HNBA September Meeting on THURSDAY the 16th

Because of scheduling issues, the first HNBA meeting of the season will be held on Thursday, September 16th, at 7:00 PM. We’ve decided to continue to gather on Zoom at least until December because of the threat that the Delta Variant poses to our community.

At our September 16th meeting, HNBA will host Kristin Richardson Jordan at 7:00 PM to talk about her historic upset of the Harlem machine, her plans for City Council District 9, the upcoming November election, and what she means by Radical Love for Harlem.

To join in and get the Zoom link, please reach out to Shawn, Hallia, Cecile, Saiyda, or Kat for the link, or email: [email protected]

Lenox Coffee

A great cafe. Outdoor seating. Wonderful vibes. 129th Street at Lenox.

The Lee Building

Founded in 1900, Lee Brothers Storage & Van Co. – a furniture, storage, and moving company – was initially located on 125th Street near 3rd avenue.

In 1913 they moved to the northeast corner of 125th Street and Park Ave. into a building they did not build but leased. However, after 9 years in 1922 they purchased the building at 125th St. and Park Ave. which would henceforth bare the name “The Lee Building”.

In 1925 two stories in the New York Times described the sale of this same building:

“The most interesting transaction in a great many years in Harlem has just been closed. It involves the sale of the Lee Building on the northeast corner of Park Avenue and 125th Street. This is a twelve-story fireproof office and warehouse building on plot 90 by 100. … The Lee Building was originally owned by the Pittsburgh Life Insurance Company who, in 1913, leased it for twenty-one years to Lee Brothers Storage and Warehouse Company, a young and growing concern. On the failure of the Pittsburgh Life Insurance Company, this property, among other assets, was taken over by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, who, in 1922, sold to Lee Brothers. Originally the building was almost entirely used for furniture storage, but gradually Lee Brothers have converted about a third into offices, with retail stores on the ground floor. …” (NYT 3 May 1925, pg. RE17).

“A syndicate represented by Robert B. Bowler bought from Lee Brothers the twelve-story structure at the northeast corner of 125th Street and Park Avenue, opposite the Harlem station of the New York Central. … The sellers are furniture dealers, who occupy the lower section of the building. They purchased the property in March, 1922… It was built by the Hamilton Storage Company and was later converted into offices.” (NYT 9 August 1925, pg. 40).

The Lee company also built a “beautifully detailed, classically inspired building, erected in 1929, (that) was designed as a furniture warehouse and has remained just that. … The warehouse was originally built and owned by Lee Brothers, whose name is still visible beneath layers of paint on the Riverside Drive facade (at 135th Street)”.

The founder of Lee Bros. was Charles Lee (1853-1953).

This ad for Lee Brothers Inc. appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, 1932, and showed the columned facade at Riverside Drive and 134th St.

This image, dated 1920, on the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections shows a Lee Bros sign on their building at 125th St. and Park Ave.

This later image, dated 1934, on the NYPL’s Digital Collections shows a veritcal Lee Bros sign on the same 125th St. building seen from the opposite direction

Parks Department, Made in India

The New York City Parks Department has access covers (manholes) cast specifically for use in NYC Parks.

You can, of course, see the text and their leaf logo on this one (above). Note however that the casting is not American, it was done in India:

Which leads me to highly, highly recommend a short film (with a brilliant title) Cast in India:

Which I guarantee will have you thinking about manhole covers in a completely different way.

The top three tips for ranked choice voting are…

  1. Vote for your genuine favorites, in your order of preference. Don’t try to game the system and guess who has the best chance. Just vote for whom you like in the order that you like them. There’s no risk of losing your vote, because if your favorite is knocked out, your vote will go to your second favorite, and so on.
  2. Don’t rank someone you don’t like. The last spots on your ballot should be for candidates that you are OK with or could live with. If there are candidates you disagree with or really do not want to win, do not put them on your ballot.
  3. You don’t have to fill all five slots, if there are only three or four candidates that you like, you can just rank them. 

Scott Joplin

Walking the other day on West 131st Street I noticed a brownstone with a historic plaque:

The plaque refers to Scott Joplin that Wikipedia notes:

Scott Joplin (c. 1868 – April 1, 1917) was an American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions and was dubbed the “King of Ragtime”.[1] During his brief career, he wrote over 100 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first and most popular pieces, the “Maple Leaf Rag“, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.[2]

To listen to his piece “The Entertainer”, see below:

Seen on ACP

Emergency Rent Assistance – What You Need to Know

Black Women Entrepreneurs

Businesses owned by Black women are growing at six times the national average. These women-owned businesses currently generate $51.4 billion in total revenues and employ more than 375,000 people according to Donna Walker-Kuhne:

Whose blog introduced me to the film She Did That which highlights Black women entrepreneurs.

HNBA’s very own LaShawn Henry recently moved into the entrepreneurial space and describes her company: Urban Strategies as an MWBE Consultant company that specializes in assisting its clients in building diverse and inclusive workforces.

She writes:

Our goal is to create a more inclusive workforce that benefits companies looking to fill positions and communities by improving access to employment opportunities. We connect with local partners and community groups to create a pipeline of talent that is ready to enter the workforce. We develop our pipeline of talent by working with historically marginalized groups, LGBTQ, non-binary, transgender, youth, formerly incarcerated, women, local companies, and unemployed populations We believe to revolutionize the workforce then we must build wealth in underrepresented spaces.

We cannot close the wealth gap, build our communities, and end systemic racism without changing who we hire. We do not have inclusion until all marginalized persons and groups have a seat at the table. We cannot be selective in our definition of inclusion. At the core of our work is fighting gender discrimination, more women are entering the Construction industry, but they often are met with bias. We are confronting this challenge by providing direct support to MWBEs.

Our goal is to build a pipeline of MWBE talent to fill open contracts and educate subcontractors on the bidding process through educational workshops and resources The strategy is to engage our current network and create new partnerships with institutions that have direct contact with MWBE communities.  Through direct outreach and targeted promotion, we can form new partnerships with those who align with our goals. Urban Strategies believes diversity and diverse workforces are not only good for communities, but diverse workforces make better, more sustainable decisions that help a company’s bottom line. Diversity is good for society and good for business.

Eyesore to be Demolished

An eyesore on 115/3rd is going to be demolished, finally. This boarded up building has stood and exemplifying blight for as long as most neighbors can remember.

See: for more.

East River Plaza

Most Harlem residents have visited East River Plaza (Target, Costco, Aldi, etc.) at 117th street and Harlem River Drive at least once over the years.

The site – owned by Brookfield Properties – was once a wire factory that made springs, musical wires (think pianos), and industrial and commercial wires of every sort.

I recently came across an item for sale, clipped from a vintage newspaper, that not only showed the huge number of wire products produced, but also the factory itself.

Note that the factory was directly on the water, and a sailing ship was docked at the factory (no Harlem River Drive), showing that the factory was located there precisely for water transportation of supplies and the finished wire products.

For many drivers on the Harlem River Drive, the factory was a landmark until it was razed for the shopping complex.

Here is the link to the item:


Over on the west side of Harlem, a creative entrepreneur built a sidewalk extension out of PVC pipes. It’s a creative strategy that never would have occurred to me, but somehow works.

You might not immediately identify it when you first see it from a distance:

but up close, it’s definitely PVC in all its glory.

Pop-up Vaccinations Today and Friday

Cayuga will be hosting a pop-up COVID vaccine clinic at our location on Third ave location. Here are the details: 
When:  Thursday 05/06 and Friday 05/07

When:  8:30 am – 5:30 pm

Where:  Cayuga Centers (2183 Third Ave, New York, NY 10035)

Brand:  Moderna
Walk-ins will be accepted on a limited basis. If interested in being vaccinated at our clinic please email Yiseily De Los Santos at [email protected]g or call at (646) 988-6718 to secure an appointment.

More on Redlining

The digitized versions of the 1930’s redlining maps are fairly ubiquitous these days.

What is often not discussed is that in the early 20th century the white men who drew these maps predicted that the waterfront of the Upper East Side (then with breweries, warehouses, factories, and a mostly German and Slavic immigrant community) was going to go downhill. We also need to recall that the presence of the 2nd and 3rd Avenue Els were also a source of class-panic in that the depressed land values under the Els and the sorts of businesses that located there, seemed to portend a dark future.

In the illustration, above, you can see the almost complete expectation (by the redlining teams) that the Financial District and the LES + Chinatown, would invariably become ‘hazardous’ investment locations.

Redlining, however, did more than predict a community’s viability as a site of investment, it also determined community’s futures by starving them of capital and slowly consigning any existing property owners in ‘hazardous’ areas to insolvency or bankruptcy.

FDNY and High Winds

Last week with the high winds, the FDNY was called to investigate loose metal flashing that appeared unsafe on the Church of All Saints.

Nothing major was discovered at this recently sold building.

Dutch New Haarlem

A 19th century sketch map of the Dutch colonial settlement of New Haarlem shows a number of interesting features.

Notice how the streets are oriented to true north/south, not on a ‘Manhattan-esque’ angle as they are now (based on The Commissioner’s Plan). Also, New Haarlem was centered around 122 and 2nd Avenue, not west along 125th Street. The Dutch village ultimately used the Harlem and East Rivers for most travel to/from other settlements.

As you can see below, there was a pond, centered on 125th street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues:

And a road, leaving for Spuyten Duyvel (Inwood) headed due north from the church farm land which was on the outskirts of the village:

Lastly, the churchyard and graveyard were around 125/126 and 1st Avenue, where we now know there is a burial ground of enslaved Africans:

Shoe Polish

If you’ve walked north on Madison from 125th Street you might have seen the faded ad on the side of an east-side building:

Looking carefully, you’ll see it’s an ad for shoe polish. The brand of which I can’t make out:

Shoe Polish

Improves your


Shoe Polish


Drug Arrests

Vice has a fascinating look at how drug arrests have plummeted in the decade from 2009 to 2019:

Just this visualization (below), showing the massive drop in the number of NYC drug arrests in 2009 to 2019 (red line) and the number of drug convictions from 2009 to 2019 (white line) is stunning:

The question of why this is happening, and the article makes clear that this is not simply a drop in arrests/convictions of marijuana, it represents all drugs and all arrests. Ultimately, activists, and pressure on city hall, city council, and the NYPD itself has led to this ski slope drop in arrests/convictions.

The article notes that:

the decision to curtail the mass arresting and jailing of non-violent drug offenders was a deliberate move by the authorities in response to prolonged pressure from activists and outraged New Yorkers—in particular from the communities most impacted by them. 

It’s also important to note that NYC is somewhat of an outlier. The rest of the US continues to focus on small scale possession and sales with the exception of some cities, such as Los Angeles, Seattle, and St. Louis. However…

… the latest FBI national data shows that despite increasing cannabis legalization, drug arrests have stubbornly refused to fall. More people are being arrested for drugs in the U.S. than for any other reason. In 2009 there were 1.6 million drug arrests, which dipped to 1.4 million in 2015 but went back up to 1.5 million in 2019. Many cities still have the stop-and-frisk tactics they adopted from New York more than a decade ago. 

The article notes that by the late 1990s, as the street violence started to fall, pedestrian stops resulting in body searches just kept on spiralling. Instead of guns and crack, officers were mainly picking people up for low-level cannabis offenses, criminalizing tens of thousands of non-violent New Yorkers. Between 2002 and 2012, according to a joint report by the DPA and Marijuana Arrest Research Project, the NYPD made 440,000 arrests for cannabis possession, which took up more than one million hours of police time.  

And, to no one’s surprise, young Black men are still being arrested for drug offenses at significantly higher rates than young white men.  

These disproportionate arrest figures are not just about police bias; they are about structural racism, a reflection of the consequence of embedded social exclusion. Black and Hispanic New Yorkers are twice as likely to live in poverty, or live in near-poverty, as white or Asian New Yorkers, and there’s a harsh reality to the drug business: People who are locked out of the mainstream economy are more likely than others to resort to the drug trade to get by. What’s more, people living in poorer neighborhoods are also more likely to be picked up by police, who target these areas.

New Cafe?

Is a new cafe/bakery going to open in the old Jahlookova site?

We’ve seen work going on here, and heard chatter about a new cafe on Madison…

An Easter Card

Ebay had an Easter card on offer from Harlem. Note the address, 2214 3rd Avenue. Today, the former J. Bruns “Harlem Candy Kitchen” location is the site of a City Fresh Market:

Here is the link, and an image of the card:

Maria Granville Featured

Maria Granville was featured in a piece on the moral and economic need to ensure that New York’s Black community benefits from the legalization of marijuana. Given that so much of the punitive and carceral focus on marijuana has historically impacted communities of color, restorative justice demands that these devastated communities benefit from the newly enacted legislation.

For the full article and interview, see:


In the 19th and early 20th century coal usurped wood as the most common heat source in New York City. The environmental and health costs of millions of homes heating with coal were enormous, and an army of coal merchants and their employees had to get coal to homes come rain, shine, or snow.

To store coal for heating and for cooking, most buildings in Harlem and New York City in general, were outfitted with a coal storage area, underground, typically extending to the property line – even if the building was setback to allow the stairs or stoop to reach the elevated 1st floor. To access this coal storage area, builders created an 18 to 22 inch hole that reached the sidewalk or front patio, that was then covered with a heavy cast iron, circular coal chute cover. Coal companies looked at these coal cute covers as marketing opportunities, and frequently embellished them with their company name, address, and logo.

Here are a few of the coal covers that remain in our neighborhood, as discovered on meandering walks.

The coal chute (above) has lost its cast iron cover, and is simply cemented over.

The one below is cracked and now inaccessible because of a modern metal fence.

Ray DeCarava, the black and white mid-century photographer of Harlem and the 1950’s jazz scene, took this photo of a child on a sidewalk with a coal chute cover in the foreground.

This coal chute cover, today is shown below. Note how much more worn the stars are after an extra 70 years of foot traffic.

Chaiwali’s Founder and Executive Chef, Anita Trehan

Thrillist has a list out of women-owned restaurants with innovative and exceptional cuisine. Chaiwali’s very own Anita Trehan is profiled:

Chaiwali (@chaiwalinyc)

For self-taught chef and owner of Harlem-based eatery, Chaiwali, it was Anita Trehan’s natural talent in melding flavors—not family recipes or maternal influences—that led to opening her popular plant-based Indian restaurant. 

“I’ve never been to culinary school, or to a restaurant school. I’ve never taken a single cooking class in my life, never followed a recipe book. Just like when you write something you know what you want to express—I know what I want my food to taste like,” says Trehan. 

Even naming her restaurant was an intuitive blend: Merging the word chai (the centering start to her day) with wali (the feminine version of the term, signifying “someone who does”) was the perfect alliance—recognizing it is women who are the true nurturers and center of any home or space. 

Tenant Legal Rights Workshop – March 16