Tag Archives: gentrification

Teacher Layoffs Hit Harlem HARD

I recently posted about how crime and gang activity seem to be rising in East Harlem. And as if kids don’t have it hard enough in this neighborhood, their schools will be hard-hit by one of the worse teacher layoffs in New York City’s recent history.

It’s been known for a while that teacher layoffs were imminent across New York City. But until yesterday, the public didn’t really know the concrete numbers and the schools that will be affected if New York State doesn’t provide the needed funds. It turns out that Harlem will be one of the worse affected by this.

Wow. As if crime, diabetes, asthma and rising HIV rates wasn’t enough for us to worry about.

Harlem’s Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering will lose 70 percent of its staff — i.e., 14 of 20 teachers. Another school that will be greatly affected will East Harlem’s Preparatory Academy, which is scheduled to lose 42 percent of its staff (11 out of 26 teachers).

Overall, the figures show that poorer neighborhoods will receive the brunt of the layoffs due the fact that those schools tend to have the newer teachers (Surprise?! No one but the young is rushing to teach in poor public schools).

As a mother of a three -year-old who has now started looking at my school options, this is news is very disheartening. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for six years and I love it. But I also want a good education for my daughter, and sadly, this neighborhood doesn’t offer it. I’m lucky in the fact that I have the financial means to get up and move. But..

A. I shouldn’t have to move! A good education should be provided to every NYC kid no matter what neighborhood he lives in.

B. As a gentrifier, shouldn’t I, along with other gentrifier, fight for this right. There’s been several neighborhoods (the Bowery, Lower East Side, Williamsburg) that have moved up in the economic scale and with that, have brought along better amenities, better public services and better schools.

Of course, the dilemma would be my child being part of the first round of guinea pigs to go into this sea change …. if and when it happens.


The never-ending debate over East Harlem Plaza

As I’ve stated from the start, this blog is meant to document East Harlem’s transformations — the good, the bad and the ugly.And one of the ugliest topics in East Harlem, which is sure to induce arguments, is the East River Plaza development (which is scheduled to open in October, but from what I saw just a few days ago, the construction is nowhere near completion). Like most gentrification issues, this is a complex one, with vocal advocates on both sides.

Some tout it as a great effort to revitalize Harlem and bring hundreds of jobs to folks in the neighborhood, which in return will draw more businesses (and jobs) into East Harlem.Others see it as the commercialization knife striking East Harlem’s soul. With it’s sprawling 500,000 square foot building and well-known chains like Costco and Target as retailers, it is sure to bring a lot of traffic, noise and pollution to a neighborhood that already suffers these maladies.

As a longtime resident, I can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable about the big development. New York City was once the haven of mom-and-pop shops and independent retailers. But now, IKEA’s, Targets, Kmarts, and Costcos have invaded the big city, driving out storeowners who can’t compete with these megastores’ low prices.

I’ll admit it — I love me some IKEA and Target. I’m not rich and I go to great lengths in stretching my budget, especially now that I have a daughter. But part of me wonders, whether saving $5 on pack of diapers is worth New York looking like the typical retail-chain littered city that exists everywhere else in this country. With that thought, I invite you to view a video produced by Hope Community, Inc. about the East River Plaza.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And so it begins…

I’ve been living in East Harlem for about five years now. Seven years total in New York City. 

And from all the other NYC neighborhoods I’ve lived in — Park Slope, the East Village, and Bushwick (or East Williamsburg as the developers call it) — East Harlem has been the curious creature that has tugged my heart. Sure, it’s not as pretty as Park Slope, or as cool as the East Village. But what East Harlem has that none of those other neighborhoods had is a very real, gritty New York essence. Most of all, it represents the transformative nature that is New York. This city is always razing, building, renovating or gutting some thing or another. Scaffoldings and cranes are such a part of the landscape that people don’t seem to notice them. And when something is torn down for a new building, it happens so fast that you forget what was there before. Faint memories linger in every corner.

Change and transformation isn’t always good. And that’s why the gentrification occurring in East Harlem is such a touchy, hot debate.

As a writer, I want to document these neighborhood transitions, along with the transitions that are occurring in my life. I became a mother in 2007. And my daughter who just turned 18 months on Friday is a bonafide, native East Harlem girl. She was born in East Harlem (15 blocks away in Mount Sinai) and this neighborhood is what she will forever consider her birthplace, her cradle of existence.

When I worked as a daily news reporter, I was did background research before writing on a topic. So with that in mind, I invite you all to look at this amazing photo collection by Bruce Davidson entitled E. 100th Street. It was taken in the late 1960s. Davidson documented the lives of residents on that street, and looking at these photos, I realize how much has changed. How much hasn’t.

A photo from the collection, "E. 100th Street" by Bruce Davidson (1966-1968).

A photo from the collection, "E. 100th Street" by Bruce Davidson (1966-1968).