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Gentrification Debate Heats Up Online

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Gentrification Debate Heats Up Online

Digital Life

Gentrification Debate Heats Up Online

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This is News & Notes. I'm Farai Chideya.

Harlem, New York, home to a cultural renaissance and a heated debate over gentrification. It's a discussion that happening on streets and our blog. We've got our web producer Geoffrey Bennett to give us the low down. Hey, Geoff.

GEOFFREY BENNETT: What's up, Farai?

CHIDEYA: Well, on Monday's show we spoke to two women on either side of Harlem's gentrification dispute. A real estate broker, Willie Suggs. and community activist Nellie Hester Bailey. So what's been the reaction online?

BENNETT: We've heard from lots of people who live in Harlem and other neighborhoods undergoing socio-economic changes. Now, Willie Suggs has been criticized, some say, for selling out Harlem to the highest bidder. She, of course being a business women. So, you know, listen to some of what she had to say to Tony Cox about how Harlem's culture has changed as wealthier residents have moved in.

Ms. WILLIE SUGGS (Real Estate Agent): In the bad old days when I moved up to Harlem, if I wanted to go shopping you had to get on a subway and go to 42nd Street. Now I just walk down to 125th Street and everything I want is there. And while I'm walking down the street I see people from around the world. We get tourists from around the world in addition to the non-African-Americans who are now residents of Harlem. So the face of Harlem is changing, but the culture is not going anywhere.

BENNETT: So here's what one of our readers had to say. Dan Johnson wrote, "Though I think Willie Suggs has been unfairly demonized, should she really be happy that 125th Street now mirrors Times Square? Development is fine, but big bucks retail in the heart of Harlem is not the answer." And another reader named John says, "Some Harlem residents welcome freedom, but happily wish restrictions on other groups. Freedom like civil rights is a two-way street."

CHIDEYA: All right. So we've got another installment of Speak Your Mind this week. What's that all about?

BENNETT: Areva Martin (ph) who's an attorney, wrote a piece for us called "It Takes a Course of Diverse Voices to Drown Out Ignorance." And it's focused on the recent comments by our radio host Michael Savage who had some pretty awful things to say about kids with autism and what he calls minority children on the air. So people can read that, and keep those submissions coming.

CHIDEYA: OK. What's most popular?

BENNETT: People are still talking about that CNN special series "Black in America." I'm still sort of amazed by it frankly. But here it is a week later and people still have things to say, mostly negative. A reader named Renee (ph) said, "It was not well balanced. It did not show any of the positive things and progress that has been made in America." And this from a reader named Kim, "I did not watch. I've been black all my life. I didn't think a few hours of a CNN special would shed any light." We took an unscientific poll asking the question what did you think of CNN series, and 42 percent of those polled said they hated it.

CHIDEYA: Oh boy.


CHIDEYA: Well, it got great ratings though. OK. Now we've got a special call out for readers of our blog. Some serious stuff. What are we looking for?

BENNETT: Well next month - next month being Friday, believe it or not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BENNETT: So all month long in August we're doing a special series on addiction. So we are looking for people who have battled back from addiction, people who have staged intervention with family members or friends. And they can come to us on our blog or through Facebook and let us know about their story.

CHIDEYA: All right, Geoff. Thanks so much.

BENNETT: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Geoffrey Bennett is the web producer for News & Notes. He joined me from the studios of NPR West.

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