Brooklyn’s Gentrification


Historically, Brooklyn has been anything but wealthy and conformist. It has been the home of poverty, struggle, rap, and immigrants—nothing particularly in line with highbrow culture. But today’s Brooklynite utters “Yeah, I live in Brooklyn” with a second layer of meaning: “My bag’s Marc Jacobs, but I’m actually really chill.” She aims, like a sculptor knee-deep in his craft, for the perfection of coolness, honing in on the middle path between the extreme indulgence of a midtown skyline and the fire pits of homeless asceticism. She’s professionally lax, and it’s admirable. One could appreciate an attempt to disentangle from the lack of hesitancy that goes into purchasing a $2000 bag. But let’s face it: it takes more than a move to a new neighborhood to convince anybody that your penthouse suite in the newly built riverfront luxury condo was a humbling endeavor. “I live in Brooklyn” is the badge of having climbed off one’s high horse, without actually having released the reins. It makes sense, then, that these cowgirls and cowboys should be seen as the heroes of real estate’s “urban renewal.”

Mainstream academic theory will have you know that what’s good for the economy is good for everybody. More luxe condos, more Duane Reades, and more and bigger spenders are rejuvenating Brooklyn in unprecedented rates. And it’s great that college graduates have little reason to think twice about the move. “Living in Brooklyn,” Auctioned Vintage Rayban says in-between the inhales of his electric cigarette, “is totally the logical choice. I mean, you get the home-y suburban feeling and Manhattan’s like, two stops away.”

So how could it be possible that the same communities that are “up and coming,” are also down and going? After all, new money in low-income communities can’t be a bad thing; it means more dough for public schools. Who’s like, even noticing, that the consequence of higher rents means less affordability for some, like the actually many who have been living in Brooklyn their entire lives. This kind of prosperity, in reality, it seems, does not fix problems for a community, as theory would suggest—it gets rid of the problems by getting rid of the community. One cocks her head, remembering that a move to the suburbs was supposed to be the American dream when it presented itself as an authentic choice, not an economic push.

You can’t actually point a finger, though, at some person who’s responsible for the inability some parents face when pooling savings to afford a coffee on the same block where, just a few years ago, they had raised their boisterous kids in the summers of uncapped hydrants. No…it’s no one’s fault, really. The exodus to Brooklyn is supposedly an organic pull, rather than a manufactured push. Just as drinking light beer was cool before the advertisers tried to make you feel that way about it (that never happened).

It’s hard, however, to take seriously the notion that being rich and moving to Brooklyn is stepping over some implicit line. Especially when your favorite show is Girls. Bedford Avenue bars on weekdays and working as a barista on Sundays for fun, that’s what life’s all about nowadays. And if you ever want to do big boy things, you always have Manhattan “just like, a couple stops away.” Girls fans in particular can attest to this, filing off the tour bus that circles the show’s filming sites (though they seemed unimpressed by the curious stares of locals). Brooklyn is glamorous.

Okay, so Brooklyn is not glamorous, but it does rep baddassery without a doubt, having been the unkempt garden that produced some of New York’s (or rather, the world’s) best growths. And bored rich people want to be a part of that—it’s understandable. But if the decision to move to Brooklyn stems from the desire to achieve cool-by-association, then gentrification is undoubtedly least of America’s problems.