Amazon just announced its choice of two new headquarters. It wasn’t exactly a secret – even Jersey news radio has been announcing it for weeks. Turns out it’s a split between New York’s own Long Island City and some ‘burb out west of D.C. The news media is a-buzz with questions. Spoiler alert, I’m giving you the answers.
- Did Amazon chose the two cities who need it least? (yes)
- Can the governor of New York and the Mayor of New York stop bitching at each other long enough to get the deal done? (temporarily)
- Can Long Island City handle an influx of 25,000 extra people? (yes)
- Will this hose the subway? (you mean more than now?)
The most hotly contested issue, however, is…will this gentrify Queens until it looks just like Brooklyn? If you discount topics such as human rights, immigration, big tax giveaways to corporations, sexual harassment, corruption, health care, climate change, racism and xenophobia, nothing galvanizes a group of New Yorkers like talk of gentrification.
New Yorkers hate gentrification. Sometimes the haters are the very people who started the gentrification wave in the first place: they’re the “I’m here so shut the door” people. Others tend to welcome gentrification and use words like “public safety”, “upscale services” and “desirable real estate” to describe it.
I’m neither fer it nor agin it. It’s a fact of life in big cities, and if you have good policies set by intelligent city planners, neighorhood changes can be managed to everyone’s advantage. I said IF. It’s like aftershave: there’s a time and place for it, it can be pleasant, a little goes a long way, and sometimes you meet that guy who simply bathes in it. That being said, I feel it’s time for the world to understand the process of how gentrification works. That way, you can either fight it or promote it, as you see fit.
Step one: I move in.
That’s it! Once I’m in your neighborhood, gentrification is never far behind. I started eons ago on the upper west side north of 96th street. Once that wave was in motion, I moved into the no-man’s-land of Manhattan Valley, and look what happened – million dollar condos sprang up in only a few short decades! Then it was up to Washington Heights, and now you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a gluten-free hipster from Idaho. Who’s fault is that? Mine. You’re welcome.
Now, I’m taking my superpower to Da Bronx. The family is up sticks and moving north. If you were to come see me in my new nabes, you’d find that you can walk many a block without coming across one single tourist. Blocks. Where we’re going, prices are low, rent is stabilized, dollar stores are plentiful, cash checking places are open 24/7, and liquor stores insulate their booze, cash, and employees behind bullet proof bank glass. Mind you, I’m not talking about dangerous drug-ridden neighborhoods. Those places can kill you. I’m talking about a rough and tumble vibe where working people go about their daily business. The kind of place where trash pickup is customary, but not always mandatory. The kind of place where it’s safe, but every young woman knows you’re better off walking on the north side of the street to avoid those guys who are always hanging out over there (my age exempts me from this rule).
As soon as I settle in, there’s going to be some changes. The local residents won’t know what hit them when I start with my…
Handbook of Gentrification (the basics)
There are three main phases to gentrification. The first is the “no sushi” phase. That’s what the neighborhood has before I move in. There simply is not any sushi to be had – not even limp cucumber rolls at Duane Reade (please never try to eat these – they are for show only). Phase 2 is the Fake Sushi phase. You’ll know that I’ve moved in when you see a brand new sushi restaurant open up. Oh good, you think – sushi! But alas, the truth reveals itself the first time you walk in. This is the land of Fake Sushi. No one is speaking Japanese – they’re all from Asia, yes, but Asia is a big place and sushi is not exactly a universal language.
Although “sushi” features in the name of the restaurant, actual sushi is thin on the ground. The menu sports huge overstuffed rolls with names like “volcano roll” and “super manhattan spider roll”. There are lots of choices with noodles in sauces and “tempura” (deep fried chicken nuggets). You learn from bitter experience not to order anything raw. Your plate comes garnished with a maraschino cherry. Still, it’s a necessary transitional phase: you’ll know that my work is complete once an actual real sushi restaurant opens up with actual real Japanese people creating actual real sushi.
Boutique Pet Care
Before I move in, pets are fed from the supermarket. You pick up 15 cans of Friskies and a 10-pound bag of Generic Dog Chow from C-Town, and Fluffy and Spot are good for the month. That’s the mainstay of their diet, supplemented by whatever falls on the floor or can be dug out of the trash when you’re not looking. After? You won’t know what hit you when your neighbors start dressing their dogs in cute outfits, pushing them in specialty strollers,
and feeding them paleo raw gluten-free Kobe beef cuts. Services you never knew existed suddenly spring up to cater to the pet-obsessed. Does Tibbles the hamster need some Ambien at night? You got it! And all because of the wonders of gentrification.
I can’t live without the stuff, so as soon as I move into a new neighborhood, I take stock of the coffee situation. What – only Starbucks? Are you kidding me? That’s so ancient dot com! I suppose the kind of frank, robust, over-marketed, ice-cream flavored coffee that Starbucks pushes is better than nothing, but once I hit my stride, we’d better start seeing Buunni, Joe, and Gregory on a daily basis. Pretty much anything that tries to feed me turmeric in oat milk will work.
A “Whole Foods” plus A “The Container Store”
Did your bodega just get torn down to make way for a Whole Foods market? That’s cuz I’m here now. Once you see a Whole Foods within 10 blocks of your apartment, it isn’t the beginning of the end – it’s the end of the end. A Container Store will show up next door, and then it’s Buy Buy Baby. That’s what happened to Chelsea – and I never even lived there! Just went for brunch all the time, and wham.
You thought I’d be through once I got my boutique pet store, but you’d be wrong. The final step in my roadmap to gentrification involves a dog café. This is a restaurant that welcomes, nay, demands that you bring your dog. You get people food, and surprise! – so does your
dog. Blinged-up dog collars for sale, and general conversation about who has the best dog nanny is all in a day’s work.
Did I mention I need private lessons on pricey machines named “reformers”? No yoga mat class for me. Sorry, Planet Fitness, you just aren’t upscale enough. Go ahead and add as many Zumba classes as you like, but if I can’t have my own Pilates coach in a Pilates storefront, I might as well just go back to Starbucks and fake sushi with a maraschino cherry on top.