Retail and demographic gentrification is well documented in the social sciences, but few studies have examined
the impact of this process on a neighborhood’s public spaces. This paper focuses on an annual street closure event in
Williamsburg, Brooklyn -a former working class neighborhood that is now attracting wealthy members of the upper class.
‘Williamsburg Walks,’ part of a New York City initiative, eliminates car traffic on the main commercial street for select
summer weekends. Residents and visitors are encouraged to ‘rethink’ their use of the street during the closure. However
merchants, residents, and event organizers each have different motives and expectations for ‘Williamsburg Walks.’ While
the event aims to create more public space and ‘a celebration of neighborhood,’ it also serves an implicit goal of branding
the neighborhood for the wealthy at the exclusion of long-term residents. I analyze ‘Williamsburg Walks’ in terms of a
branding strategy using ethnographic data from the 2008-2010 events.