Saturday, September 23, 2017

On gentrification and moving

We are moving again.  I am waiting for the chill of fall to finally find us, but global warming and disastrous weather is keeping the afternoons hot and the evenings only marginally bearable.  As we search for our next home and engage in the vulnerable process of displaying our financial information for brokers and agents across the city to see, gentrification is on my mind.  My husband has lived in our area for almost 20 years, and each time we move, he comments on how we are being pushed further and further south.  The line he used to say was "too far south" has now become the northernmost line of our search area, for the budget we have set for ourselves.

However, we are privileged enough to have requirements for our move - 1st floor, backyard for the kids, recently renovated or new build, near a higher rated public school, with in-building laundry.   We are negotiating, deciding what of our "must haves" are really not musts, and which are non-negotiable (sadly, I see laundromats in my future).  When I'm not obsessively combing rental listing sites, I have been lost in the history of how I have chosen apartments over the years and how what matters now is not nearly the same as when I was in my 20's.

Combing real estate ads and seeing Craigslist still has disclaimers about discriminatory housing, I'm also thinking hard about credit, and how credit has been this manufactured currency to de-racialize the housing search, but maintain segregation in neighborhoods, and thus in schools.  If a landlord is looking at my struggle to pay student loans reliably and makes a decision about me based on that, despite being an adult who has been living in paying rent consistently in NYC for almost 20 years, it will impact where my children are able to go to school and the quality of education that they receive.  I believe in public schools and sending my kids to diverse schools, where they learn about many cultures, faiths and ways of life, but I will fight hard for my kids to go to the best school I can.

Gentrification is a tricky thing, though, because while Mulay has lived here for decades, while I traversed the boroughs in a 4 year cycle, I am a midwest transplant who has only lived in Jersey for a few years.  I try my best to engage myself in the community, but working in the Bronx and being connected to community there, I am often a homebody here.  I frequent parks, have a library card, shop only local businesses & farmers markets, and try to avoid the chain stores, I vote in local elections; I try to make my politics evident in my daily dealings with where I live, but I am still a gentrifier.  This is true when I lived in East Williamsburg, in the South Bronx, Harlem and here in Jersey City.

This year, we are discussing whiteness and privilege as part of PD at work, and I am thinking about the fragility of whiteness lately - how easily we crumble in the face of hardship.  I am a walking hyperbole, and am always lamenting my struggles.  As I think realistically about this move that must happen within the next few weeks, I want to be grateful for where I am in life instead of lamenting and calling myself a mess.   Life can be messy, especially with kids, but I've been struggling to write about my trivial issues, when others are suffering the massive losses of hurricanes and earthquakes.  I feel that even though we must move ourselves, what's more important is reaching out to see what we can do to help those in our community and afar who have lost much more.  So I've been breaking out of my rental research in order to consider what we can give, and how we can let go as we consider our new space.

We've got this; we are a formidable team.

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