“I slept on the floor in my loft building because the rent was cheap and it was what I could afford,” he said.
Labriola lives among artists, students, small business owners and other newcomers who moved to Bushwick because of the affordable rent. He considers this group of people part of the “Wave I Gentrification” of a neighborhood.
Wave I Gentrification, Labriola said, ushers in amenities like heightened nightlife and upscale bars. Because the artist community is more single-minded and not as family-oriented, they begin to change the culture of a community.
“That same cultural shift makes it a hub for new people to come to the neighborhood, and those people are not as desperate as the original gentrification,” he said.
Labriola is referring to “Wave II Gentrification,” when developers take advantage of the influx of new people coming into the neighborhood and build market-rate housing for a new population “who can afford far higher rents.”
That’s exactly what’s happening to Labriola’s neighborhood. A developer has proposed building a 122-unit building on an adjacent lot near his loft building, threatening to displace him and his neighbors.
Labriola is among the many Bushwick community members, newcomers and lifelong residents who are fighting against the proposal.
“I recognize that I’m new to this community and that people have been here for a very long time,” he said. “It’s my job to get to know people, be humble and see where my place is.”
Though they’re both facing the dreaded prospects of Wave II Gentrification hitting Bushwick, Labriola said he has really learned how welcoming Bushwick is as a community.
“What has been really nice is that this community is here to embrace anyone who’s willing to embrace them,” he said.