Mike, The Knife Sharpener


Mike is planning to return to our neighborhood this Wednesday. We’ll put out details when we know more.

Great prices, great sharpening, just in time for the holidays (even though we have much smaller celebrations this year, it is still great to have sharp knives for cooking!)

The Dark Tower

A’Lelia Walker’s home at 108 West 136th Street (from 1885-1931) – one of the key cultural nodes of the Harlem Renaissance – was known as “The Dark Tower”. This residence became famous for the lavish salons which she hosted – drawing in writers, musicians, and artists during the 1920s. It was named after a sonnet by the poet Countee Cullen:

From the Dark Tower

We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute,
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made to eternally weep.

The night whose sable breast relieves the stark,
White stars is no less lovely being dark,
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

 A’Lelia Walker was the only child of Madam C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur and hair care industry pioneer who is recognized as America’s first self-made female millionaire.

Her Irvington, New York, home, Villa Lewaro, is a National Treasure of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

With her inheritance, A’Lelia purchased these two townhouses on West 136th Street and combined them into one residence with a new façade:

Cultural soirees for the Harlem and Greenwich Village “glitterati,” white and black, serving caviar and bootleg champagne and providing entertainment by queer performers and others like Alberta Hunter, Jimmy Daniels, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, Muriel Draper, Nora Holt, Witter Bynner, Andy Razaf, Taylor Gordon, Carl Van Vechten, Clarence Darrow, James Weldon Johnson and many others attended and reveled in the Dark Tower’s glamour.

Langston Hughes later wrote that A’Lelia’s parties “were as crowded as the New York subway at the rush hour.”

In October 1927, the Dark Tower—envisioned as a private membership club—officially opened in a room within the Walker Studio, which had now expanded to the second and third floors of the townhouse.

One year after opening, in October 1928, the Dark Tower closed. Walker had begun charging for food and refreshments, which was a hard adjustment for many to make. She continued to rent the townhouse out for events, and she continued her arts patronage and philanthropic endeavors. But in 1929, the market crashed. Fewer parties were thrown during the Depression.

Walker died in 1931. After that point, the townhouse was rented out to the City of New York, which used the space for a health clinic. Then in 1941, the townhouse was demolished. In its place, the New York Public Library built what would become its Countee Cullen Branch.

For more check out the fantastic Code Switch Podcast.

Opioid Treatment Deserts

With new data from a recent FOIL request that was submitted to the NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) we wanted to map the inverse of what people typically map – the absence of something. In particular, we were interested in learning which Community Districts in New York don’t have any OASAS licensed Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs). The resulting map (below) shows (in red) the communities in New York that have no OTPs and whose residents who are suffering from addiction to opioids have to travel to communities like ours, for treatment.

To explore the map yourself, see: https://fordham.carto.com/u/shill18/builder/8202e3cd-d7ca-4fc5-9c79-22d883c3b51d/embed

Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway

Riverside North

The west side walking, jogging, and cycling path – north of 120th Street – is hopefully going to get some more love. The Riverside North Park Initiative has managed to accomplish (over the past year):

Added professional staff

Worked alongside a neighborhood volunteer user group to secure funding for the City to formalize the 142nd Street Dog Run

Partnered with the West Harlem Development Corporation and engaged young people from Community District 9 in urban park management as part of our Teen Corps Program

Successfully advocated for the City to invest $4.1 million in repaving funds, which will include the areas around 148th Street

Delivered public programs to West Harlem Piers Park

Hosted public programming at 148th Street waterfront, the 172nd Street waterfront, and the Little Red Lighthouse at 181st Street

Partnered with Natural Areas Conservancy to conduct assessments and develop management plans for the forested areas at 146th–151st Streets, and around 181st Street

Began managing the concession to teach tennis at the 172nd Street courts, and revenues generated will be invested back into the area

Provided sustained care and support to the volunteer-lead Riverside Valley Community Garden (“Jenny’s Garden”)

Improved the Park entrances at 120th, 125th, 138th, 148th, and 151st Streets

And for 2021 and beyond they hope to:

Increase professional gardening staff north of 120th Street

Further improve the park entrances at 148th, 151st, and 158th Street

Repair and ongoing maintenance of 148th Street baseball fields

Concession at 151st Street entrance

Complete renovation and add comfort station at 10 Mile River Playground at 148th Street

158th Street basketball court resurfacing and solution for drainage issues

Ongoing forest restoration and care in the woodlands at 146th–151st Streets, and 181st Streets

Add comfort station at Discovery Playground

Deliver adult exercise equipment, additional picnic tables, and a bicycle education center

Resurface tennis courts at 172nd Street

Repair or replace broken benches on Riverside Drive

Complete a world class dog run at 142nd Street

Replace the fence and repair dangerous paving conditions from 120th Street to 125th Street

Address dangerous bicycle/pedestrian conflicts

Repair drainage infrastructure on Riverside Drive at 138th Street

Deliver 3 years of new free public programming to North Park

First Lady Michelle Obama Reflects on The 2020 and 2016 Elections

“This week, I’ve been reflecting a lot on where I was four years ago. Hillary Clinton had just been dealt a tough loss by a far closer margin than the one we’ve seen this year. I was hurt and disappointed—but the votes had been counted and Donald Trump had won. The American people had spoken. And one of the great responsibilities of the presidency is to listen when they do. So my husband and I instructed our staffs to do what George and Laura Bush had done for us: run a respectful, seamless transition of power—one of the hallmarks of American democracy. We invited the folks from the president-elect’s team into our offices and prepared detailed memos for them, offering what we’d learned over the past eight years.

I have to be honest and say that none of this was easy for me. Donald Trump had spread racist lies about my husband that had put my family in danger. That wasn’t something I was ready to forgive. But I knew that, for the sake of our country, I had to find the strength and maturity to put my anger aside. So I welcomed Melania Trump into the White House and talked with her about my experience, answering every question she had—from the heightened scrutiny that comes with being First Lady to what it’s like to raise kids in the White House.

I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do—because our democracy is so much bigger than anybody’s ego. Our love of country requires us to respect the results of an election even when we don’t like them or wish it had gone differently—the presidency doesn’t belong to any one individual or any one party. To pretend that it does, to play along with these groundless conspiracy theories—whether for personal or political gain—is to put our country’s health and security in danger. This isn’t a game. So I want to urge all Americans, especially our nation’s leaders, regardless of party, to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power, just as sitting presidents have done throughout our history.”

Drug Testing of Newborns and Parents

The investigation seeks to determine whether the hospitals’ policies and practices target Black
and Latinx parents and infants
NEW YORK—Following concerns from advocacy groups regarding drug testing practices that
may disproportionately target Black and Latinx parents and infants, the New York City
Commission on Human Rights announces investigations into Montefiore, Mount Sinai, and New
York Presbyterian hospitals, which, collectively, have facilities in the Bronx, Manhattan,
Brooklyn, and Queens. The investigations examine the hospitals’ policies and practices
regarding drug testing of pregnant people and newborns to assess whether those policies and
practices demonstrate discriminatory racial bias against Black and Latinx families. The
Commission-initiated investigation seeks to root out and end any such discriminatory practices.


Holiday Lights Tonight

The 125th Street BID will light up West 125th Street tonight.

For more details on the festivities, see: https://harlemlightitup.vamonde.com/posts/event-details-turn-on-the-lights/10455/

Marilyn Monroe in Harlem

From the website: https://www.popspotsnyc.com/iconic_new_york_city_film_locations/

What the site doesn’t say is that one of her husbands – Arthur Miller – lived almost where the camera is, taking the photo. Miller was born in Manhattan and lived as a boy in Harlem in a spacious apartment overlooking Central Park. His father, Isidore, a Jewish émigré from Poland, owned a clothing business that allowed the family a certain level of luxury: three bathrooms, a chauffeur-driven car and a summer place in Far Rockaway. Before the stock market crash, the business began to fail, and so, in 1928, Isidore and his wife, Augusta — Izzie and Gussie — moved the family to the borough of churches and cheap rents – Brooklyn.

Arthur Miller wrote about the summer heat of New York, and how families near Central Park would cope in the New Yorker in 1998:

Before Air-Conditioning

The city in summer floated in a daze that moved otherwise sensible people to repeat endlessly the brainless greeting “Hot enough for ya? Ha-ha!”

By Arthur MillerJune 15, 1998

Exactly what year it was I can no longer recall—probably 1927 or ’28—there was an extraordinarily hot September, which hung on even after school had started and we were back from our Rockaway Beach bungalow. Every window in New York was open, and on the streets venders manning little carts chopped ice and sprinkled colored sugar over mounds of it for a couple of pennies. We kids would jump onto the back steps of the slow-moving, horse-drawn ice wagons and steal a chip or two; the ice smelled vaguely of manure but cooled palm and tongue.

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Human Person Water Swimwear Shorts Female Pool Bikini and Vehicle
Photograph by Weegee (Arthur Fellig) / International Center of Photography / Getty

People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.

Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s. Babies cried in the darkness, men’s deep voices murmured, and a woman let out an occasional high laugh beside the lake. I can recall only white people spread out on the grass; Harlem began above 116th Street then.

Later on, in the Depression thirties, the summers seemed even hotter. Out West, it was the time of the red sun and the dust storms, when whole desiccated farms blew away and sent the Okies, whom Steinbeck immortalized, out on their desperate treks toward the Pacific. My father had a small coat factory on Thirty-ninth Street then, with about a dozen men working sewing machines. Just to watch them handling thick woollen winter coats in that heat was, for me, a torture. The cutters were on piecework, paid by the number of seams they finished, so their lunch break was short—fifteen or twenty minutes. They brought their own food: bunches of radishes, a tomato perhaps, cucumbers, and a jar of thick sour cream, which went into a bowl they kept under the machines. A small loaf of pumpernickel also materialized, which they tore apart and used as a spoon to scoop up the cream and vegetables.

Read classic New Yorker stories, curated by our archivists and editors.

The men sweated a lot in those lofts, and I remember one worker who had a peculiar way of dripping. He was a tiny fellow, who disdained scissors, and, at the end of a seam, always bit off the thread instead of cutting it, so that inch-long strands stuck to his lower lip, and by the end of the day he had a multicolored beard His sweat poured onto those thread ends and dripped down onto the cloth, which he was constantly blotting with a rag.

For the full essay, see: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1998/06/22/before-air-conditioning

Mayor De Blasio Toured 125th Street

The mayor toured 125th Street on Sunday to see how dire our quality of life issues are.

City Council Member Diana Ayala toured with the mayor.

Note that on Sunday the methadone clinics are closed and most of their client base uses their ‘take home’ allocation that is given to them on Saturday. So the mayor didn’t see the full extent of our issues.

Thanks to Uptown Grand Central for the photos!

The Bell

In the case of an emergency in 17th century Dutch Harlem, residents beat a drum. After nearly a century of this practice, the ‘old stone church’ – Harlem’s first church, located at 127/1st Avenue -acquired the first-ever bell in Harlem. Note the Graveyard indicated by the red arrow, and the churchyard immediately below it in this early 20th-century sketch map of the Village of New Harlem:

When this original church was demolished, the bell passed to the Elmendorf Reformed Church which you may know as one of the driving forces behind publicizing and advocating for the Harlem African Burial Ground project.

The bell that the Elmendorf Reformed Church now has was cast in Holland. Among other metals, it is said to contain “twenty dollars worth of gold and twenty dollars worth of silver,” according to an article in The Harlem Traveller of 1861.

The venerable bell which was cast in Amsterdam, Holland, expressly for the Harlem Church in the year 1734. It remains on display in the rear of the sanctuary, the archive area of the church.

The inscription on the bell reads: AMSTERDAM Anno 1734 ME FECIT.

About a quarter of an acre connected with the original church at 1st Avenue and East 127th Street became known as the “Negro Burying ground”.

The first documented African Americans in New Harlem were slaves purchased in 1664 by the village’s settlers, who used slave labor to work their expansive farms and help build and maintain the settlement. By 1790 a census tally of the Harlem district found 115 slaves working upper Manhattan’s farms and estates, roughly one-third of the population.

It is not known when African Americans were first interred at Harlem’s original village burial ground but at some point, the eastern end of the graveyard was designated for that purpose. By 1771 it was formally identified as the “Negro Burying Ground” on historical documents.

For more on the Harlem African Burial Ground project, see:




20 Reasons Why New York and New Yorkers are Awesome

TimeOut NY has a great list of 20 reasons New York, even in this time of crisis, is an awesome place to live. We all, I think, need to be reminded how incredible this place is, and this article is a timely reminder:


HNBA Zoom Meeting on Tuesday (7pm)

On Tuesday at 7pm we’ll meet on Zoom to learn more about strategies for buying a home, refinancing, and more ways to build generational wealth in these complex times. We will also have a candidate for Manhattan DA – Tali Farhadian Weinstein – join us to talk about how she wants to reform the DA’s office.

Lastly, we’ll have the new Parks Department administrator for Marcus Garvey Park stop by to introduce herself and her plans for MGP.

Cotton Comes to Harlem

Some of the joy found in the classic Cotton Comes to Harlem is seeing how many of the scenes were shot in our community. From the Rolls Royce driving west on East 115th Street:

To the protest that moves up Madison Avenue to East 129, and turns towards Park Avenue. This scene shows the (now silent) funeral parlor that is still located on Madison/E. 129 as a Madison Avenue, white facade, brownstone in the top right of the photo below.

Here is the same building with the white facade, today:

The protest concludes in front of the police station that the police officers Coffin and Gravedigger are stationed in – a building which has never been anything other than a residential apartment building.

When shots from the precinct or of the riots are shown, the distinctive porches of buildings on the north side of East 129th Street, across from the BP station, are visible (here, behind the heads of the actors):

These location shots were close to home – very near the movie studio on 2nd Avenue at East 127th where Cotton Comes to Harlem was filmed.

Below is the film’s ‘precinct’ as it appears on East 129th Street, today:

To buy some Cotton Comes to Harlem memorabilia from the 1970’s see:


Two Central Harlem Parks Named After East Harlem Writers

The Parks Department has renamed two parks on St. Nicholas after Langston Hughes and James Baldwin:

The lawn at St. Nicholas Park is now James Baldwin Lawn. The entrance to the park located at 135th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue has been named James Baldwin Lawn. Baldwin who was born in New York City was a world-renowned author, essayist, playwright, scholar, activist, and speaker with childhood associations with Harlem and DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. Baldwin later resided in Greenwich Village.

Langston Hughes Playground

St. Nicholas Playground North is now Langston Hughes Playground. Background: Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. Though not born in NYC, he is most closely associated as a leader in the Harlem Renaissance, and lived in a now landmarked Harlem townhouse for more than two decades.

In honor of the 51st anniversary of Black Solidarity Day, NYC Parks proudly announces it has named 10 park spaces in honor of the Black experience in New York City, memorializing that which is locally, nationally, and historically relevant. In June, the agency pledged to continue to demonstrate how it stands in solidarity with the Black Community in its fight to combat systemic racism. The naming of these park spaces is among the many ways NYC Parks is acknowledging the legacies of these Black Americans, encouraging discourse about their contributions, and working to make the park system more diverse and reflective of the people it serves. The spaces named now represent five Black Women, four Black Men and one Black settlement group; and represent arts, culture, education, sports and more.

To learn more about the newly renamed parks, see:


Aaron Douglas

The esteemed Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas has two of his amazing works up at the Whitney Museum.

These large 5′ square works are signature examples of his mature style – one that you might recognize if you visit the Schomburg which owns a number of his pieces.

To learn more about Aaron Douglas, see:


And to visit the Whitney, see:


NYC’s Open Storefront Program

The Open Storefronts program is available October 30 to December 31, 2020. 
The Open Storefronts program assists existing ground-floor storefront businesses who want to use outdoor areas on a temporary basis.  The program allows eligible businesses to conduct activity on sidewalks, on roadways in the Open Streets: Restaurants program, or a combination of both.  To learn about siting requirements for storefronts and sidewalks, who is eligible and FAQ CLICK HERE 

HNBA Meeting on Tuesday, November 10th

HPD has a new report out on housing in New York. One of the issues it addresses is homeownership by Black New Yorkers. On Tuesday at 7:00 PM, the November HNBA meeting will have representatives from Chase Bank discuss strategies for applying for a first-time mortgage, refinancing, and a number of strategies for building your family’s assets.

As the HPD report notes:

…income from employment is a limited measure of financial security and economic opportunity. The most important and direct measure of a resident’s ability to access opportunity and financial security is wealth: the sum of a family’s assets (from equity in a hometo retirement savings) minus the debts a family owes (such as student loans or a mortgage). Data on wealth is not available for New York City residents, but, nationwide, the median wealth of White families is 10 times the wealth of Black and Hispanic families; in 2016, the median wealth of White families was $171,000, while the median wealth was $17,400 among Black families and $20,920 among Hispanic families. These disparities represent the compounded effects of advantages and disadvantages passed across generations.

Racial disparities in homeownership rates suggest some of the reasons for stark disparities in
overall household wealth by race. The Figure above shows that in New York City 28% of Black families and 17% of Hispanic families own their homes, compared to 41% of White families. The differences in homeownership stem in part from differences in the wealth that parents pass on to their children, but also reflect historic and, to some extent, current differences in access to home
mortgage loans. The figure below shows the loans commonly used for buying homes by race and
ethnicity of the borrower. In 2017, White borrowers accounted for 48% of new loans for owneroccupied, 1-4 unit properties in New York City, while Black and Hispanic borrowers each
accounted for less than 10%, far less than a proportionate share of the total population among
New Yorkers.

See: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdfs/wwl-plan.pdf

Hip Hop Museum ReOpens Today

Today is the re-opening of the [R]Evolution of Hip Hop exhibition. the Hip Hop museum is located in the Terminal Market (near HomeDepot and Costco on Exterior Street) and is specifically adhering to guidance around social distancing and no large group gatherings to protect our patrons and our staff.

The [R]Evolution of Hip Hop: An immersive journey through Hip Hop History is conceived by creative agents from multiple artistic backgrounds that employ archives and experimental storytelling techniques focusing on the five elements of Hip Hop – MCing, DJing, Breakdancing, Aerosol Art,  Knowledge. The new exhibit celebrates Hip Hop’s emergence from the park jams and the projects to night clubs, national concert tours, TV and motion pictures circa 1980 to 1985. The innovative music, art, dance and fashion that first permeated city streets in the Bronx, Harlem, Brooklyn and Queens in the 1970s made its way Downtown. Saavy club promoters and risk-taking entrepreneurs would fuel the commercialization of Hip Hop culture and would give rise to the first Rap record labels, Master-Mixes on Black radio and the first smash hits on the Billboard charts. This arts and cultural revolution would soon spread Hip Hop to the West Coast and to every corner of the world.

[R]Evolution of Hip Hop @ The Bronx Terminal Market610 Exterior Street

Bronx, New York 10451

(Entrance located in the lower area parking lot between Applebee’s and Marisco Centro Restaurant)

100-Year-Old Harlem Woman Casts Ballot

Dr. Thelma Davidson Adair is 100-years-old and has mobility issues but inside the Jackie Robinson Education Complex, Dr. Adair got right to it. With the help of her son Robert, she checked in and she voted.

Dr. Thelma Davidson Adair has lived through many elections. She was born a century ago during a pandemic, and now she is living through another. 

She is a retired college professor, a religious and community leader, who likes to lead by example. 

“I wanted people to recognize that this is the person that we can be in our lives at this moment. Also, to reaffirm the structure of our society,” said Thelma Davidson Adair.

Dr. Adair’s family asked her if she wanted to mail in an absentee ballot this year. That was not an option for her.

“I was filled with power. This is my way of speaking,” she said.

Metro North Boards Up

Let’s all make sure this effort by Metro North turns out to be wasted.

The Queen Says VOTE!

Beyoncé expressed her support for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in an Instagram video posted Monday, November 2nd, the day before the 2020 elections.

The musician posted a boomerang clip in which she wears a Biden/Harris face mask and tips her hat. The caption — “Come thru, Texas! #Vote” — was specifically targeted at voters in her home state, which has a decent chance of flipping to the Democrats for the first time in a presidential election since 1976.

View this post on Instagram

Come thru, Texas! #VOTE 😘

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

Worrisome Harlem COVID Trends – Wear a Mask!

In East Harlem’s 10035 ZIP code, the positivity rate more than quadrupled from 0.37 to 1.53, and it more than doubled in Central Harlem’s 10030.

Here is the four-week testing data through Oct. 24 for the eight ZIP codes covering Harlem:

  • 10026 – Central Harlem (South): 38 positive cases, 1 death, 1.01 percent positivity
  • 10027 – Central Harlem (South)/Morningside Heights/West Harlem: 49 cases, 1 death, 0.69 percent positivity
  • 10029 – East Harlem: 112 cases, 0 deaths, 1.59 percent positivity
  • 10030 – Central Harlem (North): 34 cases, 0 deaths, 1.38 percent positivity
  • 10031 – Hamilton Heights/West Harlem: 101 cases, 3 deaths, 2.1 percent positivity
  • 10035 – East Harlem: 51 cases, 0 deaths, 1.53 percent positivity
  • 10037 – Central Harlem (North)/East Harlem: 15 cases, 1 death, 0.83 percent positivity
  • 10039 – Central Harlem (North)/Washington Heights (South): 23 cases, 0 deaths, 1.22 percent positivity

To see more, see: https://patch.com/new-york/harlem/harlem-sees-widespread-increase-coronavirus-positivity-rate

And to see the data: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data-boroughs.page

Give Us A Poem – Glenn Ligon

While the Studio Museum is currently not only closed, it’s actively under demolition (it will be rebuilt in the same location on West 125th Street as designed by the West African/British architect, David Adjaye), many of the artworks that museum-goers came to expect to encounter during a visit to the Studio Museum, are in storage.

One of my favorite pieces currently in storage is a neon work by The Bronx artist Glenn Ligon. This work called Give us a Poem (Palindrome #2), is built around an incident that occurred at Harvard in 1975, when Muhammad Ali had just finished a speech and a student in the audience asked him to improvise a poem: “Me/We” was the pithy verse Ali offered. Even then, at the height of the Black Power movement, it was an intriguingly opaque statement that could have been read as a gesture of solidarity between the black boxer and his white audience, or as an underlining of their difference. In Ligon’s work, the two words become a visual palindrome, of sorts–symmetrical top and bottom–and alternate being lit (white) and unlit (black).

Glenn Ligon is also well known for his works on paper and for years I’ve been fascinated with an early series of lithographs where he approached the issue of contemporary (self) identity as seen through the lens of 19th-century runaway slave notices.

Ligon’s series (in which the accompanying text are descriptions given by various friends who were asked to describe Glenn) powerfully combine the humorous with the terrifying.

All of this links to something I came across recently, the earliest known record of a Harlem runaway slave notice:

Whereas, there is lately a Negro Servant run away from his Master’s service, and supposed to be gone your way toward New England. These are to require all persons within this government and to desire all others, if the said Negro can be found within your liberties or precincts, that you forthwith seize upon and secure him, and cause him to be safely conveyed to this place, or to his Master, Daniel Tourneur, at Harlem, upon this Island. The Negro is big and tall, about 25 or 26 years old, and went away from his Master four or five days since. Given under my hand at Fort James, in New York, this 28th day of June, 1669. 


For more on Glenn Ligon’s powerful work, see: