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Giving Compass' Take:
• Alexandra Staub, writing for The Conversation, discusses how Amazon's move to New York will subsequently lead to gentrification, and takes a deeper dive into the social consequences of economic development.
• How can local politicians and corporate actors account for the residents of neighborhoods that they might be disrupting? How can they consider who will suffer and who will benefit from the new headquarters?
• Read about this housing advocacy group that is creating a community-led model for urban design to battle gentrification.
Amazon’s decision to locate offices in Long Island City across the East River from Manhattan, and in Crystal City on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., follows this pattern. The New York location borders the largest low-income housing area in the United States, with mostly African-American and Hispanic residents whose median household income is well below the federal poverty level. These people, local politicians claim, will benefit from Amazon’s move to the neighborhood.
However, when large companies with an upscale and specialized workforce move into an area, the result is more often gentrification. As economic development takes place and prices of real estate go up, the poorer residents of the neighborhood are forced out and replaced by wealthier ones.
Is such a market-driven approach that accepts displacement ethically justifiable? And how do we even measure its costs?
Through the lens of utilitarianism, one could say that the population living in neighborhoods after gentrification experience greater happiness than before.
The fallacy of this argument is, of course, that these “happier” populations are overwhelmingly not the same people as were there before gentrification. As a scholar who works on questions of ethics in the built environment, I have studied how we, as the concerned public, can better equip ourselves to see through such arguments.
Economic development in an area leads to less poverty in that area, not because the personal economic situation of poor people who live there has improved, but because the poor people have quite simply been erased out of the picture.
Amazon’s move to Washington and New York along with an influx of well-paid employees brings us back to the question of how we might apply the ethical concept of utilitarianism to understand the greatest balance of happiness over suffering for the greatest number of people.
Read the full article about gentrification by Alexandra Staub at The Conversation