Feeling Safe In Your New Co-op? One Thing That Gentrification Won’t Take From You Is NYC’s Street Gangs

There is one inherent part of NYC’s history and culture that even gentrification can’t wipe out: street gangs.

By Nathalie Nayman August 12, 2016
The Gangs of New York. Intermedia Films / Initial Entertainment Group

Remember the good ol’ days when New York used to be cool? What we seem to be left with now is a growing list of cool things that New York no longer has. Because, well, gentrification. Didn’t we all lose something we loved and cherished to this common enemy? While some are mourning Bronx’s vanishing hip hop culture, others are musing over the disappearing bookstores, closing boxing gyms or something more evasive, like NYC’s very soul.

Well, it turns out, there is one inherent part of NYC’s history and culture that even gentrification can’t wipe out: street gangs.

Related: As Crown Height Gentrifies, A Vicious Gang-War Plays Out

In 2015, Daily News published this awesome map of NYC gangs for those questioning as to the proximity to the local street crews. But the question proved to be somewhat rhetorical: look at the map closely and you might have a hard time finding a place that hasn’t been claimed by some kind of gang. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. There are actually two areas in the whole five boroughs that are not covered in red (this is how active gangs are shown on the map): one of them is an ultra-orthodox Borough Park, another one is a cemetery.

NYPD says there are roughly 370 active gangs in NYC now. Divided as they might be, one thing all these street crews have in common is their astounding resistance to gentrification forces. Gangs do not discriminate between gentrifying, gentrified and high-income areas: they are simply everywhere. Take the Upper West Side, for example. One might think that this posh neighborhood is supposed to be as sterile as it gets, except the local gang, Amsterdam Money, probably just didn’t get the memo and stayed on what they perceive as their territory. Surprisingly, the Amsterdam Money youth and the Old Money rich folks haven’t clashed so far: apparently, streets and co-ops are two turfs that never intersect.

So, answering your possible concerns, it doesn’t matter how much rent you pay and if you have a Whole Foods down the block. Chances are, you have lived close to one street gang or another for quite some time now (and, probably didn’t even notice).

Does it mean that you shouldn’t worry about the local gang activity at all? Well, that really depends on how violent “your” particular gang is. This is when the Daily News map will really come in handy: First, it is good idea to research a street gang name that pops up close to your address. Living side by side with a group of teens whose most “glorious” affairs are limited to selling pot and bare knuckle brawls is not the worst thing ever. Now, co-existing with the Bronx’ MacBaller Brims, who, as the NYC Post claims, are the new mafia—ruthless and dangerous—is a different story. Regardless of whether or not they’re really that bad, it seems wise to steer clear of their territory anyway.

Another good idea would be checking the crime stats for your police precinct: you can find the info here. The real cause for concern would be a high number of stabbings and street shootings, especially if the map shows that there are several gangs operating in the area. Basically, it indicates an alarming possibility that your area, no matter how pricey and smoothie-shop-induced, might soon become a gang-war zone, with stray bullets hitting innocent bystanders.

And if that happens, then, well – at least, gentrification and lack of diversity will be the least of your worries.

Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

Nathalie is an international media trooper. After working as a journalist in Moscow, Nathalie participated in local politics and social movements in Cairo where she covered the protests and political upheaval of the Arab Spring. Nathalie is Agorafy's content manager. She produces and oversees unique and creative content for the Newsroom.

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