News / USA

Small Businesses Pay Price for Harlem's Success

Small Businesses Pay Price for Harlem's Successi
X
February 20, 2013 3:18 PM
For more than a century, Harlem has been one of New York's most densely populated districts. And while it has always been a magnet for African Americans, it has also been one of the city’s poorest and most crime-ridden areas. Today, Harlem is experiencing an economic surge largely due to an influx of outsiders attracted to its plentiful housing and a growing black middle class. But as VOA’s Adam Phillips reports, the trend comes with a price.
Adam Phillips
For more than a century, Harlem has been one of New York's most densely populated districts. And while it has always been a magnet for African Americans, it has also been one of the city’s poorest and most crime-ridden areas. Today, Harlem is experiencing an economic surge largely due to an influx of outsiders attracted to its plentiful housing and a growing black middle class.

Locals often refer to Harlem as “The Capital of Black America.” But until recently, huge swathes of the area were rundown and depressed and it was difficult for businesses to thrive. That's been changing. Nikoa Evans-Hendricks has spent 14 years organizing small business owners and marketing the Harlem brand.

Community revitalized

"I’ve watched it evolve from essentially the forgotten land above 96th Street where no one really saw any value, to the gold mine and the gold coast it has become in Manhattan,” explained Evans-Hendricks.

From 2000 to 2010, median household income in Harlem jumped 30 percent. That enabled Seven Brown to open a skin care spa, once considered too upscale for the neighborhood.

“It’s been a great experience to be able to live and work in the same community that I’ve lived in for a long time. The bad part of it is watching a lot of the mom and pop organizations, mostly black-owned businesses, close on a daily basis," Brown stated. "I think I counted 60 to 65 of them when I was sitting down in conversation last week."

Large businesses squeeze small shops

Chain stores and developers have taken advantage of tax breaks and other incentives to open stores in Harlem, putting rents for commercial space beyond the reach of many small businesses.

Murphy Scott Jr.'s used furniture and upholstery store has been a fixture here for over 40 years. “Now that I can’t afford a place out there to rent, I have to shut it down," he said. "They done shut down about 20 stores like this already.”

Offering unique services

Harlem native Hans Hageman and his wife Bernadette want to combine the old and the new in Brownstone Fitness, their personal training gym. They hope to empower women and promote health in Harlem, where fitness facilities are rare.   

"One of the things about having a business here and particularly where we live is that our kids get to see whatever successes we have - and we hope to accelerate those," Hageman said. "But they also get to see the struggles that small business people have."

How Harlemites and outsiders come to define a district where heritage is prized, but African Americans are no longer a majority, is an open question. Many say a changing Harlem that continues to honor its past will be good both for business and for life in the larger city.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs