SOCCER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD: Ridgewood, Queens

Several distinct soccer cultures converge in Ridgewood, a little triangle along the Brooklyn border hemmed in by the industrial zone north of Metropolitan Ave and the freighter tracks to the east. Yesterday, I saw a guy walking on Fresh Pond Road in a Lewandowski jersey (representative of the neighborhood’s large Polish population) and a little kid in a Barcelona SC kit – the yellow one cluttered with more ads than an XVideos page – kicking a ball against his garage (an example of the Ecuadorian set). Meanwhile, my Albanian landlord is obsessed with Real Madrid, Serie A, Albanian SuperLiga and seemingly every other world league. There are also Romanian-American cultural and soccer centers, minivans decked out in Chivas paraphernalia and a growing footy hipster contingent who visit local bars to brunch with the Premier League.

Read More

QNS on a bad day

Woke up looking out the window into Queens and all those pleasantries:

Woodhaven Woodside Ridgewood Sunnyside;
Beaches, Points, Parks, Gardens, Hills.
The lead paint chipping off the factory cross the street
trickles into the sewer with the rain.
Everyday there's a new mattress blocking the sidewalk at the bus stop.
The sad old man bar has a slot machine
that's 'sposed to be for fun.
Just ask the gambling addict.
I first met Queens idling in line outside the Shea parking lot.
Lotsa deconstructed cars, you know?
There's a junkyard in a forest on toppa a mountain in my hometown
and I always thought, this is here to stay forever, huh?
Just because one hoarder couldn't get enough carburetors
and so he 'ccumulated several acres of doorless car carcasses.
People mock real estate developer spin:
East Williamsburg, Something or other Heights
Do you know that "Blissville" in Queens
Borders a toxic creek? It's just poison factories
And a crowded field where formaldehyded beings
decay.

Jet fuel can't melt . . .

I've noticed a few of these right-wing, racist, conspiracy theorist stickers while riding my bike around Ridgewood, Queens in the past several months. Earlier today, I visited Infowars.com to check out the shop. After I navigated past the survivalist items (The 1-Year Survival Food Supply is on-sale for $1436! The HazardPak Digital Survival Library DVD is only $19.95), I found the bumper stickers. The site says they sell them at cost ($3.95) to more easily spread the word and awaken the sheeple. 

If you look, you can find a lot of right-wing paraphernalia on display in Queens. There's the silhouette of an assault rifle over the text "Baby on Board" on the back of a parked truck I often pass. Or the "9/11 was an inside job" decal on the back of a stop sign. And of course, several NRA badges. 

The Archie Bunkers are devolving. 

Gentrifier Deniers

We know we're insufferable.

We know our behaviors alienate and displace long-time community residents.

We know we're trying to simulate authenticity in a sanitized faux-bohemia. Thus, we know we are pawns of wealthy developers.

We know we are strangers in a strange land acting like we own it. 

I think that's why we are so reluctant to acknowledge our role in destructive gentrification. Or why we compete at the "Who's Lived Here Longer" Game and the "Here's How the Neighborhood Has Changed Since I Moved Here" Trivia Contest. We're proving we have some roots. And We've seen some things.

I can comfortably consider myself one dripdripdroplet in a gentrification flood that drowns neighborhoods. I'm only one droplet! You know, if I evaporated, there'd be a thousand other white, upwardly mobile young droplets with parents who could cosign for this apartment very eager to leak in here.

It feels so good to deny personal responsibility like that.

But really, people like me and the other droplets need to acknowledge our erosive behaviors and fight to sandbag the existing community -- to protect low-income residents from displacement. We can't just blame the market or systems right now. We have to stand up for affordable housing development, new mixed-income buildings, low-interest loans to local home-owners, legal assistance to those facing eviction, government-backed housing vouchers, incentives for landlords who accept housing vouchers and prosecution of the nefarious slumlords who coerce lower-income tenants out.

Let the droplets collect in a reflecting pool so we can look at own behaviors.