Inside the empire: Ethnography of a global citadel in New York

Smithsimon, G.

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Smithsimon, G. (2010). Inside the empire: Ethnography of a global citadel in New York. Urban Studies, 47(4), 699–724.

For Friedmann and Wolff, the citadel's physical form—physically defended enclaves in the global city—shapes relations between citadels and outsiders. Subsequent work claims that the designs of citadels produce simulated community life, exclude the city and sanitise public spaces. However, such claims have been based on relatively brief observations. This ethnography assesses the impact of design by examining the quintessential citadel of Battery Park City, in New York City, while the community mobilised against plans for a highway tunnel bordering their community during redevelopment of the neighbouring World Trade Center site. Community life is robust. However, the influence of the physical design is borne out in previously unrecognised ways: residents are identified as a crucial new constituency promoting exclusivity in the global city.

Main finding
While a significant amount of organizing against the West Street redevelopment proposal was online, public space was key to a successful opposition movement. These findings suggest that while these public spaces may be inaccessible to non-residents, they serve a political function for resident activists. The author argues that the socio-economic homogeneity of Battery Park City, along with the neighborhood's physical exclusivity, served as a symbolic identity that propelled community organizing against the potential accessibility the West Street project would create.

Description of method used in the article
The author conducted observations at formal meetings, community events, and public spaces, interviewed residents, Battery Park City Authority employees, city planners, and activists, polled residents for opinions, and reviewed of the local paper, the Battery Park City Broadsheet.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories