Gentrification: WTF Does It Mean, For Real?

Anna van der Heijden

[email protected]

The term “gentrification” gets thrown around like avocado toast on millennial Instagram feeds, especially in Bushwick. But do we really know what it means? To get some clarity on the subject, Mi Casa No Es Su Casa will partner with Mayday Space to organize a six-week long workshop, fittingly called “Gentrification: WTF Does It Mean, For Real?”

Mi Casa No Es Su Casa is an activist project that uses art installations and direct actions to show resistance against gentrification. With light signs, performance art, and protests, among other things, they aim to bring attention to the ongoing displacement of low-income communities, people of color, and immigrants due to gentrification. 

Early August they came together as a response to New York City’s Department of City Planning’s (DCP) rezoning plans for Bushwick. These plans would change Bushwick’s housing, retail, and traffic structure, and negatively impact the neighborhood’s low-income community. 

“The DCP and its rezoning process is neither community controlled nor democratically accountable,” writes Ryan Roco, one of the workshop’s instructors, in an email. “[The appointed staff] is shown to be significantly influenced by real estate capital and its lobbies.”

The Loom Loft, courtesy of Erik Kantar for Bushwick Daily.

The DCP’s lack of emotional investment in the community, can end up causing rent to rise to a level many can’t afford, decrease the amount of industrial jobs in the neighborhood, and change the local architecture due to the construction of high-rise buildings. 

“The Mi Casa No Es Su Casa organizers felt an urgent need for gathering Bushwick residents and interested allies to investigate with all seriousness their surrounding gentrification at this crucial historical moment,” wrote Dennis Farr, a member of Mi Casa No Es Su Casa and the workshop’s other instructor, in an email. 

An important goal during the workshop series is to clarify terminology around gentrification, starting with gentrification itself since there are so many opposing understandings of it.

“Gentrification means many different things to many different folks,” writes Roco. “Our definition, like the course itself, is not a canned product to be opened and force fed.” 

Community and Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, courtesy of Erik Kantar for Bushwick Daily.

During the course, they will explore the concept with the participants as a social, political, economic, and cultural process from their experiences as Bushwick residents. 

Gentrification generally happens when a neighborhood experiences an influx of wealthier people. With money comes investment in the neighborhood, often in the form of health stores, cleaner streets, and better schools. That sounds like a positive thing, right? According to Roco, though, this only benefits a specific group of people. 

“It’s not an issue of seeing the upside or not,” he said. “It’s an issue of deciding who gets to enjoy them and what form they’ll take.”

Besides creating usable language around gentrification, the workshop will look at the history of gentrification in Bushwick, compare Bushwick’s gentrification to other cities, ask why gentrification happens where it happens, and teach participants how to do better research on the topic. 

This is not meant to be a sit-and-listen kind of course, everyone is expected to engage with the content, ask questions, and share their experiences. 

“I’m hoping to provoke enlightening and informative discussions among participants,” writes Roco. “I’m hoping to learn from the perspectives and experiences of others in the class, especially longtime residents of Bushwick that might be studying the subject for the first time.”

The workshops will run from November 2 until December 7 at Mayday Space, a community center that hosts cultural and educational events, a home for radical thought and debate.

Cover photo courtesy of Mi Casa No Es Su Casa.

For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.

Latest articles

Related articles