The Gentrification of Nightlife and the Right to the City
Regulating Spaces of Social Dancing in New York
By Laam Hae
Routledge – 2012 – 228 pages
Series: Routledge Advances in Geography
In The Gentrification of Nightlife and the Right to the City, Hae explores how nightlife in New York City, long associated with various subcultures of social dancing, has been recently transformed as the city has undergone the gentrification of its space and the post-industrialization of its economy and society. This book offers a detailed analysis of the conflicts emerging between newly transplanted middle-class populations and different sectors of nightlife actors, and how these conflicts have led the NYC government to enforce “Quality of Life” policing over nightlife businesses. In particular, it provides a deep investigation of the zoning regulations that the municipal government has employed to control where certain types of nightlife can or cannot be located.
Hae demonstrates the ways in which these struggles over nightlife have led to the “gentrification of nightlife,” while infringing on urban inhabitants’ rights of access to spaces of diverse urban subcultures – their “right to the city.” The author also connects these struggles to the widely documented phenomenon of the increasing militarization of social life and space in contemporary cities, and the right to the city movements that have emerged in response.
The story presented here involves dynamic and often contradictory interactions between different anti/pro-nightlife actors, illustrating what “actually existing” gentrification and post-industrialization looks like, and providing an urgent example for experts in related fields to consider as part of a re-theorization of gentrification and post-industrialization.
"What happens when alternatives to bourgeois living can find no space in the city? This question is at the heart of Laam Hae’s important new book. The Gentrification of Nightlife and the Right to the City not only shows that the cost to alternative modes of life, as well as to our collective right to the city, is high, but also shows in sophisticated theoretical and empirical detail just how the squeeze on alternative ways of life – day and night – has been put on New York City. Drawing on a wealth of interviews with city officials, nightlife entrepreneurs and DJs, as well as a trove of historical documents and contemporary accounts, Hae engages in a deep reading of the lawsuits, political struggles, zoning decisions, and structural forces that have brought us to the sorry state where gentrification has become a force for the implantation of an exceedingly narrow, commodified, bourgeois nightlife up and down the length of the city, even as it has become an ever-more powerful force against the survival of the kind of less-commodified nightlife that makes a city a city. The Gentrification of Nightlife and the Right to the City is essential reading for all of us who care about what makes cities really worth living in and what the forces are that are arrayed against us – not just in New York, but everywhere."
- Don Mitchell, Distinguished Professor of Geography, Syracuse University, author of The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space
"Laam Hae used an impressive amount of sources and methods to tell the story. Her ethnographic research is based on policy documents, transcripts of public hearings, historical zoning maps and reports, local newspaper reports, internet list-serves. Also involved are interviews with officials and civil servants, members of activist groups or pro-nightlife organisations or club owners."
- Valerie De Craene, Urban Studies Journal, University of Leuven, Belgium
Introduction 1. Transformation of Urban Space and the Right to the City 2. The Cabaret Law Legislation and Enforcement 3. Development of Dance Subcultures in the 1970s 4. Gentrification With and Against Nightlife: 1979-1988 5. Zoning Out Social Dancing: The Late 1980s 6. Disciplining Nightlife: 1990-2002 7. Voices for Change: From 2002 Onwards 8. The Festa Ruling, the Right of Social Dancing and the Right to the City. Conclusion. Appendix 2.1: Terms of special permits for Use Group 6A and 12A before 1990 rezoning. Appendix 2.2: Community Boards in Manhattan. Appendix 5.1: The requirements for special permits for Use Group 6C after the 1990 rezoning. Appendix 7.1: Preliminary proposal for changing the cabaret laws.
Laam Hae is Assistant Professor of Political Science at York University.