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Comments: Week of July 21, 2008

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1. Our tribute to Clay Felker, the late founder of New York Magazine (The Man Who Invented New York,” July 14) inspired a slew of journalists, in particular, to say how glad they were to see him on our cover. Some remarked ruefully how frustrating it was to discover that Tom Wolfe can still write circles around them. And on nymag.com, former employees offered their own tributes. “My first job in publishing was at New York Magazine when it was housed in the brownstone on East 32nd Street,” wrote Arlene Aizer Cohen on nymag.com. “I thought I never would say this, but it was great to be yelled at by the genius of Clay Felker.” Echoing those sentiments, Molly Sheridan wrote, “I can still hear Clay’s voice booming in my head and was always grateful when it wasn’t my name he was calling. Working in such an incredibly creative atmosphere got me incurably hooked on making magazines.” And Sarah Broom, whom Felker taught at Berkeley, wrote, “Rest in peace, Clay, who told me to just ‘write the damn thing.’ ”


2. Robert Kolker’s profile of real-estate broker Willie Kathryn Suggs and her role in the gentrification of Harlem (Whose Harlem Is It? July 14) evoked relatively equal parts respect and contempt for her success. But the most compelling comment was from a Harlem homeowner who vigorously defended gentrification. “I am one of the ‘gentrifiers’—yep, I am also black, and thankfully there are more of us than you think,” wrote the commenter on nymag.com. “I would not set foot in this awful neighborhood for years. The drug dealers ruled the streets, banks and insurance companies redlined the area, and many of the residents participated in the neighborhood’s demise by fighting for more public assistance, low-cost housing, and rat-infested bodegas. The ‘Harlem for Blacks’ that we wax on about could not sustain the dreams of my children or their children to become scientists, engineers, and business executives.” Sha-Risse Smith, a Harlem resident who was born there and moved back in 1984, took the diametrically opposite view in a letter: “Harlem is not just about architecture and location. Harlem is history—black history … People get anxious when white people start moving in because history has shown that when whites move into a location occupied by people of color, the whites eventually take over … Harlem belongs to us.” Finally, Suggs herself wrote a letter:

“Your article contains numerous misstatements, innuendos, and, most glaringly, did not include the participation of people directly involved. The quotes from former agents were presented in a vacuum with no background as to their possible motives. There was no interview attributed to any of the current agents, some of whom have been with us for over ten years. And the one current broker who is quoted, Lovelynn Gwinn, is not even described as such. Your reporter was told this and the fact is that she is Hawaiian, not white. The article implies that our office has one phone line and keeps files in garbage bags. We had three telephone lines by 1997. We have cabinets for current listings and boxes for dead files. We use computers and have a well-regarded Website, williesuggsharlem.com. If our office was as portrayed in the article, why would anyone continue to work with us? Lastly, the vast majority of Harlem homeowners are black. Why cannot they make the same profit that nonblack homeowners elsewhere make when their homes appreciate?”


Correction: In “Whose Harlem Is It?” Henrietta Rouse should have been identified, according to her lawyer, as under the age of 60.

Please send e-mails to: comments@nymag.com


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