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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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Brown Spots on the Apple

Brown Spots on the Apple

Brown Gentrification and the Repurposing of Polluted Properties

(p.116) 4 Brown Spots on the Apple
The Sustainability Myth

Melissa Checker

NYU Press

The term “brown gentrification” describes the selective remediation and repurposing of toxic properties for profit. This chapter focuses on brownfield cleanup programs, which incentivize private developers to clean up and repurpose contaminated properties, especially those located in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Such programs initially appeared to address some of the most pernicious environmental problems facing communities of color. However, because cleanups were predicated on private investment, they inevitably favored neighborhoods where property values were set to rise. Conversely, hitching toxic cleanup to real estate development left non-gentrifying neighborhoods with no mechanism for remediating contaminated properties. By outsourcing the cleanup of contaminated properties to private investors, brown gentrification thus subordinated public health to property values. Moreover, it redistributed environmental burdens in a way that further concentrated them in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Keywords:   brown gentrification, brownfield cleanup, communities of color, property values, public health, real estate development, urban pollution

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