Harlem, 2007

Jarrett Murphy

Harlem, 2007

For a decade or more New York has been engaged in a running debate about gentrification, conducted across editorial pages, at public meetings, in barber shops and around dinner tables.

It’s not usually been a simple argument about whether gentrification is good or bad. We’ve wrestled over what gentrification is, whether it exists, what causes it, and what the net result for the city is from gentrification’s complex mix of positive and negative impacts—a mix, incidentally, whose specific components we also disagree about.

It’s a disagreement where the participants don’t always fall into neat, predictable categories. Some low-income people of color welcome the changes they see in their neighborhood. Some white people of means are fiercely opposed to personal or policy decisions that foster gentrification. A few veterans of community empowerment during the fiscal-crisis years, when parts of the Bronx and Brooklyn battled for their lives, have told me that the worries about gentrification ignore the reality facing most of low-income New York.

City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism students Marguerite Ward and Carlotta Mohamed sent in this video featuring the thoughtful commentary of people in Harlem’s Little Africa neighborhood. It echoes what residents and reporters have heard in Williamsburg, Bushwick and elsewhere.

Below, we’ve tried to list most of the major schools of thought about gentrification. Of course, even this breakdown glosses over important distinctions among different analyses. But which one comes closest to capturing how you feel? (Tell us below via a comment if you have a totally different take, if your take has changed over the years or if there’s something else we should be talking about.)