Before I get into this conversation let me say, if you are not open to opposing views on any subject (including the one at hand), I think it’s best we go our say our goodbyes now.And for those who don’t know what gentrification is or doesn’t want to acknowledge that it does exist, let me break it down for you.
The first time I realized what gentrification was and that it applied to my life
I was about 15 and living in Harlem at the time. My block was pretty much all brownstones with the exception of 2 apartment buildings across the street. I lived in the middle of the block which was good and bad because my house was the biggest, however, I lived next to an abandoned brownstone. My dad knew most of the people who lived on the block which at one point were mostly people of color.
When I first noticed gentrification on my block, it was folks scoping out the abandoned building next to mine. Then I noticed people looking into my house being nosy which was annoying. I literally remember catching this white woman in her 30’s-ish peeking into my house. She literally opened the gate, helped herself down the stairs, and proceeded to look into our windows. While I felt like the police should have been called my dad just politely asked her to leave.
and in the neighborhood…
Million dollar condos slowly but surely went up. Then a Starbucks appeared (you know the gentrification is real when Starbucks comes through). Streets that have been fucked up my whole life magically got fixed. Scaffolds that I thought were permanent disappeared. My neighborhood was almost unrecognizable.
Let me not forget how I got the police called on me a few times for having friends sitting on MY stoop. MY STOOP! I’m sure the police call went something like this:
Random minority that just moved into New York: “Hello..uhhh there is a large group of African American kids trespassing on the house down from me. I really don’t want to start any trouble (doing it anyways) …I just want to keep my neighborhood safe (it’s not even your neighborhood and who died and made you neighborhood watch…asshole.”
The police showed up in 45 seconds and felt stupid as hell when they realized that my dad’s name was on the mortgage. Have a good night.
I got a little older and kind of liked gentrification…
Brunch, happy hour, cafe’s with wifi…these are just a few of the things that have come out of gentrification. I and many other people of color who can afford to do so, indulge in them religiously.
As much as we may say we hate gentrification, how many times did it not stop you for linking up for brunch and bottomless mimosas at the new brunch spot that used to be a mom and pop shop in a rundown neighborhood?
Answer: Zero to none. As much as we may hate gentrification let’s never forget how much we take advantage of what comes from.
Suggested Read: NYC Hidden Gem: Blend on the Water, Latin Fusion Eats
I had a guy friend of mine joke around saying that myself and my friends love gentrification, referring to our frequent brunch and happy hour link-ups. We get excited when there’s a new spot for us to try out. Do I feel bad about it? Yes, I do. Do I stop myself from doing it? No, I don’t and neither do 1000’s of other people who are addicted to brunch. Don’t pass judgment.
There are people who I grew up with that are barely making ends meet let alone know how it feels to indulge in all these new things that have come to the neighborhood that they’re no longer welcome in. And that’s the fucked up part about gentrification (as if it wasn’t fucked up in general). Those who have struggled and lived their whole lives can’t afford to live there when the place is fixed up and actually livable.
The gag is…
Having a livable neighborhood shouldn’t happen because a certain group of affluent people buys up properties and “fixes up” the place. Heat, hot water, lower crime rates–just some of the few things that should exist in any neighborhood. Instead of gentrification being the answer, how about bringing resources to help fix up the community without pushing the population out.
My question is, what is the solution to fixing up impoverished communities without pushing the people there out?