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Archive for the ‘Gentrification’ Category

The story is that 4 “thirty-something hipsters…including a well-known illustrator and designer, and a Vogue Australia scribe” bought a building on Bergen between 6th Ave and Carlton that is home to 5 rent-stabilized units. And the people who live there.

The law is that the owners can evict the residents for “personal or family use,” and that’s what they’re trying to do.

The new owners are artists, which has surprised some people:

“You’d think as artists these people would basically have better politics but they’re basically building their dream house on the backs of long-term rent-stabilized tenants,” [Brent] Meltzer [a lawyer for one of the tenants] said. “When they bought the building, they got it for that price [$866,000 in 2006] because it came with five-rent stabilized tenants.”

The comments on this Village Voice article aren’t too surprising – poor people have it easy, poor people have it hard, why would you think artists would have good politics? et cetera.

What seems interesting to me is the value or culpability that gets attached to “coolness”:

Yeah, those damn poor people. They have some nerve paying their rent, with regular rent increases, and living in a neighborhood that no one wanted to live in until Mr & Mrs Yuppie & their partners decided that it was “cool” and bought a building below market rate. And some of those tenants are senior citizens. How dare they not just move out onto the street because a greedy couple doesn’t have enough to satisfy them.

Coolness is a funny thing. Sometimes when something is trendy it is because it is a good thing that can really improve the world (the sustainable food movement?) or sometimes it is trendy because it helps people feel better than other people (remember bling?), and most of the time it’s some of both (um, like both of the above examples).

OK, but what I’m really getting at is the fact that every cultural convention we have started as some kind of cool trend… whether it became cool because it helped people not die as often or as quickly (hygiene, vaccinations, etc.) or because it helped people not be disfigured freaks (not sleeping with your cousin – what’s cooler than that?).

And right now, gentrification is cool. Thirty-somethings are coming of age who were raised by baby boomers. The baby boomers thought the coolest shit was to get rich and move to the suburbs. The thirty-somethings think the opposite is cool. And the baby who is raised wearing Sonic Youth onesies will eventually grow up to be a proper lady.

Gentrification clearly affects peoples lives in a much more serious way than baby fashion. And this type of gentrification is possible because of free-market capitalism and our legal system. The whole way our society is set up means that whoever has the most wealth will get to fuck the most people. And there are way richer people than these artists who have inevitably made these artists feel victimized before… but in this situation the artists are clearly doing the fucking.

And people who’ve grown up poor are obviously the ones who get fucked over and over again by this system. Councilwoman Letitia James was at a block party/rally to protest the attempted evictions. Which is great. Support your electorate.

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Pic from Village Voice

But it’s hard to be totally into it when the most recent decision to come out of City Council is a ban on metal bats. Not anything about renters, eminent domain, or evictions. In a situation like this it’s really only a change in law that could keep these tenants in their apartments. Or in the next building that this happens to, to keep the tenants in their apartments. And so on…. And what happens when all those yuppie owners/livers are her electorate? That must be a scary thing about being an elected official in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood. Huh.

Because it is a trend, and it seems unlikely that case-by-case advocacy could change that. If it could, would we have ever seen another publicly fucked-up celebrity after 12 year-old Drew Barrymore finished rehab?

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No.

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about.brooklyn told my Google Dashboard that the Hampton Jitney now stops at Fourth Ave & Union, Fourth Ave & Ninth, Atlantic & Third Ave, and Cadman Plaza!

I for one, am relieved. How many times have I scuffed my Louis Vuitton matched luggage set shlepping (excuse me, traversing) around the city trying to find my way out to the Hamptons!

On the scale of gentrification, I think “getting a local Hamptons express stop” is somewhere above “coffee shop” and just below “Dean & Deluca is your only neighborhood grocery store.” What is it called after gentrification?

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Raw Bed-Stuy

I had sushi delivered to my house… in Bed-Stuy. No, not from Fresh Direct (which was only possible once I moved down the street from my previous Bed-Stuy residence to a new zip code), but from a real brick-and-mortar sushi shop. Sushi Tatsu II on Dean St. and Franklin Ave. (technically Crown Heights, I guess), opened last December and offers mopeded delivery to my residence. There were rumors from a neighbor that there was going to be a sushi shop in our ‘hood, but I didn’t believe it until I made the trip, and picked up Tatsu’s menu. The place looked very inviting; clean, bright, roomy, and all smiles on the service staff (maybe because I was just picking up a menu).

The food review aside (special rolls were good, and the regular rolls were nice and fresh), the idea that a Manhattan-priced sushi shop is open in/around Bed-Stuy says a lot more to me about the unapologetically dynamic neighborhood than merely seeing more hip (read white) kids at the Franklin Avenue stop.

Is the neighborhood ready for this? Can this be sustained? “This” is admittedly vague. So I guess “this” means higher-priced consumption, not widely marketed, not a (large) chain. One resident has taken notice on a recent tasting trip, and another blog has prattled on about the shop. Are these critics just foodies needing a good place to munch on amongst the countless fast food chains, or is there something significant to a sit-down, bourgeois meal in a less-than-bourgeois ‘hood that is worth noting? Should it be that surprising?

One block in the opposite direction from my house is a Halal Chinese food “restaurant” complete with neon signs advertising No Pork in English and Arabic. Adaptation is certainly possible, but adaptation is usually to the existing residents. Is Sushi Tatsu II jumping the gun or merely giving the locals what they’ve been starved for all along? It’s hard to tell at this point. Selfishly (the same motivation for my move to, and continued stay in Bed-Stuy), I am excited to get tuna avocado rolls and Tommy’s Roll (sans-tobiko please) delivered to my underpriced brownstone dwelling. I just wonder if there’s enough of us out there to keep them open.

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Interesting choice in route, the 4th and 9th R/M to Union Square over the F to 14th Street. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you had a few valuable words of wisdom there, Friend. However, I do know better, so now I must annihilate you and your arguments.

First off, I must state that the R and M trains are, how you say, pieces of shit. And don’t you dare deny this, Friend. Don’t you (fucking) dare. You and I both know that even at their fastest, I could run alongside both trains and beat either one to the next station. And this is coming from someone with a weak respiratory system, strained left shoulder, and bad knees. Maybe you enjoy riding those graffiti’d subway tracks at such a slow pace you’re able to read every crude comment written on those black, tarred walls. But I, personally, enjoy feeling as though I am in an actual moving vehicle, not a carriage being pulled by a Gypsy Horse in the mid to late 1600’s. But perhaps you have an old soul, which would explain your penchant for slow moving cars, similar to how an 88 year old likes to drive 13 mph on a 65 mph highway. In which case, then yeah, the R or M trains might be a wiser choice.

I, however, am young at heart. I, like most humans, prefer my trains to be fast. I like to feel a steady flow of vibrations below my feet, and getting to work on time.

I’d also like to address the fact that the 4th and 9th Street F stop is above ground. And correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you once state, and I think pretty recently, that, “Without the Canal, the F train would not make its two glorious above-ground stops at Smith & 9th and 4th Avenue. Think of all those people who wouldn’t be able to send text messages, check their voice mail and make annoying phone calls while commuting with 6000 other people in a single train car.” Oh, hey look what I found. Your exact quote. So, interesting. You choose the shitty, stank, underground R/M, over the oh-so glorious above-ground F stop. Two timer.

Now, I know you’re probably going to come back at me with, “but one rides the R/M for no more than three stops.” Well, I have news for you, the N train moves just as slowly as the R. It skips stops, yes. However, it is so incredibly jam-packed in the morning that the actual weight of the train permits it to drive only at a negative pace. -12 mph, if you’re looking for a rough figure. It is literally, torture.

Convenience is also key here. The F train is a straight shot to 14th Street. No transfers necessary. This means, if you, or I, or anyone else is lucky enough to find an open seat right off the bat, well all I can say is, Zzzzzzz. That means you get to take a nap. And sleep my friend, is a precious, precious thing.

Lastly, if you’re going by old adages, how about this one. N stands for Never; R stands for Rarely.

Love,
RK

PS I bet you didn’t expect any of your previous arguments to nip you in the butt.

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A distorted reflection of a sliver of moon shimmers on the water, between long streams of industrial filth. Wharf rats frolic along concrete banks, leaping from one tire to the next. A tiny paw slips on the slick trigger of a discarded gun and the drone of the BQE is cracked for a moment. It’s nighttime on the Gowanus Canal.

The Gowanus Canal, a heavily polluted, slow moving, body of water, once served Brooklyn’s shipping industry. Even though the industry is basically gone at this point, the Canal offers certain benefits that make it a little stinky jewel in our fine borough.

Benefits:

1. When dug originally, the Canal had the added bonus of draining western Brooklyn’s marshlands so they could put the Safeway in Red Hook and rich people in Park Slope.

2. The Canal has proven itself an exceptional receptacle for rats caught in a certain apartment that were not executed in an electric box.

3. Without the Canal, the F train would not make its two glorious above-ground stops at Smith & 9th and 4th Avenue. Think of all those people who wouldn’t be able to send text messages, check their voice mail and make annoying phone calls while commuting with 6000 other people in a single train car.

4. The Canal is an excellent place to unburden yourself of illegal firearms – or legal firearms that were used in an illegal act. Actually, it’s great for destroying evidence of all kinds.

5. The actual creation of the Canal was one of the first acts of Brooklyn gentrification. Once the land was drained, property values went up and the birds and fishes were kicked out so robber-barons and merchant marines could move in. So, I’m not sure if this is a benefit because it’s a politically sensitive matter – which I am clearly on the wrong side of – but, it’s certainly historically interesting.

6. Without the canal, there would be no need for the little bridges on Union, Carroll, 3rd and 9th Streets.

7. The Canal provides the central point of enjoyment for both the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club and the Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy.

Thus, I declare “yay” for the Gowanus Canal.

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