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Thread: Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain fights to keep community's flavor

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain fights to keep community's flavor

    From: http://www.boston.com/news/local/art...unitys_flavor/

    "As the archdiocese considers offers on the 3-acre property, perched at a prime spot on Centre Street between Hyde and Jackson squares, many residents fear it will be sold to the highest bidder, possibly a private developer who would turn the church into luxury condos, or worse, a high-end shopping center with a Starbucks.

    And that, they fear, would accelerate the wave of gentrification that has crept down Centre Street, stamping out the area's unique flavor and pricing out the very people who rebuilt the neighborhood."
    The reason the "wave of gentrification" has occured is because people like them moved in. You cannot live in your own little Epcot Center, preserving the cute ethnic flavor while eliminating the poor, crime and grime. Jamaica Plain is the epitome of gentrification and would make a worthwhile candidate for any study on the subject. Today it resembles a mini-Vermont, full of washed up old hippies, little arts and crafts stores, organic bistros, and a large assortment of galleries and "art spaces."

    ''Now outsiders are coming in. They know nothing about our community. They are here just looking to make money. It's wrong."
    It's called the "free market." You were not opposed to it's method of operation when you paid <$100,000 for your home 10 years ago.

    Neighborhood activists have also targeted one luxury condo developer, who has expressed interest in the site. In a letter posted on the Internet with the man's name, address, and phone number, Neighbors Against Gentrification asked residents to let him know that they will do everything within their ''power to make the zoning process extremely difficult for him."
    Again, see "free market." Would these residents have enjoyed this type of assualt on their plans when they sought to buy a few years back? The purchase of homes in this area by upper-income white professionals is what drives gentrification, not the developers' responses to market forces. They created the market, and now seek to keep all others out.

  2. #2

    I'm not sure, but I wonder

    Things getting better means that something is changing. It may be naive to think that crime can fall, property values can rise, services can be increased, etc... While the population and rents stay the same. I think if you have rent stabilization or a high rate of homeownership, the current residents (read low income) can benefit. If that those things aren't in place, welcome to the free market.

    What's the word for the opposite of gentrification? Is there a word for a community with declining values, losing services and gaining poor people? Any suggestions for a word?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Eyes on the Street
    What's the word for the opposite of gentrification? Is there a word for a community with declining values, losing services and gaining poor people? Any suggestions for a word?
    "Rentrification?"

  4. #4
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I used to live in J.P. actually. Rented a place on Washington St. a couple blocks from the Green St. T station with some buddies while in college. I remember I used to order takeout from Ruggerio's all the time - best burgers in the world. Anyway, we were just a bunch of drunken, white-boy college students but I think our presence in a latino neighborhood pissed off our neighbors. Gentrification in Boston is mainly about college students like we were, at least from my perspective. We worked for our rent, but there are so many students in Boston who get fat rent payments from mommy and daddy. This must certainly contribute to the exorbitant rents and fear of gentrification.

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    Quote Originally posted by Eyes on the Street
    What's the word for the opposite of gentrification? Is there a word for a community with declining values, losing services and gaining poor people? Any suggestions for a word?
    No need for a word for what is the norm...

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    The Opposite View

    A PUSH FOR CONDOS IN JAMAICA PLAIN
    Author(s): Megan Tench Globe Staff Date: April 22, 2005 Page: B5 Section: Metro/Region
    They call themselves the silent opposition.

    Some homeowners and lifelong Jamaica Plain residents yesterday said they, too, have launched a campaign about the future of the Blessed Sacrament Church. They are urging the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston to ignore the pleas of activists and renters calling for more affordable housing. Instead, they want the neighborhood landmark sold to developers seeking to build market-rate condos. "The way I see it, all over Boston the church closings have led to condos, but in JP they [community activists] want to turn it into housing projects, and that's upsetting to us," said homeowner Olivia Guerra. "We have enough affordable housing in JP."

    Officials with the archdiocese said yesterday that it is still deciding what to do with the 115-year-old church, which was closed last year to help ease financial woes caused by the clergy sex abuse scandal. The 3-acre property on Centre Street between Hyde and Jackson squares has become the object of a neighborhood battle.

    Fearing gentrification and higher rent and housing costs, hundreds of residents and activists support putting more affordable housing units on the site. Community groups, including the Hyde Square Task Force and Jamaica Plain Neighbors Against Gentrification, conducted meetings, collected 1,100 signatures on a petition, and launched a telephone campaign against one developer seeking to build condos.

    Guerra said she and other homeowners signed another petition favoring market-rate housing, but said those who disagree have eclipsed their viewpoint.

    "It's unfortunate that we are sort of a silent opposition, but they [the community activists] use a lot of bullying tactics. They scare me," she said. "And if you disagree with them, they say, `Oh, it's racism.' "

    Laz Lopez, 40, said he and his sisters were born and raised in Jamaica Plain and that they attended Blessed Sacrament as children. While he now lives in Providence, he and his family still own property in their old neighborhood and his mother, a Cuban immigrant, still lives there.

    "I'm not saying affordable housing is a bad thing, but, look, we can't cure world hunger in Jamaica Plain. We got enough affordable housing," he said, noting the sprawling Bromley Heath housing development near the church and similar units on Washington Street.

    "There's a lot of homeowners there that are Latino," he said. "We aren't all poverty-stricken. JP is a very mixed area, culturally, and it will always be. So let's put some market-rate property there."

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    The word would be "decline."

    While I think most of the opposition to Gentrification is silly and misdirected, I do have to say that as a pretty poor white person, I find it aggravating to be on the "vanguard" of the gentrification that I don't ask for. I mean, you move into a neighborhood because you can afford it. You have to put up with some **** on occasion. But you're generally happy there. You like the cheap food in the neighborhood eateries, you like your down-to-earth blue-collar neighbors.

    But because you don't represent a threat in the minds of the bourgeoisie the way the blacks or hispanics do, they see you there and think "what a great neighborhood!" and pretty soon you're on the way out because your apartment's getting converted into a condo and sold for $300,000.

    And then, you go to move into some other neighborhood and all the blue collar people there are upset with you for "gentrifying their neighborhood." Look in Pilsen now. It's not rich white people who are moving in by any measure. Many probably don't have much more buying power than the hispanics there. But the hispanics are up in arms about them because they're afraid (rightly) that the poor bohemians rolling in now are going to compel wealthy people to roll in tomorrow and turn it into a new Wicker Park.

    Also it's a tragedy that a 115 year old church got sold.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    Also it's a tragedy that a 115 year old church got sold.
    Eh, we have a million of 'em.

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    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
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    I am quite familiar with JP; my sister lives there. She and her family are the prototypical yuppies that moved in during the mid 90's and have watched the value of their lovely 3 bedroom condo balloon significantly. Of course, she doesn't like to think of herself as one, as she works for an affordable housing non-profit, and my brother in law is a government drone.

    I think that "gentrification" is a loaded word with negative connotations, but that what it describes (rising home prices, higher education and higher income residents, less crime, beautification, better services) is a good thing. There was a recent article in USA Today (posted on Planetizen, I think) about a study done in New York City showing that gentrification's negative affect on "current residents" is wildly exaggerated, and I tend to believe it. Jamaica Plain is a desirable area. Though I do believe that communities should be required to offer some affordable housing, I do not think that low income people have any "right" to perpetually live at below market rate in a highly desirable area any more than they have a "right" to a 4000 square foot McMansion in Dover or a Mercedes-Benz S500.

    Here in Philadelphia, Strawberry Mansion is no more than ten years away from a wave of gentrication, as it gets pinched by East Falls and Brewerytown. Most current residents, rightly, IMO, welcome gentrifiers to come and fix up the palacial rowhomes along Ridge Avenue and 33rd Street facing Fairmount Park. Those who oppose change seem content to wallow in the warm muck of continued decline and stagnation. Change is inevitable. I think it's mostly for the better, as middle class America regains its taste for walkable urbanity, rediscovering the neighborhoods they fled in the 50's and 60's.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Well said, ChevyChase.

    I’ve often thought that outsiders against gentrification are just grandstanding. It’s currently fashionable to deplore gentrification; it gives people a way to establish their humanitarian credentials. Our hearts bleed for the poor, who are of course all victims of society, the Market, and heartless capitalism. And when given an opportunity to pick up a slum house for a song we retain our liberal credentials as we become “urban pioneers.”

    Yuppies? Those are always the other guys.

    Boston's South End was once so decrepit and crime-ridden that the City would let you have a house for a buck ($1.00) if you promised to fix it up within a year and if your bank account revealed that you could carry out your commitment.

    * * *

    Since I’m guilty of gentrification myself, I thought I’d make a confession:

    A fair while ago I bought into a run-down neighborhood of picturesque houses and poor people. I knew it was just a matter of time before others saw past the litter and scuffed lawns to the potential of all those dynamite but shabby houses.

    My neighbors were then --as now-- evenly divided between homeowners and tenants. Both groups were then poor, as was I. We all knew each other, as people tend to in poor neighborhoods --even intimate details of our lives-- and everyone had a refreshing live-and-let-live attitude. The homeowners had families and jobs; several were drunks but met their mortgage payments. About a quarter of the tenants were on welfare or disability, and about half of the rest were involved in some form of crime.

    Over time the neighborhood improved and home values marched inexorably upward, to my gratification and that of my fellow poor homeowners. But a funny thing happened along the way: we homeowners became less poor as we frequently refinanced our houses; one neighbor down the street got into the habit of buying a new Corvette every so often. Now –years later-- every original homeowner has either cashed in handsomely or is still living in his house. The ones who cashed in sold to lawyers (2), gay couples (3), a realtor, an artist, a contractor, an architect and miscellaneous other yuppies. The ones who didn't cash in are now living in a nice, middle class neighborhood and have a nest egg.

    There are still tenants, but they’re a completely different crew; of the original tenants in the eight rental houses, duplexes and triplexes on my block, five were busted for drug dealing (one in a really spectacular operation involving a swat team), two for prostitution, one for receiving stolen property, and one for pumping several bullets into his girlfriend. The four on disability all died peacefully of their ailments, the students are in constant rotation, and the lone family renting moved away because they didn’t need a three-bedroom house after their kids joined the army and police force. So far as I know (and in my neighborhood it’s easy to keep tabs), the number “forced” out by rising rents due to gentrification is exactly: zero.

    The street looks devastatingly beautiful; people cruise it on Sundays to admire the houses and gardens, and my little transformed slum cottage is appraised at just over ten times what I paid for it. As an added bonus, we no longer have to tolerate the twice-annual burglary.

    I look forward to further gentrification, as do all of my neighbors.

    * * *

    I know this post is strictly anecdotal, and more typical of the South than North, but I think it describes a more common scenario of gentrification than those whose hearts are bleeding would care to admit.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    Great post, Ablarc. I do feel that a lot of my grad school classmates ruthlessly bash on gentrification when it might be some hope to run-down areas with poor schools. I can definitely see the positives ovearll, but think that planners should watch to make sure that there are affordable housing options in case an entire neighborhood really rises in property value.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Man With a Plan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Eyes on the Street
    Things getting better means that something is changing. It may be naive to think that crime can fall, property values can rise, services can be increased, etc... While the population and rents stay the same. I think if you have rent stabilization or a high rate of homeownership, the current residents (read low income) can benefit. If that those things aren't in place, welcome to the free market.

    What's the word for the opposite of gentrification? Is there a word for a community with declining values, losing services and gaining poor people? Any suggestions for a word?
    Losing services and gaining poor people are different stages of the urban blight cycle. What are declining values? I always thought values were subjective.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Man With a Plan
    What are declining values? I always thought values were subjective.
    Pretty sure he's referring to declining property values (e.g., my house was worth $40,000 in 2001, but only $27,000 in 2005), not 'moral' which are, as you suggest, subjective.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ChevyChaseDC
    Pretty sure he's referring to declining property values (e.g., my house was worth $40,000 in 2001, but only $27,000 in 2005), not 'moral' which are, as you suggest, subjective.
    Oh, I am so slooow sometimes. I couldn't figure out how anyone would think the hard numbers of property values could be "subjective".

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