A number of forces factor into the gentrification phenomenon — a major influx of migrants in search of modestly priced housing and the American Dream, an ever-growing wealth divide among the city’s population, and statistically safer neighborhoods than ever before, to name a few. The top of the pile, however, is simply supply and demand.
“The greatest reason for gentrification is also the worst outcome of it ... the availability of inexpensive housing and therefore driving housing prices up,” said Cecilia Clarke, president of The Brooklyn Community Foundation.
Some argue the positives outweigh the negatives: a drop in crime rates, restoration of old and derelict buildings, and a boost in local economy.
But a widely-perceived notion is the pros come at the cost of a community’s cultural identity, and many wonder who is best served by increased police presence and a safer neighborhood.
“Who benefits from gentrification and who takes advantage of gentrification?” asked Cecilia Clarke, president of The Brooklyn Community Foundation.
“They’re divided, and they’re often divided along racial lines, which is one of the reasons we have an overarching focus on racial justice. It’s not a surprise — we know what the color of gentrification looks like.”
About 21% of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s population was comprised of white residents in 2014 — a ten-fold increase since the start of the new millennium, according to a recent report by the NYU Furman Center.
The number of African-American residents, on the other hand, dropped precipitously — from approximately 75% to 53%.
As droves of ambitious college grads flock to Bed-Stuy from all corners of the planet — elementary school kids in the same neighborhood are missing school at the sixth highest rate in the city, according to a 2015 Health Dept. community profile report.
"What a lot of people were telling us in these neighborhoods, a lot of them being hit hard by gentrification, was that they felt young people were the biggest vulnerability — low-income black and Latino youth were becoming increasingly marginalized to gentrification," said Clarke.Just over 10% of Bed-Stuy’s adult population had a college degree in 2000 — between 2010 and 2014, figures rose to over 25%, according to a report by the NYU Furman Center.
"But they were also the largest asset, because if they were presented with opportunities and given opportunities they would be more likely to be a source of strength and stability in that neighborhood."