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Is Gentrification All Bad?

Danielle E. Alvarez

Gentrification: New Yorkers can sense it immediately. It plumes out of Darling Coffee, on Broadway and 207th Street, and mingles with the live jazz coming from the Garden Café next door. Down the block, at Dichter Pharmacy, it’s visible on the shelf of Melissa & Doug toys. An algae bloom of affluence is spreading across the city, invading the turf of artists and ironworkers, forming new habitats for wealthy vegans.

It’s an ugly word, a term of outrage...

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  • Melissa Turkington

    I think the difficult part of this article, for me, is how they are trying to define gentrification. (And also the irony of an ad for a MoMA exhibit that you must click through in order to even read it.) I see the distinction the author is trying to make, but I wouldn't call progress made by people who have lived in the neighborhood forever "gentrification", nor would I consider those people selling high-priced items to gentrifiers "gentrification". I would call that a microcosm of gentrification, which doesn't change the power dynamic between the people gentrifying the space and those who are trying to survive in the space.
    So basically, in a long, rambling way, I do think gentrification is always bad because it doesn't change the social structure; it keeps some people down while allowing others to appropriate other cultures without giving up any privilege. However, I do think that gentrification may sometimes be the only way to keep a neighborhood alive. Detroit, for example, probably won't survive unless people with private wealth move in and start to build industry there. There are good aspects to this: a clean slate where enterprising people can implement some really cool social programs, potential for using revenue in completely new ways, etc. But it will still mean that the people with money will be making the rules, "beautifying" the city, and running all of the resources. Even if they are making more money, the poorest people will remain the poorest people, and that's the rub.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Great point Melissa. I totally agree with everything you've said. The issue is - sometimes gentrification- actually most of the time, it isn't done the right way. How can we develop and improve a neighborhood while involving the people who actually live there? If rents are rising, can't we empower people to stay ahead of the game- like Ramirez did with his drugstore (genius how he made his drugstore into a performance space- and a place that serves vegan chili since the people moving into the area are mostly veggie/vegans). Can't we employ the people who live in these cities by developing vacant lots into community hubs/places for people to work? That wouldn't solve everything. The issue really is- gentrification pushes out a vibrant community simply bec the prices of everything in the area rise just bec the quality of life is improving. But everyone wants a better quality of life. Why do we need to put a price on that? It's sad that many actions we take are motivated by money. If only we all worked under a sharing economy.