Through the Lens of the Gentrified

On March 24, 2015, 6:00-7:30pm, join the Murphy Institute for Facing Gentrification: Reclaiming Communities by Exercising Political Power.

Panelists will examine ways in which neighborhood residents can develop political influence and strategic alliances to enable them help shape affordable housing initiatives that will not end up displacing the very people they are meant to serve. Labor Studies graduate candidate and student panel co-organizer Tony Moran discusses the documentary “El Barrio Tours” by Andrew J. Padillo, one of the speakers at this event.

By Tony Moran

When I hear the name “El Barrio,” what comes to mind is community, camaraderie, food and the arts, a place where East Harlem and Puerto Rico merged and from this intersection, many notable greats. They include Latin legend musician Tito Puente, poet Julia de Burgos and singer Marc Anthony. “El Barrio” has been called home by many throughout its history; it prides itself of preserving that enriching identity of integration and resiliency.

El Barrio is also home to Andrew J. Padilla, a Puerto Rican filmmaker, photographer and activist born and raised in East Harlem. I first met Andrew on May 14, 2013, at the presentation of his documentary El Barrio Tours. In El Barrio Tours, Padilla highlights the economic duress that urban policies and gentrification have put on his community. This filmmaker has a passion for social justice, and his defense of the working class is ever-evident in his film. His film educated me about gentrification, and contextualized what many neighborhoods are going through.

Padilla accomplishes this by tackling the narrative of gentrification. Throughout his film, he demonstrates how El Barrio faces income inequality, and lack of affordable housing. The film also explores the process by which some landlords forcefully, by twisting the law, push out residents. Deregulation also affects the character and identity of gentrified neighborhoods. Padilla proposes that we push for accountability of our elected representatives in addressing the double-edged sword of development and displacement. By its end, El Barrio Tours left me with the question of what we, as a community, are going to do about gentrification.

Tony Moran is graduate student at Murphy completing his MA in Labor Studies. He works as a doorman in Chelsea and is an active member of Local 32BJ SEIU and shop steward at his work site. He is also an organizer for the residential division at 32BJ.