Tag: dc

July 19, 2011 / / class

Ben's Next DoorThe New York Times recently published another take on gentrification in DC, focusing on the U and H street corridors:

[R]ace and class issues often overlap, and as the city’s demographics shift — the white population jumped by 31 percent in the past decade, while the black population declined by 11 percent — many less affluent blacks say they are feeling left out of the city’s improving fortunes. In April, the Census Bureau reported that Ward 8, in the city’s mostly poor and black southeast, had the highest jobless rate in the country.

“Change is good, but it kind of kicks some of us to the back of the bus,” said Shirley Parnell, a Department of Motor Vehicles worker who recently inherited her mother’s house near H Street, which came with $11,000 in back taxes. […]

The Rev. Cheryl J. Sanders, the pastor at the Third Street Church of God, in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, argues that race is important, particularly in gentrifying neighborhoods like hers. Her plan to raze buildings on church property to make room for more parking was blocked by her local neighborhood council in a vote that was divided evenly along racial lines. Blacks voted in favor of the church, long the social heart of the black community, and whites, concerned with preservation, opposed it. City preservation authorities later struck a compromise.

At stake, Ms. Sanders said, is the face of the nation’s capital and who gets to shape it. That privilege has special meaning here in Washington, whose black-majority government has given jobs to African-Americans and a way into a middle class that they had long been shut out of.

“It’s a question of who has the power to determine what this community is going to look like,” she said. “I want to have a voice in that. I don’t want to be told to ‘sit down and shut up while we cast the vision for the city.’ ”

Sanders hit the nail on the head. The vision of the city is essentially being dictated to longtime residents from outside interests – or, worse, from the folks who have settled here while Obama is in office, and don’t see DC as home. The newer visions for the city are heavily cosmetic and heavily skewed to a younger, moneyed class – which is causing tensions. As we’ve spoken about gentrification many times before (see the links at the bottom of the article) and that tough bridge dividing long time residents and the new development.

It’s easier to like things like new establishments, nicer streets, rising property values and many lifers understand why it’s important to woo a larger tax base. But it’s hard to like changes that just feel straight up exclusionary. Read the Post On The Rapid Gentrification of DC

March 9, 2010 / / class

by Latoya Peterson

Anacostia Shops

“Gentrification is coming,” says Morgan, “and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

What’s the difference between East of the River and River East?  According to a March 3rd article in the Washington City Paper, it depends on who you are.

Anacostia is located in South East, DC, made notorious for high levels of crime in violence in the 1990s. The area, currently 92% black and one of the most impoverished areas in DC, is often referred to by its residents as “East of the River.” This stands in contrast to the area of North West referred to as “West of the Park,” which holds a high concentration of wealth. Longtime residents often use those two descriptors to explain the flow of class and politics around DC. Those East of the River tend to get the short end of the stick, with horrible support from the city government. Those West of the Park receive all the benefits privilege can afford.

So, when new residents began to flock to the promise of cheap housing and convenient access to downtown Washington, they decided that the old image of Anacostia was ultimately detrimental to the neighborhood:

[T]here’s a constituency of folks who don’t like what “east of the river” connotes, and they’ve created an organization in part to address the matter. Members of “River East Emerging Leaders”—note the lower-case, hipoisie-appeasing acronym “r.e.e.l.”—have a new name for the place they call home. For these people, it’s “River East.” The rationale for the appellation comes straight from r.e.e.l.’s Web site: “Many committee members recalled conversations with friends or news stories characterizing ‘East of the River’ as dirty, dangerous, crime-ridden and poor. ‘River East’ was a new way to rebrand the area and inspire a sense of pride.”

Older residents fear that being “rebranded” is a way to remove them from the neighborhood. And their fears are well founded – often, projects to improve older neighborhoods tend to displace the lifelong residents there, in favor of wealthier entrants. Read the Post The Gentrification Shuffle, Redux: Rebranding Anacostia

June 29, 2009 / / media