How You Gonna Hate On Gentrification When It's Your Fault: Leh Go
This is addressed to those who are in my demographic: post-college hipster types? I don’t know.
Living in Williamsburg, the gentrification mecca, it’s very common to hear cries of mostly white residents complaining about how gentrified the neighborhood is and how expensive things have become. I’m sorry, but aren’t we having this conversation in a bar that used to be a barber shop in a neighborhood that use to not be quite so affluent? We are full-fledged participants in this process—to think otherwise is to be in denial, if not a total asshole.
Besides those in denial, you’ve got those who ooze white guilt. If you feel that bad about it, then move to the Upper East or West Side. I’m pretty sure they’ve always belonged to white people (although nothing in the U.S. ever really has).
Someone once lamented to me about how bad they felt about moving to Bed Stuy. It was irritating for many reasons but mainly because I couldn’t understand where they wanted the conversation to go. Were they looking for a response like, “OMG I gentrify too! So glad we can support each other!”? It seemed like a dire attempt to fabricate an internal struggle that, just for the record, no one is going to give a shit about.
Both of these states of mind, guilt and denial, lead to the quest for authenticity—chasing after “the hood” or the “old New York.” The former makes me cringe. To those who proudly announce that they live in Bushwick, as if it suggests something daring in their character, I ask: would you live in East New York? No. Would you live in the South Bronx? No. There is nothing unique about moving to a place where there isn’t a majority of white people. Rather, what’s important is the fact that a larger number of white people are moving to a neighborhood: this is the process of gentrification. This is what matters to people: not the lack of resources or white people, but the fact that wealth and whiteness is on its way. If this wasn’t the case people would happily be moving to East New York or the South Bronx, where the rent is way cheaper. Your quest for authenticity is therefore misguided and will never be achieved.
As for the latter vision of discovering “the old New York,” I really cannot get over how funny this is. “Old New York” really wasn’t that great, especially for the disenfranchised. We are definitely reaping some of the benefits of work people have done before us, and some of us are creating benefits that people after us will enjoy. But I guess people are longing for the cheaper times, when apparently people were more creative because spending less money is romantic or something. But isn’t that what Berlin is for?
To put it simply for those who move to NYC: you are not the victims of gentrification, you are its protagonists. Those who have grown up here have watched it change and have actually been affected, whether by being priced out of their apartments or no longer feeling welcome in their own homes. Gentrification is too often talked about as something abstract that’s happening around us and not something that we are responsible for. NYC is more expensive than ever, but that’s not going to change. You are not just paying rent for your room—you’re paying rent to live in NYC, so to move to this city from somewhere else and complain about the prices is redundant. Just don’t come. After all, people in my demographic are broke but never poor. If times get hard you can move back home.
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