Harlem is probably the most famous neighborhood in the world, having been portrayed in a wide variety of popular films and books through the years. However, Harlem as we know it today was significantly different to the Dutch borough of Nieuw Haarlem that was formalized in 1658. From the seventeenth until the nineteenth centuries, Harlem was synonymous with genteel country living, less than one hundred families and vast estates. By the late nineteenth century, however, Harlem’s soil was not yielding good crops and the farmlands were taken over by Irish squatters. In 1880, the city began a project of construction in the area and apartments, townhouses and tenements started to take over the landscape.
Harlem has experienced waves of immigration through the years. It was home to East European Jews, Italians and also a significant Irish population. However, the main population group in the area is its African-American inhabitants. Accommodation options were the main reason that this group of people quickly made Harlem its home, although this also led to the corruption of rent prices and ??ghettoization’. The neighborhood declined as high rental prices led to population density, which in turn led to crime and other social ills.
For years, the City of New York attempted to turn the image of Harlem around and finally in the 1990s, after years of false starts, the revitalization of this borough began. Tough crime fighting units steadily brought gang fighting and drug dealings down by impressive figures and the city has funneled money into new developments across the area. As a result, richer New Yorkers from other locations have moved into Harlem, pushing up property values and increasing the construction of housing units.
Harlem was home to many cultural and political events throughout its history, including the Harlem Renaissance and actions linked to the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the annual Harlem Week festival in August attracts millions who come to celebrate the rich diversity and vibrancy of this neighborhood.