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It started in Soho, then moved to Chelsea and the East Village. Riots in Tompkins Square in 1988 earned it some headlines but didn’t stop its creeping advance. It moved on to lower Harlem, then jumped the river to Park Slope. Williamsburg and Fort Greene followed; today, it threatens even Bedford-Stuyvesant. New York isn’t the only city where it spreads. San Francisco, Washington, and Boston have arguably been even more affected by it. Seattle, Atlanta, and Chicago have experienced it on a large scale, too.
The “it,” as you may have guessed, is gentrification. If you live in one of these cities, you probably think you know how it works. Artists, bohemians, and gay couples come first. They move into run-down—but charming and historic—homes and loft spaces close to the urban core. Houses are restored. Funky coffee shops appear. Public safety improves. Then rents and home prices start to go up. The open-minded, diversity-loving creative types who were the first wave of gentrifiers give way to lawyers, bankers, and techies. As rents and home prices continue to rise, the earlier residents—often lower-income people of color—are forced out. ….