by Laylah Holder
Imagine that your childhood home had a big window in the living room and that window can see straight into someone's backyard. Their garden looked absolutely beautiful to you, but then years after you move to an apartment across the street you notice that the garden behind the house that you loved so much was being replaced with a big apartment building. Well that’s what happened to me in my neighborhood in Manhattan, and lots of other houses have been replaced with lots of construction and apartment buildings. I feel like I can’t recognize my own neighborhood anymore.
Not only are houses getting replaced, but small businesses are also getting shut down. There are a countless amount of small bodegas and restaurants in my neighborhood and district, and lots of people depend on the profit they make either working at a shop or owning their own.
When small shops close due to high rents then that family or person that depends on the shop for money is now going to fall into poverty or deeper into it. Neighborhoods of color like mine have lots of small shops and a family dynamic, and due to gentrification that has been going away. I interviewed my mom, Erika, and she said, “It does feel weird walking around my neighborhood. I feel like a stranger where I grew up my entire life.”
According to Berkeley News, “Overall, 10 percent of neighborhoods, with almost 550,000 low-income households, are vulnerable to gentrification, based on the availability of affordable housing as well as presence of residents who are vulnerable in terms of income, education, renter status, or race/ethnicity.” My neighborhood and others like it are most likely going to become a place for real estate companies to create profit.
According to The Balance Small Business about supply chain problems, “Some small businesses have had difficulty obtaining raw materials, intermediate inputs, or finished goods from suppliers.” Having supply problems can cause small businesses to make less and they aren’t able to save as much money which leads to them not being able to pay the rent and the store will get replaced. For example, stores have to take certain safety protocols and if they aren’t making any money then they won’t be able to get cleaning products and pay people who will clean up the store. When stores have this problem they will get less business because nobody wants to risk their health when they walk into a store. Once the store is getting almost no business the owner won’t be able to pay rent and they’ll eventually lose the store and it’ll get replaced by an apartment building.
Additionally, The Washington Post states, “Politicians turned to harsher policing to discipline homeless people and displace them from city streets.” Politicians are harsh on people who are poor and people who have been affected by poverty. The Washington Post continues, “Perhaps most memorably, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani used aggressive policing tactics against the city’s homeless population, even going so far as to deny churches the right to allow homeless people to sleep on their steps.” Once people are homeless there is little to no hope for them to get back what they used to have. When small businesses get shut down because of high rents they get replaced and the people who owned them get pushed into poverty and get poorly treated. People who own small businesses shouldn’t be shut down because of high rents.
My mother expressed, “I absolutely miss stores that have gotten replaced. I recently took a trip to Delancy Street with my kids to Essex Market and my heart just broke with how gentrified it has become.” She thinks that her childhood neighborhood has become so unrecognizable that it makes her upset and I feel the same way about my neighborhood. My other neighborhood changed over time while the neighborhood that we live in now is rapidly changing.
So while you are strolling through your neighborhood, take a look at all of the shops and restaurants that aren’t there anymore, or how many places have changed. Think about how it affects not only the dynamic of your neighborhood but also how it affects you and your lifestyle.