Gentrification Has Pushed The Black Middle Class Out Of NYC | Kulture Kritic
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Gentrification Has Pushed The Black Middle Class Out Of NYC

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Gentrification Has Pushed The Black Middle Class Out Of NYC

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April V. Taylor

Gentrification continues to happen in ever increasing waves across the country as higher income white people move into what have traditionally been Black and working class neighborhoods.  A lot has been written about whether or not the destruction of the fabric of communities is indeed harmful, and social media has even coined the term “Columbusing” to describe the tendency of white people enthusiastically “discovering” new things when they move into Black communities.  One of the challenges has been quantifying the changes that come along with gentrification, but a new study conducted by the Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC) has documented how gentrification has expanded in New York City over the last decade.

Spike Lee drew attention to the gentrification taking place in New York City with comments he made earlier this year at Pratt Institute, where he stated, “You can’t discover this! We been here.  You just can’t come and bogart.”  His statements reflect the sentiments of many people of color who feel that their neighborhoods and communities have been destroyed by gentrification.  Between 2000 and 2010, gentrification in New York City has been spurred by the fact increasing numbers of single white people have moved into formerly racially diverse neighborhoods as many middle-class Blacks left the city.

The authors of the CHPC report state, “All New Yorkers can recognize changes to their neighborhood and their city.  Old neighbors move away; new people arrive; unfamiliar languages are suddenly heard on the streets; subway stops are more crowded with new faces; favorite shops are replaced by new ones, which quickly become part of the landscape.  Some communities experience change through absence and loss, others through gains and discovery. And New Yorkers recognize these changes without the benefit of demographic studies.  They know that their neighborhoods aren’t defined by maps of community districts or legislative lines.  It is the people living in a neighborhood who shape its identity – they make the neighborhood.”

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While numbers and statistics do not capture the emotional, mental, and spiritual toll of gentrification, the study did find that New York City’s Black population dropped by 5 percent between 2000 and 2010, with the largest drops coming in neighborhoods such as Hollis and Jamaica, Queens, Brooklyn, and East Flatbush.  During that same time period, the white population increased by 3 percent.  The statistic that brings the picture of gentrification more clearly into focus is that the middle-income white population dropped by a third, meaning the whites who moved into the city were high income, a clear sign of gentrification.

These changes mean that a city that was once known as the home of working and middle class families has now become a place where rich, mostly white residents are expanding the neighborhoods and areas they lay claim to.  As the poor of all races continue to get poorer, and the rich continue to expand what they take and keep as their own, the American Dream continues to die to the effects of growth, greed and expansion.



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