Gentrification of Harlem
Gentrification is the process through which areas experience renewal and rebuilding as a result of influx of affluent people into deteriorating region (Brash, 2006). This process leads to the displacement of poor residents to give way for the settlement of more affluent members of the society. Harlem is a neighborhood that borders New York and was predominantly a black residence since the early 1900s. The initial residents developed a culture that bound them together as families and friends. In the 1960s, this area started undergoing gentrification that was prompted by the movement of middle class white residents into the area. This process had many positive and negative consequences for those who originally inhabited it and those who migrated into the area.
The process of gentrification had negative psychological effect on the poor residents of Harlem. Many of the residents feared that the influx of middle class residents into the area would push them out of the area and they would be homeless. This was stressful and led to many demonstrations, some of which ended up being violent. Many of the physical changes in terms of building were also stressful. People always oppose change even when the change is meant to bring positive effects in their lives. Many residents of Harlem felt that their past had been snatched from them since most of the old physical structures were changed (Wyly and Hammel, 2001). The decline of familiar neighborhood due to gentrification was stressful to the extent that the initial inhabitants experienced insomnia and blood pressure due to the anxiety and uncertainty that accompanied the influx of other people into Harlem. Due to this stress, many residents opted to move out of Harlem because they felt uncomfortable living among new residents.
The influx of middle class residents into Harlem led to the revolution of the business sector. Before this movement into Harlem, the groceries and small businesses provided commodities at affordable prices to the residents. When the gentrification started, there were new businesses that aimed at catering for the new arrivals. This coupled with demolition of stalls and small business premises that accompanied the process of gentrification made the price of commodities to rise. Due to the losses incurred by small business owners, they were left without any source of income. Consequently, they could not afford living within this neighborhood and had to relocate. Bearing in mind that the people who lived at Harlem initially were poor, such a change in their lifestyle would make life unbearable for them.
Another effect of gentrification of Harlem is the change in the real estate market. This process was accompanied by increase in rents and house prices (Darrow, 2006). As a result, many people were evicted as home owners started targeting middle class people who could pay more money than the original inhabitants. The structure of houses and building at Harlem also changed as a result of gentrification. Many of the houses were initially designed to accommodate small families and families closely related with each other. When the process of gentrification took place, small houses were disbanded and larger luxurious ones instituted.
The culture of the original inhabitants of Harlem was disturbed due to gentrification. People used to socialize to a great extent and depended on each other in many aspects of their lives. Cultural events used to bring unity among them and strengthened their bonds as people. However, with coming of gentrification new non-indigenous people brought a new outlook into the neighborhood. They were more independent and occupied houses amid African-Americans. This interrupted the way the local interacted with each other.
Despite many negative aspects of gentrification of Harlem, there were advantages to various people. Those who owned land and buildings experienced the increased profitability as a result of the influx of middle class white people into Harlem. The middle-income earners were able to pay rent at a higher price compared to the African-Americans. This meant that the real estate business was very lucrative to those who took part in it. Moreover, restaurants and other small businesses also experienced a boom as people with more disposable income moved into Harlem.
For the African-Americans who could afford the increased rent and home costs, they enjoyed improved living standards (Maurrasse, 2006). Social amenities accompanied the gentrification process. Hospitals and other infrastructural developments came up, that was beneficial for both the African-Americans and the middle class white residents. Moreover, due to the class of the people who joined the Harlem community, security was enhanced and streets were cleaner and safer. There were no more drugs on the streets and, therefore, children became safer from bad influence of streets.
In conclusion, the process of gentrification has both negative and positive consequences to the inhabitants of any region. The effects of gentrification in Harlem had both types of effects. However, the negative effects outweighed the positive ones. The negative effects were weightier because they had an overall result of leading to eviction and movement of people from Harlem to other residential areas where the rent and living conditions were low and affordable. Negative effects of the gentrification mostly affect the minorities. They are usually not the main focus of the government and their woes may not be listened to seriously. In the 1960s, the government had projects for housing that were cheap and affordable to the minorities and the poor. However, this is not the case in the present day at Harlem because there are no more such projects. This amplifies the negative effects of gentrification at Harlem.