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Coffee Shop Owner Who Called Jews 'Greedy' on Instagram Was 'Misunderstood'

By Serena Dai | October 2, 2014 1:49pm
 Michael Avila, the owner of Bushwick's Coffee Shop, posted a screed on Instagram calling Jews "greedy infiltrators."
Michael Avila, the owner of Bushwick's Coffee Shop, posted a screed on Instagram calling Jews "greedy infiltrators."
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai; Instagram/bushwickcoffeeshop

BUSHWICK — A Bushwick coffee shop owner whose Instagram post called Jews "greedy infiltrators" told DNAinfo New York Thursday that his post was "misunderstood" and that people reacted so severely to it "because they identify so much with their race."

Bushwick native Michael Avila, 31, opened The Coffee Shop at 203 Wilson Ave. this summer in the hopes that it would become a place for the community.

He's had several customers come in describing poor living conditions and the "sneaky" methods that their landlords — who he said are often Jewish — use to try to kick them out, Avila explained.

He said that after two Jewish men looking to buy a building next door acted rudely in his shop, the larger issues about Bushwick gentrification became "personal."

 The Coffee Shop opened in July 2014 at 203 Wilson Ave. in Bushwick.
The Coffee Shop opened in July 2014 at 203 Wilson Ave. in Bushwick.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

In response, he wrote a lengthy screed on the shop's Instagram page Wednesday decrying the Jewish people trying to buy up property in the neighborhood.

In the post, he described his next-door neighbor as a "hoarder" who "makes the hood look less attractive," but noted that he still doesn't want to see the building bought by people he perceives as "greedy."

"... I would like him to either clean up or move along," Avila wrote in the post that went viral Thursday. "BUT NOT be bought out by Jews however, who in this case (and many cases separate- SORRY!) function via greed and dominance."

Brokelyn first spotted Avila's post on Instagram.

After a flood of negative responses to the post, Avila told DNAinfo New York Thursday that he was "misunderstood."

"I'm anti-Zionism. It's about politics, it's about greed," he said. "I’m certainly not anti-Semitic. That would stand against everything I believe I stand for."

The post was intended to create awareness about greedy landlords, he said.

People "are taking it quite personally" even though his post did not apply to all Jewish people, he said. Many Jewish people may have similar feelings about wanting the same "beautiful community in Bushwick" that he does, Avila added.

"I think some of them took it very personally because they identify so much with their race. It’s fine to have pride in their race. But you're more than that. Before that, you’re human," he explained.

"I think they took it personally even if it doesn’t to apply to them. Sometimes I feel misunderstood. I’m fine with being misunderstood. I’m quite used to it. I don’t really mind."

Avila said he uses The Coffee Shop Instagram page to document his personal journey, which has a lot to do with coffee.

Avila appreciates the changes in Bushwick, calling it "a really positive thing" and acknowledging that he wouldn't have a shop without the shift.

But with the neighborhood's growth, "I also think there's people taking advantage," he said.

"I think there’s a difference between progression and greed," he said. "It really isn’t a race thing or a culture thing. But it tends to be the Jews [who are buying up properties in Bushwick]."

"This is a free country. I’m allowed to have my thoughts and beliefs," Avila noted.

By Thursday afternoon, many people had commented on The Coffee Shop's posts, calling Avila "absolutely sickening" and an "uneducated bigot."

"Way to lump an entire race of people together with your hateful comments," wrote one commenter. "There are bad and greedy people from all walks of life, I'm a Jew who lives in Bushwick, patronizes local businesses, and will NOT be patronizing yours."