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The Sustainability MythEnvironmental Gentrification and the Politics of Justice$
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Melissa Checker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479835089

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479835089.001.0001

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Wiped Out by the Green Wave

Wiped Out by the Green Wave

Green Gentrification and the Value of Urban Nature

(p.49) 2 Wiped Out by the Green Wave
The Sustainability Myth

Melissa Checker

NYU Press

Situated mainly in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, this chapter examines “green gentrification”—the correlation between environmental improvements and high-end real estate development. Taking an historic look at urban parks and property values, this chapter begins with nineteenth-century discourses about nature, social uplift, and morality. The symbolic value attached to green space soon correlated with material value, as parks boosted nearby property values. Despite their public status, parks became spaces of subtle racial and class-based exclusion. As sustainability gained popularity in the early 2000s and the real estate market boomed, new green spaces became an amenity that drew affluent residents to gentrifying areas. Environmental justice activists in these neighborhoods thus found that the very improvements for which they had been fighting now facilitated gentrification and threatened to displace low-income residents and communities of color.

Keywords:   environmental justice, green gentrification, green space, urban parks, property values, real estate development, sustainability

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