A NEIGHBORHOOD IN TRANSITION: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF LENOX HILL

WINNIE HAZOU, Fordham University

Abstract

Social change may be manifested in urban patterning. Neighborhood change in New York City has historically reflected broader societal phenomena such as major waves of immigration. Urban sub-areas have acquired distinctive characteristics as residents with similar ethnic traits increased in numbers in particular sectors, and as the result of the subsequent growth of facilities there which met their particular needs. In one area of New York City, Lenox Hill, the process of neighborhood change has involved the invasion and succession of educated, young, unmarried persons of no single ethnic identification, and there has been a proliferation of facilities to meet their needs. This area has evolved into a distinctive sub-area. The present research was undertaken in an attempt to understand the dialectical process involved in this change.^ The study was motivated by a desire to (1) highlight neighborhood change in a particular urban area, and (2) underscore the interplay of geographic space and personal values in residential choice. Lenox Hill appeared to be perceived as a desirable residential locality in spite of the high cost of living there and the resulting financial sacrifice for those residents who had moderate incomes. It was suggested by the researcher that the homogeneity of the residents of Lenox Hill might not be based on class variables alone, although it was acknowledged that these influence values. Social class as a distinct category is too broad to provide explanation in and of itself in a complex society. Sub-groups are founded on the basis of special interests and values, and distinctive lifestyles which are a consequence of values can be facilitated in particular urban localities.^ The researcher suggested that the values which many residents in Lenox Hill shared were influenced in part by the 1960s youth subcultural movement which emanated on college campuses. This presumption was based on the fact that census study showed that 34 percent of the residents were aged twenty-five to forty-five and 30 per cent were college graduates. Urban adaptation of graduates may be facilitated by their residential proximity, especially if the graduates' lifestyles include behavior patterns which reflect previously acquired subcultural values. Thus it was felt that societal phenomena other than social class could be of influence in residential patterning.^ Two models were employed for the acquisition of information on this area. The first, a social area analysis model, analyzed Lenox Hill in terms of the socio-economic status, lifestyle, and segregation of the residents as a group, and delineated the change from 1950 to 1970. The second, a community study model, observed the same phenomena, but analyzed the local situation in terms of friendship patterns, symbolic meanings, attitudes and values through observation and personal interviews of a sample of the residents. The demographic data showed that the social rank and urbanization indexes were very high for Lenox Hill when compared with other localities. The interview data suggested a homogeneity of lifestyles, attitudes and values. Many of these values were similar to the subcultural values of the youth subcultural movement of the 1960s.^ Based on the data, therefore, it seems a valid conclusion that individualized lifestyles can motivate residential choices, and such lifestyles can be based on values derived from social phenomena other than "class" or "ethnicity." ^

Subject Area

Social structure

Recommended Citation

HAZOU, WINNIE, "A NEIGHBORHOOD IN TRANSITION: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF LENOX HILL" (1980). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8020063.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8020063

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