Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jews, gentiles, and gentrification in Crown Heights

Of all the ink spilled on the topic of gentrification in the city, this has to be one of the best lines yet: 
These yuppies bring pritzus to our neighborhood. 
Gothamist reports that some members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Crown Heights are getting shpilkes due to the influx of gentiles into the neighborhood. An anonymous complaint posted to the Lubavitch community news site Collive reads
Young, upwardly mobile professionals may seem to be pleasant tenants who bring in reliable income, but they also introduce a very different way of life: new nightclubs and bars, sun tanning on rooftops, bike lanes and an increasing amount of immodesty on our streets. Some of these changes are hard to ignore; for instance, one of the sun tanning parties are visible for our young children to see from the window of a local school.
One thing confused me about this missive: Crown Heights is more or less bisected by Eastern Parkway, cutting the neighborhood into northern and southern halves. In my non-scientific observations of the area where I lived, the hassidim were cloistered mostly south of the boulevard. The Lubavitch Mecca, at 770 Eastern Parkway, sits on the south side of the thoroughfare. The northern parts of the neighborhood seem more heavily black, Hispanic, West Indian, and Caribbean. This was the place where I lived, and where most of the yuppie goyim like me drank our craft beers in our reclaimed community gardens. I didn't see many black hats on Saturdays. There was a tiny shteible around the corner from me, but the time I visited so my father could say kaddish, it could barely make a minyan. The rabbi was an import: he had to walk from Boro Park for services.

But from this anonymous plea for some sort of circling of the hassidic wagons, I wonder if there are perhaps more hassidic families living in the gentrifying parts of Crown Heights than I thought, and if there is perhaps more gentrification in the hassidic parts of Crown Heights than I previously imagined. 

If I were a suspicious individual, I would wonder if there could be any connection between the complaints of "sun tanning parties" and the recent and largely unverifiable complaints of rooftop police harassment by Crown Heights residents. My former roommate, who still lives on Franklin Avenue, informed me yesterday that police officers from the 77th Precinct are still insisting, without reason or cause, that residents aren't allowed on the roofs of their own buildings.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

Not to try and justify rooftop police harassment, but Crown Heights (and Franklin Ave specifically) has a history of people shooting at bystanders on the street from rooftops. And this isn't something long in the past, it happened just below Eastern Parkway as late as last year I believe. I'm not saying that makes the police action right, but I think it does explain why they're so interested/freaked out about someone standing their own roof.