From Queens: The Brand Residents Don't Buy

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Who We Are

We are University Scholars from the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College studying the Peopling of New York. We come from all across New York City, Long Island and New Jersey. The mission of Macaulay Honors College is to inspire and prepare students to solve the social, economic, cultural, and scientific challenges of New York City and the world. Under the direction of Professor Jeff Maskovsky and Tech-Fellow Soniya Munshi and through the reading of articles and contemporary books, we have learned about the past immigrant history of New York, the present situations, and what we can do to achieve a better environment and society in New York City.

In our research of the branding of Queens, we investigated whether the image of Queens as the capital of multiculturalism in New York City is an accurate reflection of its neighborhoods and residents. As undergraduate freshmen, most of us knew when we entered college and when we entered this course that Queens is a diverse place.

We come from all sorts of religious and ethnic backgrounds. We are Jewish, Christian, Hispanic, Greek, Asian, recent immigrants, and native-born. Naturally, we believed that the branding of Queens as a diverse borough was true. Our field research and interviews, however, painted a picture of Queens as a poly-ethnic borough instead of a truly multicultural one. Instead of having a mixed cultural identity throughout the borough, similar cultures group together in their own communities, living side by side in a quilt of ethnicities. While the residents we interviewed generally like living in an environment with neighbors who hail from different countries, the quality of living and its costs are apparent concerns in these areas. As multicultural as Queens is projected to be, many of its neighborhoods are, in reality, ethnically and socially segregated.

Through our ethnographic research we learned that the very image of Queens as this diverse borough is rooted in strategic efforts created and used by the local government, the media, and businesses. The government promotes Queens as a tourist attraction while the media pokes fun at the majority of working middle class residents that live here. Residing in this "cultural capital" is not enough to insure that Queens remains a viable place to live. It will take residents getting involved in more than simply the nuisance issues to really maintain the economic and social aspects of Queens.

While drawing concrete conclusions from our field and historical research was challenging at first, we learned about the complexity of branding efforts and its effect on Queens residents. Moreover, we discovered that by emphasizing diversity as a major positive trait of Queens, it can lead people to overlook some of the real problems that residents face.

In creating this website, it became obvious that we were somewhat naive in our understanding of the image of New York City and of Queens. As students in NYC, we were aware of the different ways in which Queens is branded. We did not, however, really recognize them for what they were and without realizing we believed in the propaganda supplied by the government and the media. We enjoyed the television shows that satirized Queens, but we did not see beyond the humor.

After completing our research, we realized how much the branding of Queens, and NYC in general, affects our daily lives. We saw inaccuracy of these branded images too--Queens is a diverse place, but it also faces many residential problems which are never mentioned when the local government promotes this borough. By researching neighborhoods and interviewing residents we gained a better understanding of Queens. In the future, when we encounter efforts of Queens branding, we will recognize them for their purpose, but we will also question whether they are demonstrating accurate representations of its residents and their lives.