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.
In the past decade, the demographic of Harlem has changed drastically. Once a Black mecca, more and more white residents have moved into the area’s brownstones and newly renovated condos. But they’ve been anything but subtle, with realtors renaming countless areas of Harlem with short, trendy designations. Spanish Harlem is “SpaHa.” The Southern region is “SoHa.” The area containing Columbia University is “Morningside Heights.” There’s also “New Harlem East.”
“What the f**k is new about the east side? Same god damn bird turds been layin’ in front of the Metro-North station since Mase was hot,” says 51-year-old Phillip Hughes aka legendary Harlem DJ Playboy.
Of the new names, he said, “I used to get pissed off, but then I realized I might as well have fun with it. When a new one move in, I tell ’em all types of madeup neighborhoods to go to for this or that. It’s a game to see how much random s**t I can make up on the spot.”
He recalls once telling an incoming couple to find “Jew-Wells independent bakery truck” for some organic onions. He intentionally meant for them to run into Harlem icon and Dipset rapper Juelz Santana, knowing onion is slang for an ounce of a drug.
“So I got people calling me all over the city sayin’ some white boy said DJ Playboy said go see Juelz for some onions. I had to tell n*ggas to get off their ass, it’s a joke I’m playing. So they finally actually go to a hood where Juelz happen to be at, and the white boy tries to walk up to him and ask him for an onion.”
What happened then?
“I don’t want to say, but they moved out of Harlem within a week.”