Contributor III

Gentrification: Stories From the Frontlines of Change and Injustice


"There are a lot of empty places."


The replies were interchangeable when asking New York City locals what they believed was the biggest problem plaguing their city. The responses they provided were: "the cost of living," "gentrification," "overcrowding," and "the housing crisis."


In the first article from this series, "Gentrification: How 'Urban Renewal Projects' are Displacing and Erasing Diverse Communities," we covered the definitions, facts, statistics, and demographics related to gentrification.


For this article, I interviewed four individuals from different neighborhoods and backgrounds. All of these people, selected entirely at random, have one similarity: they are native or immigrant New Yorkers who have experienced the rapid and detrimental effects of gentrification. 


The Interviews


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The first person I spoke to, Jamal Alnasr, is a record store owner whose store has been in Greenwich since the 90s, told me, "[There have been] so many changes around me. I'm one of them. I almost got out, I almost did. I was just lucky enough to reinstate my lease again because my rent was really going up like crazy" when he had to shut down his store for a period in 2017 because rent had gone from 18,000 to 25,000 a month. He recalls, "My memories are of a lot of real places [that] have been here for ages. They vanished." If you’d like to support Jamal, make a visit to Village Revival Records. 






The next person I spoke to was author and former newspaper editor Oneita Jackson. When speaking to her, she recalled spending her summers as a teenager in Washington Heights, going to block parties and staying up late. Forty years later, she reflects on the cultural changes she has seen. "It's palpable. People have always been on their phones, looking down. Always been so busy, but, [before] there was some recognition of the humanity of other people in the area." When visiting her old neighborhood, Jackson explains, "I stand on the street corner and take pictures of the white people in the neighborhood because of the gentrification."






The third person I spoke to was a girl who grew up in the city. She describes New York by saying: "It's my personality. It's a community. It's one big family." When asked about gentrification, she explains, "New York [has been] a hole of many immigrant families for generations. People have settled down in those areas, you have Chinatown, you have Ukrainian village, and all of those pockets, but gentrification is pushing all of those people out. Local families won't be able to afford [rising prices] and people will have to move out, they won't have anywhere to live or go." 






The fourth and final person that I interviewed was an Egyptian immigrant living in New York. He shared his story, stating that since he’s been in New York City, he’s worked every job. Now, he owns a halal food truck, located on the Upper West Side. When asked about the housing crisis, he explains, “[New Yorker’s have a] fast life, rough attitude, and bitterness. They need to live below their needs to live comfortably.” 




The stories these individuals share highlight gentrification's devastating effects on New York City. The increasing cost of living, housing crisis, and displacement of locals are just some of the issues with gentrification. 


As our cities gentrify, it is essential that we, as individuals, understand the problem at hand and how to take action against it. In the following article of this series, I will outline some of the social justice actions communities can take to fight gentrification and share resources for those living in gentrifying areas.

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