Poverty and Affluence in Harlem

Since I am a native New Yorker, I have had the chance to walk through each of the city’s boroughs at least a couple times in my life. As a kid, I never noticed the difference in poverty and affluence and how they separately influenced the city. They influenced the way the city looked and were also influencing the people who lived in the city. Taking a walk in the city now it’s hard to be ignorant or unaware of the poverty in the streets. I took an hour long walk in Harlem, which I believe is a place that struggles with poverty in the city. I walked from about 116 street to Fort Washington Park, which is an area I was a little familiar with because my mom used to work around there. While I was there I noticed there were a lot more apartment buildings than there were houses and walking on the sidewalk, I saw a lot of people sleeping on the floor or asking others for money. The sidewalks were filled with people walking in both directions. They called out to people, were on the phone, played music and some walked slow and others walked fast. I also felt like there was just a smell of food like chicken or fast food.  There wasn’t much of an example of affluence in that area. There are many Hispanics and African Americans in that area as well. Hispanics and African Americans are two of the biggest minorities in New York City. From the charts from last week’s lecture we can see that these two groups face some of the biggest wage gaps and were hit hardest during the recession in comparison to white Americans. Therefore, because these groups are more likely to face certain factors such as unemployment and wage gaps, I believe this is why there are so many people living in poverty in Harlem. Although Harlem is faced with poverty, it could not be described as a terrible or dirty looking neighborhood. During my walk, I noticed a lot of artwork and music and other different forms of artistic expression. It shows the optimism and love in the community. I think living in poverty is what brings the people of their community together because they help each other. It sets the people in poverty apart from the people living in affluence. For example, people living in the Upper East Side live in much pricier apartment buildings and may not need to connect with their community like those in poverty get the chance to. This part of the city can also be seen as much more plain, with little to no artwork outside. Since these people live in affluence and have an abundant amount of resources, they don’t need help like the people in a neighborhood such as Harlem, who have little resources.

Assignment 1, ,

1 Comment

  1. This is a very sophisticated analysis – I’m impressed! I too think that tough conditions bring people together (because they have to work together to survive), and I am equally drawn to the community art installations around Harlem – not to romanticize them though… they are representations of love and community, but also embedded with pain and oppression and strife.

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