Former Yonkers NAACP President, Karen Edmonson speaks at Rally for local businesses.
The residents of Mount Vernon, N.Y. are facing a fight they have never seen in their lives. This is a fight they must embrace if they are to hold on to their neighborhood. The Mt. Vernon community is threatened by gentrification, which is happening in many poor cities throughout the nation. What does this mean? It means that South 4th Avenue, which is a thriving business strip for low-income people, would become condos and high price stores, those currently in the community can not afford.
On May 21, 2016, Corporation Council Lawrence A. Pocari Jr, Esq, Honorary Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Spiezio, Acting Fire Commissioner Ernest Richardson and Acting Police Commissioner Ronald Fatigate were among those present at OK Freddy’s Meat Market, located at 132 South Fourth Avenue and evicted Freddy and his employees, giving them 15 minutes to get out of the business and then shutdown and padlocked the business and the lot next door. On Tuesday, May 24, Judge Susan Cacace ordered that both businesses can reopen and the padlocks must be removed.
The communities foe, is the Mount Vernon Mayor Richard W. Thomas. He has claimed that the closing of the businesses are part of his Quality of Life initiative but many in the political circles feel it is nothing less than a land grab. A land grab is a large-scale land acquisitions: the buying or leasing of large pieces of land by domestic and/or transnational companies, governments, and individuals. There are powerful developers behind the scene, plot and wait to buy property seized by the city. The community questioned how the city’s Corporation Council can just come in and claim someone’s property as city property or shutdown businesses without due process of the law.
This is one battle that is going on across Mt. Vernon; keeping the city from illegally taking property and illegally knocking down what the mayor deems zombie homes. The Black community has been especially hard hit by the housing crisis. The city has auctioned off over 300 properties (including a house that was slated to be purchased by the Mount Vernon Arts Council as the new home for the School of Music) mainly to developers and out-of-town investors. The city has forbidden city workers to bid on foreclosed homes as well. There is no true quality of life investment in having those that will be future stakeholders in the growing of the Mt. Vernon community.
This is gentrification, which is a trend in urban neighborhoods, that results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses. The struggle will continue throughout the city,whether it’s a high-rise at 42 Broad Street in the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon or affordable housing on the south side that the current residents can not afford. The working people who live in Mt. Vernon, together with the small businesses here, will continue to say no to gentrification and illegal city land grabs.