Here are some excerpts of Syd’s passionate, although arguably not quite so eloquent, thoughts:
My basic point to this site...you are ruining the bronx with this "oh look look at the poor people, look they can't afford half of the stuff on this site we are highlighting but her WE CAN. Look what we found, cheap rent and CULTURE. Yay since we washed it alllll out of Brooklyn" please do nyc a favor, leave the bronx ALONE to US people who call it HOME…
It is wonderful that you spend your time cleaning the river and tutoring kids, really, it is. However, once you and the middle/upper class make your way back into the neighborhood and thus raise the cost of living, property value, you won't have to worry about tutoring anyone and your river will be nice, hey maybe the city will even spring for pier. Now THAT would be nice.
For your information, people are still proud to say they are form the Bronx beyond the "middle class" that once was. You are clearly not realizing your privilege in this situation, assuming you are helping people when you are part of the problem. And for the record, I am a white Latina, educated, and finishing a masters degree so do not talk to me as if I am some disgruntled person who is one upset over something that is "inevitable" and who can not possibly see the good in your after work/weekend hobbies. Trust most people born in nyc are used to change. I know that changes are cyclical and people move in and out of neighborhoods. My point is that this time around there is really nowhere else for people who can't afford high price rents to go. A lot of families I have known for years, and by the way, families that were never considered poor, hard working people are struggling not to lose their homes. I don't really expect you to understand.
You see, I have had this conversation before with people such as yourself, you really see the good in what you are doing. Historically, residents in most places that have be considered ghettos, slums, "poor" are of COURSE glad to see new business, half of the people in these neighborhoods immigrated or ended up here seeking an American dream so when they get an artificial slice of it, it feels good. But do you think they know about housing laws and how they are changing, and how rent control is being de-stablized or how landlords are gaining more and more control over how much they can raise rents....when you move in and can pay even just a bit more than the people in the neighborhood, then it affects that landlords ability to charge more in general. I'm sure you know that since this is your job right? Buy places in poor places and wait for the neighborhood to get better.
So on this day of the Vice Presidential debate when we’ll all be fired up as hell and in the fighting spirit, we decided to take this opportunity to talk about the dirty “G” word: gentrification.
Let’s put this right out there in the open: Yes, we are white. We moved to the Bronx from Brooklyn a year and a half ago mostly due to the affordability of the residential real estate, as well as our familiarity with the borough from attending Fordham. We own a co-op in Bedford Park, and have therefore made an investment in the community. Like any sane person, we would like to see a reasonable return on that investment.
This is where people seem to be getting confused about our motives. While the majority of feedback we’ve been getting from readers about the site is overwhelmingly positive, there also seem to be those who are harboring feelings such as Syd that we are evil yuppies who are hell bent on gentrifying the Bronx and essentially turning it into Brooklyn.
We think it’s a little unfair that because we are white and because we are trying to change the public relations perception of the Bronx, we are seen as a detriment to the borough. We're cheerleaders, not economic and cultural imperialists. We’re focused on good PR for the Bronx, which we see as a win-win for everyone in the borough. We just don't think the Bronx should get a bad rap in the media just because back in the 70s and 80s Howard Cosell declared “The Bronx is Burning.”
Guess what? The rest of NYC was not in such great shape either. In fact, during that woeful period for NYC in the late 70s, and in particular during the violence and insanity of the blackout of 1977 which became a symbol for the era, the worst problems were in other boroughs. Hello – Bushwick looting and riots? But for some reason the stigma of danger, crime, and urban blight has managed to stick with the BoogieDown, while the images of other boroughs have fully bounced back.
We are not trying to emulate Brooklyn hipster barbarism. After all, once we outgrow our current apartment, we want to still be able afford to land another home in the Bronx. We really just want to show people that there are affordable housing options for people who do not make a quarter million dollars a year, have the benefit of a trust fund, or live a life heavily subsidized by a Mom and Dad back in Minnesota. New York shouldn’t be a city accessible only to millionaires or NYCHA residents.
At best, our household income could be described as “middle class,” which is why we were promptly run right out of Brooklyn when we tried to buy a place. So you’ll notice we do beat up on Brooklyn quite a bit here on the BoogieDowner. We tease, deride and generally mock Brooklyn real estate insanity and media attention, but not because we’re jealous or want to turn the Bronx into Brooklyn. More accurately, we have Brooklyn in our crosshairs because making fun of Brooklyn is a great way to get positive attention for the Bronx. We’re like a peacock showing its tail feathers trying to woo some male-peacock-NYC media’s carnal attraction away from Brooklyn.
We at the BoogieDowner believe that the Bronx is so different and unique in that it is currently undergoing a healthy revitalization, not wholesale gentrification and displacement. Read more about this theory in one of our prior posts.
So we’re sorry if highlighting great real estate deals offends some people (we actually think an apartment that is snatched up quickly is much better for the Bronx economy than one that sits vacant for six months), or if highlighting the SBX Film Festival this weekend, or reminding folks that there’s a public hearing on the development plans for the Kingsbridge Armory tonight, are seen as signs of gentrification, but we firmly believe that trying to bring the Bronx community together and change our public image through highlighting all the good things that are happening here is a good thing for all concerned.
Gentrification is a dirty word, and we don’t talk dirty here at BoogieDowner. We’re talking about a change in image, a change in branding of a borough, a resurgence of a decent middle-class option and a revitalization of a proud and confident Bronx.
While we're on the topic, here's a great article by Jay McInerney on the history of gentrification in NYC from New York magazine's most recent issue.
Let the comments begin!
*Image courtesy of www.maxfactor-cosmetics.com*