Though I’m a native of the South Bronx, I have never felt as though I fit into the Bronx, leading to a love-hate relationship. There are days where I love the Bronx; the culture, style, history, and easy commute into the city and then, as quick a light switch; I hate the Bronx. It’s dirty streets, regular trash on the sidewalks, strange smells which come out of nowhere but the Bronx is changing. New buildings, restaurants, art galleries are opening. According to the latest NYU Furman Center report, a center which researches city’s housing and urban policy listed Mott Haven, the neighborhood I live in among the city’s top gentrifying neighborhoods. With rents going up 28% since the 1990’s. The Bronx is finally transforming, but I know that the changes aren’t meant for me.
I grew up living in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, the world’s most famous sports arena. My mom is a teacher, and my dad is a photojournalist, both of whom are old school community activists, who started a nonprofit: Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary, which focus on educating city’s youth on environmental sustainability. I was never a child of the Bronx, with the high crime rates, unemployment, and low education attainment but that doesn’t mean I didn’t know it. I was classmates and friends with kids who were, that if my life circumstances were different, I could have been them. But the kids, who were like “me,” we all knew each other. We didn’t fit into the stereotypes on both ends, always trapped.
After I completed my undergraduate degree, I moved from my parents’ neighborhood to Mott Haven neighborhoods or “Piano District.” The name has never bothered me; any causal Historian would tell you New York City’s neighborhood have always been rebranded. The Upper West Side was once Bloomingdale, Wingate in Central Brooklyn used to be Pingate and Yellowhook is now Bayridge. Everything changes cause everything for sale. I think about this every morning as I walk on my street, littered with newly refurbish historic brownstones and construction of nearby condominiums. Condominiums, which down payments are several times the net income of residents in the government housing nearby.
As reported by 2012, census record, about 27 percent of the population in the Bronx live below the poverty line versus 20 percent in Brooklyn. When gentrification hits here, most of us won’t be able to afford it, and those of us who survive the first wave of gentrification will eventually be pushed out by the second and third waves. That’s the pattern of it, some survive, but mostly everyone is priced out. That’s what happened to my friends who lived in Harlem, Kipps Bay, Washington Heights, Inwood, Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg, and Bushwick. It’s like being a dinosaur seeing the asteroid racing across the sky.
Now, all of us children from the Bronx both the “good” and “bad” kids see it coming and understand it. You become suspicious of the smallest changes to, “our block,” a street being fixed, a new coffee shop, new restaurants, etc. There’s becomes no more separation amongst us, but then there’s a sense of pride that finally our moment has arrived to be acknowledged and treated like human beings. We just question if it really for us. Love and hate indeed.