The Ugly Truth Behind Those Beautiful Gentrified Buildings

The Ugly Truth Behind Those Beautiful Gentrified Buildings

M.D. Wright



Gentrification is fine and well, when you can afford to partake in it. When you are one of the 99% (okay, okay, the buzznumber doesn’t work here — so let’s say EIGHTY percent — /sarcasm) who CANNOT afford to partake in gentrification, the process makes you all grades of disgusted.



That building was a burned-out shell, featuring crack whores, drug deals and squatters just 20 years ago. Now it rents for $1,500/month for one bedroom, $1,800 for two, and $2,200+ for three. All they did was gut it (after NYC took over the building and many like it for NOTHING, and sold them EQUALLY for nothing — actually $1 in most cases), renovate the exterior and interior and began selling the buildings at literally a half-million times profit.


Talk about return on investment.


That in and of itself is not bad. Uptown needed an infusion of a higher tax base, healthy food options, other night life options and an overall improvement of the quality of life in the area. Same with most of Brooklyn near its bridges. The fact that many of these buildings were sold without the knowledge of the people who INHABITED the neighborhoods and would have otherwise bought the buildings had they been made aware is what I find to be disgusting to this day. I was not old enough to take advantage of the big sell-off that took place in Harlem, most of the Bronx and parts of Downtown Brooklyn and the surrounding neighborhoods (Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, WILLIAMSBURG, etc.) This fact makes me even more upset, because I could have three or four brownstones and entire apartment buildings with less than $100,000 in total investment. Those buildings would be cumulatively worth over $10 million.


I, like many others my age, were not made aware of this until AFTER the fact, when some of us lived elsewhere, or moved out of New York, only to return to rents that were double, triple or even QUADRUPLE what they were in the 1990s.


What makes me even more livid is the blind willingness of people to move here and pay these exorbitant rents, which further drives those of us who do not have the means to pay these ridiculous (and steadily increasing) rents. Landlords have become bullish when it comes to tenants, enacting foolishness such as requirements that tenants should earn 40 times a month’s rent in their annual salary. Or have near-perfect to perfect credit, in this post-wreck of an economy where one in seven people have lost their jobs in the past four years. Even worse, when you have those things going against you, they expect you to have near-perfect credit just to qualify for co-signer programs, or have your guarantor earn EIGHTY times the rent just to sign for you.


Otherwise, you must have $10,000 saved up (in many cases) to pay several months’ rent up front before you can even move into an apartment.


It’s either that, or be five to an apartment with a bunch of strangers, the shelter, or standing on a line for NYCHA project apartments (which are not all bad) for years just to come up for an apartment across from a drug dealer and hearing gun shots four nights a week.


The things this city is doing to intentionally pull the rug from under the “undesirables” (read that however you want), are disgusting. I have a few friends who work for the Human Resources Administration (the P.C. way of referring to the WELFARE OFFICE) and I was just told last week that all of the HRA offices will be consolidated within ten floors of the new World Trade Center edifice within the next 18 months. Think of the effect that is going to have, particularly with the people they are trying to phase out of Section 8 and Public Housing (domestic violence victims, people who are disabled or elderly and cannot commute to the World Trade Center three or four times a month — or even per WEEK, in some instances).


Many of the Mitchell-Lama properties are being sold to slumlord major investors who then begin to immediately attempting to freeze out the undesirable tenants (read: anyone who doesn’t have a $100K annual salary or more) so that they can recoup the cost of their investment and draw in naive outta towners who pay the exorbitant rents that we now see throughout Harlem, parts of Washington Heights, Downtown Brooklyn and its surrounding area.


And don’t get me started on the people of certain descents who occupy NYCHA housing who have six-figure savings and incomes and are drawing public assistance benefits: including CASH assistance, medicaid, EBT-food stamps, housing subsidies and other benefits that were allotted for the poor/working poor, who now must endure humiliating abuse from the HRA and other state agencies JUST to qualify for a place in a SHELTER. Not an NYCHA apartment, not just food stamps, but a SHELTER.


I’m done.


Any of us could have bought this building near the W. 145th St. ABCD MTA station at St. Nicholas Avenue and 8th Avenue for $1 in 1995, but none of us knew until a few years ago.





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