Sunday, December 13, 2015

Racial Tensions at Fordham are a Harbinger of What Gentrification Might Mean for the Bronx

What is happening at Fordham may be best contextualized in a conversation about Gentrification in the Bronx. Now that Bronx residents and community groups have almost completely rebuilt once abandoned and decayed neighborhoods, and crack era violence has diminished, the Bronx has suddenly become attractive to developers and investors and, along with it, to upper class parents looking for a safe place to send their children to college. Not only does this mean possible displacement of long term residents, it means the arrival of people who do not understand the boroughs history, appreciate its culture, or respect its long time residents. Fordham, in recent years, has recruited students from all over the nation, some of whom live in off campus apartments, who come from homogeneous all white suburbs and look at their Bronx neighbors with ill disguised contempt. Some are changed by what they learn in their courses, or what they experience when performing community service, but all too many go through four years without having their initial attitudes and prejudices affected one iota.
The racial incidents currently taking place on the Fordham campus represent a preview of what is likely to happen in Bronx neighborhoods which experience an influx of high income residents as a result of the construction of market level housing. Nothing we have seen in other boroughs, or at Fordham,suggests these people will be good neighbors and respect the sacrifices so many Bronxites made to rebuild their communities.
They are likely to treat long time residents as invisible or objects of contempt.
It is time for the entire population of the Bronx, including educators, community leaders and activists, to take a good hard look at the sudden infusion of investment capital and wealthy individuals in to the borough and assess what this means for the future of the borough.
Action on many fronts may be necessary to protect Bronx residents and communities.