things to think about

today i am thinking about: fuck gentrification
January 13, 2011, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I know I am supposed to hate gentrification because I am a white person and a middle-class-income-having-person and I am supposed to stand in solidarity with all of the poor brown people that I displace. I know I am supposed to hate gentrification because I am anti-racist and anti-classism and I support working class immigrant communities. I know I am supposed to stand in alliance with anti-gentrification work because lower income families have a right to fair housing, or because immigrants made this city and they have to afford to live here.

But I hate gentrification because I can’t afford to stay in my neighborhood in an apartment I would actually like to live in.

I hate gentrification because I live right behind the line of gentrification. Since I’ve lived here, in the 2 blocks around my house, there are now two coffee shops and a burger shop where burgers cost more than $10 and a wood-fired pizza shop. Franklin Avenue is becoming quite the destination for young, happening white people. There’s a white people bar! You could raise a white people family! Tree-lined streets! This neighborhood is most recently West Indian, and in come the white people marching along, and now this is a Destination Location.

And you know what? I can’t afford the white person version of this neighborhood any more. All my roommate and I want is this: a 2-bedroom apartment for $1,600 with a living room and two grown-up sized bedrooms. These apartments don’t seem to exist. There are reasons for that that are obvious – low supply! lots of limestones = fewer rent-stabilized units! – but the ones that we do see have been made over into this chintzy stupid poem to what a “New York City Apartment” is supposed to look like: exposed brick! stainless steel appliances! steps from bars! This is what I am supposed to want as a white person in this neighborhood now, and I am supposed to be willing to pay ridiculous sums of money for it.

This is how it works, right? Not-rich white people artists and queers (check, check, check, check) move into places because we can afford them, the spaces are nice, we don’t mind a little wear and tear, and we like roti. Then we stay there long enough, and other white people get interested, and start coming, because my shining white face makes the neighborhood seem safer. Then suddenly there’s organic coffee. And bagels. And a deli where you can buy Earth Balance for $6. ($6!) And the white people with more money and entitlement start coming in, and making over everything, and suddenly every apartment needs a stainless steel refrigerator. Who even likes stainless steel?!

I am so, so sick of being a part of this cycle. I am moving by choice, not by need – I live in a punk house now, or a punk-ish house, and I want something more manageable. But I don’t want to move into an apartment further inside the gentrification line, only to do this again when my rent goes up too far. I want rent stabilization because I only want to move again when I am 90 years old and finally have enough money to retire and go to Florida. I want a home, a real home, a stable home. Even if I found another apartment in the neighborhood – and I still could – without rent stabilization I am just going to be there until the landlord decides to find white people — or brown people, in all fairness — who can afford to pay more.

I don’t want to leave my deli guy. I don’t want to leave my train station. I don’t want to leave the roti store. I don’t want to leave the bougie bagelteria. But I want to have somewhere that I can trust is mine from year to year. I want a home I can invest in and trust that it’ll be there a long, long time. And even though I am still a gentrifying face anywhere I can afford to live, I want to be in a neighborhood differently than “young white 20something in passing before she moves on.” I want to be that young white 20something who knows her neighbors over the course of many, many years.

I am holding onto rent stabilization as a talisman at this point. The right to renew! Measured rent increases! Theoretical legal protections! Even if rent comes up over $2,000 – and it will in 12 years or so, I did the math – the apartment still only destabilizes if our combined income is more than $175,000. I should be so lucky! But I won’t be, and that means I at least will get to stay put a long, long time. It’s like a mortgage for people who don’t have the money to buy a home!

Fuck gentrification. Fuck it because I have no idea how you say goodbye to a deli guy. Fuck it because I am moving away from my friends. Fuck it because I haven’t found a better option for pulling myself out of the gentrification game than finding something and holding on with all my might. I will be a gentrifying face in this next neighborhood, and even more so in my next building – my credit + income aren’t high enough to get in with rich white people – but that’s it. After that, they’ll get me out of there with a crowbar.

2 Comments so far
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There’s a lot I could and should say, but for now, I just wanted to share that when I moved to my current apartment about three years ago, everyone was trying to show us apartments in your area. It’s not that I’m not part of the gentrification here–I totally am, and have the shitty, racist, irresponsible gaggle of white 20-something next door neighbors now to prove it. But it shows how orchestrated this all is–we wanted to move to this neighborhood because we loved it for a great number of reasons and could actually afford the kind of space we wanted, etc. Every realtor we talked to tried to convince us that they had great stuff that was just what we wanted in your neighborhood. Every one. Just your area. No matter who we talked to, laying out the area where we wanted to look at apartments (which is not even adjacent yours)–boom, they really, really wanted us to move to your area. Gentrification isn’t even evil, nudged evolution, it’s full-on evil intelligent design.

Long day. Apologies if my brilliant evolution analogies are not so much.

Comment by Nicole

Every time I go to Cap hill I think about this. Safeway is now condos and fancy shops. QFC and the Taco Bell where Beau ran in after we got off work at the UPS store and shouted “two kittens” are condos and fancy shops. Freddy’s went through so many incarnations. It had a theater that’s a gym now, GaP is gone. Hot topic is gone. That perfect sunglasses kiosk near the elevator where I got my purple John Lennons is gone. QFC is there and they sell paint and house wears. My gaming store is American Apperal now. My middle eastern restaurant with the black sage tea that cured the common cold is gone. My music store is now a Castle Megastore. Buffalo Exchange is only on the Ave now. The only part of my Broadway that still exists is The Metro gothy emporium, but as a working adult, instead of a kid with an allowance, I can’t afford to shop there.

Same thing is going on at U Vil. The landlords get greedy. They raised the rent of Atlas Cafe where I’ve shown and sold art and they had the best corned beef hash ever and even Barnes and Nobel got the boot! It’s such bs. I live in the burds. I make minimum wage and live in a house with 3 guys, but our 4 bedroom + den, 1 bathroom house is underpriced for what our landlord could get for it. He’s the only non greedy landlord I know

Comment by Sarah Silverman

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