In a personal essay, a historian considers an existential menace to the New York neighborhood he calls home
In New York in 1975, Jacqueline Kennedy was worried about a plan to destroy Grand Central Terminal.
Writing to the mayor, the former first lady questioned:” Is it not cruel to let our municipal die by degrees, deprived of all her proud gravestones, until there will be nothing left of all her biography and knockout to stimulate our children? This is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won’t all end up in a regalium nature of sword and glass caskets .”
Nearly 50 several years later, the same threat hangs over Harlem. It is nothing less than existential. In the residence of so much African American history, churches and other landmarks are disappearing with a rapidity that invites estimations of the nonchalance that arranges our entire planet at risk.
The gentrification of Harlem has been condemned on the ignore and greed of white people. The truth is much more complex.
For sure, New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s trickle-down housing policy has set the stage for rampant destruction. Any probable rezoning website seen as under-utilized is placed in certain peril. To De Blasio, high-end high-rises are the only way to gain ” inexpensive” gangs. No content that his “affordable” is beyond the means of most. As part blocks are cleared for condominiums, dislocation is just so much collateral damage.
But there are black supervisors assisting in this violation. In the fight for Harlem’s heritage and soul, they are the foe within.
Nearly every two months, another religion is lost. From 96 th to 155 th Streets, an estimated 350 assets are owned by churches. Harmonizing to the Manhattan borough chairperson, Gale Brewer, a study in progress considers these structures as the mayor might: as 5m sq ft of development rights, potentially be transformed into 5,600 two-bedroom apartments.
In Harlem, some truths are universally acknowledged. Local politicians are operated from downtown; a transaction has been fixed in the dark to relinquish black Harlem, its gift and beings, to provide convenient housing for the better off. Everyone knows the gap between black wealth and white is at a ratio of 100:1. Everyone knows new occupants are bound to be white.
More obscure is how for each landmark recognized in Harlem there are five in Greenwich Village, where three-quarters of houses are labelled versus about 10% uptown.