Real Estate Broker Takes Heat in Changing Harlem

<p>Harlem is undergoing a rapid change in terms of demographics and income levels. One real estate broker is at the front of driving this change, and many in the neighborhood are not happy about it. But is this change avoidable?</p>
July 11, 2008, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"All you need to know about the current backlash against Harlem's gentrification, Suggs says, comes down to the happy campers who bought at the right time and the stupid people who didn't. Those who didn't buy, she says, are just jealous, and Suggs never seems to miss a chance to rub it in-even if they're black."

"But what about the people who would like Harlem to stay mainly black, I ask, even if it wasn't always that way?"

"Suggs shuts her eyes and shakes her head. 'You don't have a God-given right to own your house till the end of time,' she says, 'unless you actually own your house. We're not talking about a country like Italy that's for Italians. We're talking about a neighborhood in the United States of America. There's nothing that says Harlem has to be black!'"

"No part of New York has changed more dramatically during the recent historic real-estate boom than Harlem, and no broker has done more to drive that change than Willie Kathryn Suggs."

"Critics say she has wantonly driven up real-estate prices until no one but the richest Harlemites could afford them and, worse, delivered much of the neighborhood into the hands of wealthy whites. Now every new sale she rings up seems to raise a pair of uncomfortable questions: Should Harlem be preserved forever as an affordable haven for blacks? Or should it be sold to the highest bidder?"

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Published on Sunday, July 6, 2008 in New York Magazine
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