Willie Kathryn Suggs, New York's Robert Kolker writes, is the "most successful and reviled real-estate broker in Harlem." And it just so happens that what makes her successful (selling Harlem properties for, in some cases, 10x their previous selling price) is exactly what makes her reviled (pricing out longtime Harlemites). Oh, and there's also the many alleged cases of taking advantage of sellers and her agents, but that's a whole other topic. This morning, the topic of discussion was how Harlem gentrifiers are reacting to their surroundings. Now, the focus is on one of the main players who brought them there. So let's hear what Suggs has to say:
On keeping Harlem black: "This was built by and for upper-middle-class white folks. We were the second and third owners. We were never—and I mean zero, nunca, never—the first owner of all these houses! ... We're talking about a neighborhood in the United States of America. There's nothing that says Harlem has to be black!"
On her first Harlem purchase, a West 145th St. townhouse: "I said, 'This is ridiculous!' I said, 'This house is too cheap! How can you buy a 3,800-square-foot functioning building for $50,000? That is stupid.'"
On Harlem's price madness: "The island of Manhattan is thirteen miles. What's in the middle? Harlem. The only thing that was underpriced was the middle. It had to change, because there was no place else to develop."
On her first listing, a house that had been offered at $37,000: "I said, 'Oh, that's a ridiculous price! I can do better!' And they said, 'But you haven't even seen it!' and I said, 'I already know the house. You're the one that's pink and has got a front thats pushed out. Try $100,000.' They said, 'What?’ I said, ‘Duh!'?"
On gentrification: "Gentrification means a change in the social, economic makeup of a neighborhood. Not necessarily racial. What is going to change, is anybody with money who can afford the house is gonna buy the house. And if the house is very expensive, because the black middle class is smaller than the white middle class, there will be more nonblacks buying the houses."
On where non-rich people can live: "Not in Harlem, but in the Bronx. Maybe Cambria Heights in Queens. Eh, Brooklyn's kind of dicey. People want what they can't have, and they can't have it because of choices that they make."
On others' opinions of her: "I don't worry about anything. I tell my agents if you're going to be a Realtor, don't expect to be liked ... People like lawyers more than real-estate brokers. I mean, we might as well be Reverend Wright."
· Whose Harlem Is It? [NYM]
· Willie Kathryn Suggs [Official Site]
· Gentrification of Harlem Suddenly Not Going Very Smoothly [Curbed]