Columbia University

How A Few Crafty Harlemites Are Fighting Back Against Gentrification

After Harlem resident Pipi Birdwater had her lawsuit against the borough of Manhattan thrown out, many New Yorkers began to wonder how many shared her ire towards lifelong Harlem residents for “intentional cruelty,” as her suit stated.

Birdwater claims that New York residents purposely gave her wrong directions, led her towards areas of Harlem that didn’t exist, and feigned ignorance when she referenced areas of Harlem by their hip new colloquialisms. Borough president Gale Arnot Brewer called her claims that they cost her her $100,000 job (due to frequent tardiness) “farcical.” But after walking through Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park and talking to Harlemites, they have merit.

38-year-old Dominique Sampson recalls, “this cracker asked me the other day where RuPa is. I knew he was talking about Rucker Park, but we don’t call it no damn RuPa. Who ‘bout to be sayin, 'remember when Kobe and AI came in RuPa?’,” he says as family and friends double over in laughter in their beach chairs.

“So I said 'probably down in the village getting life.’ He comes back to me that night all red ready to fight sayin’ he wasted his day, I said 'I thought you meant Rupaul!”

Sampson says his neighbor was not amused. In his anger, he joins a growing group of new Harlem residents who feel they’re being deceived out of resentment.

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how did i get here? pt. 1

so, as an introduction of sorts to the studyblr/gradblr/collegeblr community, i kind of wanted to go through a quick introduction of my undergrad experience. it’s still totally crazy to me that i’m going to grad school for planetary sciences in the fall, so maybe this is a little bit of an exercise in nostalgia as well.

i did my undergrad at columbia university. lovely place in new york city that’s far enough from downtown manhattan to feel a little homey, but in manhattan enough to feel like a city. 

(ID: Columbia’s campus on a particularly beautiful evening. The sky is painted with purples and yellows and oranges. There are a few people walking up and down the white marbley-stoney steps of the campus, as well across the red brick path adjacent to College Walk, cutting through the campus. A few academic-looking neoclassical buildings can be seen in the background. All the lights are just starting to turn on, and the campus feels tranquil.)

the one constant major i had throughout college was astrophysics. a lot of people talk about how so many people change what they do in college, but somehow, this didn’t happen for me. i knew i loved astrophysics, and the astronomy department at columbia was really lovely and supportive, and i found a niche there that i didn’t want to leave.

my first year, i was also a chemical physics major. i was really interested in polymers, nanoparticles, quantum chemistry, materials science, etc. my first summer - this was my first research opportunity ever - was spent in a chemical engineering lab working on click reactions of different polymers. and while i did enjoy what i was learning, i realized that the subject might not be for me.

i dropped the chemical physics major after i got screwed on my first orgo midterm during my sophomore fall. this involved a lot of crying, a lot of thinking i wasn’t ever going to be good enough to do things that were interesting to me, a lot of questioning if it was just my lack of perseverance, etc. but the one thing i learned during that time, and in the years afterwards, is that quitting is okay! i learned that, while i liked chemistry a lot, there was a subject i loved even more, and it was okay to pursue that in full.

i then picked up a computer science major in addition to astrophysics. this was done partly as an insurance policy for my family, who remained unconvinced that i could find any real career path in astronomy. but, weirdly, i ended up really loving parts of cs, and really enjoying the moments where i could apply things i learned in cs to my astrophysics work. i kept my cs major until senior year, where i had a….less than pleasant encounter with a machine learning professor who refused to let me take his class even though i needed it desperately to graduate on time. so, in a fit of rage and self-preservation, i dropped my cs major to a concentration (our version of a minor). i had done all the required classes, so i was able to chill out a bit senior year when i was applying to grad school, which was dope.

i think i realized i wanted to do research ~for real~ the fall of my senior year, when i was still applying to cs jobs. i was interviewing in SF for a job that i realized i really didn’t care that much about, and during dinner the day of that interview i just caught myself thinking about how sad i would be if i just let my love for astronomy go. i think, at that point, i really changed my perspective and viewed grad school not just as an option, but my first option. and somehow, some way, it worked out. i guess i’ll try to talk about that in later posts.