City Journal Winter 2014

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Anthony Paletta
The Gentrified City « Back to Story

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"Gentrification" is what i consider a racist code word. When minorities move into a white neighborhood, we say "Diversity is our strength". When whites move into minority neighborhoods, it's called "Gentrification". If you look at the 2010 census numbers you are seeing minoruty neighborhoods becoming more whiter and white neighborhoods become more minority. The is a free-market population switch. It's stinks to high heaven. I live in Bay Ridge and the ethnic demographics are changing beyogn belief and I feel out of place now. By 2015, I am moving to Park Slope. Like I said, population switching.
I lived in Brooklyn Heights during 1965-58 and in Park Slope in 58-59 and saw the beginnings of gentrification. A friend of mine became a realtor shortly thereafter and was very prosperous until houses became too expensive to sell of buy--meaning, you couldn't afford to sell your house because you couldn't afford a better one, and outsiders couldn't afford to buy because it was too dear. The outsiders moved to other neighborhoods and gentrified them.

Gentrifiers were a good thing for Brooklyn; their sweat added value to the housing stock and revitalized neighborhoods.
The industrial jobs argument has been used far too successfully to inhibit mixed use development is cities like San Francisco and Seattle. The result has been under-utilization of inner city space by keeping it prohibitively zoned industrial.

The outflow of industry from city centers has been steady since the 1950's, and largely due to high costs and lack of labor and transportation infrastructure. Simple things like the end of rail access and the difficulty of moving large trucks into dense urban neighborhoods. To think that preserving what has left (industrial jobs) by imposing restrictive zoning and rapidly evolving neighborhoods is in its own way more of the same planning-think hegemony over reason that people like Moses pioneered. The prohibition of organic change by higher powers who think they know what's best.
I hope that the new Brooklynites like their Manhattan lite. The fact is, they came to Brooklyn because they couldn't afford Manhattan. Instead of grafting on to Brooklyn, and appreciating its unique qualities (Brooklyn used to be a truly unique place-the 4th largest city in America, with its own history, culture) they made it indistinguishable from Manhattan- replete with dorky fedoras, hipster food stores, chic haberdasheries, etc. It used to be dynamic, singular, and quirky. It is now banal, trite, and blase.
This is nothing new. I am a 4th generation Brooklyn native. My family took a familiar path: immigration and settling in Red Hook, then what is now Cobble Hill, then what is now Park Slope, then what is now Sunset Park, and lastly in Bay Ridge. Each time they escaped what they felt was a dterioration (in my Norwegian family's case, it was the influx of Italians, who wre viewed with disdain).
I mean, here's a salient example, Peter Freeman, a native of Ohio: “When the older people come in here and start talking about the sodas they used to get, I almost want to say, ‘I don’t care about your memories,’ ” he said. “Don’t screw this up for these kids by putting it in the past. This is happening now.” (NYT, who else?)

Destroy tradition. Destroy memory. Brooklyn 2011. Counter-revolutionaries will be eliminated?
correction: BoCoCa (Boerum Hill...not Brooklyn Heights)
Economically, Brooklyn is undoubtedly experiencing a revival, insofar as rents are increasing. Culturally, I'm not so sure. Where before you had traditional working families, today north Brooklyn is more like a sexual playpen for "emerging adults" on a long, parentally-funded vacation.

The new Brooklyn culture, such as it is, appears to be a kind of parody of the traditional Jewish and Italian. For example, instead of a normal Jewish deli offering good food for reasonable prices, you have some type of campy or ironic Ye Olde Brooklyn Artisanal Shoppe.

I can understand why people would like to restore the beautiful brownstones, etc. It's unfortunate, though, that these people seem incapable of coexisting with the locals, and prefer to mock and demean "ethnic" culture.