The process of gentrification brings up a multitude of issues. The readings we have had in class represent the many opinions pertaining to gentrification, and deeply reflect the issues of both race and class. We are currently witnessing the long term effects of something that has been taking place throughout history in New York City, and is rapidly affecting the neighborhoods and communities around us. The important aspect of this controversial topic is to examine how the changes affect the pre-existing community, and if the needs of that community are being honored or swept aside.
In this article “Low- Income Kids Threatened By City Funding Cuts” we see an example of the split realities that are created within the process of gentrification. Imani House is a program, which offers affordable to free after school tutoring and activities for children, providing an essential service for working parents. As funding becomes less available programs such as this, are having to fight in order to keep its doors open.In demonstrating the funding shift out of the Park Slope area the article states:
 “[t]he center’s funding was cut this year strictly because it is located in Park Slope. The city doesn’t recognize the neighborhood as an at-risk area.  Despite increased gentrification in Park Slope, Ideraabdullah said the students who benefit from her program represent Brooklyn’s neediest zip codes.”
Hence, despite the increase of wealthier families to Park Slope, the neighborhood still has a large percent of working class and working poor families that are in need of the service provided by Imani House.  Still, as if to predict that the neighborhood’s poor population will be pushed out, funding for after school programs in Park Slope have been cut dramatically, begging the question, where will poorer families go to seek resources that were once available in their backyard?
Another article I recently discovered illustrates another important effect of gentrification. “From Open Sewer to Open Gentrification” discusses the transition that Gowanus Brooklyn is undergoing, from an industrial area, to a residential one. The interest of developers to convert this space into residential living neglects the reality of the neighborhood. The juxtaposition of interests is best shown by the contradictions of these two excerpts.  On one side of the changes are developers who state,

“[t]hese industrial buildings are obsolete…[n]obody wants to load elevators anymore.” Yet, “Phaedra Thomas and Rachel Dubin of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation [SBIDC], which helps manufacturers seek tax abatements, argue that [the] Gowanus industry is still vibrant. The group’s survey last April counted 500 industrial firms, a 25 percent rise since 1997, and 3,000 employees. They found that only 3 percent of industrial spaces were vacant.”

Thus, while developers are trying to push industry out of the area, industry that provides much needed jobs for working people, the SBIDC is fighting to keep industry vibrant.

How space is used and who gets to use it becomes critically important in examining the effects of a gentrifying city.  In the trailer for  My Brooklyn, a documentary that focuses on gentrification in Brooklyn communities as developers have seemingly free reign to reshape neighborhoods, we witness the vast differences in opinion regarding these changes.

Specifically examining the Fulton Mall area of downtown Brooklyn, the highly racialized push to change the dynamics of the neighborhood demonstrate a divide between developers and long time residents.  One striking distinction of opinion is demonstrated when interviewing different racial groups about the use of the mall. An African American man speaking about the mall states,
“you can feel free to dress how you want to dress speak how you want to speak, not feel like you don’t belong a certain place  because of the way you dress.”
 In contrast a white man who was interviewed said of the mall,
“I think its a really weird space, and I don’t know how to interact with it and i think they should just make it go away.”
The views expressed by the man interviewed in this clip display a blatant disregard for what Fulton mall provides as a community space and home to small business owners, which are both vital to the success of any neighborhood. With a mayor invested in developing these areas and attitudes such as these, it is easy to see how the needs of the neighborhood are overshadowed by the desires of the new residents, whom represent very different cultrual and economic backgrounds. This clip exemplifies exactly that shift, and even more so the very process of gentrification.
It is crucial that we examine the changes taking place around us. But in this examination we also need to ask some deeper questions. What is the root to the current trend of gentrification which is completely changing the dynamics of poor, working class and communities of color? Which neighborhoods are being targeted? And why is there such a lack of political support in addressing the needs of the neighborhoods? These are not easy questions to answer, but definitely important questions to investigate.
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One response

  1. jaredb says:

    Here is an interesting blog that deals with urban renewal and gentrification.

    http://mainstreetnj.blogspot.com/

    I urge anyone who is interested in gentrification and urbanization to read Dr. Fullilove’s book Root Shock, it is a quick and easy read that delves into some of the underlying social and psychological currents that have resulted from the warehousing of people in our society.

    http://www.rootshock.org/