Sunday, October 7, 2007

eminent post!

So first off, I know that this was a long time coming and I apologize for that- mostly to Kaya (by the way have you seen the previews for that "Kaya" show on MTV? Weirded out) since she's had to hold down the fort in my absence. And for you little internet surfers, well I suppose I could be sorry for you, too, but you know you probably didn't even notice. And if you did and were angry then you should send me a cookie for motivation. Oooh or a cake! Delicious.
Anyway, as time has gone by I've become ore accustomed to a New York state of, well, living and have not only gotten used to my neighborhood (yeah, emphasis on the hood) but have actually started to like it and get used to the heavy skew toward an almost completely minority-filled population (good luck if you not only can't speak Spanish but can't understand Spanish accents). Interestingly enough, though, just as I've started to get use to it all, I've noticed little variations to the pattern. For example: as I was walking up about 3 blocks with my giant blue Ikea bag full of my laundry and quarters (and my hair tied up in a scarf, what what, keep it real y'all) I noticed about 2-4 sets of white people. So okay, each set was about one or two people and none of them had a little fluffy dog, but even so they didn't look like they were white Latinos, and they definitely looked a little out of place- and that's to me and I am from Ohio and went to an Ivy League school.
And it just made me think about gentrification as a whole and how it affects places all over the country, but how its effects seem to be so much more noticeable in a tightly packed city like NYC. Especially when, on your train ride to work, you always see a big sign (in both English and Spanish, mind you) that says:
Yeah, Columbia, that big Ivy Leaguer just south of Harlem that, like Harvard, is trying to push its way into a local community. Even though Columbia didn't seek the bitches way out by going the Eminent Domain route (which could've been done not only in consideration for the residents but to oil the university's PR machine) the fact of the matter is it is still expanding (up to about 133rd street, I think) and people are still being "pushed out." I mean, there are some (and at times I can even be one of them) that argue that Eminent Domain exists for a reason- that it is a community's right to be able to expand, develop and improve itself for the good of all its citizens, even if that good requires that some private property is taken away from people who have been living in it for generations or months. On the other hand it's quite obvious that just up and kicking people out of their homes without their consent (and oftentimes without much means to find at least equal quality housing) is more than just a little fucked up. What about the people that don't have money saved up to pay first and last month's? What about the people who will now have their one hour commute turned into a 2.5 hour commute because they had to move into the Bronx or somewhere even more far than not-even-Harlem-because-it's-so-uptown?
The fact of the matter is, gentrification does do a lot of good- I mean look at lots of lower Harlem and Morningside Heights- thriving businesses, safer streets, cute cafes and little fluffy puppies, and seriously the expansion of a school and its research facilities will in the end provide a greater good than some abandoned buildings and a few hair salons (yeah, and the apartments above them). But I think the questions that we have to consider don't just involve the benefit of this sort of expansion, but the detriment.
Yes, people get kicked out, but where do they go? Because crime is lessened in one area, is that indicative of crime decreasing as a whole, or has it just set up shop somewhere else? I mean if you already live in a rough neighborhood you know your area, know people, have roots so it's not as bad as if you just plopped down in the middle of some projects from some other city. But if you're kicked out of the shitty area that you were at least used to and forced to find some other place to live (which according to your budget is still probably going to be pretty shitty) then what the fuck are you supposed to do when you move into a new hood that is even more dangerous because you don't know anybody?
Even though I am a big part of the gentrification of Harlem and gentrification as a whole myself (yeah, I'm real with myself) I think that there is still a big problem in the fact that for some reason the State and communities don't find value in trying to improve communities and areas by attacking tough issues like poverty, unemployment and education systems, but instead by treating the people who live in areas infected with these problems like roaches that have to be cleared out to make way for more suitable residents.
But I guess Americans turning a blind eye to the helpless severely in need of aid is nothing new.. and don't even get me started on that.

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