood in one city, it derives from two ideas of broader moment. The first is the proposition that the demographic renewal of an urban area is a more dependable guarantor of its viability than is almost any amount of physical renewal. Some will see this proposition as a mere rephrase of the maxim that prevailed in the federal urban-redevelopment era, namely, “people programs” are more important than “bricks and mortar programs.” A rephrase it is, but also more than that. The term demographic renewal herein denotes beneficial changes in...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The New Immigration: Nation and City
    (pp. 19-48)

    In 1968 a mammoth wave of foreign immigration began to roll over America. It followed congressional enactment in 1965 of landmark legislation that abolished the restrictive and discriminatory immigration quotas of 1924 and reaffirmed in 1952. The 1965 statute was a climactic event in U.S. social history, more momentous than any of its sponsors had imagined. Together with subsequent laws and amendments, it touched off a flow of people, far greater in volume and vastly wider in geographic origin than had then been projected by any lawmaker or demographer. Nationally, the estimated total—legal and illegal immigrants plus refugees—is...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Other Factors in Neighborhood Revival: Economic Boom, Housing Shortage, Community Organization
    (pp. 49-60)

    A major contributor to neighborhood restoration was the stunning rebound in New York’s economy. It was accompanied by an unprecedented increase in private employment, rising real income, and a modest gain in population and households. One should caution that good times do not inevitably generate neighborhood revival. Indeed, they may have an opposite effect, witness the pervasive decline of New York’s neighborhoods during the long period of economic growth in the sixties. That prosperous era nourished the new suburban communities in New York’s metropolitan ring (and the Sunbelt), not the older neighborhoods of the inner rings. What is exceptional about...

  10. CHAPTER 5 New People in Old Neighborhoods
    (pp. 61-70)

    The housing shortage in the New York area was reinforced by demographic factors—a large inflow of new people, mainly foreigners. Because of their very sizable numbers, the New Immigrants have reversed New York’s drastic population decline of the seventies. Without them, it is estimated that, notwithstanding all the baby boomers, the City would now have no more than 6 million people.⁴⁴ So staggering a shrinkage would have been accompanied by further drains in most neighborhoods. Instead, the City’s population increased from a little over 7 million in 1980 to 7.3 million (more likely 7.5 million) in 1987.

    Outside the...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Sunset Park: Growth and Decline
    (pp. 71-122)

    It is time now to turn to the heart of the study, a narration of how successive waves of immigration have affected the rise, decline, and comeback of Sunset Park. The biography of a living community, like the biography of a living person, is, inevitably, an unfinished one. Sunset Park’s repopulation and recovery are still in process so that it is easier to look from the present backward than from the present forward. Tomorrow may bring changes that will mock the projections and speculations ventured here.

    Every urbanist knows that to venture into a study of neighborhoods is to wander...

  12. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  13. CHAPTER 7 Sunset Park Redux: The Post-1980 Years
    (pp. 123-172)

    By the mid-eighties Sunset Park was nestled securely in the curl of a rebounding wave. That fact was evidenced in any number of indicators: population growth, rising real income, retail activity, soaring real estate prices and rents, bountiful inflows of private mortgage capital. In 1987, a substantial majority (70 percent) of Sunset Park’s residents rated it as a fair to excellent community.⁸⁴

    But notwithstanding its dramatic turnaround, Sunset Park’s relative status was still well below that of the more highly favored communities on which it bordered—Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Bay Ridge, and Borough Park. The rising tide of housing...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Whither Sunset Park?
    (pp. 173-192)

    As earlier said, Sunset Park is a speck in a vast social and economic universe. Its decline and its recovery were the consequences of events over which it had small control. Easy mortgage credit and new broad highways lured its people away. Its Industrial Zone was struck low by economic trends upon which its residents gazed as mere spectators. By the same token, its revival was the boon of a thunderingly prosperous Manhattan and of an imperfectly understood immigration law enacted a generation ago by a Congress with other perspectives in view.

    Sunset Park will have no more control in...

  15. APPENDIX A Data Sources and Data Gaps
    (pp. 193-206)
  16. APPENDIX B The 1980 Census Profile
    (pp. 207-218)
  17. APPENDIX C Post-1980 Ethnic Patterns
    (pp. 219-244)
  18. APPENDIX D Individual Contacts
    (pp. 245-248)
  19. APPENDIX E Ethnic Business in Sunset Park
    (pp. 249-272)
    Roger Waldinger
  20. Index
    (pp. 273-287)