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Forces Against Progress

By Jose B. Rivera

When the PathMark supermarket idea first sprang up, forces in East Harlem began to align themselves against it.  When a Home Depot/Cosco mega stores were suggested for the old Washburn Wire Co. site, forces sprung up to stop the development (see B.A.R.A. article).  When tourism is mentioned for East Harlem, the same forces get their juices going to prevent it too.

What is it about progress that some people don’t like?  It seems that anything beneficial, especially in a big way, is frowned upon. Is it that people feel threatened?  Is it that they are afraid of change?  Do they wish to forever condemn our community to the least, the most expensive and the worst of choices?

Forces against change did not like the PathMark supermarket because they said it threatened the smaller food markets in the community.  Did anyone bother to ask the people of the community what they wanted? No.  Ask anyone in this community, especially the women, who do most of the shopping, and they will tell you; “we want better food, produce… and cheaper prices”.  It is a well known fact that poorer communities pay higher prices for their food than those in middle or upper class communities.  This one fact should rid one of the guilt associated with not supporting local supermarkets over the PathMark issue.  With stores like PathMark in our community, the consumer will have a wider choice of goods, higher quality, at a cheaper price.  And unlike some social service professionals who work here and live somewhere else and who have the means (car) to go to New Jersey or the Bronx to buy their food; we most often have to use a shopping cart to move our goods from the supermarket to our homes.  We do not have the means to go to far off places to buy our goods.  We are pretty stuck with what we have here in our community.  Is it too much to ask that we have a better choice in what we buy?

Home Depot/Cosco
The Home Depot/Cosco issue is pretty much the same.  Except this time activist are objecting to the traffic, noise, health problems which such a mega site could bring.  In this day and age, everything is possible.  Instead of objecting outright to this new development, activist should work with the developers to overcome their objections.  Sometimes it seems that the NO is developed first and then the reasons/objections are made to justify the NO.  Why not work together to overcome the objections.  Doesn’t East Harlem Deserve bigger, better looking stores with better high quality products at lower prices?  Don’t East Harlemites deserve what the rest of the world takes for granted?  I’ve lived in Florida, Albany, New Orleans, Chicago and even Bayonne, NJ and they have such nice stores.  What do we have?, 1950s looking stores which are badly constructed as to give store owners great space behind their counters and hardly any walking room for customers.  Even stores should be user friendly.

The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone recently held focus group meetings on Tourism for the Upper Manhattan communities.  Luckily, none of the activist (negators) were invited.  It seems most at these groups liked the idea of developing tourism in our communities.  Yes there were objections, but these objections were seen as things to overcome and work out, not as a sole reason to dismiss the idea of tourism in our communities.  I wonder what possible objection “non-progressives” would have to tourism?

The East Harlem community is in a transitional state.  It is moving into the 21st Century.  Nothing will stop this progression.  The people are beginning to move into the middle class and are desperately trying to stay in a community with no housing for those of their class.  The community deserves better services, the jobs that come with these new stores, the better products at lower prices and above all the myriad of choices that come with super stores.

Jose B. Rivera


To: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Subject: East Harlem Improvements
From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 10:08:32 EDT

It is definitely a shame that activists would rather expend time and energy objecting to those developments that would enhance and improve the quality of our community rather than figuring out why more of this type of investment isn’t taking place. Why is it that people object to good things happening and are completely blind to the fact that no money, or not nearly enough money and attention, is paid to housing improvements. And although housing is important, commercial improvements are also an integral part of a community and self-support.

Furthermore, activists shouldn’t worry so much about the small grocers who would lose out to the big Parthmarks of the world when, in fact, our biggest problem in East Harlem is that we don’t keep enough of our own money within the community. Most of us make our money outside the community and because of the lack of choice, end up spending our money outside of the community as well. The ability to be able to invest the money within our own neighborhood is what will help us to improve our surroundings.

Another issue they can spend their time on is getting us more banking opportunities, or would this be too much of a threat to the two banks that are of any good to us now? Citibank - which is out of the way for most of us, and Banco Popular, which rarely has money available at their ATM’s, are inadequate for the growing community we live in.

Still, more importantly, who has bothered to check into whether, or how much, investing these two banks do within East Harlem? Why don’t they spend a little time researching that? Anyway, just thought I’d vent my issues. Thanks for the avenue to do this! By the way, the El Barrio site is informative. I just happened upon it and wondered why it isn’t advertised more. Take care.

PS: I think the Pathmark and East River projects are great for East Harlem!

To: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Subject: East Harlem Plaza Mall
From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Richard Blondet)
Date: Mon, 31 May 1999 12:51:49 -0400 (EDT)

As a former resident of East Harlem (117th St & Pleasant) I have to completely disagree with Gloria Quinones and the other gentleman. A mall between FDR & Pleasant is just what that community needs. The claim the oppositionists make about how people will get sick and how construction will speed up the asthma rate is ridiculous and unfounded. How come no one complains about 2nd hand smoke? Or car exhaust? The problem with redirecting traffic I find also to be unnecessary. Personally, silly. There’s as much chance of an accident occurring near the site as their is near La Marqueta or 5th Avenue. The improvement and progression of the community should not be allowed to diminish because of some of these individual’s selfish motives. They are only creating a retrogression of the neighborhood and it’s time to put a stop to it. Let’s face it.

Small Businesses like Bodegas and outlet & clothing stores have not provided any substantial amount of employment to members of the East Harlem Community. These small business owners also wish to eliminate the project at 125th Street. Why? The Super Stores and Malls will only enrich the neighborhood and it’s residents and provide much needed employment. Take a poll within the community and you will see a lopsided approval rating for these projects over what the people who oppose them claim. They being the so-called representatives of East Harlem. As sorry as I am for the small business owners who may take a dive in profits due to these larger corporations establishing themselves in E. Harlem, they are not in any way aiding the community or giving it an economic face lift worthy of it’s Latino and African American residents. El Barrio se merece mejor…... Richie Blondet

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