As New York continues gentrifying itself out of existence, few neighborhoods have fought to defend their identity as hard as the Dominicanos of Washington Heights. Often compared to LA’s Boyle Heights as an example of New York “gentefication,” the uptown enclave has held fast for years despite an ever-growing influx of outsiders itching for cheap rents to go with their morning lattés.
But the battle is far from won for Quisqueya Heights, and many residents find themselves at a crossroads as mom-and-pop shops are rapidly priced out of local storefronts. In response, many Dominican shop owners have spruced up their image to cater to the champagne tastes of new arrivals – but at what cost to the community’s longtime residents?
These are the very real and urgent issues driving a new comedic web series project called Guap, from writer-producer-director Chris Myers. Inspired by Myers’ own financial difficulties, Guap will follow the Diaz family as they struggle to adapt their longstanding local food spot to the changing demographic reality of the neighborhood. Led by a “lovable slacker” and small-time drug dealer named Pedro, Guap brings together a cast of authentic WaHI characters along with a handful of sympathetic newcomers to explore the complex challenges of gentrification for established communities.
A New York native himself, Myers clearly knows what’s up with Dominican community dynamics, and the series will star local uptown actors speaking their characteristic rapid fire Spanglish. But as we can expect for any project with such an authentic feel for place, there’s no big money backing this ambitious series. That’s where you come in.
Myers and his crew of collaborators have decided to take Guap to Kickstarter, where they are asking for just shy of $20,000 to help bring six 24-minute episodes to a VOD streaming platform near you. At the time of writing, they are well on their way to that goal with over a week to go, which is a powerful testament to WaHI’s strong sense of community pride. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still need our help to get over the finish line.
Check out the campaign’s attractive perks and pitch in a couple of bucks. It may seem like a small gesture, but never underestimate the importance of community visibility in the ongoing battle against gentrification.