Photo: Flickr – p!o
We posted a story yesterday on gentrification in Queens — or more specifically, how residents there want more of it.Not that Queens, or New York City as a whole, is hurting for gentrification.
For years, New Yorkers’ flight from Manhattan into the other boroughs has been seen as both a blessing and a curse for the city.
Gentrification of inner-city urban areas generally leads to safer neighborhoods, a higher quality of life, higher housing prices (helpful for the area’s homeowners) and an infusion of new art, culture and music.
On the other hand, rising rents and the identity change that comes with an influx of new residents means two things: One, obviously, is that the people who could once afford to live and work in these neighborhoods are forced out; the other is that once the local people, businesses, and identity are gone, the neighbourhood that outsiders wanted to move to in the first place disappears.
Take the area where I was born and raised: Park Slope, Brooklyn. Growing up, I witnessed my neighbourhood morph into a smaller version of Manhattan. And while Manhattan is great, it lacks a certain Brooklyn charm. Rent skyrocketed — my mother paid a rent-controlled $2200 a month for an apartment that now goes for $4,500 since she moved out — and the mum-and-pop businesses disappeared, along with many of my neighbours and friends.
Now, Park Slope is the butt of stroller-jokes rather than a neighbourhood I’m proud to call home.
I know this is the nature of the world. Things change, people change. And while some may say that message applies to the original residents of these neighborhoods, who often find themselves priced out of their own home or business, the people who need to remember this are the gentrifiers themselves.
“First stage gentrifiers,” also known as hipsters, usually move into a non-gentrified neighbourhood because the prices are low. In their wake comes the art and music scene, the restaurant scene, and other cultural touchstones that take advantage of lots of space and low rents. It then becomes “cool” enough to be noticed by wealthier types, who may not want to pay Manhattan prices and fall in love with pulling a Miranda and heading to an outer borough outpost. This was the case with Williamsburg, Brooklyn and now with Long Island City, Queens.
But here’s the thing: Usually by the time you hear about the next “cool” place to live, it’s no longer cool. Already, rents will be going up, new apartment complexes will be getting built, and young mums will be insisting on stroller-friendly coffee shop entrances.
Neighborhoods that became popular for their low prices and cultural milieu will soon lose their cool factor, because what made it hip in the first place (low prices, alternative lifestyles) becomes co-opted by people who can pay higher prices and prefer their more conservative way of life.
And hey, that’s fine. I have no problem with improving a neighbourhood, or paying a ton for a studio apartment, or selling organic coffee in cups made out of recycled recycling bins. But that’s a knife that cuts both ways.
Sure, you may get the newest restaurants, the coolest bars, the boutique vintage clothing stores — but they will replace everything you moved there for, the things you once held dear. It will become just another neighbourhood — one that you’ll want to escape in favour of the next up-and-comer.
So to the new inhabitants of Long Island City, those who want more retail shopping and an improved thoroughfare, I draw from the infinite well of wisdom that is Adam Sandler in Billy Madison: “Don’t you say that. Don’t you ever say that … For the love of God, cherish it. You have to cherish it.”
Looking to flee higher rents? See 10 cheap upgrades that will dramatically raise your sale price >
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