August 5, 2015
Urban Conditional: Munjoy Hill on a Madawaska Budget
by Zack Barowitz
Whether you love gentrification or hate it, no one wants more crime, more abandonment, and more divestment in their neighborhood. So if you live or own in a neighborhood that is at all marginal, you may be in fear that a senior housing complex is right around the corner; or that the neighborhood is just a few broken windows away from the next median strip mendicant — can a squeegee man be long to follow?
If it takes so little for a neighborhood to fall into decay, then it can be improved by a few equally small gestures. To turn your neighborhood into the next Crown Heights, follow these simple suggestions.
Hang a Bernie Sanders sign in your window. Bernie Sanders’ main constituents — hipsters, gays, artists and baby boomers — are the main indicator species of gentrification. So even if you end up voting for Jeb, Hillary or someone else, fly a Bernie sign until a coffee shop opens down the street.
Walk around with dry cleaning. Dry cleaning shows the world not only that you have a job, but that you earn enough not to have to iron. Clear plastic dry cleaning bags are more effective than puppies to get neighbors — who may otherwise ignore you — to say “hi.”
Start a community compost pile. Community gardens that rose out of the rubble of decimated urban neighborhoods became so irresistible to yuppies that they are now standard in many upscale communities. But the fact is, pushing wheel barrels is hard work. On the other hand, a community compost pile is within anyone’s grasp. Rather than cleaning up a vacant lot, just throw your old food on it. What is more, top-soil is now super trendy — not to mention profitable. McEnroe Farm in upstate New York sold close to $1,000,0000 in compost last year, all in 10-pound bags at four bucks a pop — which makes them roughly the same price as potatoes.
Hang a hammock or tire swing from a tree. Hammocks exude leisure, class, and garner envy; and a tire swing is the child’s equivalent. In contrast, a swing-set from Home Depot suggests that there isn’t a playground nearby.
Stencils. A graffiti Master-piece, even when re-branded as a mural, indicates an under-served neighborhood. A stencil, which requires much less skill, says artist community. When spraying stencils you can avoid arrest by wearing a bright orange safety vest.
Community bike-share station. No bike share station in your neighborhood? No problem! Simply lock a vintage bike to a telephone pole and nail a sign above it that reads “Community Bike Share.” Tack more signs to more poles and pretty soon you’re a “Little Copenhagen.”
Elvis in a tub. When it comes to yard ornamentation I am not disparaging garden gnomes or Mary on the Half Shell but if your house came with a half buried bathtub, the only lawn shrine that is gonna earn its keep is one for the King.
Bright house paint. Do you find the names “Barely Teal,” or “Vintage Taupe” evocative? Well, you shouldn’t as they resemble varying hues of sun-bleached vinyl. Granted, painting a house is hard work, but picking out a weird color is easy. Not planning to paint? Even better. Just slap some funky color on the front door, window trim, and a few random shingles and your neighborhood is fun.
If all else fails … Put out some anti-gentrification signs and perk up your ears for terms like “frontier,” “pioneers,” and “the next-next.”