Harlem And South Bronx
Bye Bye Poor People, Welcome Rich People
By Marcelo Arroyave
In the early seventies, many Americans came back to the big city after they left their parent's houses in the suburbs, this process started a phenomenon called Gentrification, this process began when the poor neighborhoods received public investment and/or private partnerships to improve (reshape and build) housing and urban infrastructure. This process attracts a new class of neighbors in the poor neighborhoods. The new neighbor needs a new environment (stores, shops, specials supermarkets) and this changes the neighborhoods, as a result the rise not just of the rent, or houses, also food and many things such as the recreation and entertainment. This process forces some people who have their life in the neighborhoods to leave their house or apartment. First, because they can't afford the new prices (rent, food, recreation, entertainment) and, second, the landlords throw out the oldest tenants and they get freedom to sell or rent the apartments or houses to new tenants by the rent or price most expensive. This is a class war, on one side, the landlords and the new neighbors (upper and middle class) and on the other side, the poor neighbors (African American, Latin people, and others immigrants). The Gentrification drives out poor resident of the neighborhoods where they have lived for decades and forced them to go into marginal areas of the city where they are away from their work and their history, deteriorating quality of their life and destroying the historical heritage of the neighborhood and their families. All it is under the complacent view of the local government, which sees gentrification as a way to improve the image and security of the city for tourists and the middle and upper classes of society.
This phenomenon can be appreciated in several historical neighborhoods in Manhattan, like Chelsea, Soho and the Lower East Side, just to pointed few out. Since a few years ago, other places in Manhattan, like Harlem and South Bronx, started the gentrification process. How the neighbors could identify this kind of urban change? Well, there are many ways to look out for Gentrification and how it starts to reshape a neighborhood and their population.
The first step that opens the door to this process came from the Mayor Office with an investment in infrastructure, like, new subway lines, new street furniture, new public spaces or rebuilt all of these; an example just happened in East Harlem where the last December was opened the new Q line subway, also in Harlem, the next summer (2017) the Supermarket Whole Foods will open their new site on 125 street and Malcolm X BLDV, transforming definitively the image of the neighborhood and at the same time, its history.
South Bronx started to walk the same path thanks to the Mayor Office:
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio from going ahead with a $194 million plan to improve the infrastructure in a 30-block area on the Bronx side of the Harlem River. The plan will include making streets pedestrian-friendly, replacing water and sewer lines, carving out a new park and expanding broadband access — all in preparation for future development that, for now, exists only on paper. (NYTimes 12/09/16).
It wasn't the only signal about the South Bronx gentrification; in the same newspaper this strategic piece of land next to the Harlem River and on affront to East Manhattan, appears in the 51th position in a list of places to visit in 2017 (NYTimes 01/04/17), thanks to their exclusive places and cultural dynamism. The neighbors who know South Bronx knows what it means when their neighborhood is showed in a list alongside exotic places and heavenly beaches.
The poor people and the poor neighborhoods have a large heritage and a deep history in Harlem and The Bronx; the Gentrification transforms the neighborhoods and these could lose their heritage and history. In the same way, the people who built the neighborhood heritage and their history, in many cases, they need to leave the apartments and houses because the life in these traditional places is so much more expensive for them. For example, The Office of the New York City Comptroller shows how the rent average in NYC increased between the year 2000 and 2012; the media of rent for an apartment in New York was $698 in 2000 and in 2012, the rent was $1,167, the increase was of 67,2 % in just 12 years.
The landlords and the local government argue that the new apartments and the new urban infrastructure make the old and poor neighborhoods safer for the old and new tenants. When the neighborhoods get these, the crime and the violence decreases and the people feel more comfortable in their own place. But the crime does not disappear, just moves to another place, near or far away from the old and poor neighborhood. If the local governments want to fight against the crime in the old and poor neighborhoods, the best way is to build new schools with good teachers, make new opportunities for good jobs for the people, or give more opportunities for the youth to get a place in the university without paying a big loan. The old and traditional neighborhoods need more and better hospitals with high quality and more parks and spaces for recreation. The last thing that they need is new buildings or new urban infrastructure on the street with a new price for rent.
The city government said that New York City is better than it was twenty years ago, because they started an urban redevelopment especially in Manhattan; and this urban redevelopment brings new companies into New York, because the city is safe and has a good environment, especially for the tourism industry. But the massive tourism is good just for the city economy, but could be bad for working people, because many times the government only invests in this segment of the economy and doesn't see what happens with the people who don't work in the tourism industry. In the same way, the tourist industry can destroy old neighborhoods when building these new hotels or apartments for rent. Although the tourism business needs special attention, it is necessary that the government pays attention to other segment of the economy, particularly migrants need work but not only in the tourism business, because this kind of industry helps to remove many poor people from their own old neighborhood. The web page Curbed said in 2013 that in Manhattan were 48 new hotels under construction due to the high demand for rooms by the new visitors that in 2013 were 54.3 million, according with NYC Official Guide (NYCGO.COM). This is good for the economy of the city? Of course! This is good for the people who live in the old and poor neighborhoods in Manhattan? Only time will tell, and it will not be long.
The Gentrification is a big issue which affects many big cities around the world, and has a strong impact on the spatial configuration of the city and changes the real life and the imaginary in a very important portion of the population. The massive tourism and property speculation are two of the most important causes of this problem in New York City, but the low regulation of local governments makes this problem more chronic and it is the poorest population that suffers the worst effects. If the local government does nothing to control or regulate the problems caused by Gentrification, very soon we will see portions of the city occupied only by tourists and become empty and lifeless, when those depart to their homes. From the neighborhoods and old neighbors, it is necessary do something for call the local government and show the Gentrification consequences while strategies are created to resist the hits of hotel corporations and the landlords that just want to see profits Where there are stories of fights and resistance and a rich and dynamic life, like in Harlem with their black and Latin history and heritage and The South Bronx with their Salsa, Latin Jazz, Graffiti and Hip Hop history and heritage.