Gentrification

Growing up in a lower middle class bastion had it’s many difficulties: Dealing with moving from several apartments, forced to attend public schools, always making ends meet by the skin of our teeth. Not to mention my parents divorce which made matters all the more unseemly. All the times throughout childhood thinking how I would never want to spend the rest of my life in the neighborhood I felt was, more or less, a craphole.

But then I became an adult, educated myself on the parameters of price of living compared with hourly wages, not to mention the self absorbed snobbery of the trust fund baby generation I’ve grown to loathe. I came to the realization that coming of age in a working class community helped grow character and mold me into the person I am today.

After the Great Recession of 2008, rents and housing market prices began to soar, forcing upper class citizens from their Midtown Manhattan condos and into previously lower-middle class neighborhoods. Coffee houses and tanning salons soon replaced Goodwill outlets and YMCAs. Now you’re initial response to that statement may be hip, overpriced coffee shops may improve the overall feel of the area. Consequently, businesses  that are meant to ” improve” the quality of life of these locales drive up the prices, not only of the products their selling but also the rental properties for housing. For instance, according to the real estate statistic site, zumper.com, in downtown Jersey City the average price of a one bedroom apartment in 2021 was $1,875 a month which was a 14 percent increase from the prior year.

The complicated issue of gentrification is sometimes lost on the very people that it negatively affects the most. They’re being priced out of their homes in neighborhoods where, in some instances, houses are passed down through generations of ownership. Gentrifying is yet another unfortunate reality of the ever growing ethos of Ultra Capitalism. Stock market managers, business owners and other six figured salary earning professionals are being priced out of their own super expensive living spaces, causing a domino effect, that spreads across every societal class.

In the region covering the five boroughs of New York City, 12 percent of those neighborhoods are in a state of advanced gentrification, which describes an increase in housing and/or rental values due to the inundation of high-income, well-educated residents( courtesy of news.berkeley.edu). The sections that experienced the starkest increases of gentrification were East Harlem in Upper Manhattan, Williamsburg, Brooklyn and nearby Greenpoint( statistics courtesy of patch.com/new york).

According to a study conducted by the University of Georgetown, the folks most adversely affected by the rise in gentrification are low-income individuals and people of color. The extremely negative impact of gentrified areas are forced displacement caused by hikes in price of living and also the unfortunately inevitable discriminatory behavior by the often smugness of the incoming residents. These determining factors are the most common reasons for the massive shift from one group of individuals of a certain ilk to another, changing the entire fabric of these places.

The term “gentrification” was coined in 1964 by a woman named Ruth Glass. She used the term originally to describe the changes happening in areas of London at the time. Previously run-down council estates and other forms of housing were going through a transformation to satisfy the influx of wealthier people. ( courtesy of geographical.com.uk). The fact a British woman came up with the term entitled in this editorial should make it easily known that its not just an American problem. In a piece written by housebeautiful.com in 2018, Cambridge, England was the most gentrified city in the United Kingdom. Rounding out the top four were: Aberdeen, Scotland, Reading, Scotland and Portsmouth, England.

Can the cultural phenomenon of gentrification simply be blamed on the current ecomomic model in place in the U.S. and U.K? The young college professionals steeped in student loan debt can’t always be unfairly demonized for needing a decrease in their living expenses. A massive change in working wages, price of residential and commercial properties need to happen from the top of bureaucracy chain of command. My personal experiences and point of view on this issue made writng this piece all the important for me. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be any urgency to find a solution for the ugly realites of gentrification. Peoples lives and the communal aspect of the neighborhoods affected are certainly at stake.

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Please spread the word
Robert DiBlasio
Writer/Podcaster. Socialist, Pluralist, Free Speech Advocate. Born in Jersey City, NJ.
https://anchor.fm/gentlerambler
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SoapBoxJury
1 year ago

Great piece. Makes me wonder why people don’t feel that an area can support a range of different needs at the same time. Has it always been this way?

Chef G
Reply to  SoapBoxJury
1 year ago

An area should be able to support a range of different needs, but they often don’t. The moment gentrification starts happening, those on higher wages and differing education levels start complaining about the “degradation”. I think to a lot of people, those on minimum wage are wasters and those without any income are scroungers.

I think until we turn the measure away from your earning’s to respecting all walks of life, we are doomed to repeat this sick cycle of forcing those who do “menial” jobs to live on the outskirts of society, out of sight and out of mind.