Sustaining vulnerabilities? Exploring the sociospatial impacts of Brownfield redevelopment
This dissertation research examines the socio-spatial impacts of one contemporary sustainability initiative, brownfield redevelopment, through the lens of global change vulnerability. Brownfield redevelopment is intended to mitigate human vulnerability to contamination and to contribute to the sustainability of the local human-environment system, although there are often economic objectives connected to this initiative. The presence of contaminated properties depresses properties values, and economic revitalization is a key goal of brownfield redevelopment. While governments carefully track economic outcomes, there is a growing need for more research on the distributional and social consequences of this economic revitalization. This study investigates whether brownfield redevelopment has the unintended consequence of increasing the vulnerability of particular subpopulations to additional hazards because of financial burden associated with economic development.
This study draws on theoretical frameworks, concepts, and spatial analytical and qualitative approaches from the fields of global change vulnerability, sustainability science, and critical sustainability to consider whether brownfield redevelopment in New York City from 1990 to 2000 (a) created negative socio-economic impacts for longtime residents in thirty-six neighborhoods in New York City, and (b) affected the vulnerability of residents to additional hazards in four neighborhoods.
The results of this research indicate that half of the thirty-six brownfield sites that had redevelopment activities during the period from 1990-2000 experienced gentrification and that elderly and renters were particularly vulnerable to the negative socio-economic impacts of brownfield redevelopment in New York City. Additionally, case studies in four neighborhoods-Greenpoint and the Gowanus Canal Area in Brooklyn; Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan; and the South Bronx in the Bronx — suggest that brownfield redevelopment can exacerbate human vulnerability to additional hazards, such as residual soil contamination, air and water pollution, and floods, by increasing exposures and sensitivities while decreasing adaptive capacities.
This research suggests that a sustainability initiative like brownfield redevelopment can have unintended socio-spatial implications by producing negative socio-economic and environmental impacts for certain subpopulations. By bridging theories of social justice in the critical sustainability literature with empirical and policy-oriented global change vulnerability research, this dissertation demonstrates that an analytical global change vulnerability framework provides an effective way to evaluate the socio-spatial impacts of sustainability efforts.
0999: Urban planning