From Queens: The Brand Residents Don't Buy

Jump to: navigation, search


This website is the collaborative effort of students in a Macaulay Honors College Seminar titled The Peopling of New York. Our mission is to study the borough of Queens, along with the way it is branded.

As a group of diverse students coming from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures, we found the task challenging. Some of us hail from several neighborhoods within Queens, while some come from other boroughs and even other states. While some students may have been more familiar with certain neighborhoods over others within the borough, it was the first time all of us explored the diversity of New York City in this way. However, we all had a common goal: to understand whether or not the contemporary branding efforts in Queens and its economic policies correspond to, help, or hinder Queens’ immigrant residents.

In our first steps of this project, we studied government data to gather quantitative information about the borough of Queens in order to learn about the demographics and income level of Queens residents. We then went beyond these bare facts and looked at the immigration history and patterns of individual neighborhoods. To be thorough, we traced immigration over time in Western, Northern, Central, Eastern, and Southern Queens by studying neighborhoods with the largest immigrant populations.

While immigrants were our main focus, we also wanted to learn about the interaction between them and other residents, as well as where immigrants were coming from, and their reasons for moving to Queens. Our preliminary research was completed in order to formulate an objective view of the history and residents of Queens. However, we also wanted to go beyond research material and compare what we had studied to actual residents' views of Queens. We needed to travel to our "fields of research" to better understand Queens from residents' perspectives. Therefore, we traveled to the neighborhoods we were studying and organized walking tours to examine the locations in the individual neighborhoods most important to the residents.

Later on we also conducted interviews with residents whose backgrounds were demographically diverse: men, women, recent immigrants, residents who have lived in Queens for years, war veterans, and local leaders. This method of interviewing allowed us to gain a real and qualitative understanding of what different groups and residents felt about their neighborhoods and how they perceived them. Along with each interview, we also had respondents draw cognitive maps in order to learn how different types of people viewed their neighborhoods- in drawing out where one lived, what did they feel was important enough to map out?

We also studied how residents of other boroughs perceive Queens and how those perspectives conflict with residents' views of Queens. We wanted to explore how these differing views reflect the changes residents did not want or wanted to see their neighborhoods such as the development project in Willets Point which would displace many business owners. We found that the opposing views greatly affected the way the government and other sectors related to Queens and how Queens residents felt they were viewed and treated compared to those of the other boroughs.

While conducting field research, our class was also reading From Ellis Island to JFK by Nancy Foner. This ethnography aided our research in the walking tours and conversations with residents. Foner writes about the history of immigrant life, explaining topics like: Where they come from; The work they do; Where do they live? in New York City. She compares immigrant experiences during the twentieth century to those of the twenty-first century. The observations and interviews we recorded further supported our previous demographics research and the historical patterns Foner had written about as well.

After studying Queens' residents and immigrant history, we shifted perspectives and began to study branding. Miriam Greenberg's Branding New York: "How a City in Crisis Was Sold to the World" was a valuable supplement to our mission. This book focuses on the branding of New York City itself from the collaborative efforts of the public and private sectors. Greenberg's research led us to think about the marketing strategies and economic policies the local government was enforcing in order to create a certain image of not only Queens, but New York City as a whole.

One of Greenberg's main arguments is that governmental collaboration with private businesses to create one "image" of the city tends to overlook the actual problems of its residents. The "Big Apple" and "I Love New York" campaigns are examples of these efforts, which were supposed to create new jobs for New York City residents, but ended up polarizing the wealthy and the poor. Also these campaigns only produced low-wage work, which did not help support living costs during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. In the same way, Citifield and Arthur Ashe Stadium illustrate Greenberg's point. While these stadiums are always endorsed as an asset because ticket sales will increase the city's income, the true effects are minimal.

The next step of our research was one of the most important: we needed to look at who was branding Queens, how they were doing it, and why. We investigated and divided who “the branders” were-- those trying to propagate a specific image-- into the government and the media. Our final step was to look at the conflicting views of what Queens is to the residents and how the marketing strategies of the government and the media disregard the real problems of residents.

To learn about who we are, please click next.

Previous Next