Trinidad “Trini” Abraham opened up the Lexington Social, East Harlem’s wine and tapas bar in 2009 with his two brothers and business partners, Justino and Miguel Abraham.

The outside of Lexington Social Wine Bar, on 103rd and Lexington Avenue.
The Lexington Social was the first “upscale” restaurant/wine bar to open up in the area, at the start of East Harlem’s gentrification emergence. Located on Lexington Avenue between East 103rd and 104th street, Lexington Social is home to Spanish Harlem’s largest variety of wines imported country and worldwide, with seasonal tapas served in a dimly lit, romantic setting. It’s 28 person seating gives it a charming and quaint atmosphere for a quiet night in uptown Manhattan. Smaller tables are arranged against the wall, and two communal tables are placed in the center of the restaurant, just feet away from its 10 foot wide bar with an open kitchen, and its large selection of hard liquors and beers on the wall. The walls are decorated with each type of wine they have available, a list so long it would take weeks to memorize. Lexington Harlem remains as Spanish Harlem’s only place to go for a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy exotic wines paired with delicious tapas

The Lexington Social thrives as one of Spanish Harlem’s most popular “must visit” locations according to several travel and lifestyle blogs.
The patrons that frequent the cozy 28-seat wine bar are predominantly regulars to the bar, or locals in the area.

Trinidad Abrams, owner, stands on the side of the bar inside Lexington Social.

Abraham, who has lived in Spanish Harlem for his whole life, opened up Lexington Social in May of 2009 on Lexington Avenue between 103rd and 104th street, three blocks from the house he has lived in for almost two decades. Lexington Social’s grand opening elicited mixed reactions, as it was just one of the many sudden changes East Harlem saw in a short amount of time, in the midst of all the gentrification underway. At the same time many residents of Spanish Harlem were being evicted and displaced out of the neighborhood some have known as home their entire life, construction began on multi-million dollar condominiums. It was clear a whole new era was dawning on East Harlem. Just like the buildings and businesses, there is a clearly visible and transparent shift in the population because of gentrification too. Everyone sees it, no one denies it.
This article was posted in the New York Times in 2010, reporting on the population shift as it was happening.

Abraham, pictured below, is of Mexican descent. “Just a few years ago, it was not like this. It was mostly Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, then the Blacks, then the Asians, and then the Whites. There were not a lot of White people at all, you never saw them uptown. Now it almost half Spanish and half White.”

Trinidad Abrahams stands behind his bar in the Lexington Social.

Because it has become known that Spanish Harlem is now more popular of a location to live in, landlords and real estate agents are free to charge more for rent. This probably couldn’t have been able to happen five or more years ago, but they can now afford this option because If current tenants disagree with the spike in rent and choose to move out, Spanish Harlem has been such a “trendy” neighborhood on the up-and-up, that the current residents will be replaced with ease by new prospective apartment hunters eager to take their place.
Found in the article: “Once a strictly working class neighborhood, the area has recently seen a wave of young professionals and more affluent families who have been lured by affordable co-ops and amenity laden new condos, as well as quick access to the rest of Manhattan.”

Abraham believes the rising rent draws in one crowd, while at the same time pushing another out. Spanish Harlem borders one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Manhattan, the Upper East Side, so those living in the 80’s and 90’s streets are moving up at a lower cost, but still staying in a neighborhood they believe is popular while still relatively cheap. “The rent is too expensive now for the poor people living here, but it’s cheaper than the rent for people living in the 90 streets a few blocks away. The rent is higher for the people living here now, so they can’t live here anymore and are moving out. But the people living downtown are moving up because the rent is still cheaper for them.”

Abraham notes that the Lexington Social’s patrons are predominantly White, so gentrification better serves his business because it caters to the population that is moving in. His restaurant, as well as many, if not all businesses found in East Harlem is one of the first things afflicted by gentrification and what gentrification entails for the fate of the neighborhood.

In Between the Lines- Understanding the micro-affects of some macro-changes

Gentrification- What is it? How did it start?

Gentrification, in an attempt to summarize an entire socioeconomic trend with the potential to afflict thousands of residents within these neighborhoods into an objective single sentence, is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:


:  the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents
Illustrating gentrification through text may capture the macro-affects it brings, such as using statistics reflecting on population, analyzing business and economic trends, and tracking visible changes to the neighborhood. But it is impossible to see the affects of gentrification on a micro-level scale, to the people who are actually afflicted by the changing neighborhood, more specifically, their changing home, unless you are an expert at that specific area and are able to reflect on the area before and after this transformation.
Gentrification was at first, an insidious speculation amongst Spanish Harlem, with minute, almost unnoticeable changes. (ie. A new restaurant, or a new bar) It wasn’t until one day, a a construction site that has been there for so long that it eventually just became a part of that block to those who saw it each day slapped a huge banner advertising a new luxury condominium building to enter the neighborhood. Soon, the tiniest snowball of one single fancy building within an entire neighborhood rolled down a hill almost as steep as the one on 102nd and Lexington. Maybe the first building posed as an experiment to see how its residents and the neighborhood would react, but its apparent success soon signaled similar additions to the neighborhood so rapidly I (someone who has lived through the changes, and saw the process of constructing what stands in Spanish Harlem today) barely had time to realize what was to happen in the forthcoming years.
The buildings, and restaurants are the only catalysts for the changes in gentrification that lie beneath the surface. The demographic has brought changes to the population living in Spanish Harlem, as well as making Spanish Harlem a trendy area of New York.
A harmless nickname
The term “SpaHa” is coined as a new nickname for Spanish Harlem.The nickname is catchy, clever, and harmless, as it abbreviates SPAnish HARlem into two syllables. The nickname follows the same fashion as popular districts such as SoHo, NoHo, all areas tourists flock to for their visits to New York, but more substantially noticeable, is the population which is predominantly Caucasian. The moniker’s origin caught on in 2010, when I specifically remember AMNY- a daily newspaper free and distributed all throughout subway stations in New York featuring an article about the rise of SpaHa as Manhattan’s fastest trending neighborhood. Pre-existing nicknames for areas in New York such as SoHo (South of Houston), DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal), are all popular locations with many sites to visit and activities that make them unique in their own way. SpaHa’s nickname being generated in 2010 reflects the changing attitude New York has about Spanish/East Harlem. This patch of land has always been rich and embedded in its Puerto Rican and Mexican roots, but it wasn’t until the luxury buildings catering to trendy and wealthy populations started popping up did New York deem us worthy to have a catchy nickname.
There were many reactions, but the one that captures the neighborhood best would be confusion.
Omar DeLeon, 32, a construction worker in Queens, is of Mexican descent, and has lived on 103rd street and 3rd avenue for over 15 years. DeLeon’s  family and many other relatives have lived in Spanish Harlem for many years as well.  “You see a nice, expensive building with lots of rich people living there next to a loosie (cigarettes sold in single amounts, “loose” cigarettes” sold illegally and without government awareness) spot. There are places up here (restaurants, bars, etc) for white people, and then there are places for all the other people (native Spanish Harlem residents). You don’t see them mixed except out on the street.” When asked what changes he thought were to continue happening to Spanish Harlem, DeLeon responded, “It’s called El Barrio (Spanish for The Neighborhood), but you don’t even see that many Spanish people around here anymore. Everything’s also getting more expensive (he gives casual examples of restaurant foods, bar drinks, supermarket groceries, deli snacks, etc..), soon its gonna be too expensive for a lot of people to live here like whats happening already, more and more people are going to get pushed out to cheaper places to live like Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx.”DeLeon spent his days as a young adult with friends in the neighborhood daily. Spanish Harlem provided him with more than just shelter at night, but it was where he found happiness amongst friends and family, lingering the local restaurants and bars as a regular and an expert on the area. His three year old daughter, Rosa, is expected to grow up in Spanish Harlem as well.
Gentrification breeding racism
Gentrifying changes to neighborhoods, not exclusive to Spanish Harlem, are often awkward because they are very visibly displaced in locations where these new sites clearly do not belong. The new buildings springing up are home to the upper class, mingling directly with families of four or more on welfare struggling to get by. Gentrification happened at such an exponential pace its hard to not see it as a ticking time bomb at times, waiting to implode. Tensions have grown out of gentrification, against moving people out of their homes to make way for the upper class, so a feeling of deep rooted resentment grows out of a feeling of injustice on behalf of the community that is being torn apart and forced to make way for a new one. Coalitions against gentrification, most notably, El Barrio Tours of Spanish Harlem have spoken out against the gentrification to the neighborhood, but from the standpoint of the residents moving into the new buildings, it can be understood as being unwanted and excluded from the community they have just moved into. The Spanish community has expressed ongoing discontent at the rise of caucasian population in their neighborhood, but an anger that originated from what was being done to the neighborhood is now being taken out on the next closest thing to the real estate corporations, big businesses, and others who are responsible for making these plans a reality, the people who have moved into the neighborhood. It will definitely be a while before parties on both sides of the gentrification lens can harmonize.