2007/05/07

Gentrification makes everyone (who matters) happy!

Here's the latest article in the genre of "bad neighborhood is now safe for you [white professional] to live in!", only it's for an entire city: Not Hot Just Yet, but Newark Is Starting to Percolate.

Surely newspapers don't need reporters to write these articles from scratch every time. They should just have a template with blanks for the names of hot new restaurants, gallery owners, and loft residents. No need, of course, to leave blanks for the names of the working class and poor people who actually live in these places. Live there, that is, until the laws of economic efficiency cleanse them to make way for assholes who say things like this: "Sometimes I feel like I’m in a foreign country. Let’s just say we’re pioneers on our block."

The unconscious racism and classism of the country's comfortable classes is never better on display than in articles like this, which write the entire pre-gentrification population out of existence (except metonymically in sentences like this: "I think people finally realize Newark is more than just about crime and drugs.") "Power concedes nothing without a demand" - not even recognition of the lives it shoves aside.

3 comments:

Eric said...

Gentrification is a paradoxical process. I wonder if anyone has done any research into the attitudes of the artists and bohemians that are the spear point of the process these days. But even if they're opposed to the end result, should they just sweat it out in places they can't afford, just to avoid contributing to the process?

There are a lot of problems with gentrification, but I also think it does a lot of good. Without the influx of new money into old spaces, our cities would be in much worse shape than they are now, and many more historic neighborhoods and architectural gems would be lost to neglect. If you frame the choice faced by the people that cause gentrification as one between building new houses out in the suburbs or rehabbing an old and relatively depopulated part of a city - and I think that this is a fairly realistic way to frame it - then gentrification isn't the supervillain it's so often portrayed to be. Fraught with problems for the displaced that are infrequently adequately adressed, granted, but not evil.

Jake said...

i agree that gentrification is an ambiguous phenomenon, not all bad by any means. (however, uncritically celebrating it like these articles do is truly hateful.) gentrification is only an instance of the unevenness that capitalism necessarily produces, just as the poverty and violence that precedes it is as well. the problem is not gentrification, it's capitalism, and it's about time we start talking about how to fix that problem.

Patrick said...

Gentrification accomplishes some good things, but that doesn't mean it's a positive process on balance. It's not hard to imagine progressive policies which could accomplish the same good ends without nearly the same number of negative consequences.