The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Choice and Race

The first big racial makeover of Flatbush happened when white "chose" to move out. Granted, there were negative incentives - the infamous block-busters warned folks of impending doom if they didn't run for the suburbs. We've since learned that developers on Long Island and New Jersey and the Island of Staten helped fuel the exodus, implicitly and explicitly supporting the block-buster phenomenon. The dangled choice looked pretty good, given the darkening on the horizon.

Black folks, by and large, CHOSE Flatbush as a home. Caribbean Americans too. Not that their choices weren't restricted by the prevailing anti-black prejudice. For instance, Bensonhurst and Windsor Terrace remained nearly all-white, and are still remarkably non-black. And of course, the ever-present price-per-square-foot analysis, and whether or not people from similar islands and nations resided here.

White folks now are CHOOSING to live in Flatbush (Lefferts, Caledonia, Caton, Ditmas, PPS) for its location and its price per square foot. Some of the movement was speculative; neighborhoods become more "desirable" with upward mobility, and the "bet" payed off for buyers. But some chose to live here, either reflecting their ease in the neighborhood, and/or of course, the ever-present price-per-square-foot.

Current residents of Flatbush are being FORCED to leave in droves. They don't want to go. You hear it in the stories and you see it in the numbers. Not all are people of color. Far from it. Current tenants, often pawns in the game, are flummoxed by landlords lack of interest in keeping them. Who, me? For every one lucky longtime homeowner who "cashed out" after years of being the local gentry, there are dozens more priced out or "eased" out by landlord practices and market forces. It's easy to focus ire on developers; their projects are so much more visible than person to person demoralization and dehumanization that characterizes so much apartment busting.

It's not the same. It's simply not the same. Some recent commenters have tried to suggest that:

a) race is not an issue
b) class is not an issue
c) to discuss race and class exacerbates the issues of race and class
d) that this is merely a "free market" doing its thing
e) that it's no different than previous racial changes and therefore benign

I'm actually stunned that anyone would want to explain the de-blackifying of NYC on the basis of pure, unadulterated cost analysis. Because how black a neighborhood IS, to a large extent, IS the COST ANALYSIS itself.

Fairly consistently for decades, the same house on one side of the Park has been twice what it is on the other side. You can't tell me that the reason is solely, as it was in the early 1990s, because of Little Things and Snooky's and Grand Canyon and then Two Boots. Equidistant from the Park and Garden and Library, with somewhat similar apartment and housing stock, and solid public transportation, the neighborhoods continue to serve as a case study. Fifth Ave was hardly a gourmand's paradise. Boutiques? Origami Classes? Those things didn't even exist to explain away the difference. There was even significant crime back then, before the whole CIty seemed to settle down post-crack turf-warfare.

I think most of you get it. I suspect most of you did your own cost analysis, whether you're black OR white or both or neither. I've come to believe that we are all both symptom and cause of the cost analysis. It's damning, and it's frightening. Not just in the ways that show our glaring differences. But in the ways they continue to mask our sameness.

I never would have thunk I'd have to defend what's as clear as the pink nose on my face. Not in Brooklyn. Not in NYC.

I'm not trying to give you a hard time. I'm not trying to bring down the system. I'm resigned to describing, and reacting as best I can. I wish I had my own brain paired with Em Topps balls. Iron balls. Seriously iron balls on that one.



64 comments:

Kevin said...

I think you've gotta consider that massive rent increases are happening across the city at such speed that any hopes of being comfortably middle-class are vanishing.
I, for one, would definitely not have moved out of my cozy, affordable one bedroom in Yorkville had the new owners not tried raising the rent by $300/mo.
And I probably would've chosen to move to a neighborhood where I wasn't looked at as a conquistador if I had more options.

diak said...

One positive sign, anyway:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/01/nyregion/city-to-publicly-shame-harassing-landlords.html?ref=nyregion&_r=0

Positive, if the city actually follows through, that is.

And I second what Kevin says above. The only difference for me was my cozy one-bedroom was on the Upper West Side. Of course, when I moved there in 1983 people didn't call me a gentrifier. They called me insane...

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Bob Marvin said...

At the risk of repetition, white folks have been CHOOSING to live in our neighborhood, and at least some of the other Flatbush neighborhoods you mention, since blockbusting ended in the late '60s. It's NOT a recent phenomena. However there are obvious differences, the most noticeable, for an old-timer like me, being that people like me are no longer seen as crazy outliers by the bulk of the white population (as, I assure you, we WERE 40 years ago). For anyone who believes in integration this is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, the trick being to maintain our neighborhood's racial integration while, simultaneously, not turning anyone, of any color, away. We did this long ago; is there no way to do it now?

leffertspapa said...

Good point Bob. Maybe if we can get one of those Mumbai helipads installed here we'll have a chance.

I love, love the spam robot commenters.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Naveen:

You say:

The primary purpose of the Urban Aero Systems is to introduce cutting-edge aerospace technologies, while having its own modern infrastructure, with an experienced team in Aviation

The primary purpose? Hardly. Census data will show that cutting-edge aerospace technology is so biased towards white aviation, that it's hard to imagine a black team acquiring enough basic training to compete, let alone earn even 50 cents on the white Aviation dollar.

Take your spaceism back to NASA where it belongs.

duster said...

Q -

Phat Albert's sells Palmer's cocoa butter in bulk. Only that can salve your manic hand wringing.

Sure, you'll smell like a freshly mixed Pina Colada from an all-inclusive Bajan resort bar. But man, your chafing white digits sure will appreciate it.

Duane Joseph said...

Bob,

I think the key part of your statement is the fact that you, along with many White New Yorkers, have the option of choosing where you live. Whereas I, like many Black New Yorkers, do not have the same opportunity at a choice.

Whether folks choose to believe it or not, landlords in this neighborhood, like many other predominantly Black neighborhoods, are deliberately choosing White tenants over Black tenants because White tenants are seen as more economically stable and safer. And that last bit I heard directly from a landlord.

duster said...

Let's not forget that a significant number of smaller rental buildings in PLG are still owned by Caribbeans, especially the two and three unit structures along on Rogers and Nostrand Avenues.

Guess what folks? They too are gleefully renting their spaces to the horde of grubby white conquistadors because they see them as generally less problematic tenants.


It's the same motivation Alicia "Burn it Down" Boyd has for greeting a procession of whites into her own home - unencumbered cash.

So while its fun and easy to splatter this facile liberal vitriol on white landlords for repulsing black folks from their apartments, the truth is in fact far messier around these parts.

Go take a walk along Rogers Ave between Parkside and Lincoln. The pales are proliferating - and their rent checks are, for the most part, being cashed by Trini and Jamaican landlords.

FlatLen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FlatLen said...

And the Caribbean landlords of small buildings are especially gleeful because their buildings in general don't fall under rent stabilization laws, which means they can rent at market rates and don't have to subsidize lower income tenants who are less likely to pay at the market rate.

disco princess said...

FlatLen, how were the Caribbean landlords subsidizing "lower income tenants who are less likely to pay at the market rate"? If we accept NYC Parent's and no_slappz's argument that this is a "free market", then those lower income tenants were previously paying what the market at that time would bear.

Bob Marvin said...

Duane,

I have no doubt that what you write about lack of choice for black tenants is correct and presents an issue that must be addressed.. However, in my case, c. early '70s, my choice was between staying in the South Slope, where I had rented, and buying an inferior house, among racist and anti-semitic neighbors, and buying a far better house in a neighborhood that was welcoming to everyone. Some "choice".

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Duster: It's not "fun" to blast landlords and big-portfolio real estate managers. What's the deal with this:

o while its fun and easy to splatter this facile liberal vitriol on white landlords for repulsing black folks from their apartments

I'm not ashamed to splatter vitriol on anybody who repulsing black folks from their apartments. What, you're making light of this?

Then you manage to sully Caribbean landlords in one fell swoop. I've always been careful to note that there are plenty of scrupulous landlords out there. Though they're becoming harder to find.

My colleague at work, a person of the pale and Jewish persuasion, is currently being screwed by a landlord who three years ago leased his apartment to his parents, at, get this, $2,005, just five bucks over the limit at the time for rent stabilization. He claims to have left the program by creating a fake lease to his folks. I guarantee they never lived there.

Now my friend has to fight this guy for illegally busting out of the rent guidelines. His landlord also raised the rent by 100% ten years ago, claiming major renovations that are apparent to no one.

This is all happening in a neighborhood called Windsor Terrace. A neighborhood, I might add, that over the years I've heard many stories of people of color suddenly losing their opportunity to lease when they show up at the door demonstrably brown.

So yeah, it's all over. But guess what? My friend will likely be able to find a nice size apartment for slightly less in Caledonia, where the process of shooting for the limit of $2,500 is already a blood sport. By treating HIM poorly, he can raise the rent more to the next screwed individual and so on and so on.

By using the phrase "grubby white conquistadors" you've actually managed to ratchet up the racial rhetoric a few notches. Tone it down. You're the only one making sweeping generalizations at this point, and it'll go nowhere good awfully fast if you keep it up.

babs said...

Duane, the kind of discrimination you're talking about, while I'm not denying it goes on, is illegal under Fair Housing, from the Federal level on down. NYS has numerous testers who visit real estate brokerages to make sure they're abiding by Fair Housing - I wonder how often they approach landlords directly. And, FWIW, in my 10+ years of experience as a real estate agent and now as a broker, I have had only three landlords who explicitly told me they didn't want to rent to people of color - and they were all people of color themselves. Naturally, I refused their listings and also explained how what they were doing is illegal. The landlords I deal with see only one color - green, and that's not to say that they're greedy, but that as long as a person can prove they've got the income and credit to afford an apartment, they're in.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Glad to hear you're not among the unscrupulous, Babs!

What you're saying though is 180 degrees from what I've learned from tenants on my block through our block association, and the actual attempts to take buildings "all white" by landlords who have made the mistake of telling their supers, who often spill the beans.

I wonder who some of these buildings are using to let their apartments? In the case of Pinnacle or Shamco, what's the deal?

no_slappz said...

Bob Marvin writes: my choice was between staying in the South Slope, where I had rented, and buying an inferior house, among racist and anti-semitic neighbors, and buying a far better house in a neighborhood that was welcoming to everyone. Some "choice".

As I've said, people are transient, but the buildings are not. Have you been to the South Slope lately? It's not likely you'll spot any racists or anti-Semites. Almost all have moved on.

Husband-and-wife relatives of mine -- Jewish, FWIW -- live in the South Slope, in a rental. Their landlord, a Haitian, told them he wasn't renewing their lease, which expire October 31st. Hence, moving day approaches. The landlord claims he's renovating and handing the space to a family member. Who knows? But the eviction is legal and my relatives are looking for a new place in their general vicinity.

They'd probably look in PLG, however, the wife's employment ties her to the Slope area.

Meanwhile, there's a huge irony in your claim. It comes down to the fact that the Old Park Slope South Slope that was once so Italian and Irish and touchy about race and religion, has been replaced by a new and different population, an extraordinarily liberal population that has grown so large it's spilled over into Windsor Terrace.

Everyone is welcome in Park Slope/South Slope if they can cover the rent.

How about PLG these days? The anti-white sentiment couldn't get much more intense. Alicia Boyd? MTOPP? The hue-and-cry of limiting development is code for keeping whites away. Alicia Boyd doesn't hide her animus, a feeling shared by those who are members of, or aligned with her organization.

disco princess said...

re: Husband-and-wife relatives of mine -- Jewish, FWIW -- live in the South Slope, in a rental. Their landlord, a Haitian, told them he wasn't renewing their lease, which expire October 31st. Hence, moving day approaches. The landlord claims he's renovating and handing the space to a family member. Who knows?

Hey, (sometimes) family comes first - regardless of the religious and/or ethnic background of the unrelated tenant (that's if those factors are in play here, it's being implied ). Also, if the rental is not stabilized, it's the landlord's prerogative not to renew the lease, no? That's what happens when you have a "free market".

babs said...

However, one of the (few) legal ways to not renew a rent stabilized lease is to say you need the apartment for a family member. I know a landlord in Park Slope who cleared out an entire building this way, by moving a great-uncle from apartment to apartment every time a lease came up. Of course, no one ever checked up on this.

babs said...

And a lot of landlords in PLG put their listings out as what are called "open" listings - they do a mass e-mail with a spreadsheet of all their vacancies to every real estate firm they can think of, with the result that you have a bunch of (usually new and inexperienced) agents from several firms crawling all over the apartment - most are so new and desperate that they will say/do anything, including "ignore" Fair Housing restrictions, to get the deal. I only take exclusive rental listings from landlords I know personally, and I avoid and do not recommend the majority of rental buildings in this neighborhood, due primarily to deliberate landlord neglect (and this includes encouraging/ignoring criminal activity in an effort to drive people out) and obvious pressuring of tenants to leave (old as well as new - a vacancy increase is great, no matter where it comes from). My exclusive listings (and there are very few in this neighborhood) are all accessible to and available for co-broke with other REBNY members, meaning that if you're working with an agent for, say, Halstead, you will have access to the apartment through that agent. I don't co-broke with the non-REBNY, unscrupulous firms we have in storefronts around here, because I know their tactics.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Wait...what's legal? That you can rent an apartment to your family (got it, fine), or that you can therefore leave Stabilization? That's what's happening to my buddy. Fake lease (though hard to prove) that shows that rather than giving his parents a "deal," he actually charge them more than the legal rent!

That's payback for 9 months of womb-carriage and 18 or more years of food and lodging (plus gratis toys and supplies). The noive!

disco princess said...

Thanks for the information, babs! :)

Of course, no_slappz has left out some details when he cited this example.

NYC Parent said...

In looking to caricature behavior of whites as all "choice" and that of persons of color all "forced" (hence the need for heavy, government redistribution of "housing opportunity") the poster writes:

"The first big racial makeover of Flatbush happened when white "chose" to move out. Granted, there were negative incentives - the infamous block-busters warned folks of impending doom if they didn't run for the suburbs. We've since learned that developers on Long Island and New Jersey and the Island of Staten helped fuel the exodus, implicitly and explicitly supporting the block-buster phenomenon. The dangled choice looked pretty good, given the darkening on the horizon..."

I'm sure there is a partial truth to that. But it is pretty glaring to ignore other "disincentives" that many white families, particulalry younger ones with kids undoubtedly felt in the 1970s, such as a huge increase in crime. You can discuss the "root causes" of the crime increases in that period for 100 years, but it is undeniable that both as perception, and in reality, there was a very significant correlation between an increase in crime, and changing racial composition of the neighborhood.

Such watershed events as the 1977 riots in the wake of the power outage, including a great deal of street violence and looting in Brooklyn, might also have been a fairly important factor in accellerated demographic changes in that period. "Choices"? Yes. But its not all evil blockbusters and greed choices, but often rational choices of individual people who decide, whether you approve or not, that they no longer consider a neighborhood safe enough for their family to live in.

Fortunately, people can also prioritize many aspects of a neighborhood, such as friendly neighbors, diversity, great houses, proximity to a great Park, etc. But it is really revisionist history to cast all "white flight" as somehow due to indefensible racism or purely money driven choices. The causes of such things are many, but lets not oversimplify the picture.

Yes, I'm sure that some residents of PLG who were there before the earth's crust had cooled will say that they never, ever considered crime to have a racial correlation, but for good or ill, this is a widespread but not often publically spoken perception. And so, if you want "a conversation" about race, this must be part of the conversation.

no_slappz said...

Regarding the South Slope Haitian landlord -- I have no idea if his lease-ending story is true. Having known a couple of Haitian landlords in Brooklyn who were making space for family, it may well be true in the case of my relatives. Again, who knows? And does it matter? They've been in the place for four years with minimal rent increases.

Their unit is not stabilized. The apartment is the top floor of a two-family house between 4th and 5th Aves near the Prospect Expressway. The unit is oddly shaped and the bathroom is a nightmare. They're in the baby-making stage, their first baby, which means they're even considering an exit from the city to another state where home ownership is a lot less costly.

no_slappz said...

Anyone who cares to become informed about the history of NY City real estate and demographic transitions from the 1950s till about 1990s should read Jim Sleeper's book:

Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York

http://www.amazon.com/Closest-Strangers-Liberalism-Politics-Race/dp/0393307999

It's about unintended consequences, which seem to be unlimited.

disco princess said...

Re: "In looking to caricature behavior of whites as all "choice" and that of persons of color all "forced" (hence the need for heavy, government redistribution of "housing opportunity") the poster writes"

NYC Parent,

The poster whom you cite (whose screen name by the way is Duane) did not say anything about "he need for heavy, government redistribution of "housing opportunity"" in his post. Why put words into his mouth?

disco princess said...

Re: "Regarding the South Slope Haitian landlord -- I have no idea if his lease-ending story is true. Having known a couple of Haitian landlords in Brooklyn who were making space for family, it may well be true in the case of my relatives. Again, who knows? And does it matter?"

Since you used this example, we look to you to elaborate on whether or not the landlord's claim to take the unit off the market and reserve it for a family member has merit. What do the current tenants think is really going on?

By the way, why does the ethnic background of the landlord matter? Why mention it?

disco princess said...

Re: "But it is really revisionist history to cast all "white flight" as somehow due to indefensible racism or purely money driven choices. The causes of such things are many, but lets not oversimplify the picture."

Where did the Q didn't use the word "all" relating to white flight in his post? The Q touched upon several possible factors in play. By the way, using the word "all" to characterize white flight would oversimplify the picture.

NYC Parent said...

Dear Disco
By "poster" I was referring to the main blogger on this site (quoting his article verbatim)
He did not say the phrase "government redistribution of opportunity" and I did not put it in quote. That is my own interpretation, though I think a fair one.
But that said, I'm not going to engage in this as a debate. My main point was to address the blogger, and I think a caricatured view of history, inasmuch as the blogger is making generalizations about the reasons for behavior of "whites" as a generalization.
I do generally prefer to address people as individuals, without respect to race.
But if you are going to engage in a discussion (or "conversation" in today's parlance) using racial generalizations, then I think you have to include crime, and (sometimes rational) fear of crime in the equation.

disco princess said...

Re: "I do generally prefer to address people as individuals, without respect to race."
That is the ideal, yes. I do that. I really hope you and everyone else does the same. However, ignoring what can be the elephant in the room would oversimplify the issue because society as a whole does not follow that tenant all the time.

FlatLen said...

My comment:

If we accept NYC Parent's and no_slappz's argument that this is a "free market", then those lower income tenants were previously paying what the market at that time would bear.

My reply: I am not familiar with their arguments, but lower income tenants in previous periods were moving in at a time when the market could take less, but the market is different now, for any number of reasons: higher costs not reflected by the increase permitted by the rent stabilization board, as well as higher demand. And so what was marketable years ago stays more or less stable, unless the landlord works diligently (and hopefully, legally) to increase the rental over time.

disco princess said...

FlatLen, you still didn't address how the Caribbean landlords subsidizing "lower income tenants who are less likely to pay at the market rate".

FlatLen said...

If lower income tenants can't pay the current market rate, the landlords are subsidizing them by taking less than what they can get in the open market. Their profit margin is taking a hit.

disco princess said...

FlatLen, that point I was trying to make was that those landlords cited in your example were finding "lower income tenants" because the market rate was lower years ago than it is now. The market rate of 2014 =/= the market rate of 2004 or 2007.

Now they can choose potential tenants who have a higher income who are willing to pay the (increased) market rate because the demand is there. (Hence a "free market".)

Do you know whether these particular landlords were not breaking even when they were renting to lower-income tenants?

duster said...

Simple question:

Let's say you own a small PLG building on Rogers Ave. or Nostrand Ave., a three-family. You're not a wealthy person, you emptied your savings into buying a long-term investment and you might clear a few hundred bucks a month after your mortgage and operating costs are paid.

You have a long term black tenant who is paying $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. You come to realize that interest in the neighborhood has streaked in recent years and the apartment can now easily fetch $1,500. You relay the increase in price to your current tenant who makes it clear that he/she can't afford it.

Realizing that an additional $6,000 a year in your pocket would help to defray costs from child care to groceries, you decide to pursue a market rate rent.

You don't renew his/her lease, you put the apartment up for rent on Craigslist for $1,500 and await applicants. They are nearly all white people and you end up renting the space to the most qualified suitor of the bunch.

Is this landlord "unscrupulous?"



FlatLen said...

I don't think we are in disagreement.

I can think of one particular landlord who was not breaking even at all; He wasn't some type of one to do illegal things. If anything, he was "too nice" because he had a sense of solidarity as a black man with black tenants.

Add to it, these were tenants who didn't have high paying jobs, ie., they were home health aides or other domestic workers, and so they claimed they were always behind on the rent, and it cost money to get a lawyer to evict them. Money he couldn't afford as a retiree on a fixed income. They were then quick to claim violations on the property as a reason not to pay.

Yet, the commercial real property taxes on the property were increasing every year, the costs of maintenance were increasing, and so forth. So he was glad to sell the rent stabilized property, to the chagrin of the tenants, who now have a much tougher landlord to deal with.

He on the other hand is glad to have other properties that are not rent stabilized, so as expenses go up and as demand goes up, he can charge what he wants, to whomever can afford it.

FlatLen said...

At Duster: unscrupulous? Not at all!

disco princess said...

FlatLen, it sounds like that one particular nice landlord (the one with a fixed income) couldn't really afford to be a landlord at all, especially if he wasn't breaking even. :(

FlatLen said...

Yes, he couldn't afford to be a landlord at all with respect to a rent stabilized property that was affordable primarily to low income tenants who never had to leave, and he was wise to get out of it.

no_slappz said...

disco princess asks: By the way, why does the ethnic background of the landlord matter? Why mention it?

Why? Bob Marvin said he moved out of the South Slope neighborhood to escape the racists (anti-black) and anti-Semites who were there when he was. Since then, things have changed. Jump ahead a couple three decades and the landlord is a black, non-US born seeker of prosperity who is exercising his right to either increase his cash flow or help a relative, and it's possible the two goals coincide.

The irony comes in when today's Park and South Slope are compared with PLG. In the context of political organizing in PLG, the anti-white racism is boundless. However, it's nothing but sound and fury, and nothing will come of it, something the disorganized ranters of MTOPP and PPEN fail to grasp.

disco princess said...

One can't afford to be a landlord if one cannot afford to take non-paying tenants to court, whether the rental units or stabilized or market rate.

no_slappz said...

Yikes, that deathless anti-Semitism seems unstoppable, even in the "new" Bushwick.

http://www.bkmag.com/2014/10/02/bushwick-coffee-shop-posts-anti-semitic-rant-calls-jewish-neighbors-greedy-infiltrators/

Bob Marvin said...

no_slappz,

Escaping the racism and anti-semitism of my South Slope neighbors wasn't my MAIN reason for moving here; there were plenty of positive reasons to buy a house in PLG, not the least of which was that it was very much safer here than in my former neighborhood. Still, getting away from bigoted rants was a nice bonus.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I just went to a meeting at Metrotech and I come back and y'all have gone nuts! Good for you...I like the back and forth.

Duster, the question of what an owner of a small building (less than six units) does is beyond the scope of this conversation. Since they're not regulated, various scenarios could fill a warehouse. To a certain degree, these folks can do whatever the hell they want, and probably do. Because unless you send a spy, you're never gonna know.

When a vacancy occurs in such a building, I pretty much ASSUME the landlord will look for the highest rent possible. Am I wrong to assume this? If that landlord chooses a white over a black tenant, and both are qualified, and the reason is race, I would consider that unscrupulous. But there would be a million ways to mask it, right?

How's that? Clear enough for you?

disco princess said...

re: "Jump ahead a couple three decades and the landlord is a black, non-US born seeker of prosperity who is exercising his right to either increase his cash flow or help a relative, and it's possible the two goals coincide."

How do the two goals (1. increasing cash flow and 2. helping a relative) relate to this landlord's racial/ethnic background?

duster said...

I don't recall asking you to clarify anything at all so I'm a bit puzzled by your pedantic tone.

Anyway, I have you down as a "no," the hypothetical landlord described is not unscrupulous.





Clarkson FlatBed said...

Pedantic? Sorry. I intended to be condescending. I apology for the unintended pedantry.

This is not a polling site. I answered your question the way I did to suggest that I don't know whether that landlord is scrupulous or not because there is almost no information to go on, and certainly no suggestion that a law was broken. Not being regulated, there are probably as many scenarios as one can imagine. Some involve noise and dogs. Some involve changes in financial situations. Some involve pure unadulterated malice passive aggressiveness. Some may even involve the placing of poop into a mailbox - a true story worthy of a retelling over cherry lime rickeys.

Put another way, your question was not useful to the conversation, and YOUR tone throughout has been obnoxious. It started with "grubby white conquistadors" and has devolved from there.

duster said...

Q - One shouldn't celebrate a taste for condescension.

There was more than enough context to determine if the hypothetical landlord was engaged in something odious.

I presented a common, straightforward scenario that landlords - both white and black - confront each day around here.

But I suppose there just wasn't the type of information you regrettably seem to crave - information that allows you to expose hidden perfidies for the rest of us.

So you generously provided your own peculiar narrative and introduced animal feces into the "conversation."

Clarkson FlatBed said...

It wasn't animal poop.

Daniel Kristjansson said...

FlatBed,

There is no need for scare quotes around how white folk chose to leave this neighborhood. Generations of my father in-law's white (Jewish) family lived here and they moved out over the course of many years for what they perceived as greener pastures. My father in-law's parents found a large affordable place in the Bronx, an aunt married a man in Queens, one uncle still works nearby but he married a Jamaican girl and moved to Westchester where she had found a good job... I could go on, but the point is they left for all the normal reasons people leave a place. Why the people moving in were largely black is a story that involves both de-jure and de-facto racism affecting opportunities for where black people could rent and buy, but I think Bob Marvin is right to describe PLG as having been a happily mixed race neighborhood for a long time.

Normal rational choices can also be an aid gentrification. I wasn't pushed out of my rent-stabilized apartment in the East Village. I met a lovely girl and moved in with her. I'm sure someone better off moved in to the apartment I left behind.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Loving those anecdotes, Daniel. Really nice heartwarming history.

The census shows a massive dip in whites by the '60s and '70s, then it levels off, then it starts to creep up and then...bang. The '50s to the nows in the NYC metro area involves a detailed ethnic and racial movement. But I want to point out that the "happily mixed race" part was largely in the single family neighborhood of the Manor. The single family covenant was a huge factor. Down my way, there were virtually no white folks even a decade ago. Along Ocean too. But that's not really my point anyway...

The point was about choice. The choice to move, the choice to stay, the choice to save for a downpayment then find someone to lend you the money to buy a place. It's good to have choices; bad to be denied them. That's all. Race plays a huge factor in all of it.

If y'all hadn't noticed, I'm building the case that gentrification is as much about race as economics, and that economics themselves are fueled by race. RacISM. The ways that it plays out in front of our eyes is extraordinary. The level of denial by whites borders on unreal.

I'm not alone in that analysis, nor am I trying to take some sort of scientific study to it. Far from it. I'm just trying to understand the world a little better.

And as I dig deeper, I find plenty of reason to believe that we have neatly set aside the notions of equal opportunity that seemed so important during the civil rights struggles. It's like they disappeared from the discourse, morphing into a harsh critique of blacks that in many ways looks worse than before the 60's. The stereotypes, the blaming, the lack of trust and faith, the prison state, the welfare state, the lack of real opportunities for advancement and the very real impediments to free movement and upward mobility.

None of you have to agree. I'm trying to keep my sense of humor, and though I've met some of you and like you a lot, some of you I think we'd be fine over a coffee. It's just chatter. And yet, I learn a lot from every comment. It informs my curiosity and sometimes, confirms my suspicions.

Trust me, Dusters, Parkside Guys, No Slappzes, NYC Parents etc...I get way more hate mail than you do. So don't take it too hard.

Alex said...

Tim, I think that you are right, and people underestimate the level of distrust of public authority among communities of color, and therefore have a hard time relating to the fear of displacement and other effects of institutional racism.

While it's a tale from days of yore (sort of) and not real estate related, Tuskegee is a devastating example of how black men were subjected to "experimentation," intentionally given syphilis so that researchers could observe the effects. Though that was a generation or two ago, the distrust lingers. In the last 30 years, NYC has engaged in an experiment in which our (ours, we need to own it) method for coping with financial disaster in the 70s was to gradually turn the city into as big of a tourist attraction as possible. Did the city have better options? Not sure. But regardless, the "cleaning up" that took place resulted in quite a lot of displacement. Then, suddenly, empty nested baby boomers decided that cities were THE place to live, including NYC, taking advantage of newly safe neighborhoods.

Where racism comes in is in a "who cares?" attitude about the effects of citywide displacement and rapid cost increases on poor and moderate income folks, disproportionately affecting communities of color.

What's kinda gross is that what I detect from *some* comments is that people are frustrated that there have not been enough changes in Lefferts - they wish to see the wholesale change that took place in the East Village, Hell's Kitchen, etc, hence the quick-to-dismiss-racism attitude. They feel entitled. In other east coast cities, municipalities totally got rid of their rent regulation laws, and 15-20 years later cities are unrecognizable. The South End in Boston is practically a retirement community at this point - go there and have a drink at a "lounge" if you don't believe me.

NYC's rent laws are design to protect and prevent wholesale change, as they should. Doesn't always work, though, as even the most entitled commenters acknowledge (even enjoy!). Some of the more aggressive commenters have probably seen cities like Boston, Philly, Chicago, and NYC neighborhoods transform so dramatically that they feel entitled to see the same thing happen throughout Brooklyn. That's gross. People need to get a grip, think beyond their own doorstep, and quickly get hip to the idea that these are not just natural fluctuations in population. There are policy and economic forces at work, which, unfortunately, perpetuate racism via the "who cares about THEM?" attitude. We're guilty of it.

I'm hoping that my verbose comment helps make the sort of racism that I *think* you're getting at become clearer. I am not sticking up for MTOPP at all because I don't believe that AB is actually motivated by injustice. PPEN has the right idea - mitigate as best we can.

Alex said...

Oh wait, I forgot my main point! The nitpicking over what whites are doing and what blacks are doing this week, last week, next month, etc, is moot. I'm not sticking up for anyone. I'm acknowledging that the forces and patterns at play are beyond what we can observe day to day.

Daniel Kristjansson said...

FlatBed,

I just feel the "White Flight" story as told by others attributes a lot more racism to the victims of the suburbanization experiment than was actually present. Look I know there were racists. My grandfather would have had fit if he had lived to see my brother marry and have black children. But the forces at work were then much larger than racism on the individual level.

I had a gay black professor in college who was in a major funk one morning and he told me about how he had been pulled over on the highway that weekend and basically treated like shit. But what really bothered him was that he would never be sure whether the cop was just an asshole or a racist or a homophobic bigot. If he had a label for what happened to him he could have incremented the proper mental counter and moved on. Unlike misogyny where you still hear things like "boys will be boys" or "boobs on the ground", there is thankfully much less explicit racism these days than a generation ago. This makes it harder to see and to fight. Think of how difficult it is for people to separate weather and global warming. All we see is the weather and the only weather we know well is the weather where we live.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

You're right of course that it was more complex. The history is pretty clear on the subject though. For instance, Robert Moses himself was a well known racist. From his biographer Robert Caro:

That Moses was highhanded, racist and contemptuous of the poor draws no argument even from the most ardent revisionists.

The Moses suburbanization plan was patently racist in philosophy and action. And while individuals may have had mixed emotions on race, the lines in NYC were firmly drawn along race, ethnicity and religion. At the bottom of the totem pole were the African-Americans. Once the borders became porous, it was all that much more reason to split.

I would argue that your grandfather's clear racism (and my grandpa's) informed the "much larger forces" that you mention. My wife's father spoke of his grandfather as one of the "nice slaveowners" in North Carolina. That was certainly the oral history that was passed down, and speaks volumes about our fear of engaging the whole topic.

The fact that we aren't explicit in our language of racism these days does nothing, in my view, to hide the underlying discomfort most folks have with mixing. Cultural difference is one thing; denying the systematic racism pervasive to everything we do - that's how we've gotten away with it for so long as a culture.

THAT's why the cultural diversity of places like Flatbush is SO important. It can act as a model for the rest of the country. That there are so many mixed race families here is further proof that this is considered a safe, nurturing and instructive environment in which to raise the children who will one day be the "grown-ups." I don't have a lot of faith in our current crop of grown-ups however. Selfish, money-driven and tribal (generally), we're not the beacon to the world we may think we are. For every immigrant who "makes it here," and we glorify those stories, plenty live here in misery and poverty. Though the export of dollars to homelands is an indication of just how much worse it can be elsewhere.

There's a reason why "The New Jim Crow" resonates with so many black folks.

Bob Marvin said...

"the "happily mixed race" part was largely in the single family neighborhood of the Manor. The single family covenant was a huge factor" Quite true Tim, albeit a bit wider than just Lefferts Manor extending a couple of blocks north and south of LM and skipping down to Parkside I. Not so much east of Rogers either. I have to admit that, living as I do on Midwood II, my views are somewhat Lefferts Manor-centric.

babs said...

Well, if you want to really go back, the first big racial makeover of Flatbush was when the Dutch arrived (my ancestor Cornelius Janse Vanderveer among them) around 1639 and took over from the Lenape Canarsee people living there...

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Wow. Then you really ARE gentry.

FlatLen said...

With respect to gentrification, I tend to think that these matters relate to race implicating class, and class having implications for race.

Race and class correlate in NYC in that larger proportions of blacks are likely to be poor, not that there aren't any lower income whites.

Class having implications for race means that blacks who are a bit higher on the economic scale and who might experience racism themselves, might take positions that reinforce their class position, which puts them in direct opposition to those of their compatriots who are poorer.

Thus lies the complexities....

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Or as I like to say, no upper-middle white parent is gonna have a problem going to school with a classroom full of Malias and Sashas.

babs said...

Heck, yes, I an an OG (original gentrifier)!

disco princess said...

@babs - #jealous :)

babs said...

Don't be jealous @Disco - the branch I'm descended from anticipated the "Get Out of Brooklyn" movement by several hundred years, and was already in NJ by 1800, moving on from there to Kentucky. If only my ancestor had stayed and married one of those nice Vanderbilt girls who lived on Ocean (and they did; you can look it up)!

babs said...

But it sure does feel funny passing the church on Church Ave & knowing I've got relatives in the graveyard there. And now that they've renamed the Vanderveeer Estates Flatbush Gardens there's not much of us left.