A Bland Corporate Monoculture


In the end we signed a contract on an almost identical condo in Fort Greene Brooklyn. It was another rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. The only difference was that we weren’t going to be the tip of the spear. We were more like part of the handle. For some reason that made me feel better about it.

Even if we could have moved into the whitest buildings that existed, the real estate market was an operational grid. If we moved in then another white couple would have to move out. They would have to go somewhere less white, as a matter of logic, right?

I couldn’t see any way to follow through on the plan of buying property in NYC without being part of gentrification in some way. We had already given up our apartment and prices seemed to be rising by the minute.

The ethics of gentrification weighed on my mind. I couldn’t avoid being part of it. I suppose we could have moved to New Jersey where one could argue… but no, that was out of the question.

At the same time, it was hard to escape the conclusion that gentrification was bad. A bland corporate monoculture was taking over Manhattan, block by block. One ground-floor unit at a time, the restaurants and boutiques and unique establishments that had made NYC seem magical during my youth were vanishing to be replaced with Duane Reade pharmacy and Bank of America ATM branches.

It was like a dark spell had fallen over the city. I understood that rising rents were driving a lot of small businesses out of Manhattan. But I couldn’t understand why they kept opening ATMs.

On. Like. Every. Corner.

I didn’t pay to use the ATM, even out of my network. So how were these banks paying their rent? When I would ask people I would normally get snark. For example, “It’s because of all the asshole bankers that can’t go two blocks without hitting an ATM.”

But bankers, however much they love money, don’t go ATM hopping.

That isn’t a thing.

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