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

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,

Yee, Vivian. “Gentrification in a Brooklyn Neighborhood Forces Residents to Move On.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Nov. 2015,

Cover Image Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Anyone Can Be a Feminist, Even You

Your mom, friend, boyfriend, dad, cousin, literally ANYONE.


Feminism isn't about anything other than the ideology of women being treated equally to men in the presence of politics, economics, and social justice. If you don't believe women should have the equity that feminism fights for, then fine you definitely hate feminism.

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You can also hold any job you feel fits in your life the best, people often say they don't believe in feminism because they don't work in male-dominated fields so they feel when referencing the patriarchy that, that includes them. The patriarchy is just a system and society in favor of men which is something female feminists are trying to change in order to gain equality between the men in their lives. This means that when there's a promotion and you work harder than your male co-worker you can still have a shot at it!

To those who still are against feminists, remember that all the women who fought for our right in the workforce and our rights to vote were feminists. Without feminists, we wouldn't have a lot of things that we have now, it's just something you might want to keep in mind.

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