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Posted 12 Mar 2001   For week ended February 23, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 21Feb01

By Kent Larsen

Look at Harlem Block Discovers LDS Church Among Changes

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Six years after it first looked at a then-drug-infested block of 129th Street in Harlem, the New York Times has come back with a new three-part series on the block and how it has changed. The series, which started Monday and ends today, discovered residents bettering their lives and coping with work instead of welfare under recent laws. It also found developers entering Harlem and this block, renovating buildings and in the process pushing out long-time poor residents and bringing in more affluent White and Hispanic residents. And, it found a Church of Jesus Christ (LDS Church) on the block, trying to integrate its Harlem members with the mostly White and Hispanic members in the rest of the New York New York Stake.

The series gives a very human face to the changes on the block and in Harlem. Long-time residents have resisted much of the changes to their neighborhood, and tried to ignore the new rules of developers, who are trying to make the neighborhood palatable to more affluent tenants. Despite many changes, drug trade continues on the block, both for non-residents who see the block as a traditionally dependable place to buy crack, and for some residents who are still caught by addiction. But in the past six years new landlords and developers have renovated many buildings on the block, bringing new tenants to mix with the long-time residents that they are required to allow to return to the renovated buildings under city law.

The Church of Jesus Christ on the block is a three-year-old congregation, the Harlem branch, which first met in the landmark Harlem soul food restaurant Sylvia's, which is owned by the family of a branch member. But the branch both outgrew the facilities at Sylvia's and found it difficult to meet the restaurant's requirements, which meant that the branch had to complete its Sunday meetings before the restaurant opened for lunch.

The Times article puts a positive view on the church's influence on the neighborhood. Calling mormonism a "patriarchal" culture, the Times' Amy Waldman says that the branch is building bridges between blacks and whites in Harlem. In keeping with the church's teachings on the family, one recent white speaker in church urged women in the branch to call on the men. According to Waldman, the speaker explicitly addressed the single mothers and urged them to invite their priests, elders and home teachers, "to come to your home and talk to your children."

In context, Waldman's report makes the church's effort seem an important response to the changes in Harlem. She reports that children growing up on that same block of 129th Street are often raised by single mothers, learning that a single, strong woman can raise her children. Then, when they are adults, that knowledge leads men to feel that they are not needed and women to believe they don't need men.

In the article, Developers are one of the drivers of change in Harlem, and while the article doesn't mention Mormons involved in these efforts, some members of the New York New York stake are currently involved. At least one stake member is in the process of purchasing and renovating a Harlem brownstone, and has sought Mormon tenants from those in the stake. Other stake members have also looked at purchasing brownstones in Harlem near Columbia University and renovating them for their personal use.


Embodied by One Block, Harlem's Ravaged Heart Sees a Revival
New York Times 18Feb01 D1
By Amy Waldman

Beneath Harlem Block's New Surface, a Dark Undertow
New York Times 19Feb01 D1
By Amy Waldman

On a Harlem Block, Lines That Divide and Ties That Bind
New York Times 21Feb01 D1
By Amy Waldman


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