Spring is lingering. This time last year, we were already well into summer. But this year, the temperature is hovering in the 70’s, only to swoop back down into the 60’s. My light jackets and sweatshirts are still being pressed into use. The upshot is that, on the warmer days, it is even more delightful to be out and about.
It doesn’t hurt that we have moved into a lovely new neighborhood. The stretch of Long Island City just across the river from midtown Manhattan is convenient and beautiful. We have a correspondingly beautiful view.
In addition to the park and walkways by the water, the whole neighborhood is very pedestrian-friendly. Quaint little stores and cafes are sprinkled amongst high-rises. People are consistently friendly, strangers take a step beyond customary politeness. Sidewalks and public spaces are well maintained. There is a fantastic food market here every weekend, with drinks and music flowing. I love to walk around here.
This neighborhood is “gentrified”(in my opinion, more so than Brooklyn’s famously gentrified Williamsburg). Much as I love it, sometimes I think about that. Gentrification is supposed to be an epithet, not a compliment. It is quiet, safe, tame, pretty — a contrast to the grittiness that is integral to so many parts of this city. Gentrification is supposed to ruin the original character of a place, replacing the regular inhabitants with a batch of (newly) rich residents. It certainly has a racist side — I see a few Asian, Hispanic, and African-American faces on the streets, but overwhelming more are white. The idea that the younger demographic is driving this change is also validated by who I see in the area. Is gentrification an inevitable side effect of development? If you throw money at cleaning up and building up a place, does it have to be on the backs of the current residents? People are justifiably concerned that Bill De Blasio’s affordable housing plans will actually result in a loss of low income housing — how on earth will you prevent those with disposable income from moving into neighborhoods that they consider nice?
Imagine you have lived somewhere for generations. It might not be particularly appealing, but it is home. Then suddenly, everything starts changing. And new people, strangers, who have just “discovered the neighborhood” start moving in. Is it fair to to made to feel like an alien in your own home? Is it fair to be displaced? And I know I am a part of this injustice. Is that subsumed guilt a fair payment for how much I love it here?