This past weekend my husband, our other son and I rode in a local fund raiser- Tour dem Parks - which is a bicycle ride to raise funds for our city's parks and recreation department. It was fun to tour parts of our city that I have never seen. The ride is certainly a lot smaller than the one we did in NYC but a good time was had by all nonetheless.
It is funny. I guess because as this was a ride in our hometown I was more observant, aka"picky", on the condition of the roads, the state of the buildings and the general environment. When I was going through the different boroughs in NY, I hardly saw any specifics as I was taking in everything that I saw.
It is similar to how I am with hospitality. When I am at someone else's home I take in the overall ambience but don't even notice anything specifically. (If they apologize for things not quite right, I do not even notice) However, if they were to come to my house, I would notice my chipped paint around the door frame or the layer of dust on the piano.
So the thing that I noticed on the ride were the neighborhoods that were run down, complete with trash strewn about, tall weeds growing in cracks in the concrete, and boarded up buildings. I noticed the areas where all the surfaces have concrete- from road, sidewalk to areas surrounding homes and apartment buildings. Not a green space anywhere. These pockets of neighborhoods are some distances from the parks. Since we rode from park to park, I got a good idea of the distance it would take to travel there. I wonder where do the kids play or if they play at all?
It got me thinking about "gentrification", that new word that means more than cleaning up an area. Contained in the word is the sequence of events- clean up an area, fix the sidewalks, roads, ensure that services are provided on a regular basis like trash pickup, sell the property to developers, remodel the warehouses, homes, tenant buildings, public housing to high priced stores, houses with futuristic looking interiors, sleek office buildings and condos. Anything remotely public, meaning free or less expensive, is gone.
I recently read an article about the gentrification in another city. When the author was reporting about the changes to the neighborhood, he overheard some local kids asking the developers about the new plantings. When it was explained that the trees and shrubbery were part of the new building plan one of the kids turned to the others and said, "See I told you. The trees aren't for us."
Why aren't the trees and any type of neighborhood beautification for the residents? Can't trees and green spaces be for all citizens, not just the elite few who can afford it? Certainly when many of the faded and run down parks we rode through, were first built they were done so during the era of civic duty and public spiritedness- getting outside in the fresh air with trees and grass was a good thing for all city dwellers.
I think it still is. I think that cities should do more with their parks, not to "gentrify" an area making another pocket of wealthy citizens. Rather maintaining green spaces in all areas of the city because all citizens deserve to have nature surrounding them. If I had the money, I would like to fund a study seeing the effects of green spaces on city dwellers: what would be the violence rate in an area with parks versus one that just had concrete.
Seems to me it doesn't have to take loads of money to have some space that is beautiful. It doesn't take much for neighborhoods to pick up trash, pull some weeds and plant a few trees and flowers. But just because a neighborhood cleans itself up, doesn't mean that it needs to be bought and redesigned. The original neighbors should have a space that is affordable and pleasing.
What about you? Do you see "gentrification" in your neighborhood? Perhaps you bought into an area that has been recently "gentrified". How is it? Or are you living in a place that just needs to be cleaned up? Are there places where you can volunteer for clean up of the local park? Do you need to evaluate your own home and your own green space? Do you have a lawn, trees, flowers or anything that is remotely green?