I hope you’ll be able to join our Zoom HNBA meeting tomorrow. The disparities of access to financial services, as shown below, is sobering.
The figure below uses the location of financial service providers, including banks, credit unions, pawnshops, and check cashers, to analyze the type of financial resources that are available in different neighborhoods. Because they charge high interest rates and fees and impose riskier terms, pawnshops and check cashers can damage the financial health of hard-working New Yorkers with low incomes. Figure 5.72 therefore examines the ratio of banks and credit unions to check cashers and pawnshops in each of the city’s Community Districts, and it shows. Figure 5.72 shows that in many New York City neighborhoods that are predominantly Black and Hispanic, there are more check cashers and pawn- shops than banks and credit unions. In the dark red areas, the number of pawnshops and check cashers is two to 10 times the number of banks and credit unions. As one resident of East Harlem said to OFE, “We’re… flooded with check cashers and pawnshops. Whatever little left that poor families have, [these businesses are] just stripping them of value… because families are in desperate need.”
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.
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.
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
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.
The New Yorker has an amazing video of work by the photographer James E. Hinton who made his name memorializing some of the most prominent figures of the civil-rights era. Hinton photographed not only Black leaders of the time (athletes, artists, politicians, thinkers, musicians – including Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Muhammad Ali, Mahalia Jackson, and Miles Davis), but also left a huge body of work at Emory University that celebrates ordinary Black life in mid-century America.
Emory University notes that: James E. Hinton (1936-2006) was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He attended college at Howard University (Washington, D.C.) in the 1950s and served in the United States Army from 1960-1962. He studied photography with Roy De Carava at the Kamoinge Photography Workshop for African Americans in 1963. Hinton worked as a freelance photographer throughout the 1960s, capturing images of the Civil Rights Movement in cities such as Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; and Harlem, New York, and photographing unknown activists and foot soldiers in the movement as well as leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.; Stokely Carmichael; H. Rap Brown; and Huey Newton. He also photographed artists and athletes including singer Mahalia Jackson and boxer Muhammed Ali. In the 1970s, Hinton began working in film and television as a cinematographer and director. He was the first African American to join a cameraman’s union, Local 600 in New York City, and won an Emmy for his direction of WNEW’s program “Black News.”
The New Yorker has highlighted excerpts from two of Hinton’s films: “The New-Ark” and “May Be the Last Time,” that were digitized by the Harvard Film Archive, which holds a collection of Hinton’s work.
Nick Garber from Patch.com has a great, albeit depressing map of vacant storefronts along the 125th Street business corridor
Nick Garber notes:
All told, 42 stores sat empty along that stretch — not counting active construction sites or businesses that shut down during the pandemic but have pledged to reopen at a later date. That’s a rate of nearly one vacancy per block.
The New York Times has a wonderful (virtual) walking and talking chat with the architect David Adjaye about Hotel Theresa, Marcus Garvey Park, the home of Langston Hughes, the Y.M.C.A. and other landmarks.
A highly recommended, architectural focused stroll:
The NYPD Wants Your Opinions
The NYPD has come up with a detailed 18 question survey for you to voice your thoughts about the police and how they are doing in our community.
As we always say, the city can’t read your mind. We need to tell them what we want, what we expect, and what is unacceptable to our community:
Census Data from 1661: Multicultural and Multilinguistic Dutch New Haarlem
The first European colonists to arrive and settle in Harlem were strikingly diverse. The Dutch West Indies company that settled the village that would become New York City, focused on the robust accumulation of wealth as a primary objective and not on a monocultural populace. The earliest record of Harlem residents shows a variety of ethnic origins:
Jean Le Roy
Francois Le Sueur
Simon De Ruine
David Du Four
Jan De Pre
Michiel Janse Muyden
Aert Pietersen Buys
Jan Pietersen Slot
Nicolaes De Meyer
Jan Laurens Duyts
Jacob Elderts Brouwer
Monis Peterson Staeck
This list, of course, only itemizes white, European men. Children, women, Indigenous People, and African slaves, were not included in this 1661 census.
The Met announced the discovery of a painting by esteemed American artist Jacob Lawrence that has been missing for decades. The panel is one of 30 that comprise Lawrence’s powerful epic, Struggle: From the History of the American People (1954–56), and it will be reunited immediately with the series, now on view at The Met through November 1 in Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle. Titled by the artist There are combustibles in every State, which a spark might set fire to. —Washington, 26 December 1786, the work depicts Shays’ Rebellion, the consequential uprising of struggling farmers in western Massachusetts led by Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays; it protested the state’s heavy taxation and spurred the writing of the U.S. Constitution and efforts to strengthen federal power. The panel is number 16 in the Struggle series.
The painting has not been seen publicly since 1960, when the current owners purchased it at a local charity art auction. A recent visitor to The Met’s exhibition, who knew of the existence of an artwork by Lawrence that had been in a neighbor’s collection for years, suspected that the painting might belong to the Struggle series and encouraged the owners to contact the Museum.
The work will be specially featured at The Met and will also join the touring exhibition, organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), for presentations in Birmingham, Alabama; Seattle, Washington; and Washington, D.C., through next fall.
Seen on the fence of the Fred Moore School – East 130th Street:
Visit East Harlem
The official guide to dining, culture, and shopping in East Harlem is undoubtedly not quite the list residents would create, but that is the nature of lists for the visitor.
NYC Go highlights a number of places that we’d all likely recognize and recommend. But there are some selections that would likely make a resident roll ones’ eyes.
Note how on the map, the Jazz Museum is shown to be in its former East Harlem home, and on East 126th Street. As anyone who’s headed to the 4/5/6 train knows, that block – between Lexington and Park – is not where you’d go to listen to jazz, it’s where you’d go to hang with your friends who just got off the M35 bus, or who just got their methadone from a program in the Lee Building.
The Jazz Museum migrated to West Harlem, on West 129th Street at Lenox.
The rest of the map is problematic, but interesting to explore, if only to find the errors. Note how “East” Harlem stretches over onto Malcom X Blvd, for example. Or, how The Africa Center is listed, but has not opened yet.
Given the sad state of the NYC Go page, I thought I’d offer a 17th century Manhattan promotional text for potential European settlers:
“This land is excellent and beautiful to the eye, full of noble forest trees and grape-vines ; and wanting nothing but the labor and industry of man to render it one of the finest and most fruitful regions in that part of the world.” He then condenses the accounts given by “our countrymen who first explored this river, and those who afterward made frequent voyages thither.” The trees are “of wonderful size, fit for buildings and vessels of the largest class. Wild grapevines and walnut trees are abundant. Maize or Indian corn, when cultivated, yields a prolific return; and so with several kinds of pulse, as beans of various colors, pumpkins,—the finest possible, melons, and similar fruits. The soil is also found well adapted to wheat and several kinds of grain, as also flax, hemp, and other European seeds. Herbaceous plants grow in great variety, bearing splendid flowers, or valuable for their medicinal properties. The forests abound in wild animals, especially the deer kind; with other quadrupeds indigenous to this part of the country. Quantities of birds, large and small, frequent the rivers, lakes and forests, with plumage of great elegance and variety of colors. Superior turkey-cocks are taken in winter, very fat, and the flesh of fine quality. Salmon, sturgeon, and many other kinds of excellent fish are caught in the rivers. The climate differs little in temperature from our own, though the country lies many degrees nearer the equator than the Netherlands. In winter the cold is intense, and snow falls frequent and deep, covering the ground for a long time. In summer it is subject to much thunder and lightning, with copious and refreshing showers. Scarcely any part of America is better adapted for colonists from this quarter ; nothing is wanting necessary to sustain life, except cattle, which can be easily taken there, and easily kept,
Wilhelmus Baudartius, of Zutphen; printed at Arnhem, 1624,
Last year a number of major museums in The Netherlands began to cease using the term “Golden Age” to describe the 17th-century Dutch empire that included New Amsterdam, and the village that became Harlem. In particular, Dutch society has begun to wrestle with fact that much of the power and wealth centered in Holland during the 17th century was based on the transatlantic slave trade:
“The Western Golden Age occupies an important place in Western historiography that is strongly linked to national pride, but positive associations with the term such as prosperity, peace, opulence, and innocence do not cover the charge of historical reality in this period,” van der Molen explained. “The term ignores the many negative sides of the 17th century such as poverty, war, forced labor, and human trafficking.”
In the spring of 1664, for example, the landowners in Harlem travelled to New Amsterdam (the lower tip of Manhattan) to participate in a slave auction. James Riker, in 1904, notes:
The opening spring brought its share of work for the farmers. A shelter was needed for the young calves turned out to feed on Barent’s Island, and at a meeting held March 13th it was agreed to build on April ist. They also resolved to fence the gardens. Some of the inhabitants, in want of servants and laborers, seized the opportunity to buy a number of negro slaves, sold at auction in Fort Amsterdam, May 29th, by order of the Director and Council. They had arrived on the 24th instant, in the company’s ship Sparrow, from Chicago. At that sale were eager bidders, Johannes Verveelen, Daniel Tourneur, Nicholas De Meyer, Jacques Cousseau, Isaac De Forest, and even Jacob Leisler, himself, in 1678, enslaved by the Turks, and years later the champion of liberty! Verveelen bought a negro at 445 a., De Meyer one at 460 fl., and Tourneur another at 465 fl. These were probably the first slaves owned at New Harlem, and, strange as it may seem, the recollections of the living run back to the time when negro slavery still existed here.
Harlem has had a mail system since 1673. In order for mail to travel, however, the road to Harlem to New York and beyond had to be finished, or at least made usable. Eventually, a monthly mail between New York and Boston was officially announced and the earliest letters set out on the first of January, 1673.
The novelty of the mounted postman reining up at the tavern at Harlem, with his dangling “portmantles,” crammed with “letters and small portable goods,” but tarrying only so long as necessary to deliver his mail and refresh himself and horse, added another to the sights and incidents which dutifully noted by all in town.
By-Mail Absentee Voting (Using the USPS)
After making your votes on the ballot, fold the ballot and put it in a smaller envelope. Sign and date the back of the envelope. Seal the envelope and put it in the larger envelope that is addressed to the Board of Elections. Mail or deliver your ballot to your borough Board of Elections office.
An absentee ballot must be postmarked by Election Day and must reach the Board of Elections no more than 7 days after the election to be counted.
Your input is invaluable and your perspective is vital in assisting the Police Department in its efforts to reform and reinvent its policies. We have launched a brand new initiative to collect feedback from New Yorkers. We will incorporate what we learn into a plan of action to make the NYPD more transparent and fair for everyone. We want to hear all feedback. What is working? What isn’t working? How can officers better work with the community members they are sworn to serve? What are best practices we can replicate across the city? While in-person attendance is limited due to COVID-19, all meetings are streamed on Zoom and Facebook. The schedule is below along with the links to join and participate.