New York is changing. In the wake of the election of a number of African-American Brooklyn leaders, many are interested in finding a possible connection between gentrification and the election of African-American leaders to its impact in Bed-Stuy and other formerly African-American-dominated neighborhoods in New York.
While I had opinions on the controversy, I wanted to hear the thoughts of local residences. The initial response I recorded was from a lady named Miss Pat, an older and more seasoned Brooklynite. She provided a well-rounded and holistic perspective of the situation, often times introducing bits of history that led me to understand that race and class strife in Brooklyn was nothing new.
Brooklyn has always been the hub for the mixing and clashing of ethnic and cultural groups. Miss Pat expressed in our conversations that she had no issue with our new neighbors; she said the issue generally lies in the lack of acknowledgment and respect given to residences who have lived in this borough all of their lives.
Spike Lee addressed the issue of gentrification in the late 1980s with his film “Do the Right Thing.” But what has made these recent moves so harsh in the eyes of this elderly citizen is the aggressive nature with which the new changes in Brooklyn and neighborhoods in greater New York is done today.
In his article for NYMag.com, writer Joe Coscarelli stated, “Brooklyn is indeed getting whiter. Brooklyn includes four of the 25 most whitened neighborhoods in the United States over the last 10 years. Unsurprisingly, the zip codes 11205 and 11206, which include parts of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Williamsburg, saw about a 29 percent change in the white share of population between 2000 and 2010.”
This change is evident in our daily commutes on the MTA. In eight years, the MTA went from giving discounted rides on holidays to raising rates twice a year to pay for new construction projects usually conducted in Brooklyn’s heaviest gentrified areas.
Another Brooklyn resident I had the opportunity to speak to was Tabari Oyo, a management major at Howard University. Tabari said, “The definition of gentrification in New York is having white people take over Brooklyn. It’s really not about development and growth for Black folk; it’s about the new vision of Brooklyn. When it was just African-American neighborhoods and communities, everything was messed up. Streets were cracked and the walls had graffiti; now, we have a stadium, we have bike lanes and these new, bright blue Citi Bikes.
“The white people know what they are doing by using Jay Z as the face of the [Nets] team when he only owned 1 percent of the franchise. Meanwhile, they are kicking people out of their houses. Rent is going up. They are trying to take down public housing to put up new condos. There is nothing wrong with the [Barclays Center]; I have an issue with what it represents.”
The Bushwick Avenue station has not had a paint job since the Reagan administration. The arrival of whites into lower income African-American neighborhoods brings higher incomes and puts into focus their financial ability to afford higher rents and increased MetroCard rates. With the election of this group of African-American Brooklyn leaders, we all have to come to the realization that as human beings, we are all capable in all facets of life.
Furthermore, the expansion of white Americans into African-American communities should not be an aggressive or boastful process, but an opportunity to build from the mixture of different cultures and practices. New York is changing, and only time will tell if these fresh faces in City Hall will change the perspectives of Brooklyn’s unacknowledged residents.
Jason Davis is a sophomore African-American studies major at Howard University.