Wednesday, September 15, 2010

☞ SHOP: East Harlem Loses Identity to Mall?

In today's New York Daily News, a 29 year resident of East Harlem laments on how the East River Plaza has taken over El Barrio's identity. Now that Target has a big "Hello Harlem" sign out front, neighborhood names are once again a big issue. East Harlem or El Barrio has it's own character different than greater Harlem, so why not call it by its full name?

The article also laments that the mall at East 116th Street and the FDR Drive has brought in "throngs of downtown people" and brownstones prices are no longer affordable in the neighborhood. Then again, the writer confesses to be "delighted to have Costco, Target, Marshalls, Old Navy, Best Buy and PetSmart within walking distance, even if the after-midnight delivery trucks rattle my windows and my nerves." So is the trade-off worth it? Read more in the Daily News: LINK


  1. I'm sure Target wanted to be inclusive by saying Hello to all of Harlem instead of being exclusionary. But moreover, people in other parts of New York don't realize how big Harlem is. Lower Manhattan is divied up into neighborhoods so small that you can walk through them in a minute or two. You could fit 50 NoLiTas or 20 TriBeCas in "Central Harlem" alone. I doubt the Target marketing team really understood that 117th and the East River is a further hike from the "Harlem" of 145th and Broadway than it is from most of the Upper East Side.

    With regard to this woman's article in particular, I take issue with the ridiculous claim that "East Harlem is not Harlem." West Harlem and Central Harlem are divided by a geographic feature: the ridge line that forms St Nick and Jackie Robinson Parks. East Harlem is divided from Central Harlem by 5th Avenue, an entirely man-made boundary marked by little to no fanfare or significance. I would challenge anyone to claim that crossing 5th Avenue one can notice a marked difference in just about anything that clearly demarcates a shift in neighborhoods. As one travels north in East Harlem, the neighborhood becomes more black and less Latino. It's a gradual process. Once you get north of 125th, the "East Harlem Triangle" east of 5th is, and has for long been, mostly black and not very Latino. Is this "el Barrio"? Eh. It's nothing like 116th and 3rd.

    There never have been very clear boundaries. The neighborhoods have always been shifting and changing. But East Harlem is a section of Harlem. Call it what you want. If you're making the claim that calling el Barrio "Harlem" is somehow stripping it of its unique identity, you must not know the rest of Harlem very well. There are Dominicans in Manhattanville, West Africans in Little Senegal-- doesn't make those areas not Harlem either.

  2. This is a lot of complaining about nothing. Target and the other stores are on the FDR Drive - hardly in the center of any neighborhood. And the area that it sits closest to used to be an Italian-American enclave. Things change. NYC is constantly evolving. Get over it. I hate big box stores but I don't think that they necessarily "owe" a community anything. The very fact that they come into a depressed area and bring jobs and revenue is already doing good. People love to complain but then they don't come up with any viable alternatives to these soulless super- stores.

  3. I’m not sure if Target still has there shuttle the bus in operation but I did have the pleasure of riding one before they stopped. They played a video featuring local bars and restaurants from all over Harlem. They show artists and chefs speaking about how connected we are as a community. They’re trying to get people downtown to come uptown and they’re not being all Wal-Mart about it. They show local stores selling produce when Target itself is also trying to sell produce. The video was all inclusive and a good representation of Harlem. I think it was amazing and am wondering why The Village of Harlem doesn’t have its own commercial on TV right now. My favorite part is when the little boy says Harlem is kind of like New Jersey. I for one am very happy that Target has shown favor on our community. We have a museum that is blatantly advertised on by Target but is free on Tuesdays.