Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice gave a talk at TED where he explained the core ideas of the book. Fortunately this video is available for you to enjoy.
At about 18:12 he says something very interesting.
If some of what enables people in our societies to make all the choices we make were shifted to societies in which people have too few options, not only would those peoples lives be improved, but ours would be improved also. This is what economists call a ‘Pareto improving’ move. Income redistribution will make everyone better off, not just poor people.
Replace ‘societies’ with ‘neighborhoods’ and you have gentrification. Does this mean what is going on in Bedford-Stuyvesant is unilaterally a good thing? I don’t think so. I think this process, as he argues about choice, is good up to a certain point and bad after that. Very little is not enough and a lot is too much.
I don’t know of many people who are waiting on pins and needles for a Starbucks or McDonalds to show up on Myrtle Ave, but I don’t think their mere presence will improve the quality of life one bit. What will improve the quality of life is more options for people to improve their community. Fortunately for Bed-Stuy there are public forums for this sort of thing. In fact, Bed-Stuy blog just added one! Go there, sign up and make your voice heard.