The gentrification of New York City
This is NOT the full story! for the full coverage continue HERE
New York, New York — (Writer: Krystal Brown) I remember growing up in the Bedstuy neighborhood of Brooklyn in the 90s and early 2000s. I attended schools in the neighborhoods of Flatbush, Crown Heights and Bay Ridge, and I remember each neighborhood having its own vibe or culture to it, and that was mainly because of the residents who lived there. Flatbush had always been home to Caribbeans, with reggae and soca playing on every corner. Crown heights was a nice mixture of Hasidim Jews and more west Indians, Bayridge was home to Italians and Puerto Ricans. And Bedstuy, one of Brooklyn’s oldest and most historic neighborhood. predominantly black and the neighborhood with the worst reputation as well.
Brooklyn and other communities in New York City are experiencing huge changes in the population of its demographic such as Harlem, and The Bronx. These are some of the boroughs in New York City that are known to be home to many “ethnic enclaves”, and these areas are losing lots of ethnicity and not to mention its ethnic people. The US Census shows there is a drastic increase of Caucasian Americans moving into these ethnic, most times urban neighborhoods, and for the residents that live there that only means one thing, an increase in housing prices and a possible loss of culture, in other words gentrification.
Gentrification by Wikipedia standards, is a residential shift in a community. The movement of a middle class into a urban, lower class neighborhood, causing residents of the lower class neighborhood to be displaced due to higher rent prices and inflated prices in food, property, etc. It could also mean a loss of history, loss of culture and an overall social change for a neighborhood. But, gentrification can also mean a booming in new businesses, driven by the new class’ higher consumer demands, giving the opportunity for an eventual economic reform for most urban neighborhoods.
Articles on sites like The Atlantic Cities, would say this process of gentrification has been happening for the past 10 years, more notably in one of New York City’s most historic, famous and predominantly black neighborhoods, Harlem. Since the Harlem Renaissance to present day 2013, Harlem has remained a Black neighborhood with a strong African and African American culture.
But since the early 2000s and more rapidly in past five years, there has been an increasing number of European Caucasians, Caucasian Americans and others moving into Harlem. Because of this slow increase in Harlem’s population, architects and contractors have begun constructing new apartments, lofts and condos out of old and abandoned factories and apartment buildings and gearing them toward this “new demographic”. Some of these new apartments have become so overpriced that, according to Craigslist, can costs at least $3,395, a price far too high for the old Harlem residents that are use to paying far less. Gregory, an old Harlemite has lived in Harlem since 1978, says “I started out paying around $300 per month for my first spot, right now I’m paying $1100 for 1 bedroom.”
Robert Blake, an African American who was raised in Harlem says he has noticed this change first hand. “ I just want to know why now? what happened? why all of a sudden everyone got a interest in Harlem? it ain’t right” he says.
In an article written in a May copy of the New York Times, they tell us what this sudden interest in Harlem is about. The article tells the story of the Kashuk family, who unfortunately had to “downsize” from their 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in Greenwich Village, where monthly fee’s were racking close to $2,400 per month, a price the family felt was too high for a self service building, to a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom Harlem duplex on 127th and 5th avenue where the final sale price was 468,000 and monthly fee’s are only $1,300. For the family and other families like them, this is simply relocating to get more for your money in certain neighborhoods.
The Bold Italic published an article giving the point view of gentrifiers who say, they move into lower-class neighborhoods because that is all they too can afford, since their neighborhoods are now being brought out by even wealthier people. The writer of the article, Tim McAtee, a Caucasian American states “ When anyone spoke about young, educated white couples moving their families into the city, they called it “urban revitalization.” As our neighborhood got nicer, it got pricier, and my parents were forced to move further from the city center. Nobody called it gentrification because we weren’t considered low-income, but the fact is that we were continually priced out of our neighborhoods by wealthier people.”
What most people like the Kashuk family, McAtee and other gentrifiers do not realize is, as they are searching for a cheaper living choice, the Black and Latino neighborhoods that the gentrifiers are moving to, that are considered low income, are increasing in value because of them, and increasing at such a rate that former residents can no longer afford to live there nor can they afford to relocate. They do not realize by being Caucasian families in Black and Latino communities and bringing new businesses to the community is not enough if they are businesses that previous residents can not afford to shop in. They do not realize that more than half of the new businesses that are coming into Black and Latino communities aren’t geared toward Blacks and Latinos, they are geared toward the new, white demographic. And for the old residents living in Harlem, Brooklyn, and other New York City neighborhoods, it feel more like this is an invasion.
Taina, an African American woman from Harlem, who is also a Harlem activist feels very similar. She says “i do agree that the gentrification brings new businesses to the neighborhood but why weren’t these businesses coming up pre gentrification? before this new population.. and most of them are foreign owned business. Blacks need our own. Our own economy.”
But not all of Harlem’s residents share this point of view. Afrikana, a man who was raised in and lived in Harlem for over 25 years and is also a member of Harlem’s own poetry group, The Last Poets says differently. “Harlem can never be changed. it doesn’t matter who moves in here, and how many businesses they create. Harlem can support it. We got to open more of our own businesses. Black people been here for over 70 years and we ain’t going nowhere. Where we gonna go? the new people just have to blend in with US. Gentrification is an illusion in Harlem..it can’t happen. The spirit of Africans..the spirit of Harlem is way too strong.” When asked where does he see the future of Harlem in another 10 years he replied “still black. mixed, but we still gonna be here. Harlem is historically black, and it will always be that way…that’s history, can’t change that”
Bedford Stuyvesant is one of Brooklyn’s most popular neighborhoods, famous because of its rappers and Afrocentric culture but the Bed Stuy that everyone knew, may not be so Afrocentric anymore. African Americans began moving to Bed Stuy from Harlem in the 1930s once overcrowding became an issue, since then the neighborhood has remained a predominantly Black neighborhood with its own businesses since then. Recently like Harlem, the white population has spiked greatly, leaving the residents Bed Stuy with sky high rent and expensive stores they can not afford. Recent census studies show us that Brooklyn’s demographics have changed significantly in the past 10 years, the white population in Brooklyn rose from 19.7% to a whopping 49.3%, and census figures actually show Bedford Stuyvesant’s white population grew greatly, while the Black population seems to have moved to outer the neighborhoods, like Flatlands and Bensonhurst. Bed Stuy is one of is the hardest neighborhoods hit.
When speaking of watching the demographics slowly change in one of Brooklyn’s most beloved neighborhoods, Kim McClain who is from the Bronx but has lived in Bedstuy half her life says “i feel disgusted. displaced. i walk around here like wow what happened. and the food prices are crazy. i feel all of this is happening because of that new stadium downtown..what is it? the Barclays? well because of that, rent and food and everything in the surrounding areas are raising up. what are we suppose to do?” her friend Michelle comments “ i see these high rises going up..and i know they ain’t for us”. Bedstuy, a neighborhood lined with brownstones, restaurants, apartments buildings and housing projects,blocks that were once filled with different shades of brown faces, will now have faces of all colors….
(this is NOT the full coverage! For the full story continue HERE