Wake up call


Thursday, April 07, 2011


            Louise and Ruby got a wakeup call.

            The city of Scranton has decided to become part of the 21 st Century, which means, city fathers want to do what every other city in the nation appears to be doing: getting rid of the poor.

            Unlike Hoboken, which did it more openly simply by burning people out of their houses, modern urban renewal uses the city government to remove people through something called a redevelopment zone.

            The idea behind this, of course, is to force owners to either modernize their buildings or to take the property in order that some designated redeveloper can do it.

            This means that poor people living in affordable – but generally dilapidated – housing must move or shell out significantly increased rents to cover the cost of reconstruction.

            Market rate rents often mean the poor can no longer afford to live in the city centers, which in the past were considered unacceptable to the wealthy.

            City fathers, of course, want the renewal because it increases the tax base, and improves the quality of people who will occupy the new residential units.

            For years, Scranton has always been a time bubble, a piece of the past where people could live their lives without climbing onto the tread mill that has everybody else overworking to keep up with the rising costs of rent, food and fuel.

            But Scranton has ambitions to become a modern city and wants to shed its working class roots, except as part of some historic archive that they can look back upon with fondness.

            Louise and Ruby have lived their lives on the fringe, always able to make their way through the world because Scranton has remained a poor-friendly place where rents were affordable and people could survive with one low paying job without fear that of being evicted.

            I saw the developers scoping out the area last year and knew that the situation was dire, but the news came earlier this year when the city decided it was going to designate a new developer to upgrade the block where Ruby and Louise live.

            They started looking around for other places to rent and found that the city had changed drastically since they moved into these digs in the mid-1990s, and that rents were double even triple what they currently pay, part of the move to keep out the unacceptable unwashed masses in favor of more wealthy students who have already turned a good portion of Northeast Scranton into one vast dormitory for the college.

            With parents paying the rents, landlords can hike up the price and this reduces the stock ordinary people can rent, and thus slowly driving them into smaller and smaller corners of the city, and eventually out of the city entirely.

            Which is fine with the city fathers who don’t want to have to deal with poor people when they have aspirations of making Scranton over into something totally modern.

            A sad state of affairs, when even poor town’s like Scranton look down their noses at the poor.

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