Though Central Harlem was once fairly undeveloped, recent years have seen a significant turnaround, and the influx of whites is pushing out the historically black population. NY1’s Shazia Khan filed the following report.
Just a decade ago, Central Harlem was dotted with hundreds of vacant lots and buildings. Now, most of them have been developed for market rate and affordable housing, as well as retail.
“In 2003, the city rezoned the Frederick Douglas Boulevard,” says Paimaan Lodhi, district manager of Community Board 10. “It was a pretty successful rezoning, because not only did it catalyze the development of the entire corridor, but it had spillover effects on the side streets and on the other avenues.”
It shows in the numbers. Central Harlem added nearly 10,000 new residents in 10 years, a nine percent increase in the population.
The report also shows 9,000 more whites, a 400 percent increase.
Hispanics grew by 8,000, a more than 40 percent jump. While blacks remain the majority, with 60 percent of the population, they experienced a loss of 9,500 residents, an 11 percent drop.
Assemblyman Keith Wright says the decline is in part a result of an aging black population retiring down south and out west and a younger generation struggling to find a place in the neighborhood .
“I found that in some of our younger black population in particular, although they may want to move to Harlem, they're caught in the catch-22 game of economics,” says Wright. “May not be able to afford what's going on, up here in Harlem, whereas some of your white residents, although they may not be able to afford to live on the Upper East Side, or Gramercy Park or in Chelsea, Harlem still being in Manhattan, they are able to afford some of the rental properties up here.”
He adds that while demographics are changing the face of Harlem, he believes, given its history, one thing will remain certain.
“It will always remain the cultural black capital of the world,” says Wright.
There just may be fewer black New Yorkers calling it home.