Calabar Imports

Over on Frederick Douglass Blvd at West 134th Street, Calabar Imports has a great selection of local and imported handicrafts. The imported work is almost exclusively from the African continent, and the stateside artists and artisans are either diasporic Africans or Black Americans.

This gallery/store is well worth checking out. We bought some small batch preserves (unable to resist the idea of smokey peach jam).

Thank You! HNBA Holiday Donation to East 125th Nursing Home

Shoutout to all neighbors who contributed to HNBA this year! Your donation enabled the block association to team up with Uptown Grand Central to bring a little year-end joy to the staff at Northern Manhattan Rehab nursing home on East 125th Street between Park and Lexington.

Like most nursing homes, Northern Manhattan Rehab has been hit hard this year, with patient deaths and many staff falling ill. For the past several weeks, patients have not been able to leave their rooms due to the center’s attempt to keep COVID from spreading — so the staff have been working extra hard to bring holiday joy from room to room.

On the first night of winter, HNBA and Uptown Grand Central sponsored East 125th small business Ginjan Cafe to deliver cases and cases (and cases!) of their signature drink to the front door of the home as part of Ginjan’s Healthcare Heroes program. (Unlike this past summer, when some of the COVID restrictions were lifted, non-staff are currently not allowed to enter the building.)

The staff were then sipping as the Marching Cobras marching band marched by to celebrate Uptown’s Winter Lights glowing for winter:

Turn your sound ON!

Winter Lights on East 125th Street

You may have noticed the trees glowing for winter along East 125th Street. How did they happen?

Most New Yorkers assume that the holiday and winter lighting that graces many commercial corridors across the city is paid for and programmed by the City. In fact, the City has nothing to do with it: All decorative lighting citywide is brought to you by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), chamber of commerce — or, in the case of East 125th Street, the 501c3 nonprofit Uptown Grand Central.

The winter lights went up on the first day of winter (December 21, or the Winter Solstice), marked by the Marching Cobras marching band and visits to local small businesses and the Northern Manhattan Rehab nursing home.

Shoutout to Councilmember Diana Ayala and the Community Association of the East Harlem Triangle for supporting the costs for the lights. And to the staff at local small business Urban Garden Center for spending hours upon hours up in the bucket truck to get everything lit!

You’ll have until the end of February to enjoy them. As contrasted to the skyline swags used in other parts of the city, the goal with the trees is to bring more light to street level, adding a safety element as well during very dark winter nights.

Black-Owned Businesses + COVID

Harlem Park to Park has partnered with Uber Eats to create Black-owned business pavilions on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. between 137 and 139th Streets.

The Renaissance Pavilion was designed by local firm WXY architecture + urban design and the innovative scaffolding company Urban Umbrella.

Their custom-designed, heated parklets (outdoor dining structures that are located in parking spaces) have been set up for six independent Black-owned restaurants and businesses: Ruby’s Vintage, Sexy Taco, The Row, Alibi, Ma Smith’s Dessert Café, and Harlem Chocolate Factory.

Each parklet was designed by a Harlem-based architecture team. They all offer “custom design and weatherizing elements to accommodate for heat, snow loads and proper social distancing,” according to a press release.

In addition, the two Urban Umbrella scaffolding structures were also designed to hold snow loads and are “equipped with heaters and side panels to provide warmth and an extended ability to serve customers safely outdoors.”

Each structure has been paired with artwork by one of six commissioned artists, each of whom also worked on the Harlem Black Lives Matter mural in July. They are Dianne SmithLeRone WilsonJason WallaceThomas HeathOmo Misha, and Guy Stanley Philoche. The entire corridor features “elaborate lighting and atmospheric design” by Harlem-based set, event, and lighting designer Ron Hansford.

Along with the restaurants, the 32 independent small NYC businesses–including architects, artists, producers, creatives, and merchants–who helped make the project possible are 84 percent Black-owned. The other collaborators who worked with Uber Eats to make the project possible are: Nikoa Evans of Harlem Park to Park, Valerie Wilson of Valinc PR, and EatOkra.

LAST CHANCE! To Catch the Holiday Market at Urban Garden Center

Dear neighbors:

It’s pretty much too late to buy anything online and have it get here on time. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered: Join us for some local gift-shopping today, Saturday, December 19, from 3-6 p.m. under the tracks at Urban Garden Center.

We’ll have a curated selection of arts, crafts and treats, all made by local business owners.

Today’s line-up:


Frenchy Coffee — s’mores hot chocolate, coffee, chocolate twists, madeleines, gluten-free and vegan muffins

Cafe Ollin — tamales, churros, salted chocolate chip cookies, Mexican hot chocolate

Mountain Bird — soup, sticky toffee fig cake, hot sake lemonade, peppermint hot chocolate

GAUDIr — mulled cider, champagne, cheesecake

Maryam’s Yum Yum — waffles, chicken & waffles 

Sprinkle Splash Sweet Shoppe — pasteles, doughnuts, regular coquito

Flaco Coquito — non-dairy coquito

Pop Pins NYC — fashion pins

Jam + Rico — handmade Caribbean-inspired jewelry

Elo Burnz & Jorge Matarrita — art prints

Slone — graffiti canvas

Harlem Hoopz — bangles & hoops

Frida Spirit — painted gardenware

DiLena’s Dolicini & La Befana and Friends — Italian cookies and storybooks

The details:
DRIVE-BY (116TH STREET): Pull up by bike or by car at the 116th Street entrance to Urban Garden Center, and we’ll serve sweets and treats directly to your vehicle. Cash and credit accepted.

WALK-UP (117TH STREET): Urban Garden Center will be selling trees and wreaths at their 117th Street entrance. Enter there, smell that evergreen air, then exit toward 116th Street into the vendor area. Lines will be marked off at 6-foot intervals. Cash and credit accepted.

Of course: No mask, no entry. More info here:  

Hispanic Demographic Increases and Decreases: 1990 – 2016

Hispanic New Yorkers have been on the move since 1990. Downtown/Central Brooklyn and East Harlem have lost Hispanics while Queens, The Bronx, and even Staten Island have gained.

Shop BLK

COME HUNGRY! Today’s Line-Up for Holidays To Go 🎁


We’ve got your tree, treats and more today, Saturday, December 12, from 3-6 p.m. under the tracks at Urban Garden Center. There’ll be flautas and flan, cake and coquito, plus great gifts for friends — with vendors to get us in the holiday spirit, while keeping us safe and socially distanced in the open air.


Mountain Bird — hot chocolate, hot sake lemonade, sticky toffee fig cake, Bird and vege soup

Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods — pie crust cookies, chocolate chip cookies, toffee

Harlem Baking Co. — Mason jar desserts, mulled wine, hot cider

Sprinkle Splash Sweet Shoppe — coquito, doughnuts, churros, vegan chocolate mousse

Bistro Casa Azul  — flautas & flan

Maryam’s Yum Yum — waffles 

Slone — graffiti art prints

Harlem Hoopz — bangles & hoops

Frida Spirit — painted gardenware

The details:
DRIVE-BY (116TH STREET): Pull up by bike or by car at the 116th Street entrance to Urban Garden Center, and we’ll serve sweets and treats directly to your vehicle. Cash and credit accepted.

WALK-UP (117TH STREET): Urban Garden Center will be selling trees and wreaths at their 117th Street entrance. Enter there, smell that evergreen air, then exit toward 116th Street into the vendor area. Lines will be marked off at 6-foot intervals. Cash and credit accepted.

Of course: No mask, no entry. More info here:

Cowperthwait & Sons Building To Be Demolished

The last remnants of a formerly magnificent Cowperthwait & Sons building will finally be torn down according to Patch:

Looking at the last two remaining floors of this flagship building, it’s hard to imagine that one of East Harlem’s architectural jewels stood (or is standing?) here.


Cowperthwait & Sons opened for business on February 23rd, 1909I at this location. The building now (mostly occupied by “American Outlet”) has been truncated back in the 20th century when landlords would abandon the top floors of properties and only focus on renting the street-level commercial space. 

Columbia University’s collection of postcards give you a sense of what the building originally looked like:


The red/orange brick top three stories were lopped-off and only the lower two floors remain.


Note how the area where the beautiful copper-clad windows were has filled in with brick, and cheap windows were thrown in.  

And note the thinner, yellow brick that make up the pilaster (compare to the standard brick next door), and the cinderblock?  that is now the infill where the copper windows once were:


Finally, the red/brown cast iron pillar at the bottom right and the higher quality brickwork on the pilasters is original. 

To see the Columbia University postcard:

Uptown Grand Central – 10,000 Bags of Trash!

Once again, East Harlem owes a huge Thank You! to Uptown Grand Central!

Ten thousand trashbags! Yep, that’s right, folks. This week Uptown Grand Central crossed the 10K mark for the bags of street trash they’ve collected since the start of 2020.

East 125th might not look perfect, but we’re trying. We’re so grateful for our Positive Workforce Clean Team that’s out there seven days a week, sweeping the sidewalks and cleaning things most folks would not want to.

Spot a yellow trashbag? Then you know Uptown Grand Central was there. 💛

Purchasing a Home And What The Bank Looks At…

Last month Chase Bank attended our HNBA meeting and Kevin Cruikshank went over a whole range of housing options and what a bank will look at if you apply for a mortgage on any one of these properties.

Classic Mistakes People Make When Purchasing a New Home

Harlem World has a good, quick article on 8 checkboxes anyone on the market for a home should consider

“Remember there are always other fish in the sea, or should we say homes in the neighborhood. The perfect place will come along eventually, it’s just going to take some time! Don’t give up, stay strong, and remember there will be a happy ending!”

Does Your Water Taste… Different?

Have you noticed that your water tastes different recently (say in the last week or so)? If you have, you’re not alone. We contacted the DEP to see what’s up using this form:

Which is the web version of calling 311 for those of you who’d prefer to not talk to an operator.

We got a call back this morning that said that about a week ago, the DEP switched NYCs drinking water from Delaware and Catskills watersheds, to Croton water. This switch will be in effect for approximately a month.

The DEP has (of course) tested the water and it’s all good, it just comes from different sources, and thus has a slightly different taste.

You can, if you want to spin this in a positive way, think of this as the historic taste of NYC water. When the Croton Aqueduct system finally brought water to NYC in the 19th century, this is what New Yorkers would have (more or less) tasted in 1842.

Since then, Delaware and Catskills water has become more dominant in our taps, and that water/taste has usurped the original Croton water/taste.


Federal Drug and Weapons Arrests

This just came in from the commanding officer of Harlem’s 28th Precinct:

Subject: Narcotic operation arrests in the 28th precinct

Greetings Harlem residents and Stakeholders,
On 12/2/20 an on-going investigation culminated with (14) Federal indictments for drug dealing and associated violence and weapons possession. The area in and around W.122nd St – W.124th St. Lenox to Adam Clayton Powell Avenues will receive some relief from the drug trade that was operating in that area. The concerns that were conveyed to the NYPD were not made in vane and these indictments and associated arrests are a testament to the work and commitment invested in effectively addressing and resolving the issue.

Often targeting the “low hanging fruit” only provides for instant, temporary relief for a few days before these individuals return and the condition continues. This operation targeted subjects on all levels of this drug dealing hierarchy, and thus will have a definite impact on its operational abilities. The prosecution of these cases will rest with the Federal Court system.

The enforcement and maintenance of this location will continue so that the benefits of this operation are long lasting.

Thank you.

Deputy Inspector André M. Brown

New York City Police Department

Commanding Officer, 28th Precinct