Back at the turn of the 20th Century, the eastern part of East Harlem was a sizable Italian enclave. This photo intrigued me with the location, 1st Avenue:
In addition, one of the pushcarts – selling food, wares, clothing, etct. – had this address on it:
And indeed, the photo was taken close to 1st Avenue and 111th Street. While the great ads for rubs are long gone:
The telling detail that confirmed where the photo was taken was in the facade details of the upper stories (less susceptible to revision over the 110 years since):
Note the arches over the top windows and then the inset windows below, on the 2nd from the top floor. These details remain today:
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Ebay has a rare photo souvenir from The Palm Club at 209 West 125th Street. The tagline is ‘Where life begins at midnight’:
Note that in addition to “Our Own Evelyn Robinson” – the club’s house singer, a photographer is also mentioned (as is his studio at 10 Lenox Ave). 10 Lenox Ave. today is a church with residential above:
And the Palm Club is now a T-Mobile:
One explanation of why there’s a photographer listed on the front is that this item includes a photo of 4 Palm Club patrons in late-1950’s clothing. The photographer clearly took photos of patrons, then developed the film and got the print (in the souvenir cover) to the patrons. What makes the image wonderful is that this foursome appears to be mixed race, and are clearly two couples out on a date (note the hand-holding and smiles all around).
Lincoln Correctional Facility on Central Park to be Redeveloped
The building on Central Park North (110th Street) that began as a Young Hebrew Women’s Association facility back when much of Harlem was Jewish (and that eventually became Lincoln Jail), is now being offered as a development site by New York State.
With the governor’s emphasis on housing, it’s likely this site will be dedicated to affordable housing of some sort.
The original use of this building was as a purpose-built Hebrew “Y” that offered religious services and Hebrew classes, and much, much more. In 1917, a few years after the completion of its new eight-story facility on 110th Street overlooking Central Park, the New York YWHA was described as “the only large institution of its kind in America.” The description of the modern social center continued: “Besides being a most comfortable home for one hundred and seventy girls, the building is also a true center for the communal interests of the neighborhood; it houses a Commercial School, a Hebrew School, Trade Classes in Dressmaking, Millinery, Domestic Science, classes in Hebrew, Bible Study, Jewish History, Art, English to Foreigners, Advanced English, French, Spanish, and Nursing. There is a completely equipped modern gymnasium and swimming pool.” Serving both its residential population and the larger community, the YWHA became a full-service Jewish center. Housing both a synagogue and a swimming pool, the YWHA was nothing less than a “shul with a pool”.
Additional amenities included “musical salons” held on Sunday evenings and weekly dances for young women and men on the outdoor roof garden, which proved to be especially popular. The roof was also used during the summer for day care programs for “anemic and cardiac children, and the children of poor families.” The YWHA also sponsored summer camping, including hiking, canoeing, and all manner of sporting activities. Back in the city, athletics was fostered in classes in swimming, tennis, fencing, and so on. Dance was especially popular, being offered in several varieties. An employment bureau was provided for young women in need of jobs, and during World War I, the YWHA cooperated extensively with numerous war relief efforts. Finally, the earlier emphasis on immigrant adjustment was retained but from a more sympathetic point of view: “An important work to which a great deal of attention has been paid is the formation of Americanization Classes for Aliens, to help lessen the tragedy in the social evolution of the immigrants.”
Kioka Jackson, the president of the 25th Precinct’s Community Council writes:
Good Morning All,
It is my hope that everyone is doing well. Hope you guys are preparing for the Holiday, to purposely spend quality time with family and friends.
We are planning our last meeting of 2022. Yikes! 2022 is coming to an end. We started this year off with a literal bang – with one of our Officers being shot in the head by a stray bullet. We are thankful and lucky that he is alive and well sporting his long beard, still protecting and serving the East Harlem Community. We have so much to be grateful for but yet still so much work to do together to provide a safe community for all. So don’t bail out on me yet. One more meeting this year to go.
Come join us to discuss public safety concerns with not only our Commanding Officer and his team, but also with Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. Let’s show BP Levine some love and show up in numbers like last month. Riverbend—- STAND UP! Where yall at? Don’t fail me now. LOL! Love yall. Not just my Riverbend people – My East Harlem community Family come out and join us for our last meeting of the year. We will also have a few other guests as well.
Lastly, We are preparing for our Annual Toy Giveaway on December 20th. It will be held at the East River Plaza on 116th and Pleasant. Bring out a young person to receive some Holiday Cheer from the 25th Precinct Collective Body, East River Plaza associates, and friends. There will be some surprise pop up guests there too. Who might it be????? I can’t tell – you have to come out to see. If you would like to volunteer for the event please email me or call me (646-294-3906) If you know me…… Wherever and whenever there is music – I’m going to dance and sing. So if nothing less…. Come out and shake a leg, sing a holiday tune and spread happiness to anyone we grace with our presence.
Follow your dreams………
Patch.com Reports on Plans for Central Park’s ‘Gate of the Exonerated’
As always, this weekend we remember the men and women of Harlem who served in the armed forces. As many of us know, many Harlem service members had (and have) to fight discrimination within their ranks and their country, in addition to fighting the enemies of the United States.
The 369th, or Harlem Hellfighters, who fought in WW1 as the most decorated American soldiers in that horrific conflict, are memorialized in a small triangle of land, between the 369th Armory and the Harlem River Drive.
The simple obelisk – inscribed with the names of battlefields and battles, fought more than a century ago – did not appear until 2006, and even then was a copy of a 1997 obelisk that is located in Northern France where many of the 369th’s battles were fought.
The 171 members of the 369th Regiment (formed as the New York Colored Infantry Regiment)received the Croix de Guerre (Cross of War), and one member received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The 369th Armory was built in 1933 (but had taken over a decade to build) is now both home to the 369th Sustainment Brigade and a recreation center that the Harlem Children’s Zone uses and manages.
And, while memorializing this storied group of warriors is appropriately in front of the armory’s entrance, it’s telling that its location is not in Central Park, for example, where memorials to white companies are located.
The 107th Infantry memorial, dedicated on September 29, 1927, was located on the east side of Central Park because of its proximity to the Regiment’s Armory just to the east on Park Avenue. The soldiers of the Seventh Regiment’s 107th Infantry helped to break Germany’s Hindenburg Line of defense at the conclusion of World War I. The sculptor, Karl Illava, was a sergeant with the infantry and sculped this massive life-size bronze work.
Veterans of the 307th Regiment ceremoniously planted 16 oak trees in a small landscape at the end of the Mall, between 1920-22, just south of the Naumburg Bandshell. Each tree represented one of the regiment’s companies and was marked by a plaque with the names of the soldiers from that company who were lost in the war. Over time, some of the trees died or were removed, but the plaques remain. A large boulder provides an additional memorial, listing all the companies and the names of the members who died.
The Negro Soldier
The 1944 documentary Negro Soldier was commissioned by the United States Army to encourage Black volunteerism and address racial tension in the home front.
Frank Capra produced the film as a follow-up to Why We Fight.
Ephemeral New York has a great piece on the history and charm of Manhattanville:
The print of activity along the road from Central Park to Manhattanville is great – if for no other reason than it depicts goats hanging out in Harlem:
127th Street Contstruction
Artimus, the developers who are building the new commercial+residential on Park Avenue between East 126th and East 127th Streets, came to our February HNBA meeting and discussed their plans for the new building. As a follow-up, some additional questions were posed. Below are the questions and the answers, along with two different views of the building.
– Re: the blank wall facing the E. 126th Street side – it would be nice to apply a wall treatment that adds an enhanced architectural design to the wall – i.e. – a waterfall running down that wall (doesn’t have to be the full height) and have it lit with uplighting to make for an attractive look to the facade. Close off the lot with a nice iron fence could be quite appealing. It will be a brick façade with windows, and will have a design as per the attached elevation. As far as the HPD area, we also believe there will need to be something done to make sure that space is properly taken care of.
– Will there (or can there) be cameras all around the building? Especially the facing out towards the vacant lot. There will be 200+ cameras in the building between inside and outside and they will have full coverage of inside and outside including the vacant area.
– Please no billboards or painted murals on that wall – We don’t have any intention of doing a mural at this point.
– What type of landscaping will be incorporated? i.e. are you planting any trees? We will be planting trees wherever the city Parks Dept allows it.
– Will there be a 24-hour doorman? There will not be a doorman.
– Can you provide 360 degree renderings of the building? The renderings shown at the meeting really didn’t give us a clear view of the building. Include aerial views, too. Those we presented are the final renderings, but we have some elevations attached here to give better perspective.
– Lastly, do you know who owns the parking lot across the street from the building? Would love to reach out to the owner regarding upkeep. I do not know the owner across, we built the Corn Exchange, but are not working with the parking lot owner.
In 1990 Jennny Livingston released a documentary called Paris is Burning that revealed to theater goers the rich underground ballroom scene in Harlem during the 1980s.
The film focuses on one key venue for the ballroom scene – the Imperial Lodge of Elks at 160 West 129th Street – just east of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.
Where does voguing come from, and what, exactly, is throwing shade? This landmark documentary provides a vibrant snapshot of the 1980s through the eyes of New York City’s African American and Latinx Harlem drag-ball scene. Made over seven years, Paris Is Burning offers an intimate portrait of rival fashion “houses,” from fierce contests for trophies to house mothers offering sustenance in a world rampant with homophobia, transphobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty. Featuring legendary voguers, drag queens, and trans women—including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, and Venus Xtravaganza—Paris Is Burning brings it, celebrating the joy of movement, the force of eloquence, and the draw of community.
Today the space is no longer an Elks Lodge, but a church:
And, for a fantastic examination on how post-Civil War drag balls led to Harlem Renaissance era extravaganzas, and then to Voguing in the 1980’s, see this great article:
Harlem Lane was originally a trail that the Lenape people used to travel from what is now Central Park up to Inwood and The Bronx. This trail is one we travel today, but the name has changed (and the route somewhat modified) to St. Nicholas Avenue.
The Joyce Theater Foundation will reunite three tap superstars – Dormeshia, Derick K. Grant, and Jason Samuels Smith – to create the world premiere of The Mayor of Harlem, a celebration of and tribute to the trailblazing and iconic Black tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, performed by some of the world’s most breathtaking tap artists. The Mayor of Harlem will be available for streaming beginning at 8pm on Friday, May 21 through 11:49pm on Thursday, June 3. For more information and to purchase tickets ($25 per household), please visit www.Joyce.org.
Following their blockbuster 2019 engagement at The Joyce Theater, Dormeshia, Derick K. Grant, and Jason Samuels Smith, the spectacular artists of Tap Family Reunion, come together to direct and choreograph a glorious company of dancers in reimagining the life of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a groundbreaking tap icon and hero of his people, in the world premiere of The Mayor of Harlem. Robinson began dancing professionally as a young child, quickly establishing himself on the Black Vaudeville Circuit. It was not long before he became the first Black soloist to perform in white theaters across the country during segregation. Robinson faced plenty of stigma, even from his own community, because of Hollywood’s early casting barriers. Throughout his career and life, Robinson made the best of circumstances; an advocate who used his earnings to look out for and improve his community, which directly benefited from his generosity and his sacrifice. The Mayor of Harlem is created and directed with love, by Dormeshia, Derick K. Grant, and Jason Samuels Smith in celebration of National Tap Dance Day (May 25) and Bill Robinson’s Birthday. The entire production and performers embrace Bill Robinson as a symbol for equality and justice. The Mayor of Harlem features a collection of some of the world’s most outstanding tap artists performing today including Phillip Attmore, Christina Carminucci, Amanda Castro, Maurice Chestnut, Orlando Javier Hernandez, John Manzari, and Asha Yuille-Griffith accompanied by a live quartet of musicians led by Ryan Stanbury.
Walking along 5th Avenue a while ago (notice the bare branches) I wanted to photograph the plywood shroud over the Dr. Sims sculpture location.
You may recall that the sculpture celebrated a doctor who experimented on unanesthetized enslaved women, and after years of activism from many East Harlem women, the sculpture was removed and a plan developed to replace it.
Here is the new work – Victory Over Sims – that has been commissioned:
Vinnie Bagwell’s new work will replace the Sims sculpture.
Why I Took the Covid-19 Vaccine
By Geoffrey Canada
Six weeks ago, I received my second shot of the Covid-19 vaccine and I am now fully vaccinated. I cannot articulate the relief I feel knowing that I pose less of a threat to my wife, our children and grandchildren, and the community around me. I still wear my mask in public, but the fear that I might get sick and pass it on to my 91-year-old mother, who lives with me, is gone. I got vaccinated because I missed holidays with my family. There were funerals and graduations I couldn’t attend.
I did not decide to get vaccinated without reflecting deeply on the relationship between Black and Brown communities and the health-care system in the United States. However, I’m confident I made the right decision for myself and my family, and I’m sharing my thoughts with you with the hope that you will do the same.
The federal government has a history of exploiting Black and Brown people, and health care is no exception. In the 1930s, Black bodies were used as the equivalent of lab rats when the federal government decided to study Black people with syphilis in the Tuskegee Experiment, instead of treating them, and tracked them for 40 years without their consent. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman, unknowingly became the source of what is now known as the HeLa line. Her cells were, for many years, the only cell line that could reproduce indefinitely. They were used without her consent in a myriad of medical research projects worldwide, which still go on today.
But the Black community doesn’t have to look to the past to find reasons to view the medical profession with skepticism. Dismal mortality rates among birthing mothers still create a daunting childbearing experience for Black women and women of color. Breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer rates remain highest in our communities. You would be hard-pressed to find a person of color of a certain age who does not have a story of a medical encounter filled with micro-aggressions and substandard service and attentiveness.
Now we are being called to willingly inject a foreign substance into our arms — seemingly developed at lightning speed under an administration with a record of being dishonest and which was distrusted, with reason, by Black and Brown communities.
While acknowledging these reasons to feel cautious, I strongly encourage you to join me in receiving the vaccine and asking the community around you to do so as well.
We must look, just as critically, at what we have lost in the past year to the pandemic. Our community is under assault; we face the equivalent of war. I have lived through the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the war in Afghanistan. The number of Covid deaths in the United States is higher than the casualties of all these wars combined. As of March 2, 2021 the Latino community has suffered over 89,000 deaths. As of March 7, 2021 the Black community has lost 73,462 lives.
We know the heavy impact of Covid is attributed to several factors that cannot easily be changed. Our communities have high rates of chronic illnesses that make them susceptible to Covid’s worst complications. Many are employed as frontline workers and dwell in cramped living spaces, to name a few variables.
The post-traumatic stress we now have to combat from living through the pandemic will impact our communities for years to come. There is no way to normalize this amount of sickness, death, and loss. For too many of us, the suffering caused by Covid-19 is just beginning. Our children missed a crucial year of education, heads of households lost their jobs, and evictions still loom.
I think about how wealthy people, who had the lowest risk of illness and death because of their access to resources, have jumped at the chance to take the Covid vaccine. More than 109 million doses of vaccines have been administered nationwide as of March 15, and there is no evidence of vaccine-related deaths or serious injuries. People often report mild discomfort for a day or two after being inoculated, but I had no side effects. As more people get vaccinated, hospitalizations and the death toll are decreasing.
The government must make a concerted effort to make vaccines more accessible for communities of color. But it is also the responsibility of the people within our communities to advocate for the vaccine.
It would be a tragedy to see the virus recede among the wealthy and well-off yet still ravage our communities. To watch others going back to work, to school, and to family celebrations while Covid continues to devastate Black and Brown communities is my worst nightmare.
We will have to work hard to recover from the past year. First, we must stop this virus in its tracks. The safest, quickest, most effective way to do this is to get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible to do so, and encourage the people around you to join you.
Geoffrey Canada is the President and Founder of Harlem Children’s Zone.
YIMBY is reporting that 4 land trust developments are coming to East Harlem
This is one of those rare moments when affordable, seems to really be affordable.
And, On the Other Side of the Harlem Real Estate Spectrum…
A new condo at 145 Central Park North has 37 units, and all included a view of Central Park. “The unique shallow depth of the lot allows for floor-through apartments to optimize unobstructed views over the Park, as well as northern views toward upper Manhattan.” The facade on the building’s lower floors features a unique skin made of bronze segments which “relate to the height, rhythm, and texture of the neighboring residential buildings from the 1930s.” The top four floors of the building are wrapped in an all-glass skin.
Post pandemic theater is coming. Shakespeare in the Park will present the Merry Wives this summer.
The production will be a “fresh and joyous adaptation by Jocelyn Bioh… set in South Harlem amidst a vibrant and eclectic community of West African immigrants, Merry Wives will be a celebration of Black joy, laughter, and vitality. A New York story about the tricks of the heart, performed in the heart of the City.”
This version, according to the Times, will feature “Falstaff as an African-American seeking to woo two married women who are immigrants from West Africa.”
We only wish they’d come uptown and presented it at Marcus Garvey Park.