Selina Deng ‘25
As you walk out on the populated streets of “The Big Apple,” you automatically envision a vibrant community of diverse cultures from all over the world, cameras flashing in front of Times Square, top notch restaurants, dynamic skyscrapers, and the bustling city that never sleeps. Walking underground, you see the famous yellow MetroCards being trampled upon as you wait for the subway.
What if I told you that the colorful machines that dispense MetroCards are being eliminated: the primary staple to transportation for many New Yorkers?
In place of MetroCards, One Metro New York (OMNY) vending machines will be implemented in 2023. Some—even most—may say these tap-to-pay machines are more efficient because it ensures contactless payment which is essential in the midst of this ongoing pandemic. The idea of not losing a physical card and having a backup in hand at all times is an advantage for this generation; however, what does it mean for the lower class or the homeless population?
This radical change immediately puts those with fewer earnings at a disadvantage since most do not own credit cards or smartphones. It’s important to take note that New York has one of the most drastic income differentials in the nation. Outsiders imagine people in flashy blazers with suitcases, walking along Wall Street as the “typical” New Yorker. Then again, the homeless seem to be a mere negligence hidden from the public eye. People who barely make it through the day, scraping along the streets to find a plastic bottle and picking up pennies to obtain a meal, constitute an overwhelming amount of the city’s population.
These underpinnings are being blatantly waved before our eyes. This is a pure example of the spread of gentrification across our American cities. More residential buildings and corporations are being built, essentially introducing the middle and upper class to the area. Creating these upscale establishments in replacement of shabby buildings calls for higher revenue, decreased social capital, and forced displacement. The drastic shifts in neighborhoods from poor to rich, tend to drive marginalized communities out of their so called “home” solely due to the fact that they can’t afford to live up to these abrupt changes.
One can say gentrification has produced favorable results, for instance, lower crime rates, higher property values, more job opportunities, etc. That may be true, nevertheless, where are the lower income people expected to live or work? These job renewals are hiring people with degrees that the underprivileged lack, leaving them deprived of many resources. Government officials claim that this will ensure safety and commercial and residential mobility.
“People tell me about their fear of using the system, and we are going to ensure that fear is not New York’s reality,” Mayor Adams said. Truth be told, these tactics are a way to mask the idea that they are trying to eliminate the homeless and lower income population from their gentrified society. We all know that homeless people do not increase crime rates, as they don’t create harm for anyone, but people who own guns are more susceptible to violence. Placing an end to the usage of MetroCards has not been the only approach to shun people from the lower end of the spectrum. Recent discussions regarding the elimination of benches at subways as anti-homeless architecture have been expressed. This system ostracizes the homeless from staying there at night to prevent rippling fear. These oppressive practices showcase the hard truth of our society. Instead of gentrification, alternative solutions can be administered, for example, eliminating the possession of guns, providing more jobs, or expanding public housing without barring the impoverished from the public.
As the city lights illuminate around us, covering all the constellations in the night sky, think about all the sordid truths that are shielded from the public eye. Needless to say, this is not to persuade one into thinking New York has nothing pleasant to offer, but to inform the general public of the flaws of our society and to promote effective changes for a diverse and inclusive locality. In the not so distant future, the notable MetroCards will become a relic and become hidden in a box tucked in your basement as a token of history.
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