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The Peopling of New York

CUNY Honors College Seminar 2

Spring 2012

Professor Peter G. Vellon

Queens College

Powdermaker Hall, 352Q



 Technology Fellow:  Maggie Dickinson

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 11:00 – 5:00, Honors Hall, Rm.20

 The second Honors College seminar examines the role of immigration and migration in shaping New York City’s identity.  We will explore themes such as: the factors drawing diverse peoples to the city since the 17th century; the creation and evolution of ethnic neighborhoods throughout the city; the role of race, class, religion, and gender in shaping immigrant interactions with the city; how immigrants have negotiated assimilation and americanization; and institution building.

We will also pay particular attention to how race and class have informed and exacerbated conflict among various ethnic and racial groups throughout the city.  The culminating project for this course will be a website focused upon the New York City neighborhood of Corona, Queens, which students will present at the Macaulay Honors College event in May.

Course Requirements:

  • In Class Participation            10 %

Participation is defined broadly.  Attendance is required in this course and more than two absences will adversely affect your grade.  However, just attending class is not enough.  Students must keep up with the weekly readings and come to class prepared to participate in discussions.  Consistent, informed, and positive participation will earn students high participation grades.  Negative participation, loosely defined as failing to discuss weekly readings, abusive lateness, text messaging, dozing off, or engaging in otherwise unproductive activities, will yield a participation grade closer to zero.

  • On-line Participation            10 %

Each week of the semester when there is an assigned reading (except for April 3rd) students will post weekly responses to the readings on our course blog.  Two students will be assigned to “spark” the discussion by writing 2-3 paragraphs posted online by Sunday at 7:00pm.  The sparks are not intended strictly as a summary of the readings, but rather as an informal way to address major themes, problems, or interesting aspects of the readings.  Those responsible for sparking the discussion should feel free (in fact, they should feel compelled) to pose questions to the class, as well as offer their thoughts and opinions on a reading.  The rest of the class must weigh in with their thoughts (to a lesser degree than the spark) by 7:00 pm Monday evening.  Online participation in all 10 required readings, along with a solid effort, will earn you 10 percent of your final grade in the class.

  • Short Papers                  25%

Students will write 5 (2-3 pages) reaction papers over the course of the semester on various themes explored during the semester.  We will discuss these assignments in more detail in class.

Final Research Paper :                         25%

Students will research and write a final paper comparing and contrasting an aspect of Corona they have read about or researched in the field (whether political, economic, demographic, cultural, etc) to another NYC neighborhood.  It is up to you to determine the scope of the period, as well as what historical period it covers.  Your paper MUST use SECONDARY and PRIMARY sources and contain proper citation (footnotes or endnotes).  We will discuss this assignment in much more detail throughout the semester.  Length: 7 – 10 pages.

Neighborhood Project:                          30 %

The neighborhood we will examine is Corona, Queens.  Although we’ll read about and discuss the history of Corona in class, the culminating project for Seminar 2 is the compilation and presentation of the course website dedicated to Corona.  In order to compile the materials needed for a successful website, students, both individually and collectively, will conduct fieldwork in this neighborhood.  In this way, students will collect and organize a variety of materials (i.e. text, photos, video, interviews, etc.) that will provide the building blocks of our class-based website.  We will take a formal walking tour of Corona (date to be announced), but students/groups are expected to conduct their own informal field work to supplement this initial encounter.

The neighborhood project grade will be broken down as follows:

  • Field Work/Institution Study:            10%

Each group (5 groups of 4) will be assigned one thematic category to research in Corona:

  • arts & culture
  • formal institutions
  • political/neighborhood organizations
  • demographics
  • economy/work/labor

Each member of the group will be assigned a different era to research within that particular theme.  For example: [a] arts & culture in late 19th/early 20th cent.;  arts & culture in mid-20th cent.; arts & culture in late 20th cent.; arts & culture today.  Each student will submit

  • Presentation:                                                 10%

Each group will do 10 minute presentation to the class based upon their fieldwork findings.  10%

  • Website Participation:                         10 %

 Required Books:

  • Nancy Foner, From Ellis Island to JFK  (Yale University Press,2000)
  • Tyler Anbinder, Five Points  (Penguin,2001)
  • Roger Sanjek, The Future of us All: Race and Neighborhood Politics in New York City (Cornell Univ Press, 1998,2000)
  • Steven Gregory, Black Corona: Race and the Politics of Place in an Urban Community (Princeton Univ. Press, 1998)

In addition, selected readings have been uploaded to the class website either as pdf files or hyper links to QC’s electronic library.

Note: Please be advised that changes to this schedule/additional readings may be made via e-mail or announced in class.  If this is necessary I will try to provide as much advance notice as possible.  Also, note that the readings are due the day they appear on the syllabus. 


 January 31            Course Introduction

 February 7            City/Neighborhood/Community


  • Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities,Introduction, pp. 3-25
  • Lewis Mumford, The City in History, Commercial Expansion and Urban  Dissolution, pp.410-445
  • Tyler Anbinder, Five Points, Ch. 1, The Making of Five Points, pp.7-37

Each student gives a 5 minute presentation about how his or her family’s experience with immigration/migration to NYC.  What has been the role of NYC in this experience?  More specifically, reflect upon the role of neighborhood or community.  Students should conduct at least 2 interviews.  I also strongly encourage the use of photos or props.  Note: Do not simply provide a genealogical summary—that is not the intention of this assignment.

** *Organize groups for Neighborhood Project**

 February 14            Context: Race, Assimilation, and Ethnicity


  • Steinberg, The Melting Pot and the Color Line”
  • Walzer, “What it Means to be an American”
  • Gerstle, “Liberty, Coercion and Becoming American…”

***Short 2-3 page paper based upon family history due today. 

***Turn in one paragraph description of Group choices for neighborhood research 

February 21                        NO CLASS —  MONDAY SCHEDULE

February 28            The Peopling of NY: The Colonial Period


  • Binder & Reimer, Ch.1
  • Harris, Ch.1, “Slaves in Colonial NY”  [available as E-book on QC library website]
  • Foote, Ch. 5, “Black & White Manhattan”  [available as E-book on QC library website]

*** Topic for Research Paper due

 March 6            Old and New Immigrants/Migrants


  • Anbinder, Ch. 2, 12, 13
  • Nancy Foner, From Ellis Island to JFK , Ch. 1
  • Steven Gregory, Black Corona: Race and the Politics of Place in an Urban Community, Ch. 2 (Making Community)

March 13            How they Lived


  • Anbinder, Ch. 3 (How they Lived)
  • Foner, Ch. 2
  • Roger Sanjek, The Future of us All: Race and Neighborhood Politics in New York City, Introduction, Ch. 1 & Ch.2

March 20            How they Worked


  • Foner, Ch 3 & 4
  • Anbinder, Ch. 4
  • Sanjek, Ch. 4

***Preliminary Bibliography for Research Paper due

March 27            Governmental Policy and its Impact on Neighborhoods


  • Sanjek, Ch. 7, 8, & 9
  • Gregory, Ch. 4

April 3            Changing Neighborhoods, Urban Renewal, and Race/Color


  • Foner, Ch. 5
  • Anbinder, Ch. 11
  • Sanjek, Ch. 3
  • Gregory, Ch. 5

 ***Walking Tour (Tentative date)

April 10            NO CLASS  —  SPRING RECESS

 April 17            Multicultural Geography and Neighborhood Conflict


  • Sanjek, Ch. 10 &11
  • Gregory, Ch. 6
  • Anbinder, Ch. 9

April 24             Civic Institutions


  • Sanjek, Ch. 12 & 13
  • Gregory, Ch. 7

May 1                        Website Preparation

 ***Students should have photos, video, text, and any audio (interviews) for incorporation into website

May 8                        People Power and Local Change


  • Sanjek, Ch. 15
  • Gregory, Ch. 8
  • Pamela Graham, “Political Incorporation and Re-Incorporation: Simultaneity in the Dominican Migrant Experience” in Migration, Transnationalization, & Race in a Changing New York, Edited by Hector Cordero-Guzman, et al

***Student Presentations

May 15            Website Preparation/Wrap Up

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