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When I went to NYC last summer I stayed in Harlem for a week (in Sugarhill Hostel). People had been telling me that Harlem is a notorious area. And yeah I can confirm that with you. The area is dirty. I saw a lot of weird people around that area, hanging around doing nothing but watching people, making you feel uncomfortable. One night, a British girl who stayed in the same hostel came back after midnight and was horrified cause she was followed by 2 guys from the subway station to the hostel. Fortunately the hostel was not very far away from the subway station and nothing serious happened. She felt unsafe so moved out the next day. Another night I heard a gun shot just outside the hostel. NYC is huge. How to tell whether an area is notorious or not? One American told me this: go to the MacDonald's in that area. If the counter is all 'wrapped up' by bullet-proof glass, straight away you can tell that the area is not particularly safe. There was a MacDonald's like this in Harlem, where I had my breakfast on most mornings during my stay there.
Like most people out there I didn't think Harlem had a lot to offer a New York City traveller - How wrong was I? On a recent tour of the neighbourhood I was treated to the biggest surprise of all my travels. Harlem is beautiful! The buildings are stunning - from the gothic cathedral to the old style housing. The people are friendly, they are genuinely interested in you and are proud to show you their neighbourhood. The streets are quiet - particularly on a Sunday morning, if they're not in church you'll find the people of Harlem in bed! Talking of church - take a step inside one of the famous Harlem Gospel churches and you'll see how exciting God really is - something that is missing from so many English churces these days. Harlem is definitely worth a visit on any tour to New York - Is it safe I hear you cry...I asked the same question of my guide - As safe as any other city was my answer. Don't do anything you wouldn't do in your own town...pretty sound advice I'd say - I wouldn't flash money around or not hold on to my belongings tight in any English city. It's time to lose your prejudices - give Harlem a try - I guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised. Come on, if Samuel L Jackson lives there how bad can it be?
"Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which started in 1658 but began to become a more well known bourough during the Harlem Renaissance. After being associated for much of the twentieth century with black culture, but also crime and poverty, it is now experiencing a social and economic renaissance. Harlem stretches from the East River to the Hudson River between 155th Street where it meets Washington Heights to a ragged border along the south. Central Harlem begins at 110th Street, at the northern boundary of Central Park; Spanish Harlem extends east Harlem's boundaries south to 96th Street, while in the west it begins north of Morningside Heights, which gives an irregular border west of Morningside Avenue. Harlem's boundaries have changed over the years; as Ralph Ellison observed: "Wherever Negroes live uptown is considered Harlem.""