Gentrification in Neukölln
Called as “the epicenter of cool” by The Guardian and “Neukölln Hipster?” by Zitty. We have already talked about Neukölln in previous posts, when we interviewed Miracolo 40 and when we went to the Nowkoelln Flowmarkt. But, what is exactly going on there?
We got again the chance to talk with our german friend Elisa, she is a Geography student at the Humboldt Universität and she lives in Neukölln. We had so many questions about this so-called “hip” neighbourhood, specially concerning Gentrification, a process that is affecting Berlin in the past years.
How would you describe us the neighbourhood of Neukölln?
Neukölln is a very large district with many different neighborhoods. It has most recently been (and still is in large part) a working class district that has attracted a large number of immigrants. The northern part of Neukölln has been undergoing rapid changes in the past 10 years. After Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, Nord-Neukölln is the latest neighbourhood in Berlin to experience gentrification.
We have heard about this concept of Gentrification. Could you explain us what is it exactly?
This process usually starts when students and artists move into cheap inner-city housing. Their presence makes the neighbourhood more attractive to rich people and more and more investors are attracted to the area. Houses are being renovated, rents go up, many units change from rent to ownership, more and more businesses open, catering to a more and more upscale crowd.
In the initial phases of gentrification, this process can look quite attractive because it creates an exciting concentration of creativity and diversity. However, the process never stops there. Almost inevitably, gentrified neighbourhoods turn into bland, upscale neighborhoods for rich white people. Most of the initial inhabitants – poor people, people of color, immigrants – and even the students and artists that made the neighbourhood attractive to investors in the first place are displaced during this process. They are priced out, unable to afford the higher rents in the area, and forced to move to other less desirable areas in the city or even outside of the city. The places and cultural institutions that were important to them/us are forced to close down when their clientele has to move away. Many (sub-)cultural networks are destroyed in the process of gentrification.
How is gentrification affecting to Neukölln then?
In Nord-Neukölln the trendy phases of this process are currently in full swing, but people are already being displaced from the area as well. It is quite noticeable, for example, that there are far fewer immigrants in Nord-Neukölln than in the adjacent parts of the district.
Do you feel affected by this process too?
As a student I myself am obviously part of the problem because my presence as well as the bars, cafés, clubs, and restaurants I go to contribute to the start of gentrification. On the other hand, I am also affected by gentrification. I used to live in Kreuzberg, but along with virtually all my friends I have had to move away because rent became unaffordable. I am very hesitant to contribute to gentrification by describing things that tourists could do in Nord-Neukölln. In general, people who live in Nord-Neukölln, including myself, do not appreciate large groups of tourists in bars and cafés that are like living rooms to many of us. Loud and drunk tourists prowling the streets at all hours of the night are outright annoying to me. If visitors want to spend some time in Nord-Neukölln, I would suggest that they do so respectfully, careful not to completely destroy the atmosphere of the places they visit, and aware that what might look to them as the latest place to be actually has very negative effects for many of the people who live close by.
Text by Sílvia Cabra and pictures by Silvia Conde.