Homesteading in New York City, 1978-1993: The Divided Heart of Loisaida

Synopsis

This is an ethnographic study of predominantly Puerto Rican low-income people on the Lower East Side of Manhattan who have been involved in the rehabilitation of abandoned buildings through sweat-equity urban homesteading from 1978 to 1993. The study combines a portrait of homesteading in a contemporary urban environment with an analysis of homesteading in the context of economic and political developments at the local, state, and national levels. As participant-observer of the rehabilitation efforts, von Hassell was impressed with the ingenuity and initiative of poor and working-class people. She came to the conclusion that housing as a central factor in poverty amelioration must be interpreted with other factors such as labor, education, and health care, and that despite internal conflicts the project could have been more successful if it had received local political, governmental, and social services support.