This protest took place along the G train line and featured “Service Interruption” signs in the style of an MTA notice. They read “Planned Gentrification: Everyday. No Affordable Housing Near this Station. Take Displacement Buses.”
The signs also featured a description of the major rezonings that happened in the area, including 2005 with the Williamsburg-Greenpoint Rezoning and 2009 with the Greenpoint Contextual Rezoning, as well as ones that have are currently being considered for Amazon HQ2 and at the old Pfizer site.
BRASH is deepening awareness of what these rezonings mean to people. Daily, we walk by construction sites. We see plans for new developments from our favorite news sources. We feel anxiety about the future and dismay as buildings are torn down and replaced with ones that feel out of place.
But rarely do we look at the government process that sets the stage for all of this, usually many years in advance, or the true impact in human and economic costs.
BRASH’s goal is to expose these realities and call into question the many ways in which these rezonings are reshaping our communities in terms of demographics and the rent burdens that residents face.
A rent burden is when a family spends more than 30 percent of their income on rent. A rent burdened tenant generally spends at least 35 percent, but sometimes as much as 50 percent, of their income on rent.
For example, on Greenpoint Avenue BRASH data shows that tenants spending 50 percent or more of their income on rent has increased by 28.9 percent between 2012-2016.
BRASH is also tracking the demographics of the area, and finds that the area is becoming whiter, with 1,991 new white tenants in that same time period. Meanwhile, the Latinx population increased by only 31 people, or 0.6 percent.
To me, the truly remarkable thing is that with just 568 new black tenants added, Greenpoint Avenue’s black population rose by 180 percent. This speaks to how segregated this neighborhood and district has always been.
The Broadway G train stop tells a very different story, as communities of color in this area are declining. The Latinx population dropped by 9.4 percent (426 people)and the Black population dropped 8.10 percent (179 people), while the white population skyrocketed by 43 percent (4,758 people.)
The BRASH coalition’s message is that new development is reshaping more than our physical landscape. It is adding thousands of new people, the vast majority of whom are white, which changes the entirety of a neighborhood culture and destroys the community fabric.
There has been little accounting for the cultural impacts of gentrification in this way. There has also been little effort on the part of the city to track where people go when they are displaced.
This is convenient ignorance, since the displaced often are longtime residents who are relocated far away from their community, if they can even afford to remain in the city at all.
BRASH has been active in demanding that racial impact studies be conducted prior to every future rezoning. To learn more about BRASH, visit gentrificationline.com.