Water Towers

Harlem’s wooden water towers – typically on buildings more than 6 stories – seem like a hold-over from another era. And, while it’s true that they’ve been in existence for over 100 years, they still provide 21st century apartment dwellers with reliable, and fully pressured water – even in the building’s upper stories.

The industry (building and maintaining water towers) has just three family-run companies – two of which have been operating for nearly this entire century-long history. While the number of water towers in Harlem is unknown, the city is estimated to have around 17,000 water tanks in total.

When indoor plumbing began replacing well-drawn water in the 1880s, tanks were placed on rooftops because the local water pressure was too weak to raise water to upper levels. This was especially the case when steel framing and elevators permitted the upward growth of commercial and residential buildings. The city enacted a law in the early 20th century that required that buildings with six or more stories be equipped with a rooftop tank and a pump to feed it.

About 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of water can be stored in the tanks. The upper layer of water is used for everyday use, with water at the bottom reserved for emergencies. When the water drops below a certain level, an electric pump is triggered and the tank refills. Gravity sends water to pipes throughout the building from the roof.

Without this passive pressure, a building would need to install pumps to maintain water pressure for residents that would run 24/7 (costly, and prone to maintenance issues). On the other hand, a water tank usually lasts roughly 30-35 years, can be built within 24 hours, and takes just two or three hours to fill with water.

The three companies that construct NYC’s wooden water tanks are: Rosenwach Tank Company, Isseks Brothers, and American Pipe and Tank. The wooden aspect of the tank routinely draws questions about whether or not wood is the right material for the job. Wood, turns out to be the most effective for the water tank’s job. Wood, for example, is better at moderating temperature than steel tanks. Steel tanks, while sometimes used, are more expensive, require more maintenance, and take more time to build. A wooden tank that can hold 10,000 gallons of water costs roughly $30,000. A steel tank of the same size can cost up to $120,000. And water stored in the wood will not freeze in the winter and stays cool during the hot summer months.

Eventually, the wood will (however) rot and will need to be replaced after 30-35 years. When wood tanks are built, they leak, but when they fill with water, the wood expands and forms a watertight seal. When people use the water, the level in the tank goes down. At a certain point, the pump is triggered, and this pump fills the tank again.

Truck Depot vs. 457 Units of Affordable Housing

City Council Member Kristin Jordan’s campaign that stopped the development of 457 units of affordable housing at 145th Street and Lenox Avenue, has resulted in the developer floating the idea of a truck stop instead.

Patch.com is reporting that after Jordan stopped the building of a mix of affordable and market-rate housing, the site may be used as a “rental depot for big rigs and trucks”.

“Given the proximity to several nearby highways and roads, we think it’s the perfect spot for them and we have received a lot of interest in this regard.”

If this comes to pass, Council Member Jordan may have not only stopped 457 units of affordable housing but may have inadvertently brought increased pollution levels and asthma rates to this corner of her district.

Health Fair on Saturday – 123rd and 3rd Ave.

Harlem Bazaar

This afternoon, take a moment to wander over to the Harlem Bazaar, the market held on the third Friday of the month from June to October, outside the State Office Building from 3 to 9 p.m.

Affordable Housing

The conversation surrounding affordable housing so often focuses on the distorted nature of New York City’s AMI calculations, what percentage of a given project will be affordable, and what an affordable rent really is. Much less common is a conversation with the developers who build affordable housing.

The Commercial Observer has a great interview with Lisa Gomez, the CEO of L+M Development Partners. L+M is currently building the new hip-hop museum in The Bronx (on The Bronx side of the 145th Street Bridge, and Sendero Verde, a 361-unit affordable project in East Harlem that will be built to passive house standards (between Madison/Park and 111/112).

Lisa notes how three main current issues are pushing affordable housing developers out of the market and into other forms of development:

…the expiration of 421a, a major development tax break; understaffed city housing agencies; and rising construction costs

To read more about how her company navigates between the simultaneous call for affordable housing from city council members with passionate anti-development reflexes, see the full article:


W.E.B. DuBois


A survey from City College

Dear Neighbor,
What would a healthy Harlem look like? What would it take to get there? Can you spare a few minutes to think about that question and share your opinions with us?
We would like to learn about the quality of life in Harlem. We will use the results from this survey to develop a plan of action to work together with residents and other community members to address the major health and community issues in Harlem. Our ultimate aim is to partner with the community to create a better and healthier Harlem for the sake of all who live and work here and our children. The survey is anonymous and voluntary and should take only no more than three to five minutes to complete. 
Link to Survey – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZRX52MJ
Thank you!
Your neighbors at The City College of New York and Billy Council.

Council Member Kristin Jordan Says “No” to 458 Affordable Apartments

Patch’s Nick Garber is reporting that Central Harlem’s council member Kristin Jordan has stopped 458 new affordable rental units from being built on 145th Street. The article indicates that a storage unit facility may be built on the site instead:


Bike Repair & BBQ

Saturday, June 4th / 11AM – 3PM

Join us for a FREE outdoor Bike Repair and Maintenance led by Bronx Messenger and Uptown & Boogie Bicycle Advocacy.

Bring your own bike [BYOB] – ask local bike mechanics and enthusiasts from Upper Manhattan and The Bronx, questions about commuting in the city, discuss biking with kids, bike touring, biking while menstruating and more.

Participants are welcome to work on their bicycle during the event.

Volunteer: Are you a bike mechanic or enthusiast and want to volunteer? Email [email protected]

Event Information:

Affordable Elder Housing

A new development at Park/110th Street is currently being planned. The Carmen Villegas Apartments will be a new mixed-use affordable elder housing building and house hundreds of seniors.

The adjacent Casita Park Apartments built in 2003 have an unused parking lot at the corner of Park/110th which will now be repurposed for the Carmen Villegas Apartments.

The new building, designed by Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP) and Terrain, will create new affordable housing, commercial/retail space, and community facility space. The project will serve low-income residents over the age of 62 and will be affirming to the LGBTQ+ population. It will also meet stringent standards for energy efficiency, sustainability, and resiliency.

The Carmen Villegas Apartments will set a new standard for non-profit affordable housing in the neighborhood and the city. It will be a model of design excellence, green and resilient building, and resident- and community-centered development.  The Public Art Initiative (#ArtatAscendant) will commission public art for the Carmen Villegas Apartments project that will highlight and honor the eponymous Ms. Villegas’ contributions to the East Harlem community.

2021 > 2022

Affordable Housing at Riverton Square

The affordable housing lottery has launched for Riverton Square, five 13-story residential buildings at 45 East 135th Street and 2156, 2181, 2171, and 2225 Madison Avenue in East Harlem, Manhattan. Overall, the Riverton Square complex consists of 1,229 units across 12 buildings with approximately 1,000 units designated as affordable housing. Available on NYC Housing Connect are 55 units for residents at 60 to 125 percent of the area median income (AMI), ranging in eligible income from $43,852 to $161,125.

Residents have access to 12 acres of park space, 24-hour security, on-site laundry facilities, a children’s playground with water features, a basketball court, assigned parking spaces, bike storage lockers, package lockers, party room, and a private community center serving school-age children and seniors of the property. Units have hardwood floors, sleek kitchen cabinetry and countertops, stainless steel appliances, and charging outlets with USB ports.

At 60 percent of the AMI, there are four one-bedrooms with a monthly rent of $1,279 for incomes ranging from $43,852 to $64,440.

At 80 percent of the AMI, there are six one-bedrooms with a monthly rent of $1,706 for incomes ranging from $58,492 to $85,920; and eight two-bedrooms with a monthly rent of $2,048 for incomes ranging from $70,218 to $103,120.

At 125 percent of the AMI, there are 20 one-bedrooms with a monthly rent of $2,050 for incomes ranging from $70,286 to $134,250; and 17 two-bedrooms with a monthly rent of $2,450 for incomes ranging from $84,000 to $161,125.

Prospective renters must meet income and household size requirements to apply for these apartments. Applications must be postmarked or submitted online no later than August 30, 2021.

Apply here:


New Amsterdam Musical Association

Located at 107 West 130th Street, the New Amsterdam Musician’s Association, is an example of Jazz Age Harlem that continues to this day.

NAMA’s MISSION STATEMENT: “To voluntarily promote and encourage the study and production of instrumental music in all the various branches; to draw together trained musicians in the State of New York, in a musical association for mutual intercourse and encouragement and to establish in the City of New York, a central meeting place for the instruction and for social intercourse between its members”.

In 1904, African American musicians were barred from joining the American Federation of Musician Local 310 (now Local 802), so they started their own union, and New Amsterdam Musical Association was born. The association was conceptualized by James Reese Europe and became a cultural reference point for jazz from the 1920s to the 1950s.

NAMA purchased the brownstone, which once served as a rehearsal space and boarding house for musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton, John Coltrane, and Max Roach among others.

Past notable NAMA members include Buster Bailey (clarinetist), Eubie Blake (pianist), Charlie Parker (saxophonist), William Marion Cook (composer, conductor), Rafael Escudero (tubist, bassist), James Reese Europe and Henry Minton (saxophonist and founder of Minton’s Playhouse) among others.

To learn more, and keep up to date on NAMA events, see:


Car-Free Party and Bicycle Ride

We are biking from Upper Manhattan (Down to Earth Market) to Brooklyn Bridge via Summer Streets and returning using the West Side Greenway to party in East Harlem.

The ride will include rest stops, art and food/drinks available for purchase along the route.
Biking Information:
Arrival Time: 9:00AM
Pedals Down: 9:30AM (to allow enough time to purchase items and arrival)
Miles: 20
Ride Time: Your own pace
Bikers MUST ride their own bicycle
Please note, this ride DOES NOT include a bike share and rain cancels ride.
Bring: water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, bike lock, cash / credit card
LocationDown to Earth Morningside Park Farmers Market
110th St. & Manhattan Ave
Register Now!

City Council 9 Results (Round 1…)


East Harlem Multifamily Project

The Real Deal is reporting that a new development with 34 affordable apartments will span between East 125th and East 124th Streets between 2nd and 3rd Avenue.

The building has been dubbed The Enclave.


Moore School

White Demographic Increases and Decreases: 1990 – 2016

The patterns of white New Yorkers since 2016 results in a fascinating map of our city. Downtown/central Brooklyn has seen the largest increases, as has Central Harlem.

Meanwhile the neighborhoods where white New Yorkers are leaving, tend to be on the fringes of the city, in lower density communities, and in Queens, in particular.


New Development for Park Avenue Between 126th and 128th Streets

CB11 approved a new proposed development in East Harlem that would have 2 new 17 story buildings, bringing 450 units of affordable housing. The location sits between 1775 Houses and AK Houses and would include retail space on the street level.

The developers – Tahl Propp Equities – currently own over 3,000 apartments in East Harlem. This development would be reserved for people with low and extremely low incomes.

To see which other buildings Tahl Propp Equities owns near you, see: https://therealdeal.com/new-research/topics/company/tahl-propp-equities/