Gentrification: Signs of Discontent


I believe that all forms of communication should be respected as such; someone out there is voicing frustration.

These tags are in the East Village. The first photo is on the side of a Real Estate office that just opened up on the corner of 2nd and East 11th. You can see in the second photo the front façade. The window, decorated with spaces for rent/sale, is literally signage of change. I would say the average price, at the time this picture was taken, was about $2900 with some advertising as high as $3900 on up, replete with “Home Depot” pressed wood-cut rate kitchen cabinets.

For anyone whose financial security is hanging by a thread, a constant threat looms – “Will my building be the next to hang in the town real estate window?” And what landlord could resist the skyrocketing profits? It’s hard living in a city where money and not humanity controls our basic right to housing. No one in this housing equation is less deserving which makes it sadder that the only way to put this into an American perspective is to use explanatory perception that conveys ‘good-ole hard-workin’ middle-class Americans’ are affected by the housing crunch in New York City. In a truly humane society, the moment any poor person’s housing situation is neglected, in exchange for bigger profits, should be enough of a moment to warrant concern and change. Politically speaking, every local elected official has failed the people of their districts.

Folks with disposable incomes are homogenizing the neighborhood. There is a vast difference between neighborhood improvement and the thing that gentrification gives birth to. The wheel spins wildly out of control and a neighborhood loses its character and hence the local history becomes relegated to words and photographs, most importantly, does anyone care about where all the out-financed residents have gone? In my studies of homelessness in post-industrial cities, some sources have shown that gentrification in New York City, has not adversely affected them. But as the demographics visually shift, I often wonder where have all the Latinos gone? I find this hard to believe. There is a block of East 12th that is on my daily path and it sits between 1st and 2nd Avenue. On the North side of the street and across from the school are several buildings. When I first took visual note of this block, I could see that there was an old Hispanic presence still lingering, from long before my New York City time. In the last few years, the rolling “R’s” are less frequent, and condominium real estate signs have gone up. The people coming in and out of the buildings are polo-shirt wearing, young white females and males – quite possibly NYU students or young upstarts at a financial firm downtown. I know that New York is what you make of it, but a little fear of the unknown is the City’s form of checks and balances. Now that this element has dissipated, New York’s history is in jeopardy of facing a good steam rolling. A new element has arrived and the perfect analogy is the Locust. Unbeknownst to perhaps even them this is merely a stop on a migratory path. New York City is the farm laden with wheat fields. They feed on that organic beauty created by people just living life and they will feast until the prairie is barren. This has all happened before, it will all happen again. I know that change is inevitable, but does it have to be so violent? Must change be about power struggles?

W.A.S.P., White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, who are they? Are they getting a bum-rap? If you could exist ambiguously, physically present, but nearly invisible because you are just like everyone else, how would you deal with being the “Un-identifiable”, beyond whiteness your ethnicity in the public eye is barely perceivable. Most likely, you would band together and take shit over! – Just like the Italians, Chinese, Latinos, Chasidics; but that’s just it, all of these groups have an identifiable common culture amongst their people. Their cohesion, based on a solid cultural history, is organic – good, bad, or indifferent. Whereas, let’s face it, W.A.S.P. the acronym, sort of acknowledges what it stands for, however, common perception is that one is referring to rich white people who always have the upper-hand for that reason. And again, let’s face it, if there were this emergence of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Pride (i.e., “Im a Proud W.A.S.P.” bumper-stickers) – they would be clinging to a history not only of discovery but of oppression. Truly, who wants to be so proud of a heritage responsible for the Native-American Holocaust, and the enslavement of millions of Africans and the consequent dehumanization-holocaust-ethnic segregation of their descendent Negro children? The closest they can come to historical pride in America is folks like the Rockefellers and the DuPonts – money. So maybe that’s just it, the W.A.S.P. cultural history isn’t as humble as most; their personal struggle in the Queen’s Land, long forgotten. All they have left to cling to is a self-righteous-false sense of patriotism, where material accumulation has betrothed the spiritual component that exists in most, if not all, cultures, and then tricked the spiritual component into submission. I think a re-read of Marx’s “Protestant-Ethic” is in order.

Photography: I get the credit and share them freely.

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