Anthropology students Sidsel Filipsen & Jonas Bruun Nielsen share some observations they’ve made studying gentrification in New York and Bushwick in particular.
When doing anthropological research on gentrification in Bushwick one quickly finds out, that it is not a thing easily done – especially when you’re not even from this country. We came from Copenhagen having seen what we believed to be gentrification in our own city, but as expected, things move a lot faster in New York. That is probably why gentrification has much more of a place in people’s minds over here. Telling people in Denmark what were going to study all we got was “gentrifi-what?” But in Bushwick everyone seems to have an opinion about the topic – whether they think it’s good, bad, neutral or natural. What has surprised us more is that no one really seems to agree on what gentrification actually is.
“Gentrification is just natural. It’s just part of how life works – it’s good and it’s bad.” – Anonymous Bushwickian
And in New York, so it seems. There is hardly anything to do about it. We’ve seen it in Soho, we’ve seen it in Williamsburg, we’ve seen it tons of other places all around the city. People move because they have to, because the rent goes up. But when they do so, the rent goes up somewhere else and then other people have to move.
“Gentrification is rich people moving in, displacing poor people.” – Anonymous Bushwickian
But yet that would be oversimplifying the whole thing, wouldn’t it? Gentrification often also means lower crime rates, better infrastructure, more art- and cultural events. Or does it?
“Gentrification is when an area loses its uniqueness. But right now, the only unique thing about Bushwick is poverty.” – Anonymous Bushwickian
To some gentrification means Starbucks. To some it means displacement, of themselves or others. To some it means flourishing art and cultural life. To some it means diversity and different kinds of people living side by side. One thing seems for sure though. Gentrification is a buzzword, and a kind of indefinable one at that. Whether it is good or bad, and what it actually means to people, still seems stranded in uncertainty.
As anthropology students of the University of Copenhagen we’re really interested in learning what you have to say about the matter. What does gentrification in Bushwick mean to you? How would you define gentrification in Bushwick?