The Cities Where Gentrification and Covid-19 Collide
A look at the crises impacting people of color in Miami, Oakland, and Brooklyn, where residents fight to protect their communities
Kerbie Joseph has lived in the same Crown Heights apartment her entire life. A first-generation American of Haitian descent, she has also watched the historically Caribbean and Hasidic New York City neighborhood become engulfed in recent years by mostly, but certainly not only, the White, professional yuppie class.
“I am one of eight rent-stabilized apartments left in my whole building and my building has 56 apartments in it,” she says. “A lot of people who were rent-stabilized were harassed out and then replaced with the faces of gentrification.”
Joseph, 32, is a community organizer for the Audre Lorde Project, an LGBTQ People of Color center focused on social and economic justice. In the wake of the country’s failures to gain control over Covid-19 and its repercussions, she fears that one unanticipated consequence of this period will be an exacerbation of gentrification in already intensely changing neighborhoods. This will lead to an increase of displaced working-class Black, Brown, and queer people, as well as the loss of small businesses that are community beacons.
Between concerns of an “eviction apocalypse” in the country, the Covid-19-inspired economic fallout that has left 13.6 million people unemployed as of August, and a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York stated that almost half of all Black small businesses had dissolved by the end of April. Pair the economic losses with the medical effects of the pandemic, including death, and it is easy to hypothesize that Covid-19 may provoke a new era of acute gentrification nationwide. For Joseph and her constituents, this means people of color could be further marginalized by their sexuality and gender identity as they also are forced out of their homes.
“We know that [with] any type of support, we will be at the bottom of the barrel to receive it,” Joseph says. “That’s already on the consciousness of people.”
Given the pandemic’s genre of stories of notably White, middle-to-upper class New Yorkers leaving the city’s five boroughs…