Taylor Street Today

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View of the Taylor Street housing development.

After moving around Brooklyn throughout her early adult years, Mercedes has returned to Taylor Street, though it looks and feels much different now. “I live in Taylor Street. Now it’s projects.” The Taylor-Wythe housing development is no longer the brownstones that Mercedes once new: now, the block is occupied by 5 buildings, all 8 or more stories high, that house some 1,681 residents (NYC.gov) Mercedes rent is based on her income. In her words, “Thank god my building is by what you earn. They certify you every year and if your income goes up, it goes up a little bit, but you know it’s hard…I live on a  social security check…how much can I stretch that check?”

Living with Mercedes on Taylor street is Mercedes’ granddaughter, Ashley. Mercedes and Ashley’s narrative is not the story of displacement we so regularly hear: it is not that they have been pushed out, but rather that they cannot leave. “Look, my granddaughter lives with me. I want her to get her wings and fly, she wants to, but she can’t pay an apartment so expensive,” Mercedes said. Years ago, your kinds could leave. When I was younger, you could leave because you used to find apartment fast, now you can’t find it. One studio, $2,000? So, you know, now your kids have to stay with you. Because they can’t find an apartment. Ain’t nobody wants to live like [that].” 

In their 2015 study, Cody Hochstenbach and Willem Boterman observed the effects of intergenerational living on gentrification. The scholars observed that intergenerational support--in other words, parents supporting their children through paying their rent--played a significant factor in young people establishing residence gentrifying neighborhoods. Mercedes described how this was starting to happen on her block: "[It's 
young people who have those expensive apartments—they’re professional or sometime a parent want to kick them off. 'You know what, I can stand you no more, I get you an apartment I pay for you, and you have to get a job to maintain yourself.'"

What has not been as clearly observed is how gentrfication affects intergenerational living in the inverse situation. In other words, there is little data on how gentrification forces families like Mercedes and Ashley to live under one roof, though the younger family members may wish to leave. And it’s not just Ashley who would like to move out—if Mercedes could, she would leave, too. “Right now, I would like to move out,” she said. “Because my granddaughter sleeps in the living room. I had to buy a couch and all that. I would like to move out, but where I’m gonna go? I can’t afford an apartment. I told my granddaughter, “You have to bear with me. At least I’m giving you a roof over your head, but this is the best, so.” You cannot move…because you don’t have the money. I don’t have a spouse, you understand? But I count my blessing everyday. God gives me a lot of abundance. At least I have a roof over my head and food over my head. You understand? But I would like a bigger apartment. At least I have a roof over my head.” 

Taylor Street Today