How Not to be a Gentrifying Asshole

Saryta Rodriguez
Mar 19, 2019 · 4 min read

Unfortunately, we cannot always help whether or not we are a gentrifier. Some of us become gentrifiers by accident; others owing to need, such as proximity to a work opportunity; and still others, such as myself, are both gentrifiers and the gentrified, depending on which neighborhood and which decade is under discussion. Still, no matter what brought you to your new neighborhood, there are certain best practices you could benefit from following to ensure that you are being respectful of those who have lived there way longer than you have — and, frankly, to avoid getting your teeth knocked out because you mouthed off to the wrong person at the wrong time about something stupid.

1. Stoops belong to everyone who lives in the building — including smokers and vapers. Since this is a shared space among all residents of a building, you can try to negotiate with people if there is something going on that affects you, such as they are smoking and your window is open and the smoke is getting in to your space. In such cases, you can ask them to move — but they are under no obligation whatsoever to listen to you. You especially should not bother making such a request when it is below freezing outside, as it stands to reason that, if you have your window open in below-freezing weather, it is you and not the smoker who is being unreasonable.

2. Sidewalks are PUBLIC spaces. You do not own them, and you have absolutely no right to interfere with what anyone is doing on the sidewalk — smoking, eating, talking, etc. — even if the sidewalk happens to be in front of the building in which you live. I recently encountered a woman berating an old, impoverished man for simply eating pizza on the sidewalk near her building. This is absurd. Don’t do it; and, if you choose to do it, don’t feel sorry for yourself or act surprised when you get punched in the face.

3. Stop threatening to call the cops on everyone. For starters, this just makes you look like a tattletale, and what little respect the person you are harassing might still have for you will immediately fly out the window when you mention the cops. You will have proven to them that you are incapable of having a constructive conversation on your own and instead need a group of adult strangers hired by the State to manage your problems for you. Not a good look!

Secondly, as stated above, stoops are shared and sidewalks are public; so, whatever it is you’re about to call the cops over, dollars to doughnuts they will have no ability whatsoever to “help” you/stop people from doing things you don’t like in these spaces. Unless someone is posing a direct threat to you in some way, the cops don’t care, and either won’t show up at all or will show up very annoyed with you for having called them over some foolishness.

4. When a neighbor sends you a message, answer it! Even if it is just to say, “Sorry, I am busy right now” or “I’m at work. Can we talk later?” this makes a huge difference. Nothing is more insulting than when you reach out to a neighbor over some shared concern that they might be able to help you with, such as heat (if, as is the case with some buildings in Brooklyn, the thermostat that controls the heat for one apartment is located in another) and they do not answer you. Then, you ask the super to call these people, and they answer right away — thus clearly illustrating that they were available, but chose not to talk to you specifically about the issue, forcing you to involve the super. If you are not able to help your neighbor with whatever it is they want, just tell them so; but do not ghost on your neighbors. You never know when you will be the one who needs something from them, and, when that day comes, you’ll wish you hadn’t been so rude and inconsiderate.

5. JBP — Just. Be. Pleasant. A simple “hello” or “goodbye” shows people around you that you acknowledge your shared humanity with them and are not simply invading their spaces, pushing them to the margins and hoping to never have to see or interact with them again. Of course, we all have bad days on which we don’t want to talk to anyone, and that’s fine; but if you’ve passed by the same neighbor three times in a week, and never once said hello to them, you’re f-ing up.

These are just a few things I came up with based on my own experiences. Have any more tips you want to see on this list? Holler at me!

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