Fighting Poverty in Harlem: It Takes a Village

A nurturing environment for the poor helps build more productive citizens, writes New York Times op-ed columnist Charles M. Blow.

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Charles M. Blow, the New York Times op-ed columnist, writes about the Broadway Housing Communities, which runs six buildings in West Harlem. One of them is a recently transformed drug haven, where workers and residents work together to transform lives in one New York City's poorest neighborhoods.

I met Madison and 50 other little rays of hope at the Dorothy Day Apartments on Riverside Drive in West Harlem. The building is the sixth in the neighborhood run by Broadway Housing Communities, and the first to include a day care center serving both the building and the community. This former drug den is not only beautiful, but it also pulses with pride and hope and happiness.

It's just what I needed to see. Writing about children and the poor and the vulnerable these days, there aren’t very many bright spots -- but this is one.

The children are bathed by natural light that floods into the basement through skylights. The floors are covered by beautiful green ceramic tile made to look like slate. The walls are painted a sunrise yellow, lined with thick wooden moldings and covered with well-framed pieces of art -- some by the children, some donated. The courtyard, which had been filled with six feet of garbage, is covered with mats and used as an area where wee little legs that barely have kneecaps can be folded into funky shapes for daily yoga.

Read Charles M. Blow's entire column at the New York Times.

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