Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Sharon Zukin

Committee Members

Philip Kasinitz

William Kornblum

Subject Categories



Urban sociology, gentrification, ethnicity and immigration, social change, Polish studies


This dissertation examines the intersection of immigration and market-led gentrification in a fragmenting ethnic neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn– once home to a vibrant Polish community, now at risk of losing its social character as a traditional ethnic enclave. Extending Albert O. Hirschman’s theory of action to the Polish community in Greenpoint, I examine the conditions under which immigrants “participate”, “adapt” or “exit” as a response to neighborhood change. Based on participant observation, in-depth interviews and quantitative data, I argue that displacement or loss need not be the primary experience of longtime residents in gentrifying ethnic neighborhoods. Instead of emphasizing ethnic ties and cultural unity, this study theorizes the Polish-American community as an aggregate of private actors including real estate agents and developers, store owners, homeowners, tenants, church leaders and elected officials; each distinguished by diverse and sometimes conflicting interests. Such intra-ethnic divisions and cleavages, rather than ethnic bonds and community solidarity define how immigrants make sense of, and respond to, neighborhood change. By generating, facilitating, and adapting to processes of gentrification, immigrant actors become active city-builders and in the process renegotiate existing definitions of ethnicity and urban ethnic community.

Included in

Sociology Commons