White people ruin yet another area
By Suresh Hanubal
The Fordham and Belmont communities have had a long, tenuous relationship with each other, to say the least. As we know, Fordham University has a student body that is predominantly both white and from upper-class backgrounds. In contrast, Belmont is incredibly ethnically diverse and one of the poorest in New York City. Specifically, 31% of Belmont residents fall below the poverty line. This compares to a Bronx average of 25% and a New York City average of 20%. Additionally, the average income in Bronx Community Board 6, which Belmont is located in, is a measly $25,972. To put that number in perspective, the average income in Bergen County, New Jersey, where many Fordham students originally hail from, is about $85,000. The unemployment rate in Belmont is much higher than the national average. As of the last count, it was about 16%. This is more than 5 times the national average!
Obviously, when two communities of such disparate demographic and socioeconomic profiles interact with each other, there is bound to be at least some measure of hostility in interactions between the two. This can be seen in the way that Fordham students talk about the Bronx; describing it as scary, as sketchy, even as a sh*thole, and always with a sense of apprehension. On the side of Belmont residents, there is also a level of distrust. Many Belmont residents see Fordham as elitist and unwelcoming. One commuter student mentioned that, “when I was growing up I thought it [Fordham] was a prison.” The paper’s very own Features & List editor, and lifelong Belmont resident, Angelina Zervos FCRH ’22, when asked for comment on this article stated, “I feel irrationally hostile towards them [Fordham students].” These divisions between the communities run deep and have been only further exacerbated by the recent trend of gentrification in the community.
Wikipedia, an incredibly reliable source, notes that rent burden, or the percentage of community residents that have difficulty paying rent, is at 60% in Belmont. This is 20-25% higher than the overall New York City average and is indicative of a neighborhood experiencing gentrification. Specifically, when looking at data from the Urban Displacement Project, it is discernible that the only New York City neighborhood that has a higher percentage of residents experiencing rent burden is Washington Heights in Manhattan. This trend of gentrification is noticeable when walking around the Belmont neighborhood as well. New developments, such as Artu’ Viale, which was built in the mid-2010s, are changing the face of the neighborhood. Rents there, even for 400 square feet studios, start at the exorbitant price of $2,600 per month. In a community in which the average household income is among the lowest in the city, state and country, these prices are simply incredibly unaffordable for many. And these new developments, such as Artu’ Viale or Belmont Student Housing (we’re looking at you, bros hill), aren’t the only things that are driving up rents in the community to insane levels.
From 2010 to 2020, average rent price for a typical unit in Belmont rose from around $1,200 to $1,950. This rate is exponentially greater than the increase (or stagnation) of the median household income in the community, which was only about 5% in relative terms over the same period. This large increase in price has vastly outpaced the increase in income over the last decade, leading to a situation wherein longtime residents see themselves being priced out of their homes in the near future. Fordham students are only here for eight semesters (unless they’re really not doing well), but the various (Dominican, Carribean, Italian, Albanian, etc.) communities that make up the bulk of the long-standing and long-term residents of the community have made their homes and lives here. If current trends continue, they will be forced to move.
With this being said, Belmont does not need to continue to gentrify. The people that have made this their home for generations don’t need to move to some far-flung exurb in New Jersey (Yuck!) to find housing units they can afford. Belmont does not have to become the next Bushwick or Washington Heights. There are ways in which we, as Fordham students, can stop this madness and make sure our surrounding community remains affordable while keeping the overall quality of life high and the sense of community strong.
As an article on website Everyday Feminism asserts, we can fight gentrification by doing the following: demanding affordable housing through pressure campaigns on elected officials, avoiding and not renting units in “luxury” housing such as Artu’ Viale and, most importantly, engaging with your neighbors. So let’s do the above, and keep the character and demographic profile of our community intact.