Newcomers Forced Out By Rising Rents in Rapidly Gentrifying Crown Heights

By Sonja Sharp on August 2, 2013 9:46am 

 Members of the Crow Hill Community Association and the Crown Heights Assembly met on Thursday, August 1, 2013, to discuss common goals as they work to organize tenants around affordable housing.
Members of the Crow Hill Community Association and the Crown Heights Assembly met on Thursday, August 1, 2013, to discuss common goals as they work to organize tenants around affordable housing.
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DNAinfo/Sonja Sharp

CROWN HEIGHTS — Watching the gentrification of Franklin Avenue is like watching Williamsburg at warp speed. 

That's what members of the Crow Hill Community Association are saying after an effort to draw more volunteers into its affordable housing working group led to a deluge of desperate emails from 'second wave' gentrifiers, three-and-four year residents of the neighborhood who say they're already being forced out. 

"The concern that's in the public conversation is about long term residents being displaced, but I didn't realize that many of the new residents who are already paying much higher rents are already getting pushed out," said Trish Tchume, 36, a local resident and organizer with the group who said she was inundated with cries for help from newcomers. "It surprised me it was happening so quickly." 

While gentrifiers gentrifying out earlier waves of gentrifiers is a common enough story in New York, and particularly in Brooklyn, rarely has the pace been so breakneck as it is in the streets and avenues around Franklin.  

"I was getting emails from people who live next door to each other," Tchume said. "A lot of the displacement that happens is predicated on people not talking to each other." 

The working group and its affordable housing clinic was supposed to be an antidote to that, a place where neighbors who might otherwise pass each other with a smile and a nod could begin to have more serious conversations. 

"The goal of the meeting is to draw people out," Tchume said. "One of the things people get so excited about in this area is that it does feel like there's a chance here to know your neighbors, and that feels like an anomaly."  

Although affordable housing is one of the most prominent and anxiously-debated issues in the neighborhood — and by far the most widely held concern at Crow Hill's Town Hall — Tchume said the working group has struggled to organize tenants around it. 

"There wasn't another issue that came up with that frequency," she said, noting that the popular narrative around gentrification and displacement has helped stymie efforts for change. "It bothers me, because it keeps people from doing anything. When you frame displacement as something that just naturally happens, people feel like there's nothing they can or should do."

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