The Perils of Gentrification

In Bedford-Stuyvesant, the changes that gentrification have brought to the neighborhood are fundamental, not just cosmetic. One planner talks about how neighborhood character could be retained.
May 17, 2009, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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"I'm an urban planner. As part of my job with MIT's Community Innovators Lab, I spent four months interviewing residents of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant and Clinton Hill neighborhoods with the goal of understanding what gentrification means for the longstanding community, at a time when that community is being threatened by swanky glass-faced co-op buildings and hordes of new residents fleeing high Manhattan rents."

"Bedford-Stuyvesant, commonly called Bed-Stuy, formed in 1930. It is a historically black community, one of many northern urban neighborhoods that became home to African Americans who left the South between the end of Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movements."

"[In interviews with residents, I heard] Bed-Stuy stalwarts lamenting that the new people moving into their neighborhood, specifically the new Caucasian people, were un-friendly. My interviews revealed that the arriving gentry didn't say hello on the sidewalk, didn't hold doors open, and didn't try to meet their neighbors."

"But saying hello, of course, doesn't un-displace people who can no longer afford their homes. Affordable housing does the work of un-displacing people. Good policies create stabilized neighborhoods. Funds that support community institutions, such as churches and arts centers, facilitate local networks.

Saying hello is good, but it's acting within a given structure. The bigger battle is to fight for better structures, which isn't a one-person battle."

Thanks to Franny Ritchie

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Published on Friday, May 15, 2009 in The Brooklyn Rail (via Feministing)
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