[Marxism] "rebuilding" Harlem

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Fri Jun 13 11:23:18 MDT 2008

leave it to the NY Times to portray fear as "mixed feelings"and a 
longing for "what they knew" ... Les


Mixed Feelings as Change Overtakes 125th St.

It isn’t news that just two or three years ago, Harlem had a paucity of 
bank branches, grocery stores and other basic amenities, or that now 
that more affluent people have started to move there, upscale shops and 
restaurants have followed.

But change can have surprising results. While welcoming safer, cleaner 
streets, longtime residents have found themselves juggling conflicting 
emotions. And those who enjoyed a measure of stability in the old Harlem 
now long for the past — not necessarily because it was better but 
because it was what they knew.

“The majority of the stores, the 99-cent stores, they’re gone,” said 
Gwen Walker, 55, a longtime resident of the General Grant Houses in West 
Harlem, giving one view. “The Laundromat on the corner is gone. The 
bodegas are gone. There’s large delis now. What had been two for $1 is 
now one for $3. My neighbor is a beer drinker, and he drinks inexpensive 
beer, Old English or Colt 45 or Coors — you can’t even buy that in the 
stores. The stores have imported beers from Germany. The foods being 
sold — feta cheese instead of sharp Cheddar cheese. That’s a whole other 


The psychological hold Harlem has on African-Americans has endured even 
as the neighborhood’s devolution became so complete that between about 
1960 and 1990, Harlem had lost a third of its population and half of its 
housing stock.


She said they speculated that by then, they will have been relocated to 
“a rural area in the Bronx” — even though a city housing project would 
seem to be safe from gentrification. “Change is good, and progress is 
inevitable,” she said. “But the feeling is, ‘What are we going to do? 
Where are we going to go?’”

During the past several months, Harlem residents have sought to slow the 
pace of change via lawsuits, protests, calls for economic boycotts, 
public denunciations of elected officials and town-hall-style meetings 
with names like “The State of Black Harlem.” A large march and rally 
that organizers say will be “against displacement and gentrification” is 
scheduled for the neighborhood on June 21.

Apprehension about gentrification has become a constant, and is now a 
common theme at Sunday church services and a standard topic of 
conversation in barber shops and beauty salons, on street corners, in 
bars, at public housing community rooms and among the doormen of the 
neighborhood’s new condominium buildings. This spring, there have been 
as many as three or four community meetings each week in which 
gentrification has been discussed — and roundly denounced.

Social service organizations in the neighborhood said that they have 
noted an uptick in clients complaining about insomnia and hypertension 
related to fears about losing their homes, even when there is no 
indication that they will be evicted.


Then, last month, the City Council approved another significant change: 
the rezoning of 125th Street, Harlem’s central artery, to allow for 
high-rise office towers and some 2,100 new market-rate condominiums. 
About 70 small businesses might be closed and some residents displaced.

In East Harlem, East River Plaza, a $300 million shopping mall anchored 
by Home Depot, is being built on the site of a long-abandoned wire 
factory. Two blocks away, glass-walled $1 million condominiums are 
rising next to six-story tenement buildings.

Earlier this year, the average price for new condominium apartments in 
Harlem hit $900,000, although average household income remains less than 

The Rev. Dr. Charles A. Curtis, senior pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist 
Church, one of Harlem’s oldest black churches, said that people feel 
powerless when they see change that they believe is not intended to 
benefit them.

“There are great developments going on,” said Pastor Curtis. “You can 
see things in your sight, but they’re just out of reach.”

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