I thought of something that could energize Contro potentially! Yay!
So before I moved to NYC, I had never heard of the term "gentrification". Maybe you have all heard it and I'm just oblivious. But basically, it's the idea that a bunch of middle-class (tacitly white) people move into a neighborhood that was previously occupied by lower-class people (tacitly, people of color). Following this, new businesses begin to crop up that cater more to the middle-class crowd and not to the lower-class crowd, and eventually lower-class business go out of business; lower-class housing is replaced by nicer middle-class housing; suddenly, the people who have lived in that neighborhood for 30 years can't afford to live there anymore and are forced to move.
Here's an article about gentrification in Crown Heights, a neighborhood of Brooklyn that is pretty close to mine and has many similar issues.
So it's a deeply complex issue. From my white, middle-class (NB: "middle class" here refers to more than my actual income level [which is pretty poor in NYC terms]: rather to an attitude and set of privileges and background) perspective, I think, "Well what else am I supposed to do? I can't afford to live in Manhattan or Park Slope or nice neighborhoods; I can only afford to live in this primarily-West-Indian neighborhood." And while just me moving in there doesn't harm anything, of course, I'm not the only one. The NY Times recently said that my neighborhood is officially "on the map" for up-and-coming neighborhoods. People will say "Well isn't gentrification a good thing? We're replacing slummy neighborhoods with nice, safe neighborhoods with gourmet bakeries and artisan coffee shops; that sounds like a win-win to me."
But from a long-time resident's perspective, they and all their people from their own culture (in my case, West Indian) have made this neighborhood their home for a generation now. There are traditions and such that they want to have respected. They want to have roti shops and nail salons and hair salons, not cupcakeries and mixology bars. Their rent used to be $800/mo and now the landlord's threatening to raise it to $1500/mo. They bought their brownstone for $40,000 in 1980 but they refinance their home and suddenly can't afford to pay the property tax anymore because the neighborhood has gotten so much more expensive, so they sell their house instead of passing it on to their heirs and continue a cycle of poverty.
Also, while gentrification doesn't necessarily have to do with race, it is about class and culture, which often ends up being tied up with race. But gentrification can be an issue amongst people of the same race too: e.g., Greenpoint is traditionally Polish but now "hipsters" are moving there, to the embitterment of many old Poles. But yeah, it's basically white people that are blamed for gentrification.
Like many such issues, the struggle is in finding the balance. We don't want to go back to segregation of course, but at the same time, don't we want to allow these pockets of different cultures to flourish? Isn't that part of what makes cities like NYC unique, that we have Chinese neighborhoods and West Indian neighborhoods and Puerto Rican neighborhoods and...?
Now I don't know what the solution is by any means, but here's maybe the most controversial part of this post—I think the solution necessarily lies outside of the bounds of capitalism. Capitalism currently rules the housing market as is and that's why we're in this situation. It seems like we need some kind of massive legislation in NYC that gets the housing market under control and provides more affordable housing for all. As it is, there is TONS of housing for wealthy people and the rest of us are scrambling to find that holy grail apartment with halfway reasonable rent. We need more reasonable rent. But who's gonna build a building full of low-income housing when they could build luxury condos? And they'd all get rented?
Edited by Jasi, 11 April 2014 - 10:14 AM.