Zaire Z. Dinzey-Flores, Rutgers University
“Location, location, location…,” so goes the trope of what is the most important element for buying residential real estate. “Location” is more than where a property is located; it stands for the bundle of social and physical attributes that articulate a space as worthy . Given deeply racialized character of land, space, and place in the Americas, residential properties, their location, and their production as commodities in the real estate market also articulate race. Based on analyses of property listings and neighborhood profiles, and supported by ethnographic interviews and research, this presentation examines the narrative strategies that real estate relies on to produce a new Brooklyn. Carefully crafted real estate listings and neighborhood profiles re-envision and racially re-signify traditionally Black and Latina/x/o neighborhoods in Brooklyn to make them worthy of and amenable to new [white] residents and their investments. The listings and neighborhood profiles stage these properties and neighborhoods with racially coded spatial, visual, built environmental, and narrative furnishings deemed to be universally appealing. The delicately calibrated message for these transitioning neighborhoods of color is that these neighborhoods have been “gut renovated” or selectively preserved to make way for “new” “re-imaginations.” In contrast to the “restorations” celebrated in other demographically stable [white] Brooklyn neighborhoods, the “original details” sought after in Black-brown Brooklyn selectively erase historical periods and circulate and activate facile conquest allusions. I argue that these narrative and visual strategies hide race in plain sight/site, making it harder to redress while reproducing material inequities by labeling the spaces, possessions, histories, habits, aesthetics, and ways of life of people of color as worthless. I also signal the particular ways in which Latinidad and Blackness are uniquely discursively and spatially renovated, illustrating the contours of a shifting coded but cemented racial residential landscape.
Professor Dinzey-Flores is an Associate Professor in Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies and the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University. Her research focuses on understanding how urban space mediates community life and race, class, and social inequality. She is particularly interested in housing and urban residential (housing and neighborhood) design: the underlying logics and policies that drive design, how design is interpreted, used, and experienced, and the consequences for inequality among communities and residents of cities. Her book, Locked In, Locked Out: Gated Communities in a Puerto Rican City (University Of Pennsylvania Press: 2013), winner of the 2014 Robert E. Park Award of the Community and Urban Sociology Section (CUSS) of the American Sociological Association and an Honorable Mention of the 2014 Frank Bonilla Book Award of the Puerto Rican Studies Association, examines race and class inequality as they are recreated, contained, and negotiated through urban policy, the physical built environment, and community gates in private and public housing.