Green Gentrification: Urban sustainability and the struggle for environmental justice, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Green Gentrification

Urban sustainability and the struggle for environmental justice, 1st Edition

By Kenneth A. Gould, Tammy L. Lewis


182 pages

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Green Gentrification looks at the social consequences of urban "greening" from an environmental justice and sustainable development perspective. Through a comparative examination of five cases of urban greening in Brooklyn, New York, it demonstrates that such initiatives, while positive for the environment, tend to increase inequality and thus undermine the social pillar of sustainable development. Although greening is ostensibly intended to improve environmental conditions in neighborhoods, it generates green gentrification that pushes out the working-class, and people of color, and attracts white, wealthier in-migrants. Simply put, urban greening "richens and whitens," remaking the city for the sustainability class. Without equity-oriented public policy intervention, urban greening is negatively redistributive in global cities.

This book argues that environmental injustice outcomes are not inevitable. Early public policy interventions aimed at neighborhood stabilization can create more just sustainability outcomes. It highlights the negative social consequences of green growth coalition efforts to green the global city, and suggests policy choices to address them.

The book applies the lessons learned from green gentrification in Brooklyn to urban greening initiatives globally. It offers comparison with other greening global cities. This is a timely and original book for all those studying environmental justice, urban planning, environmental sociology, and sustainable development as well as urban environmental activists, city planners and policy makers interested in issues of urban greening and gentrification.


Green Gentrification is a remarkable book. Gould and Lewis offer important insights for activists, policy-makers, and residents on one of the most central problems facing New York City today: how can cities "go green" without triggering gentrification? This book should be required reading for those interested in urban life today.

Professor Julie Sze, Professor and Chair of American Studies at University of California, Davis

In this path-breaking book, Gould and Lewis demonstrate that social inequality and injustice are not inevitable outcomes of urban sustainability projects. When community leaders demand that social equity becomes a core component of these plans, and public policy initiatives embrace that vision, Gould and Lewis find that urban greening can facilitate just sustainabilities. Green Gentrification offers some of the most persuasive arguments and evidence I am aware of that urban sustainability projects will succeed only when they take social justice and equity seriously.

Professor David N. Pellow, Dehlsen Chair and Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the Global Environmental Justice Project, University of California, Santa Barbara

This book provides a much needed analysis of the challenges of urban sustainability and equity issues from the field of urban sociology. Their work is applicable to cities around the world, where efforts to clean-up toxic environments often create economic hardship for low-income and working poor urban residents. The reality that "greening whitens" socially diverse neighborhoods makes evident the persistent contradictions involved in how cities try to create just and livable places. These case studies offer historical accounts that provide insights into developing new strategies for equitable and ecologically vibrant places.

Dr. Sarah Dooling, Assistant Professor, The University of Texas

Table of Contents

1. Urban Greening and Social Sustainability in a Global Context

2. Conceptualizing Green Gentrification

3. Prospect Park: From Social Hazard to Environmental Amenity

4. Brooklyn Bridge Park: From Abandoned Docks to Destination Park

5. Gowanus Canal: From Open Sewer to the Venice of Brooklyn

6. Contested Spaces: Bush Terminal Park and Bushwick Inlet Park

7. Making Urban Greening Sustainable

About the Authors

Kenneth A. Gould is Director of the Urban Sustainability Program and Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York/Brooklyn College and Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center in Sociology and Earth and Environmental Sciences, USA. He is Chair of the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.

Tammy L. Lewis is Director of Brooklyn College's Macaulay Honors Program and Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York/Brooklyn College and Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center in Sociology and Earth and Environmental Sciences, USA. She is Chair-Elect of the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.

About the Series

Routledge Equity, Justice and the Sustainable City series

This series positions equity and justice as central elements of the transition toward sustainable cities. The series introduces critical perspectives and new approaches to the practice and theory of urban planning and policy that ask how the world's cities can become ‘greener’ while becoming more fair, equitable and just.

Routledge Equity Justice and the Sustainable City series addresses sustainable city trends in the global North and South and investigates them for their potential to ensure a transition to urban sustainability that is equitable and just for all. These trends include municipal climate action plans; resource scarcity as tipping points into a vortex of urban dysfunction; inclusive urbanization; "complete streets" as a tool for realizing more "livable cities"; the use of information and analytics toward the creation of "smart cities".

The series welcomes submissions for high-level cutting edge research books that push thinking about sustainability, cities, justice and equity in new directions by challenging current conceptualizations and developing new ones. The series offers theoretical, methodological, and empirical advances that can be used by professionals and as supplementary reading in courses in urban geography, urban sociology, urban policy, environment and sustainability, development studies, planning, and a wide range of academic disciplines.

To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ([email protected], twitter: @BrennanRebecca1), or the Series Editors, Julian Agyeman ([email protected], twitter: @julianagyeman) and Stephen Zavestoski ([email protected]).

Julian Agyeman, Tufts University Boston-Medford, USA

Stephen Zavestoski, University of San Francisco, USA

Editorial Advisory Board:

Dr Antwi Akom, Professor & Founding Director, Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab, University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco State University, USA

Dr Jayne Engle, Director, Cities, McConnell Foundation, Adjunct Professor, McGill University, Canada

Dr Ayona Datta, King’s College London, UK.

Dr Jenia Mukherjee, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India 

Professor Cheryl Teelucksingh, Ryerson University, Canada

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy