The best sad songs are set in empty houses. But the mood today inside a barren townhouse at the crest of a hill on Convent Avenue at 148th Street is more complicated. One couple is moving out, reluctantly leaving behind a happy past. One excited family is moving in, imagining the possibilities.
Leaning against a fireplace mantel in the sunny, oak-paneled living room is Philmore Anderson, the 35-year-old general manager of an Internet music joint venture. He and Fanshen Cox have called this five-bedroom, 3,200-square-foot rusticated-limestone building home since 1996. “One of our first dates was me showing her this house,” Anderson says wistfully. “Now she’s my fiancée.”
There have been other big changes at this address. “Everybody thought this property was a risk; everybody thought I paid too much,” Anderson says. Now he’s selling for $660,000, the highest price per square foot ever for a Harlem townhouse and an appreciation of $200,000 in four years. “I still question whether I should have sold it or not,” Anderson says, “but the house needed new energy. I’ve taken it to the next level, and I’m now turning it over to the Levys to take the community to the next level.”
Downstairs is Amos Levy. He’s 38, a managing director in the legal department at a major Wall Street investment bank who grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. He’d been living in the West Eighties near Riverside Drive with his second wife, Carla, the 41-year-old executive editor at Fitness magazine; his 8-year-old daughter; and their calico cat, Pumpkin. Their 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom co-op rapidly grew too cramped (“We kept having all these Blandings moments, opening closets and things falling on our heads,” Carla says). The Levys thought about staying on the West Side and considered Park Slope but fell in love with this house uptown.
Now Levy, in his banker’s navy suit, is here for a pre-closing ritual, the walk-through. Talk of “taking the community to the next level” seems like more responsibility than Levy can contemplate at the moment, when he’s struggling just to remember the garbage-pickup schedule.
“There are questions,” says Benjamin. “But there is so much money being poured into Harlem, and so many people have so much at stake, it cannot fail.”
“We spent a lot of time prior to the bidding, and during the bidding process, making sure we came up here at all times, walking around, taking a cab up, walking around late at night,” Levy says so softly his words are faint from two feet away. “I think the quality of life is good. I wouldn’t have come to Harlem if I wasn’t going to be comfortable. Things have improved here.” He pauses and glances around the empty room. “They better have, or I’ve made a major mistake.”
the obvious headline here – “Black Man Sells Harlem House To White Man!” – is the wrong one. While it’s true that increasing numbers of palefaces are pushing north of 110th Street, the deeper significance of Anderson giving way to Levy is about class, not color. Suddenly, Harlem is a desirable residential option for corporate lawyers living on the Upper West Side and doctors residing in Connecticut. Civil rights for this new crowd – black, white, and Latino – means equal access to Starbucks and a DSL connection.
The febrile real-estate market is drawing buyers and renters who never would have considered the neighborhood even five years ago, and it’s pushing them beyond the eternally desirable enclaves of Striver’s Row, Astor Row, and Hamilton Terrace. A three-family brownstone on West 131st between Seventh and Eighth Avenues (Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Boulevards) that would barely have commanded a six-figure price tag five years ago was just sold by broker Margaret Adams for $435,000. In 1995, the going rate for a fire-damaged shell on 127th Street near Madison Avenue was $40,000; in December, what’s left of the building went for $280,000.
“The good change that’s happened as of late is that the rental demand among my friends has really skyrocketed,” Philmore Anderson says. “Friends wanting rental places in Harlem, recent college graduates who have been out on Wall Street or in the entertainment industry for a couple of years. Whereas five years ago, people were just interested in buying into Harlem. There’s this whole cultural shift taking place. Harlem is now safe enough; there are enough basic services, enough beautiful places. It used to be just my male friends were comfortable up here; now a lot of our female friends are comfortable having an apartment up here.”
Harlem rents still look like a bargain compared with, say, the East Village’s, but the climb has been vertiginous. Three years ago, a landlord was crazy to ask for more than $1,100 for a three-bedroom in a brownstone. Now the rent is $1,800.
With no shortage of takers. Harlem, which lost 30 percent of its population in the seventies, is gaining residents – for the first time in 50 years. The 2000 census will show central Harlem’s population leaping by a stupendous 22 percent since 1990; blacks will account for roughly 80 percent of the neighborhood’s population, down from 88 percent at the start of the decade. “The Bradhurst area, which in the eighties had 0.4 percent of households with annual incomes over $50,000, now has 10 percent with incomes over $75,000,” says Lionel McIntyre, an associate professor of urban planning at Columbia University. “The increase in real household income in the past decade is at least 10 percent – for all of Harlem. This is a major structural shift.”
The new crowd is people like Vincent Archer, the 26-year-old son of Detroit’s mayor. Archer, a financial consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers who also runs a networking party for buppies called Black Diamonds, is paying $1,100 a month for a floor-through on West 127th Street. “It feels good to be part of this resurgence,” he says, “and I know many young people, not just African-Americans, who want to come to Harlem.”
To appeal to future Archers, this summer ground will be broken at Fifth Avenue and 116th Street for Harlem’s first “smart apartment building,” 128 condos wired with T1 lines. Columbia, long an indifferent neighbor, is now offering forgivable $15,000 loans to employees who buy homes in Harlem.
“The people who we’re seeing now were looking in Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope ten years ago,” says Willie Kathryn Suggs, one of Harlem’s best-connected brokers and easily its fastest-talking. “But once the prices jumped, they jumped even higher there than they have in Harlem. So Harlem winds up being the cheapest place you can get a whole house for no money, and rising prices bring a different breed of buyer.” Suggs has an elastic definition of “no money”: Her firm did the record-setting $660,000 deal for Philmore Anderson.
Besides the unfettered market, the other force that’s shaking up the neighborhood is a frenzy of city- and state-sponsored residential construction. Walk down Frederick Douglass Boulevard in the West 120s, and your step falls into rhythm with the pounding of dozens of craftsmen’s hammers. Since 1994, the city has installed 10,000 people in new Harlem homes. Last month, the city’s Housing Preservation and Development agency, in a partnership with the Masjid Malcolm Shabazz mosque, cut the ribbon at the $16.5 million Malcolm Shabazz Gardens on West 117th Street, opening the doors of 41 low-rise limestone-and-brickface three-family homes with subsidized mortgages.
“People forget now what the Upper West Side was or what Park Slope was in the late sixties,” says Jerilyn Perrine, first deputy commissioner of HPD. “They were very different places than they are today, and Harlem shares a lot of the same characteristics. Harlem now has the ability to establish itself as the premier place to live in Manhattan. When we’re looking back from 2030, this will be viewed as a pivotal time.”
Yet all the uncritical boosterism rarely admits any of the complexities of the new boom, things that don’t show up on a monthly mortgage statement. Outside the pockets of old-line stability, hundreds of acres of vacant land function only as spacious dog runs. Huge blocks of vacant buildings stand dormant; after sundown, the empty tenements, with their plywood-filled windows, look like nightmarish Advent calendars.
Many middle-class, long-term residents find themselves blindsided by the new price structure and are resentful. All the old problems haven’t vanished, either. Four years ago, Geoffrey and Nancy Ewing bought a brownstone on 143rd Street near Broadway, and the TV actors and their three kids are still waiting for the vaunted crime crackdown to reach their corner of the 30th Precinct. “My theory,” Geoffrey Ewing says, “is that when the white people move in, then the cops will start cleaning this place up. It happened in Brooklyn, it happened in some parts of Harlem, and it’s gonna happen here. White people in danger! Send out the cavalry!”
Ewing laughs at the image, but some people are uneasy. Race and real estate are the two most fraught topics in this city, and they’re overlapping in complex new ways uptown. “Do these interviews in ten years, and Harlem might not be an African-American neighborhood,” says Sydney Kai Inis, a designer who lives on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard at West 116th Street. “In 2010, Harlem might be the Fort Greene of Manhattan. Hopefully, more African-Americans who have the means will come to Harlem and buy, because that would be a hard pill to swallow.”
The color that’s producing the tensest moments, however, isn’t white but green. As in money.
Vesta Callender steps down from the front passenger seat of a gleaming Ford van and into her past. “Look to your right, and you’ll see 226 West 138th, where at one time I lived,” Callender says. “I was in college, going to Hunter, a brave adolescent who left home and rented space.”
The scent of a sweet business deal is what has brought her back to Striver’s Row. She’s an African-American psychotherapist who lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. “I said I would return to Harlem when they had a Starbucks,” Callender says, “and now they do.” Her comportment, however, is more high-tea than mochaccino. She recoils when invited to step inside a glorious burned-out wreck on West 130th Street.
Leading Callender and her thirtysomething daughter, Jillian, on a tour today is Realtor Yvonne Maddox, whose midtown-based firm, Charles H. Greenthal, recently opened an office steps from the Apollo Theater. Maddox stands in the middle of West 138th Street narrating an architectural history. “Striver’s Row has held its value through the years,” she says. “You’re in the shadows of City College here, and many surrounding blocks are now considered livable – “
“Livable!” snaps a gruff voice. “This is all livable!” A man carrying grocery bags and wearing a ragged satin University of Louisville jacket inserts himself into the conversation.
Maddox tries to ignore the man. “You see here from the signs on the gates, this is where they walked their horses back to the carriage houses. Now those are garages, and they’re quite nice.”
“Yeah,” the man says, “if you’re a jailbird and you’re used to the five-by-seven.”
“Let’s go over here,” Maddox says, quickening her step.
Callender is several paces behind and comes clicking up on high heels just as the guy with groceries climbs a stoop and unlocks the front door. “I been living here 30 years, right?” he shouts.
“Excuse me?” Callender trills.
“My father was – “
“Would you like to sell your house for a song?” Callender interrupts. Everyone freezes. “Would you like to sell your house?”
The guy is speechless. Finally he tilts his head back and flicks the fingers of his right hand along his neck and out from under his chin, a gesture understood in any neighborhood.
“We keep coming across illustrators, filmmakers, musicians who live in Harlem,” says UBO’s Cooper. “To have access to that talent is a huge advantage.”
“Oh!” says the startled Callender. “That wasn’t a very nice response!”
“Well, it’s an appropriate response!” the man spits.
By the end of her two-hour tour, Callender hasn’t found anything she’s interested in. Maddox promises to redouble her efforts on Callender’s behalf, but she isn’t lacking for hungry clients. “The biggest problem is to keep and get inventory,” she says. “Things turn over so quickly, you’re struggling all the time to find the houses to sell.” Beneath the economic pressures that are making Harlem a viable option, Maddox, who grew up in Lubbock, Texas, sees a hopeful social trend at work as well. “The young kids who are moving here don’t have the myths that their parents might have had, or my parents,” Maddox says as her van inches down 125th Street, passing black teenagers checking out the new billboard for rapper Beanie Sigel. “They’ve been going to school with these kids.”
Imani bennett has seen harlem through two sets of eyes. She’s been a pioneering homeowner, buying a building twenty years ago on a rugged patch of St. Nicholas Place near 152nd Street, renovating the four-story dwelling, and reaping the profits when she sold it in 1997. “My house has turned over twice,” Bennett says. “I sold it to a white family, and the African-Americanness of the neighborhood – it was a little too much, they didn’t like it. It wasn’t a block I would have recommended to them. They came from the Upper West Side, and their kids weren’t able to meet other private-school kids in the neighborhood.”
Bennett has also watched the big picture through her job as a vice-president for commercial services at Fleet Bank, one of the lenders that’s taken the lead in underwriting Harlem’s redevelopment. “In essence, it is an African-American neighborhood, and it will remain that,” Bennett says. “The current wave is having some demographic impact, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Mostly it’s African-Americans of means who are coming in.”
From her vantage point, Sydney Inis isn’t so sanguine. Each morning, she stands drinking her coffee and gazing out an enormous picture window overlooking the corner of Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and 116th Street. “There’s a lady, Mabel, who sits out here, four years, at this light pole in the middle of the median,” Inis says. “I don’t know what her mental illness is. She’s the toughest little nail I’ve ever seen. Mabel is no kid; she’s gotta be older than me, and I’m 42. She’s been arrested a couple of times, but this is her spot – winter, summer, snow, storm. I’ve pulled back on giving her money, because she’s admitted to me her crack addiction. But I give her water, food, talk to her. It’s hard to look at her, but she’s really my touchstone.”
In the coming gentrification, Inis worries not simply about the homeless, but about the fate of Harlem’s common folk. “I don’t think it’s just going to be a smooth transition,” she says. “There has to be some thought put into the people who can’t afford to stay in Harlem, what’s going to happen to them. The Caucasians and Europeans and Asians who are moving in, you’re going to be the scapegoat, because you’re taking something away from people.”
Inis means this as a matter-of-fact, real-world observation. She’s a freelance fashion and photo stylist who rents at Graham Court, a stone-arched, steel-gated cousin to the Dakota, and she’s turned her airy apartment into a breathtaking eight-room advertisement for her considerable talents. Inis is no bleeding-heart liberal; her humanitarian impulse to invite Mabel inside her apartment competes with her worldly tastes. “We’ve got more fried chicken, fried pork chops, sweet potatoes, blah, blah, blah in Harlem, like that’s all we eat!” she says. “Try to get some mesclun, some arugula, a beet! Try to get some soup that’s not goat-infested! I would like to have soup and salad across 110th Street. Black people eat soup and salad!”
Inis moved to Graham Court fourteen years ago, when more than half the apartments were vacant and crack and heroin dealers prowled the hallways. Now the courtyard mailboxes carry names like Danny Glover and Quincy Troupe alongside those of pensioners, and rumors of co-op conversion swirl.
“Five years ago, I could have bought a house in Harlem, but not now,” Inis says. “I can’t afford it. And I’m basically middle-class. Unless you’re upper management and making close to $300,000, I don’t think anyone else can afford it, either. Because a shell on 119th Street went for $250,000. And I’m talking about no roof, no windows.”
She’s determined, however, not to let this boom pass her by completely. “I’m a social character, and I know lots of folks in Harlem, so I hear about things,” Inis says. “I’m always looking for my little niche, so I went three months ago and got a real-estate license. Now if I hear about a house, I need to sell it.”
In 1990, movie producer george Jackson used Graham Court as the all-too-believable setting for a crack factory in New Jack City. Ten years later, a company Jackson co-founded is just as keenly capturing the moment: Urban Box Office Network is the first major Internet business to move its headquarters to Harlem.
Jackson died suddenly in February at the age of 42, but his partners have just signed a lease for 100,000 square feet at 126th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, where commercial space is 40 percent cheaper than in Silicon Alley. The company expects to move its 300 employees uptown by the end of the year. UBO creates and distributes music, video, and chat targeted at a market it calls “the urban mindset.”
“We do a lot of animation that we stream over the Internet,” says UBO president Frank Cooper. “We just keep coming across illustrators, writers, filmmakers, musicians who happen to live in Harlem, and to have access to that talent pool is a huge advantage for UBO. About 20 percent of our employees live in Harlem already, and they say it’s getting tough to find apartments.”
UBO’s employees are exactly the people Ibo Balton is after. Today Balton, HPD’s director of planning for Manhattan, steps out of his battered city-issue sedan on Frederick Douglass Boulevard near West 121st Street, opposite the brick bones of a mini-Flatiron Building. Officially called Triangle Court, it rotted for twenty years. Then the Housing Development Corporation, an offshoot of HPD, sold it to private developers with the provision that some apartments be set aside for lower-income residents.
Now the Triangle’s gracious red stone façade has been sandblasted, and it is the leading edge of an astonishing four-block resurrection. Work is rapidly heading to a May finish on the Triangle and four larger city-owned buildings directly to the south; two adjacent privately owned buildings, also being rehabbed, bring the total to 196 new apartments. Balton steps inside 2210 Frederick Douglass, a grand five-story building between 119th and 120th Streets, accompanied by the beaming private developers, Robert Ezrapour and Eytan Benjamin. Benjamin points out where they’ll be installing microwave ovens; the kitchen wine racks and Internet wiring are already in place. This 1,100-square-foot apartment, ready for June occupancy, will rent for $1,400. What kind of tenants does Balton expect in the market-rate units? “People with American Express cards in their wallets,” he says.
Balton, long before any real-estate agents were spinning this neighborhood as “north Manhattan,” saw the Triangle as a critical architectural and philosophical bridge between Harlem’s two redevelopment poles. One extreme is the government-intensive triage that’s reclaimed a block of West 140th Street, with the city spending $50 million gut-renovating devastated tenements before recruiting private landlords, who are required to take on some low-income tenants. At the other pole is the naked capitalism fueling prices on brownstone blocks like those of Convent Avenue.
The Triangle and its neighbors are supposed to hold the crucial center. While Balton rattles out public-policy theories about the collateral benefits of market-rate housing, his colleague Luis Ramos leans over and tells me, “None of this would be happening if Ibo hadn’t saved the Triangle Building – twice.”
The Buildings Department had scheduled meetings between the collapsing Triangle and a wrecking ball. Now Benjamin, the developer, stands beside the wondrously reimagined property and predicts a surplus of applicants. Never mind the still-pitiful supply of consumer services in Harlem. “Who needs a video store?” he says. “Kozmo.com delivers above 110th Street!”
Still, Benjamin will admit to a few qualms. “Anytime a new territory is being developed, there are questions,” he says. “But there is so much money being poured into Harlem, so many people have so much at stake, it cannot fail.”
For harlem veterans with a sense of history, all of the activity, all of the heady pronouncements, begin to take on a certain eerie déjà vu quality. The cover of this very magazine asked, can harlem be born again? – in November 1984. Back then, a white lawyer who’d renovated a five-story Mount Morris Park brownstone was the poster boy for gentrification. The Koch administration was puffing up its low- and middle-income housing schemes. And Percy Sutton smilingly perched under the Apollo marquee, promising the theater’s imminent return to glory.
No one saw a national recession and a crack plague on the horizon. Those two blows helped knock the foal’s legs out from under Harlem’s mid-eighties revival. What’s different this time? Alan Greenspan, for one thing. But HPD’s middle-class-ownership mantra is also a major change in approach.
“The typical profile of somebody buying one of our homes is a family with a household income of $50,000 or $60,000,” says HPD’s Perrine. “With homeownership, there’s not only positive effects on the families themselves – they do better on every scale, from rates of teenage pregnancy to years of education, and it’s an incredibly powerful way to build wealth for poor families – but it has some positive effects on the community as well. Harlem is the most important African-American community we’ve got in America, and it really needs to be preserved and treasured.”
The state is in on the act as well, through its Harlem Community Development Corporation. Its most dramatic work will be on Mount Morris Park West, where nine decaying brownstones were abandoned in the late seventies. All that’s left is ghostly steel girders, brownstone fronts, and garbage dumped by passing cars. Disgusted neighbors, most of whom live in adjacent, still-stately homes, dubbed the site “The Ruins.” This spring, the HCDC will finally haul away the mess and rebuild.
“The other thing that’s important about this project is that it doesn’t have a subsidy,” says Diane Phillpotts, the state agency’s Harlem head. “These will be market-rate units, with apartments selling from $155,000 to $210,000. That’s one of the things that is exciting – there really are people in Harlem who are middle-income who are eager to buy market-rate units.”
Underlying all of Phillpotts’s construction work is a political agenda set by Governor Pataki’s office. “Housing is one of the public-policy areas where, without spending a lot of public dollars, we can really change fundamentally the way Harlem operates. For the better,” Phillpotts says. “If this and the other housing initiatives work as they should, it will have a transformative effect on Harlem for at least a generation. And probably several beyond.”
Balton, for one, is ready for those effects. He’s rented on West 127th Street for eight years. His voice, normally crisp and ebullient, turns weary recounting the degrading day-to-day hassles inflicted on Harlem’s working, taxpaying middle class. “People in other parts of the city laugh when I get all worked up about a Duane Reade opening in my neighborhood,” he says. “But chain drug stores, clothing stores, supermarkets are common anywhere else. I’m 45 years old. I’m ready to live in the real world, where you don’t have to search to buy toilet paper.”
“I don’t buy the fact that we need to wait so that we get the ‘right’ people up here,” says Anderson. “The right people are people who respect Harlem’s integrity.”
Al sharpton is always a tough act to follow. Inside the Apollo, at February’s Democratic presidential debate, he lobbed the first question at Al Gore and Bill Bradley. The subject was straight out of the traditional black-activist playbook, about the police shooting of Amadou Diallo.
But the second, unfamiliar man to step to the mike had a query that revealed much about the mindset of Harlem’s new generation: What, asked William Allen, did Gore and Bradley think of the fact that a minuscule 6 percent of Harlem’s residents own their own homes, a rate that’s less than a fifth of the citywide percentage and the lowest for any major black community in the country?
Gore and Bradley made sympathetic noises and quickly moved on. Allen, the banty young Democratic district leader for central Harlem – and a renter – is still pondering the problem two weeks later. “When you look at other communities, you find the central question regarding control of the community is ownership of the land,” Allen says. “Look at Chinatown – it’s owned by Chinese-Americans. At Borough Park, it’s Jewish Americans. But for some reason, Harlem, the mecca of black America, we’re in the single digits for local real-estate ownership. It’s a real issue.” HPD says the figure is actually 10 percent – but that still leaves Harlem at one third the citywide rate.
Allen’s family has been in Harlem since the turn of the nineteenth century. In the seventies, when Allen was a teenager living on West 140th Street, one brother was killed in a drive-by shooting. “Growing up, I had this image of a glorious Harlem past, from listening to my grandparents’ stories, and here my childhood was drugs and ugly stuff,” Allen says. “All my friends who were going to college, if they went off to Morehouse or Spelman or Howard, they did not return. I couldn’t wait to escape Harlem.”
But a call from Allen’s longtime pastor, the Reverend Preston Washington, pulled him back. “He said that if good people came together, a bad place could be made good again, and that he was getting the churches together to make a spiritual commitment. Then he sat down with David Dinkins, who said if he was elected mayor, he’d support them. Dinkins won, and he and Bill Lynch came up with a $200 million budget to revitalize a large section of Harlem called Bradhurst, from 139th to 155th Street, along Frederick Douglass Boulevard. If you were to see that strip before the early nineties – shootings, no middle-class folks, and nobody, black or white, would walk down that street. You go there today, you see homeownership, you can see the sunlight going down the street. It’s the most beautiful boulevard street in Harlem.”
A copy of the self-help book It’s About the Money!, written by the Jesse Jackson father-and-son team, is prominently displayed in Allen’s apartment, and he endorses a similar version of capitalism as empowerment tool. But Allen is alarmed at how the state and city are allocating tens of millions of dollars. “If you’re gonna use government money, it should not be to create market-rate housing,” Allen says. “Government money is supposed to help the many – not the few. Without a place for the middle class, this community becomes like an Upper East Side, where you have a lot of rich people and no one really involved in neighborhood issues.”
Allen didn’t expect Gore or Bradley to offer any solutions at the debate, and he had a larger audience in mind anyway. “When people hear that 6 percent of real estate in Harlem is black-owned – and particularly white people need to hear it – then the problems this neighborhood faces become real to them,” Allen says. “Homeownership is a primal part of the American dream. And when black people feel they cannot reach a part of the American dream, then we’re all in trouble. Sharpton, while I’m proud of him in many ways, has not talked about what we should be doing in our own communities. There’s no equivalent to Floyd Flake in Harlem. Imagine if we had a Floyd Flake! Then the middle class could have some security about their future in the neighborhood.”
Philmore anderson sold his house on Convent Avenue, but he wasn’t about to leave Harlem completely. He bought a house in the Hamptons and a two-bedroom co-op at 111th Street and Riverside Drive. “It was more difficult this time to find a place in the city,” he says. “It was sticker shock. What I paid for this house on Convent Avenue is the same as what I’m paying for a two-bedroom that would fit into this floor!”
Besides voting with his own checkbook, Anderson has been an aggressive one-man Harlem chamber of commerce. “I believe the regentrification process is not about just investing in Harlem. It’s about bringing people to Harlem that are of all walks of life,” Anderson says. “So the diversity, whether it’s socioeconomic or race, religion – a diverse neighborhood is really what regentrifies a place. We wanted to take a more proactive role, so as a result, six or seven of my friends have either moved up here or bought up here. They got tired of listening to me, and said, ‘Awright, I’m moving, I’m moving!’ “
Anderson, though, has a few parting words of advice for the Levys and all the other newcomers.
“Respect the culture and the history, maintain the Dance Theater of Harlem, the Harlem Boys Choir, our church establishment, the jazz legacy, the authors and poets – protect all of that, and never let people forget what that community represents. But there’s plenty of room,” he says. “There’s plenty of abandoned buildings that need to be regentrified, that do not encroach on any race or religion. I don’t buy the fact that we need to wait so that we get the ‘right’ people up here. The right people are people who respect Harlem’s integrity and want to embellish it and let the world see that Harlem is back to its original grandeur.”
After two weeks in Harlem and her first community board meeting, Carla Levy is sounding right at home. “I was interested to see if we would be rejected by anybody, like, ‘Oh, yeah, here you come, now that it’s getting expensive.’ But it hasn’t happened,” she says. “People aren’t idiots. If their property values are going up, they know that’s a good thing.”