City Paper is not for tourists
I used to say I live on a pretty standard block in Columbia Heights. I knew the block well, had some serious history there before I made it my address.
An old editor/friend had lived in a one-bedroom across from my new apartment. We used to drink beer and smoke cigarettes on his fire escape. We’d look out and see clotheslines, and busy children. It felt like Brooklyn or something.
My brother and his soon-to-be wife had turned an empty lot into a makeshift garden (lead levels be damned) a few years a back. They grew all kinds of stuff. I just remember the handfuls of hot peppers they were always trying to give away. I kept worrying about the lead levels.
When I moved on to Newton Street last summer, the lot was still vacant. The number of old row homes untouched by gentrification still outnumbered the ones with the fresh green-and-yellow paint jobs and fancy new stoops.
But that was last summer. Recently, a new condo building opened up next door. I dutifully took the tour knowing I could not afford the fresh hardwood floors and weird cheap looking balconeys. The units are incredibly plain and incredibly expensive. Behind my apartment, construction is in full swing on another new building. Whether that building will be condos or rentals by the time the ribbons are cut, I don’t know.
Construction noise used to be in just one direction. Now, I hear the noise of hammers and saws in surround sound. I don’t care. It keeps me from sleeping too late.
But as all this is going on, one building remains boarded up. It’s a beautiful building or at least it could be. And I can’t help but notice the semi-weekly curbside surprises that mark the forced eviction. Every other week, my street gets an offering of a dresser, a bed, a headboard, a crummy TV stand.
Gentrification doesn’t happen over night. It’s one new brick. It’s one old bed tossed to the curb. It’s slow and loud and painful. And everyone sees it coming.
*I have more pictures of beds. But they are crappy out-of-focus pictures.