The comments have ranged from “totally unacceptable” to “they are becoming more and more aggressive every day.”
The responses are from neighbors stressed out by an encampment of sometimes-belligerent homeless people in Fort Greene Park, as reported by DNAInfo.com and The New York Times. While some residents express concern for homeless people, it is clear renters and homeowners also are angry about the presence and behavior of those in the encampment.
Similar conflicts over park space have been escalating in the city, as neighborhoods gentrify and the homeless population grows. New federal figures show a 13% increase earlier this year.
Dog walkers report being cursed and threatened. Residents have called the police and grumbled to the media.
But let’s stop for a second to consider the perspective of those who have to live in the park and find their home invaded daily by gentrifiers’ Cairn terriers.
As more private money flows into their upkeep and crime drops, parks become more inviting. It’s wonderful that public spaces are safer and cleaner, but the complaints by gentrifiers illustrate that such improvements can have a downside — stoking their sense of entitlement. They enjoy the amenities of urban life while living in a bubble. They feel they shouldn’t have to encounter homeless people or their problems.
But people lucky enough to have homes — especially near beautiful Fort Greene Park — should show more compassion, or at least tolerance, for those who aren’t so fortunate. Especially those whose fate they might have helped create. Particularly as temperatures plummet, an encampment of homeless people shouldn’t be viewed as a threat to gentrifiers’ lifestyles, but as a sign that the city fails to meet basic needs.
While some complain about the vagrants in the parks, other New Yorkers have protested the mayor’s plans to locate shelters in their neighborhoods.
Accept or even help the homeless, or move to Scarsdale. Perhaps dog walkers should turn their intolerance toward homelessness itself, and press Mayor Bill de Blasio to help people find work and housing.
That would be a good use of entitled indignation.
Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.