Over the past few years, the gentrification of Harlem has gone on without much overt talk about race. Maybe that was due to concerns about political correctness, or the still slightly-under-the-radar (to whom, we're not sure) level of development, or something else entirely. Whatever it was, we're not sure, but the days of shying away from the topic of race in discussing Harlem's boom are over. It started during the heated battle over the rezoning of 125h Street, when?for some opponents of the plan?the cry to "Save Harlem" became "Save Black Harlem." Now, a pair of articles about Harlem's rapid rise in property values have turned up that both deal with race in a couple of different ways. The first (we'll get to the other one later) is about the long-simmering conflict over the Saturday drum circles at Marcus Garvey Park.
Development along the park in the Mount Morris neighborhood has given us buildings such as 5th on the Park and 2002 Fifth Avenue, and the new well-to-do residents are not pleased about the noise from the drumming, a tradition since 1969. The buyers at 2002 Fifth Avenue have always been front-and-center in this controversy, one even sending our old friend Harlem Fur a video clip of the drumming from inside an apartment. Others have pushed back against those complaining about the drumming, a good example being the caption on the very photo posted above. And the conflict is only getting uglier.
In the Times' report on the Marcus Garvey Park drumming dust-up, the paper notes that most of the building's residents are "young white professionals," and the situation has "bubbled over into a dispute about class, race and culture and has become a flash point in the debate over gentrification." Bubbled over how? Well, the paper quotes an e-mail sent to residents from another building tenant in October: "Why don’t we just get nooses for everyone of those lowlifes and hang them from a tree? They're used to that kind of treatment anyway!" It added: "I hope you all agree that the best thing that has happened to Harlem is gentrification. Let's get rid of these 'people' and improve the neighborhood once and for all."
The sender of that e-mail claims that his computer was hacked into and he never wrote that message, but it's a safe bet that the denial has not really smoothed over the situation any. One of building's few black residents filed a police complaint over the e-mail and "other incidents he believed were forms of harassment." As for the drummers, they've been moved by the Parks Department twice, but there doesn't seem to be an easy answer in sight regarding the noise.
· An Old Sound in Harlem Draws New Neighbors’ Ire [NYT]