Remember the Bowery: A Case Study in Gentrification

Lessons for New Orleans

| November 3, 2005

The phrase 'rebuilding the Gulf Coast' has buzzed through the media for several weeks. Terms like 'rebuilding' and 'redevelopment' raise red flags for many activists, though, because they're often code words for gentrification. But how can concerned citizens spot it in time to stop it? A look at the building boom in the Bowery in Manhattan might yield some clues.

The Bowery held out against gentrification for a long time, though it's now falling victim too, according to The Village Voice. Once a scrappy -- and scary -- mecca for artists and squatters, the famed Lower East Side street is now 'a new millionaire's row.'

One of the hallmarks of gentrification is a sudden, drastic change of rental markets in an area -- usually from working-class people and housing to wealthy professionals and office or retail space. Often the shift is hailed as improving a dangerous area, of which the Bowery in particular has a long history. The result of such radical change, however, is a rent spike that many cannot meet, resulting in mass evictions.

The best cure for gentrification is prevention. PolicyLink, a nonprofit organization advocating economic and social equity, claims that if a community fully participates in its own revitalization, it can have a say in its own future. The group pushes a tack called commercial stabilization, which aims to tailor commercial district improvement plans to neighborhoods' needs. But the communities have to get involved before it's too late. For New Orleans, that means now.

Go there >> An Elegy for the Bowery

Go there too >>PolicyLink

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter