Confessions of a gentrifier
I don’t fit the normal profile of a gentifier…..
First, I’m not rich. On a yearly basis, if not more often my profession’s listserv goes on a tizzy about how we’re never paid much. according to some government tables I make about 1/2 of the region’s adverage income.
Second, I’m black. Of course some may want to take away my black person card because of the crew I hang with and I know I’m never going to win a Blacker than Thou contest. It says black on the birth certificate, so that’s what I’m sticking with.
Third, well there is no 3rd. But I like things to have a begining, a middle and an end.
I do fit some of the gentifying stereotypes in otherways:
I’m new, moving in in 2000
I have a graduate degree
I’m young (sort of)
I’ve improved my yard and house
I attend community meetings and support changes
I have no kids
I am a homeowner
I moved to Shaw because a) it is on the Green Line which will take me to Archives II, where I thought I would wind up working. b) not far from the Yellow line, which would take me to Braddock Road, where I did wind up working, c) near grocery store, laundry and everything else a car-less person needs, and lastly and most importantly d) I could afford it.
I’m a single woman, there is only so much house I can afford. I don’t like huge condo buildings, actually I hate condo buildings. Also I needed to be near the metro, as mentioned previously, I don’t have a car. Not a condo, near the metro, equals expensive. But my Realtor found something in my small measly price range.
All you new people just want to come in and change things!
That’s what I hear everyso often from several of the old timers. Old timers have been in the neighborhood since the Indians were fishing in the Potomac. They’ll lash out against people who have lived in the neighborhood 15 years, which apparently makes you a newbie still. The old timers are typically old retired women, who insult you in that being nice but insulting way.
I didn’t move in with a plan. I was aware of changes and potential and I am supportive of it. Change is going to happen. People who have been here 15 years and want change do see an opening and are acting on it using some of the engery (and naivite) of the new people. So yes, I guess in some ways I do want to change things.
** Cut down on liquor stores Good Lord, how many of these stores do you need. Right where I am there are about 3 stores in a 2 block radius where I can grab a 40, or some Mad Dog 20/20. I’m not against beer and wine. I drink wine but you won’t find me in the neighborhood liquor store, unless they start carrying a variety of foreign and domestic red wines, none of that Boones Farm crap but real wine.
**Do something about abandoned buildings Do old timers like abandoned buildings? It brings joy to my heart so see a house that previously was boarded up getting fixed up to be sold. Now people with the money to fix up houses also are up on the current economic realities and know that they can make some money and they do. They’ll fix up a house and sell it for an outragous price. Usually out of the price range of most lower and middle income folks. Heck even Manna fixed then sold houses that were out of my price range. So fixing up the abandoned buildings come at a price.
** Cut down on crime Can’t we all agree on this? Apparently not. Some newbie neighbors attended a meeting where she was attacked for wanted greater police presence on her street. The attendees told her if she wanted police presence she should have moved to Georgetown!
**Spend money in the community I would like to spend more of my hard earned dollars in the immediate area of where I live but I have 2 questions:
1. Are you selling what I want to be buying?
2. Will I be treated with respect?
One old timer chastised the group for not supporting Black businesses and the businesses that have been here since forever. Well I would support those businesses if they sold something I wanted to buy. See the comment about the liquor stores. They aren’t selling what I want, and I am not going to buy what I don’t want. I want fresh fruit. I want variety. Secondly, I don’t want to be treated like a criminal before I even walk into the store. I know the neighborhood was not and in some spots is not safe enough to remove the plexiglass between the cashier and the customer. But I find the whole experience insulting in some ways, so given a choice, I choose not to but myself through that.
I choose to go to Giant on P Street. They have what I want, they don’t insult me (the cashier may ingore me, but not insult me), and I get to spend my dollars in Shaw. I also support Chain Reaction. The service is good, the prices okay, and most importantly they’re close. I don’t eat at any of the take out joints, this goes back to the not selling what I want. I would like a nice sit down place, and I have yet to try the Italian restaurant on New York Ave, but that is still far. The best I can do is the Wendy’s on Florida, which also is far, but they have the Wendy’s Jr. Cheeseburger. If a store or restaurant that was nice and clean and respectful opened up I may visit it and maybe even patronize it.
They’re are some things that I and my fellow newbies do that are threatening to the old timers and anti-gentrifiers, and I’ll try owning up to them.
***You’re trying to move people out of their homes. Yes and no. Are these the loud drug dealers down the street? They why hell yes, I want them gone. The old timers may remember when Soinso was a cute little kid, but now he’s 20 and is hanging with a dope selling crew. They may feel sorry for them. Newbies show up and they just see the dope selling crew, not the cute kids they were. Sadly, some of these dealers work out of their grandmothers/momma’s/girlfriend’s house and when a community of law abiding citizens set they’re mind to it it becomes “get rid of them all and let G-d, sort them out.”
Even in situations where it isn’t drugs but quality of life issues like noise and trash people look at it as a problem to be fixed and the easiest solution is to get rid of the problem instead of changing the behavior. Section 8. That tends to be synomous with problem house. They’re are some good Section 8 people, but if a house has 12 people running in and out of it at all hours; people putting all their business out there on the street; children running around like they don’t have any home training; being loud; being bad; being ugly, people just call it a Section 8 house. So yes, those people are targeted.
However there are people who are pushed out because of higher taxes and rents. They are not targeted, they are just victims of the changing economic times. Of course, according to Lance Freeman,at Columbia University, and Frank Braconi, at the Citizens Housing and Planning Council people aren’t pushed out (see New York Times 3/26/2002 The Big City; The Gentry, Misjudged As Neighbors by JOHN TIERNEY ). They were bound to leave anyway regardless of what was going on in that particular neighborhood.