Whose Barrio The Film


Author and journalist Ed Morales introduces the conflict between real estate developers and residents of East Harlem who feel they are being priced out of the neighborhood that is their spiritual and cultural home. He explains his personal connection with the neighborhood and introduces two residents, José Rivera and James Garcia, who have opposing views of the changes coming to the neighborhood.

Rivera is a long-time resident of the neighborhood who fears he will ultimately be priced out. Garcia has recently bought a condominium in the neighborhood and finds his surroundings dirty and crime-plagued. He wonders why people in the neighborhood are resistant to change and resents being considered a traitor to his own people for voicing a desire to improve conditions.

José laments that the neighborhood will become a 'community of strangers.'

Longtime East Harlem tenant James Barrow worries that a series of crane accidents in the city may strike home because of a construction project next door. To erect a 30-story residential unit, developers have been digging a massive pit alongside his building and a large crane will soon be brought in. Barrow meets with fellow tenant Benay Chisolm and tenant organizer Brodie Enoch to ask that the developers provide documentation of the crane’s operating history.
Organizers for Movement for Justice in El Barrio have come to the aid of tenants in tenement housing now overseen by Dawnay Day Group, a multinational real estate developer with offices in London. Tenant Paula Serrano describes the demonstrations and legal actions taken by the group, and warns against the changes developers have in store for the neighborhood.

Rampant development affects the filmmakers, who, in the process of making the film, have to move out of their apartment when their building was sold. The Atlantic Yards project has fueled speculation and nearby Brooklyn neighborhoods’ rents have become inflated.

Poet Mariposa, filmmaker Vagabond, salsa bandleader Aurora Flores and political activist Dylcia Pagán all agree that the neighborhood is the source of Puerto Rican and Latino identity in New York.
Whose Barrio Pictures  

A ceremony to rename 106th Street as Julia de Burgos Boulevard gives the community a chance to celebrate itself as a center for Latino culture in the U.S.

The film climaxes in a town hall-style meeting in which City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito confronts members of the community who are not in favor of the city’s latest proposal for development: The East 125th Street Project. Fear of displacement clashes with pragmatic politics intended to save some of the character of the neighborhood. It’s left for the audience to contemplate the future of El Barrio.

The Gentrification of East Harlem

© All rights Reserved Ed Morales - Laura Rivera - NYC 2009