Archive for the ‘Sociology’ Category

Looking back to 2008 Kyle Cocchi views his taking a job in politics as a risk from the start — an endeavor he now compares to making it as an actor due to the lack of consistency in Washington’s political sphere. After finishing his undergraduate degree at The Catholic University of America and working on several campaigns, including John Edwards’ run for U.S. President, he landed a two-year gig with the think tank Friends of Cancer Research. There he performed several main jobs from around-the-clock data mining and news aggregation to program development, networking and advocacy. The end of that gig in September 2010, however, left him with no upward mobility in Washington, as the Democrats had suddenly lost steam and Friends of Cancer had less to tackle post-health care reform bill.

“It was discouraging at the time, but I wouldn’t take it back if I could,” says the 25-year-old Staten Island native. “Almost every job’s a gamble these days.”

Cocchi, who’s tall, fair-skinned and soft-spoken—at least until national politics or cancer research enters the conversation—decided to leave Washington for a new job arena, feeling burnt out and slightly abandoned. Capitol Hill had little left to offer it seemed. So he packed up his belongings and headed back to New York, home of the professional job juggler. As for his strongest credentials, Cocchi says he cultivated a work sensibility during his tenure at Friends of Cancer that places him ahead of the curve, or at least right on it: the ability to comfortably wear a dozen hats in times of severe austerity, growing political disparity and constant economic flux. Cocchi sees that as the realest sense of job security in today’s world, since few companies and organizations can guarantee long-term stability post-recession. When tough times call for flexibility, hats that aren’t needed can easily be replaced for other ones.

“When I went to D.C. I was an idealist looking for a career,” he says. “By the time I came back to New York I was a fully reformed pragmatist ready to enter any field that would pay me.”

After moving into an apartment with his father in Forest Hills, Queens, Cocchi began culling through all of the online job postings that required a similar amount of multitasking to his stint at Friends of Cancer; everything from a full-time editing job at the Huffington post starting at $40,000 a year to a part-time job at a small advertising firm with no listed salary. He settled on temp work in the finance industry; a more lucrative prospect with the opportunity to change fields again in the next year or two, depending on where the dice landed.

“I didn’t come back here looking for a job as a nurse or a teacher,” says Cocchi. “But I did come back here with my eyes on a lot of different industries; non-profit work, advertising, media, finance, even pharmaceuticals.”

The recent economic and political volatility impacting nearly everyone below the top 1% of wealth holders around the country has given way to a new sense of career gambling among young urban professionals. These days, unlike just ten years ago, the average 20- to 30-year-old with a colleague degree or higher expects reoccurring job changes and has at least two backup plans in motion at any given time. Job stability throughout both the private and public sectors has reached a drastic low since the peak of the recession, while individual mobility and adaptability have become all the more easy to maintain. In turn, fewer workers are considering the single-career path over the course of their professional lives, and more employers are finding ways to perform their own juggling acts when it comes to hiring, firing and taking on more freelance and temp workers.

We can tie it to our confused political system and fragmented labor market, even as the economy slowly recovers. We can also link it to the constant growth of the Internet and its most popular sites among those under 40—YouTube, Facebook and Twitter—making self-styled celebrity and entrepreneurial success seem all the more easy to obtain as traditional jobs become more scarce. But at the heart of it, the city’s and country’s populations are continually growing while the means to pay those for their fair work is shrinking, causing more professional loyalists to reconsider their professional loyalties.

“I have friend with a law degree who works as a communications director right now,” says Cocchi. “I also know a doctor who makes $45,000 a year. It can be hard to admit, but we’re not always as special as we think we are. Probably less special than we’re willing to realize.”

These days, artists who teach and actors who wait tables are just the tip of the iceberg. Meet the countless other divided young urban professionals: political workers who temp in finance, investment bankers who write on the side, journalists who work part-time in marketing and PR (and the list goes on…) They’ve always been around, but they’re growing in scope, and they’re no longer being discreet about their various survival techniques—or making their efforts and names as visible as possible.

On the upside, we’re beginning to wear our mismatched hats more openly, as we become increasingly compelled to think outside of the box and boost our individual productivity (even if that means a higher rate of tweets per day.) On the downside, we’re gradually abandoning long-term skill development and potentially diluting the quality of our better work. But love it or hate it, rapid socioeconomic shifts and industry changes throughout the country are causing many us to go through career paths like paper plates, as we begin to entertain the next alternative even when we find a steady gig for the time being. Those same shifts are also leading many of us to develop skill sets that may or may not work together on paper. But that all depends on how big industries continue to reshape and rebrand themselves.

As of now and until the economy really improves, it’s open season for almost any budding professional who wants to try on another hat for the time being. Its as easy as covering several numbers on a roulette board. While freelancing on the side has become all the more manageable for those already employed (so long as employers provide a base salary to live off of), companies and organizations have begun to allow their workers more freedom to freelance on the side (so long as the necessary job requirements are met at the end of each work week.) That allowance includes fewer non-compete agreements, more flextime schedules and more open access to networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for personal use.

“During the last downturn there were very few companies that went above and beyond to make their employees feel secure about their positions, so the minute the job market started to pick up, a lot of those same companies faced serious retention and loyalty issues,” says Lorri Zelman, Managing Director of the Human Resources Search Practice at the staffing solutions firm Solomon Page Group. “There are few companies and organizations that aren’t concerned with retaining talent, so knowing that most people want to be fulfilled both personally and professionally these days, a lot of employers have loosened the restrictions on what their employees do in their free time.”

But with more ways for young professionals to find new work, or create their own, retention no longer seems likely when the big bucks and benefits aren’t there. As a result, whether out of a sense of necessity or a sense of newly found freedom, the 10- to 20-year job routine has become all the more rare; especially in a city that tends to feel like everyone’s oyster until the aftertaste makes them too sick to stay. Even in the best of circumstances, job security is worth less than half of what it was at its peak in the 1980s and 1990s, making the single-career path seem more and more like a high risk/high reward investment. Joining a start-up company that makes it into its third year and keeping your job in the process is an equally risky bet, but in times of uncertainty, that kind of gamble can seem more appealing.

Not to say that career investment has completely vanished (this writer is committed to journalism as a full-time profession.) But among the many working professionals who have their chips in one pot when it comes to their careers, the anxieties are often visceral. For the government workers, and those who rely heavily on government funding, it’s the concern over looming budget cuts and coinciding job losses. For the investment bankers and analysts, it’s the concern over new regulations and the result on financial salaries. For the medical practitioners, it’s the concern over weighted health care costs and a rising volume of patients per doctor. For the content creators, it’s a growing concern over the continuous abundance of other people’s content, and the mass audiences who now view music, news and other media as a free commodity.

In New York, the economics behind career longevity are tricky to measure, since no raw data for job tenure exists on the city level. The biggest indicators are in the movements of people themselves. The city’s population has continued to grow at an increasing rate over the past decade—slower since the start of the recession, but growing nonetheless—while unemployment remains almost twice as high as it was five years ago, up from 4.6% in April 2006 to 9% in April 2011.

As a result of those figures and a sharp decline in public and private spending since the beginning of the financial crisis, finding steady work in the city has remained an ongoing challenging for those in search, with fewer full-time positions available. In larger industries like advertising and retail, companies have started to hire again as business gradually picks up, but the majority of those companies are expanding their workforces in small doses with less of a cushion for new employees. Smaller industries like publishing, on the other hand, have found it all the more difficult to keep their books open, while the city itself has continued to shed government-funded jobs by the month.

For those who have maintained stable positions in their fields over the years, one of the biggest concerns is a growing compensation-productivity gap, which hit a national all-time high in the past 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means the average U.S. employee is working more and receiving less in return at a growing rate. In media, the signs are obvious: AOL’s acquisition of The Huffington Post in February 2011 prompted a new requirement for the merger’s staff writers to produce between five and 10 stories a day, up from five or less, with no indications of a pay increase for their quicker turn-around.

“With so many developments in technology, more Blackberries, more means of remote access, etc, people are typically working longer hours and taking on more work,” says Zelman. “So burnout levels are increasing and employees are staying at one job for shorter periods of time. These days, a lot of people will go into a job saying ‘ok, I’m giving it a year or two, and if they take care of me I’ll stay. If not, I’ll move on.'”

Of course, in the fickle world of finance that mindset might prove slightly more fleeting as money markets steadily improve. But it’s no less significant considering the recent changes on Wall Street post-2006. After the subprime mortgage crisis hit and the federal government began to clamp down on banking, Wall Street suffered not only a revenue decline, but also a branding issue that it continues to struggle with even as profits steadily return. Bankers, no longer the well-protected risk takers of the 80s and 90s, have been left with three basic options in recent years: 1. Be the decent and accountable good guy and be willing to make less. 2. Be one the one who still plays dirty and nervously cover every track. 3. Be a big swinging dick and face public castration.

“In finance, there has never been that tactile sense of creating something, but for a long time there was the reward of being well compensated for dealing with the pressures and criticisms of the job,” says one New York-based sales trader, who has worked in the finance industry for 12 years. “Now people coming into the field are starting to realize that the big checks aren’t always guaranteed, despite the sweat. I think the underlying thought for a lot of these people is why not translate my skills into something more creative.”

The infamous Goldman Sachs alone has seen the passing of several financiers who were betting on something other than finance: Cristina Alger, the former Goldman analyst who’s getting ready to publish her family-drama novel The Darlings; J.C. Davies, the former Goldman analyst who recently published her nonfiction book on interracial dating, I Got the Fever; Allen Mask, the former Goldman analyst who released two online hip-hop albums, “Pilot Season” and “Sweet Dreams.” While working in finance and pursuing a side career in the arts has become common practice in recent years, it’s no secret that many of the same professionals doing so would have received far less acceptance from their employers and colleagues no more than a decade ago, when moonlighting and rapid job changing in the corporate world signified disloyalty.

In 2011 it’s more often a matter of self-preservation. And few can criticize. In tough times like these, the best potential outcome of more people taking on more roles is a rise in productivity and innovation throughout the country, especially in big cities. Ideally, the employed, self-employed and unemployed are spending less time resting on their laurels and more time coming up with new ideas and viable ways to make money, as fewer long-term job opportunities become available.

When Kyle Cocchi cashed his chips in on making a lifelong career out of political advocacy, he felt momentarily defeated—like a frustrated tourist leaving Atlantic City with empty pockets. But in the long run, remaining on unemployment for too long was like getting barred from the casino. With that in mind, almost any industry would do as long as it provided an open window for another year of work and another set of skills to keep him marketable.

“It’s not really about what kinds of jobs you do to get by in tough times like these,” says Cocchi. “It’s about the amount of time between each job on your résumé. It had already been a few months for me and I didn’t want that gap to get any bigger.”

—Damian Ghigliotty

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On a cool October night in 2005, my close friend Mike told me that our friend Orlando was dead.

We were standing in our narrow hallway in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and I could sense his effort to keep his voice steady. In that awkwardly fixed tone, Mike told me that Orlando had died of a brain aneurysm the previous morning after spending six days in a coma. He had just received an email from Orlando’s manager and close friend in Chile, which had been sent from Orlando’s account. The sudden news explained why Orlando had mysteriously disappeared that summer — a question that had remained in the back of my mind ever since.

All I really knew about his past was that he came from Chile and grew up playing the drums. I didn’t know what to say to Mike at the time though. I knew words wouldn’t help, so I asked him if I could read the email. The sender had written that she was able to speak to Orlando the night before he passed away.

“I know you were a good friend to him and we all thank you for that, he told me those were his best years of his life,” her message read. “Orlando is buried in ‘Cementerio do Sao Paulo’ under the grave of Orlando Batista Dariabolo.”

She also mentioned that he had left behind an apartment in Rio de Janeiro for Mike and our friend Brian to share. The two of them had been much closer to Orlando than I. They had all gone to the same college, shared an apartment in West Philadelphia, and spent most of their time together making music and trading bizarre stories.

For me, hearing about the loss of a talented musician who treated friends and strangers with equal sincerity left an indescribable feeling between frustration and sorrow. Seeing my closest friends lose their closest friend simply hurt.

What intensified that feeling was that no one knew whom to reach out to in order to find out more about Orlando’s death. Mike repeatedly called his phone and sent replies to the email, but he never received a response. Other friends who had received similar emails sent replies to the sender as well, but without any luck.

Everyone wanted the chance to say goodbye, or at least find closure in the sudden loss of a close companion.

So a few weeks after the news of his death, 50 or so of Orlando’s friends, colleagues and former professors held a memorial service for him at Drexel University. Some told stories and showed videos of Orlando in his most candid moments. Others quietly shed tears. The feeling shared by everyone was permanent loss.

At a dimly lit bar in Queens a year later, Mike, Brian and I touched glasses to memories of Orlando at his best: a lovable weirdo who once claimed “Who’s the Boss?” was the best TV show ever. No one outwardly mentioned his absence, but the feeling hung over us like a broken light fixture until we finally walked out — with Mike and Brian for days after.

Then, nearly three years after the news of his death, I got the real news: Orlando wasn’t dead. I found out in the summer of 2008, while Mike and I were visiting Brian’s parents in New Jersey.

“Can I tell him?” Brian asked Mike in a hushed voice.

“I’ll tell him,” Mike replied as he anxiously pulled on his cigarette.

Mike had received a cryptic voice message from Orlando that week. In his message he told Mike that he was hiding out in Brazil, and asked that he avoid trying to contact him because it wasn’t safe.

Even though he had already heard the news, Brian looked completely stunned. I’m sure I did too.

After that night, random calls, emails, and Facebook requests gradually confirmed what Mike had told me. Orlando is alive and well. He’s even doing concerts in South America, according to his status updates. But none of us have seen him since his falsified death.

I recently contacted Orlando to let him know I was writing about his reemergence among dozens of friends and colleagues who believed he was dead. As we exchanged messages about his disappearance, he told me he had been kidnapped for reasons he couldn’t mention and that he had indeed fallen into a coma back in 2005.

“I don’t remember too much. My memory is all fucked up,” he told me.

According to several of Orlando’s friends and relatives from Chile, his illness was a reality, but none can vouch for his kidnapping or the obituary email that was sent. They all say that Orlando is living safely with his family in Copiapó.

“Well, he’s not dead,” his cousin, Julia Veronica Cruz Rojas, wrote to me. “He’s doing just fine actually.”

According to several of Orlando’s friends and colleagues from Philadelphia, Orlando occasionally spoke of people who were after him and his family. But there was never any proof of that. On both sides of the equator, no one can say that Orlando was ever in any real danger beyond his own ailments. His active Facebook page adds to that doubt.

What’s left is a lingering sense of bewilderment among those of us who were at his memorial service in 2005.

“It all seems blurry looking back,” said Felicia Wong, who had also lived with Orlando in Philadelphia. “Maybe that’s because it wasn’t real in the first place. But I do remember that he loved his friends, so I can’t imagine him consciously putting us through that and letting us believe it for so long. Even if it was a momentary lapse of reason.”

*****************

Orlando allegedly died for three years and then reappeared out the blue. It was if he had used death as a way to say farewell to his friends in the states.

When I found out that Orlando’s brain aneurysm was a facade, it took me a little while to make sense of it. But as the peculiarity wore off with time, what seemed as equally astounding as hearing about his reappearance was how he so casually resurrected himself online soon after — like nothing had ever happened.

For Facebook’s living users, it’s natural to overlook the countless ways the site resurfaces random photos and bits of information tied to its dead account holders. More often than not that realization takes the real death of a loved one.

Last summer my sister and her friends were impacted by the loss of their friend and neighbor Andre Donald, a sociable 36-year-old who loved to cook snapper and went by the nickname Squinty Don. At four in the morning on August 26th Andre slammed his Honda Accord into a government dump truck on the Brooklyn Bridge and died on impact. The news station WPIX reported his death within the hour.

I had talked to Andre for the first and last time a few weeks before his collision, and his death left me with a feeling similar to the one left by the news of Orlando’s. Except Andre’s death was no illusion and his Facebook page has become a virtual tombstone because of it. Dozens of friends and acquaintances continue to post semi-public R.I.P. messages that can be viewed by anyone else linked to Squinty Don on the social networking site. Some even post messages as if he were still alive, including Happy Birthday wishes.

“I think it’s nice,” my sister’s husband, Ben, told me. “It provides a place for people to go when they want to remember him.”

Appropriately though, if you weren’t friends with Squinty Don before he passed away, you no longer can be.

I asked my sister what she thought about his active Facebook page and she voiced a clear concern. She said she was worried that his page could also become a too-frequent reminder for those who were closest to him, especially if a living friend were to receive an automated message saying: You haven’t connected with Squinty Don in a while, say hello.

That was a shared concern among dozens of bloggers who were quick to point out a big oversight when Facebook began automatically generating suggestions for its users to reconnect with one another on October 23rd, 2009.

Three days later, Facebook’s head of security, Max Kelly, wrote a blog entry about how to “memorialize” an individual’s page, meaning the page will be taken out of public searches and no longer appear in a friend’s suggestion box. But nowhere in his post does Kelly mention a way to completely remove a dead user’s account. As of now, it takes a court-issued subpoena to do so.

A large part of that has to do with the value of those pages. Both Orlando Rojas and Squinty Don remain a benefit to the social networking site, dead or alive. Advertisers on Facebook are able to generate fresh revenue from the site’s dead account holders, so long as their pages continue to receive clicks. As Facebook’s users pass away, while the number of advertisers on the site grows, that ad-revenue also inevitably grows.

“If you have a friend or a family member whose profile should be memorialized, please contact us, so their memory can properly live on among their friends on Facebook,” Kelly wrote at the end of his blog post. “As time passes, the sting of losing someone you care about also fades but it never goes away.”

Even more so, the sting of losing someone can also become painfully numbing when it’s mechanically triggered… and then triggered again. That’s a ubiquitous story. Media has always found ways to keep death in limbo, too often sterilizing its natural affect on us. And even some of the best writers and reporters have failed to capture the most visceral feelings of those who have suddenly lost a loved one.

Florentina Williamson-Noble, a 22-year-old New York University graduate, lost her younger brother Andrew when he committed suicide on November 3rd, 2009. Andrew took his life by jumping from the 10th floor of the NYU Bobst Library that morning. At the time Florentina cursed the reporters who had exploited her brother’s death without considering her and her family’s grief.

“I realize it was a big story to them,” she said, “another NYU student commits suicide. But I was so angry with the journalists who had used his Facebook page to get information about him. Of course Facebook had no way of knowing, so we were fortunate that a friend of Andrew’s was able to go into his account and make it private. After that we had his page memorialized, which has been nice.”

Florentina’s mother, Esmeralda Williamson-Noble, has written about her family’s loss on several occasions. Since her son’s death, she has kept a personal a blog called Forever Invictus dedicated to Andrew, and has also written about his suicide for the Huffington Post.

In one piece titled ‘Michael Blosil — Death by Suicide’ Esmeralda wrote, “Although not famous, my son’s death was all over the internet and the media before we had even made it home from the hospital. A picture of Andrew, taken from his Facebook home page, was splattered everywhere.”

For those who have had the death of a loved one immortalized on the web, the best path is too avoid any stories or images that will arouse unwanted pain or numbness, Florentina told me one evening..

But despite the discomforting reality of it, there will always exist personal channels — under the surface of what we see, hear and read in the open — that allow us to stay connected to the loved ones no longer in our lives.

“I still send emails to my brother Andrew,” Florentina told me in a surprisingly peaceful voice. “It helps me feel close to him. Every once in a while I feel the need to ask him ‘Why did you do it?’ But most of the time I send him messages to let him know how much I miss him.”

Nothing has changed in the way we yearn to stay connected to those who have left us; what has changed is how we deal with that yearning. Florentina and her family, Mike and Brian, and those closest to Andre Donald can all attest to that.

—Damian Ghigliotty

Last night I played pool at a small bar in my neighborhood with a 27-year-old Tibetan named Jigman who is seeking asylum in New York City. He was upset about the riots taking place in Lhasa between Tibetans and the Chinese military, as well as a protest outside of the Chinese consulate in Manhattan that had been broken up by police that morning.

“The Chinese president has often said religion is a dangerous thing,” Jigman told me. “That might be true, but Buddhists are usually peaceful people. The Chinese provoke us.”

Since the riots started on Friday morning, 80 Tibetans have been killed and 72 injured, according to the Tibetan government in exile. And with fears that international scorn will jeopardize the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese government has imposed a strict curfew in the area.

Despite Jigman’s frustration, every shot he made was nearly perfect; straight, angled or banked off the sides. By our third game, a stocky 26-year-old Marine named Josh with a fresh crew cut and a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth joined in. A few beers later, Josh and I got into a conversation about the war in Iraq — which is nearing 4,000 American deaths and over $1.2 trillion in costs — and Josh told me, “We shouldn’t ever have gone over there in the first place.”

When I asked him why not, he spit some of the tobacco into a plastic bottle and looked at me to see if I was about to play devil’s advocate. I wasn’t. He told me when he had served as a sniper in Fallujah in 2004, he had fully supported Bush and the removal of Saddam Hussein, but looking back he realized how much of a mess the original plan was destined to be.

“Hindsight’s 20/20,” he said. “At this point too many soldiers have died trying to fix the war.”

“You’re right,” said Jigman as Josh offered us both some chewing tobacco from his $2 Red Seal tin.

I declined and went outside for a smoke. Jigman told Josh it reminded him of a tobacco often sold in Nepal.

After the three of us got tired of pool, the Tibetan having won almost every game against the sniper and the journalist, we all had one more round of drinks and went our separate ways.

In my cynical mind it’s gotten increasingly harder for strangers to talk openly about politics and find any common ground, especially with so many conflicts reaching new heights at home and overseas. I guess Jigman and Josh felt far enough removed at a random dive bar in Woodside, Queens that they could speak about Tibet and Iraq with no less concern, only less apprehension about what they said.

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By Damian Ghigliotty

(Photo by Michael Hicks)

There have been enough arguments over the immigration debate post-2004 to make a pie chart look like a kaleidoscope. Every dispute from how unwanted immigrants (typically those from Central and South America) help our economy and sense of cultural diversity— bringing little crime with them —to arguments concerning overpopulation, language changes, and national security in post-9/11 America. Even the weighted statistic that 85% of current child predators are criminal immigrants. What interests me though is what motivates the different points that people, including members of the federal government, make, regardless of their actual stances.

Nina Bernstein, an immigration reporter for The New York Times, covered a local story on April 10th about a raid against a family of legal Ecuadorian immigrants in East Hampton by federal agents searching for one illegal immigrant, Patrizio Wilson Garcia, who was ordered to be deported back in 2003.

The Leon family’s story is one of several thousands that have been occurring around the country— especially in small suburbs near larger cities —increasingly since Bush proposed his 2004 immigration reform plan. The questions it raises now are not only how accepting we should be of illegal aliens in our country, but also what procedures our federal government is taking to find them. On a slightly more suggestive level, it brings up the question of whether or not illegal immigration takes precedence over crimes, such as domestic violence, murder and rape, committed by fellow American citizens.

Of the 600,000 fugitive immigrants being targeted by federal agents, which is about 5.4 percent of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, some, perhaps the majority, were convicted of serious offenses such as rape and murder. The rest were labeled as felons after they re-crossed the border having once been removed for minor infringements. However, Garcia’s only known offense was the divorce between him and his wife, Adriana Leon, which instantly made him an illegal alien in the United States. The rest of the Leon family is a three-generation immigrant household, where every member is a legal citizen by naturalization or birth.

Quoting Christopher Shanahan, the director of deportation and removal for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York, Bernstein wrote that “unlike a criminal search warrant, which requires a judge to review the evidence and find probable cause for a search, the ‘administrative warrant’ used by immigration agents is approved only by the team’s supervisor – and is valid only with the consent of the occupants.”

“Valid with consent” translates to the fact that when federal agents appear at the suspected home of an illegal immigrant, they must first receive permission from one of the household members before they can enter. The grandmother of the Leon family ostensibly said “yes”, which gave Shanahan’s team the immediate go ahead. Perhaps Mrs. Leon is an informant for the FBI; but in all seriousness, restrictions on federal warrants for non-citizens are proven to be more liberal and less conscripted than the restrictions on warrants for suspected murderers, rapists, and crime organizers. The argument against that is that federal warrants for American criminals are restricted under the maxim “innocent until proven guilty”, while the 600,000 fugitive immigrants being targeted have already been proven guilty of illegal citizenship.

An interesting socio-economic factor behind the Garcia situation is that what happened on April 10th in East Hampton, a generally white, upper-middle class suburb, has been linked to long running complaints from neighbors about Leon family barbecues, where, as with most other Latin American parties, noisy outdoor games, loud music, and booty shaking can often be found. At the same time, those neighborhood complaints have led to over eighteen inspections by local code enforcers. Other common complaints about immigrant families around the U.S. include: sanitation, overcrowding (especially in the realm of education), language barriers, the deflation of property values, and the exploitation of social assistance.

It’s hard not to see the issue of legal citizenship as being a bit more culturally affected than our federal government is willing to admit. Would Mr. Garcia be as much of a priority if the Leon family lived in the middle of Sunset Park, Brooklyn? Doubtfully. Then again, to paraphrase something my father once told me, suburbs like East Hampton have their defining characteristics just as much as neighborhoods like Sunset Park. From that point of view, urbanization is no better or worse than gentrification. It just depends on your outlook and how unused to change you are.

 

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