Tag Archives: Working class

Esmonde’s Conceit Bucket

4 Aug

Donn Esmonde wrote a very nice story about how people are moving into dilapidated buildings in rough parts of the West Side and gentrifying them; they’re taking an interest in their properties, fixing them up, keeping them up, and otherwise reversing blight. This is a great thing, and there’s no need to cast aspersions against anyone, right?  No need to call anyone out, except perhaps for the formerly negligent property owners.

But Esmonde can always find a villain – he has to, because it’s easy. It’s funny because it’s usually a personal conceit, packed with poignant irony (how many typical Esmondian anti-parking screeds has he penned against the News’ fugly surface lot on Scott St.?), so he writes this:

They are not yuppies looking to gentrify. They are working-class folks eager to stabilize a multicultural neighborhood. The light of true believers is in their eyes. The energy and commitment are typical of the new-homeowner posse.

So what if they were “yuppies looking to gentrify”? People with cash who drive BMWs  installing Poggenpohl kitchens would be a bad thing in a rough, abandoned city neighborhood? If the gentrifiers were suburban folks looking to return to the city, would that be okay?

It’s like Esmonde’s writing is always just a facile bundle of conceits wrapped around a story that shouldn’t have been controversial at all.  Oh, this gentrification is okay because they’re “working-class” people.  Are they? One is a massage therapist, which is an allied health profession, and the other is a teacher, who gets great benefits and has a distinctly white-collar job. Neither of them works the third shift at Carborundum or the Tonawanda engine plant.

Did you also notice that the owners of the dilapidated homes all “fled to the suburbs”? Did he poll the neighborhood? Did he look it up at the clerk’s office? Is he sure they didn’t possibly move away from the area altogether? Or to a different part of the city? Yet another Esmonde conceit, clumsily hurled without factual basis.

I’ll tell you what – when a neighborhood is characterized as “hot” because the average home price is $80,000, then there’s still a lot of work to do.  We can start by not hurling invective at phantoms.