Mark Winston Griffith
Race and Ghetto Taxes
Two articles this week picked up on themes that have long been the subject of this blog and those of us in New York fighting for progressive neighborhood development.
In the latest issue of New York Magazine Jeff Coplon goes below the surface of gentrification in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The Tipping of Jefferson Avenue reveals a rich, complex story of people trying to establish homes in a neighborhood where every real estate transaction is a de facto political statement on race, class and affordable housing.
Coplon bravely puts a toe into the waters of race and it's interesting to juxtapose his story against the explicit campaign now being mounted by middle class black folks, elected officials and housing development organizations in Bedford-Stuyvesant to "keep Bed-Stuy Black".
It's also important to consider that Jefferson Avenue, the epicenter of the story, is also the well known for playing host to countless acts of predatory lending. In other words, the companion piece to Coplon's story that needs to be written (and would take extraordinary feats of journalism) is how recently purchased homes and those up for sale now on Jefferson Avenue became available in the first place.
Perhaps some of the subtext of this piece might be found in the Brooking Institutions recent report on the "ghetto tax" which documents what has become the mantra of financial justice advocates: Neighborhoods of color and low- and moderate income communities pay for many goods and services, largely due to predatory and fringe financial services.