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East Harlem "Tours" Doc Explores Development Impact On Neighborhood

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TWC News: East Harlem Development Inspires New Documentary
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For years, East Harlem has been undergoing changes as more luxury housing moves into the neighborhood, and now one lifelong resident is documenting how that transformation is changing the area's cultural identity. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

Andrew Padilla says 96th Street used to be the classic dividing line between the haves and have nots on Manhattan's East Side. But he says that's changed as gentrification has taken hold of his lifelong home of East Harlem. The 23-year-old documented these changes in a movie titled "El Barrio Tours".

"I began to see friends, family, small business owners that I had known for decades that were getting pushed out of the borough, out of the city, out of the country, and I wanted to know why that was happening," Padilla said.

The film talks about the rise in property values and how that change is pushing longtime residents out of the area. Padilla offers walking tours of the neighborhood too, where he points out the changes first hand.

"Traditionally how it works is, you'll have them like this, where you've got a public housing project and a luxury condo, they might be right next door to each other, but that does not mean that these two communities get together," Padilla said.

He also cites Jorge Vargas's Justo Botanica as an example of what's been happening here. It was forced to move to a much smaller space from a far better location on 104th Street.

"We were there since 1954 to 2012," said Vargas. "The landlords threw us out."

Padilla paid to make the film out of his own pocket. Now, he's trying to raise enough money to take his movie to other cities and make links between what's happening here and other parts of the country.

"The hope is to raise $15,000, and get the film out to 15 different cities all across the country that are dealing with gentrification. And begin to explore why they're going through it, and what are the national trends, because it's not just East Harlem that is dealing with this," Padilla said.

Padilla is planning to screen his movie Thursday evening at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and hold a fundraiser on Friday night.

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