I have previously written about how former mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg have sucked the personality out of New York City and essentially transformed Manhattan into a gated community for the rich. Now that mindset is spreading to the outer boroughs: take out a subway map and use it to chart the future course of gentrification. Even subway stations are getting gentrified! So you can imagine my surprise when, earlier this year, I walked down West 56th Street and saw so much real New York personality. Yes, one block away from the 57th Street detailed in the Moyers & Company documentary The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy. Fortunately, I had my camera to document it because who knows how long it will last. What surprised me about me this street was how unchanged it was: I was a student at John Jay College during the late 1980’s when one of the campus buildings was on 56th and 10th Avenue. While the surrounding neighborhood and John Jay campus have changed significantly, I found that 56th Street, from 8th to 11th Avenues, was relatively unchanged. I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I enjoyed rediscovering this street.
Everyday, during my commute from my home in Queens to my workplace in the Bronx, I am awed by the numerous apartment buildings being constructed in Long Island City, Harlem and the South Bronx for “high end” renters. The featured image of this blog entry depicts this construction in Long Island City during the summer of 2015. If you want to see the physical route of gentrification in NYC, simply take out a subway map. Concurrently, I am awed and saddened by the numbers of homeless people I see in the subways EVERYDAY.
Until 2005, New York City’s primary resource for addressing homelessness was to give these families and individuals priority for federal housing programs (public housing and/or Section 8). For 25 years, these resources had been a proven way to move families out of shelters, off the streets and into long-term, permanent homes. In 2005, the billionaire mayor, “king” Mike Bloomberg, changed this and homeless families and individuals were given CITY-funded short-term rental subsidies known as the Advantage program. These short-term subsidies were ineffective and wasteful. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, more than one of every three formerly-homeless families returned to the shelters after their Advantage program subsidies ended. The Bloomberg administration then terminated the Advantage program in 2011 and refused to replace it with the successful federal programs ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/michael-bloomberg-homeless-population/ ). For the first time since modern homelessness began in the 1980’s, there is no housing assistance in place to help homeless families move from shelters to permanent housing.
Mary Brosnahan, president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless, discusses the current state of homelessness in New York City with MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman. Click here to watch the video: Dramatic Increase in Homeless on Streets of NYC
Keeping in mind my daily commute, also watch this video where Bill Moyers explores how the changing skyline of Manhattan is the physical embodiment of how money and power impact the lives and neighborhoods of every day people.
Also keeping in mind what I mentioned earlier in this blog entry about the route of gentrification, read this previous blog entry where I discussed “The Gentrification of a Subway Station” : https://theartistworks.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/gentrification-of-a-subway-station/