Figueroa-Levin: Don't tell me, 'There goes the neighborhood'
Inwood, the neighborhood were I live, is changing. It's a story that has played out forever all around the city. The people who benefit from the change like it. The people who are getting squeezed out don't. The two groups -- aside from being divided on economic lines -- are different ethnicities. It inevitably leads to accusations of (and actual) racism. It's our neighborhood, and they are ruining it.
It doesn't matter which group is yelling it, that's the rallying cry. This is my place, and it "belongs" to my people.
My neighborhood currently is majority Dominican, and many complain about the wave of mostly Caucasian yuppies moving in. The Irish who "had" the neighborhood before complain about the Dominicans. My Ukrainian Jewish grandfather, who grew up here, said people back then complained about the new Irish people. The yuppies complain about everyone.
When I lived east of Broadway, I was Puerto Rican. I still am (half), of course, but on the Dominican side of the hood that's how most people related to me. Then a yuppie moved into my building and started clinging to me. She kept trying to force this solidarity-friendship thing because we were the "only two" people like us there. She even -- after discovering my Puerto Rican-ness -- had me talk to people in the building for her. Like I was her ambassador to the Dominicans.
It might sound silly for someone as pale as me to say this, but calm down, white lady. If you're the only one of your ethnicity in your building, instead of annoying someone who looks like you, introduce yourself to someone who doesn't. That's how you assimilate.
I used to hear bachata at all hours. When I moved to the west side of the neighborhood, I still heard music all the time, but it was people preparing for singing auditions and trying to play the piano. Both sides have one thing in common: They blast music they think is the best in the world, and complain about their neighbor's "noise."
This isn't your neighborhood. This is a New York neighborhood. Today it might be Samoan. Tomorrow it could be Flemish. Nobody likes the place they love changing, but that's how it is.
This is our neighborhood. All of ours. We're here because we want to live in an awesome neighborhood and raise a family and be New Yorkers. Let's remember that.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and @ElBloombito.