On numerous occasions in my own research I’ve came across the same article, “How Brooklyn Got It’s Groove Back” by Kay S. Hymowitz , in every experience I glossed over the article recounting it as a good take historically on Brooklyn’s transition from a borough dominated by a working class centered around its many industrial factories to a rapidly gentrifying residence..but nothing I hadn’t heard before. A professor emailed me the article one day and after giving it a real read through I finally arrived at its end only to find myself irritated I found it again-- in less than two paragraphs at the article’s end is nod to the part of Brooklyn that doesn’t groove:
“At the bottom, matters are very different. Almost a quarter of Brooklyn’s 2.5 million residents live below the poverty line—in the housing projects of East New York, in the tenements of Brownsville, or in “transitional” parts of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, all places where single-mother poverty has become an intergenerational way of life....”
While I have issues with the way Hymowitz paints Brooklyn to be a hipster hothouse thriving with “culinary hippies” and tech savvy “twenty-somethings” what really makes me itch is the narrow view the article illuminates only explores the glitz of gentrification by ignoring any discussion of its consequences...why highlight the 2.5 million residents that live below the poverty line if you’re not going to talk about how they got there or why they stay there?
There is a tendency amongst government, media and even amongst members of communities to address complex issues of gentrification, poverty, education, affordable housing and access to adequate social services in a deductive manner that ignores the fact these problems are interconnected and often symptoms of one another.
“Pedro Noguera executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education said at a New School talk for the series Catalyzing School Change: Contexts and Possibilities, “you cannot address the issues in schools in impoverished communities without addressing the issues of poverty themselves.”
Noguera’s approach to looking at the learning gap between wealthy schools that do well and schools that fail in neighborhoods with large populations of low income residents takes into account that poverty affects access to adequate health care, engagement and support on behalf of parents working long hours and access to social services such as counseling .
Looking at the issue holistically addressing the learning gap means a commitment on behalf of the community to demand a better performance when their schools aren’t doing well, an effort on behalf of parents to support their children, an effort on behalf of schools and faculty to articulate the needs of its’ community and an effort on behalf of the Board of Education to provide schools with resources that address their specific needs and encourage collaboration with schools that are succeeding in similar situations.
In a similar respect one of the fatal flaws in the system of affordable housing for a resident who participates in Section 8 is that the majority of information for Section 8 (the application, the waiting list, and eligible apartments) is electronically accessible , meaning accessed via the internet or a phone system with recorded options and little opportunity to speak to with live representatives; this is an issues of access that complicates the process because tenants who don’t understand the system do not find help easily available.
Section 8, as noted by Joseph Strasburg the President of the Rent Stabilization Association, is a system that often sends late payments putting tenants at risk of eviction and landlords in unreasonable situations. Another issue is that 80% of landlord violations are handled through a letter of recognition and thus easy to blow off by meaning that tenants often continue to be exposed to situations where buildings are not maintained and their needs are unmet for suspended periods of time.
The complexity of the affordable housing system for landlords and tenants alike often makes fully understanding their rights and responsibilities in the system difficult, and because the answers aren’t always clear or help to navigate the system isn’t the most accessible many like Harold Shultz, Senior Fellow of the Citizens Housing & Planning Council believe that the best mechanism for getting fair service is to organize. When landlords and tenants are part of organized groups they locates themselves in a network where they can receive information, guidance and outside support to approaching their concerns.
There isn’t of course any simple solution for all these problems but by continuing to approach them in deductive manners not only do we risk mis-representing the individuals involved we often miss the heart of the issues themselves.