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How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  2,115 ratings  ·  278 reviews
The term gentrification has become a buzzword to describe the changes in urban neighborhoods across the country, but we don't realize just how threatening it is. It means more than the arrival of trendy shops, much-maligned hipsters, and expensive lattes. The very future of American cities as vibrant, equitable spaces hangs in the balance.

Peter Moskowitz's How to Kill a Ci
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Bold Type Books
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 ·  2,115 ratings  ·  278 reviews

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Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and learned so much from it. Activist P.E. Moskowitz explores the gentrification of urban neighborhoods across the country with chapters dedicated to New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York. They write about the people of color, particularly black and Latinx folks who can no longer afford to live in cities and their displacement, as well as about the root causes of gentrification and what contributes to it.

As someone with an embarrassingly limited knowledge of gentri
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
To me, the book feels more emotional and anecdotal than investigative and informative. Gentrification is such a nuanced and multifaceted topic, I wish the book had delved deeper. What separates gentrification from simple rent rise - an inevitable side effect of a city's economic growth? Is there a case where a city (internationally or in the US) successfully balances freedom of movement with protection of the locals?

It is a book I'd be really keen to discuss with local and international friends
Anika Rothingham
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: academic
"This country was founded on displacement - on the idea that white men have a greater right to space, and even to people's bodies, than anyone else. That's taken the form of slavery, segregation, the genocide of Native Americans, and now, to a certain extent, gentrification."

I'm guessing that most players in gentrification - the victims and the gentrifiers - are unaware of the systems and political acts underlying what we all can see are the effects of gentrification. While Moskowitz acknowledge
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is not an academic book--it's a subjective take from an anti-gentrification activist. I think if you do not know that, the book will not sit well. I liked it a lot. It's a fascinating take on 4 cities--I actually think his stories on Detroit and New Orleans were much more interesting than NY and San Francisco (probably because those are covered a lot already). I actually don't think that gentrification is the problem--segregation is the problem---especially because as MLK said: the point of ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
I should have known when the San Francisco Chronicle recommended this book that it was going to be far left. As a 60-year resident of one of the cities discussed in this book, I found several crucial trends missing from this book:

1) The author focuses on certain races getting displaced and not on economic groups. Are races being targeted, or is the middle class being targeted too?

2) There is virtually no mention of EB-5 visas that allow rich people from other countries to jump to the front of th
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-read
"The ignorance of the lives of others is allows gentrification to happen. Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts points out in her book Harlem is Nowhere that whenever a neighborhood gentrifies, you hear white people and the media using phrases such as 'People are starting to move to that neighborhood,' or 'No one used to go there, but that's changing.' The implication is that before these places gentrified, no one lived there, or at least no one of importance. This is what is happening in New Orleans and every o ...more
This was a great primer on the modern and historic issues that led to the cities left "dead" from divestment, gentrification, and neighborhood change.

According to Moskowitz, city government began to embrace the faustian bargain of neoliberalism due to our country’s faulty funding mechanisms, which essentially leave cities dependent on their tax bases for economic sustainability. Because of this, elected officials often see no means of economic development outside of gentrification (thanks, Rich
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Considering how much I agree with in this book, it's a little surprising how much I hated it.

The confluence of race, class and urban policy is complicated, but the author can't resist simplifying it at every opportunity. Every opponent is a villain. Every statistic points in the same direction. Every problem has not just one cause, but a knowing conspiracy behind it. (Even when the book quotes Rebecca Solnit making the point that some of our most pressing problems are multi-causal, the author ca
Jennifer Fox
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
A book that intelligently and accurately documents this critical problem is absolutely necessary, and this book is not it. "How to Kill a City" does describe the locally-specific dynamics of gentrification in each city it addresses; San Francisco, Detroit, NOLA and NYC. If one has a particular interest in those particular locations, it may be worth picking up for that reason. However, the author's observations amount to a haphazard pile, full of contradictions, with no guiding framework other th ...more
D.L. Mayfield
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is so compelling--all of the complexities and facts and policies are there, but intersperse with the stories of living, breathing people who are being displaced. I have read a fair amount on gentrification, and this is the book I would put in people's hands. ...more
Celine Nguyen
Dec 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'Gentrification', Moskowitz writes, 'is the most transformative urban phenomenon of the last half century, yet we talk about it nearly always on the level of minutiae.' This observation is essentially why I wanted to read this book—because most discussions of gentrification seem to be about the minutiae: $15 farm-to-table pizza instead of dollar slices, $6 boba shops…then somehow related to this is poor communities and racial minorities being pushed out of cities? Whenever gentrification is talk ...more
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The gist: a hyper-gentrified city isn't one you want to -- or can -- actually live in. Moskowitz does a deep dive on four cities grappling with varying stages of gentrification and upheaval: New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco and NYC. The glass-encased condos spring up, the stores and restaurants that make a neighborhood interesting close down, non-hyper-rich people suffer. I thought the sections on NYC's Greenwich Village, once an artist and activist enclave and now basically a bland playgroun ...more
Dorothy Young
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have been a resident of, and consider to be home, two of the cities profiled in this book (New Orleans and San Francisco). This book is a fascinating and insightful read that does an excellent job of intertwining urban housing theory and history with anecdotes, both heartbreaking and inspiring, of people at every end and perspective of gentrification systems. Developers and politicians are humanized, as are the poor and displaced, making clear the message that gentrification is a series of lar ...more
The minute my friend Jason told me about How to Kill a City I was on it like a duck on a June bug. The book takes a look at four major cities in the US that have been thoroughly or partially transformed through gentrification over recent years: New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, & New York. I have ties to three of the four: I spent the first seventeen years of my life in Detroit, lived in New York City in the late 90's for four years, and have had family and friends living in San Francisco sin ...more
McKenzie Watson-Fore
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really appreciated Moskowitz’s book, and I think it’s a significant contribution to mainstream books currently available on the topic of gentrification. How to Kill a City is probably the most direct, wide-reaching, and accessible work I’ve read on the topic. I intentionally read it immediately after Rothstein’s heavy academic tome, The Color of Law, not to compare but as a complementary piece.
Moskowitz’s book is heavily researched both in terms of supportive scholarship and life experience,
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It should be a required reading for everyone who is living in big cities, specially white affluent kids who often use the term as “gentrifier” to describe themselves, but completely unwilling to understand the process of gentrification itself. Many are ignorant about the history of the neighborhoods and the crippling effects their presence is having on poor people living in those neighborhoods for generations. Moskowitz points out the many factors of gentrification, such as the developer's greed ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to James by: Jeff Carey had this as a to read item
Shelves: non-fiction, housing
Moskowitz doesn't dance around the subject of gentrification, it's the wealthy driving the poor (mostly black) residents away from the now popular civic centers and replacing low cost housing with extremely expensive upscale developments and public areas with semi-private spaces. He also points out the defunding of cities and schools over the past 50 odd years and how this helped destroy cities.

While only four cities are covered in detail, other cities are mentioned in passing, between that and
Caitlyn Libby
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I made the mistake of knowing of this book for nearly a year before I committed to reading it. I would suggest this book to anyone willing to listen and do not suggest it for anyone who is not ready to be skeptical of the status quo. I would also add needing a prerequisite to understanding general social academia. I don’t believe the average reader who is not well versed in the vast intersections of social justice jargon would fare well through these essays.

As for my own take, the author gave m
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For some, this book will not be radical. For some, the problems with gentrification and their causes will be gobsmackingly obvious. If that's you, may still enjoy this book, because it's well-written, well-researched and will be likely teach you how to make better arguments about what you feel.

But, for some of us, like me, who have been so busy railing against the insanity of the suburban experiment to realize the downsides of radical densification and gentrification, this book was a real eye o
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Holy grail. Gentrification is not cupcake shops and tight pants, it's the intentional collaboration between local governments and developers to harvest capital from American cities and promote their "highest and best use." ...more
Prima Seadiva
3.5 stars. Audiobook, reader okay.
This was a profoundly depressing book to read/listen.
In each city the author covers, Detroit, New Orleans, San Francisco and New York, how gentrification driven by profit and local government has impacted each of these cities resulting in less affordable housing, more racial profiling and income profiling. Long time residents were driven out, often living in the suburbs commuting in to work service jobs, the urban replaced by more affluent mostly white residents
Michael Parkinson
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Written from the perspective of a native New Yorker and self-identified gentrifier, How To Kill a City explores the phenomenon through 4 unique case studies: New York City, New Orleans, Detroit and San Francisco. I appreciate the broader audience this serves and while not an expert on 3 of the 4 case studies, I found the analysis of NYC to be relatively fair (if not entirely thorough). I would probably recommend to others but with a few caveats. Would have given a 3.5 if I could have.
Blaise Lucey
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nyc
This was a wonderful, comprehensive look at the cycle of gentrification across four different cities. Moskowitz's writing is compelling, casual, and very well-researched all at the same time, which I really appreciated. I learned a lot about one of the most divisive subjects today, and appreciated the anecdotal tidbits & interviews mixed with harder research & history.

That said, this book, for all its historical underpinnings, rarely focuses on things like crime rates and murder rates in the er
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anyone with an interest in cities, living in cities, thinking about cities... heck, even if you living in rural areas should read this book. By breaking down the scenarios of New Orleans, Detroit, San Fran, and NYC, Moskowitz effectively gets to the root causes of gentrification, displacement and inequity. While this book was a page turner and well researched, the author spends just a mere 5 pages on solutions or strategies to address these urban issues. As an urban planner, I would have liked t ...more
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2017
Peter Moskowitz's volume details the ways that city governments and federal policies have an equal hand in gentrification as city immigrants looking for cheap rents. I admired his combination of personal stories from gentrifiers and gentrified citizens alongside historical analysis and in depth policy illumination. I wish that he had included more individual strategies for combating gentrification. ...more
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
"Before the hippie, antiwar, and civil rights movements of the late 1960s began to really take hold, there had been decades of foundational work laid by writers, filmmakers, poets, performers, activists, and others that helped people conceive of a different future. I believe we are in one of those foundational periods right now, on the precipice of something larger. It's time to start building." ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great, timely book that really opened my eyes and gave me a better understanding of the root causes of gentrification (hint: it's not caused by hipsters with mustaches, they're just one of the symptoms). There's also an inspiring chapter at the end about what we can do to turn things around, although it's definitely going to be an uphill battle. ...more
Rachel Hundt
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very educational and relatable. This is a must read for those who want to be conscious of the way they live and occupy space within the context of communities: what those communities have historically represented and how and why change happens through displacement of those communities.
Megan Gafvert
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Living in NW DC, it’s easy to pick out the glaring indicators of gentrification in main stretches of the area. It’s also easy to identify which blocks might be the next location of renovated luxury apartments, fancy coffee shops, and organic markets that take the place of old but affordable housing, local restaurants, and bodegas. I always had trouble placing myself within this dynamic of change, pushout, exploitation, and renewal because although I am not a middle income transplant from the sub ...more
Frieda Pan
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book should be a requirement for anyone who lives in a US city. The author breaks down the history of US housing policy and gives four case studies of cities combating gentrification (New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York). Each of these deal with unique problems with local governments proposing varied “solutions”, but all cities are part of the same global struggle of putting everyday people’s decisions at the heart of community building.

The book guides readers through the US
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120 likes · 41 comments
“Gentrification, at its deepest level, is really about reorienting the purpose of cities away from being spaces that provide for the poor and middle classes and toward being spaces that generate capital for the rich.” 3 likes
“The hipster narrative about gentrification isn’t necessarily inaccurate—young people are indeed moving to cities and opening craft breweries and wearing tight clothing—but it is misleading in its myopia. Someone who learned about gentrification solely through newspaper articles might come away believing that gentrification is just the culmination of several hundred thousand people’s individual wills to open coffee shops and cute boutiques, grow mustaches and buy records. But those are the signs of gentrification, not its causes. As” 2 likes
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