Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Earth & Environmental Sciences


Kenneth A. Gould

Subject Categories

Geography | Public Policy


displacement; environmental gentrification; environmental geography; urban geography; urban political ecology; waterfront


This research reflects on the patterns of uneven development occurring in the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, social and physical changes taking place there, and how these elements of the canal relate to the changing purpose of urban waterways. Gowanus has mimicked the development of New York City since the 1600's through several phases: city settlement and development, abandonment, and redevelopment. The redevelopment phase in Gowanus couples environmental clean up with gentrification and displacement. Using an urban political ecology framework, this research attempts to answer the following questions: Why, after many years of pollution, is the area being cleaned up? Will this clean up process create new opportunities for gentrification in the area, or will it merely encourage gentrification that might already be taking place in the area? Who will benefit and who will be harmed through this process? To explore these questions, I conducted semi-structured interviews, shorter door-to-door interviews, transect walks and participant observation, archival research, and geographic information systems analysis. Through this project, I found that displacement is indeed occurring in the area as it gentrifies, with the potential for this process to increase as the clean up plans move forward. Further, it posits that environmental gentrification is the result of gentrification already taking place: establishing the ability for an area to be "worth" cleaning up. This research establishes the need for a time-lapsed approach to displacement research and builds on a growing literature on environmental gentrification.