ST. GEORGE — Fear that Staten Island's North Shore is being gentrified has led residents to organize to oppose change.
As several large development projects including the New York Wheel and a new mall are added to the area, some are concerned they will be priced out of their homes.
Staten Island activist, Jason Harris, is hosting a series of community meetings to plan a fight against the changes.
"There is a real sense of there goes the neighborhood," he said. "There is an underlined, un-addressed concern about gentrification."
People fear large projects like the New York Wheel and Stapleton Homeport will drive up property taxes, price out long-term residents, evict thousands and split the neighborhoods of the North Shore, Harris said.
With his meetings Harris, who lived in Manhattan in the early '90s and settled in Port Richmond two years ago, wanted to avoid the surprise of gentrification other neighborhoods have had, and let the developers and community leaders hear residents' concerns.
"By the time you kind of realize what's happening, it's too late," he said. "To create spaces where people can really start digging into the ideas and the challenges that they're facing is very important and that's what I'm trying to do."
However, other community leaders said they think the projects will be good for the neighborhood, and they have had a positive reaction from the community.
"I think that we have an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the people who own properties in the community," said Leticia Remauro, chair of Community Board 1.
Remauro said the board worked hard to help revitalize the community, and planned to work to make sure development doesn't destroy the neighborhood.
"The North Shore is just too flavorful, colorful and wonderful to become monochromatic," she said. "I will fight to make sure it always stays as vibrant and beautiful."
But Harris said he's already seeing the telltale signs of gentrification he's seen elsewhere in the city.
"I started to realize that something was going on," he said. "I've seen gentrification, I've seen what happens when communities like this are developed in the past, and it wasn't rocket science."
Many residents Harris has reached out to said they've already been displaced from other communities in the city, and will not know where to turn if the same happens in Staten Island, he said.
"There's a real need for people from all these different pockets to watch each other's backs," he said. "There isn't that kind of community here."
So far, Harris has organized three meetings and plans to develop a regular schedule for residents.