In 2017, New York City’s largest borough, Brooklyn, lost about 2,000 lower-income residents. At the same time, however, the borough has been attracting a growing number of small businesses as well as about 144,071 higher-income residents.

Of every county in New York State, Brooklyn’s nearly six percent jump in population in the span of a one year period puts it second only to the Bronx.

However, according to the latest census reports, Brooklyn stands at 2,648,771 residents, which was 2,088 fewer than in 2016. People are leaving Brooklyn. 2017 was the first year since 2010 that infants and immigrants failed to outnumber departures.

This exodus is primarily occurring due to the fact that gentrification in Brooklyn is skyrocketing.

Gentrification is typically defined as the process by which higher income residents move to areas that have historically been occupied by minorities and the economically disadvantaged, displacing them both physically and economically. Run-down apartment buildings and family-owned stores are often transformed into charming trendy lofts that cost a fortune or funky coffee shops. Houses are restored, and overpriced organic grocery stores take over neighborhoods.

In the past, this process was actually promoted by governmental institutions; it was advertised as a way to improve living condition in the “ghettos,” as a way to fix infrastructure, and a way to improve the quality of life for “all” residents.

However, the historical reality of the situation is that the first waves of so-called “open-minded,” “diversity-loving” creative type-gentrifiers often give way to lawyers, bankers, and techies. As both rent and the cost of food increase, lower-income residents are forced out of these newly-gentrified areas. The residents who created the community have their homes appropriated by the rich and white.

The graffiti that covers building walls in these aforementioned communities, which was often created as a political statement by activists who risked being arrested for their art, are now utilized as artsy backgrounds to spruce up one’s instagram feed. The walls that have history, pain, and suffering illustrated on them, pain, now “belong” to a community that does not fully understand it. In a way, this is art that is displaced just like the artists that once lived there.

Displaced residents are forced to move to other impoverished communities. This is not progress, but instead a technique designed to continue to segregate communities by race, ethnicity and economic status. Gentrification compromises the lives of already disadvantaged residents, instead of helping marginalized communities to improve their quality of life.

Some people attempt to find an upside to gentrification and argue that an increased flow of income into a given community creates more jobs as small businesses begin to open.

However, there’s another element to these businesses that must be considered. Employers tend to hire people who fit the “image” that they are looking for; usually wealthier white individuals.

Gentrification just continues the ongoing cycle of inequality in a capitalist system.

In addition, people move in order to live a life that is accommodating to their standards, people move in order to feel that comfort they once felt at their own community, people move because they feel forced to do so. It’s a domino effect: when one person moves out, the rest follow.

Brooklyn is just one of the many places in the United States that are experiencing this dramatic change within their communities. Among these similarly gentrified communities are cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; cities that once boasted diversity.

If people truly want to improve the quality of life in underprivileged communities, the answer is not to open over-priced stores or cafes. Instead, people must embrace the communities which are already present and accommodate them so that they truly gain equal opportunities to live healthy lives.

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons