A Stubborn Racial Disparity in Who Calls the Upper East Side Home

Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times, August 6, 2012


The proportion of non-Hispanic black residents on the Upper East Side has remained exceedingly low for decades, rising from 2.1 percent of the area’s population in 1990 to just 2.7 percent about 20 years later, according to an analysis of census data by Susan Weber-Stoger of the Queens College department of sociology, which defined the Upper East Side as the area between Fifth Avenue and the East River, from 59th to 96th Streets.

The proportion of white residents, meanwhile, has also held fairly stable, dipping to 81 percent from 88.6 percent.


One might not expect it, given the diversity of New York City’s population and the cultural mishmash of its subways, but this metropolitan area is actually one of the most segregated in the country in terms of where people live. A study of the country’s 100 largest metro areas, released last year by the Brookings Institution, found that the New York area was the second most segregated for black people (Milwaukee was No. 1) and the third most segregated for Hispanic and Asian residents.

William H. Frey, the author of the study and a senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, said this unenviable distinction was due in part to the city’s age. Older metropolises, he explained, tend to be more residentially segregated than cities that have seen whole new communities spring up since the Fair Housing laws of the 1960s outlawed discrimination.


The median wealth for white households is 20 times that of black households, according to a survey released last year by the Pew Research Center. That difference becomes crucial on the Upper East Side, where, according to the appraisal firm Miller Samuel, the average price for condominiums and co-ops last quarter was $1.94 million.


Nonetheless, there are plenty of black New Yorkers who can afford to live in whichever part of the city they please, including the brownstone streets of Brooklyn Heights and sparkling Fifth Avenue penthouses. And many of them do decide to live on the Upper East Side, where they stay happily put for decades.

That choice, however, does not appear to be the default. According to recent census data, there were about 450 black households on the Upper East Side with an income of $100,000 or more, and more than 4,600 in Harlem.

Academics say that there can be pressure on well-to-do African-Americans to live in historically black neighborhoods, to “lift as we climb,” as the mantra goes. For others, the decision hinges more on a reluctance to live where they are such an extreme minority.

“You can have a co-op on Park Avenue and 88th Street, but everywhere you go people are going to look at you like, ‘What are you doing here?’ ” said Mark Naison, a professor of African-American studies and history at Fordham University. {snip}

Carla Shedd, an assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Columbia University, agreed that some black people were wary of living with that day-to-day experience. “If I can really exercise a choice,” Dr. Shedd said, “maybe I want to live in Harlem rather than, perhaps, people thinking I’m a domestic worker when I live in the building.”


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  • The Verdict of History

    God for them… They stay with their own instead of creeping into White neighborhoods. 

    There is a disturbing tendency on the part of black “elites” to suddenly assume that they are entitled to live among suburban whites —-

    — DESPITE the fact that the PURPOSE of the suburbs has always been to escape from ALL blacks.

    • The Verdict of History

      Given the black hostility against ANY success in a WHITE society, these professionals might be vulnerable to zealous and vicious attacks as uncle toms…

      Maybe black “intellectuals” should be persuaded to initiate another BACK TO AFRICA movement…

      I would be a generous and enthusiastic doner.

      •  Instead of wasting those billions on Mittens, we could actually do something useful with the money!

    • Chimp Master Rules

      They’re not stupid.  They don’t want their homes burglarized, cars stolen, or daughters raped any more than a white man.  I’d say the only creature on earth who hates your typical n-word more than an old, broken-down, southern cracker is a newly upwardly-mobile black guy.

  • WmarkW

    New York City is exactly the kind of diversity every city should have — everyone lives around people of their own values, culture and expectations of public behavior.   Chinese live where their traditional vegetables are sold.  Mexicans where  burritos are made fresh by outdoor vendors.  Blacks near the Apollo theater.   Why shouldn’t everyone — Jews, Koreans, Muslims, Japanese, Italians — live where they’re comfortable?

    Then, if you want to experience  a little Indian today, you go visit Little India.

    • Francis Galton

       I feel that way to a certain degree, but you run into problems when, by necessity, you have at least one overarching political structure governing all those groups (the Federal government at the very least).  The Third World populations (basically all NAMs) stop at nothing to agitate said political structure for ever increasing handouts, and always at the expense of the First World populations (Whites and some Asians).  That’s why, as a practical matter, Whites and non-Whites coexisting under the same political structure will always lead to instability and social unrest in the long run. 

  • crystal evans

    This is not always the case. Whites have been moving into Harlem. According to the New York Times, one in ten residents in Harlem is white. There is a dispute between blacks and whites. Blacks own a small amount of property in Harlem and are interested in preserving the community.

    • You maybe too young to know but the  East Harlem area used to be all White until they moved out in  desperation due to the Puerto Ricans infiltration and the subsequent racial problems that followed. A few Whites have been showing up again into there but it looks like that the area will be,in a few years, mostly Black ,namely Black drug dealers, welfare recipients and street hustlers with a few Chinese and Mexicans.

      All this thanks to treators in Chiefs Kennedy and Johnson who got us in this mess to begin with.

      • LaSantaHermandad

        I think more Johnson than Kennedy.

        • The Great Unwashed

          Exactly. Curious though. In 1957 ( Senator ) Johnson opposed any civil rights act.

  • dukem1

    “but this metropolitan area is actually one of the most segregated in the country in terms of where people live.”
    Finally!!!  Good news from NYC!!

  • shmo123

     I may be wrong about this, but since most co-op boards are private, they can accept or reject any potential “member” as they choose.

  • Chimp Master Rules

    Of course there’s voluntary segregation by negroes.  The whole world is segregated. 

    The only part of the world NOT segregated is the few cubic inches of empty space between a white liberal’s eardrums.

    Only the white lib is willing and able to totally ignore evidence, history, basic needs and common sense to achieve his one-world fantasy . . . at your expense.

    Blacks segregate themselves in Harlem?  Cool.  Blacks all vote for Obama?  Cool   Blacks atacking whites gets no play on TV but one half-white killing a negro gets hours and hours?  Sure, why not.  No racism there.  It’s all goofd . . .

    There is no morality, right, common sense, or fairness in liberal la-la land.  Remember that next time you’re unfortunate enough to encounter one.

  • Wealthy blacks, like white liberals like to lord their wealth over the little people as it gives meaning to their lives. This is nothing more than balck saying to other blacks ‘look at me”.

    • Kratos

       There’s an old saying….

      Money shouts
      Wealth Whispers

      Those who have no chip on their shoulder & nothing to prove, have no need to draw attention.  Minorities with cash on the hip, feel they achieved despite ‘whitey keeping them down’. Which is ridiculous.

  • The Verdict of History

    Curious, you must not think much of Race Realist sentiments…

    The truth tends to be rather harsh…

  • The Verdict of History

    WHAT REMARK seemed incorrect to you???

  • S_Drayton

    I believe it was John Stossel who did a piece on this a few years ago and yes whites are begining to move back into Harlem. Most of them however are European (mostly Dutch, ironically.) for the reasons mentioned above (Nice brownstones 1/4 of the price in other locales.)
    Funny thing was he interviewed a number of blacks on the street and they were fit to be tied about this new demographic info. One guy in particular was going off in a paroxysm about this was a historically black area and it should stay that way. When told about how before the turn of the last century Harlem was populated mostly by Dutch, Italians, Germans & some Irish, this guy looked at Stossel as if he had sucker-punched him and of course, could offer no cogent explanation as to why whites shouldn’t be allowed to buy there.
    Of course this guy had no problem with former President Clinton opening up shop there. One wonder why.

  • newscomments70

    Wealthy blacks will still be in danger in a black neighborhood, but they are much less of a target than whites. They can fit it reasonably well, if they don’t mind taking the risk. The advantage is that their money goes further in Harlem. For the price of a  two room apartment on Park Ave, they could buy a beautiful house in Harlem. I imagine that is part of the draw.

  • patriotdad76

    I live on the upper east side. Its the best neighborhood in Manhattan to live 😉

  • crystal evans

    Same thing in Atlanta. Many wealthy blacks live in South Dekalb County outside of Atlanta. The prevailing complaint is that there are no business such as stores, restaurants, etc in that neighborhood that will serve that group. They have to travel to white areas such as Buckhead and Cobb County to eat and shop.

  • crystal evans

    I remember Madonna was refused by a co-op board because they did not want an entertainer living in the building because of the paparazzi and loud parties.

  • shmo123

     Bill use to have an office in Harlem, and it was a big media deal when he opened it. Don’t know if he still does though.

  • Shawn_thefemale

    I don’t care WHY they stay there. Just stay there.

  • Up to my neck in CA

    My parents live in a very affluent neighborhood. They are starting to see more and more blacks in their gated community. These blacks are loud, obnoxious and very VERY flashy. They love to strut around and try and shame Whitey with their success instead of fixing their own hoods. They come to White ones because they know they are safe and clean. Even they don’t want to live by blacks, they want access to all Whiteys things, especially his brain washed women.
    On a side note, my parents have earned every dollar they have, they basically started with nothing and have done very well for themselves, no White guilt or privilege over here! They know what time it is.