On The Wrong Side Of Broadway: The Two Worlds Collide In NYC’s Class-Divided Inwood

Divided by race, class and income, residents of Inwood are struggling to co-exist side by side.

By Nathalie Nayman January 10, 2017
Photo courtesy of Maready Photography's Blog

NYC is often compared to a melting pot, where folks of different ethnic, religious background are all united by one coffee and bagel line. But if you think about it, could NYC neighborhoods be more cliché? Nuclear families earning six figures head for Park Slope. Poor people live in areas like East New York. Latinos prefer Queens. There are also artists: they just go wherever the rents are affordable but, exceptions aside, it seems as if it’s either your ethnic background that determines which area you call home – or your income.

There is a study that shows just how class-divided our so-called melting pot actually is: the service class, for example, predominates in Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Got a job in a factory? Chances are, you live in Flatbush, East New York, Marine Park and the like.

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This system is hardly built on equality and cosmopolitanism – but it works, as long as you keep within the boundaries of your demarcated area. A struggling single mother in Canarsie who works two jobs to earn her living does, theoretically, know that somewhere in Park Slope lives this mythical stroller-pushing middle class woman, whose toughest dilemma is what organic diaper brand to choose. Their worlds, however, will hardly ever intersect – providing no grounds for conflicts or uncomfortable encounters.

But what if these two women from parallel worlds did have to co-exist side by side? Would the story be different then?

We don’t even need to speculate: there is a real life example where two parallel universes, two society classes are forced to live side by side, sharing the same nabe – NYC’s Inwood. This isn’t an exaggeration: according to the DNAinfo’s recent article, Inwood is, in fact, “two neighborhoods, divided by race, class and Broadway.”

Related: On The Wrong Side Of Broadway: The Two Worlds Collide In NYC’s Class-Divided Inwood

Broadway here is literally a demarcation zone. On the East Side live the poor. The West Side belongs to the rich. Offensive, yes, but as much as we hate defining groups of people based on their income statements, there is no other way to put it: according to DNAinfo,” 77 percent of Inwood households earning more than $100,000 live west of Broadway. Almost symmetrically, 77 percent of households that earn less than $20,000 are in East Inwood.”

Whatever the textbook inequality example comes to your mind, you will find it here. For example, “The bulk of the housing stock east of Broadway is rentals. West of Broadway is about 50-50 between co-ops and rentals.”

A stunningly different quality of life, mentality and cultural code—all within a stone’s throw: while we all are affected by class inequality, Inwood’s inhabitants are the ones who have to witness it in action 24/7. It will come as no surprise that they, well, they’re not enjoying it very much.

In the past, Inwood and its residents, fed up with each other – or rather, with the disparaging inequality which neither of the two sides can ignore –  got a lot of media attention. It all started with a controversial op-ed slash rant published in the Daily News. The author complained about the unbearable amount of noise in Inwood’s West Dyckman area, described her encounter with some local kid, who was “blasting his portable dancehall speaker on the sidewalk” (the encounter ended with the author giving the middle finger to the latter) and ended her piece with a desperate plea – “Will we, neighborhood’s residents, have to shout at the top of our lungs to be heard over it?” Apparently, some rants don’t work so well, even if eloquently worded. Well, Madam, you must be a racist—was the readers’ conclusion.

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“What matters to most of the folks is that people of color know their place and do not to enter the rarefied area of “West Dyckman,” said the response article in Uptown Collective.

The sad truth is that the finger-giving Daily News author is not necessarily racist. She is just from the other side of Broadway. And her frustration (no doubt, shared by many) about buying a pricey middle-class co-op and then not being able to enjoy the peace and quiet which is, sort of, supposed to pertain to the middle class area and come as a package with the said co-op, should be understandable. Except some folks (the ones that live on the east of Broadway) refuse to understand or sympathize – at least, while they feel that police treat them differently – nor are they willing to apologize for their “noisy” existence.

“Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” as Kipling said– except here East and West did, in fact, meet and decided they do not like the experience very much.

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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