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Am I to Blame for...

Ah, being a grown up...gone are my days of not giving a *ish about my neighbors, community, society, whats going on in the news etc but instead just solely caring about me and anything that touched me directly...immediately. Like what outfit I was going to wear, when I was going to meet up with my friends, what to have for lunch, what movie should I go and see, should I give that guy my number.

Then I became responsible for myself and had to think about how much rent I could afford, is this neighborhood safe, can I cover those extra bills, is lunch with my friends really that important, how long will my commute be, do I really want to live that far from blah blah blah...then came the real kicker my lil mama!

Is this school going to be safe, what's the neighborhood like in the summer, is there a grocery store near by, can she walk to school alone, is there diversity, are there other kids around for her to play with, how far is the public transportation, is this apartment big enough for us for this price, can we afford to live here and still have a life, what are the after school programs like, what's this schools rating and so on and so forth.
I am sure my mom thought of some of these for me as well but not to the lengths that I did while my daughter was coming up. I am sure that her main concern was cost first safety a close second and comfort a third. She wasn't concerned about enjoying her environment but instead on providing a roof for her family she could afford and still keep food on the table.

As I strolled through my old stomping grounds in Brooklyn last weekend I was shocked and saddened and disappointed. I visited Bushwick, Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburgh, Sunset Park and Bensenhurst. For those not familiar with New York City these are areas within the borough. We have 5 boroughs each borough is broken down into sections maybe something similar to what could be called counties in other states?

Anyway I walked past my old apartment buildings, old schools, old playgrounds and couldn't believe some of the changes. On the grand scale I would say the changes were beautiful. New buildings, stores, schools, new people, new vibe but on the smaller scale the changes meant that some people had now been pushed away, priced out. I don't want to say that a lot of the changes I saw I didn't enjoy or find use for but as I strolled along and took in the scenery I began to think of this...

Will I be priced out of my own birth place as time goes by? Will I be pushed out the way to make room for new faces? Guess what? I already have been. There is no way with my current salary that if I wanted to move I could afford to live in any of my old blocks. The rents have doubled and even tripled in some of these places. My beloved Brooklyn, the apple of my eye NYC is just becoming to pricey for me.

But who's to blame? Is there just one right answer? Is it even fair to start to point fingers? Life isn't fair we hear it all the time. The rich get richer the poor get poorer. There is a fantasy out there that if you work hard enough you will make it. That the dream of living a comfortable life is attainable by all, that the playing field starts off equal but it is not. It never has been and I think it will take a miracle for it to ever be. I don't knock the haves for wanting more or for what they already have what I do say is why take away what little the have nots have just to suit yourself?

illustration by petapixel.com

Why can't neighborhoods and schools and communities be repaired and renewed for those already there? Why can't it seem worth the effort to improve the life of all our neighbors instead of just some? Why does an area only have value if you remove its past? My mother worked many long hard years in the factories in Williamsburgh around the North side in the days when you could hardly catch a cab and the buses always ran late. Where you didn't see a lot of trees and the playgrounds were empty. Today you walk around and those days are gone. All those years she put into working there and today she wouldn't even be able to live there.

All those business all those families, gone, pushed away, bought out. And bought out for amounts that couldn't even get them a decent fresh new start. We all know times are hard all around, some have it harder than others but hard none the less. Where do we look to for the answers? Do you even really know what is going on around you?
Gentrification? do we even know what it means? Have you even heard of it before? Simply put its removing the poor to accommodate the middle class (which really doesn't even exist anymore) and the wealthy. You remove them from their neighborhoods to rebuild, renew and generate more money but in someones eyes that can only be done by taking the people that are less than or have less than away.

illustration by rsvlts.com

I'm embarrassed to say that I only became familiar with this word about a year ago when I went to pick up a friend in Bed Sty, Brooklyn. I drove down a street and I literally thought I was in SoHo (a section in Manhattan). I had to do a double take. When he came out his building I had to ask what the heck was up here and he said "oh its all part of the Gentrification of this neighborhood". I was at a loss for words. From that moment on I see this in so many places, it's hard to ignore.

I don't believe it's just a NYC issue I am sure it is happening in other places, other towns and cities where certain spots were not favored as much but are now booming with revitalization and growth. I am sure that my generation is more aware of the changes as we start to plan for our days after college tuition payments and into retirement. I know I sat the other night with my current numbers and it wasn't looking so good.

illustration by urban75.org.

So again I ask Who is to Blame? Is it an individual problem or a problem of a collective group? Is it just on me to find a means to increase my salary but pay more for services and still figure out how to get ahead or is it up to developers to take into consideration where they want to rebuild and how to include the people who already live their while not taking away from their profits? Do we penalize parents for barely making ends meet or do we say development is good but let's all work together?
Would it help or hinder businesses who wish to revitalize certain areas if they worked along with the current community?

I know there may not be a quick fix or easy answer but I believe that we are in much need of communications to start. We can't continue to just sit idly by and shrug our shoulders and say this is just how things are. I have always taught my daughter to question and to look for several options. I would hate that I would not at least be afforded the option to continue to live in the city I love as I get older.

What do think about Gentrification? Have you seen it in your own neighborhood? What do you suggest is a good balance for growth? Share your experience, lets talk.

Always stress free xo

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