Is Gentrification Changing How New Yorkers Grieve?

Is Gentrification Changing How New Yorkers Grieve?


“Gentrification is known to have profound effects on village life and the social fabric of cities. Ask any abuelita and she’ll tell you about new neighbors that don’t make the effort to get to know her.”

Jeff Reed/NYC Council

An attendee holds a candle at a vigil in Manhattan in 2019.

Last month, I received an email from my landlord about an “incident” that occurred in my building. The email stated they were “saddened by this event” and would not divulge additional information out of respect to the resident. The brief email raised more questions than it answered.

Soon after, I stumbled upon a group of residents huddling in the cold and lighting up candles. It was a telltale sign of a memorial in the making. I knew then: someone had been killed in my building.

The memorial was a familiar sight; one of many I’ve encountered growing up here. In New York, particularly in communities of color, an individual’s death is frequently marked with a street memorial made of abundant candles and a poster board with farewell messages scrawled all over. These memorials function as public announcements of one’s death and serve as hubs for communal grieving; they embody village life in New York.


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