Hell's Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space: Class Struggle and Progressive Reform in New York City 1894-1914

Hell's Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space: Class Struggle and Progressive Reform in New York City 1894-1914

Hell's Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space: Class Struggle and Progressive Reform in New York City 1894-1914

Hell's Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space: Class Struggle and Progressive Reform in New York City 1894-1914

Synopsis

Hell's Kitchen is among Manhattan's most storied and studied neighborhoods. A working-class district situated next to the West Side's middle- and upper-class residential districts, it has long attracted the focus of artists and urban planners, writers and reformers. Now, Joseph Varga takes us on a tour of Hell's Kitchen with an eye toward what we usually take for granted: space, and, particularly, how urban spaces are produced, controlled, and contested by different class and political forces. Varga examines events and locations in a crucial period in the formation of the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, the Progressive Era, and describes how reformers sought to shape the behavior and experiences of its inhabitants by manipulating the built environment. But those inhabitants had plans of their own, and thus ensued a struggle over the very spaces- public and private, commercial and personal- in which they lived. Varga insightfully considers the interactions between human actors, the built environment, and the natural landscape, and suggests how the production of and struggle over space influence what we think and how we live. In the process, he raises incisive questions about the meaning of community, citizenship, and democracy itself.

Excerpt

On April 23, 2008, two men, David Daloia and James O'Hare, were cleared in a New York City court of all criminal charges in a case involving felony fraud, a dead body, and an obscure 1954 Department of Health law requiring burial or incineration following “a reasonable time” after death. in a case that delighted New York City’s twin tabloids, the New York Post and the Daily News, Daloia and O’Hare had been arrested at a Pay-O-Matic check-cashing outlet for attempting to cash the Social Security check of their thendeceased friend, Virgillio Cintron. Claiming that they were unaware that Cintron had died, and having cashed checks for the incapacitated Parkinson’s victim in the past, the pair, dubbed “Dumb and Dumber” by both newspapers, had dressed Cintron’s corpse, signed his check, and wheeled his body in a desk chair from the Manhattan apartment Cintron shared with O’Hare on 52nd Street to the PayO-Matic at Ninth Avenue. the pair attracted curious onlookers, and caught the attention of a New York Police Department detective eating his lunch across from the check-cashing store. While both the Post and the Daily News played on the alleged “stupidity” of the crime, and the clear marginality of the defendants, the more staid New York Times highlighted the case as a throwback, a vestige of the old Hell’s Kitchen in the rapidly restructuring Clinton District. Charges against the pair were dropped when a coroner could not . . .

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