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The Gentrification of Harlem

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By : Paul Escobedo    99 or more times read
When most people in New York heard that President Clinton was moving into offices in Harlem once he retired, we thought it was a publicity stunt of some type. Anyone who had ever been to Harlem had seen some serious examples of poverty, and wondered why the former president of the United States would put himself through that.

Instead, what one finds is that, on one of the most famous streets in Harlem, 125th Street, things arenít what they once were. Oh sure, thereís still a tense number of people hanging around on the street during the day. There are literally hundreds of stores, and places such as the Apollo and the Cotton Club that are still around. However, what you also will notice is that there are brand new building, tall skyscrapers, and many corporate office buildings around now.

Having the Metro train stop at 125th Street makes it a great player for those who want to work in an area thatís a mixture of urban culture with upscale touches. Even though Harlem officially starts at 96th Street, this isnít your fatherís Harlem. Indeed, if your father were to live in the Harlem you remembered, youíd have to push further north, at least starting around 130th Street, before you started to see something you recognized.

Many of the old buildings have been torn down, and newer, pricey condos, apartments, and businesses are taking their place. None of the people who formerly lived in the area can afford it anymore, but people who canít afford living in the Midtown or Lower Manhattan area find this area to be affordable and still quickly accessible to the entertainment areas they want to enjoy. Not only that, but they can get a small feeling of living in a vibrant community, as only blocks away heading west is the vibrant Latino section of Harlem, and there are still local businesses that retain touches of what Harlem used to be, yet are ready to accept customers who can pay more for their services and products.

The city loves it because theyíll make more money from the newly improved tax base. The current inhabitants feel as though their being forcibly displaced from their homes, as thereís nothing in place like the voucher system in Atlanta. So, what happens is that a dangerous population gets pushed together even more, as there arenít many options for people with little income, and an explosive situation festers, almost like being rounded up and then pushed out.

This isnít only a New York problem, though. Large cities across the country are gentrifying themselves and herding the poor into other areas, further away from valuable city centers so they can be redeveloped for better paying clientele. Itís not right, but thatís the way things go. At some point, however, the poor are going to need to be addressed.
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