Prof. Dr. Jerome Krase,
is an Emeritus Professor, sociologist, Murray Koppelman Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The Covid19 pandemic provided an opportunity to look more closely at microsocial life in my
own as “super” as well as “hyper-gentrified” neighborhood. These value-laden terms carry
negative connotations for the inhabitants of such privileged, yet ironically stigmatized places.
More importantly, the labels are of little value in helping to explain unstereotypical local life
because behavior which takes place “in” a space/place, may not be “of” that space/place. This
autoethnographic visual essay provides a few examples of daily life on one face-block in Park
Slope, Brooklyn. between the beginning of the New York State lockdown on March 20 and the
start of Phase 2 on June 22.
The Morality of Gentrification
A reading of the academic and popular literature on Gentrification globally also gives the sense
that Gentrification, and Gentrifiers destroy the old, nostalgic neighborhood, and replaces it with a
void of individualism and consumerism. (Smith, 1996, Krase and DeSena 2020a and 2020b)
The negative stereotypes of gentrifiers are also found in more popular print and other media.
(Krase 2012: 191-92) where they are also viewed as (neo)colonizers, appropriators, and in
general destructive of the local “native” cultures. Miguel de Oliver sees the process in some
cases as appropriating working and lower-middle-class lifestyles. (2016, for more destruction:
Zukin 2008; see Moss 2017 Addie and Fraser 2019, Wolfe 2006) In reference to cultural
appropriation, is this extreme statement: “…the theft and hollowing out of culture, place, and
people into commodities—cannot be separated from the historic abuse of various cultures and
the labeling of their bearers as “primitive,” “inferior,” “dangerous,” and “illegal” in order to
establish dominion over them” (Blights Out, 2017: 2)
As to self-flagellation, John Joe Schlichtman and Jason Patch, explored their own culpability in
the problem. They noted that many who study often are, at the same time, gentrifiers.
Schlichtman’s personal experience was in Park Slope, of which he provides a description that
would be unrecognizable to most residents. It is terra incognita for most because the boundaries
of the name “Park Slope” have been widened over the generations by real estate agencies to
capitalize on its currency and cache of authenticity, or better perhaps its simulacra (Baudrillard
1998, See also Krase 2018). The focus of such research is usually on sections of the larger area
that better fit the chosen theory; that is where displacement was most likely to take place such as
poor and working-class residential enclaves and/or where local businesses were in decline.
(Slater, 2003, Halasz 2018, Ortega 2010) They often are selective demographic slices designed
to address scholarly and often ideological interests as opposed to first finding out what is already
there and proceeding inductively, or at least analytic inductively. In contrast, Robert Furman’s
study of Hyper-gentrified Brooklyn Heights, cites gentrification as helping to save the
neighborhood from a precipitous fall in the 1960s and 70s. (2015, 433-54, for a more nuanced
analyses of Brooklyn gentrification see Osman 2011, and Krase and DeSena 2016)
The danger of becoming a gentrifier being great, Clarissa Brooks in Everyday Feminism
Magazine recommended some ways for student activists to avoid it.
Respect Community Voice, Understand your place in the neighborhood, Learn about and
value the history and culture of the neighborhood, Identify your privilege, and Reach out
to elders/locals in the neighborhood (2017).
Another negative definition of gentrifier is provided online.: “A puritan conservative who
pretends to be a ‘hipster.’ (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gentrifier
accessed June 19, 2020) On another website someone confessed:
I was a gentrifier in Willamsburg. Like the maligned hipsters, I used my parents’ savings
to secure a place to live. I wanted grocery stores that carried organic products like
Horizon milk for $6 per half-gallon, and overpriced but aesthetically satisfying coffee
shops like El Beit. I needed expensive boutiques, otherwise I would have felt bad for
having left Manhattan. (#gentrified #williamsburg #conservative #poseur #lib
by Compay November 14, 2010, accessed June 19, 2020)
The research in this article would be classified as both visual and a sort of “autoethnography’
(Chaplin 2011). Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing to “describe and
systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) to understand cultural experience
(ethno)” (Ellis et al., 2011, §1). I have lived on my block since 1985 when I bought a two-family
home. As is the case for most houses purchased at the time, I bought it from someone looking to
maximize their profit during one of the periodic surges in housing prices in what was then
viewed as a “hot” real estate market. Since the 1950s, when Park Slope, as other now trendy
areas, had a crime-ridden reputation prices have episodically increased because of such things as
historical landmarking, savvy real estate marketing, and, today, extremely low interest rates.
Park Slope’s resident population has followed in- and out-flows of capital that have resulted in
white flight, urban renewal, and disinvestment.
After my purchase in “The Slope,” prices have risen and fallen several times. For example, a few
years after I bought my home, its price fell by 20%. Over that period, I have seen little, if any,
forced “displacement” as most homes have been sold after the death of an elderly owner, and the
heirs have sought the best price on the market. I know of only one tenant on my block, a family
member, who moved voluntarily with a monetary incentive as she was paying very little rent.
There have also been a number of resales from one “gentrifier” to another (perhaps Super to
Hyper?). Some residents, unsatisfied with local schools, and who can’t afford or can’t get their
children into competitive private schools, have moved, usually to highly rated school districts in
the suburbs. In recent years, a few, very wealthy couples, have bought homes and paid for
extensive and costly renovations. It must be noted that like in similar “park” blocks, (very
desirable locations near Prospect Park) the median household income of home owners have been
well above average. The larger-scale socioeconomic profile of Park Slope fits the stereotype of
super-gentrified neighborhoods (Halasz 2018).
However, most of the residential unit turnover has taken place among the large and mediumsized
apartment buildings along its eastern and western tract boundaries, not in the one and twofamily
homes. In recent years many large buildings have been converted from rental to
cooperatives or condominiums. There, displacement is more likely takes place as the planned
conversion practice creates vacancies by raising rents or buying out longer-term, more working
and middle-class, tenants.
The main focus here is on virtual and actual observations over a one-hundred-day period on the
face block itself and nearby environs. Although the technology may be different, digital
ethnography is not a distinctive forms of ethnography. (Hine 2000, Dominguez et al (2007: 1) As
Michael Borer has noted, what he would call the Park Slope “scene” is an expressive entity, and
claims about it come in verbal, textual, visual, and behavioral forms.” (2019, 247)
Despite her focus on quantitative data, Halasz embedded a “visual” stereotype in her description
of my neighborhood. My virtual and visual observations on 9th Street, might be labelled as
“What do the people do when they are not engaged in the following:
Today, the streets are riddled with nannies pushing oversized strollers, stay-at-homemoms
escort children from private lessons to the YMCA, and shaggy-haired teens
colonize overpriced gelaterias. In the evening, well-heeled professionals scurry down the
sidewalks and disappear into impeccably decorated townhomes and elegant doorman
buildings. On weekends, the Grand Army Plaza farmer’s market teems with 30 to 50-
something year-olds and their children, while Prospect Park’s west side buzzes with
joggers, cyclists, Frisbee players, kite flyers, softball games, weddings, picnics,
barbecues, concerts, and endless streams of dogs and children. (Silver, 2010 in Halasz
Note also the use of the negative terms “riddled” with nannies and “oversized” strollers. These
are common is such studies.
Because people have been reluctant to meet face-to-face during this health crisis, social media
has increased in importance for communication. What once was said “over the fence” is now
said via social media. Although the 9th Street Google Group was created before the crisis, it is
used more often now, and COVID19 related topics are frequent.
Virtual Observation 1. 9th Street Google Group Platform.
At the start of the crisis, and what many characterize as a panic, there were several discussions
on the medium about elderly residents who might need help for grocery shopping and to be
looked in on. A few close neighbors agreed amongst themselves to contact those in question and
provide help when needed. One of these elderly residents has also been chided in person on the
street about wearing a protective mask and has since complied.
Virtual Observation 2. 9th Street Google Group Platform.
During the COVID19 crisis, people have been encouraged to thank “essential workers.” One of
the ways that this takes place in New York City is that every day at 7 PM 9th Street residents
from about a dozen buildings on both sides of the street come outside and make loud noises by
banging on pots and pans for five minutes. Below is a facsimile of the messages ending the
practice at the start of Phase 2 of the lockdown when many restrictions were lifted.
Subject: Re: NYers Plan ‘Outdoor Moment’ Protest For Minutes After 8pm Curfew | New York
City, NY Patch Date: Thu, Jun 4, 2020 9:01 am.
only a few people out last night. perhaps protest fatigue as are out at 7 pm making lots of
righteous noise. we’ll be out again tonight at 8 for a few minutes to show solidarity. last night I
sang one verse of ‘we shall overcome,’ which was fantastic!
Sent: Wed, Jun 3, 2020 8:36 pm
Subject: Re: NYers Plan ‘Outdoor Moment’ Protest For Minutes After 8pm Curfew | New York
City, NY Patch
We fully support the protests against police brutality and the curfew. Would it possible for the
8pm event to be something quieter than banging pots and pans? Perhaps singing as previously
suggested or kneeling? As a family with a young kid and a baby, we have built our schedule with
the understanding that 7pm is a sleepless time. As the evenings warm up and windows remain
open, it will be difficult to schedule naps and bedtime around TWO noisy daily events.
The general question that is addressed here on visual observations is “What are the visual cues
and clues of the pandemic in and around the 9th Street face-block? For continuity, some were the
subject of virtual observations.
Visual Observations 1 and 2. For at least a month, many residents on the block stood on their
front steps or in their front yards at 7 PM, to join thousands of other New Yorkers to thank
essential workers for their sacrifices in service to the city as a whole. While many banged on pots
and pans, others made noises as loud as they could with bells or other more or less musical
instruments. This usually lasted about five minutes, but was sometimes extended so they could
greet the Bus which passed by; honking loudly in response.
Photo 1. Residents making noise. Photo Credit: Jerry Krase
Photo 2. The Bus. Photo Credit: Jerry Krase
Visual Observation 3
Because stores were closed, people increasingly relied on package deliveries. The photo below is
an example of packages being left outside entrances.
Photo 3. Credit: Jerry Krase
Visual Observation 4
The city-wide Phase 1 lockdown issued by the Mayor and Governor resulted in new uses of the
front and back spaces, as well as the roofs of houses on 9th Street. It might be argued that these
improvisations were because restaurants, bars, public libraries, playgrounds and other public
places were closed and people sought and found escape not only in the large nearby park, but
also those private spaces under their control.
Photo 4. Credit: Jerry Krase
Visual Observation 5
Because Prospect Park remained open during the lockdown people from all over the borough
came to enjoy the space. The Prospect Park management placed social distancing, and other
signs to instruct people how to increase their own and the safety of other park-goers. While
looking for such signs during my photo-walks, I came across this unofficial warning sign posted
near the entrance to the park.
Photo 5. Credit: Suzanne Nicoletti-Krase
Visual Observation 6.
Because our block was near Prospect Park, it was a frequent assembly point for Black Lives
Matter marches. Below is one example.
Photo 6. Credit: Jerry Krase
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i To understand the parameters of the following observations, it is important at this point to
outline the Phase 1 and Phase 2 official guidelines. Phase 1, New York State Lockdown Plan
On Sunday, March 22, all non-essential businesses statewide closed when Governor Cuomo
announced the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order, a 10-point policy to assure
uniform safety for everyone. (https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/new-york-state-pause
ACCESSED JULY 4, 2020)
Phase 2 begins on Monday, June 22nd (HTTPS://GOTHAMIST.COM/NEWS/EVERYTHINGYOU-
NEED-KNOW-ABOUT-PHASE-2-REOPENING-NYC ACCESSED JULY 4, 2020.