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Special thanks to gregorama for inspiring this one. He spoke in his journal about the gentrification process going on in the neighborhoods that he grew up in and how he was now considering purchasing a condominium in the place that maybe wasn't so nice a few years ago. For the record, he's in Canada, but that doesn't particularly matter. The issue of this is the same, no matter where on the globe you might be.

In my response to his post, I said that as far as I was concerned, the terms "gentrification" and "Manifest Destiny" have the same basic meaning. Someone lives on a plot of land. Someone else who is more wealthy, more powerful, more "clever" comes along and wants that land and either coerces or forces the person who holds it to relinquish it.

The problem is exactly the same as well. Those that are "moving in" to an area know what they're doing and why they're doing it. They want to make money, they want to increase their personal wealth and have a nicer place to live that is more affordable than the places that already exist for them to live.

But this is a bit different from the Native Americans who had their own mores and social norms, and style of dwellings. Poor neighborhoods are a really tricky thing that must be examined from several different angles. You must begin with the landlords. Just who are these people? They are looking for passive income from tenants that rent their property. These are people who do the minimum. There's no urgency to fix a neighborhood up because there's no profit in it. The people that live there will not pay more for it, even if they could. It's the path of least resistance for these owners, and all they want is what money they can get and they'll leave you alone.

Now, someone would come along and offer to buy tracts of these properties and convert them into a newer, cleaner, nicer neighborhood. In the scheme of a city plan, this is great. It increases property values, lowers crime rates, gives a nicer look to a run-down part of town, offers jobs to construction and urban planning and looks great on the fiscal records.

From the POV of a hard-working person trying to support a family, this is not a positive. When you are poor, and just trying to make ends meet, it's not as if you want to live in squalor. It's not like you don't see what your neighborhood is like. But you are unable to do better. You are working as hard as you can just to make it to the next paycheck, and choosing which bills to pay in order to keep on going. There is no time to consider what to do about the area, because it's all about being able to eat that next meal, or keep the electricity on for another month.

In addition, who really knows what to do, even if you had the time to do it? What agencies could you call to even begin to fix up your neighborhood? I don't think people who are in a situation like that would even know to ask that question.

"They" are the poor. "We" are not. And as long as there is that allignment, this problem will persist. It's the Them and Us mentality that permitted Manifest Destiny to do what it did. Was that a crime? Of course it was. It was property theft.

In some ways, gentrification is just as bad. When the Cavalry came in and took the land from the Natives, in some cases, they put up the appearance of a treaty (when they weren't handing out pox infected blankets). Today, for those that can't afford the "new" neighborhood, there's nothing but an eviction notice. Find a new reservation.

This is an issue in NYC, as more and more $2,000,000.00 two bedroom condo properties are going on the market. Everything radiates out from Midtown. As prices in the city's most expensive neighborhoods increase, the prices in neighboring areas do as well, and as people start moving to find a place that's both affordable to their budgets and in a workable part of town, The Ripple Effect takes care of the rest. So, as people who work part-time, or low/minimum wage jobs are attempting to continue to earn some money they can use for something other than paying the bills, they have to move farther away, forcing them to commute longer, spend more money for the trip and have even less time in their lives for anything other than work and sleep. Is this any way to improve the human race?

But, of course, none of this is about improving the human race. It's about earning as much as you can, helping your own bank account and getting whatever it is you want, without a thought to those that don't have an option.

It's a societal problem that no one wants to look at because that would mean needing to spend money on it, and under the Us/Them concept, that would be like handing cash to the enemy. But shouldn't we think of everyone as part of the same family, and that this is more like a father forgiving a son's debt rather than an tenant unable to pay the cost?

Maybe the answer to gentrification is simple: if you want to renew a community, if you want to come in a take over a part of a town considered "run down," you have to find a way to make things right for the current residents as a part of the plan. Either incorporate housing for them to live in the blueprint of the new neighborhood as well, or create a new place for them to be that isn't inconvenient to their lives. Make THAT a law and maybe we can distance this term from "Manifest Destiny."

Really, if you expect people to be able to work jobs that are so low paying you have to get a supplement to afford a Metrocard, something has to be done, because soon, New York will be a gated community, and the only people around will be the super-wealthy residents, the tourists who have paid their visitor's passes, and the staff of people who are given entry permit ids, checked at the border by the Police and are only permitted to be on the property for the time they are scheduled, before being bused or shuttled off to wherever it is that they live, out of sight and far away.

But, let's face it... this renewal isn't working in our Case Study city: New Orleans, where it's clear that a lot of people who were homeowners will not be back. Those areas will be bulldozed, and "reassigned." In this case, Katrina and the Corps of Engineers, that didn't get the levees in line, acted as "gentrifiers." Maybe when all is back to "normal" in the Crescent City, they'll call it "New New Orleans." Maybe, when the time comes, we'll be called "New New York." And maybe after all this, the country will be called "The Same Old USA."



( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 30th, 2006 12:33 pm (UTC)
In Toronto there is a huge problem of no affordable housing - it's like a mini-New York. Even when there is a decrease in unemployment, it tends now only to indicate an increase in minimum wage service jobs. There are LOTS of those in Toronto. The rich broads want their pedicures. Only they don't care where the pedicurist goes to live after a day's work. Lots of working class neighbourhoods, like Cabbage Town, got gentrified. The only new housing being built are million dollar homes. That leads to more homelessness, crime and all-round general suffering. You can't get ahead even if you work hard and save your pennies.

There is nothing wrong with profit - but there is something wrong with profit derived solely at the expense those least able to protect themselves.

Perhaps city officials should take a leaf out of the South African book. Remember the good old days there? Poor blacks would be transported into the city to tidy up those rich broad's toenails. At night they'd be transported out - leaving the area delightful and safe for nighttime strolls by the wealthy.

The poor should be kept in camps when not needed. Perhaps some barbed wire would be in order cause sometimes the poor get radical ideas and stuff. Yes, definitely, that's the answer: a camp surrounded by barbed wire - what are those called again?
Jun. 30th, 2006 12:48 pm (UTC)
It's disheartening, because the humans who are in this situation are treated like the garbage on their streets: something to be cleared away to clean up the area.

You're exactly right. This is just a moneygrab that some investment source suggested for people with tons of expendable income. It's a real estate game that permits those property agents to get wealthy from commissions for sales of these lots for lots.

And sure... we can have underground "townships" because that term sounds really pleasant. Impoverished Township. If it's underground, you won't see it from your limo or your jet. People could refer to it as "IT." And the residents would be cal "its."

Would future historians think that's bad?
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 30th, 2006 01:59 pm (UTC)
Hm. Well, I hope I didn't imply that this was not a complicated issue! It most certainly is, and it most certainly needs a multifaceted solution to make it work.

As to the points you're making... technically, everything in New York began as a "white neighborhood," if you get right down to it. As slaves, holding property was not permitted. However, slave owners could assign areas of their land as dwellings, and that is how neighborhoods get such character. When slavery ended and people wanted to hire cheap immigrant labor (rather than pay blacks for the services they got from them for a penny on the dollar when they were chained), those people needed to live somewhere. Blocks were assigned to different groups, and when these people came through Ellis Island, they took up residence in their assigned areas. Chinatown. Little Italy. Yorkville. Brighton Beach. And so on.

I'll grant you that neighborhoods that were once more "successful" can become "less well to do," but the question is why? Real estate agents do a "blockbuster" maneuver and scare owners into selling their property before the values decrease. The agents make money from the sale of that and the purchase by the people who are moving in. It is the Real Estate brokers that are pulling the strings.

But really, it goes to the issue of people who can't afford more, who are doing the grunt work jobs that every city needs and who must live within a reasonable commute to get to those jobs that will make it worth their while to even bother working... people need to live close to their jobs, but if their jobs aren't affording them the ability to pay for a nicer place to live, you get urban squalor.

In both neigborhood evolutions, to use your term, the people who own are always the people in control, leaving the ones who can't afford more to either grab what they can get (because the area is going downhill to their level) or be forced out (beause they can't afford to stay). I guess that's why I don't have as much sympathy for that situation.

Also, there really aren't that many cases of properties decreasing in value so that the less successful could buy into it. That may have been the case some 30 to 40 years ago, but lately, we have reached a plateau in the market, at least in NYC.

This is why we need to have affordable housing for people, rather than just seven figure luxe apartments. There won't be anyone to do these service jobs to keep the city running, and if that happens, there won't be a city.
Jun. 30th, 2006 04:13 pm (UTC)
Im not so much buying this.
Normally, I agree with your thinkposts. Oddly, today isn't one of those days.

This goes both ways- not just one. I don't think anyone should be *forced* from their home, no matter who they are. Black, white, green or polkadot. But if someone offers someone else a mil five for a brownstone that's little more than a shell on 153rd and St. Nick(this building exists-- it's on the south side of the street, closer to Riverside.), and the owner of that building takes that offer-- cause you know? That's still a mil five for someone who almost certainly hasn't seen that much money in their entire life combined, then so what?

If that building owner-- someone who bought the building when Harlem was cheap as dirt to live in and no one wanted to wants to retire and move to another state to be closer to family, it sounds from what youre saying that they should somehow be obligated in some way not to get as much money as they can for it. And that they shouldn't, (and so help me, Dean, you know Im not trying to offend you here), sell that building to Whitey.

Im not talking about real estate developers. I don't much care for them any more than you do, but likely for different reasons. Im talking about private sale. I get furious when I hear about someone legitimately buying a property someplace, paying fair market value for it, and then getting castigated by their neighbors when theyve done nothing other than move in-- or, for having the wrong skin colour.

It works *both* ways, and in both ways, it's still wrong.

If I had the money I'd be buying up converted loft space in the south Bronx *as we speak*. Because that kind of space suits my needs better and is closer to Manhattan than I am now, even though I live in a "nice" neighborhood now. Should I be somehow condemned for doing so, even though I grew up in the Bronx and was born in Washington Heights? (and goodness knows that neighborhood hasn't been anything to write home about it at least 40 years.) simply because my skin is paler than that of most current residents?

I have a friend in Washington DC who would probably have a lot to say on this issue, as she has been living in her 1926 hours for something like 16, 17 years now and is now watching yuppies move into her Petworth neighborhood and not so much liking the changes.

I'll link her. :)

Jun. 30th, 2006 04:16 pm (UTC)
I just realized it's locked. Poo. she'd be a good one to talk about this.
Jun. 30th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
Hm. Well, it doesn't seem like you're saying anything different from what I'm saying. I'm not about trying to prevent someone from selling their property to whomever wants to buy it. Private sale is what our US economy is based upon and I'm all for that. I'm also not about segregating neighborhoods. Anyone should be permitted to live anywhere they want.

I think the problem we run into here is when whole blocks are changing hands, when there's an organized agenda that is being placed on an area, specifically to raise the value of the property, bringing in commercial and retail space, and having this done, not only without consulting those that currently reside there, but as a method of removing those people. That's really what I'm discussing here. I have no problem with a "grass roots" element, where a few families might move into a neighborhood, and they approach those residents that were there before and say, "hey, let's do this, that and the other to make our area a better one." To me, that would be the ultimate!

What I'm talking about are wealthy people who come in from somewhere else who purchase property as an investment. They may not even live in this place but pour money into it to attract "better" tenants and charge a steeper rent. I mean a systematic choice to "flip" a neighborhood, leaving the current residents no alternative but to leave or attempt to struggle to pay the higher rents/maintenence fees of the new. These are people playing Monopoly with people's lives.

Everyone is trying to make it, and this speaks to a subject I've talked about before: just how much of your life is within your own control? If you live in a border neighborhood, the answer may be not much at all, and that only takes more air out of the atmosphere when you're already huffing and puffing to breathe.

I guess it's wrong of me to think that someone should care about this sociological issue, but it seems as if not only don't people care about it, but they don't seem to even know about it!

I think we're in agreement on this.

Oh, and sorry about the lock, since my whole journal is locked.
Jun. 30th, 2006 05:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
I think the problem we run into here is when whole blocks are changing hands, when there's an organized agenda that is being placed on an area, specifically to raise the value of the property, bringing in commercial and retail space, and having this done, not only without consulting those that currently reside there, but as a method of removing those people.

This is not someone's country or indian burial ground. This is a piece of property that the majority of the people who live there rent and do not own. Much like in all transactions, once the contract is completed, what happens to the property and the living arrangement changes. Granted, there are housing laws that are there to more or less protect the little guy, but when you deal with straight dollars and cents, it's pretty much the way of the market.

The Lower East Side was wholly immigrant Jewish in the turn of the 20th century. those people worked hard to escape the tenement lifestyle. It turned Chinese, Latino, Black, the boho artisians, (also more or less the heroin heads of the 80's)... the whole gambit of immigrant groups. SOciologically, which groups should the urban development be sensitive to?

The beautiful archtecture of Harlem wasn't built during Harlem's decline, but was there before then and while there were other groups pouring money in there. Now it's turning around. It's very difficult to draw a wide blanket over a place so economically and culturally fluid as NYC.
Jun. 30th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
This really isn't an ethnic issue, although I did mention the slave days of old in a previous comment. This is an economic issue.

I think one question that needs to be asked is what do we want New York to be? Is this a place of diversity or is it a place of the super wealthy? And doesn't the diversity of the city give it its character (unlike what you might see on a TV sitcom)?

There's Manhattan Plaza, that project where artists can live and work in the heart of NYC for an affordable price. This is an initiative that was made to insure that people with an artistic sensibility would be able to live and make use of the resources that are here.

It's very easy to spin off on tangents when discussing this topic and so I'm not going to say a lot here, but issues to consider are:

1. How does a city function if the "working class" of it can't afford to live there...?

2. What is the model for what we would like the city to be, and how can we incorporate those that live and work here to be a part of it, rather than be controlled by it?
Jun. 30th, 2006 09:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
Unfortunately, it is both. I know that's not what *you* mean, but there's precious little way to not define it as an ethnic issue in most of the neighborhoods in which we could be talking about:

Harlem, the South Bronx, the LES, DUMBO, Washington Heights, Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg.... No way to separate the economics from the ethicity factor, yo.

Jun. 30th, 2006 05:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
What's funny is that I used to live on 153rd and St. Nick and my landlord was the first slumlord to get busted back in the day. An old woman froze to death in her bed.

Unfortunately I haven't entirely read all of this post and these comments, but I am also not completely in agreement with Dean here. I'm in Harlem and once lived in the Lower East Side where my mother is still so I see both sides of the issue. Without much thought into the issue, my cut and dry feeling is that the neighborhoods were run down for a reason and it could have changed from within - by the communities' involvement and even investment. And you can't say the programs weren't there, especially in Harlem. They had the opportunity to do something about it but a lot of the mentality allowed it to fester. Now that development is happening, now they're complaining about changes. But change always happens, especially in a city like NY. I myself may find myself pinched, but you know what? That means that I have to find another way of making it work rather than fuss in order to keep the status quo. Fight hard for what you have, I always say.

This is a market society which is far different than the manifest destiny/native american thing referenced previously. We live in a capitalistic society and a market dependent structure. If people are willing to pay these prices then the prices will continue. That's the inherent nature behind the gentrification.\

I wrote more than I intended.
Jun. 30th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
Change is a constant in NYC, there's no doubt about that.

The parallel as I see it between gentrification and Manifest Destiny comes because the people who are moving in have an agenda, they have a plan and the idea is to get what they want at the expense of those that are there. Those that are the previous residents are either not aware of or are not focused on this plan, and continue to do what they do, not knowing that their way of life is about to be terminated.

To me, I think if you are dealing with your day to day troubles, like the basics of survival, you don't even have time to raise your head from the grindstone to see what else is going on. This is a part of the problem that needs to be addressed.

Potentially, we could "gentrify" all of NYC, but if that happened how would the city function? This is one of the questions I'm asking. Where are the doormen, the sanitation workers, the salesclerks in stores, the cabbies, the MTA workers, the hot dog vendors, and on and on?

We are in a bit of a squeeze in NY. We need "affordable" housing for people. We may want luxury housing if we are landlords who want to develop, and recently, that's been the trend. But ultimately, isn't this causing the city to be less and less affordable for everyone? That's why I suggest that eventually, NYC will be a gated community.

As to the "if people are willing to pay these prices" argument, well, that doesn't really hold for Real Estate. there are many vacant properties scattered in the NY market where people refuse to pay the asking price, and rather than lower it, they are holding it until someone does. Is that permitted? Of course it is. But it also means that this puts a bigger strain on the market in the bigger picture, since that's one fewer unit that might have been available.

I admitted that this is not an easy or straightforward problem to address, and it's going to take great care to deal with all of the aspects of it. But someone needs to start looking carefully at it now.
Jun. 30th, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
When all of these buildings started to go up in record pace, the first thought that crossed my mind if that "if prices determined by the demand for apartments, then the over supply will eventually even out the market and the prices will go down."

In reality, a lot of these mega apartment buildings are standing wholly underfilled. Many potential buyers are unwilling to pay those prices. The interest rate has been rising therefore making it difficult for buyers, and for sellers for that matter. Overspeculation always gets corrected by the market which is why people have been predicting a burst to the bubble. This is all within a measure of time.

Also, keep in mind that prices are up all around which is affecting the affordibility of many of these places. Rising gas costs make it difficult to heat apartments. Even rising property and real estate taxes are forcing landlords to raise rents to an uncomfortable degree. Yet we still have our public assistance programs and public housing where many of the people do not have to pay for heat, water or electricity. Somebody does. When the housing developments and many of the HUD cooperatives, like my own, go bankrupt, which is highly likely, unless they raise prices to market level, then yes: where do these people go now.

This is the state of the economy altogether, and parts of what is happening now is highly reminiscent of the situations around the urban decline of the 1970's (unless we introduce a drug even more destructive than Crack, then it's deja vu all over again).

In regards to the development of the LES and Harlem which I have witnessed, many of the new development is happening in either the burned out shells or vacant lots (or drug dens in the case of LES) of places that NO ONE was even thinking of developing until a little while ago. No one was living there and meanwhile there are still programs for those within a certain income guideline for them to find affordable housing.

Granted, we need more affordable housing, but in what model? The RObert Moses brick and box prison-like yards in which he DID raze over entire communities to change the face of the city with no sweat? This is different. And you are implying racism even though many of the people moving back into these neighborhoods are replants whose families escaped the urban decay to only return and revitalize it once again.
Jun. 30th, 2006 06:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
Time is time, but some things have changed. One of the changes is recent years is the megabanks that are now property owners. Citi and Chase. I mean, My bank was Chemical. It got eaten by Manufacturers Hanover which got eaten by Chase which got eaten by JP Morgan. With these superbanks able to retain the hold on these funds, properties can remain vacant until they find people willing to pay the price.

What I'm saying with this is with luxe apartment properties sitting vacant, everyone who might have afforded to get one of those props is taking space from someone who could only afford the next level. This is another way everything gets pushed to the fringes.

Robert Moses was never concerned with the life of this city or its people. He only saw his varied construction and road projects and his methods of making money from them. We know better today.

All I'm really saying is that we have to stop and look at what's going on with this process. Even I'm not entirely sure what's happening. But I'm aware that the city is feeling more strained, and less my own, and that the mercenary elements are all very much in play...
Jun. 30th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
THAT was well said.

I'm friending you.
Jul. 1st, 2006 11:56 am (UTC)
Re: Im not so much buying this.
Jun. 30th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
Interesting that your view of what might happen is the same, yet at polar opposites to the movie "Escape from New York". Has life in the city really changed that much in 25 years or was the viewpoint from 25 years ago of what the city would be like in 1998 just screwy. Never saw the movie BTW.
Jun. 30th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
It's very true! Back when that movie was made, the slums of the area appeared to be taking over the landscape and maybe turning the whole place into a prison would have been a viable choice in that circumstance.

No matter what someone predicts for the future (especially a cheesy "B" movie screenwriter!), it's never THAT. So, no. The frightening elements of a bleak prison was never in the cards for NYC. There are too many people who care too much about it to permit that from happening.

I think if robots are developed, the vision will come true and the "gated community" vision will be complete. Of course, where that will put all of the rest of the people who are here is a difficult one, and may be the fodder for a Speilberg film...
Jun. 30th, 2006 06:32 pm (UTC)
Part 1
My training is in Civil/Environmental Engineering and the subject of Urban Planning is one I find fascinating. Being a homeowner in Los Angeles, the issue of real estate pricing (and the way it's forcing out lower income demographics) is a big issue lately. Our downtown is undergoing some heavy gentrification lately (which in some ways is FABULOUS - there are absolutely DEAD zones downtown that are screaming for money/vitality to be breathed back into them) and are much nicer places for it. But it IS also forcing out lower-rent tenants in some areas as the money-wielding yuppies and their progeny come in forking over $300K for a bachelor-single condo in a fairly low-rent area, or more-than-my-mortgage in rental payments. Since my church is in the downtown area, and serves a largely low-income latino population, we're seeing effects first hand. We are affiliated with a low-cost senior housing apartment building next door, and these types of low profit facilities are going to be harder to find as this area of downtown gentrifies. Some of our members have already left in the recent past to find more affordable places to live.

The nearby suburb of Pasadena is undergoing the same thing. Friends of mine bought a house there about 5 years ago at the bottom end of the market range for the area, literally three houses away from the house my dad grew up in. They couldn't sell and move up if their lives depended on it at this point. They will never be able to afford anything bigger/better in Pasadena because of the gentrification that happened after they bought in (unless they undergo a dramatic employment improvement). The local mall was razed and rebuilt - which was good (as no one was going to the old one anymore and the new one has a movie theater and such) but most of the new mall's tenants are upscale retail/restaurants. The integrated use apartments are almost entirely occupied by wealthy male divorcees. The old town shopping district has also been renovated by a large developer (or several), taking a previously sleepy little retail district and turn it into a mixed use haven for big-box/upscale retailers and prompting development of high-cost residential in the neighborhood. It's now a major destination for much of the LA area, like Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade - the sidewalks are PACKED at nights (street signals allow for diagonal crossings during peak hours) and locals avoid driving through it year-round now instead of just near Rose Parade time. Previous commercial tenants (including black-box theater types) are being squeezed out as rents climb, even in rent controlled blocks. The South Lake Avenue commercial district is also gentrifying in response, and one of our favorite restaurateurs is being squeezed out due to rent hikes. Pasadena is an area rife with "old money", so it's never been a completely poor kind of place, but where my hubby (who grew up on the east side of Pasadena) used to say "Oh, you didn't drive through THAT neighborhood?!" (where dad grew up and which afterward became a very black, lower income neighborhood) we're seeing brand new buildings/businesses go up, and local demographics getting "whiter". The lower-income end of the mix is disappearing. Our friends are noticing it in their neighbors' demographics - they're no longer the only white boys on the block. My in-laws are noticing it in that the schools (MIL is a recently retired school secretary) are seeing a drop in registration because there are fewer families locally.
Jun. 30th, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
Part 2
I have often wondered what can be done to mainain a healthy mix of housing price ranges. Many cities require developers to provide a certain percentage of their projects as a low income range (though how that's managed/defined varies from place to place). Some require a fancy building be matched with a lower-rent building somewhere else in the city/region. Some require that certain units within the building be made available at "affordable" rates. But that only goes so far. In my mind, a "healthy" neighborhood has a good mix of properties available, because if you gentrify an entire region... well then there's no good prospects for creating wealth, because ALL of the property is already high cost, so any development will result in minimal profit. A healthy neighborhood has some well-maintained high value areas, and some lower cost, high potential areas, which can either (a) provide avenues for the less wealthy to not be in TOTAL squalor and still not have to commute 50 miles, (b) provide good income for the mid-range developer to put in some low-mid range apartments/retail, or (c) possibly become the next Paseo Colorado if it's called for. When EVERYTHING is gentrified, who can afford to spend money in these higher-scale establishments? Friends and family bemoan the need to pay for parking and the loss of lower-cost eateries, etc. J and I used to consider the possibility of moving there (it's a very nice place) but so much has happened in the past decade that we've given up thinking it'll ever happen barring us inheriting the home J grew up in.

Gentrified areas hit a peak, and then if there's not enough new money coming in to support those businesses and keep them profitable, they start to "sink" again. It's fabulous that the renovations improved the buildings, but as soon as you gentrify a neighborhood far enough, the bubble bursts as those looking for big, quick profit move elsewhere, the big corporate retailers look for more up-and-coming areas leaving space avaialble for smaller retailers, and the middle class strata starts to be able to shop, and then live, there again. The cycle is fairly predictable and observable, but it does take time. The trick is figuring out how to hang on during the up-swing times if you're a lower-income type...
Jun. 30th, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2
Gentrified areas hit a peak, and then if there's not enough new money coming in to support those businesses and keep them profitable, they start to "sink" again. It's fabulous that the renovations improved the buildings, but as soon as you gentrify a neighborhood far enough, the bubble bursts as those looking for big, quick profit move elsewhere, the big corporate retailers look for more up-and-coming areas leaving space avaialble for smaller retailers, and the middle class strata starts to be able to shop, and then live, there again. The cycle is fairly predictable and observable, but it does take time. The trick is figuring out how to hang on during the up-swing times if you're a lower-income type...

This was the bulk of what my point was exactly, but you were able to articulate it better.

And to begin to answer Dean's questions to me above:

1. How does a city function if the "working class" of it can't afford to live there...?
It won't be able to function. Either the market or the society goes through some sort of correction.

2. What is the model for what we would like the city to be, and how can we incorporate those that live and work here to be a part of it, rather than be controlled by it?
I don't understand this question because in almost all of American history, economics has always controlled the nature of the people living within it. I reference the great Black Migration North after the war to find better jobs. Detriot once being an industrial mecca and then the flight once it tanked. The Dust Bowl era and how conditions around there affected the region for many years afterwards.

What you should also keep in mind is that the gentrification as well as the prices of apartments is affecting EVERYBODY. We're talking about people well into their 30's having to have 2 or 3 roomates sharing a two bedroom just to be able to afford to live in NY. People still living with their parents because they're unable to move out on their own. The gentrification of Williamsburg by the hipsters does not mean the hipsters are super rich. It's because that's where the apartment prices were more reasonable at the time.

The market will correct itself. The prices will correct itself. The movement of peoples happen all the time. ALso keep in mind that as long as there is a reduction in tax dollars in order to fund social programs, there will be no affordable housing or programs to help those who are poor. It's a very complicated issue, but it's not some wide spread conspiracy to destroy the multicultural fabric of this city.
Jun. 30th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Question 2
You are citing some economic cases that determined the movement of the population... Detroit's auto industry boom, The general move west, away from the confined spaces of eastern cities. Sure, this was an element to examine.

But we are in a more unique position right now. We can help dictate what happens next in a way that the people from the dust bowl/Great Depression era could not.

Yes, everything will "correct itself." But that isn't going to help if you are one of the corrections!

What I mean to say is we are in the unique position of not having to wait for economics to dictate what happens! We have the chance to steer where the city is headed more than people who were desperately trying to escape a situation. But that relies on everyone working together to make this happen.

The problem is that the very concept of this is against what the biggest investors, i.e. the superbanks, would want. So I'm just barking up the wrong branch...

I don't know. There's no clear answer here because nothing has been clearly defined.
Jul. 1st, 2006 10:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2
Look at Paris. Nearly no one can afford to live in the centre, so "la banlieue" which means suburbs has basically become shorthand for working class/of color, because that's who lives there, and commutes into the city to serve the wealthy who can afford to live there, and the tourists. I see no evidence that the market will correct itself--I mean, sure, the middle class will probably benefit from some small correction in rent/housing costs, but nothing in the US economy I've seen over the past 25 years leads me to believe that the working class isn't just getting poorer and poorer and suffering more.
Jul. 2nd, 2006 12:48 am (UTC)
Re: Part 2
It's difficuolt to reference Europe's economy when comparing it to the US' especially when you take into account the very generous social welfare programs as well as long-standing class and cultural issues going back for centuries. But I admit I know little to nothing about the economics over there so a lot of what I would say would be highly speculative.

In regards to the US, in actuality, most americans were far wealthier as a whole about a decade ago when the entire nation went througha boon. Granted, America now is in a far different state than a generation or two ago once you factor in the high uses of credit and that I consider us no longer being an economic factor, especially since the walmart-ization of industry driving jobs overseas and furthering our placement as merely consumers and no longer producers.

I do not disagree with you on the poor state of the economy, but what I was commenting on was Dean's assertions that leaned more towards some sort of urban planning to a degree that goes against the very nature of what he is finding fault with in today's real estate market. The market merely reflects other external factors that, after a period of overspeculation will balance itself out one way or another. Am I saying that we're soon going to have affordable housing for everyone? No. But then again, has housing always been affordable? And does the income of workers determine whether or not the housing is affordable? Why is the income not matching what the job market is dictating?

I'm actually on my way out so my thoughts are very incoherant.

Loo, what dean is talking about is how poor people can no longer afford certain neighborhoods. He;s also disussing how it seems that "some people" are being pushed out for other people. And although he doesn't want to reference race, he brings up racial concepts like Manifest Destiny and Slavery and it was this that I has disagreed with. What he is proposing is tantamount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic because the state of the econmy is not getting any better but in fact worse, and the people they are supposedly building these new buildings for will no longer be able to afford them either if we continue going the route we are going.

Hell, I'm late. Once I'm not rushed maybe i'll pull a better thought out of me. :)
Jun. 30th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2
In NYC, everything is somehow interconnected and when you look at one element you have to look at several others, just to understand what you're seeing!

New York has got some serious issues. One of these is the "rent controlled/rent stabilization" law, that doesn't allow a landlord to raise certain apartments to "market value" because they were on the books for years, and the tenants have been in these units for years. They even bequeath these places in their wills to relatives, assuring that the place stays in their family and that the rent cannot go up (much). So, inside the same building, even on the same floor, you could have two renters in two apartments with the same floorplan paying, no exaggeration, $1500 a month difference in their rents!

Now, every couple of years, the landlords go to the government asking for a rent hike because the cost of supplying the basic services has gone up a lot and the rent hasn't adjusted for that. And every year the tenants also go to try and block the increases. It's a ritual. Landlords "make up" for this by charging more with apartments that do not fall under this law. So, what could have been an affordable apartment is suddenly out of reach for a lot of people, and yet not a "nice" place to live for someone who could comfortably afford it!

I don't mean to dump the troubles of NY on you, since there are some unique circumstances here that defy all logic, but I do see some of the similarities in what you're observing in the Southland.

Lately it seems that the bulk of the buildings being built have the word "TRUMP" on them, and that just isn't going to help when it comes to "affordability!"

You are right about the fact that there is a peak in the gentrification element and then these investors get panicky and pull out, and the neighborhoods can either fall back into disrepair, or wind up being a bizarre mix of what they were before and that mix of what they were trying to become.
Jun. 30th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2
oh, entirely. LA's got very similar issues to NYC, just with more acreage (and sometimes more municipalities). Areas like Pasadena that have rent control measures in place see that phenom as well (though we've not until recently become cramped enough for space to need to bequeath them...). I know local law here allows for a certain percentage rent increase every year based on cost-of-living index stats, but as a lessor it can be tough to keep up with utility expenses, just like it's tough on residents to keep up with travel and eating costs.

Our big dvelopers used to be the Hollywood names, be it studios or moguls. Much of the residential units in Hollywood are formmer studio-owned units for their stables of starlets, etc., or the posh palaces of the successful. Another biggie was the defense industry - entire CITIES built to house McDonnel Douglas and Lockheed Martin employees, now transferred over into civilian ownership/maintenance 50 years later. Before that there were the real estate tycoons who converted orange groves into cash cows by advertising palm trees and beach access by local Red Car routes, despite lack of native water to support these new communities (until Mulholland and company raped the Owens Valley for it). Heck, during the last turn of the century, my hellishly hot little neighborhood was marketed as a desirable destination because every plot came with all you'd need to build a house (in the form of ROCK, distinctly lacking timber or water) - the only thing they grew here was olives, because it's what would survive. All of this was marketed to people above what it probably was really worth, profit to the moguls at the expense of the hoping-to-make-a-better-life-for-themselves. All of it done with a variation of a "master plan" in mind. TRUMP developments are not a new evil, merely a continuation of how most of our cities came to be in the first place.
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