Opinions

These towns they are a’changin: The realities of gentrification

Opinions Sarah Swindell - Gentrification in Progress_MsSaraKelly_6.10.14_Flickr (1).jpg

Sarah Swindell 
  Staff Writer

Gentrification has its perks. We cannot lie about that. The aspects of hipster culture like cupcake shops and coffee spots with free wifi emerge on the street corner. Everything gets a bit cleaner, for a time. Housing is modernized and old buildings left for dead can find new life. This image is glossy and sugar coated, like those gluten-free vegan cupcakes.

The process of improving a neighborhood to meet the current middle-class tastes all too often means that people who reside among a neighborhood are slowly pushed out as their apartments are retrofitted into industrial lofts and condos. The homes that once held multi-generational families become the new tea house and boutique. Restaurants long-loved by locals die away and eateries selling kombucha emerge.

The common theme of this quasi-fictionalized imagery lies in a very deep reality in the United States, reaching into its depths and permeating all too often neighborhoods belonging to communities of color. The echoes of institutionalized racism have the decks stacked against the peoples who are watching their communities fade away for middle-class whites who are taking advantage of the “up-and-coming” neighborhood.

  1. Kamau Bell covers this issue for CNN as he visited the city of Portland. In “Gentrifying Portland: A Tale of Two Cities”, Bell humorously writes, “Much like lima beans on a child’s plate, the black people of Portland are pushed from the center out to the edges, where there seems to be a childlike attempt to forget them. … The history of Oregon is partially the history of a state that legislated not wanting black people around.”

He furthers in the episode correlation to the opinion article of ‘United Shades of America’ that state government made laws against people of color, and when that was outlawed on the federal level they got sneaky. Banks would create zoning where they would never give out loans, which were ultimately the communities of color within the city.

The story of Portland can be seen across the nation in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The expenses of living reach higher and higher and these places become the haven for young professionals who cannot afford the million dollar price tags of Manhattan.

Williamsburg has become a notorious hipster haven in modern-day New York. This is more fact than opinion, and the only source available is to walk around it or just google the neighborhood. The rent is extreme and white millennial culture is in full effect. They should consider renaming it “Baby Portland”.

Bed-Stuy is a bit different. Many generations ago, Bedford-Stuyvesant was known as the little dutch town. In colonial times, the dutch had formed these two little villages after the English takeover and became their hub in the same way we see Chinatowns across America.

In this millenia, Bedford-Stuyvesant has a population that is 64 percent black according to the 2015 Community Health Profile created by the New York City government. The historic dutch who gave this neighborhood its name are no longer hanging around. There is not some outcry to return this section to its dutch ways because there is an evolution of communities that exists in the natural progression.

In the same way, beautification of our living spaces is inevitable. We build things, they become tarnished and worn, and then we fix or replace them. The former dump-like hovel cannot be the same selling price as the modern loft, so the value goes up and tenants pay more. One day when the brick walls lose their luster and the appliances all seem broken, the rent will be cheap again.

So these are not the issues with gentrifying. That would be overly simple to say a new group moving in and fixing it up is an issue. Making a place more lovely for all is never a crime. The true issue is that we as a whole do not uplift the community that exists within the borders of these places.

The communities of color once outlawed and hated by the oppressive powers have fought long battles to get the not-so equal footing seen today. The most basic foundations of life have been covered so that we all must legally coexist, but the world still forgets the communities of color that made these places historic and worthwhile.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Instead of forgetting the peoples and cultures that came before us, we must uplift them, giving them the respect and dignity for establishing these places. We must remember the history instead of shrouding it with mass-audience-white-culture that drives the everyday middle-class.

So go ahead and fix up the buildings and start new business, that is part of life. Instead of glossing over the sameness emerging however, we must work to ensure the history and diversity remains intact. The roots of racist logic cannot be overlooked in how this metamorphosis is taking place because even those prejudicial rulings a generation or two ago still have their ripple effect.

There can be no more staring at our feet when this problem is looking at us right in the face of our everyday existence.

Whether it is through projects uplifting the local community or protest at the erasure, we all must keep in mind that greatness of its former life when the face of the area may begin to change. Gentrification can bring on its wifi hotspots and portable cake in little cup fashion, but to maintain the majesty we must remember and embrace the previous tenants and those who still live among the changing landscape.

Sarah Swindell  

Gentrification has its perks. We cannot lie about that. The aspects of hipster culture like cupcake shops and coffee spots with free wifi emerge on the street corner. Everything gets a bit cleaner, for a time. Housing is modernized and old buildings left for dead can find new life. This image is glossy and sugar coated, like those gluten-free vegan cupcakes.

The process of improving a neighborhood to meet the current middle-class tastes all too often means that people who reside among a neighborhood are slowly pushed out as their apartments are retrofitted into industrial lofts and condos. The homes that once held multi-generational families become the new tea house and boutique. Restaurants long-loved by locals die away and eateries selling kombucha emerge.

The common theme of this quasi-fictionalized imagery lies in a very deep reality in the United States, reaching into its depths and permeating all too often neighborhoods belonging to communities of color. The echoes of institutionalized racism have the decks stacked against the peoples who are watching their communities fade away for middle-class whites who are taking advantage of the “up-and-coming” neighborhood.

  1. Kamau Bell covers this issue for CNN as he visited the city of Portland. In “Gentrifying Portland: A Tale of Two Cities”, Bell humorously writes, “Much like lima beans on a child’s plate, the black people of Portland are pushed from the center out to the edges, where there seems to be a childlike attempt to forget them. … The history of Oregon is partially the history of a state that legislated not wanting black people around.”

He furthers in the episode correlation to the opinion article of ‘United Shades of America’ that state government made laws against people of color, and when that was outlawed on the federal level they got sneaky. Banks would create zoning where they would never give out loans, which were ultimately the communities of color within the city.

The story of Portland can be seen across the nation in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The expenses of living reach higher and higher and these places become the haven for young professionals who cannot afford the million dollar price tags of Manhattan.

Williamsburg has become a notorious hipster haven in modern-day New York. This is more fact than opinion, and the only source available is to walk around it or just google the neighborhood. The rent is extreme and white millennial culture is in full effect. They should consider renaming it “Baby Portland”.

Bed-Stuy is a bit different. Many generations ago, Bedford-Stuyvesant was known as the little dutch town. In colonial times, the dutch had formed these two little villages after the English takeover and became their hub in the same way we see Chinatowns across America.

In this millenia, Bedford-Stuyvesant has a population that is 64 percent black according to the 2015 Community Health Profile created by the New York City government. The historic dutch who gave this neighborhood its name are no longer hanging around. There is not some outcry to return this section to its dutch ways because there is an evolution of communities that exists in the natural progression.

In the same way, beautification of our living spaces is inevitable. We build things, they become tarnished and worn, and then we fix or replace them. The former dump-like hovel cannot be the same selling price as the modern loft, so the value goes up and tenants pay more. One day when the brick walls lose their luster and the appliances all seem broken, the rent will be cheap again.

So these are not the issues with gentrifying. That would be overly simple to say a new group moving in and fixing it up is an issue. Making a place more lovely for all is never a crime. The true issue is that we as a whole do not uplift the community that exists within the borders of these places.

The communities of color once outlawed and hated by the oppressive powers have fought long battles to get the not-so equal footing seen today. The most basic foundations of life have been covered so that we all must legally coexist, but the world still forgets the communities of color that made these places historic and worthwhile.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Instead of forgetting the peoples and cultures that came before us, we must uplift them, giving them the respect and dignity for establishing these places. We must remember the history instead of shrouding it with mass-audience-white-culture that drives the everyday middle-class.

So go ahead and fix up the buildings and start new business, that is part of life. Instead of glossing over the sameness emerging however, we must work to ensure the history and diversity remains intact. The roots of racist logic cannot be overlooked in how this metamorphosis is taking place because even those prejudicial rulings a generation or two ago still have their ripple effect.

There can be no more staring at our feet when this problem is looking at us right in the face of our everyday existence.

Whether it is through projects uplifting the local community or protest at the erasure, we all must keep in mind that greatness of its former life when the face of the area may begin to change. Gentrification can bring on its wifi hotspots and portable cake in little cup fashion, but to maintain the majesty we must remember and embrace the previous tenants and those who still live among the changing landscape.

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