Tuesday, December 4

When Gentrification is Cut Short

Here is an interesting new (to me) element to toss into the debates over gentrification. New York Magazine looks at Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood, which began a process of revitalization only a few years ago. To use the journalists' analogy: what happens when the wildfire stops?

"What if gentrification isn’t self-sustaining after all? What if, in fact, it’s exactly the opposite: a self-extinguishing phenomenon? What if it’s less a flood than a forest fire—wild, yes, out of control, absolutely, but destined to consume itself by burning through the fuel it needs to survive?"

The article reminded me of Thomas Friedman's classic explanation of globalization in the Lexus and the Olive Tree. He imagined "electronic herds" with no real leader and no long-term vision, shifting money from investment to investment across the globe. The herd has no compassion, shows no favoritism, and is only interested in maximizing efficiency and output. It is morally neutral, pouring huge rewards into some sectors and completely draining others as it passes through. And it moves quickly.

Does this match the "forest fire" of gentrification (and de-gentrification)?

Jane Jacob's warned against "cataclysmic money," either incoming or outgoing, because it inevitably disrupts the fabric of community life. Human beings, who, after all, are the ones who live in these houses and eat at these restaurants, may need a little more time to grow.

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