I recently traveled to Washington, DC for a business trip. During the conference itself, I was vaguely aware of the gentrification that has happened in DC in the past few years, but I suppose I didn’t *feel* it until later. After the work function, I stayed with a cousin of mine, who lives in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in the northeast part of town. There were cranes and construction vehicles all over the place and quite a few multi-million dollar condos next to some pretty run-down places.
Some similar things are happening in my home city of Lancaster, PA. Though the gentrification may seem less pronounced in a city of under 60,000 people, it’s still happening. I work in community development, and there is always tension between wanting to make a place better and, by doing so, pushing out people who have less -- less money, social capital, opportunity, etc.
To try to reflect and process all of this, I decided to write from the perspective of someone who is seeing this happen around them and has a mix of feelings -- a feeling that the old place is gone, hope because there’s less crime, but ultimately, a feeling of despair because they know that they won’t be able to stay and enjoy the “improved” neighborhood.
They’re putting up a high-rise by the quickie mart,
With a velvet carpet long enough for movie stars.
“A diamond in the rough,” that’s what they’re calling it,
And the riff raff, they’ll soon be rid of it.
They’re fixing broken windows, and I guess that’s good,
But where were you when you said “There goes the neighborhood”?
I won’t miss the piles of garbage or the shards of glass,
I’m just not sure how long I’m gonna last.
Fixing it up,
Cashing it in,
Profit with progress,
A laudable sin,
It’s getting better,
But better for whom?
Brand new ruin,
I watch landmarks disappearing from my own front porch
And they’re putting in a brewery where I went to church
I’m starting to feel lost every time I go outside,
What used to make me safe makes me wanna hide.
A man used to sell cigarettes over there, but they choked him out,
I think it’s all connected, but I’m not sure how.
I just know this concrete, steel, and glass feels like a loaded gun,
Saying “I’m counting down, and you’d better run.”