A Response to Brooklyn Gentrification
Whether you think gentrification’s good, bad, natural, or hipster-white-boy-shit seeking “cool” culture but eliminating it, I’m witnessing it, first hand. Of course, it’s easy to retort, “You’re a skinny white boy with ginger hair and writes. That’s almost the stereotypical definition of gentrification.” I won’t argue you; it’s true.
As an excuse, believe it if you want, I moved to Bushwick with no-knowledge of the area. In fact, all I knew was that it used to be a Sicilian neighborhood…and Eddie Murphy was born there. I moved here because of three reasons:
- I couldn’t afford Manhattan…or Williamsburg…or, really, any area within a twenty minute subway ride of the city.
- I needed a place instantly because I’d worn my stay on my friend’s couch.
- It reminded me of home.
I’ve never known “urban revitalization.” Being from Detroit, I spent years watching artist movements, tax-breaks, and even free housing to revitalize the city. Sure, artists moved in—and still continue to do so. But what happens in Detroit is what always happens in Detroit. Crack-heads burn down a house; Gunshots at the local grocer over a gallon of milk and some cigarettes; Crack-heads burn down a local grocer over a gallon of milk, some cigarettes, and a dose of crack. It’s the same story. Growing up intimately with that environment, I relished it in a weird way—even if the murder rate’s higher than Baghdad’s.
Bushwick held Detroit’s rustic charm—with its barren factories and thriving assault rate.
Over even the past months, the stream of predominately white youths has streamlined into the neighborhood. French restaurants pop-up down the street; cute muffin shops open; and an organic ice cream shop begins business.
But we—these white youths—ignore what’s leaving, waging war with gentrification. That French restaurant replaced a once thriving Cuban bodega. That muffin shop used to be the town barber. And the organic ice cream shop used to sell, well, ice cream that doesn’t cost $8.50 per cone.
Ignored, still, are the residents, the, often diverse, locals who’ve lived in this neighborhood for five, ten, thirty years. Those same residents who stuck with Bushwick through the riots and crime are being forced out of their homes due to skyrocketing rent. Rent’s $700/month right now but the price will increase by $100/month next year. The artist next door willingly pays his $1,400/month.
The cycle continues.
Soon I’ll probably be forced to relocate because of high rent, swanky wine bars, and these fucking French restaurants.
Gentrification is hard to prevent. For many of us, we’re contributors—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Not all of us can afford—or don’t want—the overpriced, overvalued Manhattan property. Here are three quick—and what should be obvious—tips to outwit such price jumps:
- Stay Ahead of the Curb: Obvious point is obvious. If you can’t deal with higher rates, then research and know exactly where to move next or the next cheap bar or grocer. For Brooklyn, I recommend staying away from the “L.”
- Community Participation: I don’t understand why young-ins are too afraid to take community action. You may not have much in common with the Puerto Rican mother of six or the Haitian roofer. But you cohabitate. Do you know your landlord? More importantly, do you know your rights? Learn these things, talk to these people, it’ll save you stress and finances.
- Support Your Locals: Talk to the locals. Purchase fresh fruit from the corner market. Get recommendations on the best cheap eats. I’m serious. These people not only know the best deals but who’s serving the best grub. Without your continued support, these mom-and-pop shops will likely go out of business. Offering cheaper options than any chain, they maintain the “Brooklyn atmosphere” you probably love to brag about, and they’re damn tasty. Your $3.50 Cuban sandwich with lunch will soon become a luxurious $7.85 Cuban sandwich with local cheese from a Hudson Valley goat named “Chet.”
Feel free to leave any other tips, considering most of the article was a response to my rising rent price and an oddly expensive coffee.
Photo Credit: Tommy Burson