If a tiger can survive living in a Harlem, I think I can too. At least I hope.
It has been less than a month since I moved here, but I think I’m growing to love this neighborhood. Harlem is the best place to be in if you really want to understand what it feels like to live in New York. Harlem is a microcosm that reflects the diversity of the city. I’m still fascinated by the dramatic shifts in socio-economic status depending on what street that I happen to be on. The 116th subway stop at 8th Avenue invites me into Little Africa while the 116th subway stop on Broadway is located next to Columbia University – two different worlds just a few blocks apart.
Admittedly, I live on the border of Morningside Heights and Harlem, so my experiences are limited to the areas I’ve seen, which have generally been close to the Morningside Heights boundary.
I am lucky, however, to live across the street from Morningside Park because it’s a great opportunity to observe the local residents who gather in the park. The New York Times recently featured the park in an article that goes on the discuss the limits of gentrification in Harlem. From what I’ve noticed, crime rates may have decreased in Harlem but I don’t think it is as gentrified as many people like to believe. At least not for many of the people I’ve met, especially for one family I befriended that live in Grant Housing projects.
Again, my understanding of the neighborhood is limited to the experiences I’ve had in the past several weeks. However, my initial trepidation about living in Harlem has disappeared. The Harlem I’ve experienced is as vibrant and energetic as it is notorious.
I was able to closely interact with the Morningside Park community over the past week, and I was fortunate to have a school camera in hand during some of these moments. [Ed. note: I’m not a photographer but as I become more comfortable with a camera in hand, I become more interested in photojournalism.]
Harlem in Twenty Minutes
Recently, two taxis slammed into each other right at the corner of Morningside and 12rd St. One taxi cab jumped the curb and crashed into a park bench. I live in the area and heard the crash. I decided to walk over and take some shots.
It took nearly twenty minutes for NYPD to arrive even though there are two police stations less than ten minutes away. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. Many of the residents openly expressed their frustration at NYPD’s slow arrival time. Some of the residents who were standing nearby said that because the neighborhood residents are predominately black and Latino, NYPD is not as concerned about them as they would be if they lived in midtown Manhattan.
And so, in twenty minutes I began to understand what it may feel like to live in the non-gentrified area of Harlem.