I want to explain to you what gentrification feels like to someone who was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Gentrification is the feeling you get when you walk down a neighborhood that used to hold all of your childhood memories, just to see it completely saturated with cafes, boutiques, and now a Starbucks.
Gentrification is the utter agony you feel when your hot water is shut off 5 times a day, even though your rent and gas bill has been paid. It is knowing that you have to take a quick shower in ice cold water right before work, and if you attempted to sue the housing management, they’d turn on the hot water right away before anyone could come and do some investigation.
Gentrification is having those long winter nights, shriveled and hugging your bed sheets as if your life depended on it because they haven’t turned on the heat. Then, your neighbors come in, saying in Spanish, “It’s cold in your house too?” And as they help you wash your dishes, they suck their teeth and say, “I’m really tired of them turning the hot water off!” Let’s be honest here, the housing management may not be able to raise your rent, but they will surely drive you crazy.
It is seeing those people you’ve grown up with, being pushed out of the neighborhood and you’re left wondering where have they gone. It is missing those summer days when the community would get together, close the streets, and have a barbecue. A barbecue where all the adults enjoyed themselves and bonded, while kids were riding their scooters and rolling in their brand new Sketchers — yes the ones with the wheels on them.
Gentrification is going on the train and feeling out of place, overlooked, because you aren’t “hip” and you aren’t the kind of race to have fair skin. It is feeling shoved and not wanted. It is seeing your favorite bodegas being replaced by condos, and that brick building your best friend from kindergarden used to live in, is now a condo that not even yuppies can afford. It is constantly asking yourself, “Why is this goddamn coconut oil almost fifteen dollars?” It is growing up wishing you had straighter hair, skinnier, lighter, whiter, and could wear American Apparel clothing without looking like a sack of potatoes. It is knowing you can’t even afford pizza, and this bowl of rice and eggs is all you can eat all week. It is being angry at everyone, yet sad because YOU can never be part of them, YOU are not even middle class. It is wishing that maybe, even though it wasn’t as safe back then, you could just have this neighborhood the way it was for at least a week. But, you can’t.
Gentrification is waking up one day, and hating the shit out of New York City. It’s finally deciding that it is time for you to leave.