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Capitalism and Gentrification

Dear Editor: 

I commend Senator Sanders for his column on “gentrification” in last week’s Wave but suggest that his remedies fall a step short. 

Gentrification and its close cousin, community displacement, affect everyone.  People who grew up in middle class or blue collar families in Belle Harbor might have a hard time raising their children here given the increases in real estate and property taxes. Families from Senator Sanders’ district may be forced out when developers replace traditional housing with upscale condos.  And people everywhere in the city will suffer if New York’s melting pot cracks leaving lots of well-off families, tons of homeless people, and too few in the middle. 

Senator Sanders’ actions (financial empowerment classes and planning) are good first steps.  People need strong personal finances to make the leap to home ownership.  Launching a business requires even more.  You can’t thrive in the capitalist system without capital…and it’s not easy to come by. 

I learned this lesson firsthand in 1999 when I moved my six-year-old business home to Rockaway and re-incorporated in New York.  None of the banks would even accept an application despite my small business’ track record.  Banks don’t like to back new businesses, unless you already have $100K on hand. 

Fortunately for me, my parents were able to use a home equity line of credit to front me $35,000. I’d have never made it without that seed capital. 

If we want more people from Rockaway to stay in Rockaway as it evolves, then we also need a small business incubator that would help would-be entrepreneurs turn great ideas into thriving, locally owned businesses.