Gentrification is a serious issue in many large cities. Rising real estate values, which are generally a sign of economic health, can bring with them upper-income residents who displace lower-income tenants from developing neighborhoods. There is nothing new about this problem. But are Jews to blame for it? One Democratic candidate for the New York City Council is arguing that they are.
“Jewish landlords [own more than 80 percent] of the privately owned, for-profit, multifamily rental apartment buildings in Harlem and Washington Heights and are at the forefront of pushing black and Hispanic tenants out of their apartments,” reads the campaign website of Thomas Lopez-Pierre, whose Manhattan district includes parts of the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights and Washington Heights — areas that contain large Jewish populations. He is challenging district incumbent Mark Levine in this fall’s Democratic primary.
Lopez-Pierre’s campaign is toxic. And his anti-Semitic tropes seem to know no bounds. He has gone so far as to charge in one of his campaign videos that “Jewish landlords … are at the forefront of ethnic cleansing.”
The bile from Lopez-Pierre brings to mind the alt-right — the extreme movement that is prone to find Jews at the root of most perceived problems and conspiracies. But the alt-right probably wouldn’t have him, because he’s not white, even if they embrace his hate. But what is Lopez-Pierre’s problem? That Jews are in the real estate business and have a connection to gentrification is true enough, even if his numbers are not.
It is his fixation on Jews — rather than on gentrification — that makes him suspect. So was his fraudulent crowdfunding campaign, which was presented as an effort to oppose him, and in which he raised $5,000, according to the New York Post.
Lopez-Pierre says that he’s not an anti-Semite. “If Jewish doctors are angry with me because I’m attacking greedy Jewish landlords, if Jewish social workers are upset with me because I’m attacking greedy Jewish landlords, too bad, I don’t care,” he told JTA. “It’s not my job to care about their feelings.” But it is his job to care about the constituents he hopes to represent, and he is going to have a problem with the many Jews in his district.
Were a Jewish candidate to promote racist stereotypes as comfortably as Lopez-Pierre does, an entire community would be up in arms, and denunciations and condemnations would be coming from every corner. Where is the moral outrage in New York City? Mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter to condemn Lopez-Pierre, but why haven’t we heard much from other faith groups?
After the last presidential campaign, it seems that anything goes. Sensibilities seem to have been numbed. Nonetheless, when we hear “greedy Jewish,” we hear an ancient stereotype that, despite our best efforts at eradicating hate, just won’t die.
Lopez-Pierre is a big-mouthed bigot who deserves our scorn. May he fail miserably at the ballot box.