When Gentrification Works

Thursday, February 06, 2014

"Gentrification doesn't need to be something one group inflicts on another," argues New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson. He talks about how NYC neighborhood like Inwood and Bed-Stuy change over time, and whether "gentrification" deserves its bad reputation.


Gentrification doesn't need to be something that one group inflicts on another; often it’s the result of aspirations everybody shares. All over the city, a small army of the earnest toils away, patiently trying to sluice some of the elitist taint off neighborhoods as they grow richer. When you’re trying to make a poor neighborhood into a nicer place to live, the prospect of turning it into a racially and economically mixed area with ­thriving stores is not a threat but a fantasy. As the cost of basic city life keeps rising, it’s more important than ever to reclaim a form of urban improvement from its malignant offshoots. A nice neighborhood should be not a luxury but an urban right.

-- Justin Davidson in New York Magazine


Justin Davidson

Comments [70]

I would like to second some of the calls for a follow-up from this segment. I was disturbed by the antisemitism in the call-ins. Clearly this is an issue that needs to be addressed and not just swept under the rig, which is unfortunately what Anna Sayles did. Please do a follow-up on this, Brian!

Feb. 13 2014 09:43 AM
Paul from UWS

How can we (as citizens) petition the City to mandate that a landlord cannot leave a retail space unoccupied for a certain amount of time (6 months or 1 year...) There are currently many unoccupied retail spaces everywhere in Manhattan, some have been empty for YEARS. These empty spaces do no service for a community or neighborhood. Presumably, landlords can afford to keep the spaces empty? Then, force them to fill the spaces, and lower their rent.

Feb. 11 2014 01:53 PM
John Charles Nuss from UWS

There really is no debate here this segment was valueless. Need more engaging host (Brian included) who are not just winding and nodding in their challenges to their guests but rather have convictions occasionally.

Feb. 09 2014 01:06 PM
Jews Jews

Woody Allen, check. All Jews are Hasidism, check. All Hasidism are synonymous with bad, check. Shame on WNYC for forgetting a Madoff segment.

Feb. 07 2014 01:16 PM
john from office

Funny how some put downs on this board are allowed to remain and others are removed.

Shelly, the Hasidim are not all jews and all jews are not Hasidim. Why does it take a goy to tell you that.

My point is that those who were most helped by the jewish people, hate in return. Hasidim are not all jews.

You sir are a bully.

Feb. 07 2014 07:49 AM

When white people move into a neighborhood, it is negatively labeled "gentrification!" However, when minorities move into a neighborhood, it is celebrated as "diversity!" It seems more than a few are becoming bored with this simplistic form of reverse racism.

Feb. 06 2014 08:51 PM
Brian From Mars from mars

Wow, what a segment. Two white gentrifiers talk about why gentrification is good and cut off anyone that says gentrification is bad. Amazing piece of journalism. Please do keep it coming.

Feb. 06 2014 08:46 PM
Blame the Jews

Great job on this Jew segment -- keep up the good work WNYC!

Check out BBC for dozens of tips on this tack. Brooklyn Caller, please call again.

Feb. 06 2014 06:54 PM
Maxim from Jersey City

I was absolutely appalled to hear several anti-Semitic comments on the air. The host failed miserably in her duties. Brian should know about this! I understand that you can't screen our every single crank who decides to call the show but simply cutting them off is NOT a solution. The host had to address the issue ON THE AIR. This is NPR after all and it's only fair to hold it to a high ethical standard. Racist remarks on air are absolutely unacceptable and when they do occur you can't just let them slide. This was a low point for the station and certainly a very low point for the program that many of us love and support.

Feb. 06 2014 05:06 PM
Inwood Resident from Inwood

Keep in mind that much of the talk of "gentrification" about Inwood is anecdotal and based more on the appearance of swank bars catering to the Dominican clubbing crowd and the appearance of Manhattan's 201st Starbucks rather than any real data. 2012 census shows similar incomes to past years (in adjusted dollars), with the wealthiest part of Inwood actually falling slightly in income.

Gentrification may be happening, or it might be the same story it has always been, regardless of Irish, Jewish, Dominican or other demographics -- middle income west of Broadway, upper middle income northwest corner, lower income east of Broadway. The day a condo or market rate rental opens EOB, call me. Until then, this may not be news.

Feb. 06 2014 03:23 PM

[[We've removed a few comments for violating the WNYC posting policy. Please keep your comments civil, refrain from personal attacks, and on topic. These are difficult topics, but we are trying out best to keep the comments page a place for productive interaction.]]

Feb. 06 2014 03:21 PM
Rozo_NYC from Oakland, CA

Feb. 06 2014 01:35 PM
MikeInBrklyn from Clinton Hill

@Sheldon you got my point well. My shock had little to do with the type of persons with predominant ownership, but more that things were so skewed.

And you are right re "real estate speculators with capital just happened to be predominately black Jamaicans, the exploitation would be the same. "

Feb. 06 2014 01:27 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

"Quite frankly, the type of cornering of the market that is at play should be troubling to anyone concerned about equity in the real estate market. i.e. With greater ownership."

Mike, are you saying that there should be a quota on the amount of property someone could buy, based on their ethnicity or religion?

There has always been - unfortunately, exploitation, some predatory, in real estate. The fact that many of these so-called "gray market" developers in Brooklyn with access to capital are Hasids, is just a symptom not the problem.

I can assure you. If the real estate speculators with capital just happened to be predominately black Jamaicans, the exploitation would be the same.

Feb. 06 2014 12:45 PM

Always terrible guest host.


(I would be replying to your comment if there was a reply function here.)

Your point is well taken. That guy was quite reasonably representing the downside of gentrification as experienced in his neighborhood, and there was no discussion allowed. Just on to the next caller.

The problem is the guest host. She is always terrible. Always superficial. Always directs the conversation away from any substance. Why WNYC keeps using her is an insult to the listeners.

Having one guest representing one side of a complex issue (particularly with an uncritical superficial host) was a terrible idea in the first place. There are many broader issues behind gentrification which were left unaddressed.

Feb. 06 2014 12:15 PM
MikeInBrklyn from Clinton Hill

@Alicia your points are rather valid. From my short dabble in real estate, I too was shocked at the predominance Hasidic Jewish owners have of rental properties in gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods. Quite frankly, the type of cornering of the market that is at play should be troubling to anyone concerned about equity in the real estate market. i.e. With greater ownership, one segment of the population is more and more able to out-muscle competition, based on the increasing leverage gained from their substantial real estate portfolio.

While in certain regions (bordering South WillyB) of Bed Stuy there is exclusionary practices in renting, my experience is that for other properties, these owner will rent to any qualified renter(s).

If it seems that people of color are not being rented to, that has little to do with discimination but more to do with the quality (income, credit, work, etc) of non-"newcomer" applications.

From my experience, the non-newcomers either do not qualify for the new rents and/or do not seek to rent in the same way as the new arrivals. e.g. Sharing.

Where people qualify, apartments are rented to them. Any scrupulous real estate agent would make certain to report any landlord acting to the contrary.

Feb. 06 2014 12:14 PM

As someone who has lived in Bed-Stuy for 5 years, and done some community-based art and anti-eviction work in the neighborhood, when talking with long-term residents I know they are frustrated about gentrification and feel helpless about its effects on their housing prices and their neighborhood spirit. Where are their voices in this NY Mag article? The residents of Bed-Stuy or Harlem are accessible and available, and their perspectives would have made the piece a lot more complex than it was. My landlord in Bed-Stuy owned 36 properties, and he was a slumlord, plain and simple, whose buildings were in terrible condition. He had presumably bought my building when the original owner- an African-American woman - passed away. Everyone knew which were his buildings on the block, because they were falling apart. And the fact was, he lived in the suburbs of NY, and had absolutely no connection to the neighborhood. Real estate speculation, vacant buildings, and the larger system privileging developers are rewarded in NY and in Bed-Stuy. The fact is, neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Harlem have a community feeling - of mutual support, of neighbors knowing each other's name - that gets destroyed when rampant speculation comes into the neighborhood. There needs to be a neighborhood approach and organization to revitalization, not a developer-led approach.

Feb. 06 2014 12:08 PM
RJ from prospect hts

've lived in Prospect Hts for 30 years, and I originally grew up nearby in Crown Hts, in the 60s, and then again nearby as a house-sitter in 1979. What's happened in the last 30 years here is economy-generated; gentrifiers moved in in the early 80s (I was part of the first lower-income wave), a lot of people left after the 87 crash, then floods of expanding financial service families flowed back in in the 90s, pushing out the Caribbean community, many of whom went to Flatbush, further out, but retaining many of them as their nannies. At the same time, many black people who had moved up here for jobs in the South and bought the only houses they could--due to pervasive redlining that my family saw and fought in Crown hts in the 60s--bought in this neighborhood. Many have now retired and/or died; some are moving back to the South. Some became single-room-occupancy buildings when the neighborhood became desperately poor in the 70s. Their children are inheriting and selling, and then the houses are being gutted and flipped, and so now are selling upwards of $2 million. Many are being converted from single family to multiple apartments, some coops, extraordinarily expensive. So the neighborhood has priced out many poor and working class people of color. It is accumulating high-end boutique stores and restaurants. As I write, an entire corner with a restaurant, barbershop, muffin store, and ice cream store are being shut down--the Spanish restaurant has been here over 30 years, predating me--and it will be developed into a higher rise, high-income setup.

There are a few upsides. Due to the intense advocacy of people--particularly around the ugly Barclay center/Atlantic Yards development--brought in extended sidewalks to try to control the traffic that would have overwhelmed the surrounding neighborhoods. They brought in street dividers--tree-filled islands on Vanderbilt Ave, for example. Bike lanes. Young people have moved in and are living 3, 4, 5 to an apartment--they are a mixed bag, as the bars and cafes catering to them do not accommodate older and longer-term residents. An up side: I've seen many gay and interracial couples on the streets, which would have been unheard-of when I was growing up nearby.

Feb. 06 2014 12:03 PM
Jonathan Blum from Brooklyn

I couldn't believe what I was hearing today. I wished Brian Lehrer was there because he would have not let these anti-semitic comments hang there without any comment or response. It was awful. I was looking forward to hearing Justin Davidson discuss his very interesting article in the New York Magazine. Unfortunately, the guest host didn't get any substance from this interview. Because this topic is such a lighting rod issue, I really wish Brian Lehrer had been there today. There needs to be a follow-up segment addressing the issue of anti-semitism as it relates to gentrification.

Feb. 06 2014 12:01 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

jgarbuz from Queens, Alles Klar. Family chased by Fascist? Yes, one side of my family had the same experience.

Feb. 06 2014 11:52 AM

It's funny what gets out when Brian isn't there.
I wonder how those people whose lives were being made miserable by gentrification got past the screener(s), who usually weed out anyone that doesn't agree with the Bloomberg 'vision' of NYC?
After twelve years of WNYC conveniently ignoring issues like this, why should anyone be surprised when the host cuts off a caller that doesn't agree with the nightmare that WNYC ignored for the last twelve years?
I wonder how much Bloomberg donated to WNYC to make them so compliant?

Feb. 06 2014 11:50 AM
Alicia from Bedford Stuyvesant

Although it may sound inflammatory when some callers comment on the fact that many property owners in gentrifying areas are Jewish, it is a valid point. Instead of cutting them off, the host would do well to engage with the actual issue which is complex -- who owns property and how does the difference between owners and renters interests affect housing in the city?

As a Jew in the Bed-Stuy area of Brooklyn I am extremely alarmed and upset by the attitudes many of the Hasidic Jewish property owners. There are real problems here. The actions that a few Jewish property owners take affect many residents of the area, primarily poor and working class people of color, and their very real experiences unfortunately may contribute to resentment and anti-semitism. However, pointing out the fact that there is a demographic difference between renters and landlords is not anti-semitic. It's the truth.

I live in Bed-Stuy and I see firsthand how new construction by Hasidic Jews is rented almost exclusively to the Satmar Jewish sect, while other older buildings with non-Jewish residents are left in disrepair. Then, when the buildings are renovated, the landlords rent to newcomers to the neighborhood. In order to discuss what is really going on in the broad term we call "gentrification," and then examine the causes and implications of neighborhoods, we must be allowed to mention the facts! If people sound angry it is because their homes are at stake.

I know that it is scary as a host to delve into issues of race, anti-semitism, and the power of race and class in the city, but I expect more from WNYC. I hope there can be another opportunity to discuss gentrification that allows the callers to bring up these very important issues.

Feb. 06 2014 11:37 AM
Person from Uptown

Jason, you are so right, many of these neighborhoods were once full of Jews.

I moved to central Harlem 3 years ago (I'm white and of the tribes of Israel) because I couldn't afford to get a place in my old neighborhood downtown. I'm sure I'm seen as a gentrifier, but my people lived in this neighborhood, right were I am, 100 years ago, so I feel I've come full circle.

Feb. 06 2014 11:36 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@Juan from office (mail room): Weren't you bashing Hasids a couple of weeks ago? You are such a joke?

Feb. 06 2014 11:32 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

to John

Tell me I don't know or didn't live through. On the other hand, the Italian neighborhood that I moved into after fleeing Brownsville didn't exactly welcome us fleeing Jews with open arms either! Most moved out to Staten Island :) Forgeddaboutit :)

Feb. 06 2014 11:27 AM

Can someone explain to me why the portion of my real estate taxes ($4220) on a 2 bedroom co-op apartment in Bay Ridge valued at maybe $425,000 is more than Mr. DeBlasio's tax of about $2800 on one of his million dollar homes and $3100 on the other. Is this meant to encourage gentrification by pricing me out. Maybe I should be grateful since gentrification does such great things for a community.

Feb. 06 2014 11:27 AM
Jason from Manhattan

"Criminal Jews" by the last caller pretty much sums up what this is all about. If the landlords and developers were black or Hispanic, which maybe they should be, it would be called "affordable housing preservation," but when the landlord is Jewish, he is a criminal. This is exactly how the pogroms in Russia started, and the Jewish ghettos of Europe. You don't have to be rich or the majority to be racist. By the way, most of the neighborhoods we are talking about were originally built and occupied first by Jews.

Feb. 06 2014 11:26 AM

The Story of NYC Medians

$4333.33/mth pre tax ≠ $3017/mth

Feb. 06 2014 11:26 AM
Jack from South Bronx

There is plenty of under used space

Feb. 06 2014 11:24 AM
Elise from Manhattan

Lots of anti-semetism. True that, Natives...were native there are no entitled folks.

Feb. 06 2014 11:24 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@ Katherine, with your comment "it's difficult if not impossible for people who want to move into a good neighborhood to afford to live there."

You now that you are part of the problem, right?

Feb. 06 2014 11:24 AM
john from office


The people you helped in the 60's get "equal right" Hate You!!!

Feb. 06 2014 11:24 AM
Madame X from BKLYN

Woah, I don't understand why the host keeps shutting down callers who are expressing real trends and who are justifiably disturbed by the effects that gentrification is having on their lives. This topic involves peoples' lives, it's not just a theory. I think the host could do a better job of honoring the frustration that the callers are expressing and explaining what is/is not in scope for the conversation. Thanks.

Feb. 06 2014 11:24 AM
P.S. from NJ

A caller had called in to explain how the black residents in a NYC neighborhood were being either forced or priced out (i assume by non-renewal, eviction, or price changes) by Hasidic Jewish property owners. The host's response was to quickly thank the caller and change the topic. Regardless of whether one views gentrification as good or bad, part of the process is often affected by racial change with many reasons associated with that. For the host to simply pretend that there is no racial component to this and to not delve into it when brought up by a caller is a level of blind political correctness on the part of the host which reminds me of a child saying "i can't year you, i can't year you".

Feb. 06 2014 11:23 AM
jane from bed stuy

very unimpressed with the reprehensible anti-semitic comments from 2 callers
besides being factually incorrect, they were ugly and hateful
for shame

Feb. 06 2014 11:23 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Politics aside, gentrification does clean up neighborhoods that need it. It seems that neighborhoods all over every city seem to decline over time and it is only when people undertake to clean them up that property values begin to increase again.

Feb. 06 2014 11:22 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Rob, I believe he was referring to specific "Liquor businesses THAT are popular with Hispanics"

Feb. 06 2014 11:22 AM
Person from Uptown

Ugh, that sick racist woman who called from Harlem -- gross. Lost my appetite. Thanks for cutting her off.

Feb. 06 2014 11:22 AM

A guest on this show a couple of weeks ago had a great comment... something like... you'll know gentrification worked when the last minority moves out. Which is just the opposite of what we used to say about White Flight.

Why does this guest stammer so much? Seems like even he does not believe what he's saying. It's like he keeps having to reach deep to make up the next point. yuck!

Feb. 06 2014 11:21 AM
Person from Uptown

I moved to the East Village in 1978, when it was shitty and filthy and scary (and cheap -- or at least I found a cheap, rent stabilized, place). Stayed 28 years and saw the neighborhood get shiny, clean and full of entitled suburban NYU students. Now my child lives in the apartment (where she was raised) and I shudder every time I go down to that neighborhood. Personally, I preferred it when it was raw.

Feb. 06 2014 11:21 AM
Justin from Brooklyn

Rasing propert values, more business for stores, higher tax base for the city, safer, gentrification is ALL bad. What a joke.

Feb. 06 2014 11:21 AM
Daniel Goode from Soho

Hey, Anna and Justin,

Remember rent control and rent stabilization. Killed or wounded by the real estate business! The answer to the problem of displacement!!

PLEASE bring this in, Without that, no fair discussion.


Feb. 06 2014 11:19 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

to fuva

"Native people?" The native people are erroneousl referred to as "Indians" and are long gone! What native people? When I was brought to Brownsville as a two year old child from Germany, it was as Jewish as Jewish can get. Six synagogues on every block. A decade later there was 6 baptist gospel-singing churches on every block instead. So what "native people?"

And here we go again, the "criminal Jews" are back!

Feb. 06 2014 11:19 AM
inwooder from Inwood, NY

The whole premise of your guest's argument is ridiculous. Any kind of gentrification results in property values going up, and landlords wanting higher rents. Any kind. Why? Because the only neighborhoods left for the poor and the creative classes will always be the crappy ones. As an artist, one of the pre-gentrifiers, you could say, I've seen it happen again and again: me and a few other artists move in because we can't afford to live anywhere else, and next thing you know, it's where the rich people think they can send their children to live in relative safety and still feel cool, and landlords start hiking up rents. Soon, my rent looks too low, and they want me and my fellow artists out. On to the next crappy neighborhood. I'm tired of feeling guilty -- my neighbors think I'm a gentrifier but wait till they see the real ones moving in, paying way more than me -- about every neighborhood I move into, and knowing that in five years I'm going to be priced out. The minute a Starbucks opens in a neighborhood is the day I start looking for a cheaper neighborhood to move to.
How are you going to change that?

Feb. 06 2014 11:17 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

I lived in Soho and Tribeca before the “class” took it over. Spent years all over the city chasing housing. Then left as many have done and will do. Again where will the people who service NYC, the back ground- live? On another planet? Every morning space ships transport the service folk into NYC.
Give me a brake. This guest is seriously delusional.

Feb. 06 2014 11:16 AM

What does this guy think about historic preservation? Should be just destroy all of our old architecture in the name of gentrification? Does our incredible history matter not a bit to this jerk?

Feb. 06 2014 11:16 AM
Jason from Manhattan

"Gentrification" as a term used by housing advocates is veiled racism. Gentrification is impossible to measure but is typically related to how many white people move into a neighborhood. The more white faces, the more gentrification. But in neighborhoods like Washington Heights and Prospect Lafferts where I manage apartment buildings, these white kids are looking for quality apartments for cheaper rents, they are cohabitating in 2s and 3s in order to split the cost. Why? Because they are not rich, they are barely making it as waiters, actors, nannies. That's not gentrification, that's survival. In many ways these kids have it a lot tougher than the renters they "displaced."

Feb. 06 2014 11:15 AM

"Liquor businesses are popular to hispanic and latins..."

Please! Stop this guy! What a racist bozo.

Feb. 06 2014 11:14 AM
Katherine from Brooklyn

Isn't the key to beneficial gentrification affordable housing?

Gentrification drives up property values for owners but it also drives up rents, making it difficult if not impossible for people who want to move into a good neighborhood to afford to live there. And impossible for people already living there who cannot afford to pay higher rent to stay there, as rents inevitably rise for them too.

Feb. 06 2014 11:13 AM

SoHo is far different than Harlem, for example. One was an industrial area where business moved out. The other is a residental community where people are being pushed out.

Big difference!

I don't have a problem with repurposing areas that were vacated, but forcing people to leave places where they have roots just because you either have or want more money is Wrong.

Feb. 06 2014 11:12 AM
Amy from Manhattan

If the same overall economic conditions are leading to greater income inequality, so people who already have a lot of money to have more money & at the same time people who don't have much money are losing their jobs or not having their income increase enough to match the rising cost of living, gentrification *will* force long-time residents of a neighborhood to leave, or at least make them unable to afford the kinds of goods & services that push out existing (cheaper) ones in a gentrified neighborhood.

Feb. 06 2014 11:12 AM
EA from Harlem

People would consider me a Harlem gentrifier (though I displaced no one, as my new construction was on an empty lot that had previously been abandoned for years). Harlem has changed a lot since I moved in, all for better. Rather than empty storefronts (or bodegas with drug dealers hanging out outside), I now see an assortment of locally owned shops and restuarants. While waking up to gun shots still happens, it doesn't happen as much as it used to, and it seems safer overall. There is still much improvement that needs to happen. I would not be so welcoming to a big box store or national chain as I am to small, local businesses (but that's how I feel about NYC businesses in general, this is not Harlem-specific).

Feb. 06 2014 11:12 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Really? Gentrification is good because it helps the local business owners? And what percentage of the native population are they?

Feb. 06 2014 11:11 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I think the term "gentrification" basically means the return of white people to the neighborhoods their parents or grandparents fled from away to the suburbs when blacks and Puerto Ricans flooded into in the '50s and '60s from the South and Puerto Rico. "Gentrification" should mean integration. alas, as usual, the poor can't afford the rising rents. But that is why we need hi-rising buildings.

Feb. 06 2014 11:10 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Wow. If the guest is positing that "improvements" are PRErequisite to gentrification – that gentrification comes AFTER improvements – then he's telling the story wrong.

Feb. 06 2014 11:09 AM

It's not a "cycle we want to break", but it's a detrimental change that we want to regulate, so that money is not the only winner.

Feb. 06 2014 11:08 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Gentrification is great if you can afford Whole Foods, boutiques, high priced cafes, high priced restaurants, high priced housing costs- to rent, to buy. Make a large bonus on Wall Street, wow you are there.
Otherwise you move.
This guest is giving a classist justification for very serious social and economic inequities.
Where are those who are servicing the gentrified to live on another planet?

Feb. 06 2014 11:08 AM

I hope the first caller was only cut off due to length and not content. He brought up some very valid points pertaining to what happens when only non-neighborhood residents own the property.

Feb. 06 2014 11:07 AM

so how do you convince the unti-semitic black guy , who just called with valid factual observations, when his call was brushed aside?

Feb. 06 2014 11:07 AM

Where do important social constructs fit in, like: community, fellowship, stability, family progress, and instituation memory?

If we allow gentrification to keep pushing family around the map, aren't we losing an important fabric of civic development?

Feb. 06 2014 11:07 AM
fuva from harlemworld

EXCELLENT, caller. Gentrification is a zero-sum game. DEVELOPMENT is what can be inclusive.

Feb. 06 2014 11:06 AM

two kinds of gentrification goes on as illustrated by 1970s SOHO. Artists come in, create an interesting kind...Rich people notice tht it is an interesting neighborhood and they are bored of where they have ruined most recently and move in...then then get irritated by all of the noise, parties, bars, restaurants, etc....they use their political power (along with the fact that at this point they have taken over most of the desirable real estate) to get rid of all of these things turning the recent neighborhood into a boring neighborhood like where they came from. One gentrification is good and the other is bad.

Feb. 06 2014 11:05 AM
fuva from harlemworld

The gentrification of Harlem, for instance, is a perpetuation of historical wrongs.
The unfairly advantaged
directly or indirectly
the unfairly disadvantaged,
jeopardizing a community of great historical import to the black diaspora,
the source of that historical imbalance and injustice
being properly addressed.
It's not right.

Feb. 06 2014 11:04 AM
Bob Marvin from Brooklyn

I'm part of the "brownstoner" generation, who renovated old city houses in the '60s and '70s. This was seen as a good thing, bringing integration, both racial and economic to neighborhoods that had experienced "white flight" during the post war rush to the suburbs. I recall feeling insulted when the British term "gentrification" [referring, in the UK, to middle-class people renovating working class terrace houses] was first applied to people like me in the late '70s. My neighborhood, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, did not fit that model. When I moved here in 1974 the neighborhood had been integrated for quite some time, with a substantial (albeit a minority) percentage of white residents having resisted blockbusting and white flight and the neighborhood attracting middle class newcomers of all races. My fellow brownstoners and I hadn't displaced anyone.

Thirty some odd years later some of the evils described by gentrification's critics are apparent, but IMO can be greatly mitigated by tactics such as enforcing existing tenant protections and upping the percentage of affordable housing required for developers to obtain tax benefits, while also changing the definition of "affordable" to make it really so.

As NYC changes demographically, to become majority non-white, are those who decry "gentrification" really looking to stop neighborhoods from mirroring the overall population?

Feb. 06 2014 10:55 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

Gentrification is complicated to talk about because it can described so many very different things.

Before there was the word "gentrification" Jane Jacobs wrote about what she called "unslumming." She did so arguing against tearing down swaths of the city that are now some of the most valued. One thing she focused on in writing about this (similar to her observations about how foreign countries go from being undeveloped to being developed) is how it can be the residents of a neighborhood who themselves escalate out of low income. . . That's different from wealthy people chasing lower income people out of a neighborhood, or as apparently will be discussed here, people moving into a neighborhood who are `in sync' with those already living in a neighborhood.

Feb. 06 2014 10:49 AM

One of the NYC departments tried to aggressively recruit me several years back for a website position. I really liked my potential manager, but 1) the salary was 2/3 below comparable private sector roles, and 2) although the benefits and union protection were impressive, the rules pertaining to sick absences, vacation, and time of arrival were strict and very inflexible. It was a trade-off.
This arrangement is ideal for a certain type of person, but not for me. I laugh when private sector workers complain about supposedly luxurious conditions of public workers. They certainly weren't complaining during the economic boon of the '90s (in fact, I think they were mocking public workers for their lower salaries).

Feb. 06 2014 10:35 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

If one were to come from Mars, or west of the Hudson, on its surface - one can cautiously say that it's been generally a good thing, (better up keep of housing stock, more retail options) and especially if you are a long time property owner.

However, for long term renters, especially families and perspective first time buyers, making under 6 figures, it can be a frustrating angst against snobbery and real estate speculation, with all its class and racial undertones.

Feb. 06 2014 10:24 AM
shani from st. albans

I don't think NY MAG is above reproach for their often simplistic take on gentrification. When only Jackson Heights (and their one avenue of foodie delights) and the New Astoria receive attention in the magazine to represent all of Queens, I question the publication's ability to see the humanity in any part of the city that is not touched by gentrification.

While I read the mag, I do not wait for them to recognize the small brilliance of my neighborhood or any other. In fact, if they do, I know that it is time to move on to new sights.

Feb. 06 2014 09:46 AM
Aldith Clarke from Brooklyn, New York 11225

Gentrification may not be totally bad, but presently it does not work for most people. The majority of people who moved in usually can afford a richer lifestyle leaving the others to struggle with higher cost of living caused by them. Also, the people who came in hardly accept the ones who lived there, instead it appears as if they want the brownstone houses/victorian, or just a cheaper area to live. Presently, gentrification priced out the neighborhood people from purchasing property, which caused the people to be more poor, and less
accepted in the area that they loved for years. So, gentrification is good for some and bad for others, depending on who which side one is looking on it. Thanks for the topic!

Feb. 06 2014 09:42 AM
Dog of Tears from NYC

Questions to consider:

an NYC real-estate koan: If gentrification is good, how many original residents are still there to enjoy it?

- why do residents of these neighborhoods have only gentrification as the avenue to provide improvements in the quality of their neighborhoods?

- any discussion of this topic in NYC should include discussion (and hard statistics) on whether this process removes rent-stabilized housing units.

Feb. 06 2014 07:39 AM

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