The historic brownstones of Harlem couldn't hide from the upwardly mobile forever, and now that we're a decade into this wave of Harlem gentrification, won't somebody finally think of the children?! Actually, plenty of people do, and they gather on the Harlem4Kids listserv. Much like Park Slope's notorious Park Slope Parents group, this e-mail community (join the fun!) is a place for parents to offer advice, exchange neighborhood tips and walk the tightrope of trying not to offend anyone. As we learned in Park Slope's legendary Found: boy's hat controversy, it doesn't take much to set these people off. However, instead of gender roles being the issue, the Harlem4Kids group is in an uproar over gentrification?and the hat has been replaced by a $1.2 million townhouse.
In her Times column today, Susan Dominus recaps the action:
Last week’s contentious thread — make that one of last week’s contentious threads — revolved around a real-estate listing someone had posted for a $1.2 million town house. “It seems to me that the seller wants to win the lottery at the expense of a naïve buyer,” came a response. “Hope it’s a trust-fund baby and not a hard-worker guy without the time to reflect.”
Another offended member suggested seceding to form a new, income-sensitive “Harlem4Kids Working Families forum.” On the current forum, the poster wrote, “I have felt a level of discomfort tip-toeing around gentrification of my communities. Let’s please be real that many of your definitions of ‘middle class’ are unrealistic for what’s true to this community you have chosen as home.”
There's been more back-and-forth since, and fallout including resignations from the list and debate over whether members are too wealthy to accept donated items and services. We know where this heading, so a word of advice to any restaurateur thinking about opening a high-end pizza place in the neighborhood: Don't forget the wagon wheels.
· Via Listserv, Parents Clash in Harlem [NYT]
· Harlem4Kids [harlem4kids.com]