You guys, there are "hipsters" hanging out in "trendy bars and overpriced clothing stores" in Williamsburg, and the Daily News is on it. And while their inflatable beards and fancy cocktails may seem innocent enough, don't be fooled: Their mission is to "wipe out the area's Latino culture for good." In an alarmist article that reads as if it was written using a Hipster Cliche MadLibs from 2005, the tabloid, uh, reports that the neighborhood's Southside is changing.
"When you wake up one morning and you see the corner bodega is now replaced by a fancy cafe or restaurant and you see your neighbors being pushed out because they can no longer afford the rent, all of a sudden you've lost your friends, you begin to wonder, 'Am I next?' " Luis Garden Acosta, director of the non-profit community organizing group El Puente asks the News. And it's true—the wave of gentrification that first crested in north Williamsburg has crashed all the way down past Broadway, flooding the predominantly Puerto Rican Southside with non-Latino, upwardly mobile residents. And while the term "hipster" has been become so vague that it's been rendered almost completely meaningless, there's no denying these newcomers are different.
But what's new here? Diner, followed by Marlow & Sons, opened on the Southside around the turn of this century, and in the decade since, there has been a steady influx of new bars, restaurants, and boutiques catering to trendy tastes. According to the News, a tipping point has been reached, and some people in the neighborhood are "ready to fight back." Raul Peralta, 48, works at Diaz Cleaners across the street from Pies 'N' Thighs. He's doing well serving non-Latino customers, but tells the News, "There's not as much Latinos around here anymore. All the kids used to play baseball in the streets. Now we don't see that anymore."
With all due respect to Peralta (disclosure: we're customers), that is complete bullshit. His block of South Fourth Street between Bedford and Driggs sees almost constant use by Latino kids playing ball, and it's one of of the most festive streets on the Southside—stroll down it at just about any decent hour and you'll encounter plenty of people outside playing Dominoes, sitting in lawn chairs on the sidewalk, grilling, splashing in the fire hydrants, etc. Yes, longtime Williamsburg locals, like the longtime residents in every other hot NYC neighborhood, are getting priced out, but there's no need to make stuff up.
Anyway, this is why we're hearing about this now: The News reports that Garden Acosta's group El Puente (The Bridge) has received $2.8 million in federal, city and private grant money for its Green Light District project "to send swarms of volunteers door-to-door in the next 10 years to help Latino residents get healthier, more educated and more cultured." Health and education are great, but what they really need are better rent regulations.
In the end, the News wonders, "Do you think longtime Southside Williamsburg neighbors can reclaim their neighborhood?" A better question might be, how can the city maintain diverse communities so that the cycle of gentrification doesn't displace lower-income residents who've been there for generations? Of course, that's not as sexy as a ten-years-too-late story about how THE HIPSTERS ARE COMING!