In Defense of Old Industrial Spaces: Manufacturing, Creativity and Innovation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn


  • I am grateful to Susan Hanson, Carrie Breitbach, and Trina Hamilton for their comments on earlier drafts and for the enormously helpful suggestions of two IJURR reviewers. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0220486, though this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF. Any mistakes are my own.

Winifred Curran (, Department of Geography, De Paul University, 1 E. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604, USA.



This article argues that the flexibility, creativity, and innovation deemed to be hallmarks of the new ‘creative’ economy are also present in more traditional manufacturing enclaves. Here I use examples drawn from New York City, perhaps the quintessential global city, to demonstrate that our understanding of creativity and innovation needs to recognize a broader spectrum of economic activity encompassing both new and traditional manufacturing. This case study is an attempt to expand the heteronomy of current urban policy that promotes gentrification and the wooing of the ‘creative class’ as the only method of urban development.


Souplesse, créativité et innovation, censées être les traits distinctifs de la nouvelle économie ‘créative’, existent également dans des enclaves industrielles plus traditionnelles. Des exemples sont tirés de la ville de New-York, sans doute la ville planétaire par excellence, afin de démontrer que notre compréhension de la créativité et de l’innovation a besoin d’étendre son spectre de l’activitééconomique afin d’englober des fabrications tant nouvelles que traditionnelles. Cette étude de cas tente d’accroître l’hétéronomie de la politique urbaine actuelle, laquelle encourage la gentrification et la séduction de la ‘classe créative’ comme unique méthode de développement urbain.