Comment 53185

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2010 at 08:21:24

I still think that diverse voices have a right to speak up. Having a store or gallery on James St N may be a personal project, but once it situates itself within the context of a community, it's a public matter too.

Well one problem is the way it was brought up. Stickering a neighbourhood with broad sweeping generalizations, calling someone (me? my neighbour? everyone? who?) "fat cats" and accusing them of pushing out poorer residents is not a healthy way to open a dialog, and this fallout is what you get when you play that "unfounded attack" angle.

How about talking to people? That may have been a more reasonable way to open up an actual dialog.

So what was the reaction?

From someone like me, who dug the rotten floor boards out of my rented space by hand with a shovel. Who undid and repaired 40 years worth of slipshod renovations to open a community oriented bike shop. Who does minor repairs for free for neighbourhood kids. Who extends free credit to those who have no money 'til the end of the month for that badly needed tube on the bike they use daily.

From someone like Dave, who displaced exactly one "paying" tenant from a flophouse that was a nightmare upstairs - to the point that many of the anti-gentrification mac students would be afraid to go inside. Who eliminated the drug dealing nature of the building to make room for an anchor for citizens of all means to meet and chat.

From someone like Graham who took an empty, unused building, and (as he eloquently explained above) turned it into a celebration of Hamilton that is open to all members of the public.

Mulberry Street cafe rents their space. They have no interest in driving up property values and rents to the point that they can't afford to operate anymore. They provide an open space that anyone in the neighbourhood is welcome to come and use.

Shall I go on? These are more than personal projects. Believe me, the businesses and galleries who have opened on James Street in the past 5 years or so are not doing it as some sort of get rich quick scheme. They are doing it out of passion for their projects, passion for their neighbourhood and passion for their city.

So is it surprising that, when a small group of people (with very expensive educations) come flying in with a smear campaign, the reaction is not really "open arms"?

The dismissive nature of the comments I have read on facebook (ex. joking: "You gentrifier you!" etc) and replies to articles are extremely discouraging and make me wonder how I should go about starting to talk with folks who own businesses on James St. N, as a person who is worried about what will happen down the road with the North End community, and would like to ask questions and share perspectives.

The comments are dismissive because the accusations are ludicrous. First and foremost, James North is not gentrified. It is not gentrifying. Not even close. Anyone who takes a walk around the neighbourhood - you only need to cover a one block radius - can tell that this is simply not a concern. It's fine to talk about gentrification in a broad sense (as something to be aware of for future caution) but this is not how it was brought up.

So my advice to those who are actually worried about it is to frame the discussion in a less ludicrous way. Let's talk about the risks of gentrification down the road. Maybe discuss early warning signs. Let's talk about smart and inclusive economic growth. Let's plant the seeds for people to consider these things. But don't come flying in accusing a diverse group of community oriented people of 'kicking out the poor' and expect to start open honest dialog that way.

Comment edited by seancb on 2010-12-16 07:41:16

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