Yes, another article talking about gentrification — but that just shows how important talking about it is. I grew up near Yankee Stadium, so I am accustomed to the sudden spike in prices during game days. I am accustomed to my neighborhood, mainly composed of African Americans and Hispanics, overflowing with white sports fans for a couple hours. I am accustomed to the occasional movie sets in my neighborhood; if there is a scene being filmed outside a court in New York, the chances that it is in my neighborhood are high. I am accustomed to the breach and exhibition of culture that is found in my neighborhood — a culture forged by people who live in there. Recently, I witnessed a steady change in the people who moved into the neighborhood: middle-class white people. That gives a context to how I formulated my opinion on gentrification; specifically, I think gentrification is a form of imperialism. Gentrification is not to be confused with urban revitalization. The communities I speak of are stable economically and socially, so they need not be revitalized. The cultures are what’s being erased and used as aesthetics by gentrifiers. This is not to take away from the global imperialism that is still going on, but this is something that cannot be ignored.
The side effects of gentrification are similar to the effects of imperialism. Imperialism within this argument will has a loose definition: the act of exploiting a group found in a location for not only monetary but also cultural gains. Gentrification has some good components, but also bad components that are undeniable. For instance, once more shall we talk about Amazon. It’s commonly known that Amazon, a multibillion-dollar company, planned to establish one of its headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. Fifty-five percent of LIC is composed of a minority demographic and about 46 percent of the population has less than the educational equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. Amazon’s introduction to the neighborhood would have negatively affected the community by creating an economic strain in the area by raising rent prices and ultimately pushing the natives of the community out.
Some might argue that Amazon’s location in LIC would have created blue collar jobs for those who don’t have a college degree, which demonstrates positive reasoning for Amazon moving in and gentrifying the neighborhood. However, because Amazon is a tech company, most of its jobs would consist of white collar computer science jobs, which would make it difficult for those living in the area without the specific skills needed to apply for positions. Fortunately, because of the news that Amazon had plans to create a headquarters in LIC, there was a controversy that prompted people to protest, causing people to discuss the fear of being displaced. Ultimately, these protests were successful, as Amazon announced that it will no longer be locating its headquarters in LIC.
Gentrification still persists throughout the United States. It has pushed families out of communities that they have lived in all of their life due to rent and everyday expenses increasing. This trend is similar to imperialism where people were removed from their land due to exploitation for the resources in their land. Because of gentrification, businesses that were tailored to the previous residents are shutting down, while new businesses catered to the new residents are opening and thriving. Simply put by Sharon Zukin, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, “[Gentrifiers] reject dominant local modes of consumption and display, and impose their own preferred places and practices.” I make the comparison of imperialism to gentrification because the ultimate result of gentrification is the removal and change of the culture found previously. Gentrification is a new way that imperialism subtly manifests itself.