New York is a place many only dream to be. With a population of over eight million people, no wonder it’s called “The city that never sleeps”. From the predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods in upper Manhattan to the Russian and Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn; New York is a melting pot that is rich in culture and only continues to grow. However, a shift has taken over the city. Gentrification is what it’s called. It is a process when wealthy people move into poor or low-income areas, causing property values and taxes to rise. Therefore, the old residents are pushed out. Within a few months to a year, these places become more desirable to newcomers, and landlords welcome them with open arms.Recently, I sat at a bar with a construction worker from Brooklyn, who went to high school with Biggie. He informs me that the so-called do or die Bedstuy is no longer “do or die.” Jay Z’s old stash spot in Brooklyn, where he raps “took it to my stash spot, 560 state street” in the song “Empire State of Mind” is now newly renovated, and on the market for $870,000. When asked if he would ever move back to Brooklyn and his opinion on gentrification, he reminisces and pokes fun at the topic. “The prices are really high over there, he says.”
Many entertainers who are New York natives have spoken out, and are questioning if this is to improve the city, or to turn places like Manhattan into “Millionaire’s Island.” Director Spike Lee, who came to speak at the Pratt Institute for Black history Month, called the attitudes of hipsters moving into historic black and Latino neighborhoods the “Christopher Columbus Syndrome.” “We been here!,” he says. “You didn’t discover this.” When speaking about a situation where the new neighbors called the cops on his father (who is a musician) for playing his music in his brownstone in Fort Green Brooklyn, and the drummers in the neighborhood, he says “You can’t just come to a new place and start changing sh*t. Have some respect for the culture.”
Let’s not lose the essence that makes New York what it is. No one wants to see the old shops, or restaurants they have frequented for years get turned into a Starbucks.
Watch Spike Lee speak on gentrification here.
(photo credit: Curbed via Bob Estremera)