Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Harlem Gentrification-itis Blues

Harlem is looking more and more like an outpost for stranded, overly educated Midwestern fashion victims who ought to be background talent for HBO's Girls. Then again, so does the rest of New York City.  I moved uptown to get away from all that.  To (sort of) paraphrase Michael Jackson, I don't want to be where they are -- for a myriad of reasons which should be fairly obvious to anyone that's actually paying attention -- yet for some strange reason, they won't stop following me.   As a slightly intoxicated hipster blurted to me in a Brooklyn bar recently after a breezy chat about everything and nothing, "You're so interesting!"  Hearing him say that made me feel like I just got slimed. More on that some other time.

My favorite moment so far (and yes, I have many) is the one that won't stop happening. At this point, I suppose that makes it a revolving nightmare.  It begins simply enough: I hear about some Harlem hotspot, I show up to check it out and when I walk through the door, the place is filled with white people who look at me as if to say, what the hell are you doing here?  To be honest, yes -- that's what happens just about everywhere I go. Harlem was the one place where that whole staring-at you like-you're-the-one-that's-nuts-while-you-eat-your-roasted-beet-and-goat-cheese-salad thing didn't happen. Well. Not anymore. 

That's right. You heard me. Harlem, an iconic black neighborhood, is no longer a place where a black person can get away from white privilege and entitlement. And that's just one reason of many as to why this place is going straight to hell.

Here's a short segment from therealnews.com about the systematic ethnic cleansing of Harlem by Columbia University's massive expansion and gentrification, and how the city failed the neighborhood.

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