Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Shifting City

From the Times, the view of gentrification from Cherry's Unisex in Bed-Stuy:

“Gentrification is always on the periphery, always in the negative space of so many conversations that take place here. The wave of money and development is transforming Bed-Stuy along Fulton Street, and there are no guarantees that Cherry’s won’t be washed away with so many others. Little distinguishes it from any other shop on the strip except for how long it has been on Fulton, and the woman for which it’s named.

'When you call the police, they come,' Cherry said. 'Before, there was no policing at all. But now? Not only do they come, they’re arresting everybody.'"

Photo: George Etheredge for The New York Times

In the 2000s, black New York neighborhoods are becoming markedly less black (and brown) and more white -- as well as less poor and more rich.

In the 1960s, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called the suburbs a “white noose” around America’s cities. Today, it's “Vanilla Cities and Their Chocolate Suburbs,” as author Jeff Chang calls it in his essay of the same name. He writes of these new “geographies of inequality,” where the colorized suburb now receives the brutal treatment the inner city has--neglect, predatory lending, and paramilitarized policing that too often ends in the murder of black people. “The fate of Brooklyn,” Chang writes, “tells us about the fate of Ferguson.” The violence of urban hyper-gentrification ripples outward.

Author Alan Ehrenhalt calls this demographic shift the “great inversion,” as the affluent (often white) flood into urban centers and the poor (often people of color) are pushed to the suburbs.

Also in the Times, Reniqua Allen writes of black millennials giving up northern cities for the South. Is the Great Migration reversing course as white flight has done? How much of it is a choice?

As the color (and class) of neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy, Harlem, and Crown Heights changes, it’s important to understand that displacement can be direct, like eviction, or indirect, what Peter Marcuse calls “the pressure of displacement.” In his 1985 paper “Gentrification, Abandonment, and Displacement,” he writes, “When a family sees the neighborhood around it changing dramatically, when their friends are leaving the neighborhood, when the stores they patronize are liquidating and new stores for other clientele are taking their places,” etc., then it’s only a matter of time before they move out, “rather than wait for the inevitable; nonetheless they are displaced.”

So when people speak of lower- income people of color “wanting” and “choosing” to move out of their neighborhoods, or out of the city, we have to think more deeply about that. What might look like a choice may actually be surrender to the pressure of a rapidly changing and increasingly alienating environment.

From the Times article on Bed-Stuy:

“Black people have never been obstacles to white people moving into their neighborhoods,” Mr. Parker said. He says his rent has more than doubled since he moved in, but with more white and Asian people now living in the neighborhood, there’s a newer, stronger police presence. There’s more to do in the neighborhood. “But there’s a problem if white people come in thinking Bed-Stuy is theirs,” he said. “This is a black community.”

Mr. Parker said the white and Asian people moving to Bed-Stuy weren’t the only recent arrivals. There were also what he called “new black” — African-American doctors, lawyers, business owners and young professionals are also moving into the area and living in the new luxury apartments.

“No one ever notices or talks about them,” he said.

1 comment:

Scout said...

It's certainly not an easy conversation, is it? When Spike Lee issues angry diatribes against Brooklyn gentrification, and then journalists like Errol Lewis of the Daily News and NY1 reveal that Lee himself has not only lived on the Upper East Side since 2000, but that he's been buying brownstones in Brooklyn and flipping them to sell to rich white people for $millions - well, then, what are his real feelings? At any rate, his actions tends to sabotage his words.

When some Brooklyn residents of color are less bitter about gentrification, acknowledging that it makes neighborhoods cleaner and safer, and improves the local schools - what is the real story?

In other words, how we do we affect change that is only (universally) positive? Can we?