This book was awarded the 2012 Arthur Miller Centre First Book Prize for the best first book in American Studies from the British Association for American Studies.

This book demonstrates how spatial regulation became one of the most important ways to reverse the decline of New York City in the post–World War II period. As New York began to lose its status as a leading global city, the perception of urban disorder, whether that disorder was physical (e.g., slums, shabby streets, crumbling infrastructure) or social (e.g., homeless people, hustlers, rowdy teenagers), represented a threat to the middle class and investors and thus to the financial and political viability of the city government. Consequently, mayors and other elected and nonelected leaders mounted initiatives such as urban renewal, exclusionary zoning, antivagrancy laws, and order-maintenance policing to control, if not erase, disorder. These initiatives were part of a class project that deflected attention from the underlying causes of poverty, eroded civil rights, and sought to enable real estate investment, high-end consumption, mainstream tourism, and corporate success. The various strategies of spatial ordering that were employed corresponded to shifts in political ideology. Liberals who dominated New York City politics between the 1940s and the early 1970s emphasized physical solutions against disorder such as urban renewal and the elimination of slums. However, as urban renewal became discredited and crime increased dramatically, neoconservatives denounced postwar liberalism as the source of the city’s decline. After the fiscal crisis of 1975, brands of neoliberalism and neoconservatism merged and articulated a new vision of spatial regulation based on aggressive policing. Instead of redeveloping low-income African American and Latino neighborhoods, the authorities targeted people who committed minor infractions in public space. By the 1990s, these efforts to regulate urban space were promoted under the banners of “broken windows” and “zero-tolerance policing.”


“Many geographers, for example, will already have a keen sense for how Chronopoulos’s detailed historical effort might lend valuable support to broader theoretical or political arguments. Especially if read in parallel with other home-grown accounts of the policy shifts in New York City during this time-span (e.g. Angotti 2008; Mollenkopf 1989; and Tabb 1982), Spatial Regulation offers a very rich grounding of contemporary spatial politics and urban policy debates.” 
— Christian M. Anderson, Antipode

“As Chronopoulos convincingly argues, successive mayoral administrations as well as property developers, real estate agents, and powerful educational institutions employed 'spatial regulation' as a key element of their efforts to transform the city. Using techniques from historical geography and policy history, he rejects the contention that New York's gentrification was an inevitable outcome of market forces and instead reconstructs a series of vigorous contestations over space, in which city administrations and local powerholders deliberately displaced communities and intervened in propety markets whose outcomes they disliked. New York's revival as a location for capital and affluent professionals was won, Chronopoulos shows, at the cost of human rights violations, abuses of power, and something uncomfortably close to ethnic cleansing.”
— Daniel Matlin, Australasian Journal of American Studies

"Chronopoulos's provocative thesis, that modernism's failure in the long term created urban disorder and neo-liberal blacklash, is worth consideration, but he overlooks the degree to which modernist environments continue to shape life, and control space, in
New York — including 'towers in the park' full of poor, middle and even rich people."
— Nicholas Bloom, Social History

"The virtue of Chronopoulos’ analysis is its strong animus: real empathy for poor people and people of color combined with historical perspective and quantitative evidence that, whether things have changed for the better or not, is still damning because people suffered while politicians carried favor with the rich and based their policies and urban planning strategies on specious theories that blamed the victims instead of the planners whose miscalculations about the effects of both suburbanization and de-industrialization resulted in urban decline not only in New York but all over America." — Wallace Katz, Globality Studies Journal

"This work represents a strong contribution to post-war urban historiography. Chronopoulos effectively probes the intersection of political economy and the use of public space, illuminating the rationales for different regulatory approaches in liberal and neo-liberal ideological contexts. He shows that New York’s return to global economic dominance from the brink of bankruptcy came at the costly price of policies that caused an upward redistribution of resources and a dramatic disparity in income inequality. In doing so, Chronopoulos provides insight into the origins of New York’s Second Gilded Age."
— Stephen Petrus, European Journal of American Culture

Themis Chronopoulos
Associate Professor of American Studies
Swansea University

Ph.D. Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.A.