...as hipster cafés and bars continue to pop up in formerly unfashionable neighbourhoods like Brooklyn's Bedford Stuyvesant, the people who have lived in these areas for decades are finding it increasingly difficult to pay their rent.
Warren Bradley, a teacher and artist from Harlem, is one of sixty residents in his building who has been told he must accept a 35% rent hike – or get out.
Bradley says that people tend to assume gentrified areas have eradicated poverty, when in fact, the poor and middle class are being priced out of their homes. “We are not vanishing at all, we are just being forced out,” he told FRANCE 24.Mumble Italiano, like the Godfather;
Brad Bathgate, a poet from Harlem who writes about the gap between rich and poor in his poetry, goes even further, describing the Harlem of today as “a playground for the bourgeoisie”.
“I knew when they put that Starbucks on 125th Street the rent was going to go up,” he says. Bathgate, who can no longer afford to live in the neighbourhood where he grew up, believes that crack cocaine was “pumped” into the area in order to further impoverish residents so that they would be easier to evict. “It was to pimp the misery of the working poor,” he says.Naturally New Yorkers turned to a former Sandinista admirer;
In Brooklyn's Park Slope – Bill de Blasio’s neighborhood – homeowners are also delighted by the booming house prices and are not shy about celebrating the positive effects of gentrification, from their perspective. “There’s no point in denying it,” Andrea Nye, a mother of two, told FRANCE 24. “As a homeowner it’s a beautiful thing to see your home value increase so much. It is sad for those who rent, but it’s awesome for us.”Not sad for all though;
Gaku Takanashi, a Japanese émigré who has been living in New York for 25 years, says Harlem, where he regularly plays as a jazz musician, is almost unrecognisable from the place he knew when he arrived in 1988.
“It’s far more diverse now,” he told FRANCE 24. “You have the entire world in Harlem. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Everybody wants to live in New York! The whole city is being transformed and Harlem is a very important part of that.”Yeah, now that it's safe to walk the streets again.
Marjorie Elliot, who opens the doors of her home each Sunday to host a jazz jam in which Takanashi participates, also praised the diversity of Harlem. “Look at my boys,” she said, pointing at the three musicians on stage, one of them her son, Rudel Drears. “We’ve got a kid from Japan, a kid from France, and a kid from down the street. For me, that’s what Harlem’s all about”.Not if your new mayor has his way it won't.