Gentrification. For some, it’s a word that suggests progress. For others, concern.
For decades, the Hudson Valley’s urban areas didn’t get the attention they deserved.
In recent years, with an improving economy, more efforts are focused on revitalization. Mayors who want nothing but the best for residents and businesses keep close tabs on it.
While each of Orange County’s cities finds their situations unique, they do share something: A dilemma.
Imagine you live in the city of Newburgh. It is your home. You see good signs: The blossoming waterfront. Committed citizens who personally take a stake in the city’s improvement. You’re aware of issues concerning crime, challenging fiscal conditions, housing in need of repair and occasions of government instability.
Still, you want more services — police, firefighters and sanitation. And the city wants to provide them. Where does the money come from? One way: New residents and businesses who pay taxes.
Then, you hear that word: gentrification. You learn this means outsiders moving in, higher taxes… and suddenly, you don’t know if can afford to live there anymore. It doesn’t seem fair.
That’s the simple dilemma of gentrification — badly needed revenues vs. possible displacement of long-time residents.
Middletown, winner of the state’s downtown-revitalization competition and home to new colleges and restaurants, along with a balanced budget, is watching changes take root. It’s thinking big; projects are in the pipeline.
Port Jervis is geographically challenged. It struggles to regain its prominence. It has financial issues, but it too looks for answers.
Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress held a forum, sharing gentrification models and solutions. How do we walk the line between revitalizing and preventing residents’ displacement?
Pattern’s keynote speaker, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, explained his county’s rebirth. The “forgotten borough” once had a reputation far worse than any Hudson Valley city. He brilliantly crafted an argument for thoughtful development, one all residents could share in.
To keep kids from moving away, they need amenities such as parks, broadband, engaging gathering places. For people to discover the Bronx, it needs inspirations to spur visits. Now, many want to stay or bring a business.
There’s more: Crime is way down. You can’t, Diaz said, have residents or newcomers thinking the borough’s unsafe. Diaz said unemployment was halved. He also detailed the Bronx’s new amenities that current residents also enjoy.
It’s a pathway toward revitalization.
But he was blunt about gentrification. It’s time, he said, to move past what we think we are entitled to.
Diaz’s words resonated. Pattern has received requests to bring this discussion to other communities.
As part of the forum, Pattern released a report on gentrification. It contains safeguards for revitalizing a community: Listening to residents. Giving them opportunity. Understanding ramifications on wallets. And including all in the larger vision.
Pattern’s Urban Action Agenda is helping cities evolve. And based on attendees’ deep interest, communities also want to do all they can.
Diaz’s message: It can be done — for the benefit of everyone.
Jonathan Drapkin is president and CEO of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, a nonprofit policy, planning, advocacy and research organization that promotes regional, balanced and sustainable solutions. Joe Czajka is senior vice president for research, development and community planning. To obtain the gentrification report, visit Pattern-for-Progress.org.