A paper presented at the “Small Cities in the 21st Century” mini-conference, in the annual meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society, Baltimore, Maryland, February 23, 2018:


Urban Lift-off Amid the Rural Amenity Economy:
Riverfront Cities and the “Brooklynization” of the Hudson Valley

by Leonard Nevarez
Vassar College



What futures and fortunes await small cities in an era of metropolitan restructuring, creative economies, and new modes of consumption and leisure? This paper considers the case of New York’s Hudson Valley, located just to the north of New York city’s traditional suburban hinterland. Adopting a regional analysis, I examine the Hudson Valley’s demographic, economic, and cultural adaptations to the metropolitan restructuring emanating from New York City. New sources of population growth and municipal prosperity in the Hudson Valley reveal the significance of a rural amenity economy supported by “Brooklyners” and other New York metro area residents. As visitors and in-migrants, these Brooklyners — predominantly white, educated, native-born, and 35-54 years old — bring household wants/needs and discretionary income that fuel consumption in Hudson Valley real estate, tourism, and resurgent agriculture. This process of “Brooklynization” highlights divergent paths for the Hudson Valley’s five small riverfront cities, all of which share similar amenities and housing stock. Small cities that prosper benefit from NYC “buzz” over their small town feel, proximity to rural landscape, and opportunities for consuming culture, cuisine, and agriculture. Small cities that don’t, including Poughkeepsie (historically the Hudson Valley’s primary city), are incorporated into new immigrant flows and other global processes that go less celebrated in the creative economy. The paper underscores the importance of a contextualist and regional analysis on small city revitalization.


Download the paper here.