Way back around 2000, I remember being on the subway and hearing two women talking about where they would and wouldn’t live in New York. One of the women said that she would never venture further east than the numbered avenues, and the other replied that this was silly and that she had just put down a security deposit on an apartment on Avenue D. “Of course,” she added,” if it’s after 9 at night, I’ll have to take a cab home, but you should see the size of the kitchen!” (It should go without saying that neither of these women would have considered Brooklyn back then if their lives depended on it. They are probably now living on the Williamsburg waterfront, but whatever.) It took everything in 18-year-old me not to spit out at them that if they were afraid to live—to really live—in a neighborhood, then maybe they should just stick to Murray Hill. Ah, neighborhood stereotypes! Some stay evergreen.
Anyway, I was reminded of these women and the disgust and indignation that surged through me oh-so-long-ago on that subway ride when I saw that the New York Post, in its never-ending quest to be an altruistic instrument of journalism for the people of this city, had made a “crime map” in order to show potential real estate buyers and renters in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Bushwick where crimes have occurred in relation to where there’s available real estate. You see, the Post finds it absolutely shocking that so many people want to spend upwards of a million dollars on a home that is in an area that has a higher than average crime rate for the city, and so the Post—out of the goodness of Rupert Murdoch’s heart—wants all you Bed-Stuy and Bushwick newcomers to know that life in these neighborhoods is not so nice for the “gentrifiers.”
The Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick real-estate market is exploding with million-dollar townhouses and apartments renting for as high as $20,000 a month.
But right around the corner from the ornamental plaster and restored wainscoting has been a fresh wave of shootings and other bloodshed that doesn’t make it into the listings.
There has also been an uptick in burglaries and muggings targeting the gentrifiers who move in.
“Fresh wave of shootings?” “Bloodshed?” “Burglaries and muggings targeting the gentrifiers?” This sounds awful! Way to fear-monger, New York Post! Well done. The paper also talks to neighborhood residents who claim that nighttime is really when the “freaks come out,” and that “thugs are out shooting and stabbing, and it’s pure chaos.” Scary! Thank goodness the Post made a map to show where all these “thugs” are “shooting and stabbing,” after all, it isn’t like crime happens anywhere other than in these still-predominantly minority neighborhoods. I mean, personally, I’d like a map of where all the investment bankers live in Williamsburg so that I can avoid those areas like the plague, but you still won’t see me scaring off people who are thinking of moving into the Gretsch building because, you know, that’s the kind of thing that people need to learn on their own.
Which is really the larger point, isn’t it? If the kind of people who can afford to spend millions of dollars on a townhouse in Bed-Stuy aren’t doing enough due diligence on their new neighborhood that they don’t understand that it isn’t the Upper East Side, well, then, maybe they deserve to be a little bit uncomfortable. And maybe they should think twice about only moving to a neighborhood because they think they can change it, and should consider moving to a place in which they will already feel comfortable and can contribute to enhancing the existing structures, rather than dismantling them and rebuilding wholesale. Whatever the case, the Post’s “thug” map and scare tactics aren’t doing anything for anyone, other than dismissing all the positive things about an in-flux area and instead reducing it to nothing more than a series of crime statistics and real estate prices. Ridiculous.
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