As rents surge in Brooklyn, more and more yuppies and recent college grads who might’ve previously sought housing near the L train are heading north to neighborhoods like Mott Haven in the South Bronx. One longtime Mott Haven resident, Harry Bubbins, a founder of the environmental group Friends of Brook Park, has warned his neighborhood of the changes on the horizon with a mural painted at the corner of Brook Avenue and East 140th Street. “Coming Soon: Bushwick (If We Let It),” it reads.
Bushwick is coming. It’s like a modern New York spin on “the British are coming,” with an equally ominous ring to it. No longer shorthand for the “coolest place on the planet,” as the Times dubbed the neighborhood in 2010, the mural suggests “Bushwick” is now synonymous with gentrification, the creeping tide of overpriced coffee shops, performance artists who wish every day was Burning Man, and, most importantly, jacked-up rents. In Mott Haven, there’s been a nearly 27% increase in median asking rents in the past two years, leaving many of the 40% of the neighborhood’s families living in poverty in danger of displacement.
“We’ve watched neighborhoods destroyed by gentrification pricing out long time residents,” Ed Garcia Conde, who runs the blog “Welcome to the Bronx,” wrote alongside a photo of the mural on his Instagram account. He echoes the mural’s subtle call to action, “If We Let It:” “The battle lines have been drawn, and The Bronx is where we can take a stand.” Per comments on the Instagram posting, taking a stand partly involves holding seminars on gentrification from the point of view of those threatened by it.
In the meantime, we’ll be waiting for a “Coming Soon: SoHo” mural to appear in Bushwick.