archive of CCM list post chicagocriticalmass : Message: Re: [*CCM*] ON TOPIC gentrification stuff
> To address gentrification without considering also the process of
> slumification is to look at only half the story.
And to whine and whine and whine about gentrification without realizing
that Chicago is actually *net* “slumifying.” Over the 1990s, Chicago –
relative to the suburbs – got poorer and more heavily non-White.
Sometimes I wonder whether the people who whine about gentrification ever
leave the North Side. “No room left in the city?” Ever seen West
Garfield Park? Lake Calumet? Englewood?
Without the gentrification that took place over the past 40 years, Chicago
would be another Detroit, St. Louis, Buffalo, or Cleveland – a bombed out
shell of a city, home only to the destitute, perpetually begging spare
change from economically dynamic suburbs. We wouldn’t even be having a
conversation about sustainable transportation, because we would be
completely resigned to the reality of transportation in suburban
America: driving. We wouldn’t bother bicycling, since the roads would be
impossibly potholed, no corner would be safe from stray gunfire, the
entire city would be nothing but vast stretches of vacant lots and
abandoned buildings slowly dripping masonry onto the streets
below. There’d be nowhere to bike, much less anywhere to bike to.
We can talk and talk and talk until we’re all blue in the face about how
gentrification is A Bad Thing in the abstract, but ANY considered
examination of the actual policy ramifications behind urban policy would
conclude that gentrification, while ugly, is the only way for cities to
keep their fiscal heads above water in a society and under federal and
state governments which have been virulently anti-urban in their
Sure, I wish things were different. I wish, first of all, that good urban
neighborhoods weren’t a scarce resource available only to the highest
bidders. I wish that stratification, in all its forms (race, class,
whatever), weren’t nearly so prominent in our society. I wish that
carbon and energy were more realistically priced, to prevent their
profligate waste in transportation and building systems. I wish that
people were more willing to walk and bike around.
I don’t wish that gentrification would go away, I only wish it were
tamed. “Gentrification” is a nasty term for an immensely complex issue
that’s (as I said before) merely a microcosm of the overriding issue of
American political economy: how to give community needs a voice in the
cold logic of the market. As Joy Aruguete said in the article link Kerry
posted, “When the gentrification issue is framed for political purposes
and people don’t look at the complexity of it, that hurts everyone.” (The
author of the article, of course, chose to ignore that complexity, but I