The Edge Becomes the Center: An Oral History of Gentrification in the 21st Century
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Winner of the 2015 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize!
The groundbreaking oral history of gentrification.
For years, journalists, policymakers, critics, and historians have tried to explain just what happens when new money and new residents flow into established neighborhoods―and yet we've had very little access to the human side of gentrification.
The Edge Becomes the Center captures, in their own words, the stories of the many kinds of people―brokers, buyers, sellers, renters, landlords, artists, contractors, politicians, and everyone in between―who are shaping and being shaped by the new New York City.
In this extraordinary oral history, DW Gibson takes gentrification out of the op-ed columns and textbooks and brings it to life, showing us what urban change looks and feels like by exposing us to the voices of the people living through it. Drawing on the plainspoken, casually authoritative tradition of Jane Jacobs and Studs Terkel, The Edge Becomes the Center is an inviting and essential portrait of the way we live now.
thought, living in the neighborhood, that it was this sort of generative absence. It was this dark space that people could project their dreams and plans and ideas onto. You could walk and wonder what’s going on in there. Then one day I saw her coming out and I hadn’t seen her in years. It seemed like she was making more appearances out during the daytime and going around the neighborhood. And once I’d seen her that one time I started seeing her everywhere. So I was continuously talking about
do it for the love of it. And I do it because, honestly, I want to see more people of color having leadership roles in our neighborhood and the wider community. I feel like it’s something that is lacking. Because I’m involved in the food justice community and every workshop I go to, everything I’m involved in, it’s always majority white women. That is consistently the majority. I went to a cooking workshop last week and it was right at the projects at Fulton and Malcolm X. I went in with an open
earth. I enjoy everybody. I enjoy bums in the fucking street. As long as you have a good heart, I don’t care if you’re rich or poor, I’ll be your friend. I don’t judge nobody. I don’t care if you’re a freak. I’m a freak, everybody’s a freak. But if you have a good heart, you’re a good person, I’ll try to help you out. If you’re evil with bad intentions, get the fuck out of here! I stopped smoking when I was thirty for ten years because I had to concentrate on that shit. I was a one-man company.
something that needs constant attention like “weeding a garden.” Small infractions—loitering, tagging—are snuffed out on each stoop to ward off the bigger stuff like gunfights and drug deals. Reach in deep and get at the root. Don’t get me wrong: I do trust the police. I think that authority is there for a reason. There are some police officers that abuse that authority just as there are abusers of authority in every other aspect of our lives. But I’ve never lost confidence in our police
It’s like you woke up one morning and Franklin Avenue was a different place. So we’re doing an interesting project in this neighborhood: we see the foreclosure as a weak point where there’s actually more of a balance of power between the owner and the residents and we try to help residents take over the building. A lot of the times with someone going into foreclosure in multi-family housing, it’s not the same kind of sympathetic homeowner story that we’re used to. They’re often private equity