Menus Subscribe Search
ny-subway

The New York City Subway. (PHOTO: ADAM E. MOREIRA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Mobile or Stuck? Two Sides of New York City Gentrification

• September 20, 2013 • 4:11 PM

The New York City Subway. (PHOTO: ADAM E. MOREIRA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

What are your options when increasing real estate costs price you out?

Appreciating real estate can displace just about anyone. The tale starts there. What are your options? The captive female labor force:

“I feel stuck,” said Ms. Manzueta, 37, who has a 2 1/2-year-old daughter and who, on a recent Wednesday, looked crisp in her security guard uniform, waving traffic away from the curb at Kennedy International Airport. “You try, you try and you try and you’re getting nowhere. I’m still in the shelter.”

With New York City’s homeless population in shelters at a record high of 50,000, a growing number of New Yorkers punch out of work and then sign in to a shelter, city officials and advocates for the homeless say. More than one out of four families in shelters, 28 percent, include at least one employed adult, city figures show, and 16 percent of single adults in shelters hold jobs.

Mostly female, they are engaged in a variety of low-wage jobs as security guards, bank tellers, sales clerks, computer instructors, home health aides and office support staff members. At work they present an image of adult responsibility, while in the shelter they must obey curfews and show evidence that they are actively looking for housing and saving part of their paycheck.

This problem would look familiar to geographer Susan Hanson. Responsibility for children limit the distance a woman can journey to work. This is why well-educated women will move downmarket for employment:

A suburban woman gives up a challenging desk job downtown and switches to the assembly-line tedium of stitching labels on sweaters in a factory closer to home.

It`s just another example of how geography restricts the role of women in the workplace.

Despite the prevalence of such episodes, geography has been almost completely ignored in studies of why women work where they do and why many find themselves in occupationally segregated situations, says Susan Hanson, director of the School of Geography at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

In general, the geographic mobility of women is much more restricted than that of men. Reading Hanson’s research while an undergraduate at the University of Vermont got me to thinking about the connection between geographic mobility and wealth. Someone able to move easily across borders to different labor markets doesn’t need a union. The stuck do.

Not all women are stuck. Take the example of New York City native Cari Luna. She wrote about her experience with the rent being too damn high in Salon:

When I go back to visit New York I feel at home in a particular way that I know I will never feel in Portland, no matter how lovely it is and how easy a place to live it is. Yes, I miss New York. I miss New York on the level of bone and blood. I began writing this essay as an exploration of how I fell out of love with New York, and what I found in the writing of it is that I never did. …

… The New York of my 20s is gone, as my 20s (and, now, 30s) are gone. Those 20-somethings living six to a room in Bushwick or whatever the hell they’re doing to get by are every bit as enamored of their version of New York as I was of mine. But I had to leave it, so I could build a life for my family.

And so I cede New York to you, broke 24-year-olds who still find validation in the struggle; and to you, obscenely wealthy bankers for whom the city’s been remade. You can have your New York. I’ll make do with the one I carry with me still. If you need me, you’ll find me, my husband, and our two kids in Portland, Ore., growing asparagus and tending our backyard chickens.

When Bushwick popped, Luna hightailed it to Portland instead of a homeless shelter. She wasn’t tethered to a job in a limited geography. She had options as to where she could build her family. Our challenge isn’t to deal with the people forced out of New York City. They will be fine, save wounded pride. Our concern should be those who are stuck, moved from home to homeless shelter without changing zip codes. And what about the suburban working mom in the industrial sweatshop? Same captive labor problem without hipster gentrifiers to scapegoat.

Jim Russell

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 2 • 4:00 AM

Why Middle School Doesn’t Have to Suck

Some people suspect the troubles of middle school are a matter of age. Middle schoolers, they think, are simply too moody, pimply, and cliquish to be easily educable. But these five studies might convince you otherwise.


September 2 • 3:13 AM

Coming Soon: When Robots Lie


September 2 • 2:00 AM

Introducing the New Issue of ‘Pacific Standard’

The science of self-control, the rise of biblical counseling, why middle school doesn’t have to suck, and more in our September/October 2014 print issue.


September 1 • 1:00 PM

Television and Overeating: What We Watch Matters

New research finds fast-moving programming leads to mindless overeating.



September 1 • 6:00 AM

Why Someone Named Monty Iceman Sold Doogie Howser’s Estate

How unusual names, under certain circumstances, can lead to success.



August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


August 28 • 12:00 PM

The Ice Bucket Challenge’s Meme Money

The ALS Association has raised nearly $100 million over the past month, 50 times what it raised in the same period last year. How will that money be spent, and how can non-profit executives make a windfall last?


August 28 • 11:56 AM

Outlawing Water Conflict: California Legislators Confront Risky Groundwater Loophole

California, where ambitious agriculture sucks up 80 percent of the state’s developed water, is no stranger to water wrangles. Now one of the worst droughts in state history is pushing legislators to reckon with its unwieldy water laws, especially one major oversight: California has been the only Western state without groundwater regulation—but now that looks set to change.


August 28 • 11:38 AM

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.


August 28 • 10:00 AM

The Five Words You Never Want to Hear From Your Doctor

“Sometimes people just get pains.”


August 28 • 8:00 AM

Why I’m Not Sharing My Coke

Andy Warhol, algorithms, and a bunch of popular names printed on soda cans.


August 28 • 6:00 AM

Can Outdoor Art Revitalize Outdoor Advertising?

That art you’ve been seeing at bus stations and billboards—it’s serving a purpose beyond just promoting local museums.


August 28 • 4:00 AM

Linguistic Analysis Reveals Research Fraud

An examination of papers by the discredited Diederik Stapel finds linguistic differences between his legitimate and fraudulent studies.


August 28 • 2:00 AM

Poverty and Geography: The Myth of Racial Segregation

Migration, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality (not to mention class), can be a poverty-buster.


August 27 • 4:00 PM

The ‘Non-Lethal’ Flash-Bang Grenades Used in Ferguson Can Actually Be Quite Lethal

A journalist says he was singed by a flash-bang fired by St. Louis County police trying to disperse a crowd, raising questions about how to use these military-style devices safely and appropriately.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.

The Big One

One third of the United States federal budget for fighting wildfires goes toward one percent of such fires. September/October 2014 big-one-fires-final

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.