Last month, The Observer wondered aloud if there was some value to the preservation of New York’s ghetto character. If we are saving brownstones, cast-iron lofts and now modernist skyscrapers, why not the urban grit that overtook the city in the 1970s and 1980s. Most preservation is a form of urban theme park, so a little graffiti and some chintzy signs seems appropriate to convey the full sense of New York over the centuries.
This thought experiment was prompted by a liquor store sign that offended the sensibility of its neighbors in Harlem, who sought to transform the section of the hood into a certain Brooklyn enclave. “We want to be Park Slope with charming little stores and become a destination for people,” Ruthann Richert told The Times at the time.
Well, the gentrifiers have won out, the paper reports.
A new liquor shop on Lenox Avenue in Harlem that was at the center of a gentrifying neighborhood’s dispute about storefront aesthetics has replaced its old sign with one more suitable to the sedate vision the enclave has of itself.
The shop’s owner has also removed the bulletproof plexiglass barriers in the store’s interior and replaced the roll-down solid steel gate with an open web security screen. Both earlier measures had been designed to forestall armed thieves, but the neighborhood has seen sharp declines in crime since the 1990s. Residents who were once mortified by the store’s ambience now feel the owner is trying to cooperate.
“I even hear there are some good bottles of wine there,” said Ruthann Richert.
The brass monkey just wasn’t cutting it anymore.