CITY HALL HOLDS THE KEY. Harlem's renaissance finds lots of friends, and a few foes
There are two Harlems. There is the fast moving, economically rising glamour world typified by the Apollo Theatre, and there is the troubled community of wandering homeless, vacant lots, and abandoned buildings that surrounds it. Today's Harlem is in transition, entering a second renaissance. But City Hall holds the key to a new Harlem. New York City owns 65 percent of the community's real estate, and Mayor Edward Koch will set the tone for disposition of that property. The city's Board of Estimates must evaluate each project or plan.
Much of the funding will come through the Harlem Urban Development Corporation, the state agency that is planning and supervising the area's renewal, and from other state agencies and the federal government.
Blacks and other New Yorkers must also want to live, work, and do business in Harlem.
Two key black politicians are assessing every move revitalize Harlem: United States Rep. Charles Rangel (D), successor to flamboyant Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell; and David Dinkins, president of the Borough of Manhattan.
They are asking tough questions: How much city property should the mayor sell to the highest bidders? Why not set aside some property for low- and moderate-income housing, or ensure that blacks have priority in buying real estate? Is it proper to transfer large plots to developers? Why not sell some brownstones to homesteading families who will use sweat equity to improve them?
``Don't let downtown forget Harlem,'' says Mr. Dinkins, who has formed a number of Harlem task forces to examine proposals, whether for the homeless or for a massive development.
``Harlem need not be a ghetto for low-income people,'' he says. ``Harlem already has people of varied income levels. We want Harlem to keep this mix [and] to bring back affluent blacks. [But] we don't need gentrification to become an economically strong community.''
He suggests that developers include low-income people in their plans, not limit themselves to middle- and high-income families.
Dinkins says he wants Harlem to have job-producing agencies, both private and public. ``I want task forces with experts to advise on all types of projects for Harlem,'' he says. ``I don't rubber-stamp anything. My staff analyzes, and I double-check their reports.'' He also seeks equal opportunity and community services such as health care, day care, and supermarkets.
Representative Rangel maintains a local office in the Powell State Office Building in the heart of Harlem. His local troubleshooter, Charles McKinney, participates in much of the planning.
As the congressman who has conducted probes of the drug traffic nationwide, Rangel keeps his eyes on the drug and crime situation in Harlem. But he watches the community as a whole as well.
``Harlem can't ignore housing for the low- and moderate-income people, but it also can provide for the blacks who are making money,'' Mr. McKinney says. ``We know there will be some gentrification, but blacks should be included with the affluent. A new Harlem must serve those who live here when times are bad.''
McKinney speaks out for economic development, for tourist business, and for locally owned enterprises. New York has more black businesses, 17,350, than any other American city; businesses that gross $641.2 million, according to the Black Resource Guide, 1986 edition. New York is home to eight, including two in Brooklyn, of the nation's top 100 black businesses, according to Black Enterprise magazine. Harlem is also the site of the Freedom National Bank of New York, the nation's fourth largest black bank, with $94 million in assets; and Carver Federal Savings Bank, the nation's fourth largest black savings bank, with assets of $132 million.
But not all blacks are enchanted with Harlem. ``Forget Harlem,'' says Roy Innis, president of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), once one of the nation's most powerful civil rights organizations. ``Brooklyn is now the world's black capital. More blacks live in Brooklyn than in Harlem. They love Brooklyn.''
``I would never leave Brooklyn,'' agrees Andrea Payne, a Columbia University journalism school graduate and former associate editor of Soap Opera Digest. ``I like the atmosphere here.''
Mr. Ennis has moved CORE's headquarters from Harlem to Brooklyn. He has given up residence in Harlem for Brooklyn, too. He is bucking a trend of businesses to reestablish in Harlem and of people to return to Harlem to live.
Meanwhile, Edward Lewis says that ``Essence is coming home.'' He publishes Essence, the nation's largest magazine for black women. ``We'll move our offices from downtown Manhattan to Harlem as soon as Percy Sutton builds his 11-story office building next door to the Apollo. We blacks must reinvest in Harlem. Let's stop crying about Koreans opening restaurants in black communities. Let's ... open our own.''
Black professionals are restoring brownstones as owners/residents or as tenants. Victoria Lucas who runs V.Lucas & Associates, a marketing and consulting firm, will gladly invite her friends to her Sugar Hill apartment in Harlem. ``I love it,'' she says.
The fictional Harlem of ``Amos and Andy'' does not exist. Benjamin Jones, chairman of the Harlem Visitors and Convention Association, says: ``Think of 125th Street that starts in Spanish Harlem, moves westward past the Powell State Office Building, the old Theresa Hotel (now an office building with a distinctive Gothic architecture), and the Apollo to the Hudson River, where the Harlem-on-the-Hudson riverfront fun and souvenir place will open. And remember, the Theresa will be replaced by a modern, 500-room hotel, one that will be the centerpiece and life of the new Third World Center, a gathering place for international personalities from all over the world.''
Mr. Jones raves about the renaissance of Harlem with its Columbia University, City University of New York, historic churches, and so much more. To him, Harlem seems to be very much on the mend.
Last of four articles. Others ran on March 9, 10, and 11.