Defending Washington Heights

In A Sense of Place, 11. A Cosmopolitan Sense of Place by LeslieLeave a Comment

Gentrification has been affecting many minority communities for some time now. Many white people go to black and Hispanic communities looking for cheaper rent and whine up kicking many Hispanics and black people out of their homes and begin gentrifying the area. The local stores start turning from authentic Mexican restaurants and fried chicken spots to Froyo and Starbucks. Rent starts to increase and you start to see more and more white faces in the neighborhood. Often times this is met with retaliation.  People don’t welcome white people with excitement. People sue if the landlord is trying to kick them out to increase rent. People start coming together to sign petitions and fight back.

Washington Heights has already started to be gentrified. Last year, the first white woman moved in to our building after the woman prior to that was evicted after rent was too high for her. In my building, most residents don’t really talk to her (mostly because many don’t speak English) or give her a “mal de ojo” (a bad look) when she turns around. On top of that, our landlord is beginning to offer up to 10K to have residents move so they can redo apartments and rent them at a much higher rate. The residents have fought with the building manager and the super because they are trying to force ‘outsiders’ to the building. “Stop bringing white people here” “Your kicking us out of our home”.

This isn’t just in my building. It is happening all over Washington Heights. Washington Heights is slowly going from all Latino to partly white. A lot of college white kids come to Washington Heights to take our spaces at 800 dollars more than my rent, but 500 dollars less than the upper west side. This is also changing the type of stores around. Most streets to the left of Fort Washington is all Jewish and White. You find dog grooming business, the ‘nicer’ daycares, froyo, beautiful laundromats and much more.

This all creates a war because Washington Heights natives are being pushed away and out and everyone is getting very defensive and upset. When such a strong sense of community I built around the struggles we all go through and the similar stories we all share, it’s hard to break at part. Everyday I hear stories of fellow Washington Heighters fighting to stay in their apartments and fighting to keep Washington Heights the way it is. Just this week, two stores nearby closed down and are most likely going to be replaced by a fancy cafe place or a popular shopping store.

Honestly, I don’t know how it will end. Landlords and business owners see opportunity in large amounts of white people coming to our area, and only worry about the money they offer. The community keeps fighting back, but I’m not sure how long it will last in this capitalist country.

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