Is Gentrification Good?

At 20:00 tonight, Wednesday, August 1, I will be moderating a debate at the Lower East Side’s Lolita Bar on the question, “is gentrification good?”.

I mentally prepare for these debates, which are held each month on a new topic, by wondering what questions I might ask of the debaters. This helps me to anticipate their arguments and to more fully contemplate the issue at hand. The questions are at times philosophical, and often provocative and logically fallacious. I think the fallacious questions are important to allow a debater to address questions that are in the back of people’s mind and thus dispel unreasonable doubts.

Never mind that some seem repetitious or may play on a theme already introduced. I don’t ask every question that comes into my head. If only the audience might do the same.

Here are some of my thoughts on potential questions:

  • What about the reverse of gentrification, the horribly racist and unfortunately aptly named phenomenon of “white flight”? Don’t the disastrous recent histories of Newark and Detroit argue for the benefits of gentrification?
  • Must gentrification be so intimately tied with issues of race? Is it always a case of Whites supplanting people of color?
  • What about “hyper-gentrification”, where already affluent communities have prosperous middle-class residents priced out the rich and hyper-rich, as is the case in many areas of Manhattan?
  • I’ve been to Bedford-Stuyvesant and walked along Fulton street in the evening with my wife and two children. It’s scary.
  • Isn’t gentrification mostly an economic issue?
  • Where are the poor and miserable supposed to go?
  • Why are poor urban black neighborhoods so scary?
  • Shouldn’t we expect demographic change in our cities, to reflect the plastic nature of the larger American society of which they are a part?
  • Shouldn’t people be happy when their neighborhood gets nicer?
  • Doesn’t it just always suck to be poor, no matter what?
  • Aren’t their hidden costs to gentrification, chief of which is social dislocation and discontinuity?
  • One pattern in New York City, seen in Williamsburg and the Lower East Side, seems to be young, hip, mostly white artsy types move into a minority neighborhood, make it cool, and then more affluent people move in and sanitize it culturally.
  • Aren’t the rich awfully boring? Seriously, people who concern themselves greatly with money seem to lose a part of their spirit and soul.
  • Where is the next great urban frontier?
  • Is gentrification “punk rock”? (One of the debaters sings for punk rock bands).
  • Doesn’t it bother you to be on the same side of a debate as Al Sharpton? This will necessarily be asked of the anti-gentrification debater. Yes, I know the question is logically fallacious, implying a “guilt by association”.

That’s it and quite a lot at that, not to say an awful lot. Say hello to me if you come to the debate.

3 Responses to “Is Gentrification Good?”

  1. dianne Says:

    When you say that ‘white flight’ is the opposite of gentrification, that is not really true. In white flight, white people leave by choice, due to phobia of people of color. In gentrification, the residents of an area are priced out of the very neighborhoods where they were born and raised. It is happening in my area of Ridgewood, Queens right now. I’m really closer to Bushwick. I have literally been here all of my 50 plus years of life. I have seen so much change here and have for the most part accepted the changes. I am having a real problem with the influx of these “hipsters”. I percieve them as arrogant, well off in the sense that they are still living off Mom and Pop, and thinking they bonafide NYers. Because they will pay top dollar to live in these newly hip areas, people who have been living here have to accept them and the changes they bring in the form of increased rents, groceries, clothing prices, ect. Many native NYers have no choice but to leave and the way NY in general is going, perhaps face homelessness. In the blog above, it is noted that the author feels that people should be grateful that their area is becoming “nicer”. My area is not becoming nicer, just more crowded and expensive. To me, it’s almost like my neighborhood is being bombarded with an alien population, not of Mexicans, but of people from out of state who think they can come in with arrogance and are not the least bit humble when it comes to respecting the folks who were here way before them. Don’t knock older folks down trying to get a seat on the L train. Try to learn more about the rich history of the neighborhoods of this city, it is quite interesting. Come in and conform to the community, not have the community conform to you.

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