So let me start by telling you all a brief story about something that happened to me last week... I'm sitting at home in the middle of the day (like most non 9-5ers do), just relaxing. Next thing you know, I hear a bunch of children playing in the empty lot next to my window (I live on the 1st floor, gift and a curse). Now, for some (most) children, I have a very LOW (non existent) threshold for annoyance, but I maintained chill until one of them actually looked in my bedroom window...right at me! Subsequently, the little booger eaters ran off. A few moments later, they returned... and had the NERVE to actually THROW a rock THROUGH my bedroom window! I was just so shocked for a moment that I didn't even know what to say or do. I sort of wanted to go chase those little b*tches down the street with a switch, but I refrained. I did however text my landlord about the incident, inquiring about the gate of the lot being closed (it is usually wide open because the guy parks there). He said there wasn't much he could do about it because it was an active driveway. He then told me I should close my windows and curtains. -____- First of all, it's 90 Billion degrees outside and I have no air conditioner, so the window stays open. Second, why can't I open my blinds to let the beautiful sun warm the pasty white walls of my room in peace?? With this particular situation, it all just made me realize that I really want to move to a nicer apartment. I want to be on a higher floor with a view (other than this stupid lot). I want exposed brick! I want a working fireplace, duplex, high ceiling, deep soaking tub, open kitchen, sky light, ensuite bathroom apartment near a decent train... is that really so much to ask?? In thinking about my lovely new mythical apartment, I can't help but to think about the oh so controversial topic that always surrounds the apartment hunt life in NYC... gentrification!
I have been back and forth with myself about this topic MANY many times. I am also an avid believer of the rent is too damn high party. But also there are times when I just want something nice for myself, in a safe and clean neighborhood! For those of you that don't live in NYC, gentrification really happens everywhere, it's just a little more dramatic, drastic, and in your face here (for example, my hometown of Detroit! Apparently there is a whole foods there now?). I hear many stories from native New Yorkers about how the ever beloved Williamsburg actually use to be a very unsafe place to live back in the day. Now it's a freakin hipster Mecca with skyrocketing rents. Gentrification is basically deteriorating urban neighborhoods being bought and renovated by wealthy individuals and companies. In theory, this may sound like a good idea, but the whole process has many flaws. The main flaw being the displacement of the lower income families, businesses, and culture.
I'm sure every sane person in this world would love to have access to the safest neighborhoods, clean streets, and unified communities. There is nothing wrong with wanting something better for ourselves! I grew up in the hood, and it was the farthest thing from a nice area. I surely didn't wanna be there forever in midst of all that filth, violence, and drugs. The dream apartment I described earlier is exactly true. I really do want all of those things. In addition to not being afraid to take the train home late at night by myself. If I do infact start searching for a new apartment, and come across all of my specifications, but it's in a "gentrified" neighborhood, would I be a part of the problem? I know this may be terrible, but one sign that people usually attribute to a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood is the increase in the amount of white people seen strolling about (also the number of Starbucks that pop up out of nowhere). Sometimes I feel like people from my current neighborhood of Flatbush, think that I may be one of the gentrifiers. I really just need a darn decent place to live, I'm not trying to displace anyone in the process.
On the opposite side of things, I WAS displaced in part because of gentrification when they raised my rent at my apartment in Washington Heights. It was terrible! I was literally homeless for months. I understand that improving a particular area or building will make the property value increase, but it shouldn't for the people ALREADY living there. I don't really know all the rules in the real estate/ NYC housing market, but I am still making this documentary people! Hopefully I can help to change this very flawed system. I have to do a lot of research though (boring, but necessary). I should not have to be torn between wanting something nice for myself or contributing to the gentrification problem. I want EVERYONE to have something nice. The crazy thing about NYC is, there could be a brand spanking new renovated building, directly across from the projects. Why not renovate the project buildings and make them affordable so lower incomes can still afford to stay there? It's all about the money people...
Also, that was one of the reasons why I quit my job last December... the rents will naturally go up, but dammit, why the hell doesn't my salary?? Aren't normal people supposed to get raises?? The costs of goods, services, and property will always naturally increase, but why is the pay so stagnant? I worked there for 3 years... my income went up 0%, yet by the time I quit, my rent had tripled. It's all backwards! But alas, nothing will change overnight. It is definitely a multifaceted problem that should be taken one step at a time. I really do have my work cut out, huh?
The bottom line is, I really do want a new, and better apartment in a beautiful area. I also want to be able to afford it. But most importantly, I want everyone like me to have the same opportunity to have a nice apartment in a safe and clean place as well. Where there is a demand, especially in a city like NYC, painted to be such a desirable place to live for individuals trying to make their wildest dreams come to fruition (everyone), there will always be someone trying to capitalize off of those willing to spend the most. There must be some sort of laws set in place for these knuckleheads! Gentrification wouldn't actually be so bad if things were still affordable. What's wrong with fixing up the deterioration? Going back to the subject of Detroit, there were so many streets, block after block, of abandoned buildings due to the riots (in the 60s mind you). I always wondered why the heck there were still there after YEARS. Nobody ever tried to rebuild anything there. Now I hear that things are finally beginning to pick back up. Hopefully it won't be so desolate in the next few years, but more importantly, I hope the people who have always lived in Detroit and toughed it out through the abandonment, will be able to enjoy the positive changes. I also personally think it's great when neighborhoods have mixed cultures. Why must the white people be a sign of despair in the hood? Why can't we just all learn to live together and influence each other in such a way that we don't lose our individual heritages? We can definitely all work towards a better life for ourselves and others. What do you think?
p.s. I do know some people who CAN afford these jacked up rent prices and live in gentrified areas. They are not all bad. I actually love going over to their apartments! But it is easy to forget about the problems of others when it doesn't directly affect you. If I DO happen to move to a different area, I never want to forget to stop fighting for the rights of everyone else. There is still a way to fight from the inside.
p.p.s. There is also something we can all do RIGHT NOW, and that is stop making our own neighborhoods a crapy place to live. Sometimes I look at my neighborhood in comparison to let's say...the Upper Eastside. It's so damn clean up there! Must we throw trash all over the ground folks? I've seen people do it so blatantly! Pick up your crap and don't litter! Even if you live in a one room shack, there is still a way to make due with the space that you have. Let's all try not to contribute to the "hood being dirty" stereotype. That is one thing that is TOTALLY fixable by us.
p.p.p.s. Tomorrow, for the first time ever since I moved to NYC, my 2 little sisters are actually coming to visit me. I have to think of some stuff for us to do, one has never even been to NYC. More on that next week!