(RE)IMAGINE ALL THE (RUST BELT) PEOPLE: LIVING LIFE IN TODAY’S POSTINDUSTRIAL UTICA, NEW YORK
Utica, New York was a typical reflection of the American Rust Belt. Job loss, depopulation, and pessimism dominated the city throughout the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. In recent years, however, refugees, Rust Belt recovery, and rebirth have transformed this small city in upstate New York. Through the reuse of deindustrialized space, various investment opportunities, and communal ties, Utica is emerging from decades of post-industrial decline. This thesis primarily relies on interviews with businesspeople and community members from the city, but also analyzes local news articles and Rust Belt literature to better understand and contextualize Utica. The city has embraced refugees, who have helped end decades of population decline. Moreover, emergent vibrant communities have renovated houses and started restaurants, fostering the transmission of culture in the city. Entrepreneurs are investing in neighborhoods like Bagg’s Square, and New York’s state government has incentivized General Electric to return to the area. Younger generations are redefining the city’s Rust Belt character, shifting attitudes and encouraging cultural development. Utica, New York, in the American Rust Belt is enjoying stable economic growth and its residents are increasingly optimistic about its future. This thesis traces these recent trends and claims that emergent vibrant communities in Utica, New York, are reusing industrial sites and redefining space in ways that reflect the area’s burgeoning optimism and self-belief in the wake of decades of decline.
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