This course engaged with extant debates within planning, policy and sociology about neighborhood dynamics. We started with theories of change, revitalization, gentrification, community planning and segregation. While some neighborhood shifts result from intentional actions and concerted planning efforts, much of what we observed and experienced as neighborhood change had deep historical, structural and local contextual roots. We examined dynamics in New York City neighborhoods, learned about neighborhood stakeholders, examined how benefits and burdens are distributed and raised fundamental questions regarding the direction of urban development. In other words, we used the neighborhood lens to illuminate urban concerns pertaining to access, equity, civic capacity, opportunity, rights and responsibility.
The three primary objectives that this course addressed included: developing a common conceptual framework and language for understanding why neighborhood change is often hotly contentious and how spatial identities are framed; sharpening methodological and analytical skills for neighborhood-level research; and learning how to apply conceptual tools and research techniques to better analyze and communicate place-based policies, programs and planning decisions.