gentrification

A short note on yuppies:

Yes we get it. Young Urban Professionals. Upward mobility for (mostly) young white people wanting the best of everything. We get it: yuppies are more Wall Street conscious while hipsters are more charity conscious. We get it: they’re often the most biggest investors in urban art forms, including rap, slam poetry, and art. We also understand that the characteristics of a yuppie are broad enough that it’s far too ambiguous but any combination of yuppie / hipster characteristics will be met with disdain and spray paint against developing edifices all across any given metropolis. We don’t want them to die (well, most of us don’t). We understand; they’re people, too.

The rest of us urbanites aren’t letting up on yuppies and hipsters, though, and here’s why:

1) Yuppie-ism often invites more police and law enforcement to certain areas. Not that we hate the police per se, but why are poor communities only allowed to have better police enforcement when yuppies come in? Did we not pay taxes before or work hard enough for us to get real protection until we let developers gentrify our neighborhoods?

2) Yuppie-ism often means that mom-and-pop shops have to compete with multi-million (and billion) dollar corporations, which usually leads to …

3) Yuppie-ism often means that the flavor and unique characteristics of different neighborhoods get extricated in exchange for the safe, the sterile, and the monotonous, even when hipsters may preach about how they love the neighborhood and its flavor.

4) Yuppie-ism often drives the natives out of the neighborhood implicitly and not-so-indirectly with rent hikes, new buildings, and higher costs for groceries.

5) Yuppie-ism spends more time on Darfur than the South Bronx. It’s easier when people only look at some country as a distant problem than a train ride away.

6) Yuppie-ism, when confronted with said issue, is about preferring the “save the world” mentality as a measure of some guilt, but sometimes exacerbating the problem.

7) Yuppie-ism is when we see people jogging right across our neighborhoods that we helped build with our culture and and watching as the metaphor for this government-aided invasion punctures holes in us, deflating any possibility that we can have a nice neighborhood without it changing too much.

So the beef isn’t with yuppies / hipsters themselves. It’s with what they bring with them. They don’t really care to look at their shadows, where some of these evils lurk.

jose, who definitely read that New York Magazine article, and wondered this aloud …

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“ There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. […] Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.”

- E.B. White, “Here is New York”

With all due respect, because E.B. White by all accounts is a great writer, but this is complete bullshit it’s just not that accurate. I’m ambivalent about comments like this with all the recent, subconsciously and increasingly anti-NYC sentiment pervading this citadel’s air. I’m confounded by the possible reasons, but if the recent flood of movies is any indication, the weird relationship between the “settlers” and NYC will always be tenuous at best.

Check the latest disaster flick coming out in Christmas in which now it’s Keanu Reeves’ turn to pick up the pieces after NYC gets destroyed: The Day The Earth Stood Still. At first, when I saw NYC getting destroyed on film, I knew it was because places like NYC, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, and other big cities just have an exceptionally fun look when they’re getting destroyed … but only when it’s fake. After 9/11 and after seeing the massive overhaul of old buildings and businesses here, cranes falling, houses on fire, rising cases of breathing issues from NYC residents, and bar after bar popping up all over Manhattan, I wonder if this barrage of movies destroying NYC is some sort of subconscious attack on the NYC native’s psyche.

And I’m not that defensive about New York; it can more than handle its own. As a native New Yorker, I cheer for the Yankees and root for the Mets on off-days (honestly, Yankees fans have little problems with Mets fans. Not so the other way around …), take the F, V, A, D, and the 1, drink bubble tea and eat sushi with soy sauce with the best of them, can tell you the best way to get to any neighborhood by train, bus, or taxi, have a scary understanding of the history of the Lower East Side complete with why we pronounce Houston HOW-Ston and not HUE-Ston, and a blogroll replete with NYC bloggers. Yet, when someone’s a true Red Sox fan and not some myopic bandwagoner, or prefers their quieter suburb to the crazy confines of this city, I respect that because that’s what they know. Besides, with all of NYC’s pro-capitalist, pro-emperialist (The Empire City anyone?), anti-activist, and white collar tendencies, I’m almost living a contradiction.

Yet, when I see the drastic changes to the city, when “settlers” try to be more NYC than me, when developers keep razing condos and no one can afford to live in them while supposedly low-cost housing keep getting like condos, when none of this matters to the kids who were born and raised here, it gives me more clues as to who are the real terrorists to New York City.

And scarily enough, I can’t quite put a face on them either …

jose, who doesn’t think it’s the settlers, the natives, or the commuters per se …

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My Hood, Your Hood

June 30, 2008

By the time you read this, I’ll be more than halfway to the neighborhood from which my mother originates in Santo Domingo, DR. In said neighborhood, as in many neighborhoods, the impression us “Dominican-Americans” give off is that indeed we have more money than them, we are more well-off, and that we have greater access to said resources than do the people there. In many ways, it’s true. Most of the people born in the US hate to admit it, but as much as we want to be part of those people, we’ll never actually be them. We can play with them, socialize with them, knock back a couple with them, but the natives can smell it on us much the way other animals can sniff intruders. My presence is no more welcome here than any other tourist. I’m just more well-connected and am related by blood, a little difference, but I recognize it. (Thoughts like these make me wonder whether the movement to acclimate African-Americans or other people from the African Diaspora back into Africa would actually work on a mass scale. I’m still up in the air about that.)

Anyways, the one commonality I do see with my hood and the hood in Santo Domingo is the gentrification. Most of my avid readers know how I feel about it, thus there’s no need to rehash. But let’s dissect this for a bit. 4 years ago, when I came to visit Santo Domingo, the airport was painted in an earthy light brown, and a tipico (merengue) band played while we walked from the airplane to the baggage claim. Images of this country sprawled all along the way with little stores that made us feel like we, too, were Dominican citizens. Even the bell signaling the movement of the conveyor belts was replaced with a little merengue in the spirit of the country. Yes, I fully admit: too many bags got lost in the baggage claim, and the droves of men harassing begging us to let them drive us to our neighborhood was over the top. But when you walk out of baggage claim, the droves of people waiting at the edges of the walkway made you feel proud of your heritage, with whole blocks coming out to meet their distant relatives.

Nowadays, I’m not sure what to make of the changes. The government’s done a good job of renovating the airport, and as many New Yorkers can attest to, the department of tourism has definitely stepped up their efforts to promote the “good life” here. The walls are painted an off-white, with messages about the country along the walls in English, Spanish, and French (notice the order). The messages on the loudspeakers come in those same languages in that order. My bags didn’t get “lost” or delayed, but something was … missing. Was it the band, whose non-existence was palpable? Was it the multicultural crowd I ran into? I’m not sure yet, but …

I do know that Burger King infiltrated the skyline here, among other corporations. I do know that poor people who’ve never seen any European countries have been forced to learn 7 languages. I also know that when I arrive at the barrio, I’ll be confused at the lack of electricity when only a few hours before, I was at a resort that never ran out of electricity, much less plumbing, running water, and clean clothes. I would still like to gather more evidence of this new country that I thought was Dominican Republic, but if my own neighborhood is any indication, the so-called development and progress of this nation will be heavily reliant on how much stratification between the rich and the poor occur, and how far we can push poor people before they have to move to unfamiliar territory …

jose, who needed to get this in before he went out tonight …

p.s. – I just took a shower, and the water smells similar to what I think the Krusty Krab might smell like … if I could smell underwater.

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