Monday, November 30, 2015

Social Capital: The Missing Link;

Teacher giving a lesson
Bruce Cummins for U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons
Hello Everyone:

It is a sunny but chilly Monday for yours truly and Monday means new thoughts for the week.

Today we look at the role that segregation plays in the social capital of neighborhood.  Before we get going with an article by one of our favorite people, Richard Florida, is titled "The Missing Ling Between Diversity and Community" for CityLab yours truly needs to define what social capital and how it works.  According to, "The central premise of social capital is that social networks have value.  Social capital refers to the collective value of all 'social networks'...."  How does social capital work?  Again, according to, "The term social capital emphasizes not just warm and cuddly feelings, but a wide variety of quite specific benefits that flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks.  Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and-at least sometimes-for bystanders as well."  The question is, how does this apply to neighborhoods?

Social Capital diagram
Social capital is the missing link between community and diversity.  Diversity is a great thing for a community.  It can bring together people with different backgrounds, levels of education, and skills in order to drive innovation and economic growth.  Richard Florida writes that sometimes "...diversity can at times be stymied by the sorting of different groups into separate areas, undermine the very mixing required for those things to happen."  In other words, self-segregation can short circuit the very mechanisms required for creativity and economic growth.

Downtown New Orleans
The intersection at Canal and St. Charles Streets
In 2014, Mr. Florida wrote about a study published that by sociologist Zachary Neal and psychologist Jennifer Watling Neal, which concluded "...that diversity leads to just this kind of troubling separation and self-segregation."The study, "Making Big Communities Small," (, accessed Nov. 30, 2015), the authors focus on how this situation can be remedied, beginning with the useful and important-sometimes forgotten-distinction made by Robert Putnam about the two types of social capital.

One type of social capital is "bonding," formed by very close relationships of a tight-knit community.  This kind of social capital can result in self-segregation.  The other type of social capital is "bridging."  As the name implies, different groups reach out across a metaphoric bridge toward other groups, building connections with one another.  In his own research with Brian Knudsen, Mr. Florida concluded "...that bonding social capital is not only negatively associated with diversity, but with innovation as well.  In contrast, bridging social capital is associated with with both diversity and higher levels of innovation."  In most cities, one form of social capital or another is more common than the other.  Essentially, they are either tightly bonded but homogenous and not innovative, or  "socially disconnected, diverse, and innovative."  However, as the authors succinctly put it, "the real challenge for out cities is how to enable both types of social capital and the good things that flow from them."

Computer-simulated communities

To understand how to enable both kinds of social capital and all the good things that come of it, the authors developed an agent-based computer models to mimic the relationship between communal behavioral characteristic and it potential for both types of social capital.  The models allowed Zachary Neal to discover how individual behaviors, such as bonding with people with like characteristics, connect to a larger social phenomena.  Mr. Neal ran over 50,000 individual simulations.

The chart on the left presents the results of these simulation across the spectrum of diversity and segregation.  Mr. Florida writes, "There are communities across all patterns-some have high diversity and high segregation, others are low on both."  The grey and blacks houses symbolized two kinds of people that mirror a variety of demographic groups: race, religion, ethnicity, social class.  Further, the houses are interspersed in quadrants with low segregation, but appear to be clustered to together in ares with high segregation, particularly in areas with both high segregation and diversity. However, what happened when Mr. Neal added elements of bonding and bridging social capital?

Elements of Bonding and Bridging Social Capital
The diagram on the left-hand side demonstrates what happened when Zachary Neal added elements of bridging and bonding social capital.  The panel on the left presents a network with "high levels of diversity and segregation."  The relationships in this community are formed by proximity and by homophily ("the tendency of people with others like themselves").  Fundamentally, despite the highly diverse nature of this manner of community, segregated communities possess an abundance of bonding social capital but lack the capital to forge ties between the groups.

By comparison, the network with lower levels of diversity and segregation (the middle panel) has weaker levels of proximity and homophile but an abundance of bridging social capital.  While this network is relatively homogenous, the study describes it as an integrated community where nearly everyone (same or different, near or far) is considered a potential contact.(, accessed Nov. 30, 2015)

Finally, the panel on the right of the above diagram presents high levels of diversity and segregation with strong proclivities toward proximity and homophile.  Richard Florida writes, "Unlike the other networks, this one allows for both bridging and bonding social capital."  Zachary Neal writes, Although residents in this community tend to form bonds within their own groups, thereby facilitating the sharing of information and diverse perspectives.  Mr. Neal refers to these communities with a lot of bonding and bridging social capital as small-world networks.

"Community potential for social capital"

Creating small-world networks

Zachary Neal proceeded to look for where these these small-world connections could form under experimental conditions (diversity, segregation, homophily, proximity), presented in the heat maps on the left.  The darker tones represent locations with a greater potential for creating social capital.

Richard Florida admits, "Although the heat maps are a bit complicated, their findings are relatively straightforward."  First and unsurprisingly, the communities presenting weak behavioral tendencies have less potential to create social capital.  However, surprisingly,  the lesser potential to form social capital is found in communities with higher level of diversity.  Segregation appears to be less of an issue-the ability to create social capital is fairly equal in high and low-segregation communities-albeit areas with greater levels of segregation and either strong homophily or proximity do have greater potential.

City street
In an email to Mr. Florida, Mr. Neal wrote,

At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive that segregation is important for social capital...But, it is important to remember that segregation has many faces.  The pernicious racial residential segregation that has plagued American cities for more than a century is one form, but so too is the ethnic enclave that helps immigrants find a foothold and the historically black colleges and universities that incubate some of the country's best students and scholars.

The ideal community

All of this leaves us wondering what is the ideal community for developing both kinds of social capital?  Richard Florida gives us the answer, "Ultimately, diverse, segregated communities with a strong (but not absolute) tendency toward homophily are the most conducive to social capital development, in even simpler terms, the ideal community is big and diverse, but 'feel[s] small and familiar.'"  Given these conditions, residents will gravitate toward other residents with similar characteristics, creating a sense of belonging and security, still open to different perspectives, promoting creativity, and new relationships.

Naturally, the ideal "small-world network" only exists in a computer model, not in real life.  Richard Florida writes, "As Neal's previous research has shown, it's rarely the case that the most diverse neighborhoods are also the most cohesive."  Be that as it may, diversity and community may seem at odds by themselves, "The study, "Making Big Communities Small" presents evidence that "...there are ways to make room for bridging social capital without sacrificing the benefits of a tight-knit community."

Zachary Neal has the last word in his email, the city is a patchwork of neighborhoods and districts, each staked out by a particular demographic group, or earmarked of a particular activity, that give it its unique character.  But, in a vibrant city-the kind of place that [sociologist Robert] Park, or later Jane Jacobs so deeply valued-there are many different kinds of patches, and their boundaries are messy and permeable.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Map of California Counties
Hello Everyone:

California.  The Golden State.  California is looking and feeling a little more golden these days.  The state's economy is on the upswing and its voters are a tad more optimistic than voters throughout the rest of the United States.  However, Michael Finnegan, in his recent article for the Los Angeles Times titled "'Tale of two Californias': Coastal voters are upbeat on economy while inland resident anxious," tells us that in a recent survey taken by the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times ( this all is sunny in California mood is mostly centered along the upscale coastal counties.  The inland counties are more financially anxious.  It literally is a "Tale of two Californias."

The survey was conducted by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times using the online poll SurveyMonkey.  Two thousand voters in California and 3,035 across the United States were asked to respond to questions about the state's economic future.  The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent statewide and 2.5 percent for the national sample.

Voters in the coastal counties expressed more certainty about their personal finances over the next few years.  However, the mood grows is more somber in the interior regions: Inland Empire and Central Vally, where less than half expressed positive feelings about the future of their financial situation.  The rosier outlook was particularly high in the San Francisco Bay Area where, no surprise, the technology industry's enormous growth has created equally enormous wealth.  Mr. Finnegan writes, "Despite the region's much-discussed high cost of living, the share of people in the Bay Area who said they were 'very hopeful' about their own economic futures was double what was in the Central Valley."

Central Valley, California agricultural rows 
It is erroneous to think that California is immune to the same economic stressors that has driven voters nationwide to embrace out-of-the-mainstream presidential nominee candidates who call for broad change.  Mr. Finnegan writes, "Overall, 60% of California voters said they were dissatisfied with the state's economic situation."  Many are finding it hard just to get by: "57% said they were barely maintaining their standard of living, and an additional 19% said they were falling behind financially."  Perhaps the most striking, was the difference in the way Coastal and Inland Californians visualized their economic futures.

Sonoma Coast, Gerstle Cove
Quoting USC Poll Director and head of the school's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics Dan Schnur, Mr. Finnegan writes, This is a tale of two California.  Inland voters were the most dissatisfied with the direction of the state's economy.  Specifically, "...78% reported they were dissatisfied.  Close behind was the Central Valley, where more than two-thirds were displeased."  The Great Recession took a greater toll on the inland areas than the coastal areas.  However, all is not doom and gloom in the Inland Empire and Central Valleys.

According to Christopher Thornberg, founding part of Beacon Economics, ...recent job growth in most inland areas has been strong...However,

The lasting that most workers in inland regions are less educated, have fewer job skills and earn lower wages than those along the coast.  Mr. Thornberg told Michael Finnegan, We can talk about job growth all we want, but the real issue, I think, is going to be a function of education...This is not about regional economic conditions.  This is about high-skill workers versus low-skill workers.

Silicon Beach infographic

The anecdotal evidence supports Christopher Thornberg's claim.  Among those surveyed, "..33% of voters with a college education said they were getting ahead financially, while just 13% of those with a high school degree or less said they were.  Conversely, just 28% of college-educated voters said they were falling behind financially, but 25% of those with no more than a high school degree said they were sliding backward."  The difference outlook was echoed in overall satisfaction: "In coastal regions, 44% of voters were satisfied with California's economy, inland just 30%"

The economic outlooks were also split along party lines.  Mr. Finnegan observed, "Democrats were only slightly more likely than Republicans to say they were getting ahead financially-about 1 in 5 Republicans and 1 in 4 Democrats."  Regardless of party affiliation, an overwhelming majority of those surveyed said they were able to maintain their standard of living or getting financially ahead.  Conversely, 1 in 5 on both sides of the aisle said they were financially falling behind.  Independents were more likely to acknowledge they were falling behind.  To give you a numeric break down of registered Republicans to Democrats in California: the GOP makes up 28% of the state's voters, Democrats 43.2%, and those who decline to state a preference compose 23.6% of registered voters in the state.

Inland Empire map
The survey also revealed that Caucasian voters in California were far more pessimistic about the state's overall economic situation than other demographic groups-almost two-thirds expressed dissatisfaction.  However, 1 out of 5 African America, Latino, and Asian voters said the state's economy was not doing well.  Michale Finnegan suggests, "One reason black and Latino voters may be more satisfied even though they rated their current economic conditions lower is that they were more likely to express hope about the future."  Specifically, "Among black Californians, 62% said they were hopeful about their economic futures, and among Latinos, 57% said so."  Only 48 percent of Caucasian voters expressed optimism, while the remaining 52 percent were more pessimistic about their financial future.  Race aside, women were more downbeat than men about the state's economy.  Almost two-thirds of women surveyed expressed a less than golden outlook, while 56 percent of men were less optimistic about their prospects.  However, men expressed more hope for brighter personal financial prospects than women.

State highway junction
Los Angeles, California
Globalization was a big source of stress among California's voters.  Mr. Finnegan writes, "Just 23% said they thought it was making their personal financial situation easier; 42% thought it was making it harder."  Anxiety about globalization was split along age groups.  Approximately half of those surveyed, 50 years  or older, said that globalization was putting a strain on their finances.  While only a third of younger voters believed that it was straining their personal finances.  

Technology was viewed more favorably among voters.  The survey revealed "...56% said tech''s increasing importance to the economy had their personal financial situation easier, and just 20% said it had made it harder."  The Inland Empire was the sole region were less than half of the vote viewed the technology revolution in a positive light.  Overall statewide, voters in the 50 to 64 age bracket were less enthusiastic about technology.  One out of four said "...its growing importance to the economy was making their financial harder.  The larger number of middle-aged voters saying technology was making their situation harder contrasted with younger voters, who face less of a challenge in adapting to new technologies, and older voters who have largely left the workforce."

The foothills above Bradbury in the San Gabriel Valley
Photograph by Jonathan P. Bell
In total, California voters had a more positive view of technology's influence than the rest of the country.  The numbers were "...56% said its growing importance was making their personal financial situation easier; nationwide, just 47% felt that way."  The wealth generated by the tech industry, for the Bay Area, has provided a demonstratively brighter economic outlook than the majority of state.  Michael Finnegan notes, "While 33% of Bay Area voters said they were getting ahead financially, just 17% felt that way in the Central Valley, 18% in the Inland Empire, 20% in Los Angeles County, and 22% in Orange and San Diego counties."

Throughout most of California, 20 percent of voters (1 in 5) stated they were falling behind financially; in the San Francisco area only 14 percent reported they were losing ground.  Across the state, 57 percent said they had enough just to continue their standard of living; only 50 percent reported the same in the Bay Area.  Although 19 percent of voters across the state said they were optimistic about the future of their personal finances, 24 percent of Bay Area resident shared that view.  Dan Schnur told Michael Finnegan, Because you're looking at a sector that is enjoying such great economic's not surprising that the people who live their are much more optimistic about their economic prospects going forward.

Whether or not California lives up to its nickname, "The Golden State," depends on where you live.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Winning The Peace Through Urbanization

Mali trooper leads a hostage to safety
Bamako, Mali
Hello Everyone:

Brainy blogger is back from a five-day karmic re-alignment retreat and a little dismayed to find that #historichappyhour has left the place a mess.  Nevertheless, the hashtag was appropriately remorseful, cleaned up the food and beverages.  Now we can return to the business at hand, the plague of "fragile states" and how cities can provide a cure.

The horrifying events that transpired in Paris on Friday November 13, served as a very loud and clear reminder that "fragile states" such as Syria are frequently hotbeds for violence.  In his article for CityLab titled, "How Stronger Cities Could Help Fix Fragile Nations," Richard Florida observes, "These states are not only less developed and less affluent-with lower levels of education and far lower lower levels of tolerance-they are also the least urbanized."  Syria and like nation-states need more than military intervention and national security initiatives, which only serve a short-term strategy.  Mr. Florida suggests that "part of the long term strategy to revive these dysfunctional states must focus on city-building and urbanization."

Damascus, Syria (?)
Ammar Abdullah/REUTERS
Before going any further, we need to define what is a fragile state.  The Fund for Peace  (; accessed Nov. 23, 2015) publishes an annual index of nation-states, around the world, assessing risk factors; based on articles and reports that are processed through the organization's CAST Software gleaned from electronically available sources.  Every year, the organization publishes a downloadable index based on dozens of key indicators, including: social and economic stability, decline, human rights, and intellectual flight, for 178 countries. (Ibid)  This should not be a real surprise because as Mr. Florida points out, "The most fragile areas-mainly in Africa and the Middle East-are highlighted in shades of red."  See map below left.

"Fragile States Index: Fragility in the World 2015"
Currently, the war-torn and focal point for terrorist cells, Syria, ranks number nine on the list of most fragile nation-states.  The report states,

Syria continued to crumble as civil war raged on and Da'esh, or the Islamic State, added a new brutal dimension to the conflict.  (Ibid)

Syria joins Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen,  Congo, and Chad in the "high alert" category.  Richard Florida writes, "Even less stable are the four African nations of Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, which all make up the 'very high alert' category."  In total, 38 nations are listed as either "alert, high alert" or "very high alert" based on levels of instability.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Finland was the sole nation-state to qualify under the heading of "very sustainable."  A group of 14 European and Scandinavian countries such as: Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands earned a rating of "sustainable."  Eleven other European nations, the United States, and United Kingdom qualified as "highly stable."  However, what are the character defining features of the world's fragile nation-states and what are their indicators?

La Pyramide Market
Photograph by Iwan Baan
Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

To find out the answers to these questions, Richard Florida and his colleague at the Martin Prosperity Institute, Charlotte Melander, studied the correlations between the FSI and a host of demographic, social, and economic traits of more than hundred nations.  As always, Mr. Florida added this caveat, "I remind readers that these correlations do not necessarily imply causation, but rather and association between variables."  Be that as it may, the findings support the role of urbanization and city building, as well as other factors, in the fragility of nations.

It should not be a surprise that world's most delicate nation-states are poorer and less developed.  Mr. Florida writes, "The Fragile States Index is negatively associated with economic output per capita (-.88), the Global Competitiveness [sic] Index by World Economic (-.82), and the UN's Human Development Index (-.87).  It is also negatively associated with levels of education and human capital (-.80)."  Fragile States also tend to be less tolerant.  Specifically, "The Fragile States Index is negatively correlated with a combined measure of tolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities and gays and lesbians (-.74)."

Mosul, Iraq

Additionally, nation-state instability goes hand-in-hand with lower rates of urbanization (a -.7 correlation).  Richard Florida writes, "The less urbanized a state, the smaller and less functional its cities, and the more fragile and insecure it tends to be."

As the United States and its European contemplate military action in the Middle East, it is necessary to consider the merit of further intervention.  Richard Florida writes, "Military intervention by its very nature tends to damage and destroy large cities, disperse population, and lead to a vicious cycle of less urbanization and and even greater instability, with Syria being the most obvious case in point today."  The point being is that is that it is not enough just to "blast a country back to the Stone Age," you need to have a strategy to win the peace.  The strategy for winning the peace is city-regional building.  Perhaps, the powers that be need to go back on look at the way Europe and Asia following World War II.  Granted, the motivation behind was politics but the outcome was countries that moved away from the conditions that bred instability and extremism toward more stable conditions.  However, city-regional building requires long-term commitment and patience.  Something to consider.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rock On Troubadour

Doug Weston's Troubadour
West Hollywood, California
Hello Everyone:

After an emotionally draining few days contemplating global terrorism, brainy blogger needed a very long weekend and decided to turn things over to #historichappyhour.  The hashtag was all too willing (maybe a little too willing) to take over the post for the day.  The hashtag thought about what to write and decided to profile another one of Los Angeles's venerable rock clubs, The Troubadour in West Hollywood.  Hashtag dug around the archives and came up with a May 2013 article for WeHoville by Chad Zachary Mulchin titled "WeHo's Biggest Little Club: Troubadour Through the Years."  While the hashtag may not be so great at keeping up-to-date, you have give it points for being clever.

Rod Stewart performing at The Troubadour
Photography by Classic Concert Photos
The Troubadour hosted some of the most iconic rock stars during the months of April and May 2013.  Rod Stewart performed songs off his album Time as well as his classic hits.  Depeche Mode played a ten song set, including their 1986 buried treasure "But Not Tonight."  May 11-12, 2013 saw Tom Jones (Google him) play to a sold out house, debuting his album Spirit in the Room. (; accessed Nov. 18, 2015).  All impressive names that recall the club's storied history, beginning with its founder, Doug Weston.

Doug Weston (d. 1999), the club's founder, was instrumental in launching the careers of rock and folk singers such as Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, and Joan Baez.  In his 1999 obituary for the Los Angeles Times, former Times rock critic Robert Hilburn said,

Doug Weston was arguably the godfather of the Southern California singer-songwriter movement in the late '60s and early 70s, someone whose unshakable belief in the inspirational power of music made his club both a showcase and meeting hall for much of the best young talent of a generation. (; accessed Nov. 18, 2015)

Nina Simone
During the late sixties and early seventies, the Troubadour was considered to be the most important showcase for contemporary folk and rock talent. (Ibid).  An appearance at the club could almost guarantee major sales for new and emerging artists. (Ibid)  The roster of talent that graced the stage reads like a who's who of folk, rock, and comedy.  The list is staggeringly impressive: Lenny Bruce, the Byrds, Judy Collins, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, and Steve Martin just to name a few luminaries.

Chad Zachary Mulchin spoke to the Christine Karayan, the daughter of the current owner Ed Karayan, she told Mr. Mulchin:

When I met him he was definitely eccentric...I think everybody in the music industry is eccentric to a point.  He was definitely more flamboyant than the average person of that age.  Back in 1957, there was no place for musicians and comedians and people of that sort, who were inclined to congregate, to demonstrate their craft and have a community-so he started The Troubadour.

Richard Pryor
The Troubadour was an incubator.  It nurtured some of music and comedy's most influential talent.  Mr. Mulchin writes, "Weston believed in fostering unknown talent, and then watching it reciprocate in the coming years.  He even added a unique artist agreement called 'loyalty contracts,' which obliged up and coming acts to return and perform for the same 'beginner's fee.'"  Ms. Karayan added, If they got big, they would come back and do a show.

When it came to booking talent, Mr. Weston was fearless.  He had no compunction about booking controversial, dare we say blacklisted, acts such as Lenny Bruce, "who was arrest in 1961 for using the then-obscenity 'shuck' on stage."  You thought people are too easily offended today?  Ms. Karayan continued,

Back then you couldn't say the things you can say now...Even though it was a First Amendment scenario, it didn't hold up.  I believe he got handcuffed on stage.

Sorry, YouTube was not around back then.  Computers were still in the Stone Age.

James Taylor
During the sixties, Doug Weston continued to introduce audiences to new talent, highlighting such Google-worthy bands and singers as The Byrds (they met at the club's open mic night), Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young (then a solo singer), and James Taylor, as well as iconic comedians Richard Pryor and Steve Martin.  Christine Karayan told Mr. Mulchin,

It was my understanding that a lot of them lived up in Laurel Canyon.  They would come down and just hang out, hoping to get to play and be a part of something bigger...That's when the 'Monday Night Hootenanny' started.  Doug would have them audition and if they had 'it' they got to perform.  It became a place where A&R people would go and literally, sign people of the stage.

The Troubadour continued to flourish during the seventies, featuring a performance by Elton John.  Ms, Karayan noted, He played his first U.S. shows at the Troubadour, but he didn't hang out here, obviously; he's a British artist.  The era also witnessed memorable shows by other Google-wrothy act such as Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joel, Van Morrison, The Pointer Sisters, Miles Davis, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan.  The comedy duo Cheech and Chong were discovered at the club.   chad Mulchin writes, "In 1974, troublemakers John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were ejected for heckling The Smothers Brothers."

Elton John c.1970
Christine Karayan lamented,

Unfortunately there's not a lot of old memorabilia from that era to support the stories, I think a lot of it is word of mouth...Our goal with the Troubadour is to always be perpetuating those memories, whether it's little bands in the corner or the next big thing.  There nothing like a live show.  Whatever genre of music you're into, it's always a moment in time.

Fans and followers of Southern California rock icons Eagles owe a debt of gratitude to the club.  Founding band members Glenn Frey and Don Henley met at the club long before they penned the immortal song "Hotel California."  Ms. Karayan picks up the story,

The Eagles never performed at the Troubadour.  They did as different bands, but never as the Eagles.  They met at our front bar and decided to form.

James Taylor was also a long-time patron.  Ms. Karayan observed, He hung out a lot at the Troubadour...He lived up the street in Laurel Canyon.  He was a regular.  I think he got his break when Carly Simon had him sit in with her.  They later married.  Tom Waits also owes much to the club.  Ms. Karayan said,

Story goes, he would come to the Hootenanny all the time, begging to get the opportunity, and one day somebody fell out or got sick and Doug side 'Take your guitar up there and play.'  He was signed on the spot...

Linda Ronstadt c.1976
Humorist and alleged "degenerate writer" Charles Bukowski met his future wife Linda Lee Beagle at read held in 1976.  Christine Karayan told Chad Mulchin,

It was a breeding ground for anyone who was creative...It wasn't a velvet rope scenario.  It didn't matter who you were, ultimately you all got treated the same.  You can wait like everyone else, you did wait like everyone else.  A&R people, they waited, Doug didn't care.

Doug Weston's unyielding style of management was partially responsible for the establishment of The Roxy (a future post) in 1973.  Ms. Karayan attributed The Roxy Doug Weston's downfall.

That attributed to his...[Elmer Valentine]. Lou Adler and David Gefffen opened up theory because they had enough of Doug's 'eccentric ways.  Either they didn't feel respected or those contracts made the artists feel like indentured servants.  So, they opened a venue to do their way.

Duran Duran, early eighties
Doug Weston lost control over the Troubadour in the early eighties.  He took on Ed Karayan as business partner to help him get back in the black.  Ms. Karayan described this period,

The glam hair metal phase, that's when I believe the Troubadour lost favor for a little while.  The pay to play to play (period)...All those early new wave acts, like Duran Duran and The Damned were playing the Roxy and the Whiskey because the Troubadour was stuck in this weird time warp.

In short, pay to play meant that emerging bands had to pay a venue to let them play live.

Be that as it may, the "weird phase" still brought many now-legendary bands.  Metallica made its debut in 1982 and Warrant followed them in 1984.  Perhaps the most (in)famous debut was Guns N Roses who premiered its album Appetite for Destruction in 1985.  Less than a year later, the band returned for an encore show.  This time David Geffen was in the audience, signed the band following their set, and the rest is rock and roll history.

Pearl Jam, nineties

In the early nineties, a decision was made to change the way the club did business.  Christine Karayan described it,

Around '92, '93 there was a conscious decision that a change must be made...Not necessarily returning to it former glory but at least a reputable glory.  It was at this point they made a brief alliance with Goldenvoice (a concert promotion and ticket sales corporation).  It was a long uphill battle for a long time.  

During the nineties bands such as Pearl Jam, No Doubt, and Radiohead played the Troubadour.  Lance Hubp came on board and kind of took it and ran with it, Ms. Karayan told Chad Mulchin.  In 1999, Doug Weston passed away from pneumonia.  The same year Johnny Cash performed one his final shows with June Carter at the club.

Queens of the Stone Age
The new millennium brought even more insanely amazing performances, including White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, The Strokes, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Joe Strummer, the co-founder of one the seminal punk bands The Clash, played his final Los Angeles show at the Troubadour.

Christine Karayan fondly remembered Joe Strummer,

Joe Strummer was one of my absolute favorites...He was the most charismatic person I have ever met.  Super down to earth, kind to anyone.  Before the shows he asked if he could come to the venue and hang out, just to get the vibe.  He would come down, have a drink, meet the fans.  He was a genuine human being.  When he was on stage, his one request was that all the air must  be turned off-the word 'inferno' is an understatement.  These guys come to the show straight from the office in suits and ties.  They're drenched by the end, high-fifing each other, not one complaint.

Rock on Joe Strummer.  Rock on Troubadour.  The Troubadour continues to be one of the places to play for emerging bands.  Christine Karayan sees big things for the club's future.  #historichappyhour is looking forward to another 58 years of rock and roll history.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cuba Modern's_vanishing-modernity_architecture_nicolar-quintana_19252011?mc_cod=ed426093df&mc_eid=63d2bb8ceb

Nicolas Quintana
Hello Everyone:

The island of Cuba is home to a diverse collection of architecture-from Spanish colonial to mid-twentieth century modern.  It is the architecture of the Cuban Modern Movement that is the subject of Josef Asteinza's article for DoCoMoMo, "Cuba's Vanishing Modernity: The Architecture of Nicolas Quintana (1925-2011)," that is the subject for today's post.  The Cuban Modern Movement is illustrated in a broad collection, mostly in the capitol city of Havana and in Varadero.  Despite their high quality, recognition in Cuba and abroad, they remained threatened by neglect, lack of resources, more recently development.  The work of Cuban modernist Nicolas Quintana is a clear example of these conditions.

Varadero Yacht Club Residential Condominum
Nicolas Quintana, 1957 demolished 2014
Nicolas Quintana, the subject of a documentary that Mr. Asteinza is co-producing, was part of a generation of architects who played a major role in introducing the Modern Movement in Cuba.  His predecessors included Mario Romansch, Emilio del Junco, Antonio Quintana (no relation), Aquinas Casablanca, Max Borges Recio, Nicolas Arroyo, and Gabriela Menendez.  His contemporaries included Frank Martinez and Ricardo Porro.  These architects were part of a greater but casual cultural movement that flourished in mid-twentieth century Cuba.  With a keen sense of self-awareness, a group artists and writes meticulously explored their own history and identity while experimenting with ideas from outside Cuba.  Mr. Asteniza writes, "For many architects of that generation, there was a similar examination of Cuban colonial and vernacular architecture for its functional, esthetic, and social elements."  The mid-twentieth century architects used the visual language of the International Modern movement, transforming it into an architecture that represented this particular time, place, and people.  The exploration of the idea of Cubans or lo cuban was the driving force behind his work.

Curran House
Nicolas Quintana, 1957
Varadero, Cuba
Nicolas Quintana's search coincided with widespread urban development driven by rapid population and opportunities to put his inquiries into practice.  The end result was an amazing output of structures that mixed technical innovations, strong formal aesthetic, and functional elements.  A selection of the work, including those by Mr. Quintana, appears in DoCoMoMo's Arquitectura del Movimiento Moderno edited by Eduardo Luis Rodriquez in 2011.

Nicolas Quintana was the namesake son of a well-known architect, who co-founded the firm Moenck & Quintana with Angel Moenck.  The firm produced many notable buildings around Havana in the Eclectic style, including:Biltmore Yacht and Country Club, the Pro-Arte Musical Auditorium, and the School of Engineering and Architecture of the University of Havana.  Nicolas Quintana took over for his father in 1950 when the senior Quintana passed ed away.

Novak Cueto House
Mario Romanasch
Nicolas Quintana's career in Cuba was brief but prolific. In less than ten years he was responsible for about two dozen projects, represented Cuba at the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM IX and X), and oversaw the National Planning Board.  Most of Mr. Quintana's projects consisted of private commissions and the National Bank of Cuba.  However, his conflicts with Che Guevara and the new post-revolution bank president firmly ended his Cuban career.

Josef Asteniza  visited several of Mr. Quintana's buildings and significants sites, interviewing his former colleagues, architecture historians, preservationists, residents, and client's children.  Mr. Asteniza writes, "Many voiced their concerned about the future of his work."  The following are three of Nicolas Quintana's projects that  illustrate the condition of his work.

Alicia Blanco House
Nicolas Quintana, 1953
Collection of Nicolas Quintana
Alicia Blanco House

The Alicia Blanco House was one of Mr. Quintana's earliest projects and exhibits the influence of Le Corbusier, including the Domino Theory of construction.  All of the functions are contained within a single rectangular block except for the glass-enclosed dining room, which juts out from the main block on two pilotis.  The eave of the flat roof extends beyond the main block to provide midday shade.  The house, completed in 1953, was present at CIAM IX in Aix-en-Provence the same year.

The Blanco House has undergone some changes, specifically, "the reduction of the large glass surfaces, eliminating the sense of transparency and the accretion of the balconies, exterior stairs and other features that interrupt the original lines."  Since modernist architect frequently balances interior and exterior spaces; between detail and ensemble, the design integrity of modern movement homes is vulnerable to even the most minute modifications.  Regardless, this house is better condition than others and out of harm's way in its quiet suburban locale; still occupied by one family.

Mardonio Santiago House
Nicolas Quintana, 1956
Collection of Nicolas Quintana
Mardonio Santiago House

In 1957 Nicolas Quintana was commissioned by tobacco dealer Mardonio Santiago to design him the most modern house in Cuba.  Mr. Santiago purchased a plot of land for himself and his family in the Biltmore suburbs of western Havana.  Nicolas Quintana was basically given carte blanch with the house.  The result was "a balanced composition of formal and functional elements, articulate his ideas about the modern Cuban house."  Despite the area's zoning regulations mandating a single detached house (too American for the architect), each part of the house was arranged in a way that defined a series of private outdoor spaces.  The two primary blocks- a larger single story block for dining and entertaining; a smaller two-story block for sleeping-each feature a "boldly folded concrete roof."  The blocks are linked by a glass breezeway which separates the courtyards.  Colored glass and louvered windows provide light and air.  Added elements such as the garage and "freestanding walls that echo the geometry and dimensions of the roof complete the enclosures of the courtyard."

Mardonio Santiago House
Nicolas Quintana, 1956
Photography by Josef Asteinza, 2014

The Santiago family moved in not long after the Revolution came and forced them  out of Cuba.  Since then, the house has been home to six different families.  Over the years, it has been subdivided by the new residents.  The glass breezeway has been razed and new house was built in its place.  While the current residents are aware of the house's history, their basic housing take precedence over preservation.

Condominium Residential Yacht Club (Cabanas del Sol)

The last project on our tour through Cuban mid-century modernism is the Cabanas del Sol in Varadero, the best of Nicolas Quintana's work and the apex of the Cuban Modern
Remains of the Condominium Residential Yacht ClubNicolas Quintana, 1957
Photography by Josef Asteinza, 2014

Movement.  Sad to report that they were demolished last year.  The demolition of these focuses attention must be paid to the forces that threaten other significant buildings: economic development with little regard for cultural heritage.  This is not a problem unique to Cuba but it does highlight the plight of older building under ill-considered economic development.

The Cabanas del Sol are located on the Hicacos    Peninsula, about 140 kilometers east of Havana in Varadero, the premier tourist beach destination and primary economic engine for the island nation.  Varadero became a major source of revenue in the 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed and subsidies ended.  The area was redeveloped as ...a series of all-inclusive high-rise hotels for foreign tourists.  In the first decade of the 21st century, 11 large hotels totaling over 6,000 rooms were constructed. (Perez, Felix, 4, 2010)

Courtyard of Varadero Yacht Club Residential CondominiumNicolas Quintana, 1957 demolished 2014
Collection of Nicolas Quintana

Josef Asteniza writes, "Originally call the Condominium Residential Yacht Club, the Cabanas del Sol consist of dozens of seaside bungalows on a parcel of land between the Dupont estate and the Hotel Intercontinental." The bungalows are arranged in four staggered rows, perpendicular to the beach and main highway of Varadero.  Between each is "a central axis for cars provides parking spaces while the two parallel axes landscaped with pedestrian walkways connect the houses to each other and the beach."  There were two clubhouses: one for adults and one for children, that occupied the beachfront.  The bungalows are built from ashlar limestone; varying in size and height based on the number of bedrooms.  the flat or butterflied roofs, projecting windows with sliding glass, and hardwood louvers add a lively quality to the bungalows.

Current image of the Hotel Club Kawama
Mounck & Quintana
Varadero, Cuba
Nicolas Quintana's use of ashlar limestone is consistent with his other beach house projects in Varadero.  One notable commercial example is the Club Kawama, developed before his tenure at Mounck & Quintana.  Between 1954 and 1956, the late-Mr. Quintana added new construction to the hotel.  Mr. Quintana was found of the local pine tree and felt that the buildings in Varadero should not be taller than the pines, therefore, he proposed such an ordinance for the Master Plan of Varadero. (Quintana, 2011)  The low-slung bungalows at Casa del Sol attest to this and offer a welcome contrast to the high-rise hotels of Hicacos Peninsula.

Concerned preservation groups such as DoCoMoMo Cuba and some of the residents of the Cabanas del Sol have spearheaded efforts to save the site and nearby Hotel Internacional, built between 1949 and 1950 by the firs Mira y Rosich with Ricardo Galbis and Vicente Llarena.  In 2010, there were rumors floated, later confirmed when residents were approached with offers of reloaction, that the Ministry of Tourism planned to build a new hotel on the sites.  Some of the reasons given fro the decision to demolish the buildings "were the close proximity of the bungalows to the fragile coastline and the condition of the aging hydraulic system."  Since neither the Cabanas del Sol and the Hotel Interncional were designated cultural heritage sites, this left nothing in the way of a protection mechanism to halt demolition.  However, the Hotel Internacional will be resurrected in some form and fashion.  The construction company Bouygues Batiment International released a statement in July 2015, announcing the return of the hotel in 2018.

What Now?

Cuban and American relations are on the mend, after a fifty years of estrangement.  This change brings both promise and peril to Cuba's rich architectural legacy.  As the embargo begins to ease up, there are rays of hope for Cuba's decaying cities.  The increased tourism offers immediate revenue for short-term repairs.  While economic development is a most welcome opportunity, however, without a clear set of priorities, even this opportunity can pose a real threat to the delicate Cuban architectural heritage.  An information campaign is not enough.  The razing of Cabanas del Sol, in spite of local preservation efforts, occurred outside the media radar.  Good publicity is all well and fine but if it does not lead to conservation resources, as exemplified by the National Art School, it can led to the loss of more culturally important structures.  Josef Asteinza hopes that the United States will come to Cuba's aid in preserving its cultural heritage, create the engine for economic development, build an infrastructure, and affirm worthwhile cultural priorities.

Monday, November 16, 2015

En Mémorial

Chinese restaurant in Paris, France
Hello Everyone:

Normally yours truly does not like to leave posts unfinished, however, the tragic events in Paris, France and Beirut, Lebanon dictate that blogger momentarily set aside a post on Cuban modernism and take up another subject.  Rather than use the entire post to express the shock, anger, and disgust yours truly feels, yours truly would prefer to take up a more constructive subject.  In this case, economic segregation and inequality in Europe for today's Richard Florida article for CityLab titled, "Economic Segregation and Inequality in Europe's Cities."

One of the mythologies of European cities is that people living in places such as Paris or London enjoy a better standard of living thanks to the welfare state and the long history of social democracies. In January, Mr. Florida published an article on a study he completed with his Martin Prosperity Institute on the correlation between inequality and economic growth. (, Jan. 20, 2015)  The study looked at "...the connection between inequality and creativity juxtaposed America's low-road path-which combines high levels of creativity with high levels of inequality-with the high-road path of Scandinavian and Northern European nations, where high levels of creative competitiveness go along with with much lower levels of inequality."

Hamra Street
Beirut, Lebanon
Now, there is a new study of the thirteen top European cities including: London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Oslo, Vienna, Athens, Riga..., that analyzes the serious growth in socio-economic inequality and economic segregation.  The study, titled Socio-Economic Segregation in European Capital Cities (, is part of a broader study on socio-economic segregation in Europe, which follows socio-economic inequality and segregation according to key markets of class including: income, occupational status, and education in these cities during a ten year study period-2001-11.

"The relationship between income inequality
and residential segregation"

The graph on the left is from the study and demonstrates "the relationship between income inequality (measured but the Gini coefficient) and residential segregation (measured by the index of dissimilarity) for 12 of these cities."  In short, both economic segregation and income inequality simultaneously rose for 9 out of 12 cities.  The exceptions to the simultaneous growth in economic segregation and inequality were Oslo, Amsterdam, and Tallinn.  Oslo and Tallinn showed economic growth but inequality did not; Amsterdam presented some decline in economic segregation during the study period due in part to middle-income families moving from inexpensive social housing developments.  Therefore, while economic segregation is often paired with inequality, this is not always the case.  The exception is Stockholm which mixes high rates of economic segregation and fairly low rates of inequality.

Gran Via
Madrid, Spain
When it comes to Europe's most economically segregated cities, Madrid beats London for the top spot.  Mr. Florida writes, "The study attributes this spike to the economic crisis in 2008 (which further cemented the locations of poor and wealth residents) and the late onset of gentrification."  In short, socio-economic segregation is growing in the Spanish capital and increasing in the suburban areas, where the upper classes reside, while the poor remain concentrated in Madrid's central districts.

In general, it is the advantaged groups that drive socio-economic segregation.  Surprised?  Let yours truly clarify this statement.  The study demonstrates that the more affluent group tend to be more separated than the less advantaged in two-thirds of the cities.  Mr. Florida writes, "This is similar to my own findings in the United States, where economic segregation is being driven by the locational prerogatives of the most advantaged classes." (, Feb. 23, 2015).  Oddly, London is one of the few study sites where this is not true because of runaway gentrification and plutocratization of the city has resulted in the poor being concentrated in fewer and fewer districts.  His own 2013 analysis of the city's class stratums presented evidence that suggests the affluent have de facto colonized the central district, pushing the poor out further and further to the periphery.  (, Nov. 5, 2013)

Street scene in Tallinn, Estonia
Race and ethnicity are also factors in socio-economic segregation, according to the study.  For example, in Tallinn, Estonia the occupational difference between minority and majority ethnic groups are mirrored in the housing disparities that separate the poor minority and wealthy majority demographic groups.  This also true in the United States.  However, the study infers that race and ethnicity still divide European urban centers, despite their different histories.

Richard Florida writes, "Urban scholars have long argued that even though racial and ethnic differences vary widely across cities and nations, they ultimately reinforce fundamental class divides."  The authors of the study caution against applying these phenomena for all cities.  They wrote,

In some distances between social classes within the category non-natives were bigger than social distances within the category natives.

Covent Garden Market
Overall, the study reaches the conclusion that the increasing divide is a by-product of globalization and economic structural shifts, which have "hollowed out the high-paying middle of the economy, divided economic classes, and sorted them into desired and undesired neighborhoods."  Further, the growing inequality and segregation are the result of changes in welfare and housing policies, which have not kept pace with the increasing economic stresses on cities and growing socio-economic divides.  In essence, "segregation and inequality are not just the a result of basic economic forces-they are also a consequence of policy choices."

Vigil held for the bombing victims in Beirut, Lebanon, 2015
Income inequality and economic segregation are the main issues facing our cities today, and the problematic challenge for cities is how to overcome them or, at least, how to deal with them in ways that do not impede the mechanism for innovation and economic growth.  Mayors and civic officials are on the vanguard of these complicated and complex challenge.  They have the means to affect change for the better.  However, they can not meet these challenges on their own.  Coping with economic segregation and income inequality requires a solid renewed commitment to a national urban policy.

Vigil held for the bombing victims in Paris, France, 2015
At the end of the day, none of these statistics or anecdotes mean anything to the injured and the families of the dead in Beirut, Paris, and across the globe.  We can sit here, in our cozy spaces, in front of our laptops, spewing out all sorts of reasons and rationale for why someone or someones would strap on an explosive vest with the intention of killing and maiming as many people as possible.  We could say that the perpetrators were alienated young people, stuck in an endless cycle of despair with little or no hope of upward mobility.  Truthfully, what ever reason you can find for why these acts of barbarism continue to take place matters not all to the people affected by the loss of loved one's life.  What matters to them is the intense emotional pain they feel when recalling the sight of seeing a family member, significant other, friend,  or co-worker on the ground.  There is no quick and easy solution to making things right in our cities so that everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, have access to opportunities.  The only thing we have at the end of the day is our own will to go on, commit to do better.  That is what counts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Talk To Them

Truxton Circle
Washington DC
Hello Everyone:

One of the drawbacks about living in the city is you often do not know your neighbors.  Sometimes, circumstances (usually a fire or other major event) create opportunities for you to meet your neighbors.  Yours truly has often interacted with neighbors in the laundry or mail room of the building.  These interactions can be golden moments for people to exchange views about living in a particular neighborhood.  Amanda Abrams of CityLab experienced this over the summer at party hosted by her neighbor, a woman named Jess, in the formerly predominantly African-American  Washington D.C. neighborhood of Truxton Circle.  Ms. Abrams writes, "Her point, I knew, was to ensure that the party wasn't just white people like us, but an actual representation of our Truxton Circle neighborhood..."

Evening seen in Truxton Circle
Washington D.C.
Despite the  hope for a more diverse guest list, all the guest that showed up to the party were young, white, professionals.  In other words, those gentrifiers, the ones who only interact with similar, new neighbors.  Ms. Abrams writes, "I overheard Jess complaining about it:

There's always this separation.  I don't know how to get around it."

Jess sheepishly admitted to Ms. Abrams that she barely mentioned the party to the longtime African-American residents: I just didn't have people's emails, she said.

Amanda Abrams confesses, It's a phenomenon I've gotten used to seeing."  She's lived in the neighborhood for the past four years and has been closely observing it while she has been working on her book about the community.  She has seen the newcomers, typically white, young, well-educated arrive excited about the area's diversity, with every intention of joining civic organizations, and plans to get to know the neighbors.  However she adds, "But we repeatedly fail to connect with longtime residents and eventually give up, believing it's just not possible.  The two communities wind up simply coexisting rarely overlapping in a meaningful way."

Historic Truxton Circle
Washington D.C.
In her attempts to be a good gentrifier, or at least a less awful one, Ms. Abrams has attempted to bridge the divide between the new and older residents by simply striking up a conversation with them as often as possible.  Amanda Abrams says, "It's the single thing I've found that makes a difference."  Blogger can attest to that fact.

Yet, as deceptively simple as it sounds, Jess's desire to get a more representative of the neighborhood mix at her party in the common alley was difficult to pull off.  Had Jess made an effort, she would have discovered that some of her neighbors were not on the email thread and would have had to find another way to invite them to the party.  Jess and her fellow organizers would have had to knock on doors and make fliers as a more tangible reminder of the upcoming event.  Amanda Abrams writes, "All of that takes intention and effort beyond casually tossing off an email or Facebook message."

Big Bear Cafe
Truxton Circle, Washington D.C.
Arriving at sea-awareness

Living in a low-income community can produce a mountain of guilt for someone with more social capital.  John Schlichtman, an assistant professor of sociology at DePaul University and author of a forthcoming book on gentrification told Ms. Abrams,

Sometimes [new] people feel their societal power and privilege is going to so overwhelm the neighborhood that they tiptoe around...Others...ignore the neighborhood's history and existing institution, viewing themselves as "pioneers."

There are some moments when our perspectives and personal biases are brought into the light through actions.  Don Edwards, the CEO of the Washington D.C.-based Justice and Sustainability Associates, told Ms. Abrams:

We make our choices, intentionally or unintentionally, to be more accessible to some people...What we have work at is overcoming our tendency to make assumptions.

First Presbyterian Church
Truxton Circle

Amanda Abrams experienced these dynamics in herself.  She writes, "I'd thought I was a friendly person, but gradually I noticed that I only said hello to certain people: those who seemed solidly middle class.  There was a wide swath of apparently low-income people almost all of them black, whom I simply ignored."

Trying to fit in

Amanda Abrams was not the only one who unintentionally ignored a large segment of her neighbors.  Her neighbor Carol, a longtime African-American resident also complained that she and other neighbors also felt ignored.  While the long time residents do not hold the newcomers responsible for the changing economic or housing landscape but they do resent being treated as second-class citizens when they are not acknowledged.

Truxton Circle
Washington D.C.

However, Ms. Abrams argues, "But that's not just the result of racism or classism."  In low-income neighborhoods like Truxton Circle, life has always been lived in public, with people consciously greeting each other on sidewalks or spontaneously gathering in front of houses.  For individuals who grew up in more quiet environments, this kind of sociability can seem overwhelming.  Ms. Abrams made the conscious choice to try to fit into the neighborhood culture and begin greeting everyone.  Some responded warily but others warmed up quickly.  People she never spoke to before began smiling in recognition and struck up brief conversations.  Slowly, she began to have more substantive discussions with discussions with her neighbors and even got know four generations of Carol's family.

Truxton Circle street scene
Changing my conversation strategy

It seems that more and more, actual face-to-face conversation is going the way of the dinosaur.  Actual human interaction is being replaced by emails, texts and posts on the social media sites.  Even yours truly sometimes shudders over the prospect of talking to an actual person.  Amanda Abrams highlights the drawbacks of the slow extinction of human interaction.  She writes, "Neighborhood blogs and email lists are incredibly convenient for those that are comfortable online, but they exclude a big segment of the population, particularly people who are elderly or poor."

Social media site logos
The lack of a hard-copy announcement subtly communicates the message to people Your opinion doesn't matter.  Sylvie Tissot, a political science professor in Paris and author of Good Neighbors" Gentrifying Diversity in Boston's South End, told Ms. Abrams,

And while new residents might identify as well-intentioned liberals, intentions aren't what matters...The result can be growing resentment from low-income people who see their neighborhood appropriated by a very different population.

This kind of appropriation can take place on both a personal and institutional level.  For example, in her Truxton Circle neighborhood, Ms. Abrams reports, "civic association agendas are only posted online; if you don't keep up with them, you might miss an important discussion about new development.  A more inclusive approach involves old-school methods like posting fliers and knocking on doors.

"Old men talking on stoop"
Lower, west Buffalo, New York 1969-72
Tackling interpersonal problems

Interpersonal communications is one of the most challenging skills to master.  This is particularly true in the digital age.  However, as Ms. Abrams illustrates in the following example, sometimes all it takes is a simple friendly exchange between two neighbors to remedy a problem.  She writes,

When we first moved in, my husband and I called the police on our hard-partying neighbor.  Hey, when she kept us up at 2 a.m.  It was easier than risking a potentially ugly personal showdown.  But after running into each other almost daily for a couple of years, we finally became friends, and one day she said to me, "If I'm a little loud, be honest and tell me.  Don't call the cops on me."  She was right.

This example illustrates that talking directly with your neighbors, who are different from you is not terribly easy, especial when it is complicated by race and class differences.  While making an effort to be more friendly will not alleviate the more fundamental and troubling issues of gentrification: loss of affordable housing and displacement, making an effort to know the long time residents can reduce sometimes formidable tension.  Above all else, taking the initiative can go a long way even when you are not sure how far the effort will take you.