90 years ago, Blumstein’s department store, at 230 West 125th Street was the department store on 125th Street.
It was also a flashpoint in the civil rights movement, and one which Adam Clayton Powell Jr., managed to turn into a nationally recognized victory.
In 1885 Louis Blumstein arrived in the United States from Germany. He worked as a street peddler and in 1894 opened a store on Hudson Street. In 1898 he moved to West 125th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, already a major regional shopping center.
Blumstein died in 1920 and in 1921 his family demolished the store for a five-story building, the biggest thing on 125th Street after the Hotel Theresa, on Seventh Avenue.
The architects Robert D. Kohn and Charles Butler designed the $1 million store in an odd amalgam of late Art Nouveau and early Art Deco. It was completed in 1923.
When Blumstein’s opened, Black Harlem had expanded and now lived in a vast stretch of central Harlem, from 111th to 155th Street, from Madison to St. Nicholas Avenue. Despite the demographic shift in the neighborhood, Blumenstein’s hired only or mostly whites. Only in 1929 Blumstein’s did hire its first Black employees — as elevator operators and porters.
During the Depression, the Rev. John H. Johnson, vicar of the Protestant Episcopal St. Martin’s Church, began a “Buy-Where-You-Can-Work” campaign and Harlem’s New York Age noted that 75 percent of Blumstein’s sales were to Black residents but that it refused to hire Black clerks or cashiers. The New York Age called for a boycott of Harlem’s largest department store.
Picketing began twelve years before The Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. started his long career as a Congressman. The Reverand, however, had numbers — preaching to 2,000 Harlemites at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.
The New York Age published names and photographs of Black shoppers who crossed the picket line. On July 26, William Blumstein, head of the store capitulated, promising to hire 35 Black clerical workers and salespeople.
Reverand Powell then organized the Greater New York Coordinating Committee for Employment and in 1938 won an agreement from Woolworth’s, Kress, A. S. Beck and other major businesses not to discriminate against Black shoppers. Ann 1943 Blumstein’s had the first black Santa Claus, was the first to use black models and mannequins and successfully appealed to cosmetic manufacturers to produce make-up for non-white skin tones.
For years its mechanical black Santa Claus was a Christmas fixture on 125th Street.
The Blumstein building was sold by the family in 1976.
The team is working to minimize impacts to the community and on Metro-North Railroad schedules. Over the next several months, mobilization and some site activity will occur for Phase 1 of the PAV project. Then, beginning this summer, we expect to begin work underneath the Viaduct, constructing new footings and columns (substructure work). In coordination with the NYC Department of Transportation, there will be temporary removal of parking lanes in 2-block increments alongside the Viaduct on a rolling basis. As soon as work in each segment concludes, those parking lanes will be reopened, and work will move onto the next segment. Sidewalks will remain open, and emergency access will be maintained. We’ll share more information as we get closer to this work in the summer, including in our next newsletter and through pre-construction community notifications.
We’ll share additional details on some of the work planned for 2024 later in the year. You can find details from our recent presentation to Manhattan Community Board 11 on the project website here, as well as an overview of the project timeline, below.
Neighbors Under the Viaduct: Urban Garden Center, La Placita, and Parking Lots We know La Placita, the Urban Garden Center (UGC), and parking lots are important to the East Harlem community. Given their locations under the Viaduct, the contractor, MTA, City, and stakeholders are working closely together to minimize impacts on the operations of all facilities.
UGC’s retail operations will be temporarily relocated 5 blocks south (under the Viaduct, between East 111th and East 112th Streets) for the duration of the project.
We’re pleased to report that we have been successful in significantly reducing the length of impact on La Placita. La Placita operations will not need to be relocated until the second quarter of 2024, and we expect to have events back to their current home in late 2025, with fully restored aesthetics and functionality. We’ll continue to coordinate with the City and Friends of La Marquetta, including identifying a temporary site for La Placita operations during the relocation period.
Some of the other parking facilities located under the Viaduct will also require relocation at various points in the project. Alternate locations for parking operations will be provided for each of these temporary relocations.
Art & Design Update This project will include a permanent art installation at East 116th Street, as you may remember from our emails about the open call for artists earlier this year. The artist will be selected by a professional panel with input from Community Board members and local elected officials. The unique characteristics and diversity of the East Harlem community will be part of proposal review. We look forward to sharing updates on this as the project progresses.
Good Neighbor Initiative Being a good neighbor to the community is important to the MTA, and part of that is ensuring our project and contractor are accountable and responsive to community feedback. We’re pleased to announce that the PAV project will include a Good Neighbor Initiative. This initiative will grade the contractor on factors like environment and livability, site upkeep, cleanliness, and housekeeping factors. Those grades will then be tied to financial incentives.
Once construction is fully underway, we’ll share a public quarterly report card showing how the contractor is doing, and ways in which the Good Neighbor Initiative is helping improve the project. As part of this effort, we will distribute regular surveys to members of our stakeholder advisory group. Additionally, members of the public can always submit feedback on worksite conditions through our project email or hotline.
Construction Community Liaison In February, Allan S. Valerio joined the team as the project’s Construction Community Liaison. Allan will be the point person on day-to-day construction questions, concerns, and feedback. You can reach Allan at (347) 422-7780 or [email protected]. Allan is Spanish/English bilingual, and he will become a familiar face in the neighborhood as he conducts community outreach, educational programming, and addresses your feedback on the project.
FBI Alert for Seniors
The FBI’s Summary of Elder Fraud Report:
In 2022, the total number of complaints received from victims over the age of 60 was 88,262. The monetary losses to elderly victims has risen at an alarming rate, losses of $3.1 billion were reported in 2022, which is a 84% increase over 2021. The average loss per victim was $35,101, with 5,456 victims losing more than $100,000.
Call Center Fraud (Tech and Customer Support schemes), continued to be the most common type of fraud reported by seniors, with over 17,800 complaints and over $587 million in losses. Monetary losses due to Investment Fraud reported by seniors increased over 300%, more than any other kind of fraud, largely due to the rising trend of crypto investment scams.
To educate the public and provide as much information on the types of frauds targeting seniors as possible, the IC3 has released its publication of the 2022 IC3 Elder Fraud Annual Report. This report is a companion report to the 2022 IC3 Annual Report released earlier this year. This report focus’ on crime types, state statistics, and common frauds affecting over 60 victims reporting to IC3.
Also, in the last couple weeks IC3.gov released some other alerts that may be of interest. They are:
IC3 Warns Chinese Community: IC3 published a public service announcement yesterday to warn about a scam targeting the Chinese community in the U.S. Criminals posing as Chinese law enforcement or prosecutors are telling potential victims that they are suspects in financial crimes. Victims are told to pay the criminals or face arrest or violence. The PSA offers tips for recognizing and avoiding the scheme.
Sextortion Victim Scam: IC3 also published a PSA last Friday warning the public about for-profit companies that are offering sextortion victims “assistance” services. While law enforcement and non-profit agencies will provide assistance at no charge to victims, these companies charge victims exorbitant fees. The PSA includes examples of deceptive tactics, provides tips for avoiding assistance scams, and explains how to file sextortion complaints with IC3.
“Harlem and the Future 2: Preserving Culture & Sustaining Historic Character in a Changing Environment” will discuss the current state of housing, neighborhood character, cultural identity, and houses of worship in a changing environment of city policies, development pressures, and displacement at the intersection of historic preservation.
Harlem One Stop and the West Harlem Community Preservation Organization, with CB9 Manhattan and community partners will host a day-long conference bringing together legislators, housing, community planning, and preservation experts to discuss available resources and tools for community empowerment and creating a sustainable and livable environment for all.
This conference targets affordable housing issues, the preservation and rehabilitation of HDFCs, co-ops and homeownership, and the importance of the creative arts as a neighborhood stabilizer and economic driver.
A breakout session on Financing Historic Preservation Properties is scheduled for those seeking answers to specific questions or guidance. To attend the break-out session, on-site sign-up is required at the first panel session. Space is limited.
Learn from experts about the potential financial resources available to property-owners to restore, rehabilitate and renovate historic buildings.
Participants will be given opportunities to discuss specific projects.
AIA credits available for conference.
Lite Breakfast and Lunch will be served.
Suggested donation $10
Seniors and Students Free. ID Required at Check-in.
Title: Historic Neighborhoods in the Path of “Get Stuff Built” – Can both co-exist?
New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams is an unapologetic cheerleader for “Getting Stuff Done”, which is greatly needed in our city today. From the economic effects of COVID to the lack of affordable housing, it’s obvious that only direct action from City Hall will enable New York to continue to thrive. As America’s largest city and one of its oldest, managing change which is equitable to all community stakeholders is a complex undertaking. We look forward to engaging experts on these public initiatives and learning more about how the “City of Yes” impacts New York’s historic neighborhoods and cultural communities.
Title: Housing Harlem: Strategies for the Preservation and Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing Stock
Topics: affordable and subsidized housing, adaptive reuse, Historic Tax Credits, State and Federal Housing Programs, State and City Designation, Management, AIA credits LU|Elective
New York City has long suffered from a lack of affordable housing. Creating new housing is one solution but the areas of the city most suited to affordable housing development are often among the most historic. What are the available tools to reconcile New York’s need for affordable housing with the city’s existing historic building stock? This panel will discuss both public and privately funded strategies in which historic preservation efforts can aid the development and retention of affordable housing while maintaining neighborhood character and avoiding community displacement.
Title: Defining & Retaining Neighborhood Identity/Planning for Growth
Topics: Defining Neighborhood identity, Community development, Place Making and urban planning, public space and design, urban challenges, local business and neighborhood economy, cultural identity, cultural and heritage tourism, creative culture (food, art, music), building as-of-right. AIA credits LU|HSW
Neighborhood identity is determined by many elements; historic buildings, local businesses, gathering places, public spaces, cultural communities, urban design and heritage tourism. So much of what helps define a neighborhood and makes it valuable are intangible elements: such as creative culture, local economies, and community identity. These factors are both critical to a community’s character and susceptible to pressure brought on by larger economic trends. This panel will ask what measures can be taken to ensure that economic development benefits the existing community. How can a community build on its existing cultural and historical character to encourage investment to create a unique place which is accessible, inclusive and sustainable? Who are the stakeholders and decision-makers who help shape this growth?
Title: Financing Historic Preservation Projects
Learn from experts about the potential financial resources available to property-owners to restore, rehabilitate and renovate historic buildings. Participants will be given opportunities to discuss specific projects.
Title: Advocacy – Building Community Voice for a Livable Neighborhood
Topics: community engagement and planning, activism, political agency in the built environment
Preservation brings people together by connecting them through their passion for places and sense of community. By providing opportunities to affirm and empower communities, alliances are created to galvanize solutions for shared concerns for the city’s future. When communities are empowered through historic places, New Yorkers throughout the city can come together to share different perspectives on a common goal. Connections are made and voices are lifted together. Local preservation leaders will lead an action-oriented discussion with the goal of establishing a shared policy agenda for reform.
Title: Congregations and Communities: Preserving Sacred Architecture for Community Benefit
Topic: historic church design, preservation, religion and community, AIA credits LU|Elective
Churches function as community anchors and gathering points even for non-congregants. How can the community help in sustaining and enhancing these important places? What are the opportunities and challenges of houses of worship today? This program will discuss the role of historic churches in Harlem and the community’s involvement in reimagining the adaptive reuse of their social and architectural features, so that they might continue to thrive and serve their greater community for generations to come.
This day-long conference is made possible with the generous support of the West Harlem Development Corporation, Harlem Community Development Corporation, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation Saving Places.
This Sunday! Harlem Rose Garden Tree Tour
Join the New York Botanical Garden’s Levi on an extensive tour of the Harlem Rose Garden identifying trees, noting their diversity, and diving into a range of topics from ecology, plant diversity.
On Tuesday, June 13th at 7:00 PM you are invited to the June HNBA meeting where we’ll talk trash!
Come out to hear from local elected officials, Community Board 11, DSNY, and others on inequity in the Department of Sanitation’s services provided to our community.
We’ll meet in the ground floor community room at the Henry J. Carter Hospital (entrance at Park Ave. and 122nd Street) and look at new research on DSNY’s litter basket distribution and budget allocation. You are welcome to share your thoughts on how we can improve community cleanliness and the look of your block.
Figure Skating in Harlem, a not-for-profit organization located in New York City that provides girls with innovative year-round health, education and fitness programs was (finally) officially presented with the IOC Women and Sport Award 2021 Trophy for the Americas.
The ceremony for this 2-year-old award took place during a side event co-hosted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) alongside the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which is currently taking place at the UN headquarters in New York.
The ceremony had been delayed due to COVID.
At the heart of its success in transforming its young students’ lives has been figure skating. The confidence, resilience, and determination that come with setting and reaching goals on the ice are the cornerstone of the Figure Skating in Harlem’s model. In 2017, the NGO began a new chapter of its incredible journey by expanding its reach to Detroit. An increasing number of girls of color continue to see their lives transformed by the selfless contributions of Figure Skating in Harlem.
The IOC Women and Sport Awards are given to women, men or organizations who have made remarkable contributions to the development, encouragement, and reinforcement of women and girls’ participation in sport.
The empty and imposing building on Central Park North that began its existence in 1914 as a branch of the Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YWHA) (and housed recently immigrated Jewish women in need of assistance), was sold in 1942 to the U.S. Army and briefly used as a rest-and-relaxation center for local soldiers. After the war it was a school and a child development center. In 1976 it became a NY State prison.
Now Mayor Adams has just received permission from the governor to use this building as a shelter. Below is the statement by Inez E. Dickens on the plans to repurpose Lincoln Correctional Facility:
“Harlem is sick and tired of being sick and tired. Neighborhoods south of 96th Street must also share the responsibility of taking in the tired, poor and hungry. For years, taxpaying Harlemites have fled to other states because of a continued lack of affordability. We are currently oversaturated with pop up shelters, illegal cannabis shops and drug treatment facilities, and reassurances that these accommodations are temporary ring hollow. Already on that proposed block is a shelter and there are multiple social service facilities within a five-block radius. If the state chooses to overburden Harlem with these programs, then Harlem deserves an influx of funding and services for our residents that are bearing the brunt of the impact.
“We respect the long journey asylum-seekers have made, but for far too long our neighborhood has been seen as a dumping ground for the city’s sheltering issues. As New Yorkers, we must all exercise the words at the feet of the Statue of Liberty in deeds and actions.”
On Tuesday, June 13th, at 7:00 PM, HNBA will hold our final in-person monthly meeting before our summer break. On June 13th we’ll be meeting at the Henry J. Carter Hospital – enter at the corner of 122/Park. We’re working on getting local elected officials and DSNY on hand to talk about what can be done about the multiple and complex issues of trash in our community.
If you’ve got an idea, a solution, an offer, or anything else to do with trash, litter baskets, and more, you are welcome to join and help us collaborate on this issue.
In addition to looking at the trash issues in our community, we’ll also have virtual tour of the amazing Carter Hospital, and discuss voting in the June 27th primaries (that will determine who is Harlem’s new city council member).
(Below is a map of litter baskets in upper Manhattan)