Emerging public spaces in marginalized urban places: The political economy of community gardens in Buffalo, NY
Knigge, LaDona G
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The creation of community gardens in urban areas is a common, community-based strategy for the temporary reuse of vacant lots that are laid bare by the demolition of deteriorated and dilapidated buildings in declining urban neighborhoods. This research focuses on the ways in which the local, everyday spatial activities of urban community members intersect and overlap with social, economic, and cultural aspects of the surrounding neighborhood to create places of community where people from diverse backgrounds can come together, claiming and defining the vacant spaces within their neighborhood, creating a respite in the urban landscape through their community gardening activities. The study asks in what ways are community gardeners individually and collectively producing new forms of public space through spatial and social practices associated with community gardening, and how do those interactions relate to civic engagement, empowerment, and citizenship. Additionally, the study concerns the relationship between the local, everyday spatial practices of community gardeners and processes of uneven development at the local scale, and the ways that they intersect with larger structural forces of globalization, neoliberal policies, economic restructuring, and welfare retrenchment. The methodological goals of this research project, which uses a selection of qualitative and quantitative methods, including GIS, exploratory data analysis, and visualization, are to provide the framework for integrating ethnographic research methods, quantitative research, and GIS. This project seeks to demonstrate that qualitative and quantitative data can be integrated in complementary ways through the use of GIS and visualization techniques at the level of analysis to detect patterns and themes in order to recursively build theory grounded in data using the urban vacant lot community gardens within the City of Buffalo, New York as a study site. The study highlights the importance of public space in a political climate that is intently set on devolution and privatization and devolution, and the ways that community gardening organizations are filling a variety of roles that are well beyond the scope of community gardening, including the provision of emergency and social services and engagement in local, community-based economic development activities.