HATCH Series No. 2 | Between the Concrete

+ About the Work

I heard the word “gentrification” over and over again, but I hadn’t really understood its meaning until I rented a shared room in Canal Condo at 16 Orchard St., a block that hasn’t been completely gentrified and is therefore the only affordable block for me in the L.E.S. neighborhood.
So here’s what I learned about gentrification in the case of L.E.S: an urban process in which a poor, ethnically diverse immigrant or working class neighborhood transforms into a subculturally diverse colony, designer boutique by designer boutique (e.g., Alexander Olch, 14 Orchard), artisanal coffee shop by artisanal coffee shop (e.g., Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, 88 Orchard), vintage bike by vintage bike, hip resto by hip resto (e.g., The Fat Radish, 17 Orchard; Fung Tu, 22 Orchard) and art gallery by art gallery. A bunch of artists come, followed by Bohemians, gathering around in a local coffee shop serving flat white with soya milk and vegan pastries.
The gentrifying process attracts a huge number of “new immigrants,” not just artists, students, and gays, but also intellectuals, activists, and community organizers, to this historical “ghetto,” fusing into Chinatown, which is grittier enough to endure through the gentrification. The result is a messy jumble of hipsters and diligent first-generation Chinese immigrants, the kewl and the gritty. The hip newcomers need the cheap sludgy, smelly Chinese restaurants/markets that fueled generations of working-class immigrant families, to cut down their living expenses for hipsterification. And the Chinese community needs to feed on the hipsterification to strengthen its resistance to gentrification. It’s oxymoronic, it’s gritty and kewl.


Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, Kuo Chiao holds an M.A in Linguistics and is currently pursuing his PhD at NYU.