Gentrification In Park Slope, Brooklyn

Gentrification In Park Slope, Brooklyn

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, I find it difficult to see the place I grew up in change so differently and friends that live there, struggle against gentrification
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Spoken Word artist, Javon Johnson, gives a great figurative description of what gentrification is and just how deadly it is to those suffering from it. In a spoken word, called “When the Cancer Comes,” he says

Cancer is when the abnormal cells grow and spread very quickly. Sometimes these cells group together forming tumors causing damage to the healthy body. Often these cells break apart causing damage to other parts of the healthy body and this is the best definition of gentrification that I have (Johnson).

The book, Mixed Communities: Gentrification by Stealth? defines gentrification as “the movement of middle-income people into low-income neighborhoods causing the displacement of all, or many, of the pre-existing low–income residents.” (Bridges, Butler, Lees). As of late, however, in Brooklyn, higher-income people are moving into middle-income neighborhoods as well. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, I find it difficult to see the place I grew up in change so differently and friends that live there, struggle against gentrification. Gentrification has had a negative impact on the arts, the culture and certain social groups such as minorities and low-income people in Brooklyn. It is being accomplished by people replacing and buying property, raising the cost of living and attracting a higher-income residence.

I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the home of Prospect Park, Art, and Hipsters. Each avenue has a different style, ethnic population, and culture. 7th avenue happens to be the most popular amongst these ones and it’s my favorite. Filled with affordable comic book stores, record shops, small businesses, strips of diverse restaurants and much more, 7th avenue is the go-to place. But slowly things are changing. In the span of nine blocks, there are now three Starbucks that wasn’t there four years ago. Two of those used to be owned by small businesses that people loved. Two burger places, one a 50s style restaurant chain, and the other a friends and family sports restaurant got replaced. One with a Starbucks, the other with a high-end and very expensive burger place. There is so much more and this is just one avenue. It may seem like small changes, but when you take a step back, it all adds up. Going back home this Thanksgiving, I was surprised and a little saddened to see a lot of shops, especially a small local bakery I used to go to, close. It’s progressively getting harder for some of these smaller businesses to keep up with all these newer, more modern businesses coming in with a higher-income crowd. Although gentrification isn’t directly affecting me, I have friends who are struggling daily due to increase in rents, lack of local affordable shops and much more due to gentrification. It really annoys me and the fact that gentrification is so stealthy makes it hard for actual change. Along with this, every single component of gentrification, whether it be property, or people, or many other things aid each other which makes it hard to solve. I love the style and vibe of Park Slope and wouldn’t want it to change at all.

A main component of gentrification is the buying and replacing of property. Usually during gentrification properties are bought for big corporate businesses, condos, organic places and restaurants and expensive stores. That’s exactly what happened in Brooklyn. Being a cultural marketplace and bathhouse in the old days, the Brooklyn Lyceum is a place that plenty Brooklyn commuters pass while going down 4th Avenue, but unless you really stop and go in there, you don’t really know what it is. The Brooklyn Lyceum has been a very affordable venue for performances, music, comedy, sports, events, literature, and overall the expression of Brooklynites and people of the world. The Lyceum is where I had my first actual acting performance, performing in Hamlet, and I continued to perform there for years. However, after the Lyceum was struggling a little bit with getting a substantial amount of events, the corporation Greystone, took advantage and a whole legal fight rose. In conclusion, the Lyceum is going to turn into a Blink Fitness Center and it’s other building, a condo. A place with so much art, potential, and history is changed completely. Having a condo and a blink fitness will naturally attract more people, especially that of higher-income, and the cycle of gentrification continues. Besides having no respect for the arts, the acts of getting and replacing property have also had effects on small businesses and families and in particular, Neergards, a drug-store on 7th ave. Lighting up the night with its neon “Open 24 hours” and “DRUGS” lights, having a friendly family-run business and a cute toy store upstairs, Neergards is known by almost everyone in Park Slope and was a go-to for anybody, especially because of them being open 24 hours a day. Recently, Neergards got rid of their 24 hours a day because of lack of customers around that time and money to support workers. Neergards “has been open 24-7-365 since 1901 but it was only a year ago they stopped” (Kuntzman). 155 years and they’ve stopped now! Longtime Daily News’ writer and Brooklyn resident, Gersh Kuntzman, blames gentrification for this. In the past few years, a huge Rite Aid and CVS have opened up fairly close to Neergards and while speaking to Kuntzman, Tom Sutherland, the owner, says “There’s not enough business for me – and Rite-Aid and CVS.” As a kid, whenever I had a problem, the 24-hour Neergards was always reliable but now since over-the-counter medicines are easily accessible at Rite-Aid and CVS and there’s a whole bunch of sales and gimmicks, a family-owned drug store doesn’t look as pleasing. Sutherland is struggling financially, estimating that he makes maybe a “$1-dollar profit from each script he fills” (Kuntzman). Drug prices have already been increasing, but now with the increase in rents and competition, gentrification is slowly tearing down Neergards.

The insertions of all these new modern or more expensive places heighten the cost of living. While taking out businesses, it also seems to be expelling low-income residents and workers and from specific minorities. Earlier this year, the New York City Comptroller’s office sent a new report that compares economic and demographic profiles at the neighborhood level in New York from 2000 and 2015 and many of these statistics took a look into my neighborhood, Park Slope. The NYC Comptroller made a graph of the ten NYC neighborhoods with the largest business growth from 2000 to 2015. All except Park Slope, Carroll Gardens & Red Hook, are in a gentrifying status and these special three already have a higher income. In New York, the amount of Black-owned businesses has dropped by 31.4%. Statistics show that the population of black residents has reduced in Park Slope whereas the white population has increased (Small). A majority of news on gentrification and its impact on residents have to do with minorities. Tenants like Shirley De Matas is amongst one of the many minorities who expressed their issues to the New York Times. Shirley De Matas had a two-bedroom at 1170 Lincoln Place in Crown Heights, that was in an unacceptable condition. From 1999 to 2014, her monthly rent rose by around $500. It made their style of living very uncomfortable. According to immigration correspondent of the New York Times,

Tenant advocates and lawyers believe that landlords in gentrifying areas like Crown Heights often withhold repairs or basic services from lower-paying tenants, hoping they will get frustrated enough to leave, then pack the apartments with higher-paying ones. (Yee).

This belief proved out true in De Mata’s situation because once she moved, she soon learned all the apartment problems were fixed shortly after her leaving. Others were tempted to be bought out by the landlords. No matter what the tactic, landlords would aid gentrification for their benefit. With the addition of rising of rents, the installation of Whole Foods and other organic groceries, especially those that replace the local ones, the low-income ones can’t afford it. Sunset Park, a low-income neighborhood which is in the midst of gentrification, is now the spot containing the most expensive cup of coffee in the U.S reaching as high as almost $20. With all these new, modern, high-end and organic markets and shops, low-income residents will either have to spend more money or go somewhere else looking for cheaper options while higher-income people move in. The lack of affordable resources in the area along with the rise of rent is a major factor in driving out low-income residents.

Gentrification is so stealthy and there are so many components that help gentrification progress that it makes it hard to find a true solution. As a society and as people, it is our urge to improve but doing this is pushing out the low-income residents and bringing in a wealthier crowd. It hurts me so much because, in many of these neighborhoods, it took minorities, people like me, 30 to 40 years to establish these communities and cultures and now those same people are being forced out. The higher-income people are coming into the urban culture they are attracted to, made by the lower-income people, and by doing so they are pushing them out. Although protests against unjust landowners and certain building installments may slow down gentrification, there is no way to solve it. The cycle will continue to keep going. The most we can do is inform the whole community on what’s going and where and hope for a better community for all.

Work Cited:

Bridge, Gary, et al. Mixed Communities: Gentrification by Stealth? Policy Press, 2014.

Johnson Javon. “Javon Johnson - "When The Cancer Comes" (Button Live). YouTube. YouTube. 13 October 2016. Web. 9 November 2017.


Small, Andrew. “Tracking the Incredible Gentrification of New York City.” CityLab, 5 May 2017, www.citylab.com/life/2017/04/the-gentrification-of-gotham/524694/.

Yee, Vivian. “Gentrification in a Brooklyn Neighborhood Forces Residents to Move On.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Nov. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/nyregion/gentrification-in-a-brooklyn-neighborhood-forces-residents-to-move-on.html.

Cover Image Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

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Why can't France's World Cup Win Be An African Victory, Too?

After France's World Cup Win, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah responds to French Ambassador's rebuttal concerning the identity of African players on the team. And as an African-American, I couldn't help but agree.

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Last week signaled the end of the world's (arguably) most favorite sporting event, the World Cup. France came home with a stunning 4-2 win, the first in 20 years of the country's World Cup history. While recapping the finest moments of their victory, I couldn't help but notice that more than half of France's team players were people of color.

With comments like "Congratulations Africa" and "Victory for the African nation of France," it seems like the world noticed the team's obvious diversity as well. In fact, 15 out of the 23 players on the team were of African descent. That's more than half of the entire team. Players like Pogba and Mbappe are the children of African immigrants from countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Guinea just to name a few.

While France's diverse talent definitely played in their favor, a recent joke from comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah sparked controversy with the French ambassador to the U.S. When Noah said, "Africa won the world cup," the French ambassador took to Twitter in disgust for the comment because it seemed to deny the players their "Frenchness" simply due to their African heritage.

Noah's response to the criticism offered a different perspective on the issue.

In short, he pointed out that by him highlighting the Africanness of these players, why should that diminish their Frenchness? I mean, why can't they be both?

Even better, when do countries choose to claim immigrants as citizens?

Noah points to the African immigrant who literally climbed a building to rescue an infant; he was immediately granted citizenship and referred to as a great Frenchman. But when there are robberies or unsavory events caused by people of African descent, the media is quick to call them "African immigrants" no matter how long they've lived in Europe.

If you look at the African countries from which these players originate from, you can't help but notice that they were colonized by the French. Noah refers to this "diverse background" as a direct reflection of France's "colonialism" which is a fact that ultimately cannot be denied.

It's easy to pin people by the color of their skin or their last names rather than the country they call home. I've noticed that some countries do pick and choose when to call immigrants "citizens" and vice versa. In reality, we assume nationalities when we move to a country and possess both as a part of our identity. No matter what you choose to call them, when the sons of these individuals are bringing home the world's greatest trophy, you can't help but feel national pride. Even as a Nigerian-American, I, too, feel like the African continent has experienced a victory through the players of France.

So maybe, in a way, Africa did win the World Cup and so did France.

There's no denying that France is quickly becoming a melting pot of people, cultures and ideas. Therefore, we must respect and acknowledge the duality of a person's identity. We can't pick a side when it's convenient, but we can recognize both when we succeed.

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