“Gentrification” is a dirty word to many neighborhood advocates. The idea being that opportunistic real estate interests swoop in to create high-priced luxury living for affluent yuppies—ultimately pricing out the neighborhood’s original residents.
It happens all the time, all over the country as formerly distressed ‘hoods transition into trendy local scenes. In many cases, the demographic shifts as the color of neighborhood residents lighten, their pockets deeper.
Harlem, in particular has been gentrifying for over 10 years, as 9/11 and the recession drove downtown elites from their pricey shoebox condos to the uptown neighborhood’s (relatively) more affordable five-story brownstones. “The physical space of Harlem is [and] was very attractive to them,” explains Marline Martin, director of Harlem’s LeRoy Neiman Art Center. “You know, wide streets, or landmark buildings, housing, and, of course, our cultural history.”
The Neiman Art Center, which opened in 2008, along with the year old Art in FLUX Harlem, and months’ old Harlem Wine Gallery, are part of a fresh new wave of art spaces hoping to help the neighborhood’s original community determine what “gentrified Harlem” will ultimately look like.