How Covid-19 is Changing the Big Apple

Last week’s post was about the rent moratorium ending in the US even as millions of Americans are still unemployed because of the pandemic. Over the weekend, I read an article in the New York Post about white families fleeing the Upper West Side of New York City because the Mayor has been placing those who are experiencing homelessness in shelters in their neighborhood.

When Covid-19 first hit New York City, those living in the wealthiest neighborhoods left. Privileged to work from home, and to be able to afford vacation homes they left in a panic over what was to happen. Now that the summer is here, many of these same families are vacationing in their summer homes away from the heat and crowds of the country’s largest city. These families, it should be without saying, are predominately white and affluent. The Upper West Side and the Upper East Side of Manhattan are predominately white and affluent. All over the city, expensive high-rises are being built meant to bring back money into the economy. Rent prices have increased over the past few years, until this year when they have begun to decrease. What we are seeing is the beginning of white flight again in urban areas.

White Flight is the phenomenon of white Americans leaving major cities to move to the suburbs. High crime, poverty, and the de-segregation of schools and neighborhoods led white people to move in fear of what their neighborhoods would become. So, the suburbs became synonymous with white, and urban cities became synonymous with Blacks and people of color. Now in a city like New York that’s known as a melting pot we believe that we are diverse in our neighborhoods; when the truth is that the only time a neighborhood looks diverse is when it is being gentrified. Our cities are as segregated today as they were in the 1960s. This is why the President tweeted a few weeks ago that the Suburbs would be safe after they ended the protection meant to ensure that Black families and families of color would not be discriminated from buying homes in the suburbs.

This is not the first-time Mayor De Blasio has done this. He did the same thing in Flatbush, but the only difference was that the people living in the neighborhood were already Black.  So, I guess there was no need to create a panic. What this New York Post article did was feed off the fear of white people and stoke racism. Let’s be honest, and call it was it is. White families do not want poor Black people to be living in their neighborhoods. It’s why gated communities exist. To keep those that you deem “other” away from you. It’s the same reason why white families have protested and rallied against the de-segregation of public schools. You might protest and say that the lives of Black people do matter, just as long as they matter outside of your neighborhood.

As a young-ish New Yorker, I do have reservations about staying here in the city. Not because I don’t love it but because I don’t know how I can raise a family here. I want to own property; that is a legacy I want to pass down to my children, and owning a home in NYC is now a luxury for the ultra-rich. The city that so many have loved and called home is losing itself. If we do not hold our elected officials responsible for the unaffordable rent prices, and the lack of affordable housing we will see more situations like this in the future. New York City and cities like it are what they are because of their people. We cannot let fear and lack of understanding change that.

One comment

  1. This is an interesting post, addressing a very difficult problem. Homelessness in New York City is a real problem. As concerned citizens, when we observe it, as we rush to our comfortable homes, we shake our heads in pity, breathe a prayer for them, and move on. Sometimes, we may offer them a warm meal or give them a few dollars to ease our consciences, as we hurry to our homes. In our hearts we are thankful that that is not our plight. The causes of homelessness are many. A person or family could have just fallen on hard times as we are seeing during this pandemic. But, quite often it is due to mental health issues, drug addiction or a criminal past. Due to these facts, when the homeless are moved into residential communities, especially affluent ones, it causes uneasiness, even panic. The truth is our safety and safety of our children are greatly compromised. The city officials have the responsibility to provide housing for the homeless, especially during this pandemic and so they place them anywhere there is room, not really considering the residents of that community. In other words, their job and responsibility are taken care of, and you the residents deal with it the best way you can. It is a very difficult problem and challenging to come up with a solution that pleases all. I can understand how affluent citizens would flee to the suburbs, when they are faced with this dilemma. The truth is, we want to help the homeless, we just don’t want them in our communities. God help us!

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