Harlem vs. Gentrification

After reading the article “Gentrification and Displacement in Harlem: How the Harlem Community Lost Its Voice en Route to Progress” I found out much about community change and resistance in NYC, specifically Harlem. Harlem is in the process of being gentrified. Gentrification means change in urban areas associated with a rise in affluence. Gentrification basically means that with the increase in wealthy people comes a change in atmosphere, a change in stores like restaurants and retail. This article talks about how before gentrification started occurring in Harlem soul food such as, butter beans, country fried steak, and oxtail soup were the dominant diners but now because of gentrification these traditional dishes are becoming increasingly hard to find. Gentrification also sometimes forces places to shut down due to its lack of costumers. In Harlem many restaurants are closing down due to lack of customers. The closing down of Harlem restaurants is a product of the intrusion of wealthy younger, non-natives into Harlem, forcing soul foods’ traditional customers to leave the neighborhood (“Humanity in Action”). I feel like the people of Harlem aren’t really resisting the gentrification of their neighborhood, rather they just cant afford to live there anymore and are forced to leave the community. I wouldn’t say that is resisting change, I would say thats just the reality of the situation. Its a sad reality but it is what it is.

Another thing I concluded after reading this article was that gentrification causes decay of culture and displacement in the area that is being gentrified. This article also gives the example of rezoning. “The controversial rezoning of 125th street is the most recent example of the gentrification. Current plans will transform it from “a low-rise boulevard lined with hair salons and buffet-style soul food restaurants into a regional business hub with office towers as high as 29 stories, more than 2,000 new market-rate condominiums, as well as hotels, bookstores, art galleries and nightclubs (Humanity in Action).” This is a perfect example of gentrification. The building of modern “hipster” life being brought into Harlem, and pushing the original settlers out.

In terms of alternative housing, the people being effected by Harlem’s gentrification are moving out of the community because its getting too expensive to live there and into cheaper areas. The graph I’ve included shows how different populations have been increasing and decreasing over time due to gentrification in Harlem.

Assignment 4-8, Commummity Development/Gentrification, ,

1 Comment

  1. It is quite heartbreaking to see just what type of effects gentrification has upon the culture of Harlem, as seen in how it causes the city’s “traditional dishes [to] become increasingly hard to find” and how it “forces places to shut down due to lack of customers;” based on this observation alone, gentrification has not only had a big impact on Harlem but in my hometown of Downtown Flushing as well. For instance, the Barone pizza place that was under the railroad on Main Street was shut down a few months ago after over 40 years of service; today, it is a small Chinese shop that sells skin cream and other pricy home remedies. Gentrification has even occurred here about ten years ago, when an old fancy Chinese restaurant across the street from Duane Reade was shut down and slowly transformed into an apartment complex that was accompanied with numerous facilities like a Capital One bank, a Dunkin Donuts, and a Chinese day care center. Like with the case of Harlem, it’s understandable that the pizza place and the Chinese restaurant needed to shut down to help the neighborhood adapt to a “modern ‘hipster’ life,” but at the same time it is also taking away a little part of Downtown Flushing that helped make it what it was to begin with. I personally fear that as gentrification continues to alter the city over time, it will soon be nothing but endless blocks of lavish condominiums and Chinese mini-malls.

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