#gentrification.

via Wikimedia Commons.

by Syreeta McFadden, x-posted from Bellewether State.

”This is the spiritual capital of the African diaspora. Something had to be done.”

IBO BALTON, the housing department’s planning director for Manhattan, on Harlem. February, 2001

Ibo wandered in my office and was flattered that I had a photocopy of his NYT Quote of the Day taped to my wall when I worked for the city’s housing agency back in 2001. I remember telling him that I needed to have it there to remind me why we do what we do. He had come to ask me for a copy of the Bradhurst Negative Declaration (he was always asking me for a copy of the Bradhurst Neg Dec) but instead, he posed a question that clearly had been weighing on him, “Maybe we really are gentrifying Harlem?”

To be clear, we asked ourselves this question frequently.

Manhattan Community Board 10 is probably the regional equivalent to everyone’s idea of what Harlem is.  Bounded to the south by 110th Street, to the north by West 155th Street, to the west by Morningside Avenue and to the east by Fifth Avenue, Community Board 10 covers roughly 60 city blocks. Maybe more. And in 1998, the Community Board asked the City of New York to fight to bring middle class residents back into Harlem. One of the oldest residents and members of the board who had lived in Harlem all of her life, and was fortunate to own her home, knew that to make her community remain sustainable, meant that those acres of vacant lots along Frederick Douglass Boulevard and across West 116th Street, on the east end of Marcus Garvey Park (Mount Morris) needed the middle-income families.  She had already seen her share of public investment in her community, which unfortunately included a heavy saturation of low-income housing. And while there were a disproportionate amount of African-Americans who’d benefit, the black middle class had all but disappeared. Where were their housing opportunities? The best and brightest who were born and raised in Harlem leave and then return to see their community remain stagnant? Property taxes pay for infrastructure. Infrastructure supports communities. When wealth disappears from a community, how will it pay for itself? Public safety, street repair, all things that makes communities run? A mixed income community spends cash in their neighborhoods, creates and sustains jobs for local residents, spurs investment in open spaces and parks. It means that there’s a tax base to support the services the community demands.

So when an elder and owner of Harlem brownstone curses you out and tell you to make sure 55,000 square foot vacant property contain affordable AND market rate homeownership apartments because it brings an influx of stakeholders to her community, regardless of what color they look like, you do it.

All of this comes to forefront of my memory in reading the recent Times article about greater Harlem’s shifting demographics and the subsequent reactions to it. Many folks were offering compelling narratives of housing’s discrimination past, a history of institutional and economic racism. I get that and don’t dispute that legacy. However, I know and have been active participant in a different story.

I think my biggest problem with ‘gentrification’ is that it’s not always bad. While many people bemoan the loss of black Harlem, I’m not sure what they think they lost. Harlem was never really a solid homeownership neighborhood, as much as say, Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Harlem or the ‘idea’ of Harlem as a bustling middle class community is fiction. There are certainly pockets: Hamilton Heights, Sugar Hill, Strivers Row, Mount Morris, little enclaves of a middle class, holding on to property while harsher social and economic realities enveloped them. I heard all these stories.  Yet there were other blocks not lined with row houses, but with overcrowded tenements. And other buildings left in disrepair. I don’t mean to belittle the historical and cultural significance of Harlem to African-Americans; it was a haven to many as they sought opportunities in the north, the only neighborhood they had heard of when word traveled south that there were jobs in New York City, and black owned businesses that didn’t live in fear. However, the Harlem Renaissance was not a socio-economic movement, but a discrete collection of artists who lived in Harlem. We are grateful for their legacy, but they all were not homeowners.

The next day Ibo came back. “Nope, we need to do this,” he said. ” We need to diversify the community. Psychologically, living across a shell-shocked vacant lot has an effect on people. You live in a war zone. I don’t want that anymore. So whatever it takes, let’s get this done.” I must attribute a lot of my thinking in terms of urban planning and community development to the late Ibo Balton. I worked with Ibo on nearly 20 different developments (new construction and some rehabilitation) over a 9-year period in Harlem. Late nights at community board meetings, small meetings with elected officials, hours upon hours walking up and down blocks logging every building that was abandoned or shell-shocked, near collapse and every piece a vacant land, a battery of arguments with bankers about the ‘economic viability’ of these properties and their obligation to comply with the community reinvestment act.

This isn’t to say there aren’t some valid critiques regarding the policies that come into play when building or rebuilding communities. We’re talking about a fifteen- to twenty-year cycle that brought about changes to a community living in semi-permanent disrepair. Yet if the native population left during a downturn for the sake of securing a higher quality of life, and those who stayed asked for investment to bring people back, who is displacing whom?

I’d also like to ask people to consider what they value in their neighborhoods in terms of quality of life. I sat through many a community board meeting and faced many questions from their members asking for very simple things. A bakery, a wine store, a dry cleaner, a café. In the NYC planning world, this wish list is commonly referred to as a 197-a Plan: a plan written and developed by members of the community and its respective board leaders to identify desired services, retail, and public works.

Because what it does come down to is quality of life. People want to walk down level sidewalks, shop for toiletries, food, perhaps grab a cup of coffee with a neighbor they hadn’t seen in days, buy a cookie.

And I’m not sure why in some of the comments I read people accept the tenet that gentrification is synonymous with white or whiteness. It’s too simple to conflate the desires of a community wanting improvement with the presence of white people renting, buying homes or condos.  Is the ‘gentrifier’ the embodiment of a particular class, education and social status? Arguably, I’d be considered first wave of gentrification in my neighborhood. I moved from Morningside Heights (ahem, Harlem) to Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill. And in my first act as change agent, the corner bodega ordered the NYT back in the day when I bought print, because I wanted it. Boom. Now, if we’re talking about gentrification in terms of wealth and homeownership as vehicle to social mobility, then we’re saying something different. And I’ll save that for another post.

Neighborhoods change. Like individuals they grow, fall on hard times, but they do change. Diversity isn’t such a bad thing.

Syreeta McFadden is a writer and former urban planner who lives in Brooklyn.

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31 comments to #gentrification.

  • J

    New York is a city made up of ethnic enclaves and even today there are not many neighborhoods where African-Americans–of ANY class, mind you–feel welcome. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Harlem has always been a haven for blacks moving to the city, one of the few places where African-Americans could feel at home, just as ethnic whites feel at home in South Brooklyn, most of Queens, Staten Island, and upper Manhattan. There are many stable middle-class and mixed-income white neighborhoods in New York City. Why can’t we have ONE for African-Americans? Why must blacks always live–literally, live–at the mercy of white economic interests, or lack thereof? The simple fact is that the more whites move into Harlem, the more difficult it will be for the native black population and incoming middle-class blacks to live there because of the wealth gap that exists in this country between blacks and whites. It isn’t fair and no matter how you slice it the new Harlem is a continuation of this country’s legacy of housing discrimination.

    • Respectfully, I think your history of the City of New York, let along your perception of African Americans in it is… flawed. Harlem, historically speaking, was a suburb, and through the development of the subway at the turn of the last century, became subject to urbanization. Strivers Row, a seminal address that you know to be a destination for African Americans, was built by McKim, Mead and White; the same architects who built Columbia University’s main campus, when it moved from midtown, to Harlem Heights. I assure you, that firm, did not cater to an African American clientele. Harlem didn’t become a haven for blacks out of choice; many factors contributed to its evolution as such. It was a creation out of (your term) ‘white economic interests’. When the subway was created, they moved to Westchester. I could go on and cite some pretty thorough works to account for the history here, but I don’t get the feeling you’re looking for a discussion. What I find deeply troubling in your comment is that you’re almost arguing for segregation. I don’t believe that’s your intent, but your language suggests a continued assumption that African-Americans must live separately in order to gain any parity with ‘majority’ or ‘white’ society. I’m sorry, it’s just a new century and I personally feel we need to challenge that thinking.

      I’d also challenge you to look at St. Albans Queens, Mt. Vernon (although not part of NYC proper) Flatbush, Bed-Sty as far as solid African American communities. Additionally, I’d think you’d also discover the same commentary from native and ethnically white New Yorkers of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bay Ridge, Little Italy, Hells Kitchen (now known as Clinton) who feel as you do. Someone’s gotta live somewhere, we don’t live in a homogeneous world anymore. Actually, we never did.

      • J

        First of all, I never proffered a history of New York City, and I am fully aware of the fact that Black Harlem, like South Chicago or East Detroit, is largely a product of white economic interests. Of course blacks may not have been exercising much choice in coming to Harlem at the beginning of the 20th century, but many certainly exercised personal agency when they decided to stay there. Not all blacks who remained in Harlem did so because they had no other choice. Sure, some moved to Westchester, just as some moved to Bed-Stuy and Jamaica, Queens. Many in the underclass had nowhere else to go. But many elected to stay. There’s a reason why Harlem is known as a black cultural mecca. Many blacks want to live there because it is a community with a strong, proud, and rich African-American sensibility. Many blacks are not simply forced to live in black neighborhoods; they want to live in them. I see nothing wrong with this. It does not make one a racist or a segregationist.

        In fact, casting those who would like to see Harlem remain a stronghold of African-American culture in what is probably still the greatest city in America as borderline segregationists is nothing more than a red herring. If current national and local trends continue—trends that are products of almost 100 years worth of discriminatory housing policies—most of Harlem’s blacks will eventually be priced out, simply replaying the scenario of de facto segregation that plagued the urban north during the 20th century. In other words, gentrification will simply lead to more segregation. Your diversity or integration will be short-lived , mostly because it does not in any way attempt to atone for the legacy of housing discrimination against blacks in New York and is implemented almost entirely on the terms of well-to-do whites—not blacks and whites working in a fair field of play, which is what integration should be about.

        We may be living in a new century, but, like the war on drugs, housing discrimination targeting minorities, especially blacks, as the global financial crisis demonstrated so clearly (!) , is not going anywhere anytime soon. The burdens of this nation’s history cannot be swept away with high-rise condos, sushi restaurants, and starbucks. You may see a post-racial future, but I see a future in which far too many blacks are locked out, irrevocably, from the cultural, technological, and financial capital of cities, like the Arabs and West Africans living in the suburbs surrounding Paris.

        • “In other words, gentrification will simply lead to more segregation”

          Well, er, not so much. Black middle class-led gentrification is not necessarily uncommon. North Kenwood-Oakland, for example, on the near Southside of Chicago, is undergoing a significant influx of affluent African-Americans, pricing out poorer, long-term residents. Northwestern sociologist Mary Pattillo chronicled this change in “Black on the Block”: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Block-Politics-Race-Class/dp/0226649326/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262924452&sr=8-1

          So, in other words, the simple process of white peoples’ economic interests driving out poor racial minorities as the necessary function of gentrification isn’t so simple, in actuality.

          • My bad – I didn’t see Leigh already cited this book! Beat me to the punch….

          • J

            I was not speaking of gentrification as a whole, but gentrification in Harlem specifically. Yes, black gentrification occurs, some have even argued it’s happening in bed-stuy, but it is not the typical pattern. Anyway, when black middle-class buyers (or renters) have to actually compete with whites for real estate, as is primarily the case in neighborhoods like Harlem, Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill, they get priced out too. These neighborhoods are becoming increasingly white and will likely be predominantly white in a decade or so. Thus, I repeat, gentrification leads to more segregation.

            • If Harlem saw an influx of the middle-class blacks you’re talking about — who started demanding certain services and amenities — wouldn’t that slowly price out the lower income folks as well?

              And wouldn’t adding those amenities make Harlem a more desirable place to live to non-Negroes?

              It sounds as if you’re saying that Harlem should be a place that is really comfortable for black folks to live but also be the kind of place that other groups would want to. I dunno how you square that circle.

              • J

                Middle-class blacks have lived alongside low-income blacks in Harlem practically ever since Harlem became a black neighborhood. Black Harlem is traditionally a mixed-income neighborhood and I see that as a good thing. A decent neighborhood does not have to be unaffordable for low-income residents.

                “Non-Negroes” will only live around African-Americans as a last resort, no matter how many amenities are offered in the neighborhood in question. In the case of Harlem, they’re going to flock there regardless because it is the last affordable place to live in Manhattan. And, of course, slowly but surely they’ll turn Harlem into some version of suburban New Jersey.

                Put simply, I would like to see Harlem improve economically without losing its status as a haven for African-Americans and their culture.

                • yeah, see this:

                  Put simply, I would like to see Harlem improve economically without losing its status as a haven for African-Americans and their culture.

                  again, i don’t know how you think you make a neighborhood more economically viable and exclude people who are non-black from wanting to live in that improved neighborhood with its new amenities and features. you want to put some kind of impermeable barrier around the neighborhood to keep “them” out? Is there a ceiling to how many of “them” should be allowed to live in the neighborhood? What specifically could be done to “keep Harlem black”?

                  “Non-Negroes” will only live around African-Americans as a last resort, no matter how many amenities are offered in the neighborhood in question.

                  come on, fam. really?

                  • J

                    A Harlem that is welcoming to African-Americans and celebrates their culture does not have to be exclusively black.

                    And I meant what I said. American cities look the way they do for many reasons, and one of them is that blacks, no matter their socioeconomic status, are not considered desirable neighbors.

                    • A Harlem that is welcoming to African-Americans and celebrates their culture does not have to be exclusively black.

                      so if we buy your culture that black predominance is necessary for that, how much race-mixing are you willing to allow? you got a certain percentage in mind?

                  • J

                    I’ll just say a robust, socioeconomically diverse population of black Americans. Enough to be able to make their voices heard. Power is in numbers. You will excuse me if I happen to believe that Harlem’s African-American character will likely disappear if there are no…African-Americans there. What investment would other groups have in maintainig that character? And I am not opposed to race-mixing of any sort.

                    • and again…

                      I’ll just say a robust, socioeconomically diverse population of black Americans. Enough to be able to make their voices heard. Power is in numbers. You will excuse me if I happen to believe that Harlem’s African-American character will likely disappear if there are no…African-Americans there.

                      this is all very vague. how many is “enough to make their voices heard”? that quote right there can mean just about anything.

                      it should also be noted that nowhere has it been said that Harlem will ‘cease to be black’ — whatever that even means, and that Jeremy linked to some studies upthread that gentrification often results in homeostasis, as opposed to one group’s numerical predominance of one over another.

              • J

                I cannot pinpoint the exact number of African-Americans it would take to maintain the character of Harlem, or any historically black neighborhood, but it stands to reason that, in a heterogeneous society, a group’s political, social, and cultural influence will likely exist in proportion to that group’s population. I’m not advocating laws to keep people out. I’m saying that Harlem provides a valuable service to African-Americans in New York, a neglected group that has long been and continues to be marginalized through housing discrimination. I would like for it to continue to provide that service. I think that if Harlem ceases to be the kind of place where blacks can live freely it will be a tremendous loss to the city’s black community (just as, say, the loss of Greenwich Village is a loss to artists and gays) and the city’s rich cultural fabric. We can agree to disagree.

                • i’m not disagreeing, mainly because you aren’t actually saying anything. you’re saying “Harlem should be ______” and not saying how you get that to happen or what that would even look like. (I guess it’s the Potter Stewart thing: you’ll know it when you see it?)

                  This is exactly the problem with the cries to “Keep Harlem Black.” When pressed for details on what that means in terms of actual numbers or what could be practically done to make that happen, the responses are all fuzzy invocations of “safe havens” and “rich cultural fabrics.” (There’s an irony in wanting to preserve this platonic racial ideal and the fears of encroachment from “outsiders” considering these were the kind of appeals that led to the racists policies that created black Harlem in the first place.)

                  I would like for it to continue to provide that service. I think that if Harlem ceases to be the kind of place where blacks can live freely it will be a tremendous loss to the city’s black community (just as, say, the loss of Greenwich Village is a loss to artists and gays) and the city’s rich cultural fabric. We can agree to disagree.

                  you mean the same artists and gays that supplanted the Village’s European immigrant population?

                  be easy.

                  • J

                    There is no magic number and I never said there was. Is that what you call pressing me for details? I think there are several ways to protect Harlem’s African-American character: create more historic sites, provide new mixed-income and affordable housing, build cultural centers, increase spending on and local awareness of minority home ownership programs, focusing specifically on long-term residents, offer subsidized artist housing, etc.

                    Oh, but wait. Wanting to protect people who have been victims of housing discrimination amounts to “reverse discrimination”? Like affirmative-action, right? Give me a break.

                    Greenwich Village has had a substantial number of artists, intellectuals, and homosexuals since the very beginning of the 20th century, so unless you’re going to argue that these people began supplanting European immigrants practically from the moment those immigrants arrived, you can save that. And if you really wanna take it back, blacks were there, in the section of the south village known as Little Africa, well before those European immigrants to which you so flippantly referred. Déjà vu perhaps?

                    I will say this and then I’m done. You will be hard-pressed to find an ethnic enclave in NYC that has meant more to American cultural production than Harlem. Its significance as a cultural center is not a “racial ideal”—it’s a reality, a simple and incontrovertible historical fact. That is because Harlem has, as I’ve stated repeatedly, long been a place where blacks could live and create freely. If saying that New York’s status as a world-class, polyglot, distinctive American city rests on its ability to preserve, on some meaningful level, places like Harlem is tantamount to not “actually saying anything” then I suppose philistinism has finally conquered contemporary American discourse, along with New York City.

                    • All of your suggestions actually has happened AND have been part of the conversation over the past 10 years. Some have been successful, some not. I can say it with confidence because I worked on these projects. I can give you a detailed accounting of complexities of financing and securing collaborative community insight and approval for the ‘solutions’ you’ve described. I’d be happy to supplement your reading of Jane Jacobs, Gilbert Orsofsky, Kenneth Clark, and countless other scholars who have studied this closely with the real life application of these ideas and the challenges behind them. Do you live in NYC? I’d be happy to show you around the community you think has been lost in the grips of gentrification and white economic realities.

                      I feel you’re harping on details not grounded in experience and stifled by scholarship. Both can coexist, I’d be happy to take the conversation there.

                    • “That is because Harlem has, as I’ve stated repeatedly, long been a place where blacks could live and create freely.”

                      Also, this quote above and the sense that African-Americans need a place to produce culture; wasn’t the Harlem Renaissance a product of a small percentage of blacks? Didn’t the original NYT article state that there are still several black “ethnic” enclaves within Harlem, presumably where the cultural production and “free” living occurs? I’m not sure Harlem doesn’t still have all the ingredients you think it’s at risk of losing, it’s just becoming more integrated, for better or worse – YMMV.

                      Also, many places maintain their ethnic identities long after the original ethnic majority groups have thinned out. South Los Angeles, comes to mind – an area associated with black culture that is now predominantly Latino, I believe. South Boston is much more diverse – ethnically and economically – than its Irish identity belies. Harlem will likely continue to hold the world in thrall as an historically black neighborhood long after it ceases to be one. I don’t know if you care about this, but I can’t tell if you actually care about households being displaced vs. Harlem’s place identity.

                    • Now we’re getting somewhere.

                      I think there are several ways to protect Harlem’s African-American character: create more historic sites, provide new mixed-income and affordable housing, build cultural centers, increase spending on and local awareness of minority home ownership programs, focusing specifically on long-term residents, offer subsidized artist housing, etc.

                      All well and good, but it’s worth noting that most of that has already been done, and that none of those things necessarily curb gentrification. Affordable/mixed-income housing, for example, is usually mandated with new development, so it happens in response to gentrification that is already underway. Home ownership programs have limited effectiveness in a renters’ city like NYC; most folks won’t be able to be converted into homeowners. The number of people who are owners in a neighborhood in NYC at a given time is very, very small relative to the number of units in which people live. So you could have a 1000 new homeowners in Harlem and the overwhelming majority of people in the neighborhood will still face the kind of price pressures that renters face.

                      (also: wouldn’t designating more spots in the neighborhood historic sites drive up the cost of living there?)

                      Oh, but wait. Wanting to protect people who have been victims of housing discrimination amounts to “reverse discrimination”? Like affirmative-action, right? Give me a break.

                      This is a hell of a strawman you’re beating up on. What you’ve articulated — making a neighborhood “a haven” and preserving its “unique cultural character” — is the kind of language that always gets invoked to keep “those people” out. No one is saying we shouldn’t protect folks who’ve been discriminated against, and you know it. Come on.

                      Greenwich Village has had a substantial number of artists, intellectuals, and homosexuals since the very beginning of the 20th century, so unless you’re going to argue that these people began supplanting European immigrants practically from the moment those immigrants arrived, you can save that. And if you really wanna take it back, blacks were there, in the section of the south village known as Little Africa, well before those European immigrants to which you so flippantly referred. Déjà vu perhaps?

                      And, this sort of underlines the point. The “unique character” of neighborhoods change in cities all the time. Back home, the Italian Market is South Philly is now full of shops run by Central American immigrants; there are sections of West Philadelphia where native-born blacks have been supplanted by West African immigrants. Sometimes neighborhoods are swallowed whole by moneyed gentrifiers (see Park Slope). Other times, as Jeremy said upthread, the gentrification hits a point of homeostasis.

                      (Also, what Leigh said.)

          • young_

            Sorry that I missed this very interesting discussion. @J: There’s been black gentrification into Harlem for a long time now. Sociologist Monique Taylor isn’t as well known as Mary Pattillo (after all, Taylor never studied under William Julius Wilson…), but I found her [earlier] work on black gentrification, “Harlem: Between Heaven and Hell” to be more interesting and informative.

            http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/T/taylor_harlem.html

            I personally found that Pattillo’s book tended to exaggerate the differences between black gentrifiers and their white counterparts with little supporting evidence, and I think this tends to perpetuate some of the assumptions and beliefs that J posited above.

            • Interesting…how so? I don’t remember much of the racial differences you mention…

              • young_

                Those differences are more or less implicit to the central theme/ theoretical position in her book, that black gentrifiers are a special type of liminal “middlemen” who (in part because of their racial identities) use their political and social capital to mobilize external resources for the betterment of their communities. She portrays them a little too romantically, in my humble opinion, and doesn’t really flesh out why this differentiates them from non-black gentrifiers.

  • Really, really interesting post. Small note: I think you meant “discrete” and not “discreet” at the end of the sixth paragraph.

  • Nice post. Not only was the Harlem Renaissance not a socio-economic movement, the rebirth took place ALL OVER, NOT ONLY IN HARLEM.

    http://maxprotect.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/take-me-back-to-harlem-and-chicago-and-d-c-and/

  • This is a terrific post – thoughtful and rooted in first hand experience. Thanks so much for sharing it!

    This:

    “And I’m not sure why in some of the comments I read people accept the tenet that gentrification is synonymous with white or whiteness. It’s too simple to conflate the desires of a community wanting improvement with the presence of white people renting, buying homes or condos.”

    Gentrification is more about class; urban gentrification, though, because of conflations of racial and economic segregation and inequality (i.e., cities disproportionately home to the poor, and the poor in cities tend to be non-white, whereas the affluent who move into cities tend not to be) tends to confuse what’s a class conflict “versus” a racial conflict (though they’re really not binary like that, as you know). One need only look at places like South Boston to see white-on-white gentrification (as the poor also have become much more ethnically diverse there), and read Mary Pattillo’s Black on the Block for an excellent account of black-on-black gentrification in Chicago. In her book, she shows that a sense of racial solidarity (e.g., uplift) doesn’t cancel out class issues (e.g., middle-class blacks want the projects gone, threatening to displace their poorer black neighbors that they think they’re helping by moving closer to).

    I found that Harlem article problematic because depending on how one was bounding Harlem (strictly CB10 or “greater” H), the black majority was gone recently or a long time ago. Neighborhood boundaries themselves are contestable, so I couldn’t tell if it was one of those stories that really had a “there there”, as one of my profs always says.

    Great post!

  • I read this a few times today and also over at TNCs (commented this there too) and really enjoyed it.

    I don’t disagree when you say “Because what it does come down to is quality of life. People want to walk down level and sidewalks, shop for toiletries, food, perhaps grab a cup of coffee with a neighbor they hadn’t seen in days, buy a cookie.” But quality of life for whom?

    This is a very bitter subject for me. I’m a product of Washington Heights. Post 9/11, downtown Anglos realized there was something on the A line above Harlem that no one would want to bomb, stuck a Starbucks on 181st and called the neighborhood Hudson Heights (ala Hell’s Kitchen). This has been wonderful for crime reduction, beautification, even school quality (although that still lags) BUT it has been very harmful to a very old world Dominican community. These invading Anglos want their Venti Soy Chai Latte, not Café con Leche. And with their higher educations and large W2s they take what is unique and special about a particular NYC enclave and make it look like any other place they’ve lived because they can and they want to and the indigenous population can’t afford to compete and so are pushed out. So sad too bad in the capitalist world we live in right? but I don’t want to call it a good thing.

    I’m all for upward mobility and integration, we should all want to constantly strive for better. I traded in the Heights for affluent suburbs first chance I got and so will the 2nd and 3rd generation Dominican Americans from the Heights but the abuelas and viejos of Washington Heights, and the ones who are trying to get here for the first time from DR are being pushed out to terrible alternatives in the projects, the broken down S. Bronx and elsewhere. This is the untold evil of gentrification because the people who got their increased quality of life could care less how or who got hurt in the process. Dominicans came to the Heights to be surrounded by other people like them and the Heights has become the largest Dominican community in the US outside DR. My mother paid $325 a month for her 3 bd room apartment on 181st in the late 80s and today it rents for at least $2500-3000 per month. Is there any real question who can and cannot afford those prices? And, that’s just the rent, forget about buying. That A train runs express to 59th and it’s all about proximity to downtown for the upwardly mobile, predominantly white class at the expense of the rich and diverse immigrant communities of New York City. They move uptown, call it “artsy” for their downtown friends, and complain about the “natives” relative to how much rent they pay and how much Spanish they have to learn to get milk at the bodega.

    For me, the beauty of the Heights was its Dominican majority but before too long it will just look like 96th st and B’way which will look just like 125 and 72 and Lex. If the homogenization of what made NYC special is the ultimate goal, then NYC, via gentrification, is well on its way.

  • [...] looking at Harlem’s history from 1910 through recent changes. That’s followed by “#gentrification,” in which a former urban planner for Manhattan Community Board 10—Harlem, [...]

  • [...] Renaissance Revisited 2010 January 10 tags: hungry by Sonia Via Postbourgie I don’t mean to belittle the historical and cultural significance of Harlem to [...]

  • [...] 2010 January 6 by Syreeta cross-posted to postbourgie.com ”This is the spiritual capital of the African diaspora. Something had to be [...]

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