For years Jersey City, New Jersey has been a lost treasure on the decline with old abandoned factories, mediocre malls, and unkept houses. For over a decade big financial companies and New York residents have been slowly flocking to the downtown area looking to escape New York’s high rental cost. Since Mayor Steven Fulop took office Jersey City’s forgotten slums finally began to undergo some change, but not the change many have expected. Bergen-Lafayette and Greenville sections have now become a magnet for Jews interested in creating a new Chassidishe community in an effort to escape Brooklyn’s high cost of living.
According to 5Towns Jewish Times newspaper Greenville is one of the newest Chassidishe communities on the rise. An apartment building located at 221 Martin Luther King Drive was purchased in March to operate as the Jewish community’s temporary shul. Invitations to relocate to Jersey City were sent out to the Chassidishe community in the tri-state area as well as well as other regions. The paper claims visiting Jews have received warm welcomes from long-time residents in the area, but what is actually taking place is several Chassidishe philanthropists and real-estate investors have joined forces to convert the Greenville and Bergen-Lafayette areas to the newest Chassidishe community, unbeknownst to many long time residents. Real estate offers are being sent to landlords advertising the buyers’ market and soliciting owners to sell their homes for a good price. Jews have been witnessed frequently going door to door asking long-time residents to sell their homes offering cash for the property.
One particular resident had mixed feelings about the new transitions taking place in the neighborhood. The Greenville landlord that asked to remain anonymous said, “My tenets don’t know that I’m thinking about selling my property to the Jews. I have a young son and I don’t feel comfortable with him going outside to play or letting my mother walk up the block to the store. I do have split feelings about selling because I know the decision may negatively affect my tents.”
So who does this affect the most?
Only a quarter of Jersey City’s population is African American according to data collected from area vibes.com. However, the two locations the Jews are looking to take over is heavily populated with African American people, 52.29% of the Greenville section and 65.38% of Bergen-Lafayette consist of African American residents.
Jews have established their headquarters for the Ya’azoru Project in the Greenville section, the office consists of a welcoming staff who helps Jews interested in relocating to the area. The program offers neighborhood tours to scout the city helping families to explore homes. In addition to city tours, the project offers information on mortgages including, FHA, financing, and bank loans for first-time homeowners. The Ya’azoru project even offers roomy rental apartments at a subsidized rate of $500 per month for a full year to Jewish families looking to help grow the new Chassidishe community.
Jersey City’s new community changes may alter the lives of many African Americans living in the city in the same way it reshaped the lives of African American Brooklyn residents. If not careful the changes taking place may displace many African American families due to their inability to afford the rise in the cost of living.
In an interview with New York Mag Jewish developer and landlord, Ephraim discussed the practices done to take over chosen neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
“We’re small, so we look into places that haven’t caught on — we just did a place on Nostrand Avenue… The building was full of tenants — $1,300, $1,400 tenants. We paid every tenant the average of twelve, thirteen thousand dollars to leave. I actually went to meet them — lawyers are not going to help you. And we got them out of the building and now we have tenants paying $2,700, $2,800, and they’re all white. So this is what we do. My saying is — again, I’m not racist — every black person has a price. The average price for a black person here in Bed-Stuy is $30,000 dollars. Up over there in East New York, it’s $10,000 dollars. Everyone wants them to leave, not because we don’t like them, it’s just they’re messing up — they bring everything down. Not all of them.”
The displacement of blacks in urban communities appears to be an escalating issue countrywide. Places like Boston, Washington DC, and Nashville have seen a rise in property prices, initiating the eradication of blacks and working class people unable to afford the increases.
“The scary part about doing this is, if the black guys start to realize how much the property will sell for. This is a new thing now, the past year. A million, two million dollars—it’s crazy, crazy numbers. None of them realize yet—some of them do—the amount of money you can get”, stated Ephriam.