Image from NY Mag.
Fascinating piece in New York this week on Willie Kathryn Suggs, one of the people most responsible for Harlem’s new ‘renaissance’: the first broker in Harlem to sell a house for a half-million dollars, the first to hit $850k and the first to sell a house for $2 million.
She’s also made a lot of enemies along the way, from Harlemites who resent her to driving up prices and greasing the wheels of gentrification, to former employees who said she screwed them out of commissions and properties.
But as Willie Suggs has changed the face of Harlem, much of Harlem has come to turn on Willie Suggs. Competing brokers and even some former sales agents now call her a predator, a bully, a thief—Willie Thuggs. Even by the aggressive standards of New York real estate, they say, she will boldly horn in on a listing, land a sale, or lay claim to a commission. “Everyone knows,” says one broker, “when you go to work with Willie Kathryn Suggs, you better watch your back.” Suggs has also become a lightning rod in Harlem’s larger gentrification debate. Critics say she has wantonly driven up real-estate prices until no one but the richest Harlemites could afford them and, worse, delivered much of the neighborhood into the hands of wealthy whites. Now every new sale she rings up seems to raise a pair of uncomfortable questions: Should Harlem be preserved forever as an affordable haven for blacks? Or should it be sold to the highest bidder?
Suggs more or less denies every fact the article presents in her Illiad-length response on site’s comments section. We can’t divine who is or isn’t telling the truth, obviously, but to assert that he got so much wrong is to make a pretty serious charge against him (and conversely the type of petty vindictiveness that would be consistent with his characterization of her, as well).
*Because summer is a time for sequels.