I entered the PhD program in the spring of 1968, graduating a little early with a BA from Berkeley and taking advantage of Dave Nasatir's offer to work as his assistant at the Survey Research Center. I ran through all his computing money very quickly, but he had the good grace not to take it out of my salary. I accepted a fellowship at Columbia, but after completing my MA working with Paul Lazarsfeld and Immanuel Wallerstein (not a typcial combination) I was brought back to the Bay Area with a community organizing job that fulfilled my conscientious objector alternate service. Art Stinchcombe gave me free rein to do my dissertation on the Spanish working class in the last years of the Franco regime (finally finished in 1974). But my grassroots work on urban development and housing questions eventually pulled me more toward urban sociology.
My professorial career has been entirely in the SUNY system, first at Stony Brook (1972-1980), then Albany. One turning point was collaborating with Harvey Molotch on our book Urban Fortunes (1987), which brought together my interests in urban inequality and politics. In the early 1990s I had a chance to do research in China, which continues today. And while spending a year at the Russell Sage Foundation (1996-97), I was seduced by walking through a built environment that housed successive waves of newcomers fromthe 19th Century to the present, and much of my recent research deals with urban history.
Of all the kinds of work I have done, the most satisfying is the public-oriented research that I have been doing in the last three years as Director of the Lewis Mumford Center in Albany -- analyzing data from Census 2000 as it came out, preparing reports on the social issues that I am most concerned about, getting the word out through the media, and providing data resources to other scholars and community groups. I do have a sense of coming back around to the activities that brought me into sociology in the first place.