As I wrote a couple of posts (and at least a month – I’ve been AWOL on this blog lately) ago, I was invited to observe/ participate a Brian Lehrer form at the WNYC sound studios a couple of weeks ago. The invitation came basically that morning and I went because I thought it might illuminate some things about Bed-Stuy, where I’ve been a part-time resident for six years, and my quest to understand the roots of gentrification.
And it did.
– According to one participant on the panel, Ibrahim Abdul Matin, a community organizer with the Black Muslim community in Brooklyn, 50% of black men in New York are unemployed. What he probably means is, not officially employed. They are unemployed the way I’m unemployed, working off the radar, here and there. Nonetheless, that’s huge number of people not integrated into the official economy.
He pointed out that the underground economy is not as strong in New York as it once was:
“As someone who grew up watching the crack era and seeing it all evolve, there was a time in New York where things were not that great, but you could join the underground economy and make a lot of money. You can’t do that any more. People aren’t making big money hustling.”
Obviously, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But it does point to one reason why crime rates remain relatively low, despite the job losses, the unemployment. Folks in the inner city don’t want to do crack.
– According to Pam Green, a____, the sub-prime mortgage hit Bed-Stuy hard. People lost their homes, left the neighborhood. Conversely, this has hastened rather than slowed down gentrification. She claimed there has been a 255% increase in white people moving into Bed-Stuy in the last year. “This change is too fast – you see the architecture changing, symmetry of housing changing, big condos going up . . .”
– Ironically, those very factors that make Bed-Stuy a more liveable place for it’s residents than it was a few years ago – stronger sense of community, a massive drop in crime rate, obvious drug use – has made it more vulnerable to gentrification. Crime rates are actually higher in neighboring Fort Greene and Park Slope, where more people have more money. Long-term residents have worked hard to make Bed-Stuy more safe, so now it’s more safe for the condo developers, and the people who want to live in those condos as well.
– Which leads to: Rental prices in central Brooklyn have tripled in the last few years. Where the average price for a one-bedroom was five hundred, not it’s fifteen hundred. As storeowner Atim Annette Okim (calabra imports) pointed out, who can afford $1500 a month making $7.50 an hour, which is what so many low-skilled jobs pay?
So gentrification marches on, even in the recession . . .