Initiatives Place, Displacement, & The Politics of Housing

Why Students Should Better Understand Gentrification: Serena Adlerstein of Know Your City Guest-Blogs

The words "Gentrification is the new colonialism" spray painted onto sidewalk.

Know Your City is a new Gallatin club that seeks to engage the NYU community in critical conversations about gentrification and explore ways to mitigate its effects.  This semester we are focusing on how students who are moving into gentrifying neighborhoods can be conscientious tenants and impact their new communities as positively as possible. As part of this effort we are hosting an event series entitled “Know Your Neighborhood”. The series highlights the history, social, and cultural make-up, and present-day struggles in Bushwick, the South Bronx, the Lower East Side, and the East Village.

The Bushwick installment, which took place on February 25th, consisted of a panel discussion with two community organizers working in Bushwick, Brigette Blood and Bruno Daniel. The panelists discussed the intricacies of rezoning in New York City, the specific case of rezoning of the Rheingold Properties in Bushwick, how community members can be involved in rezoning decisions, and more generally, how new residents moving into Bushwick should acknowledge their positionality in regards to class, education and other privilege compared to long-term Bushwick community members. Daniel, who works with Churches United for Fair Housing, made the point that gentrification is not only an issue of housing, but land space in general. When new coffee shops and vintage clothing stores pop up, he said, long-time residents do not feel comfortable using these spaces. The stores may not be accessible to Spanish speakers, or the services offered may be too expensive. It is difficult to come to any clean conclusions when discussing the issue of gentrification, but it seemed that many students walked away with a more comprehensive understanding of what positive community engagement entails.

In addition to the “Know Your Neighborhood” series, Know Your City has recently published The Student Guide to Renting in NYC. The guide offers students information regarding their rights as tenants, the basic steps to looking for a new apartment, brief histories of several neighborhoods which many NYU students are moving, and key ideas to keep in mind when moving into a gentrifying neighborhood. The manual will be handed out at each “Know Your Neighborhood” event and is available online.

The next “Know Your Neighborhood” event will focus on grassroots community development in the South Bronx. The event will include a screening of the new short documentary Why We Stay and a discussion led by the film’s creators and members of the Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, the organization on which the film is based. “Know Your Neighborhood: South Bronx” will take place on March 24th at 6 PM in the 5th floor Gallatin Student Lounge. Be sure to like Know Your City on Facebook in order to stay up to date on all of our events, including “Know Your Neighborhood: The East Village/Lower East Side” coming in April, and other resources.
— Serena Adlerstein, Gallatin ’15