Harlem has always been in a constant state of evolution. What was once farmland for the Lenape tribe faded into a vibrant urban landscape as European immigrants settled, and eventually, African Americans made their homes here and gave rise to the Renaissance.
A beacon for artists, writers, philosophers, activists, poets, leaders and everyone in between, this community is known for being a hotbed of creativity, diversity and resilience. The history is strong in Harlem, but efforts to gentrify this area threaten the culture that is its claim to fame— displacement drives low- and middle-income tenants away and an affordable way of life is endangered. Along with Harlem’s neighbors— Washington Heights, Inwood, South Bronx and the Upper East and West Sides— what are some of the biggest issues facing State Senate District 30?
People commute uptown to Harlem to dine at delicious restaurants, take in a show at the Apollo Theater, or partake in a walking tour to learn about the community’s palpable history that still influences us to this day. The neighborhood has always been a coveted location, and Black residents invested a lot to build up a community that was welcome to them. But now, a significant number of Black residents find the neighborhood slipping away as new housing developments and flashy businesses begin to occupy what has been their space; high rents plus few economic opportunities equal “a state of emergency” leaving Harlem-ites stranded as gentrifiers take over. The enclave can now boast $5 million townhouses, but what does this mean for residents who live in homeless shelters despite working full time? And with local NYCHA public housing authorities under fire for neglected, unsafe buildings, where will Harlem turn to?
Harlem dwellers long for truly affordable housing, and a chance to re-engage in their neighborhoods again. With refreshed community centers and tenant associations, the people of Harlem strive to take back their community, to finally have a say in what happens where they live instead of passively watching interlopers take over. Residents want political representatives to stand up with them and for them against wealthy real estate giants who are slowly but surely reshaping a city without them.
Will the State Senate District 30 representative address the growing needs of this community? Learn more about Democratic candidate Brian A. Benjamin and get informed about 2018’s New York State elections at racetorepresent.com.