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6 Ways the 7th Richest Man in America Has Screwed the Poor

Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves behind one of the biggest wealth gaps in the country.

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The plan certainly isn't ideal for poor residents being priced out of their neighborhoods. As  Alyssa Katz points out in the American Prospect, even if the housing units provided by the initiative served low-income people, they would not make up for the impact of gentrification. "New York is losing far more than it's building to deregulation and gentrification. According to the Community Service Society, every year nearly 60,000 apartments become too expensive for the poorest two-fifths of city residents to afford. "

While gentrification is often seen as being inevitable, it's strongly shaped by city policy, and the Bloomberg administration has been an especially ardent advocate of redevelopment. In the past decade the city has rezoned a  record number of neighborhoods, which allows developers to come in and build expensive new apartments or fill a street with H&Ms and Old Navys.   While in many cases neighborhood change can be positive, advocates for lower-income people and protestors of gentrification say that despite big promises made at city meetings, development is rarely met with matching measures that ensure residents can stay in the neighborhood. 

6. Stop and frisk

The NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy essentially makes it a crime to be a poor black or Latino person in New York (the policy is currently the target of a large class action lawsuit). The shocking stats have become familiar: 5 million stops in the last decade, close to 90% of them minorities. Only 1 in 1,000 stops yields a gun, undermining the Mayor's contention that the policy plays an essential role in keeping guns off the streets.  But as AlterNet's Kristen Gwynne  has reported, stats somberly repeated by the New York Times mask the horrific on-the-ground experience of the department's violent policing: the cold numbers obscure what it's like to have a cop touch your penis while your girlfriend watches. 

Gwynne has also documented how aggressive enforcement of so-called "quality of life laws" in poor neighborhoods  -- like riding your bike on the sidewalk  -- sucks kids into the criminal justice system:

A “Quality of life” summons for disorderly conduct may seem like no big deal, but young people in the South Bronx told me that misdemeanor summonses are so often handed to them that they “lose track” and miss a court date. Next thing they know, a stop-and-frisk turns up a warrant for arrest, and they are hauled down to the precinct. The $25 fine quickly turns into $100, stacking up to exorbitant fees for crimes prosecuted almost exclusively in low-income neighborhoods of color.

One can see how fining low-income people hundreds of dollars for riding their bikes on the sidewalk doesn't ease their path out of poverty. Also, probably pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is more complicated when going to school or work involves being yelled at, fondled, cited, or arrested by police. 

 

 

Tana Ganeva is AlterNet's managing editor. Follow her on Twitter or email her at tana@alternet.org.