I am a Gentrifier.


Authors note: Gentrification has been on my mind for the last few months. I think about Brooklyn and the way it has changed in the last ten years. I used to run and us that as a way to discover neighborhoods. Now that I have a dog, I aimlessly walk to discover changing neighborhoods.

For the last few weeks, I have thought about how I would correctly articulate this blog post. I realize I just have to start, give myself room to edit this post and more room to expand on all the thoughts that I have on gentrification.  I have been living in my apartment for the last four months. My building is new, has some amenities, and is smacked in the middle of a block that has been gentrified.

Gentrification. According to the American Heritage dictionary (office edition) is the restoration and upgrading of deteriorated urban property by the middle classes, often resulting in displacement of lower-income people.  Here is my mental visualization of gentrification in Bedford Stuyvesant. My partner and I with our dog, in our brand new building, which we rent.  Our friends that sip on wine and homemade beer thinking about where to buy their first place in New York and how this neighborhood might be the place.

And, then I think about the people who have been on the block for over 30 years and where will they go? They have to go somewhere and let’s be honest, while it makes a great picture of everyone living together. Some people really do want to see less Black and Brown faces in the neighborhood. Okay, maybe I should say some people genuinely want to see more of themselves. I think this means, working, possibly a pet owner or a stroller couple. While, the common context immediately triggers thoughts of race, I start to think about the complexities of gentrification as a Black Woman.

Us. He has a little less hair and I have an afro and the dog is just right.

 

I am the one that walks the dog in the morning.  Our neighbors, really embody the what a changing or ethnically diverse neighborhood looks like. We have the white vegan tattooed hipsters, older Black Women,  the few people rolling their shopping carts full of bottles,  Hasidic Jews, interracial (black, white, asian, latino/a) couples with baby strollers and/or their dogs, and the migrant workers who try not to get picked up when the cops come telling them to find another place to stand.

This side of Bedford Stuyvesant is a bit more industrial and the abandoned factories and lots have become artist lofts and brand new high rise buildings with amenities (movie theaters, gyms, shared spaces, and rooftops). I saw a condo for sale on the block and asked the realtors, how much was the asking price.  They told me that it was a good deal, for 699k. I said, ok. But, something seemed a bit odd (other than a condo asking price of 699k on my block).  I went home and googled the property, sure enough it was advertised as Clinton Hill, not Bedford Stuyvesant.

As a Black women, with my dog and white boyfriend. I am a gentrifier. I am. While, I might not be the person (in denial) changing the neighborhood name to Clinton Hill, South Williamsburg or West Bed Stuy (I do not know the other names out there).  I am part of this wave of people moving into this neighborhood, paying the rent that comes along with an outdoor space and being happy to have the option to have a pet in my apartment.

I am also the person that wants to see the families that have had their places for 30 years to stay on this block. I wonder if they are gone, then who will hold the block memories? Who will be able to tell us about neighbor happenings and who and what to watch out for? What happens when the heart and soul of a community disappears? While I appreciate my choice of coffee shops, carbs galore (Dough and Scratchbread, my waist hates you but my taste buds LOVE you) and good food.  I am seeing less Black people on the stoop. Where are they going? The question that is on my mind is how do you build a neighborhood without killing the heart and soul of the place?

I do not have an answer yet. I do know that the Bronx, Brooklyn and even Queens are changing. And, I do not know exactly where I fit in or where I want to fit in just yet.

 

 

New buildings!

 

 

Not the Brooklyn I imaged.

 

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~ by travelling womanists on September 10, 2012.

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