Opinion: Gentrification is nothing new

Gentrification is nothing new. There have always been urban development initiatives which have displaced poor and working class people, sometimes associated with urban renewal, sometimes shaped by market forces.

But what makes gentrification so toxic and dangerous today, not only locally but globally, is that the immense concentration of wealth in a small number of hands, coupled with declining incomes for working class and middle class people. This gives large developers unprecedented economic and political power. The wealth of a single developer can exceed the combined wealth of an entire neighborhood! This gives them to power, not only to buy off politicians, but to get local business leaders and non profit organizations to support their plans, even if such plans may in the long run, damage their standing.because they will displace so many of their long time clients and customers.

This is why I worry when big developers set their sights on the Bronx. These individuals have billions of dollars at their disposal to distribute in communities where many people and businesses require heroic efforts to stay afloat. They can sweep aside opposition with breakneck speed and put through plans whose consequences won’t be apparent until long after they are implemented.

Residents and activists need to organize now to at the very least slow down if not stop development, insist that it occur without displacement, and get community benefits agreements which strengthen local businesses and organizations.

It would also be good if they persuaded politicians to respect THEIR voice as much as billionaire developers, but that would be an uphill battle, to say the least.

Mark Naison
Fordham University

Professor Naison originally posted this piece on his Facebook page

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