When I moved into this apartment the nearby storefronts were churches, laundromats, convenience stores, used stuff resellers, Chinese takeout, fried chicken, and The Amsterdam Social. It was the only table-service restaurant for 5 blocks north or south, maybe farther. Its menu was inventive and international, its decor ambitiously architectural and geometric. The clientele, needless to say, appeared distinctly more affluent than the neighborhood average.
The word is “gentrification”.
I don’t actually know what this word means. It sounds like it’s meant to describe a universal phenomenon, maybe something to do with landowners (the gentry), but I’ve only ever heard it used to describe White people moving in and Black people moving out, for very particular definitions of White and Black that don’t seem to have much to do with The Landed Gentry.
In New York, conventional wisdom says that gentrification proceeds by anchor points. Someone sets up a bar or a coffee shop with prices high enough to keep out the long-time residents, leaving only the new arrivals. New people move into the neighborhood, comforted by the presence of a familiar bar and coffee shop. One block West of me are The Harlem Public (pub) and The Chipped Cup (coffee), serving exactly this function.
The Amsterdam Social was a favorite of mine, which is to say that in 11 months I went there twice, and ordered takeout once. I was therefore disappointed when, after returning from Seattle, I saw they were closed. A sign on the window bid us a fond farewell.
It might have been a speed problem; service and preparation were too slow for a restaurant without tablecloths. Or, it might have been because they lost their liquor license and converted to BYOB.
My personal favorite explanation is that “gentrifiers” are by definition people who are trying to find more space for less money than their first-choice neighborhood, so they’re more likely to have room to cook at home, and less likely to spend money on dinner out.
Maybe gentrification is not monotonic curve … or maybe bar and cafe really are the two magic categories. The Monkey Cup, a coffee shop with its own Instagram feed, just opened two blocks South, on a row otherwise populated by three hair salons, a hardware store, convenience store, and fruit stand, all primarily Spanish-speaking.