A Modest Proposal: Density

Gotham Gazette has a well thought out essay on how density should be a planning goal for our community in light of the 2nd Avenue Subway extension:

High-quality planning and significant upzoning could boost ridership on the new line and remake East Harlem into a place that more comfortably accommodates current and future residents–of all income levels. The New York City Department of City Planning, the MTA and its New York City Transit division, and NYCHA need to plan proactively and “think big” for the neighborhood’s future.

The first phase of the Second Avenue line (with stops at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets) serves the Upper East Side. This affluent district is characterized by large apartment buildings permitted primarily by R8 and R10 zoning. Major institutions like Hunter College and hospital complexes attract thousands of daily subway commuters. The first stops of the Q Line quickly attracted about 200,000 riders per day, and patronage is rebounding amid pandemic recovery.

This strong ridership was predictable. Upscale, high-density redevelopment of the East Side tenements has been a civic priority since the 1940s. Big, bulky apartment buildings are often frowned upon in NIMBY circles, but the vitality of the Upper East Side demonstrates the value of concentrating hundreds of thousands of people together in suitable housing near transit. The apartment buildings frequently have stores at the base and wide sidewalks. Many remaining tenement buildings have been renovated for higher-income renters. Population density of this type is one of New York’s enduring assets–and a key to its rebounding fortunes in the post-covid era.

Extending the subway line in East Harlem along Second Avenue between 96th Street and 125th Streets is a different story. The neighborhood’s threadbare low-rise tenements remain a dominant feature. Developers, due to redlining, ignored the area for decades. Overcrowded apartments, rent-burdened families, and building code violations in the area are well documented. The longstanding Puerto Rican and Black communities in the area have thrived despite widespread housing exploitation and poor living conditions.

The city and NYCHA redeveloped sections of the district since the 1940s, but these efforts have lost their luster. East Harlem retains one of the nation’s largest concentrations of “tower in the park” public housing. The iconic red-brick towers, built far below the allowable zoning envelope, were once a showpiece of the city’s social vision. Today, however, growing maintenance issues, because of limited capital and operating subsidies, have undermined resident quality of life.

Despite their Manhattan location and the Lexington Subway line running nearby, planners built the NYCHA housing projects at low-density levels with acres of lawn and surface parking. The local stations through which the current Lexington Subway runs (103rd, 110th, and 116th Streets) have modest ridership compared to stations below 96th Street. Very few NYCHA developments have stores at ground level, creating empty zones along major Avenues.

Read the full article, here:

https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/11193-east-harlem-nycha-second-ave-subway-housing-transit

New Art Exhibit

Make sure to head over to 2605 Frederick Douglass Blvd (at 139th Street) to AHL’s Space Uptown, for a new exhibit featuring a number of uptown artists, including our neighbor Buhm Hong:

https://www.aaartsalliance.org/events/space-uptown

The exhibit will continue until May 21.

Watch Blurring the Color Line

Blurring the Color Line is being shown at the Harlem International Film Festival.

Following director Crystal Kwok’s personal journey of discovery, BLURRING THE COLOR LINE digs deep into how her grandmother’s family navigated life as neighborhood grocery store owners in the Black community of Augusta, Georgia during the Jim Crow era.

This documentary serves to disrupt racial narratives and bridge divides.

To watch a conversation about this film see:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/16dtI5Ao4do8NYs0OMG8D4u2uDIUqImqn/view

And here is more about the film:

https://www.blurringthecolorline.com/events

Join Jane (Walking East/West Harlem)

Event Registration

Jane’s Walk 2022: A Great Day in Harlem: Crossing the 5th Avenue Divide

05/08/2022 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM ET

Admission

  • Free

Summary

Take your mother for a stroll around East and Central Harlem above 125th Street, straddling Fifth Avenue, the traditional dividing line between East and Central Harlem. Members of Landmark East Harlem (LEH) will introduce you to the treasures of the second historic district that LEH has proposed for listing on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Featured sites include 19th-century wood frame houses, Victorian-era rowhouses, landmarks associated with James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, former church buildings that have been given new purpose, and the brownstone stoop that served as the site of the iconic 1958 photograph of jazz musicians by Art Kane for Esquire magazine. A virtual live stream will be available on Landmark East Harlem’s Instagram channel: @LEH_NYC.

Free Concert in MGP

Gabriel Chakarji Group
Join us for a concert with an amazing composer and musician: Gabriel
Chakarji. As a Venezuelan immigrant in NYC, by linking together his
past and present, he combines contemporary jazz and improvised
music techniques, with elements of the rich Venezuelan music culture,
especially the African influences of rhythm and drum parts, call and
response, and the spiritual and social context of the music.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022 || 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

This event is FREE, but space is limited. To RSVP, go to jazzpf4.eventbrite.com
Pelham Fritz Recreation Center | 18 Mount Morris Park, New York, NY 10027
Located at 112th St. Phone (212) 860-1373

2nd Avenue Subway

The MTA now hopes to break ground on (this iteration of the 2nd Avenue Subway) by the end of the year. Chuck Schumer – senator from New York – says: “Things never looked better for getting the Second Avenue subway to East Harlem.” In our neighborhood 71 percent of residents use public transit to get to work, compared with a citywide average of 56 percent.

When finished the 2nd Avenue Subway is expected to serve about 123,000 daily riders and will be the first major project transit project in memory that isn’t serving Manhattan’s elite.

Uptown Grand Central’s Carey King notes that, “I think you have a lot of people that are pining for the neighborhood to be thriving and vibrant and full of positive energy,”

“It could make a really big difference,” said Representative Adriano D. Espaillat, whose district includes East Harlem.

The photo, above, comes from the 1977 work done to the project that was proposed in 1929. When asked why it’s not been completed, the answer is unanimous – money.

A New York Times investigation showed that at the lower part of the line (below 96th Street) cost a mind-boggling $2.5 billion per mile – more than almost every other recent transit project in the world.

In total that section (below 96th Street) cost more than $4.4 billion. Pushing the line north into Harlem is expected to cost $6.3 billion, and major infrastructure projects almost always end up costing more than initially estimated.

The review by The Times — which included interviews with more than 50 contractors and nearly 100 current and former M.T.A. employees — found that transit projects in New York cost more than in other cities because trade unions, construction companies and consulting firms all take larger profits here than elsewhere.

New District Lines

New district lines have been drawn and here is your chance to see whether or not you live in the 68th District:

Or in the more central 70th district:

All of which will come into play when you go to the ballot box in June for the primaries.

Presentation on Homeless Shelters Tonight at 7:00

On Monday (March 7th) at 7:00 PM, join HNBA’s Vice President – Shawn Hill – in a presentation exploring how the Department of Homeless Services produced and distributed misleading maps that purposefully distorted the distribution of homeless shelters in New York City.

Click HERE to Register.

Feliz Día de Reyes! (3 Kings Day)

Camels on 3rd Avenue

2nd Avenue Subway Enters a New Phase

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that the Second Avenue Subway expansion project that would extend the Second Avenue line to 125th Street in East Harlem has moved to the engineering phase of the project timeline.

Governor Kathy Hochul and the MTA announced that the 2nd Avenue Subway expansion project will now enter the engineering phase.

This is all due to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Biden in November that has provided $23 billion in new grant opportunities for transit expansion, a historic level of funding that is now being used in Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway (SAS2).

Phase 2 will include the construction of three new subway stations at 106th Street, 116th Street, and 125th Street in East Harlem. The governor noted that she’d spoken to “Secretary Buttigieg who shared the exciting news that the U.S. Department of Transportation is making a huge step forward on Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway expansion, which will unlock incredible potential for the people of East Harlem in expanding transit equity and economic opportunity.”  She also noted that she has made a clear commitment to the people of East Harlem that she would keep this project moving swiftly.

Approximately 70% of East Harlem residents use public transportation to get to work, much higher than the citywide average of 55%. The expansion of the Second Avenue Subway would help advance the Biden administration’s and New York State’s goal for transportation equity and would improve the local community’s access to jobs, health care, and other services, while reducing congestion, both on the streets and on the Lexington Avenue subway line and improving air quality.

MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, “The East Harlem community has been waiting for the Second Avenue Subway for decades. The new line extension will build on the success of Phase 1 and bring the total Second Avenue Subway ridership to 300,000, which is equivalent to the entire Philadelphia rail system. A big thank you to the FTA for moving the project to the next stage. My team is ready to go.”

Phase 1 of the project extended the Q line from 63rd Street to 96th Street and was New York City’s biggest expansion of the subway system in 50 years. Service opened on January 1, 2017, with additional stations at 72nd Street and 86th Street. Since its completion, the Second Avenue Subway has carried more than 130 million passengers and carried more than 200,000 passengers on a pre-pandemic day.   

Fast facts to know

  • This phase of the project will extend train service from 96th Street north to 125th Street, approximately 1.5 miles; 
  • There will be new stations at 106th Street and 116th Street on Second Avenue and 125th Street at Park Avenue; 
  • Phase 2 will provide direct passenger connections to the Lexington Avenue (4/5/6) subway line at 125th Street and an entrance at Park Avenue to allow convenient transfers to the Metro-North Railroad 125 Street Station; 
  • Each station will have above-ground ancillary buildings that house ventilation mechanical and electrical equipment. These will include space for possible ground-floor retail; 
  • Expansion will serve an additional 100,000 daily riders; 
  • Will provide three new ADA-accessible stations – raising the bar for customer comfort and convenience; and 
  • Increased multimodal transit connectivity at the 125th Street station – with connections to the 4/5/6, Metro-North trains and the M60 Select Bus Service to LaGuardia Airport, allowing convenient transfers to other subway and commuter rail lines, facilitating smoother, faster transportation across the city and region.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said, “The Second Avenue Subway Phase II project advancing into project engineering is great news for the people of East Harlem and all of New York City. Long envisioned – but unfortunately too long delayed – the project is now full-speed ahead. I was pleased to secure the historic $23 billion in grant funding for mass transit capital projects in the bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs law, and will fight to ensure this critical project gets its fair share.”

Durst Sues the MTA

If you’ve ever wondered about those vacant lots, south of 125th Street, on both sides of Park Avenue that Uptown Grand Central works so hard to beautify, Durst Organization owns them.

According to The Real Deal, Durst is suing the MTA for stonewalling and failing to clarify what is required (or not) to develop the site.

The lawsuit, filed Friday with the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, stems from three East Harlem properties that Durst acquired in 2016 and 2017 for future development.

The vacant lots at 1800, 1801 and 1815 Park Avenue are located within the city’s Special Transit Land Use District, which requires developers to first get certified by the MTA and the city’s Planning Commission as to whether transit easements are needed to build.

The district was created in 1973 following the construction of a small section of the Second Avenue subway. In 2017, in preparation for extending the Q line from 96th Street to 125th Street, the zone was expanded into the area including the Durst properties. That meant Durst needed an easement certificate to get construction permits.

The article:

https://therealdeal.com/2021/11/12/durst-accuses-mta-of-stalling-east-harlem-development/

indicates that development has been postponed by the MTA withholding permissions that are needed to build on the Special Transit Land Use District.

The timing of this lawsuit is interesting given that President Biden’s infrastructure legislation is about to kickstart the 2nd Avenue subway. Perhaps Durst wants to develop in tandem with the subway construction, or perhaps before it, or not at all. The lots have remained eyesores for a long time now.

HNBA Meeting Tonight at 7:00

Happy Holidays!

Are you ready for holiday cooking with a twist of funny? 

Join stand-up comedian and host of the cooking/comedy show Dinner’s Ready Live (IGTV/YoutubeTV) for a night of fun cooking and big laughs. Dan will be teaching us how to make Spaghetti Carbonara from the refrigerator to the plate using simple ingredients. We encourage you to cook and laugh along! Here are the ingredients:

SPAGHETTI CARBONARA

  • 1 BOX SPAGHETTI
  • 2 LARGE EGGS
  • 1/2 CUP PARMESAN CHEESE
  • 4 SLICES BACON (can use turkey bacon too)
  • 4 CLOVES GARLIC
  • 1/2 CUP PEAS
  • SALT/PEPPER TO TASTE

UTENSILS

  • 2 LARGE PANS/SKILLETS (FOR BACON/FOR SAUCE)
  • LARGE POT (FOR PASTA)
  • KNIFE (FOR GARLIC)
  • TONGS (FOR TOSSING PASTA AND SAUCE)

We’ll also be joined by comedian Ryan Brown who will join us for Carbonara trivia!

If you’re vegetarian, leave off the Bacon. But don’t leave off your sense of humor and good cheer!  See you from the kitchen!

GHC Meeting Tonight

Join the Greater Harlem Coalition’s look at the intersection of Harlem and East Harlem’s quality of life issues and the 2021 NYC elections. Click here to learn more tonight.

City Comptroller

The person who oversees City Hall’s wallet is called the comptroller, a position currently filled by Scott Stringer.

Four contenders are vying to replace the term-limited Stringer (who is running for mayor). And while the ultra-crowded mayor’s race will undoubtedly steal most of the attention this election cycle, choosing our next comptroller is critical for city voters.

The primary vote is set for June 22 of this year. Given New York’s firmly Democratic lean, whichever comptroller candidate nabs a win then will have a strong advantage heading into November’s general election. A Republican has not been elected comptroller since 1938.

New York City’s comptroller is our municipal auditor and fiduciary.

The Office of the Comptroller does several things, but its chief responsibilities are to prepare audits and oversee how city agencies are spending their money, manage the city’s public pension funds — the largest in the world at $224.8 billion as of October, Stringer’s office says — and issue bonds to help pay for large projects. The comptroller also reviews city contracts.

To do all this and more, the comptroller employs a staff of about 800. The comptroller has another important role: serving as second in line of succession to the mayor, after the Public Advocate.Here’s a comprehensive list of duties from the comptroller’s office.

Brian Benjamin

Benjamin, our Harlem neighbor and State Senator represents Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side. The former investment banker and affordable housing developer pledged to return some donations in early January after THE CITY found donors named in campaign records who said they’d never given money to his campaign.

Brad Lander

Lander currently serves as the City Council member representing Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and Kensington. Previous to government work, he directed a community planning center at Pratt Institute.

Kevin Parker

Parker, a Brooklyn native, is the current State Senator representing Flatbush and surrounding neighborhoods from Ditmas Park to Park Slope. Before taking elected office, Parker worked for local officials, including the then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall and then-Flatbush Council member Una Clarke.

David Weprin

Weprin, a native of Queens, currently serves as the State Assembly member representing northeast Queens. He previously represented the area in the City Council, worked in the financial services industry and, in the 1980s, served on the state’s Banking Board.

As Seen on 2nd Avenue in East Harlem

Unfortunately, no, the 2nd Avenue Subway isn’t yet in East Harlem. This remnant of an earlier attempt to build the 2nd Avenue Subway is at 117th Street, and was part of the “cut and cover” trenching done in the 1970s

The new 2nd Avenue Subway will incorporate some of this earlier tunneling into the project.

CB11 Votes for a 12 Month Drug Program Moratorium

Nick Garber reports in Patch on the vote in Community Board 11 to try a 12 month moratorium on the siting of new drug programs in the districts.

https://patch.com/new-york/harlem/drug-clinics-face-scrutiny-harlem-residents-push-back

The moratorium also asks for more data from the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to explain why East Harlem has been packed with addiction programs that other wealthier communities have rejected. Similarly, the moratorium notes that 80% of the people served by these programs in East Harlem don’t live here, but are drug treatment commuters who travel here for their programs.

The Church of All Saints

The landmarked Church of All Saints in East Harlem may have found a buyer. The New York Post reported recently that this church (which has been up for sale for a few years now, and includes the All Saints School complex to the north of the church which was closed in 2011) is negotiating with a potential buyer.

Historic All Saints Church — called the “St. Patrick’s of Harlem” — is about to be sold, The Post has learned.

The Catholic Archdiocese of New York shuttered the church in 2015 and the landmark building, along with its adjacent school and parish house, which occupy an entire block, have stood empty since.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese would not provide any details on the pending sale.

“There is no final agreement in place; things are in process,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese.

https://nypost.com/2021/01/23/historic-all-saints-church-in-nyc-to-be-sold/

There certainly has been a flurry of (scaffolding) activity at the site in the last month or so. You can see a huge vertical scaffold section that has allowed workers to examine and repair the topmost facade cross.

While it’s unclear if the church will be sold or not (many a deal has fallen through before finalized), and once sold, we have no idea if the buyer will warehouse the complex or develop it, still, there is local hope that this building will see new life in some form or another.

The building has been deconsecrated and stripped of religious items in 2017, and as with 98% of landmarking, the interior is not landmarked – a new owner could do whatever s/he wants with the inside.

Note the amazing organ and decoration back when the church was in use.

This church was built for the large Irish Catholic population in this part of Harlem and East Harlem at the turn of the 20th century. More recently, it served a primarily African-American and Nigerian parish base and was run by Franciscans.

Timeline of Our Annus Horribilis – 2020

The Museum of the City of New York has a fantastic timeline out that chart our collective Annus Horribilis – 2020.

Scroll down the page to see what happened and when. Here is an explainer video:

And here is the timeline itself:

https://mcny.nyc/nyresponds/timeline/

MTA Public Hearing re: NYS Eminent Domain Procedure Law

Tue, March 30, 6pm – 7pm

DescriptionThe Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”), on behalf of itself and its subsidiaries, will hold a Virtual public hearing under Executive Order 202.94 and pursuant to Article 2 of the New York State Eminent Domain Procedure Law (“EDPL”) on the proposed acquisition of permanent & temporary property interests in properties in the Borough of Manhattan for Phase 2, Contract 2 of the Second Avenue Subway Project (“Project”). 

The hearing will review the public uses, benefits, purposes, and location of the Project, the impact the Project may have on the environment and residents of the area, and will give the public an opportunity to comment on the Project and the proposed Property acquisition. Description of the Project  The Second Avenue Subway, when complete, will provide a subway line with 16 new stations extending from 125th St. & Lexington Ave. to Hanover Square, will link MTA New York City Transit facilities with Metro-North Railroad at 125th St. & provide connections to buses. Acquisition of public & private real estate interests along the project route will be necessary for the construction and operation of the Project.

Phase 1 of the Project has already been completed. Currently, the line runs from E. 96th St. to E. 63rd St. along Second Av., where it joins the existing Broadway Line. Phase 2 of the Project will extend the line north to E. 125th St. turning west along E. 125th St. towards Lexington Ave.

Contract 2 consists of construction of the launch box for the Tunnel Boring Machine(s), bored tunnel north from 120th St. at Second Ave. and tunnel & cavern mining for the 125th St. Station and future entrance and ancillary facilities.

This public hearing includes property interests needed for Contract 2 only. Date, Time and Place of the Virtual Hearing Tuesday, March 30, 2021 Hearing begins at 6:00 p.m.  Registration to speak can be made in advance by visiting new.mta.info/2021EDPL-SASP2-hearing, which will remain open through the hearing date.  Registration will close at 6:30 p.m. Please note this Public Hearing is being conducted in a Virtual format under Executive Order 202.94.

The public may join the hearing by visiting https://mta.zoom.us/j/82605599788 or by calling 877-853-5247 (Meeting ID 82605599788).  A link will also be provided on the MTA website.

A Tribute to Women’s History Tickets, Sat, Mar 27, 2021 at 7:00 PM |

www.harlemoperatheater.org

REGISTRATION – Eventbrite

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-tribute-to-womens-history-tickets-146654097353&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwix5paZ_8HvAhWkct8KHUHPBdAQFjAAegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw1tfToykmITTN8Rl5Nn4x_3

EVENT LINK – SATURDAY, MARCH 27th – 7PM
Click link to the YouTube livestream for March 27th at 7pm

https://youtu.be/Yl8McJthrOQ

DONATIONS WELCOME AND APPRECIATED

Baldwin

Every so often it’s important to go back and reread something of James Baldwin in order to see just how far we’ve come, but, more importantly, how far we haven’t come as a nation and as a city.

In 1965, James Baldwin debated W.F. Buckley at Cambridge University in what became an immediate classic and a touchstone moment in the (intellectual) history of the civil rights movement. Baldwin notes in this debate that:

If you walk out of Harlem, ride out of Harlem, downtown, the world agrees what you see is much bigger, cleaner, whiter, richer, safer than where you are. They collect the garbage. People obviously can pay their life insurance. Their children look happy, safe.

And while the garbage may be collected in our community in 2021, Baldwin’s old neighborhood hosts not one, but two DSNY depots, and the income and wealth gap among Americans has never been more acute.

For the full debate, see:

2nd Avenue Subway, Still Coming…

The governor has said that:

“We will further extend the Second Avenue Subway from 96th Street to 125th Street,” Cuomo said Thursday during his State of the State address. “That will open up the East Side all the way up to Harlem for new, exciting possibilities.”

Note, however, it’s unclear where the money is coming from, and what the new (post-pandemic) timeline is.

Nick Garber at Patch.com has more: https://patch.com/new-york/harlem/2nd-avenue-subways-east-harlem-extension-move-forward-cuomo

2nd Avenue Subway

The City reports that despite a budget crisis, the MTA continues to plan for extending the Second Avenue Subway into East Harlem. Even though the pandemic-spurred economic crisis has put the project back, the MTA continues to work with building and property owners to try to purchase sites needed for air shafts, emergency exits, subway entrances, etc.

The map below illustrates in orange, properties that might be acquired, and in yellow, the proposed 2nd Avenue subway line:

The agency has started taking steps to prepare for using eminent domain a last resort.

At its July board meeting, the MTA said it has begun the process of acquiring over a dozen properties along Second Avenue and 125th Street through “negotiated voluntary agreements,” according to agency records.

If agreements can’t be reached “in a timely manner,” documents show, the MTA must take preliminary steps under the state’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law to lessen the potential for future delays to the project.

For more on the story, see: https://www.thecity.nyc/2020/9/20/21446021/mta-property-second-avenue-subway-eminent-domain-transit

The 25th Precinct – Precinct Navigators

The 25th Precinct is looking for community volunteers to act as precinct navigators. All neighbors who volunteer will receive training and support. To learn more, please contact:

 Detective Darryl Lucas

 25th Precinct Community  Affairs

 Office: (212) 860-6526

 E-mail: [email protected]