Austin Davis: The Big Apple in Tree City

I took a trip to New York City recently to visit a friend who lives in the predominately African-American and Hispanic neighborhood of northeast Brooklyn known as Bushwick. Though bordering the relatively affluent hipster-mecca of Williamsburg directly to the east, about 32 percent of Bushwick’s residents live at or below the poverty line, according to a community district profile in 2007.

Walking around Bushwick, I began to notice several hipster-esque pop-up businesses in the area attempting to compete with the neighborhood’s discount stores. Though nothing too impressive — just some run-of-the-mill student bars and restaurants filled with chain-smoking college-aged kids — these establishments appeared to be thriving. My friend scowled as we walked past one such bar. He attributed its success to its upper-middle class clientele of young, twenty-something gentrifiers.

Gentrification: it’s become the dirty buzzword being thrown around in major cities all across the country. Wealthy young people move to impoverished neighborhoods and set up shop. They found new establishments and build high-rise housing developments, often in an attempt to better the area. Most of the time these attempts have adverse effects. While attracting new, wealthier demographics to the area, these establishments drive up rent prices, ultimately forcing the neighborhood’s original populations to the undesired outskirts of the city, or in some cases, to the streets.

New York serves as an example of the process. According to Patricia — a 65 year-old prostitute with whom I had lunch at a small restaurant in the heart of East Harlem — Blacks and Hispanics have been pushed to the outer boroughs for years as a result of gentrification in Manhattan.

By Austin Davis, Columnist
Published September 7, 2014

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