People are raving about how cool Harlem has become. It’s a hip spot. One of the “new” places to move. If you can’t afford Manhattan you move to Brooklyn. If you can’t afford Brooklyn you move to Queens. If you don’t want to commute from Queens you move to Harlem. Like I said, Harlem is becoming a new it spot. At least West Harlem is.
When people talk about the “new” Harlem they are usually talking about West Harlem. It has gentrified faster than its counterpart on the East. There’s really no rhyme or reason why a neighborhood gentrifies before another neighborhood. It just happens.
I haven’t spent much time in Harlem. Mostly I’m avoiding the long commute. Last fall, however, I spent time in East Harlem for a project. East Harlem looks nothing like West Harlem. The area where I was working, had staggering homelessness and poverty. Vacant lots on every corner. Closed stores. It’s not what one would call a nice neighborhood.
There’s potential. But, every attempt to do anything with the area has been one mistake or stall after another. Buildings that would displace current residents. Stores that would sell goods locals can’t afford.
Despite the hardship, there’s a certain kind of color. Murals. Graffiti. Painted pipes. It might not be a neighborhood everyone wants to visit. It might not be a neighborhood everyone wants to visit, but it’s a neighborhood with a community.