Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Please Buy This Gentrification-Kit!"

I did not notice the clever play on words in the headline above--snatched from Gawker--until this morning. Gentrification Kit. Kit Hodge. Tee-hee.

Yesterday, NYCTB reported on the Bogeda Party in a Box. Gawker and Gothamist picked up the story, and were as skeptical as I.

Before the post went up here, I sent an email to Kit Hodge, CEO of Neighbors Project, writing that I thought the box was silly and insensitive. She responded yesterday, as well as adding her own comment at Gothamist and on the Neighbors Project own blog.

In my email to her, I noted:
I saw the Bodega Party in a Box, and my first thought was how insensitive it was. If its about supporting bogedas, not only could one patronize them daily, offering economic support, but one could also take the time to talk with them, ask them questions about their day, their families, where they came from, telling their story via photos or written word perhaps, etc... Building community, social capital, and being sincere about it. Instead of a party that might seem culturally insensitive...

I wonder how comfortable the people throwing these parties would feel inviting the bodega owner to join them? I imagine they would feel uncomfortable extending that invite, because they would not want to appear insensitive or classist or culturally insensitive, no? So it seems insensitive, and a kinda of silly end around to actually building community and supporting bodega owners.
Kit responded:
So here's a full reply to your question. First of all, thanks for asking. Neighbors Project is one of the few organizations that's willing to get into these heated and complicated discussions, so we always expect pushback of all kinds.

I'm trying to follow your reasoning and coming up a bit short.

If you think that the Bodega Party in a Box doesn't go far enough, then I highly recommend that you make use of one of our two guides to taking it a step further (at the bottom of the page). The one of getting more fresh produce into corner stores actually has questions we recommend people use to help begin to develop a relationship with their corner store owners. Second, while there are definitely lots of younger city residents who already get the need for and appeal of shopping at their corner stores, the reality is that way too many don't, and their refusal/hesitancy/fear of giving it a try has real impacts for everyone in the neighborhood. As in, corner stores, even good ones, are more likely to go out of business or stop selling fresh items (or never bother trying), if the new residents of the neighborhood don't shop there and ask for produce. And that only exacerbates food desert problems, and paves the way for more chain stores to move in to your neighborhood. This is what we found though the Food & Liquor project in Chicago, else we wouldn't have done this. So if the Bodega Party in a Box gets people who wouldn't otherwise even consider shopping at their corner store into the store, we've done something good.

And finally, I'm guessing that most bodega owners would actually be pretty freakin happy that a bunch more people are shopping at their stores thanks to their Bodega Party in a Box experience.

Again, thanks for asking for your take. Keep up the dialogue.

I should note here that I was initially a fan of the Neighbors Project when I first discovered them a year ago or so. (They even profiled me last year). But after signing up for their newsletter, and repeatedly receiving ones that made me cringe, I gradually came to dislike the whole effort. While able to understand the intent and purpose behind the organization, and enjoying a few of their efforts -such a guide to planting flowers- more and more it all seemed so asinine. So when Kit says, "I'm trying to follow your reasoning and coming up a bit short" that's really the problem. If you don't see any issue with needing to make a step by step guide instructing your members and supporters on how to say hi to your neighbor, if you don't see any issue with having a party for you and your friends that mocks a Bodega owners life, instead of just supporting them directly through daily economic decisions, and sincere social interactions, well, y'know, we're just watching the game from different sides of the field I guess.

I don't want to live with neighbors who need a step by step guide on how to be a decent human being. You don't know how to, or don't care to say hi to your neighbors, and need a step by step guide? Wow.

You are the neighbors we tortured relentlessly while teenagers, egging your house, leaving shit in a bag on your doorstep, and waiting for the day you left. If you don't already want to say hi to someone who goes to work everyday, for 12 hours a day, supporting his family and the community, so you can waltz in and buy your coffee and cigarettes when ever you want--if that is not enough incentive in and of itself, you should make a guide on how to lose your sense of entitlement and class privilege.

People who don't know how to be members of a community without a guide shouldn't be members of a community. That's why they make gated communities. For you. Don't feel bad or shy away from that. Embrace yourself.

Or, as a commenter at Gawker noted,
" Unfun at 02:10 PM - Seriously, white people, in most cases I'd bet your neighbors aren't "connecting" you because they don't fucking want to. And when you come up with ideas like this, why should they? If you need to be told that bodega food is edible, you're probably a fucking dickhead, and you should continue to ignore your minority neighbors for their sake."

No comments:

Get More NYC The Blog:

>> Subscribe To NYC The Blog Via Email

Contact NYC The Blog via Email