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What Shopping Local Really Means for Cities

The authors of Global Cities, Local Streets make a case for preserving small-scale retail.
Orchard Street on the Lower East Side teems with shoppers in 1975.
Orchard Street on the Lower East Side teems with shoppers in 1975.Jerry Mosey/AP

In the few short months that I’ve lived in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, two new bars have opened within a block of my apartment. The neighborhood, once notorious for violent crime, is in the midst of what The New York Times describes as a “renaissance.” New restaurants, cafés, and boutiques draw people from all over the borough, mostly to one street: Franklin Avenue.

“The shopping and commercial activity on a street, whether it’s done by locals or not, really defines how we understand the changes taking place in a neighborhood,” says Phil Kasinitz, a sociology professor at the CUNY Graduate Center. Kasinitz, along with Sharon Zukin of the CUNY Graduate Center and Xiangming Chen of Trinity College, is the author of the new book Global Cities, Local Streets: Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai (Routledge, $32).