The 20-foot, 400-watt speakers rattled
as Alex of Brooklyn punk band Gillian’s bass guitar blared. Tufts of
sonic thunder washed over the residents of L.E.S.’ Baruch Houses well
Some concertgoers were euphoric, others
watched in boredom. They looked as if they had to be there, because
they essentially did—the electric in their building had went out
due to the 1st annual Baruch Houses Music festival, arranged
by the Hipsters Against Gentrification (H.A.G.) organization.
The event was one of many contentious
moments since the group, full of upper middle class residents who
petitioned the city to move into low-income housing, arrived in the
Baruch Houses. H.A.G. president Dana Miller said she thought the
festival would be “great for the community,’ but she may have been
alone in that belief.
“Ain’t nobody in the hood want this
s**t,” said 19-year-old student Lorenzo James. “They told us ‘we
booked a bigtime rapper you may like.’ We like ‘it’s lit!’. I’m
thinkin’ Dave East or even the ASAP n*ggas. They invited G-Eazy,”
Jenkins said with a look of consternation.
The group of roughly 11 New York
residents—all white—petitioned New York Mayor Bill De Blasio to
move into public housing so they wouldn’t “sustain gentrification”
by buying property in communities with heightened rates. The measure,
devised by Miller, is an attempt to make amends with New York natives
disgusted with the increasing property rates and cultural erasure
taking place in every borough.
Rapper G-Eazy attempts to get Baruch tenants to cheer him on
The approval of the group’s request was
controversial, as the citizens jumped in front of people of meager
means who had been waiting for housing for years. De Blasio called
his decision a necessary maneuver to “support” people who were
“desiring to reject their privilege” by “living with
Lian Thames, a Baruch houses resident,
argues that letting the group jump the line is “the definition of
privilege.” Nevertheless, the group moved into the Baruch houses in
December of 2015. The H.A.G. is relishing the experience, but many
tenants argue the “neo-hipsters” are making things worse.
“Since we’ve been here, we’re doing
everything to show the (pauses)
African-Americans that we’re not like other hipsters,” Ryan Mushen
said. “When I first came in, I told them hey, I’m not gonna
come in and call the cops on you when your baby mama drama gets too
loud, or you get into shootouts. Hell, I sell bullets to kids.”
Ryan Mushen sells bullets to Baruch Houses neighbors
Thames notes as much as the group
desires to assimilate into the Baruch Houses community, they’ve been
“extremely offensive and bold.”
Thames notes, “They walked in here
calling themselves ‘wiggas’ and a ‘Black liberation organization’ and
I had to check them on that. You’re not liberating anyone just
because you want to live amongst us. Then they tried to get way too
friendly. One of them told my daughter he would pay for an ‘ass
injection’ for her graduation gift. It took me everything in my power
not to f**k him up. They just don’t get it.”
Complaints from longtime Baruch Houses
residents include the group tagging Bernie Sanders stickers on cars
without asking, having frequent concerts with rock bands
playing—engendering several noise complaints—and being too
invasive with locals.
H.A.G. Member Lou Kurts “doesn’t see the big deal“
James notes when he and his friends
hang out in front of the houses, the hipsters frequently walk up to
them and sway their conversation.
“I was playing some Future,” James
recalls. “This white boy walks up talking about how Young Thug was
better, then he’s like (imitating the H.A.G members’ gruff voice)
‘I’m not leaving until you tell me your top 11 trap rappers
ever.’ He started rambling about what was and wasn’t trap and I had
to tell him, ‘I don’t give a f**k, you blowin’ my high my guy.’”
One of the other H.A.G. members, Theo
Randall, achieved particular ire within the community when he got a
resident arrested by posting on his Facebook that the 16-year-old
“sold the most boss weed.”
“They hot as s**t,” James says.
It seems as much as the group wanted to
set themselves apart from the reviled gentrifiers, they’ve done
everything to be just as aggravating to the community they joined.
“Keep in mind that these people are
making upwards of $90K,” Thames reminds. “They don’t really
belong here. They’re parking Benzes and BMWs in the middle of the
projects and have people from other projects coming over to steal
them and rob them. Then they’re like ‘crime is an economic issue so
we’re not upset’. They go buy some more cars, and get robbed again.
They’re loud, obnoxious, and inciting crime…but I guess they’re
lowering the property value like they wanted.”
The residents note one positive of
having the H.A.G. around is renewed cleanup efforts from the city.
“I forgot there were street sweepers
and public trash cans until they came around,” Thames quipped.