I am dismayed by the lack of nuance in the article, “Jewish Push Into Bed-Stuy Sheds Light on Gentrification” (Nov. 24). Steve Lipman’s reporting feels biased and actually applauds the religious right’s infiltration of Bed-Stuy as if they were creating community — and then he mixes in secular Jewish community builders as if we all have the same agenda.
It is true that people in the charedi population are purchasing properties south of Williamsburg, into the farthest northwest blocks of Bed-Stuy. Though they might be inhabiting a block or two, they are not always moving themselves or families into the houses and buildings that they are refurbishing or constructing, but instead rent them out at skyrocket prices. And they are not moving into the houses or apartment buildings that they own and don’t refurbish, instead sometimes letting people live in bad conditions until those tenants move out and can be replaced with renters who can pay skyrocket prices.
But this is all very different than my friend Rachel Weinstein White, who lives with her husband in Bed-Stuy, two blocks from the house he grew up in, in which his mother still lives. This is all very different than the fact that I bought my house in 2013 with my brother at market rate from a couple of Yale-graduated architects who redid the house in 1999 before they divorced and had to sell it.
Gentrification is insidious. It is appalling to use what feels like “Jewish manifest destiny” language like, “In the not too distant future,” as the Jews of Williamsburg and Crown Heights will expand towards each other “the inevitable result will produce an atomic marriage in Bed-Stuy that bridges them both.” It is upsetting when I hear “homeland” language like: Jews are returning to a neighborhood that was once theirs. This is not socially responsible reporting.
There are people who have been living in Bed-Stuy for generations. They have Ph.D.s, are raising children and are committed to creating a healthy and hospitable community for themselves, their families, their parents and parents’ friends who might also live in the neighborhood. You have not done due diligence in not having one of these voices in your article.
And you have done a disservice to Jews who are doing all they can to be a part of their community, giving back to all the welcoming people and integrating their children … all the while knowing that their mere whiteness could be making some landlord raise his rents next door and push out people who have lived there for years.
Editor’s Note: The article does not “applaud the religious right’s infiltration into Bed-Stuy” but in fact points out that the problems of gentrification persist in the neighborhood. It quotes an African-American man who grew up in Bed-Stuy as saying, “Some people feel they’re being booted out. They sell their home and they can’t even afford to rent in the neighborhood.” What the writer describes as “Jewish manifest destiny” language was actually part of a quote from a Chabad rabbi who does outreach in Bed-Stuy.