Invisible Boundaries in Bed-Stuy

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Community Research Project for the Brooklyn Laundry Social Club

The intention of this research project was to study the impact of gentrification in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn by getting impressions of various residents using the need to do laundry as the defining constant, and to learn effective community engagement strategies. Additionally, this project was conducted as a part of a larger project for the Brooklyn Laundry Social Club, who looks to use the ‘laundromat’ as a venue for community engagement.

In Bed-Stuy, Jonathan Lapalme and I conducted deríves, presented our own ethnographic narratives, and held contextual interviews and open dialogue with patrons at a laundromat on the border of Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy with the goal of looking for ‘invisible boundaries’ separating the long time residents of the historically African-american neighborhood, and the newer, and often white, residents inching over from neighboring Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

Results

In general, both long-time residents and newcomers felt the changes in the neighborhood were positive ones. However long-time residents felt there were subtle boundaries being created both in the localized context of the laundromat itself and the neighborhood in general. ‘Unfriendliness’ of the newcomers was a common complaint among the long-time residents, however newcomers felt that long-time residents were friendly. White people generally felt that those responsible for gentrification in the neighborhood were also white, however black respondents felt it was a mix of black and white residents causing gentrification. White people in general made little distinction between newcomers status and long-time residents.

The results were compiled into a Flash-based interactive tool made available to the laundromat and the Brooklyn Laundry Social Club for their own research purposes. The tool can be seen in full here. If you do not have flash installed, see some screenshots below.

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Mapping the dynamics and major social interactions at Betty Laundromat in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

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Troy Andrew Hallisey

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