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Community Builders

Gordana Rabrenovic

Publication Year: 1996

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.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables and Maps

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

While researching and writing this book I had the support and encourage ment of various communities. My academic community helped me clear my thoughts and sharpen my focus. Judith Blau, Nan Lin, Steve Siedman, Todd Swanstrom, and John Logan assisted me first as members of my dissertation committee and later as colleagues. My special thanks go to John Logan, who ...

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ONE - Introduction: Economic Restructuring, Urban Change, and Neighborhoods in Crisis

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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 oflife in urban communities has a new cause: economic restructuring. The increase in jobs in ...

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TWO - Neighborhood Associations as Place-Based Collective Actors

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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. Inflated 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 ...

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THREE - Albany, the Restructured City: State Government, Its Political Machine, and Neighborhood Politics

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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. Albany has a long tradition of being an important place. Grand old ...

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FOUR - Center Square and Its Neighborhood Association:Organizing Jor Success

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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...

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FIVE - Arbor Hill: Revitalizing an Inner-City Neighborhood

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pp. 92-119

The Arbor Hill Neighborhood Association shares organizational characteristics with the Center Square Neighborhood Association, which created a 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...

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SIX - Schenectady, the Declining City: General Electric, Deindustrialization, and Strategies for the City's Renewal

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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...

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SEVEN - The Stockade: Definding the Gentrified Neighborhood in a Declining Industrial City

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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 ...

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EIGHT - Hamilton Hill: A Low-Income Neighborhood Struggling for Survival

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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 over come neighborhood fragmentation, even if they do everything right. The...

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NINE - Neighborhoods, Strategies, and the City Context

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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 ...


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pp. 213-225


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pp. 227-233

E-ISBN-13: 9781439903476

Publication Year: 1996