Gentrification; How Can We Fight it?

by William Comtois on October 10, 2017 - 9:35am

Gentrification has become a rising issue in diverse parts of the world, this issue is of serious matter as it causes increase in rent for residents who might not be able to afford it. There’s also more to gentrification, on a cultural level, gentrification is also responsible for destruction of buildings which are important to a neighbourhood’s history. In Valerie Vande Pannes article “How Harlem residents found a unique way to fight gentrification” posted on Salon, shows a detailed overview of the causes & effects and ways to fight gentrification in New York City’s East Harlem.  


East Harlem is known for its Spanish heritage, residents of this neighbourhood mainly come from Puerto Rico and Mexico but there are also African Americans as well as Italians. Here in East Harlem White Americans make up for only 3% of the neighbourhood’s population. This has not been the case recently though, in the last 10 years an increase in young white people have to move in and out of East Harlem. Effects from the increase in white Americans don’t go unnoticed, a two-bedroom apartment back in 2007 could be found at $1500 per month but today it is impossible to find that same apartment for under $2500 monthly. Homes have been torn down and replaced by modern condos and major Franchises such as Costco, Home Depot, Target and Applebee’s have also decided to move in the neighbourhood. The Spanish Neighbourhood is losing its history and culture and the residents are fed up.


The residents of East Harlem have decided to take a stand against the gentrification happening in the neighbourhood they love and call home. The way citizens have found to fight this phenomenon is through “Landmark East Harlem” a group devoted to getting landmark status on various properties in the neighbourhood. By achieving this status on properties, city developers who are interested in these properties to destroy and rebuild are forced to find another building. Although this process is working, it is one that is lengthy and complex as they only have 22 designated historic buildings yet. They seek to achieve historic district status on parts of neighbourhoods rendering every building in said building safe from gentrification but such process may take upwards of 10 years and require knowledge of every owner of the buildings in the designated area. As for now the community still fights every day in hopes of keeping what they call home as intact as possible.


I personally believe that what the residents of East Harlem are doing to fight gentrification is great. Gentrification should not happen as the negative effects out way the positive ones by tearing down houses which are homes to families. I think the New York City government should help the “Landmark East Harlem” project as it shows what people can accomplish when they come together and fight for what they believe.




I find your topic interesting because gentrification is a real urban issue in these kinds of communities. Although, the increase of the home prices is normal, gentrification contributes to the accelerated rate of the increase in the housing market and to the diversification of the neighborhood. In East Harlem, giants like Costco or Target contribute to a certain lost of the cultural heritage that the Spanish brought to the city.

To agree with you on what the citizens of East Harlem are doing, I think they are doing a good job through "Landmark East Harlem" because they are preserving their culture and their heritage by designating some buildings as historic. I believe fighting gentrification by these means is great because “as rural communities gentrify, the institutions and support systems that benefit families and children can weaken” (Golding, 2015, p.129). Furthermore, Golding (2015) says that “rural communities with the highest need for service workers are in fact the worst at attracting and retaining young people, potentially because of their housing costs” (p.131). This is a problem as service workers are often in demand but not many are interested in living in gentrifying communities because of the high prices of the households in these neighborhoods.

Golding, S. A. (2016). Gentrification and segregated wealth in rural america: Home value sorting in destination counties. Population Research and Policy Review, 35(1), 127-146. doi:

Since I also decided to write my summary about an article on gentrification, I found your article very interesting. What I found even more interesting is that we discussed different impacts of gentrification. As I mentioned in my summary, gentrification is an important urban issue nowadays and needs to be discussed. Gentrification affects people and neighborhoods for many reasons. I really liked the fact that you raised the cultural impacts of gentrification on neighborhoods. In effect, I share your opinion when you are saying that gentrification should be taken seriously and that residents of East Harlem are right to stand against what is happening in their neighborhood and should continue fighting against it to keep their rights. I found it very interesting that you mentioned how major Franchises decided to move in the neighborhood and make the culture slowly disappear; that those Franchises encourage the globalization and make local cultures and history disappear, but as I read about this event, I realized that another aspect of culture is taken away by the globalization. According to the article “GENTRIFICATION: FROM AN EAST HARLEM PERSPECTIVE” building owners stop artists from having their studios because it became so expensive to rent it, they had to move. This displacement of artists in East Harlem, which is an extremely rich neighborhood in terms of artists and culture, is sad because they created a beautiful place to live and they are forced to leave. They cannot afford doing their profession where they use to create since it is too expensive. I believe that this globalization and the decrease in cultural wealth is one of the worst impact of gentrification, because culture is the character of a society and it is what keeps societies different from each other. And, in my opinion, differences are what enrich us as individuals.

Lulaine, C. (22 February 2014). GENTRIFICATION: FROM AN EAST HARLEM PERSPECTIVE. Retrieved from

About the author