Moved Out; Still Gentrifying

Tonight I finished moving out of my old apartment on St. Mark’s Place between 1st and Ave A. This building is a hovel of spoiled yuppies and NYU students, but there are a few exceptions: elderly, single ladies who have lived in the building for years and are now protected by law from skyrocketing rents. There are these holdouts in apartments throughout the city: next to the shoebox 3 bedroom that goes for $3,000/mo is a normal sized 1 bedroom where a 70 year old lady pays about $500/mo.

I ran into one of these ladies in the stairwell as I was carrying garbage down. As we chatted, I learned that the landlord has been negligent in repairs recently in an effort to coax out this stubborn tenant to make room for more spoiled yuppies. I could sense the struggle in her voice; she was hanging on desperately to her home, but felt increasingly lost and threatened in a changing city. “It’s too hard to live in the city these days,” she said to me.

Her story came as no surprise, as this scenario is played out time and time again in buildings throughout the city. But as we spoke, I couldn’t help but think: does she consider me to be one of these spoiled yuppies pricing her out of her home? Does she consider me an agent of gentrification?

She wished me best of luck as she moved slowly up the stairs (bad knee), and I have no doubt she holds no ill will towards me personally, but to a certain extent, I did feel like I was at least a small part of the tidal wave of change sweeping across the city and drowning people like my old neighbor.

How far will this go? Will Manhattan eventually become an exclusive playground for the rich? When will I be priced off of the island?

I do know how far landlords will go. Earlier in the day, a coworker sent me a link to this company which specializes in helping landords “relocate sub-market tenants so they can optimize their full potential of their investments.”

The tidal wave sweeps on.