Documentary: Class Divide (2016). In this HBO documentary, director Marc Levin takes a look at gentrification and growing inequality as it happens in Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood. The film shines a light on two distinct worlds that share the same Chelsea intersection – 10th Avenue and 26th Street.
On the East side of 10th avenue sits Chelsea-Elliot Houses which have provided low-income public housing to 2,500 residents since the 1960s.
Money and the Devil
“I hate, hate, hate money. You know why I hate money? I’ll tell you right now. People fight over money. And I hate that they fight over money. Money was made by the Devil. Because God didn’t say, ‘No you have to pay for this.’ I never heard a parable or the Bible saying or God saying, ‘You have to pay for this.’ Jesus, if he was in this world, money would not exist.”
Rosa, Age 8, Chelsea-Elliot Houses Resident
Their neighbor to the West, since 2012, is Avenues: The World School, a planned international system of for-profit private schools for pre-K-12th grades where the cost of tuition is $45,350 per student for the 2015-16 academic year.
Roll of the Dice
“My mom’s family came from Turkey with a large amount of money, because of that, I have a large amount of money. Not saying they didn’t work hard, they definitely worked hard, but so do people who live in the projects across from Avenues. Most people work hard it’s just did the dice roll correctly for you? Do you have that luck? Do you have that privilege assigned at birth.”
Yasemin, Age 16, Avenues: The World School Student
The documentary showcases the fascinating history of the Chelsea neighborhood and its High Line Park, an aerial greenway and rails-to-trails park built on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur; and speaking to inhabitants from both sides, the film explores what happens when kids from these two worlds attempt to cross the divide.
“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”
Plutarch, Greek Biographer and Essayist
While there is a lot to be disappointed with regarding race relations, racism, inequality – income and wealth – and class divisions, it’s encouraging to know that many young people see and understand a lot more than their parents and grandparents.