NYC: A City for Everyone

Who does New York City belong to?

New York City has always been viewed as a place of opportunity. It was this belief that attracted people from all around the world to pick up everything they had for a chance to have a better life. In current times, however, this belief has been exploited by the wealthy elites. They see New York City as an opportunity to display and grow their wealth, but don’t see, or at least don’t care, about the effects this has on everyone else. They want to the city to be a place for them, stripping New York City of the one belief that has made it the powerful melting pot it is. They care about the growth of economic value, but what about the growth of human value? Once an area of mostly undeveloped land and farms, the belief that New York City would provide opportunity allowed it to grow, so how can we believe we can continue to grow once that belief is gone?

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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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Williamsburg: The Cooler Manhattan

Brooklyn used to be a place for immigrants and factories. Rent was cheap and people lived in neighborhoods with other people like them. At the same time, Manhattan was rapidly changing and becoming more expensive. People from the “creative class” like writers and and artists wanted to find a cheaper place to live, so they moved to Williamsburg. This neighborhood quickly changed to become a place where white, “cultural” people wanted to move to. The industries changed from factories and local shops that were once there to vintage clothing stores, restaurants, bars, and clubs. As the creative class started noticing how “cool” Williamsburg was becoming, they started moving in and rents increased. Private developers and public officials didn’t intervene, allowing for rents to soar, and the people originally living there were forced to leave.

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Housing Discrimination by Race

New York City is one of the most racially segregated cities in the world. This didn’t occur naturally; this was the result of years of laws and real estate practices that allowed this to happen. Housing discrimination is still practiced in New York City and it continues to create divides in the city’s diversity. Specific real estate practices that contribute to this are assigning codes to neighborhoods based on desirability, redlining, and blockbusting. All of these practices essentially go the same way. The real estate broker will determine a person’s race. They use this information to decide which property to rent or not rent based on what will make the broker the most money.

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Real Life in New York’s Public Housing

One of Robert Moses’ main three goals was to build affordable housing to bring the middle class back into the city. He wanted to avoid a divided city of the rich and the poor. This left people in the lower classes stuck in “new slums” or public housing. Those who are in the lower class are also disproportionately people of color. Not only are people of color driven into less than desirable housing situations by their incomes, but also by Robert Moses himself. Moses believed “‘Negroes and whites don’t mix” and that allowing people of color to live in the same neighborhoods as white people would decrease the value of all properties.

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