Much of the architecture remains, and many people live the way Jacobs suggested, but there is another population in the Village todaypoor black men who make their lives on the sidewalks by selling secondhand goods, panhandling, and scavenging books and magazines left out for recycling, and whose appearance and behavior are affronts to the sensibilities of many passersby. By now the men are known to many Village residents: Hakim Hasan, who sells "black books" and acts as an informal mentor to young men; Ishmael, Grady, Ron and Marvin, who sell magazines and other merchandise, only to have their wares thrown out by police when they leave their block to relieve themselves; Mudrick and "Joe Garbage," who sell items retrieved from the trash; Keith, who panhandles outside the ATM vestibule; and other men! Mayors scold them. Police keep after them. Businesses want them off the streets. Even liberal whites feel uneasy in their presence.
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I hung out and helped in various ways during the mid s when I was in my mid-twenties. In the process, I observed a lot of informal relationships between the business owners and the many unhoused or subsidized men mostly men and women who assumed control of the territory in the early morning hours after restaurant closure and before normal business hours.
There were essentially stages of breakage from society that different persons represented. At the bottom of the structure were the drug addicts, prostitutes, and gang members who not only avoided any affiliation with the "formal economy" of the business district, but indeed participated in antagonistic behavior toward it. But these people tended to drift through common space like ghosts, or stair climbers in an M.
Escher print. There were men who were in various states of societal discordance, but not actually anti-social - in that they did not participate in vandalism or violent crime and sought to interact with the patrons in a way resembling affiliative discourse.
In many cases, these men had experiences and perspectives that were worth sharing, for those willing to listen and able to separate the fact from fiction. It bears mentioning that any lengthy exchange almost exclusively passed between males. Females lacked some fundamental confidence to engage in any way that could be called in the parlance of Sidewalk "affiliative.
The closest to this would be the street musicians and performers in the heart of the district. But these people typically came from outside the neighborhood.
The thing that strikes me about the relationship between those who interact with the patrons of the district and the patrons themselves is that understanding, or more specifically empathy, is not reciprocal.
I found that the chapter on Conversational Analysis in which a homeless black man attempts to assert control over a middle-class white woman by using her leashed dog as a point to gain entry to conversation describes this without pointing it out or possibly being aware of noticing it at all. When interviewed away from the unhoused man, the dog-walker admits to feeling a kind of "white liberal guilt" over not knowing how to engage with another human being because of the profound divisions in socioeconomic status and race.
I doing so, the woman admits to an unwelcome bias and seeks plaintively, mutely to compensate by improving her understanding. His efforts to engage in conversation took a more conflict-oriented posture.
His idioms asserted traditional male over female control; the author calls disregard for conversational mores "interactional vandalism. I think survival strategies assume profound importance in relation to how closely one lives hand to mouth. An important fact to note about Sidewalk is that it presents a unique environment. While the author suggests alternate spaces, like Pennsylvania Station in the s and Washington Square Park, his findings of unhoused life there would be fundamentally different than his study of Sixth Avenue.
Furthermore, it is my assumption that a study of such a place, particularly Washington Square Park, might not be so fundamentally different than any other given "skid row" of New York City - or Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, or New Orleans for that matter. That said, Sidewalk is utterly fascinating from start to finish.
"Sidewalk" by Mitchell Duneier
Duneier, a sociologist who has taught at the University of Wisconsin and the University of California at Santa Barbara, approaches Hakim Hasan, a man he has recently met who sells "black books" from a table on Sixth Avenue, to ask him how he understands his role on the street. There are other moments of peculiar disjunction, as when one homeless man who usually sleeps in a subway tunnel observes to Duneier that the quality of Architectural Digest has gone downhill since its purchase by Condi Nast. But the presence of someone like Hasan, an erudite thinker who voluntarily dropped out of the formal economy to work on the street, helped Duneier understand that the world of sidewalk vending was a highly complex socioeconomic sphere with its own rules, hierarchies and sense of order. In bringing that world to his readers with tremendous humility and integrity, Duneier has written what is sure to become a contemporary classic of urban sociology. Over the course of the five years Duneier spent observing and even working on "the blocks" as the vendors term their desirable stretch of Village sidewalk , he developed a different view. In addition to booksellers like Hasan, whose trade is generally aboveboard, there are magazine vendors like Marvin and Ron, a team who go through recycling bins searching out recent issues of desirable titles to sell although the selling is legal, the scavenging technically is not. There are men who sometimes panhandle and sometimes "lay shit out" -- spread miscellaneous salvaged or stolen merchandise on the ground which is not legal.