Monday, August 31, 2015

Too safe? How about too costly?

I’m not a regular reader of The Onion (that one-time paper-turned-website filled with attempts at parody), but I couldn’t help but stumble across one of their recent attempts at humor about our neighborhoods.
Humboldt Park on display in this 2008 film

For The Onion last week gave us an account of a woman who lives in the Humboldt Park neighborhood who thinks that the recent efforts toward gentrification have made the neighborhood too expensive for her to live in.

OR, AS THE parody attempts to portray it, the neighborhood is, “too safe for her family to afford.”

It seems that this account is mocking of those people who criticize gentrification. Because who in their right mind would up upset about the safety of a neighborhood? Or would deliberately search for a more violent place to live in order to save money?

Which may well make the people who came up with this particular account as much a part of the larger problem as anyone else. They’re definitely part of the solution!

Because the issue with gentrification that causes so many people to be resentful of the concept is that it comes across as officials willing to upgrade a neighborhood in search of a higher economic demographic – which often comes across as a more Anglo-oriented ethnic class of people.

AS THOUGH NO one wants to be bothered to make a neighborhood better for its current residents if those people happen to be a little too dark complexioned for the tastes of the kind of people who make their money from real estate development.

In the real Humboldt Park, that is the prevailing attitude that is going about.

Humboldt Park is a northwest side neighborhood that back in the mid-to-late 1960s became the center of a Puerto Rican community for Chicago. Many of them moved from places like Lincoln Park when that neighborhood began its upscale trend.

There are those current neighborhood residents who wonder if the fact that many upper-scale, somewhat monied, residents have moved in during recent years means that history is trying to repeat itself.

SO THE ONION finds humor in quoting a woman saying she now feels safe when she walks to the grocery store. Which is a bad, bad thing for her.
If gentrification were to take full effect, would this icon disappear?

I did find some absurdity in the name that the parody account gave to this mythical woman – it most definitely is not anything with origins in Puerto Rico or Latin America.

Because if anyone were really going to be complaining about the gentrification trend, it would be someone of those ethnic origins. Who may have to wonder where they’re now headed.

Perhaps Jefferson Park? Could it be that someday, the Puerto Ricans will be chased out of Humboldt Park and wind up living in those neighborhoods that ring around O’Hare International Airport?

WILL FUTURE GENERATIONS of Chicago residents complaining about airport noise and the idea of jet fuel dumped on their homes express themselves in Spanish-accented English?

Let’s not forget that this particular ethnic tension was partially behind the outcry earlier this year that chased the Riot Fest event from Humboldt Park!

Not that this tension is unique to Humboldt Park. The whole concept of gentrification bothers those who feel like they’re only permitted to live in neighborhoods that are decrepit – usually due to age and neglect and the idea that they’re not worth maintaining anymore because of the demographic of the current residents.

At least until someone figures out a way to get someone else to overpay for the concept of living in places that have always had a certain advantage throughout the years – proximity, aided by mass transportation, to downtown Chicago!


No comments: