Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places

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Sharon Zukin

Translated to Russian by A. Lazarev and N. Edelman; under scientific editing by V. Danilov. Moscow: Gaidar Institute Press, 2019. – 360 p.

ISBN 978‑5‑93255‑550 -7

As cities have gentrified, educated urbanites have come to prize what they regard as “authentic” urban life: aging buildings, art galleries, small boutiques, upscale food markets, neighborhood old-timers, funky ethnic restaurants, and old, family-owned shops. These signify a place's authenticity, in contrast to the bland standardization of the suburbs and exurbs.

But as Sharon Zukin shows in Naked City, the rapid and pervasive demand for authenticity – evident in escalating real estate prices, expensive stores, and closely monitored urban streetscapes – has helped drive out the very people who first lent a neighborhood its authentic aura: immigrants, the working class, and artists. Zukin traces this economic and social evolution in six archetypal New York areas – Williamsburg, Harlem, the East Village, Union Square, Red Hook, and the city's community gardens – and travels to both the city's first IKEA store and the World Trade Center site. She shows that for followers of Jane Jacobs, this transformation is a perversion of what was supposed to happen. Indeed, Naked City is a sobering update of Jacobs' legendary 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Like Jacobs, Zukin looks at what gives neighborhoods a sense of place, but argues that over time, the emphasis on neighborhood distinctiveness has become a tool of economic elites to drive up real estate values and effectively force out the neighborhood "characters" that Jacobs so evocatively idealized.