NYCHA-run Louis Heaton Pink Houses in East New York
The poor do not benefit from gentrification, according to a $250,000 report researched in part by five NYCHA residents hired by the city to investigate urban conditions.
A Brownstoner reader and longtime resident of Bushwick sent Brownstoner her thoughts about recent changes and gentrification in Bushwick:
“Just a quick email to see if you can help me understand what exactly is occurring in Bushwick. I have lived in Bushwick for what seems like forever and seen the changes that have happened here.
Yes I must agree some things are in the best interest of all who reside in this area but then again many of our longtime residents are forced to leave. Why you ask — well the rents are increasing rapidly and it is very difficult for the families to pay this.
Jazzy Jumpers perform at MGB Pops market. Photo via MGB Pops
Gentrification has not yet reached Brownsville but is lapping at its shores. Local residents are making a push to improve the area on their own terms, or gentrify “from within,” according to a story in Al-Jazeera. The idea is to improve employment, education, safety and quality of life before high rents arrive to push out longtime locals.
Efforts include job training, an outdoor marketplace with locally made goods and performances, a cafe and business incubator and street improvements:
- MGB Pops, a seasonal outdoor marketplace at 425 Mother Gaston Boulevard, kicked off in fall 2014. In addition to locally grown produce and other locally made products, it features art and performances. Recent events have included a ribbon cutting for a street improvements such as seating and a happy hour.
- Made in Brownsville offers architecture and design training and jobs to local youths.
- A revitalization plan, spearheaded by the Brownsville Community Justice Center, will improve Belmont Avenue.
- Dream Big Foundation’s Three Black Cats Cafe, set to open later this year on Belmont Avenue, will serve as a community hub and business incubator.
“We’re trying to disrupt the normal flow of things,” the story quotes one of the organizers of MGB Pops, Quardean Lewis-Allen, as saying. “If we can empower the residents with jobs and skills that will help them shape the neighborhood’s future, then they are less likely to be displaced when Brownsville suddenly becomes hip.”
Is gentrification a human rights violation? Yes, according to one Brooklyn-based organization recently profiled in The Atlantic. Right to the City is a national alliance of racial, economic, and environmental justice organizations which believes “the freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is…one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights,” in the words of famous anthropologist and geographer David Harvey, whom it quotes in its literature.
Formed in 2007, Right to the City list just five staff members on its website, but lists over 60 member affiliations, and 23 allied groups. A national alliance, the group’s work has focused on civic engagement, community organization, and various housing campaigns. Its office is on Atlantic Avenue.
Gentrification has often been critiqued for displacing long-time residents and businesses, escalating rents to record breaking highs, and rendering New York’s landscape corporate and soulless. On the other hand, it has also been credited with revitalizing once devastated neighborhoods, restoring New York’s economy from the brink of bankruptcy, and has been correlated with a significantly lowered crime rate.
Gentrification. Other people’s parenting. What more kvetch-worthy topics could a Brooklynite ask for? This week, a Next City article brought them together in a novel way, claiming that Park Slope parents’ anxious hovering can be blamed on gentrification.
“The most notorious urban helicopter parenting cultures have emerged from the most rapidly gentrifying areas,” writes Kathryn Jezer-Morton. “San Francisco and Brooklyn, two places where the cost of living has spiked especially dramatically, have become well known for their anxious, well-intentioned moms and dads.”
But can Brooklyn helicopter parenting really be blamed on gentrification?
After confronting problems with bad landlords and tenant harassment, at a pair of hearings earlier this month, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, in an article in City & State, tries to take on gentrification.
For well over a decade people in Brooklyn have been complaining about it, hoping for it, praising it and condemning it — and moving in and out of Brooklyn because of it. Just about everyone has a different definition of what it is, what causes it, how it changes neighborhoods and whether it is good, bad, inevitable or some combination of all of the above.
That’s Adams above, flanked by tenant advocates, announcing the hearings last month. One more is scheduled for July 26 (you can read all about it here).
Adams singles out four issues he says amplify problems associated with gentrification:
The first is criminal harassment of tenants in an effort to empty units so the landlord can take advantage of rising rents. After an outpouring of horror stories from tenants whose landlords had denied them heat, hot water, or sanitary living conditions at the hearings he hosted earlier in the month, Adams is referring cases to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office and to the state attorney general’s office for prosecution.
This morning one of our readers tipped us off to these fliers that were stuffed in car windows and stuck on front doors throughout Stuyvesant Heights in Bed Stuy. The fliers use racist imagery of watermelons and fried chicken, presumably to paint the investors who are buying up property in the neighborhood as racist. And they urge homeowners “Shut it down Bed Stuy by any means necessary.” Presumably that means not selling their homes to investors.
Our reader thought the fliers might be a response to New York Magazine recent story that revealed the real estate business practices of a racist landlord-investor. He described replacing black renters with white ones and speculated black property owners in Bed Stuy would start “dumping” houses to buy in East New York.
We’d like to ignore New York Magazine’s article, “I Put in White Tenants’: The Grim, Racist (and Likely Illegal) Methods of One Brooklyn Landlord,” but people keep emailing us about it, posting it on Facebook — and it’s now “most read” on the magazine’s site.
The article is a Studs Terkel-like stream-of-consciousness 1,600-word quote from a racist Hasidic landlord who describes a variety of questionable and sometimes outright illegal money-making real estate schemes, from buying deeds on lis pendens property to driving blacks out of rental property and replacing them with whites. A sample quote:
The building was full of tenants — $1,300, $1,400 tenants. We paid every tenant the average of twelve, thirteen thousand dollars to leave. I actually went to meet them — lawyers are not going to help you. And we got them out of the building and now we have tenants paying $2,700, $2,800, and they’re all white. So this is what we do. My saying is — again, I’m not racist — every black person has a price. The average price for a black person here in Bed Stuy is $30,000 dollars. Up over there in East New York, it’s $10,000 dollars. Everyone wants them to leave, not because we don’t like them, it’s just they’re messing up — they bring everything down. Not all of them.
Seattle-based arts production company Forward Flux Productions is presenting a night of performance and art about gentrification. Called YOUR [____] NEIGHBORHOOD, the event will mark the completion of a 21-day artists residency called collaborate:create, which brings artists together across many disciples to create new works on socially relevant themes.
There will be a range of works ranging from dance performances to multimedia installations that all explore the theme of gentrification. A related show by the same name took place last week in Seattle.
The exhibition will be held at contemporary performing arts nonprofit Center for Performance Research at 361 Manhattan Ave in Williamsburg on Sunday, May 17, from 6 pm to 9 pm. RSVP here. Tickets are $15 and must be paid for at the door, but organizers also recommend an RSVP.
Image by Forward Flux via Center for Performance Research
It’s not your imagination: The birthrate is soaring in affluent areas of Brooklyn — the brownstone belt — and decreasing in less well-off areas of the City, according to recently released statistics from the City’s Health Department analyzed by The New York Times. As New York City becomes increasingly expensive and inhospitable to the middle class — another twist on de Blasio’s tale of two cities — the birth rate is highest among the well-to-do and the very poor, with middle-class areas registering the lowest birth rates. As the Times put it:
New York has turned into a playground of the more literal kind, with a child-centric ethos bearing well-established variants of urban nuisance: stroller gridlock in gentrifying areas, car services that cater to five-year-olds, sidewalk whining that in some cases becomes its own source of noise pollution.
Brownstone Brooklyn, lower Manhattan and the South Bronx have the highest birth rates in the city. Brooklyn Heights and the Upper East Side lead the city in multiple births. Bayside Queens has the lowest birthrate.