For decades East Harlem has been the center of New York’s Puerto Rican community. Over the years many Mexican and Dominican immigrants have also made East Harlem their home. Now, as the squeeze of affordable housing gets tighter and tighter in Manhattan, more middle-class professionals are moving to the neighborhood. In a tale almost as old as New York itself, the changes have long-time residents worried about the loss of community.
The Times describes some of the changes happening in East Harlem today. Census Bureau data shows that East Harlem has had a decline in its Puerto Rican population since 1990. As luxury housing and wealthier people move into the neighborhoods many Puerto Ricans have moved upstate or to cities in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Rafael Merino, a member of Community Board 11 says “We’re in crisis mode right now, and as far as retaining the Puerto Rican and Latino identity in the neighborhood, we’re in red alert.”
It wasn’t too long ago that some taxi drivers dropped passengers off at 96th street, fearing to drive into what was perceived to be a crime-ridden area. Today a string of luxury apartment buildings have been popping up above 96th. A few of the buildings offer their residents free shuttle van service to subway stations during the morning and evening commutes. We don’t know if the van is offered as a perk or for resident’s safety, but as someone who often walks in the neighborhood Gothamist knows it’s not that dangerous.
One proposed response to neighborhood concerns is to market Spanish Harlem to visitors. By turning 106th St. east of Central Park into a cultural corridor, Puerto Rican heritage could be showcased through murals, cultural