This past week has been a flurry of bitter news for The Bronx. First we find out that of over 30 counties in the tri-state region, 71% of The Bronx is at risk for displacement.
Shortly thereafter came the news that although rents went down 9.1% across NYC, they actually surged in The South Bronx with the area showing the largest increase in rents for 1 bedroom apartments in all of New York City.
Then this week came the renderings of Somerset’s and Chetrit’s 1,000 plus unit gentrification towers on our waterfront at the foot of the Third Avenue Bridge.
But what does it all mean?
Simply put, we’re fucked for a lack of a better word because really there isn’t any other way to describe what’s to come.
The Bronx and on particular, the South Bronx, had always been a haven for immigrant working class communities. Communities made up of a mixture of the working poor struggling to get by and just survive and eventually move on up the socio-economic ladder.
Faces, accents, religious beliefs, languages, country, continent of origin had always changed but there was always one constant: the working class COULD survive here.
And now that’s changing.
Lovers and champions of gentrification always love to harp on the fact that neighborhoods always change and while this is true, it was the fact that here there was still a place affordable enough for the poor.
But stagnant wages and rising rent and cost of living has erased a lot of those securities.
Already, The Bronx is the most rent burdened borough with 55% of households paying well over 30% of their incomes towards rent.
Speaking of rents, affordable housing was supposed to help us and indeed they have rents that are sometimes half to two thirds of what many are paying but because of the way the qualifying area median income is set, the families that need the relief don’t qualify.
Average 1 bedroom rents are already at $1400 in Melrose, Mott Haven, Port Morris and Hunts Point…how are families supposed to afford that when most barely make $20k a year?
And now with these towers on their way, ultra luxury towers in the land of the poorest congressional district in the United States, luxury towers going up 2 blocks and conveniently on the other side of the highway from public housing where the poorest of the poor live, things will only get worse.
They already creating an isolated community of the haves versus the majority who are the have nots.
Landlords are already pressuring tenants to move out of their rent stabilized apartments offering them a few thousand dollars to relocate elsewhere so that the landlords can then legally raise the rents.
Small businesses are also falling prey to gentrification as lease renewals of 10 years are no longer being offered. Instead maybe 5 years but many 2 and 3 year leases are being offered as landlords back on new commercial tenants who can pay twice or more the old rents.
So you see, as the South Bronx continues to change so does the rest of The Bronx and on paper it may look like for the better but in reality we’re simply losing our soul as the one last true borough of NYC.
Sure we’ll continue to fight, I mean that’s what kept us alive all these decades fending for ourselves when the government, banks, landlords all gave up on us hoping we’d kill ourselves off but we showed them.
Not only did we survive but we rebuilt ourselves back from the rubble.
Perhaps too good, though, and maybe, just maybe, we’re simply the victims of our own success.