‘Harlem is the last great frontier of Manhattan real estate,’ gushes Barbara Corcoran, manager of an elite New York real estate brokerage. ‘There are many wonderful things happening in this historic and beautiful area.’ Others are calling it the new Harlem Renaissance.
Wonderful things do happen in Harlem but gentrification isn’t one of them. Since the city’s real estate market exploded in 1996, Harlem has had a bull’s eye on its back as brokers and developers have made fortunes buying and selling brownstones for renovation. Victorian mansions have been gutted, and refitted with intricate wooden staircases and period chandeliers; black professionals, white gays, students and many others have followed the developers, desperate to find a place to live in a borough where last year the average apartment price was recorded at $770,000. 125th Street (which no-one calls Martin Luther King Boulevard) has been reinvented as a suburban mall. Gone are many of the street vendors and small shop owners, replaced by the large logo stores such as Disney and Old Navy. The jewel in the crown is the mall, ‘Harlem USA.’ And a new first run movie theater, thanks to Magic Johnson’s real estate company.