The Left Want Poorer, Minority Neighborhoods to Have Nicer Things, but Fret That Them Having Nicer Things Will Attract More White People to Move There

Gentrification can be defined as the process whereby the character of a poor urban area is changed by wealthier people moving in, improving housing, and attracting new businesses, typically displacing current inhabitants in the process. We have reported, many times, on how the left are really opposed to gentrification.

But the left have often complained about “disinvestment,” and how poorer neighborhoods suffer from it. Yeah, it’s not exactly a surprise that people would take their money out of the combat zone or open-air drug market neighborhoods.

How can Philly build green without displacing residents?

Some research suggests that green development causes gentrification. But experts and community advocates say it’s not inevitable.

by Nate File | Thursday, August 10, 2023

When Debbie Robinson steps out of her apartment, she loves looking at the trees. “We got all these beautiful trees. Red trees, all these different yellow trees, all these beautiful trees,” Robinson, 59, said of her apartment complex in Grays Ferry.

[Sigh] Sadly, today’s journalists have forgotten the old reporter’s maxim that the 5Ws + H needed to be at the beginning of the story, to get the most information to the readers quickly, before some of the readers dropped out, or, in newspapers, didn’t turn to the continuation of the story on page A-15, or “below the fold,” so I’m having to make a bug cut here to get to the meat of the article.

Last month in Philadelphia, it felt like 105 degrees in the shade. With cooler days ahead, it may be easy to forget that the effects of climate change go beyond the rising temperature; environmental pollutants are shortening people’s lives in Philadelphia and water is flooding their neighborhoods.

And as tends to be the case with many of the problems affecting the city, low-income communities of color often experience those affects most acutely. North and West Philly are measurably hotter than the rest of the city.

Well, of course there’s always a racial angle; it is, after all, that “anti-racist news organization,” The Philadelphia Inquirer!

But while climate change is a global problem that is mostly driven by large corporations and wealthy individuals, Philadelphia can still build climate-supporting improvements that make the environment more tolerable for its people.

And it’s all the fault of the Evil Rich and Wealthy Corporations, even though those Wealthy Corporations produce the goods that even poor and minority consumers buy. But here we get to the heart of the problem:

These projects can be both large and small, from the construction of sprawling parks like Philly’s proposed Rail Park, to a row of trees along a street, or the creation of new bike lanes.

Building new green infrastructure may seem like an entirely beneficial move for Philadelphians, especially those who live in the hottest and most flood-prone areas. But community advocates and academics alike are warning against a rush to build new parks and plant trees without seriously thinking about one potential consequence: displacement.

“Folks are absolutely thinking about gentrification. I think when community members … hear about any kind of development, they think it’s for someone else,” said Jerome Shabazz, the executive director of the Overbrook Environmental Education Center, and an original member of the city’s Environmental Justice Advisory Commission. “That is an apathy that is not ill placed. It’s the tradition.”

In a 2020 study of the city’s new public green spaces, Temple University’s Hamil Pearsall and Jillian K. Eller found that “public green spaces may anchor gentrification processes. Additionally, new spaces in wealthy neighborhoods were more publicly accessible than parks in gentrifying neighborhoods.”

Simply put, to get the greener, nicer spaces the “hottest and most flood-prone areas” deserve means to increase costs to live in those areas, and that means the poorer residents who currently live in those areas will see housing costs rise to levels that they cannot afford, pushing them out. We’ve seen this before:

In a plan for a safer, vibrant 52nd Street, worried West Philly neighbors see gentrification looming

Angst is roiling minority neighborhoods as they struggle to balance the opportunities and the threats created by gentrification. “West Philly is the new Africa,” one resident warned at a community meeting. “Everyone wants the property that’s in West Philadelphia.”

by Jason Laughlin | February 21, 2020

The topic of the community meeting — a plan to beautify 52nd Street, to make it safe, welcoming, and prosperous once again — was, on its face, nothing but good news for West Philadelphia’s long-declining business corridor.

Yet the audience of about 50 residents and retailers, mostly African American, grew increasingly agitated as urban designer Jonas Maciunas flipped through a PowerPoint presentation of proposed improvements. Many weren’t seeing a vision of a neighborhood revitalized from Market to Pine Streets. Instead, in the talk of redesigned intersections, leafy thoroughfares, and better bus shelters, they heard the ominous whisper of gentrification.

“It just seems that when white people decide to come back to a certain neighborhood, they want it a certain way,” said Carol Morris, 68, a retired elementary school teacher.

Morris’ declaration opened the floodgates of fear and anger that recent night at the Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library. Maciunas and Jesse Blitzstein, director of community and economic development for the nonprofit Enterprise Center, which is spearheading the project, were peppered with skeptical questions ranging from the validity of surveys showing community support for the improvements to the maintenance of trees that would be planted.

Let’s be blunt here: the black residents of West Philly don’t want nicer neighborhoods, because, Heaven forfend!, then more white people might move in! As we have previously noted, the Editorial Board of the Inquirer have told us that racial segregation is very much part of the problem in city residents feeling unsafe, and Philadelphia is one of the United States’ most internally segregated big cities. But, rather than the evil White Supremacists about which the left keep warning us, it’s not white Americans who want to keep neighborhoods racially segregated, but black Americans, or at least the black Americans in West Philly.

While Philadelphia and the Inquirer haven’t been so blatant as to say so directly, the liberal city of Lexington¹ has. As we have previously noted, Lexington said, directly, that it was concerned about gentrification, and, “Most new owners being more affluent and differing from the traditional residents in terms of race or ethnicity.” The city was concerned about white people moving into heavily black neighborhoods.²

Philadelphia is not concerned about black residents moving in and integrating nearly all-white neighborhoods, and that is what the Inquirer’s Editorial Board said ought to happen. But somehow, liberal cities don’t seem to want that to happen in reverse, don’t seem to want white people moving into majority black neighborhoods.  Yet, as the Inquirer noted:

Neighborhoods like Graduate Hospital, Fishtown, and University City — where years of reinvestment have ushered in more wealth and opportunity — are just a few minutes’ drive from shooting hot spots. But they rarely experience gun violence.

Gentrification seems to reduce violence!

Gentrification ought to be something every city wants. Not only do revitalized properties raise property values around them, but when white ‘gentrifiers’ move into a majority black neighborhood, they are clearly white people who have no racist attitudes toward blacks, people perfectly willing to have black neighbors.

Is that not a good thing?

In the originally cited article, author Nate File cites some left-leaning academics and proposals for what amounts to welfare and price controls to prevent making neighborhoods nicer from making them more expensive, and attracting all of those evil white folks!

It’s a wryly humorous situation. We have the white liberals leading one of our more leftist newspapers, saying that poorer minority neighborhoods should have more assistance, to keep them cooler during the hot summer months — though there seems to be less concern about eliminating the ‘urban heat island effect’ that would keep them a bit warmer during a nasty, cold Philly winter — but fretting that making them nicer will lead to more racial integration, in a city in which the Editorial Board have already complained is too internally segregated! 🙂

Can things really get more stupid than that?
¹ – Fayette County was one of only two counties, out of 120 total in the Bluegrass State, to be carried by Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
² – Lexington’s Hispanic population are not large enough to really dominate larger neighborhoods, though there is a “Little Mexico” area.
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