The labyrinthine gentrification debate has little patience for wishy-washy sociology—the class- and race-baiting endemic to the phenomenon demand that sides be chosen. But There Goes the ’Hood: Views of Gentrification From the Ground Up, Lance Freeman’s study of gentrifying New York, resists reductive sandbox politics: Its level-headed consideration of who’s moving on up and who they’re forcing to move on out splits the difference between grandstanding and bet-hedging. The Columbia University urban-planning professor’s research into housing trends in New York’s Harlem and Clinton Hill neighborhoods is narrow but deep; his interviews with 65 residents about the white invasion of their traditionally black areas lead to no neat conclusions—rather, they amplify a diverse set of opinions more complicated than, well, black-and-white. Wisely, the author aims not to discredit or to bolster the case for gentrification but, as he puts it, “to describe residents’ perceptions and feelings and to use these to generate ideas about how gentrification impacts these neighborhoods,” making There Goes the ’Hood less a diatribe than an open-ended dialogue. But that doesn’t mean Freeman ducks controversy. His book’s recognition that “indigenous residents” can benefit from gentrification is anathema in many academic circles, not to mention among housing activists in Harlem and Clinton Hill—and San Francisco’s Mission District and Chicago’s Lincoln Park, and D.C.’s own Ward 1. But Freeman’s method—he organizes a scholarly argument around lengthy hunks of (somewhat preciously) unedited interview transcripts—makes it difficult to argue with his conclusions. Your gut might not agree that gentrification can be “both villain and knight in shining armor,” but it can’t argue with a longtime Clinton Hill resident who sings the praises of a new sushi restaurant, or one native Harlemite who rejoices that she no longer has to travel below 125th Street to shop, or another who asks “[W]hy should we want a neighborhood that nobody lives in but African American.” Freeman’s discussion of the role of the black middle class in gentrification is similarly startling—if Harlem was still only 2 percent white in 2000, some of the folks buying those brownstones must have been brown themselves. However, even when battling the neo-Marxist conventional wisdom about gentrification, There Goes the ’Hood recognizes that the real price of that new Starbucks is a shrinking stock of affordable housing and very real threats of displacement. In so doing, Freeman may make much—much too much—of his attempt to answer the “overlooked” question of how “people feel when gentrification comes to the hood.” The reactions of the “gentrifieds” to their new moneyed neighbors may not pervade academic literature, but they abound closer to street level: in newspapers, at community meetings, on Web sites, through graffiti, and in popular music. But Freeman still manages to show real people’s multifaceted responses to a multifaceted phenomenon. The result is a Januslike portrait of gentrification that’s nuanced but makes a strong point: that true racial and economic diversity in America’s inner cities faces imminent apocalypse—unless the policymakers shaping urban space stop choosing sides. —Justin Moyer

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