Sunday, February 16, 2014

☞ READ: Is Harlem Good Now?

Chef Marcus Samuelsson writes an article for the Times this weekend in which he discusses the great old establishments of Harlem that have weathered the rough years and the new ones that have just opened.  Sylvia's, Paris Blues and Showman's are all featured alongside new bright spots like Bier International, 67 Orange and The Grange.  The question now is wether if all this change makes Harlem better or is there a lost of community?  We actually are a big fan of Samuelsson because he is one of the newcomers that have personally invested his life in the community and actually has lived here for quite some times before opening his business. More in the New York Times: LINK


  1. I don't know what people are complaining about.. you either have burned out buildings and no services or people with money to come in and fix the place up... there is no in between.. This is NYC and neighborhoods change..

  2. There are people who feel we were better off back in the bad ol' days. That is because, there wasn't all this anxiety about displacement Yes, Harlem was poorly back then & you had to travel outside of your neighborhood for choices from everything from sox to a celebratory meal. African-Americans & Latinos were comfortable because we knew that if something popped off against us it wasn't because of our color. In some ways its more of what the gentrifiers represent than anything else that has caused this high level of anxiety. When I think of the nervousness & anxiety about whats going on I think of La Nausee by JP Sartre. Its a strange indefinable feeling and you don't know quite what to do about it.

    Yesterday, I visited a church member's apartment in a building on ACP Blvd that 20 years ago, you would have to pay people to live in. Yesterday as I waited for the elevator I saw she had Korean neighbors and a Danish lady lives on her floor as well. But her rent has increased exponentially in the last 4 years as well as utilities fees. Just before she got sick she had to turn off cable tv and discontinue her isp, and she's stopped tithing at church long time ago all because her rent is so high. No better services and the elevator I rode yesterday was just recently repaired after a 4 months of out-of-service. The only way she can enjoy a dinner at Corner Social or Chez Lucienne is if someone invites her and only then she needs the reassurance that the inviter is paying the tab. When I went to see her yesterday she spoke quite a bit about getting back on her feet so she can get a second job in order to remain here. She works at Harlem Hospital and can walk to work and thats great. But if she gets displaced that won't be an option any longer and then there's the commuting cost.

    I myself work a full-time and a part-time job because if it weren't for that I could never afford to have isp,or cable. I do semi-actively enjoy the new life in Harlem but not as frequently as I would like to and definitely not as frequently as my grand parents and my parents did. My grandparents went to the Savoy twice weekly, to the movies about thrice weekly, dinner at Singleton's or some other local restaurant a couple of time s a week. Then there were the lodges, church social groups, jazz joints and "after hour spots"

    I wish I had a son/daughter today, actually grandson/daughter today to celebrate their graduation at Chez Lucienne or Red Rooster or one of the many lovely places we could walk to after the ceremony & then walk home from. That would be one of the signs of a true community turned for the better.

    Harlem was a place of comfort, a true comfort zone for black people. You dealt with race prejudice, race & sexual harassment, discrimination on the jobs downtown all day long. But you sucked it up 'cause you knew that once that A train or 2/3 train, or M2 bus passed 96 Street, once the racial ratio of the bus & subway changed passed 96 Street, you could exhale, really exhale, 'cause now all that bs that really had nothing to do with you, was behind you. Life was comfortable, people spoke to you, adressed you as Ma'am or kids called you Sir people, strangers even supported you.So that means that Harlem was so much more than places to eat and dance. I wish I could make people understand what Harlem meant and means to us. I don't feel like I'm articulating my feelings well enough but there's a lot of feeling behind the words.

    So anonymous, you may not know what people are complaining about but that's because you don't see the big picture. How unfortunate that the picture is so big that you & others like you can't see it. But I think the anxiety, the "nausee" has gotten the best of me.

  3. Oh I forgot to answer the question; "Is Harlem Good Now?"
    I really don't know, I think it depends on who you ask and also who poses the question. Variables such as location; Central vs. East Harlem, Age, Socio-economic status, etc.

  4. I understand what Greg is saying but I also think things change for better or worse. My husband grew up in upper manhattan and says he used to get harassed by drug dealers, was literally constantly mugged, the streets were filled with homeless people, drugged out...he said the subways were dirty and didn't run that well, all of new york was a problem, with the exception of a few neighborhoods or blocks. The gentrification of the upper west side can be argued for the better (cleaner, safer, better amenities) or worse (lacks a lot of the soul of the past). Maybe that is what is happening with Harem and what Greg is trying to articulate. I can relate via my in laws, who say UWS is lacking in community and the richness of the people are gone, (artists, musicians etc..) replaced by bankers and finance people. It's happening everywhere, but gentrification doesn't have to be a negative thing, the two big challenges I see are- if people can preserve their heritage whilst not displacing people, then it can be beneficial to all.

  5. Ah, this is a really difficult one and it is something that is pertinent in a lot of working class communities across the world, not just Harlem. I was born and raised in London and whilst not being a cockney lad in East London, I knew the area well and it was a very close knit community where people did the old 9-5 and went home to their family and friends (probably with a couple of beers at the local pub in between :) My wife and I still visit my family in England with the kids in two on a yearly basis and with each visit you notice how dramatically the city is changing. Real estate is cost prohibitive, much more so than in New York. You can be priced out of London and there really isn't anywhere else to go.

    At the same time, however, having lived in Harlem for a long time, there are a lot of positives from the changes that are occurring. Neighborhoods do change and you can't simply stop being from moving into more cost friendly areas. As we know, to live anywhere else in NYC is near impossible and if people moving in want to open restaurants, cafes etc., then good for them. These are services that people want and have been sorely missed in the past. So, I don't know. I think Marcus's fair and balanced article was far more eloquent than anything I could ever put together, so I defer to him :)