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, May 13, 2015

Just To Try To Hold On To Your Lunch After Reading This

From NY Magazine comes some craaaaazy sick strategy talk from a man who makes his money encouraging the rapid change of neighborhoods. Just like in the stock market, you look for an "edge." The edge, when it comes to buying and selling properties in black neighborhoods, is knowing how to play the many angles of racism, perception and ignorance. It's a shame that the quoted dude is Jewish, since it's not strictly a game for the religious sects. Far from it. But there it is. Perhaps he became a bit comfortable riding around in his own car, showing off a bit to writer DW Gibson. Catch Gibson's series of articles, and perhaps we can stop pretending that gentrification is some sort of natural market process - one buyer, one seller, all good.

Here's some of the hardest bits to stomach:

We’re small, so we look into places that haven’t caught on — we just did a place on Nostrand Avenue. People are not even there yet. We put in $600,000 and everyone was laughing at us. “It’s crazy, you’re over there. A building for yuppies, white people? It’s not going to work.” The building was full of tenants — $1,300, $1,400 tenants. We paid every tenant the average of twelve, thirteen thousand dollars to leave. I actually went to meet them — lawyers are not going to help you. And we got them out of the building and now we have tenants paying $2,700, $2,800, and they’re all white. So this is what we do.

My saying is — again, I’m not racist — every black person has a price. The average price for a black person here in Bed-Stuy is $30,000 dollars. Up over there in East New York, it’s $10,000 dollars. Everyone wants them to leave, not because we don’t like them, it’s just they’re messing up — they bring everything down. Not all of them.

Most of them don’t believe you at first. "Oh, you Jewish people you’re a bunch of thieves, you’re never going to give me my money." But once you start actually having a base of people who know you, who you actually gave the money, it’s better. Sometimes it’s really tricky because you’ll have one person willing to leave for $2,000 and another wants $20,000. And the second this guy finds out that guy is getting 20 he says, “Hell no, I’m not leaving. I want 20, too.”

They don’t know — here he lowers his voice — that even if they get the money and they left, they could always come back. They don’t know that part. And it’s so scary sometimes because they could come up in the middle of construction and say, “It’s my property, I didn’t understand what I was signing, and I want to come back.” Some blacks have an attorney and everything. So I try to make them happy, even if they’re going to go for $7,000 or $8,000, I’d rather give them an extra grand so they’re happy and they’re not going to think about it too much. Again, I don’t want to be a racist, but when I have a building—I can’t even say it because it’s not going to sound right.

He lowers his voice again:
If there’s a black tenant in the house—in every building we have, I put in white tenants. They want to know if black people are going to be living there. So sometimes we have ten apartments and everything is white, and then all of the sudden one tenant comes in with one black roommate, and they don’t like it. They see black people and get all riled up, they call me: “We’re not paying that much money to have black people live in the building.” If it’s white tenants only, it’s clean. I know it’s a little bit racist but it’s not. They’re the ones that are paying and I have to give them what they want. Or I’m not going to get the tenants and the money is not going to be what it is.

The scary part about doing this is, if the black guys start to realize how much the property will sell for. This is a new thing now, the past year. A million, two million dollars—it’s crazy, crazy numbers. None of them realize yet—some of them do—the amount of money you can get. The scary part is they’re going to realize they can get the same exact house in East New York for $400,000, $500,000 and they can get paid $1.5 million for their home in Bed-Stuy, they’re going to start dumping houses on the market and the market’s going to be flooded and it’s going to cool down. It’s already cooling down.


Curious27 said...

Call me crazy, but part of the reason why I like my building is BECAUSE it's mostly black/latin@ folks. There is nothing that irks me more than living with a bunch of yuppies who treat the place like it's a dormitory and not a thriving center of community. Nobody says hello, or holds a door, or even flashes a smile. They just come and go and try not to make eye contact. I'd rather spend my evenings listening to the sounds of First Choice or classic reggae being played outside and the occasional waft of saltfish or jerk chicken over the near silence of more gentrified neighborhoods any day.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

One question though. Who are these white people who don't want black people living in their building? I haven't met any, but what do I know. I'm not calling into question the writer's integrity. I suspect he recorded the conversation and that's what the guy said, and one would hope that NY Mag gave the tape a listen. I just don't know many gentrifiers who would have the nerve to say it. Not that they wouldn't think it. And trust me, they wouldn't be talking about the Obamas here.

Maybe it's all done in code. Like "we really don't like those tenants who are too loud in 4B."

My mind is swirling. It's too much for my little liberal brain to handle.

MikeF said...

Brooklynian poster whatchuwant asked a similar question and we replied here:

Rebecca said...

It's hard to tell from the NYMag piece, but this is one excerpt from a book that's coming out soon - an oral history of gentrification. So, various people telling their perspectives.

I haven't seen the whole book yet but it's safe to assume the book will portray gentrification from all angles.

The excerpt they chose to use here is unfortunate, but is probably not representative of the whole book.

Also, here is more info about the book and an upcoming event w the author:

Curious27 said...

I agree, it's mostly in code. They don't like "loud" people, or they complain to 311 and police about minor issues that could be better handled just talking to the person causing the problems. No doubt, sometimes there is reason to call police, but hell I've witnessed an all out brawl in the front of my building and called cops, only for them to show up about 15 minutes after the fight had ended, and I live only a block and a half from the 71st!

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Rebecca: Since it's from a book, a book of oral transcriptions, is it, in your estimation, that is to say, factual?

Were I he, I would imagine the temptation to fabricate in order to become a fancy pants writer and pundit might be quite intense. Hope he's up to the task, morally and spiritually. Because trust me, he's gonna sell a lot of books using Jews vs Blacks as a narrative.

MikeF said...

I suspect "they" call the police in large part because they are not as comfortable resolving an issue with a person of a diffent race then their own.

Curious27 said...

@MikeF it's more than likely. I had one woman show up at my door asking about a box that was misdelivered (and subsequently stolen apparently), and my room mate began automatically assuming she was accusing us of taking it, as UPS said they left it with someone at our apartment. She was about to slam the door in this poor woman's face when I stepped in and started having a conversation with her about how bad UPS is, etc, since she is the same neighbor who SO GRACIOUSLY took my room mate's FarmBox (monthly produce delivery) in her own apartment one morning months ago and later brought it over to me when I came home from running errands... The animosity from my room mate toward this woman who was clearly confused and frustrated was just shocking, especially for someone who is so "tolerant".

Rebecca said...

It's hard to tell. I looked thru the book today and there is no mention of whether these were recorded, done from memory, or what. There is no introduction or preface framing the project and there is no index or bibliography of sources. There is no author statement. It just dives in.

I was initially intrigued by the book but the amount of skepticism I have for the NY Mag excerpt's authenticity has made me want to read the book less, as it puts the whole book in question.

Do you want a copy? I've got one to spare now...

Rebecca said...

Today's NYT review:

Anonymous said...

I black. I pay almost 3k each month for my apartment and I don't care f the lould neighbors either. Especially when I realize they are paying a fraction of my rent just because they got here first.