Remember the Bowery: A Case Study in Gentrification

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.

, 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.

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An Elegy for the Bowery

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