Manhattan Island, New
York City, New York
2007: What's Left to Gentrify?
By Mihai Pruna
Uptown: Harlem and Washington Heights
Uptown is where gentrification is! At least that's what realtors hope, and they are building
numerous condos hoping that the gentrification success story that is the rest of Manhattan so
far has not yet ended.
Gentrification in Manhattan generally occurs through pressure from established, sought after
neighborhoods that spill into adjacent districts as housing demand skyrockets. The popular
neighborhood Morningside Heights is touching the Southwestern corner of Harlem, which is
undergoing 'heavy' gentrification as shown by the great number of new condos being built.
Throughout Harlem and East Harlem beautiful old brownstones are also a draw, and many find
new owners who restore them to their former glory. As some benefit from gentrification, there
are also those who suffer from it.
This flip side of gentrification can be seen in the uptown neighborhood of Washington Heights,
which is undergoing a big shift in population as this traditionally Dominican-immigrant enclave
is taken over by newcomers from various ethnicities. East Harlem's Puerto Rican community (El
Barrio) is seeing the same fate as its members are priced out of the neighborhood.
Lower East Side
The other area still not gentrified is the Lower East Side. It's not to be confused with the hip
and East Village. The East Village used to be a part of the Lower East Side, but as the
gentrified West Village started spilling into the LES, the neighborhood above East Houston
Street acquired a cool name to reflect its new status, a younger sister of the trendy and
upscale West Village.
Gentrification continues to spread south and that's where it gets touchy. Like in Washington
Heights, gentrification in the Lower East Side destroys ethnic and religious communities. There
are fewer traditional Jewish shops in the area, as hip upscale restaurants open up. The Puerto
Rican community, Loisaida, is shrinking as its members, mainly poor tenants, are displaced to
make room for new residents able to pay higher rents.
Manhattan's gentrification process has reached its twilight. The real estate market is slowing
down, due to better opportunities for developers in the outer boroughs. Brooklyn and Queens
offer good renting or buying alternatives for someone who wants to experience the New York
lifestyle to its fullest yet keep some money in their pocket. Especially more so when, compared
to Harlem and Washington Heights, certain outer boroughs of New York, like Brooklyn and
Queens, or even Jersey City are closer to Midtown or Downtown Manhattan (where most white
collar jobs and hangouts are) by train.
The heart of the Big Apple has been gentrifying for over thirty years. Blighted neighborhoods
became in turn havens for artists, hipsters, yuppies, new businesses. The sex shops of 42nd
street completely disappeared and were replaced by the Disney-Urban landscape of today's
SoHo escaped a 1960's proposal to defile the neighborhood with an expressway to rise to
fame first as an artist enclave, then a popular hangout. Today it stands as another Manhattan
landmark neighborhood, recognized for its beautiful architecture, where tourists can
experience 'downtown' and also provide income to a plethora of boutiques, restaurants and
One asks, after decades of real estate boom, during which most neighborhoods went through
the gentrification cycle one by one, while the urban pioneers themselves fled to Brooklyn or
Jersey City, is there anything left to gentrify?