a book by Alessandro Busà
the creative destruction of
new york city
engineering the city for the elite
the creative destruction of
new york city
engineering the city for the elite
“New York didn’t become a city for the 1% by accident, and this book is essential reading for understanding how it all happened.”
–Jeremiah Moss, author of Vanishing New York
A critical urban scholar with a cross-disciplinary background and a passion for thought-provoking research, Alessandro Busà has published extensively on the social, cultural, and economic impact of urban development in New York’s most iconic neighborhoods. Busà holds a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the Center for Metropolitan Studies of the Technical University of Berlin, and has carried out research for years in New York City at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation of Columbia University.
To learn more about Alessandro Busà’s research and writing, click here.
The Creative Destruction of New York City tells the story of fifteen years of shocking urban changes in New York City under the administrations of Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio,
and identifies the urban regime of city producers who are rebuilding cities like New York for a brand new global class of super-wealthy city consumers.
Bill de Blasio's campaign rhetoric centered on a tale of two cities: rich and poor New York. He promised to value the needs of poor and working-class New Yorkers alongside the elite, making government work better for all denizens of New York, not just those-the elite-who thrived during Bloomberg's tenure as mayor.
But well into de Blasio's administration, many critics see the city finding myriad new ways to create profit for land owners and developers through a constant process of destruction and rebuilding. Many lauded his goals of creating more affordable housing, but, in 2015, Brooklyn was deemed the most unaffordable housing market in the United States, when viewed as a median income-to-median home cost ratio. Manhattan even with its higher median income, was the third least affordable market. Its notable new buildings include the much-maligned 432 Park Avenue, which is usually uninhabited due to the fact that most of its units are fourth residences. The old adage is becoming truer: New York is a place only for the very rich and the very poor.
In The Creative Destruction of New York City, urban scholar Alessandro Busà tells the story of fifteen years of shocking transformations in the city, and an updated tale of two New Yorks, circa 2017. There is a gilded city of sky-high glass towers where Wall Street managers, Hollywood celebrities and Middle-Eastern billionaires live their glamorous lives or stash their offshore cash. And there is another New York, a city where even the professional middle class is one rent hike away from eviction. Despite de Blasio's rhetoric, the trajectory since Bloomberg has been remarkably consistent. A brand new global class of super-wealthy city consumers has been born, and, Busà argues, New York's urban development is changing to suit their ostentatious consumption demands. Meanwhile, the power of city producers, those who hold all the cards in the city building game, has never been greater.
Power players in real estate, banking and finance have managed to ensure that, regardless of changes in leadership, their interests are safeguarded at City Hall. By aggressively re-zoning and re-branding neighborhoods across the board, they are producing a brand new city, a repackaged wonderland of lavish real estate targeting the elite market. The Creative Destruction of New York City is an important chronicle of both the success of the city's elite and of efforts to counter the city's march toward a glossy and exclusionary urban landscape. It is essential reading for everyone who cares about affordable housing access and, indeed, the soul of New York City.
"Busà's energetic scholarship digs under New York's recent branding as 'trendy' and 'green' to unearth the real effects of zoning changes on the city's neighborhoods. He illuminates the central role of land politics in making the city less affordable--and less authentically 'New York.' This is a passionate cry for the city's soul."
- Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City and Loft Living
"An important work on hyper-gentrification and its destructive effect on urban life in the twentyfirst century, this lucid analysis reveals how power players in the Bloomberg administration commodified and corporatized the city, reshaping it into a luxury product for the global elite, and how Mayor de Blasio has followed suit.
New York didn't become a city for the one percent by accident, and this book is essential reading for understanding how it all happened."
- Jeremiah Moss, author of Vanishing New York - How a Great City Lost Its Soul
"A searching look at how New York changed from a place of affordable (if tiny) walk-ups to a playground for the ultrawealthy."
"In this lively account of New York City's recent history, Alessandro Busà shows how massive changes in New York's built environment result in the same dismal outcomes for the less advantaged. This is an essential read for anyone concerned with how great cities are becoming increasingly exclusionary even while fostering creativity."
- Susan S. Fainstein, Senior Research Fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Design
"Alessandro Busà combines his rich personal encounters with daily life in New York City's neighborhoods with meticulous research and deep historical analysis. This is an engaging tale of the ways that capital and its growth machine, driven by real estate and finance, have shaped the city, resulting in a continual cycle of creative destruction that has consequences obscured by the city's branded image."
- Tom Angotti, Professor Emeritus, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York
"A superb and persuasive account of the frenzied state of what can best be described as 'hypergentrification' in New York City: an elite-led process of rebranding and re-engineering that the author argues has heralded the most aggressive urban development agenda ever adopted in New York City. The book balances academic rigor with storytelling, and the result is a rich, readable, and energizing book."
- Loretta Lees, co-author of Gentrification and Planetary Gentrification
"Talk of hyper-gentrification, skyrocketing real estate and the 'end of New York' comes bundled with despair and helplessness. What can I do about any of this? you might think hopelessly. A new book by Alessandro Busà may not make you feel better, but it will provide you with the tools you need to better understand the rules of the game and those in positions of power who move the pieces."
- The Bowery Boys, authors of Adventures in Old New York
"Busa's powerful new book confirms that a mayor elected to reverse Bloomberg's vision for an upscale New York City instead expanded it... Busa does not offer a happy story, but it is an honest one."
- Randy Shaw, author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime, and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco
"The book is thoroughly researched, but written with a storyteller's deftness. The Creative Destruction of New York is recommended for readers regardless of their interest in New York City, because it highlights how historic actions by both the public and private sector can affect minority and low-income communities."
- The Englewood Review of Books
"A noteworthy and much-needed addition to the geography of gentrification [...] the book enriches the interdisciplinary New York canon and contributes significantly to the late 20th-century/early 21st-century political and historical geography of the city while demonstrating its inexhaustible, and often alarming, possibilities [...] The Creative Destruction is also a timely engagement with the often masked processes, actors and agendas that have driven the socio-spatial restructuring of New York’s neighbourhoods."
- Urban Studies
"Essential to understanding New York politics in the early twenty-first century."
- Dissent Magazine
- Joel Lobenthal, author of Radical Rags: Fashions of the Sixties
praise for the creative destruction of new york
“A superb account of the frenzied state of what can best be described as ‘hyper-gentrification’ in New York City.
The book balances academic rigour with storytelling—the result a rich, readable and energizing book that makes its arguments persuasively.”
—Loretta Lees, co-author of Gentrification and Planetary Gentrification