ITF Post: Links for Week of March 26

Need inspiration for your posts? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back!

First: Why not argue for the superiority of Liza Minnelli’s “New York, New York” compared to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”? (ITF Note: I am dead serious about this! Liza 4Ever!) 

WNYC, “History of Zoning” with Brian Lehrer: “The first zoning laws were created in New York City 101 years ago. Mike Wallace, distinguished professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, director of the Gotham Center for New York City History and author of Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 (The History of NYC Series), and Jenny Schuetz, Brookings Institution fellow, talk about how zoning changed the shape and power structure of the city.”

Click for more links including a movie about why LA wants to be NYC (duh) and info about the documentary “If These Knishes Could Talk”!

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Astoria Group Social Explorer Post

In order to start Naveera logged in through the Brooklyn College library website and based on the video tutorial invited us through the collaborate option on Social Explorer. Then we looked at the areas close to the waterfront close to a recent housing development project called Hallett’s Point which will be the focus of our analysis of gentrification in Astoria. Looking at the Hallet’s Point area between the 2012 and 2016 maps, we can see that rent prices have gone up $300 in the area from around $1,500-$1,800 that’s going to be developed while the nearby public housing prices remained constant at around $600. This lines up with what we’ve seen in gentrification in the past, with increasing rent prices, which will in turn push out the local population that can’t afford it.

By Astoria Group: Chrismal Abraham, Priyanka Algu, Prashanth Thomas, Naveera Arif

ITF Post: Hipsters, Urban Space, and Authenticity in 2018

Though the image of a ridiculously-dressed hipster is slowly fading as the economy grows, it’s worth revisiting the construction of the hipster figure (well as other images associated with hipsters like mason jars, “quirky,” interesting facial hair, urban chickens, DIY gourmet mayonnaise) and perceptions of authenticity and urban spaces. While the hipster was first understood as a specific Williamsburg resident, the word came to be associated with specific neighborhoods like Silver Lake in Los Angeles and then, more broadly, “hipster” referred to a certain type of gentrification of urban spaces. By 2018, the word “hipster” has run its course due to overuse and Portland really hates Portlandia. Moreover, the cultural and political changes between the height of the word’s use (about 2005-2010 judging by this, this, and all the entries here ) and now has made the concept seem less relevant than ever.

Yet its worth pointing out the the image of a hipster as a young-ish, DIY-type person living in “gritty” (pre-gentrified) neighborhoods in legacy cities arose in the public imagination during the Great Recession. Why? Well, according to a quote attributed by Coco Chanel, “Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.” The Great Recession, then, becomes the backdrop for activities and lifestyle of the hipster: DIY, handmade, artisanal, ironic (“ironic”) clothing that may or may not be flannel.

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Gentrification for the Gentrifiers

We frequently discuss gentrification from the perspective of those being kicked out of their neighborhoods. Of course, this is because they are the ones being harmed in the process, and the gentrifiers are usually there to do the same thing they do in all the gentrified areas. However, looking at the process from the other perspective is useful as well. The people moving in usually are looking for a nice place to live and aren’t necessarily harboring evil thoughts of kicking people in the neighborhood out of their homes. While these thoughts might be selfish, they’re not evil.

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Gentrification: The most Ungentle Process out there.

Often times, when we think about gentrification, we think about the people immediately being displaced.  However, rarely do we consider first the purpose and function the neighborhood served, and how that will be affected.  After all, the reason why gentrification is such an issue, besides the displacement of people fact, is that it alters the old neighborhoods as we know the.  What caught my attention most from this post was when Stabrowski discussed that “Focusing on the lived experience
of space thus casts light on the myriad ways in which processes of gentrification produce displacement without relocation.”  Stabrowski discusses how the Polish people living in Green Point continued to be displaced everyday, and who survived on diminishing resources.  Thus, it’s evident that gentrification does not stop even after the official process of moving in has occurred for the new culture, race, or ethnicity.  This brought my attention to a video on YouTube, which describes the experience of an individual being kicked out of his own neighborhood.   

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Gentrification and landlord harassment

Upon reading Stabrowski, Newman and Wily, and Vigdor’s articles on displacement by gentrification, one thing becomes clear, that gentrification has a negative effect on low-income people, by either displacing them out of their own neighborhoods or if not displaced, they are left to live in poor conditions in a neighborhood they cannot afford. This causes a feeling of discomfort, isolation and not-belonging, which is clearly seen in Stabrowski’s “New-Build Gentrification and the Everyday Displacement of Polish Immigrant Tenants in Greenpoint, Brooklyn”. Although some manage to stay put in a gentrified neighborhood, their neighborhood becomes unfamiliar due to the newly built high-end stores and shops that they cannot afford. With gentrification comes a new wave of people that can afford higher rents.  This then builds the greed of landlords to oust their tenants from rent-stabilizing housing to make room for the newcomers that would pay more for the same apartment.

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Gentrification: Do The Poor Really Get Poorer?

As all the authors’ works have presented this week, gentrification is a robust term used to define many phenomena presented together when a neighborhood is undergoing change due to influx of value. This value, whether attached to property or economics, significantly changes the current residents’ state of lives and how they face those challenges affects their future as well in the neighborhood, and their chance of living elsewhere. As discussed in Filip Stabrowski’s work New-Build Gentrification and the Everyday Displacement of Polish Immigrant Tenants in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the topic of gentrification is nothing new to residents of big cities like New York City. As paralleled throughout the city’s history, local residents protested and local organizations were given funds to protect those residents’ rights, but nothing could contain the rapid change the neighborhood undergone and the residents that were displaced because of it (794).

Despite these strong evidences, such as Polish immigrants even having to leave the country, Jacob Vigdor in Does Gentrification Harm The Poor? mentions that the analysis provided for gentrification proves that residential displacement “is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for declines in the living standards of poor households.” This may be true if the Polish immigrants who have returned to their homeland are financially more stable than they were in the United States, and it may be false for the other Polish immigrants who look for housing elsewhere with cheaper rent, but more spending for the cost of living. In other words, this analysis may be inclusive, it is dependent on each displaced individual and the surrounding factors of their households. Kathy Newman and Elvin K. Wily analyzes the extent of gentrification for the past two decades in New York City and found that about 11,651 people were displaced per year between 1999 and 2002, and surely the numbers have gone higher since then. As provided by “Governing”, only 9% of the New York City was gentrified overall between 1990 and 2000 but since then 29.8% of the city has been gentrified.

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Rezoning Leads to Displacement

New York City was a place that allowed for immigrants to have opportunities to live and work in freedom, but now, because of gentrification, these freedoms are being taken away.  Having a place to love provides a feeling of “agency, freedom, and security” (Stabrowski 814). The freedom to live where you want also allows for a sense of belonging. Polish people who lived in Greenpoint lived there because it was somewhere they could afford but also because it was a place where they would be surrounded with people like them and people they know. As the area got rezones, “American” people wanted to move in. This made the Polish people of Greenpoint uncomfortable. Before, they rented apartments to people they knew and trusted, but then they were forced to rent to and live with people whose culture they didn’t understand and who they were not able to communicate well with.

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Rezoning and the Pitfalls of Mixed Use Zones

The illustration above shows the changes in zoning in Greenpoint and Williamsburg between 2002 and 2012. The fundamental trend that was seen in the last couple of decades regarding areas like Greenpoint and Williamsburg revolved around the idea that the city had too much land zoned for industrial use, much more than necessary. This idea combined with the fact that manufacturing activity has been on the decline in NYC together led to major rezoning that transformed these former manufacturing and industrial districts into residential developments. It is also important to note that there were other external pressures pushing for this kind of rezoning to take effect, like lobbyists that represent large scale developers who were looking to profit. The consequences of this are the reality of our present day. By 2008, NYC was losing industrial employers, which has an extremely negative effect on the local residents of those districts. Manufacturing jobs have greater opportunities for advancement compared to other entry level jobs that do not require a college degree/the English language. Furthermore, industrial jobs pay better than retail and employment, which are analogous to the types of jobs individuals without a college degree/the English language could potentially sustain. In other words, the people that were really suffering from this loss of industrial businesses in our city were immigrants. This is extremely important because it demonstrates exactly how gentrification truly harms the poor and the detrimental effects it specifically had on the Polish community in Greenpoint. At this point the city began to change its course of action and “mixed use zones” were created.

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