movin' on up

today i found this magazine at my local post office next to the other free papers and was momentarily incensed, until i read the headlines and got the joke. i was fooled for a few seconds by this fake back cover because i've seen serious brochures similar to this left in stores.

it's always hard to tell which things you believe are based on "the right thing" and which are opinions born of your station in life. gentrification is one of those diificult topics that i haltingly bitch about because there are several facets to the issue. it's great to be able to walk in a neighborhood without fearing for your life. but when they add that third starbucks within a 2-block radius, things have gone too far.

the story usually goes like this: a neighborhood is basically zoned and ignored into some kind of ghetto, where rents are low but danger is high. this could stay like that for years. people like artists and students getting starter apartments can't afford the kinds of neighborhoods that are nice and safe (where some of them come from) or hip (where they'd like to be). so they move to the crappy areas, little by little. they bring their friends, people visit, have parties, open art galleries, hold poetry slams, form bands. there's a period of adjustment; people get hurt, the police start coming around more often, the criminal element thins out.

somewhere around this point i think a nice balance is struck, where the neighborhood's worst parts are cleaned up a bit, the new residents bring in a bit more money, and everyone coexists fairly peacefully. perhaps i like to think that because that's the point i'm comfortable at. the place still has much of its original vibe, and things aren't too expensive, but exciting things are happening. at this stage, opportunities arise, and locals and new people alike seize them to make something better for themselves and the area.

that's usually when the wolves come sniffing. well-heeled investors start opening businesses catering to the new people. the media touts the new up-and-coming neighborhood, usually giving it a silly name if it doesn't already have one (new york city must have some of the most plentiful neighborhood subdivisions around). greedy landlords smell money and raise rents. real estate agents open up storefronts and start pushing the area in their ads. developers buy entire blocks, tear down perfectly good buildings and replace them with strip malls. people who had nothing to do with the original neighborhood or its development into something interesting suddenly start frequenting the new businesses and moving in, waving their checkbooks and driving prices even higher.

eventually the people who made the place cool can't afford to stay even if they want to, never mind the poor locals who were there when it was an armpit no one else wanted to visit, much less live in. the neighborhood retains its name, and maybe an echo of its hip character. meanwhile the people who made things happen have moved on to another slum they can afford. and the cycle begins anew. kind of sad.

but sometimes, you just gotta laugh. and this cover is funny.

the title of this post comes from the theme song to the jeffersons, a show that dealt with issues of race, class, and gentrification, while annoying a lot of people and making others laugh. i can't say i loved the show myself, but it's one of those shows that was always on reruns as a kid, and the theme song is burned into my head.