A Defining Moment: The Definition of Gentrification

Imagine if you would that it is sometime in the early 1600's. You are a member of a Native American tribe living along the Atlantic Coast in what is now called the state of Massachusetts. You are out in the woods walking in a land that you and generations of your people have inhabited for many years. Suddenly out of nowhere you are encountered by strange looking humans that you have never before seen. You know that they are humans but they speak a different language than that of your own. As time passes it is learned that these people have come to your land and that of your forefathers from across the ocean. These people seem friendly and honest. A little more time passes and some members of your people and theirs make pacts.These newcomers are shown the way of your land by your people. Little by little more of these strange people come and eventually they create small settlements that grow in size. Unbeknown to you and your people at the very moment that these newcomers created their first home in your land the price to live in the land (the price for you that is) that you and your forefathers inhabited for generations went up dramatically. As the settlements of the newcomers become larger and larger, new problems that your people never before experienced begin to seed and grow. The price of these new problems becomes too much for your people to bear and as a result, you must now move from the land of your forefathers. The process known as gentrification works in a similar fashion. Gentrification is derived from the the old French word genterie/gentry (being of a noble or upper class) and it has its roots in the Latin word gentilis (belonging to a particular clan or tribe). In modern times the term is loosely described as the process by which long time lower income residents that live in a neighborhood are recycled by newer higher income residents. The Centers For Disease Control has this to say about gentrification; "Where people live, work, and play has an impact on their health. Several factors create disparities in a community�s health....displacement has many health implications that contribute to disparities among special populations....Studies indicate that vulnerable populations typically have shorter life expectancy; higher cancer rates; more birth defects; greater infant mortality; and higher incidence of asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease." When gentrification occurs in a neighborhood the results for lower income residents are devastating. These devastating effects include a lack of access to affordable/healthy housing, and a lack of transportation options (to and from work and grocery stores). These are things that in a civilized society all human beings must have. A little closer to home on the west side of Buffalo PUSH Buffalo has been on the front line in the battle against gentrification. We have experienced first hand of why this process can be a death knell for good, hard working, but otherwise economically defenseless people. People whose only crime is that they are not apart of the "gentry" and therefore do not make much money. These are real people with real stories.The stories range from tenants for whom $350/month rent in a rehabbed, well-insulated apartment with proximity to Grant Street markets makes the neighborhood a good place to live, to how low commercial rents make the neighborhood work by allowing the Niagara fish market and Grant Street Arabic food markets to exist. If the Pilgrims do decide to start moving into our neighborhood it must be done in a fashion that respects those hard working, good, and sharing people who didn't abandon their neighborhood.