In Jackson Heights

Seattle needs to sit down and watch this documentary. It was made by Frederick Wiseman, and it concerns a dense and multicultural neighborhood in Queens called Jackson Heights. Wiseman's film turns out to be a document of a world entering its last days. The rich mix of cultures he meticulously and even impersonally captures (the South Asian restaurants, the Central American shops, the temples, the Islamic centers, the community meetings, the colorful parades, the many, many languages) will become a thing of the past.

It is now only a matter of time before the neighborhood gets improvements, "gringos" move in, rents go up, and Jackson Heights, too, becomes "out of reach." Nothing it seems has the power to stop this process, which the great British-German sociologist Ruth Glass first called "gentrification" in 1964. The reason it happened in her time and place (London) is the same reason it happens today in NYC and Seattle: municipal inaction. If the real-estate market operates on its own terms with no checks or interruptions, then class differences will be expressed in spatial terms. It's not a mystery. It is as simple as that. By 1973, Glass wrote, inner London was well on its way to being "almost exclusively reserved for selected higher-class strata." What happened to inner London in the 1970s happened to Manhattan in the 1990s, and is now happening to inner Seattle today.

You have to wonder how bad it's going to have to get in Seattle before someone does something about it.

Read Charles Mudede's full review by Stranger Senior Staff Writer Charles Mudede
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Frederick Wiseman

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