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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More and More Dominicans Coming from the Island of.... Manhattan!

Regarding the Daily News story on the increase in the Dominican population in the Bronx(mentioned in the previous post), one point that bears emphasis is that much of the influx is not coming only from the Island of HispaƱola, but also from the north end of the Island of Manhattan.

"Dominicans are coming not only from their native island, but from Washington Heights, a longtime Dominican enclave. 'In a few years from now, there's not going to be a Washington Heights,' said David Medina, regional manager at Health Plus, a yearly sponsor of the Grand Dominican Parade. 'Everyone's moving here to the Bronx.'

In mentioning that "foreign-born Dominicans are among the poorest groups in the Bronx," the article reinforces the notion that (contrary to what the New York Times Real Estate section wants you to believe) the vast majority of people moving to the Bronx are low-income. Instead of "the gentrification of the South Bronx" or young wealthy Manhattanites moving to the west Bronx corridor, it's poor families from Washington Heights, East Harlem and other gentrifying neighborhoods who are being forced into the Bronx; the thousands of Dominicans moving to the Bronx is an excellent example of this real trend.

(By the way, if you want to see actual demographic evidence against the gentrification of the Bronx, check out the second chart on page 14 of the UNHP report on Shrinking Affordability.)


  1. 'In a few years from now, there's not going to be a Washington Heights,' (David Medina, regional manager at Health Plus, a yearly sponsor of the Grand Dominican Parade.)

    I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. Yes, higher rents are forcing people to relocate to the west Bronx, but the Heights' Dominican population isn't declining in any significant way. According to this Times story a few months back http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/nyregion/thecity/04domi.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5070&en=7d0be9fdf17c22b3, which basically explores the same issues as the Daily News piece, there were 117,000 Dominicans in Washington Heights and Inwood in 2000, and a little less than 113,000 in 2005. Not exactly a staggering drop. Somewhere around 3.5 percent. So if gentrification is forcing low income people across the Harlem River, it's not happening at the speed some suggest - or if it is, other Dominicans (new immigrants, second generation?) are quickly filling their shoes.

    Talking of gentrification, there are certainly a few swanky restaurants near Columbia Presbyterian and also in the West 180s and 190s (always wealthier areas, no?). And perhaps there are more white people than when I moved to the neighborhood in 2004. (There’s one more at least.) But I see little sign of any of this east of Broadway, on St. Nicholas, for example, which still "feels" more Dominican than anywhere I've come across in the Bronx.

    I think Washington Heights, as we know it, will be around for a few more years to come.

  2. The chart on page 14 makes sense to me. As gentrification spreads in the other four boroughs, Bronx again serves as a destination for the city's poorest residents.

    But this'll also serve to put downward pressure on real rents. And in a gentrifying city, that could eventually lead to a quick flip as landlords move to free up and renovate buildings for [insert euphemism for white people here].

    Also, about Washington Heights, the 3,000 drop could actually be pretty significant considering the findings of the 2000 U.S. Census of Population:

    "The Dominican population in the United States rose from 520,121 in 1990 to 1,041,910 in 2000, making it the fourth-largest Hispanic/Latino group in the United States, after Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans. It is estimated that, at current population growth rates, the Dominican population will overtake the Cuban population before the year 2010, making it the third largest Hispanic/Latino population in the country."

    Source: http://www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu/cgsd/advising/documents/rivera_batiz.pdf

    I don't have (time to look for) more recent figures, but I'm guessing that the drop in the Dominican population of WaHi must be interpreted against a backdrop of a rising number of Domincans in NYC.

    And I guess that the rate of desertion of an area by a specific population accelerates as the shops and restaurants, etc., that serve that community start declining and closing. That means that the next 3,000 to leave will do so perhaps more rapidly than the first 3,000 - if Dominicans are indeed leaving for economic reasons and the departure of the first 3,000 does indeed indicate some kind of trend.

    I really like your publication, by the way. It's otherwise heard to find good commentary on the Bronx.

  3. James,

    You are right that the comment by Medina is an exaggeration, but it does reflect a real trend. Chris B makes a few good points, regarding the rising Dominican population overall in the U.S. and the notion that an out-migration could speed up. What Washington Heights will look like in ten or fifteen years is up to speculation, but it’s not inconceivable that it becomes the neighborhood of more well-to-do Dominicans while the west Bronx houses the much larger poorer population.

    My guess is that most of this out-migration from the Heights has to do with families who need to find a new apartment for whatever reason (coming of age, overcrowded, evicted or harassed out of their apartment) and are finding that asking rents in their barrio are out of their range. This mirrors exactly what we’ve heard about going on with Latinos leaving East Harlem en masse for the Bronx.

    I don’t think it’s unfair to say that northern Manhattan will get more and more exclusive in the years to come. Does this mean that East Harlem, Harlem, and Washington Heights will become much smaller ethnic enclaves, in the model of either Little Italy or Chinatown before them?

    Chris – thanks for taking a look at our report. We feel it’s important that this type of analysis comes from within the Bronx.

  4. I notice it's actually a 4,000 drop. That's over five years. If there's a further 4,000 drop by 2010, I'd suggest that'll strongly confirm that the Dominican era of Washington Heights is beginning to come to an end.

    As for the Chinatown-style pockets: Those are centers of commerce that attract outsiders and tourists into them to shop and eat because of what they are. That's not at all true of the three areas you mention, and I doubt it ever could be. Without the power of commerce, it's hard to imagine how any enclave could resist accelerating gentrification, although the large numbers of housing projects in Harlem serve as a kind of poison pill, I suppose.

    Still, a possible contender for such a pocket could be East Harlem along 116th Street. But this will surely be colonized by non-hispanics too quickly for any form of hispanic enclave to form. Intewresting thought, though.

  5. As a resident of University Heights and as a Dominican-American myself, i could tell you that the high rent in Washington Heights is driving Dominicans out and the nearest and cheapest place to move is The Bronx, particularly University Heights.

    I think that what we need to do is to encourage Dominicans to become US Citizens (those who are not) and to engage in our community.

    Haile Rivera

  6. I cannot agree more that the NY Times is intentionally misleading the public about non-existent gentrification occurring in the Bronx. The fact is that the poor are fleeing the other boroughs in droves and relocating to the Bronx. As a result there is a greater concentration of poverty and segregation, as the Bronx is becoming poorer and darker. The blatant lie of Bronx gentrification is just to sell papers. The Bronx's future is not one of prosperity, but one of a last resort for the city's uneducated poor and working poor. That is the future.


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