The text included a screenshot of a Craigslist post from a business that is looking for someone to take over their lease. In the post, the ad described how they saw the neighborhood.
"The lively commercial street in Greenpoint/Williamsburg is a young high-end white area, known as 2nd Manhattan," it said.
When I read this, I nearly vomited. Later, my friend Ben commented on the same ad, which was making it's way around the community. "It's like the days of redlining never ended," he wrote.
My friend Laura concurred. She said the rezoning of North Brooklyn was like redlining as well, eliminating many opportunities for people considered "economic risks" to remain in the community, largely through tenant harassment and unjust evictions, lack of new housing availability, and services for those who are not at a very high income level.
This is exactly the concern that one of my favorite activist organizations, Brooklyn Residents Against Segregated Housing, takes issue with.
For those unfamiliar with redlining, Merriam Webster defines it as “withholding home-loan funds or insurance from neighborhoods considered poor economic risk, or to discriminate against in housing or insurance."
It is a very interesting topic to delve into. Throughout much of the 20th century, redlining exacerbated the racial segregation of our neighborhoods.
The neighborhoods that experienced the worst effects of redlining, where residents were not able to get loans to improve or sustain their housing, are the neighborhoods experiencing the most gentrification.
In turn, these neighborhoods struggled more, which resulted in less services paid for by property taxes, which ultimately exacerbated the racists viewpoints that began the cycle. This is just one way that racism becomes systemic.
There is a very interesting paper available that was the thesis project of tenant organizer Filip Stabrowski addressing this very issue in Greenpoint. As an immigrant enclave, Greenpoint experienced redlining as well.
The community had to create their own response, which was the Polish-Slavic credit unions that became a positive force for Polish immigrants needing liquidity to address housing concerns.
Through this lens, we can see that a business owner operating today on our main thoroughfare is trying to attract a new owner by asserting "low economic risk" by stating that this is a “white” area. The owner is using this very language to try to attract business, which makes an assumption about other business owners as well.
This is racist language. This is also the language of discriminatory real estate; the whitewashing of a community under the assumption that a white wealthy customer lives here and that is whom you should want to serve.
I am disgusted to see our community portrayed through this lens, but in a way it's a harrowing reminder of what lies beneath the surface.
Today, redlining-esque and discriminatory practices are thriving in business and real estate in our community. We usually just don't get to see it spelled out in an ad for all to see.
There are many, many problems with the description of our community in the posting, but the most glaring is the racial signifier.
We as a community must not accept racist businesses. We must show what we stand for in words, in deeds, and in policies that eliminate the opportunity for systemic racism to thrive.