March 10th, 2008—Today, the City Planning Commission will vote on a rezoning plan that seeks to gentrify 125th St. and the surrounding blocks from Broadway to Second Avenue. Although we are not directly affected by this proposal, as Movement for Justice in El Barrio, community members of East Harlem, we are against the plans that the city government has to displace poor families from their homes. The project that they have for 125th St. would displace humble, poor, and African American families from their homes and from the space that belongs to their community. This project would allow for buildings of 29-stories, create 2,000 market rate condominiums, and possibly push out 70 small businesses and their 975 workers. We know that with all this “development,” the rent prices will continue to go up and low-income families will be pushed from their homes and be forced out of their neighborhood.

Through this project, the city seeks to destroy one of the most important places in the long history of the African American community throughout which they have fought with courage and dignity for their rights as human beings and for the dignity of maintaining their own culture.

As the community in El Barrio, we have had the experience of seeing the members of the city council come to agreements amongst themselves to approve their capitalist gentrification projects and, in doing so, betray the communities that they claim they represent. One of many examples was when the city council approved the Columbia expansion project despite the protests that were made by our sister community of West Harlem that showed their rejection of the Columbia expansion, not only because it would displace poor families from their homes, but also because, with their chemical laboratories, they would bring pollution to the neighborhood. Despite the hunger strikes and protests by the community in West Harlem the City Council approved the project.

We know that the council member for Central Harlem, Inez Dinkens, who is also a former real estate developer, is supporting this plan despite the wishes of the community.

Brothers and sisters of Central Harlem, we as members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio want you all to know that the council member from our district, Melissa Mark Viverito, does not represent the interests of our community. If she votes for the gentrification project that they are planning for 125th St., betraying our communities the same way she did when she voted in favor of the Columbia expansion project, we want you to know she does not represent the wishes of our community in El Barrio.

We wish that you hold on and fight for your dignity, your neighborhood and your culture as a community, and we stand in solidarity with you in your struggle to defend your community and fight back against gentrification.