South Ninth Avenue is a documentary film that tracks the demographic and societal change to the small New York suburb of Mount Vernon as gentrification rapidly takes hold of New York City. One avenue in particular, South Ninth, will be featured as the film follows specific stories of people, businesses and city services that are located on this street and the immediate area.
A complete investigation into race and ethnicity in a multicultural society requires an examination into the economics and fiscal policies that drive city planning practices, housing opportunities and eventually differences in attitudes and behaviors.
The United States has a long history of utilizing land ownership as a mechanism to economically and socially disenfranchise its citizens of color. Following the end of the Civil war and slavery, most blacks were not allowed to purchase the land on which they had to toiled for generations.1 During the Jim Crow era, black people were subject to restrictive covenants which forbid them from purchasing property in certain neighborhoods and were forced into contracts that would charge them high rates without the benefits of home ownership.2. More recently, predatory lending practices by major banks, or "ghetto loans", forced blacks to bear the brunt of the 2008 housing crisis, crushing many generational dreams of homeownership.2 Gentrification is a current and widely utilized instrument of using existing land management laws to build wealth among whites at the expense of people of color.
Gentrification, often disguised as community improvement or development, involves wealthy people and businesses moving into a delapidated area and the existing poor and/or working class residents being displaced.3 It is a complex process that involves city planning officials, property developers, local and state politicians and untold amounts of money. The trend in the United States is that through gentrification persons of color are displaced by majority white residents and there is little thought to the families and communities that are torn apart through forced relocation. (source)
As gentrification has spread quickly throughout New York City there is a ripple effect on lower Westchester County. People displaced from New York City and newcomers looking for opportunities will move into Westchester and changes in the demographic and infrastructure will take place. South Ninth Avenue will focus on The City of Mount Vernon, NY as a case study of the societal effects of racist economic and housing policies in a country with a diminishing middle-class and increasing wealth disparity.4 As the cost of living skyrockets in NYC, how will Mount Vernon change?
South Ninth Avenue will document Mount Vernon through the residents, both lifelong and newcomers, in order to portray the legacy of the city and its changing dynamic. Mount Vernon has a distinct identity derived directly from the hard working strivers who established the city in 1850. An example of this strong sense of identity and independence can be tracked back to 1894 when its residents voted down a proposal to become part of Greater New York City.4 This tradition continued and Mount Vernon became the proud birthplace and home of world reknown intellectuals, politicians and entertainers - all claiming the city as their home.
The film will closely address and document the effects large scale urban change has on families, communities and individual identity. As a Mount Vernon native, my story and the stories of family and friends will play a significant part as well as interviews with residents, politicians, scholars, businesspersons, athletes and entertainers from Mount Vernon.
Lifelong Mount Vernon resident Mount VeeAD discusses the legacies and lineage of the city.