Who Does Gentrification Displace?


Only 6.1% of residents in Mercedes' census tract are over the age of 55. 


While speaking about the lottery system, Mercedes mentioned that the application for the housing lottery was currently frozen. “Even for senior citizens, too,” she lamented, “even for senior citizens.” Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable to the detrimental affects of gentrification, specifically displacement. According to Jeffrey R. Henig, “[the eldery], it is theorized, more likely than other central-city residents to be displaced by the market pressures of gentrification brings to bear; and once displaced, they are believed to be more vulnerable than others to the physical and emotional costs that forced relocation can impose” (Palen, 170).

I asked Mercedes if she had any friends her age who had left Los Sures.
“In reality, people move a lot of from here,” she said. “There were more Puerto Ricans in this area then. I don’t see too much, I see more Dominicans then Puerto Ricans. I go on the computer and they say the majority of Puerto Ricans are in Germany. They have moved out. And Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Because you know, you can have a mansion in Pennsylvania and pay a $900 mortgage. I got a niece that leaves in Georgia, and she has a mansion, a residence, very nice going in with lights and all. And it’s a big house. And she only pay $900 mortgage. But the cost of living there, the money, you don’t make it either. You understand? People moving out.”

Then, I asked her if she ever feared that she would need to leave one day. “Sometimes I get afraid because I don’t know, in the future, the social security, how it’s going…I’m very, I’m strong now, but I don’t know if 20 years from now…you know? Because sometimes you see the news about, we didn’t get an increase this year. You’re afraid, and you know, you’re afraid that they might change our building. Because we signed a contract for 20 years and now it’s coming. You know, everything could change after 20 years, he would put it up, or would put pressure on me. ‘Oh, we could move to another place until we fix your apartment.’ And then they give it to someone else. You know New York, we try to be recycle, about green. But new york is getting green. Money…Everything is green, green, green. Everybody wants to, you know, we like leeches, sucking on each other. There’s no humanity. You know, there’s no humanity…I know you kids need money, but you sucking off of other people. You understand?”

In Seattle, 34% of senior citizens who moved did so because they were displaced from their homes. Furthermore, 80% of neighborhoods that were “revitalized” reported a decrease in the population of senior citizens post-rehabilitation (Palen, 173). Similar trends seem to be occurring in South Williamsburg: in Mercedes’ neighborhood, only a remaining 6% of citizens are over the age of 55. 

Who Does Gentrification Displace?