On the Harlem Watch: City Planning Passes 125th Street Rezoning Plan

11Mar08

In which The Gay Recluse applauds the news of uptown development.

Curbed has reported that the city’s plan to rezone 125th Street — a plan we fully endorse — has passed the important hurdle of the Planning Commission, and will now move to City Council for final approval. Curbed also links to local coverage of the event — notably in The Daily News and The Post — which no suprise trots out increasingly outdated racial stereotypes that are a disservice to those (of all ethnicities) who actually live uptown and crave the type of higher-end development our downtown (and Brooklyn) neighbors take for granted. (By higher-end, we mean something besides KFC and its downmarket equivalents across the retail and commercial sectors.) The Post, for example, interviews Shihulu Shange, 66, owner of the Record Shack, “a Harlem institution for 46 years….’The black community is devastated,’ he said. ‘The plan doesn’t count black people. Soon it will all be millionaires and the native people won’t be able to live in their homes. This city is run by a billionaire who is insensitive to people’s suffering. Soon there won’t be any black-owned businesses.'”

Look, we feel bad that the Record Shack is having business troubles — as The Times has also reported — but is it really a question of racial prejudice, or does it have more to do with the fact that sales of records and CDs have basically been eviscerated by the internet? (Tower Records went out of business, too.) We’re not trying to deny that racism exists — any more than we would deny the existence of homophobia — but the truth of the situation is that class is beginning to trump race in Harlem, which — say what you want about asshole millionaires — strikes us as more progressive than the reverse. In the end, it’s good news if you have money and bad news if you don’t. (Welcome to the U.S.A.)

The Record Shack: Voice of the “black community” or site of an internet massacre (in the most commercial sense of the word)?

Settepani: Why was this “black-owned” small business ignored by The Post and Daily News? (Answer: it doesn’t fit the stereotype.)

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3 Responses to “On the Harlem Watch: City Planning Passes 125th Street Rezoning Plan”

  1. 1 AMK

    I love this post because it says what is left unsaid by “traditional” news sources. Good work.

  2. Whether or not record sales diminish is not the only part of the problem (although I agree, partially, with the Tower Records comparisson).

    However, if the system weren’t so blatantly racist, and were Blacks and Browns not so poor and/or disunited (due to educational, economic, religious, financial, political, military/law enforcement, medical pressures) then the Record Shack owner would not be in this predicament.

    And you’re probably all aware that the only people that will suffer from the Tower situation are the low paid workers. The owners and investors will simply find another CASH COW, or put their money in safe CDs or real estate until they find another Imperialist Capitalist slave of an investment. The Record Shack owners income will, however, probably go down hill from here because Black celebrities and politicians probably won’t help him get back on his feet. They’ll just USE HIM to get their own message in the media, and to FOOL BLACKS into thinking that they’re fighting for them! It’s the same old BAIT AND SWITCH and sadly Black people keep falling for the same ole’ same ole!

  3. Thanks for the comment, RSG. I agree that the system is racist, sexist and homophobic to a degree almost never acknowledged by the MSM, but I don’t think the answer is to prop up individual businesses on an ad-hoc basis, or use them as a symbol to fight gentrification. (But I’m definitely in favor of grants and loans to encourage business development…) I think gentrification in Harlem and elsewhere is more about class than race, which in some ways is a good thing, and in some ways is not (to the extent that the gulf between upper and lower classes is widening everywhere in very destructive, debilitating ways).


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