Addressing Fears of Displacement in the Rust Belt | Guest Blog by David Riley

Each week on Tuesday and Thursday through October 20th 540Blog will feature guest blog’s from city residents themed around gentrification. Today’s blog comes courtesy of our David Riley. Check out David’s blog below and be sure to register to attend 540WMain’s

‘Fall 2018 Gentrification Conference // Who Are the Gentrified?

Saturday October 20th // 10am-4pm

Thomas P. Ryan Community Center

Addressing Fears of Displacement in the Rust Belt | Guest Blog by David Riley

In graduate school, I worked on a transformation plan for a neighborhood organization on Buffalo’s east side. The project revolved around a central conflict. Our client asked us to develop strategies to help neighborhood residents restore and replant vacant lots, improve conditions of existing homes, and create new housing options for existing renters and homeowners. We also were asked to find ways to minimize the potential that our plan – if successful in spurring new investments and improving services to the community – could end up displacing the very residents who worked long and hard to strengthen their neighborhood. 

Here in Rochester, there is growing concern and advocacy around this same tension, which lies at the heart of many debates about development. The central worry is that new development or improvements in physical conditions will result in higher property values. This can be a good thing for some homeowners. But for people just managing to make rent or mortgage payments, this may render their homes unaffordable. Along with this kind of literal displacement can come cultural and political changes as existing residents leave a neighborhood and newcomers move in. Even well-intended, much-needed investments in neighborhoods that have experienced longtime neglect and disinvestment can carry the risk of this result.

To develop a meaningful response to these concerns, we need to understand how they play out at the local level. The kind of displacement that happens in larger cities, which dominate many discussions about gentrification, differs significantly from places like Rochester and Buffalo. Cities like San Francisco and New York City have tremendous demand for housing, significant development, soaring real estate prices, and displacement taking place at a measurable scale.

Many Rochester neighborhoods have the opposite problem: decades of disinvestment, resulting in deteriorating housing and abandonment. Portions of the city are indeed experiencing new development, but overall, city home prices are fairly anemic, at least in comparison to larger urban markets. Problems with housing affordability are driven in large part by concentrated and racialized poverty, not a booming real estate sector. In other words, the concern in Rochester is less runaway housing prices than the fact that one in three Rochester residents lives below the poverty line, including a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic residents.

There’s little evidence of widespread displacement here, but that doesn’t mean that concerns are unfounded. We have many neighborhoods that desperately need investment, but it takes only slight increases in property values and rents to price out people living on very little. Recent housing advocacy has focused in part on pockets of the city that have indeed seen increased development and more home purchases by professionals and students. If these incremental changes build into broader interest in living and investing in the city – a larger urban resurgence that I think many of us might like to see, at least in the big picture – we need to be thoughtful about how to make that recovery beneficial to as many people as possible. If planners, policymakers and urbanists are serious about working to make Rochester a growing, more vibrant and more equitable city, we ought to take fears of displacement seriously, too.

How might we pursue community development that brings about these kinds of improvements, while also mitigating the risk of displacement?

In these conversations – at least many that I have – we often focus on the roles that individuals play in gentrification. It’s important to put a human face on the issue, and there’s certainly value in potential gentrifiers like me – a professional white man – examining the privilege and power that our social class brings to a neighborhood, whether we wield it intentionally or not. Reflecting on these subjects at a personal level also can be a helpful starting point for thinking about larger, systemic problems. But we’d be mistaken to think that individual choices can prevent displacement, which in many ways is a default result of a “successful” real estate cycle. We need public policies and initiatives that can help to intervene in this cycle while still encouraging development that contributes to our city.

So with a focus on what we can control and accomplish locally, I hope we’ll seriously explore ideas like community land trusts (CLTs), a mechanism for preserving affordable housing and providing some community control over neighborhood change. We already have a relatively new CLT, the Beechwood-based City Roots Community Land Trust. But there’s also potential benefit in multiple CLTs working across several neighborhoods, or alternately, for a CLT to take on more of a citywide role. We also can explore affordability goals and incentives tailored to the needs of Rochester’s renters, many of whose incomes are too low even for many apartments developed as affordable housing. (Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult to finance this type of development without more resources from the state or federal level.) 

Zoning changes could require a percentage of affordable units in newly built multi-family housing, and / or allow denser multi-family construction in areas now restricted to single-family homes. These steps might at least provide more affordable housing options to city residents. PUSH Buffalo, an organization working for economic and environmental justice, offers a potential model for community-driven plans designed to develop and preserve affordable housing, while also building green infrastructure and providing training in green jobs. Broader efforts to improve life for those in poverty – whether through better public transportation, a truly region-wide effort to improve public education, actively encouraging employers to locate and hire within the city – might begin to address some of the reasons so many of our neighbors fear displacement in the first place.

David Riley is a planner, researcher and former journalist. He worked in community journalism for a decade before earning a master’s degree in urban planning at the University at Buffalo. He has worked as an independent consultant on planning and data analysis projects, and completed a graduate internship with the Community Design Center Rochester. He now works as a research associate at CGR (Center for Governmental Research) and lives in the City of Rochester with his wife and daughter. He is particularly interested in how public policy can improve life in cities. 

Photo credit (cover): Jake Sell Hicks 

All About 540Gentrification Conference Planning Committee

There’s no I in team and anyone that has ever planned a mid-large scale community event of any sort understands that there is no shortage of moving parts and hands that make for a successful conference. 540WMain’s (Fall) Gentrification is no exception

We are pleased to introduce the 540WMain’s (Fall) Gentrification Planning Committee


(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton aka theglutenfreechef is a freelance educator, digital content creator, and social entrepreneur with over six years of experience as a professional freelancer, whole foods chef, food blogger, K-12 and adult educator and published author. He launched ( in 2012; which has since grown into a holistic health and wellness community with international readership and a large social media platform.



(he/his/him) Shane Wiegand is a fourth grade teacher in the Rush Henrietta Central School District. He attended SUNY Geneseo and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Childhood and Special Education and a Master’s degree in Childhood Multicultural Education. Shane and his wife Jennie live in the Beechwood Neighborhood. Shane serves as treasurer on the board of the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, sits on the Connected Communities Housing Committee, and is the outreach chair of the City Roots Community Land Trust.

Learn more about the conference team members by visiting

Register and pay ($6) for the conference by clicking the link below

The Affordable Housing Crisis – What We Can Do | Guest Blog by Mary Lupien

Each week on Tuesday and Thursday through October 20th 540Blog will feature guest blog’s from city residents themed around gentrification. Today’s blog comes courtesy of Mary Lupien. Check out Mary’s blog below and be sure to register to attend 540WMain’s

‘Fall 2018 Gentrification Conference // Who Are the Gentrified?

Saturday October 20th // 10am-4pm

Thomas P. Ryan Community Center

The Affordable Housing Crisis – What We Can Do by Mary Lupien

“Without a home, everything else falls apart” —Evicted by Matthew Desmond

I’m scared.  I’m scared for the people of my neighborhood, in my city and for vulnerable people everywhere. There is a very alarming pattern going on in Rochester and across the country:  Rapid Gentrification. Housing prices and rents are skyrocketing and people are being displaced – pushed out of our neighborhoods and out of our cities.

The central factor that fuels the pace at which naturally occurring affordable housing is disappearing is that Rochester and most other cities provide little-to-no protections for tenants and there are few mechanisms in place to preserve permanent affordability in our neighborhoods outside of the “so-called” affordable housing projects.  I say “Affordable, for who?”

Would you be surprised to find out that a tenant on a month-to-month lease can be evicted, given 30 days to vacate, through no fault of their own?  I was.  That is the situation in which many of our citizens find themselves.  Many don’t even know that when their original lease term expired, they were automatically rolled into a month-to-month contract.  (PS: tell everyone you know to ask for a long-term lease)

The main motivation for these evictions is profit.  Current tenants pay a lower rent and have been living in sub-standard conditions begging for repairs from the landlord.  Once an area is perceived to support higher rents, landlords kick the tenants out, renovate and lease or sell to people who can pay more.

I live in the Beechwood neighborhood on Parsells Ave.  This neighborhood had been neglected for years. However, because of a recent influx investment from City Hall’s Focused Investment Initiative (FII) and an involved neighborhood association, the neighborhood is improving and with it – housing prices.

On Hazelwood Ter. – a few streets over – a long-time property owner sold off 14 of his houses to a corporation which promptly issued eviction notices to all its tenants.  Only 2 of those tenants knew they had the right to challenge their eviction in court and were able to remain. However, they had to miss work and school to attend court dates.  The new landlords refuse to fix any of their issues until they move. On Parsells, the house next to us was sold for $41k last year and now, the owner is asking $72k.

This same dynamic is happening in the PLEX neighborhood, Monroe Ave, 19th Ward, Homestead Heights and many other neighborhoods.  This same dynamic is happening in Pittsburg, Chicago, Atlanta, Jackson, Canada, New Zealand.

Being evicted is the leading cause of homelessness

Being evicted is the leading cause of homelessness.  It makes sense however, many of us think of the homeless as being responsible for their situation and that is simply not the case. Displacement breaks up strong communities, causes trauma and stress-induced illness, loss of family stability, loss of employment. It disrupts childrens’ education and can put kids behind in a school system not equipped catch kids who fall through the cracks.  Families that avoid homelessness, are often pushed to the outer ring suburbs where they are more isolated and public transportation is lacking.

What can we do?

  • Stand with the City-wide Tenants Union and help them organize tenants to fight against evictions and improve living conditions.
  • Advocate for the Tenant Protections Platform in Rochester and New York State including Just Cause Eviction, Rent Control and a Housing Court where tenants can initiate court proceedings against a landlord (currently only a landlord can take tenants to court in most situations)
  • Support the work of City Roots Community Land Trust which is creating community ownership of land and pockets of permanently affordable housing in gentrifying neighborhoods and cooperative home-ownership
  • Push Rochester to create a Public Bank which would grant low-interest loans to people who have been historically denied entry into the housing market and access to capital (, based on the sole fact that they have the capacity to pay rent consistently.

About Mary Lupien

Mary Lupien is a community activist, teacher and resident of Beechwood neighborhood in Rochester, NY. 

What is Your Role in Gentrification?| Guest Blog by Ray Ray Mitrano

Each week on Tuesday and Thursday through October 20th 540Blog will feature guest blog’s from city residents themed around gentrification. Today’s blog comes courtesy of our Class Coordinator Ray Ray Mitrano. Check out Ray Ray’s blog below and be sure to register to attend 540WMain’s

‘Fall 2018 Gentrification Conference // Who Are the Gentrified?

Saturday October 20th // 10am-4pm

Thomas P. Ryan Community Center

What is your role in gentrification?  by Ray Ray Mitrano

Mine is “artist”, “hipster”, “white cis-male, post-suburban, cusp-millenial; whose Italian American family grew up in the city, flighted in the late 80’s for ‘better schools’, and now, after living in other parts of the country for an adult-decade, back in Rochester, renting just a couple blocks away from where I was born.”

Having gone to college and lived in Brooklyn for six years, the Hudson Valley upstate briefly, and — for another few years — in the start-up booming, festival flowing, hip-cool-and-mega-investor frenzied East Austin, Texas; I’ve taken part in gentrifying many neighborhoods where artists have gravitated for low-rent, culturally potent, corporately-unseen space.

Or were they really such hidden neighborhoods? “Best-kept-secrets”? “No one knows we’re here except all the historically red-lined families of color who are deeply familiar with the type of perpetual American “flip-flop” of segregated livelihood that’s about to be initiated.” ?

No! Artists’ density is one of the many signals developers, investors, and house-flippers use to identify which areas of a destabilized city to direct their overwhelmingly profit driven strategies.

Are you in an “old warehouse” renting “cheap studio space” and becoming more and more part of a lively, robust, hub of arts and culture?


Who owns it? What else do they own nearby? Most likely you are part of a plan that spans multiple decades; if all goes according to well-proven track records of high financial returns.

You are making their small, drop-in-the-bucket investment, they’ve been sitting on for years; more and more cool ( sellable ) to the white-folks-with-money ( YUPPIES ) who want to live their lifestyle amidst a burgeoning, hip-arts-hub; and all that they can easily afford to indulge.

That’s why they wouldn’t let us sign a long-term lease when we started up our arts-collective? Yes. Artists who make the space a destination for those of greater financial means; almost always have no place in the immediate future of its growth. Displaced; right along with the long-term, majority black-and-brown families that were priced, fined, and culturally alienated out a few sets of years earlier.

How do artists disrupt this trend? Know your neighborhood, who owns it, what the folks who live there actually want to have happen there; and where you fit into it all in the midst of these deeply rooted, systemically racist issues.


Identify the neighborhood association. Go to their meetings. What can you as a creatively empowered individual bring to the table? Educate your peers on the priorities and bring them with you.


This is not as foreign an ability as it may sound. Organizing is raising awareness. Organizing is creating a framework to leverage power. Organizing is intersectionality with other groups, organizations, and advocacy through shared interests. Organizing is accountability to privilege and humility when working with those of traditionally oppressed heritage. It’s what a free-market culture striving for democratic social dynamics needs to collectively participate in decision-making; or be left-out of the financially emphasized discussion.

Coalitions, unions, and movements of well-informed, sustainably engaged artists have the power to disrupt the commonly unrestricted path of profit-maximizing developers and unrestricted American venture-capitalists.

What type of city do you want five years from now?

Development without displacement is possible. Now is the time in Rochester for artists to collectively engage these institutionalized real-estate patterns. There will be no stopping the gentrification locomotive once it builds steam.


Current Rochester gentrification “hot-spots” for artists:

– PLEX, Beechwood, South Wedge, Marketview Heights, and pockets of Downtown

Art spaces to organize:

The Refinery ( Exchange St ) Psychic Garden ( Railroad St ) Fedder (E. Main St) Small World Books (North St) UUU ( State St )

Land Use Groups/Policies to intersect/discourse:

Our Land ROC ( coalition meeting monthly to promote/demand a platform of sustainable city development )
PLEX Neighborhood Association ( Seeking a Community Benefits Agreement w/ DHD Ventures )
City Roots ( Beechwood homeowners forming a Community Land Trust )
Roc City-Wide Tenants Union ( Inclusionary Zoning, Redefining Area Median Income used for “Affordable Housing” standards, Participatory Budgeting )



Ray Ray Mitrano is a social artist living at edge to the recently filled “East Loop”

Gentrification and The Policing of Black Bodies | Guest Blog by Calvin Eaton

‘Fall 2018 Gentrification Conference // Who Are the Gentrified?

Saturday October 20th // 10am-4pm

Thomas P. Ryan Community Center

Gentrification and The Policing of Black Bodies by Calvin Eaton

D’Arreion Toles, of St.Louis just wanted to enter into his luxury apartment for the night. Hilary Brooke Mueller (a white woman) didn’t feel he belonged there and took it upon herself to invade his space, obscure his rights and block his entry to his door.

A back and forth transpired which ended with the police being called and the questioning of a black man’s existence in his own home ensued. Fortunately, this time the story doesn’t end in tragedy.

What does this now viral story have to do with gentrification?

As luxury lofts and skyscraper buildings line a cityscape more than the physical landscape of a city changes. With the physical, the cultural, socioeconomic, and racial landscape changes as well.

As transplants relocate to a now gentrified city, they typically bring their own ideals, judgements, perspectives and sometimes racism along with their pour over coffees and luxury luggage.

Long time minority residents and even new folks of color are quite literally overcome and pushed out of an area that they once dominated. People, norms, and habits that once were part of the cloth of a neighborhood are now seen as foreign, untrendy, and a nuisance. Residents (typically POC) are policed by the new in their own neighborhood and no longer belong in their own home.

D’Arreion’s story could easily be a story in downtown Rochester. In fact his story is the story now popping up weekly in urban districts all across the US. Black bodies living their lives, doing nothing illegal; policed by the white and the privileged in their own neighborhoods.

The questions remain: Who are the gentrified? Who are the gentrifiers? What are their stories? To whom does this space, this space belong.

Read the entire article via NYT:

Attend the 540WMain Gentrification Conference this Saturday to support development without racism and displacement.

All About the (Fall) 540Gentrification Conference | October 20

540WMain Communiversity presents:

540WMain Gentrification (Fall) Conference

Saturday October 20th // 10am-4pm

Dear Community,

We are pleased to formally announce the fall edition of the 540WMain Gentrification Conference

In March 2018 540WMain Communiversity, City Roots Community Land Trust, 441 Ministries and the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition held an inaugural sold out conference on gentrification in the City of Rochester. Based on this success and community feedback our planning committee has moved forward with this fall edition of the conference to be held at the Thomas P. Ryan Center in the Beechwood Neighborhood.

Fall Theme

Themed “Who Are the Gentrified” our fall conference will continue the discussion around the history of gentrification in Rochester neighborhoods. Throughout the day we will highlight the stories of individuals in our community affected by gentrification and bring together leaders, developers, and residents of our community to learn about what is currently being done to counter displacement, find better solutions, and determine a collective path forward.

This engaging and hands on conference will be co-facilitated by two veteran teachers and community leaders, Calvin Eaton Founder and Executive Director of 540WMain Communiversity and Shane Wiegand from the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition and City Roots Community Land Trust.

Register online today ($6) // Open to all