Got the Itch?

Got the itch to do some spring cleaning? Then meet up with Uptown Grand Central this weekend to spring clean on a massive scale.

This Saturday, April 10, marks the kick-off of Uptown’s spring cleaning season, with the first of our warm-weather community clean-ups along the East 125th Street corridor. We’re glad to be doing it in partnership with the Sanitation Foundation (who, yes! know a thing or two about trash)!

It’s also the NYPD’s Graffiti Clean-Up Day (so we’ll be brushing up some artwork as well) and the beautification day for Art In the Park (in case you have a green thumb).

We’ll meet up at noon in the Uptown community space under the tracks at 125th Street & Park Avenue. Gloves, brooms and other supplies will be provided, so sign up here to help us get a headcount! Social distancing will be enforced. And most likely there’ll be snacks.

Where Does My Sewage Go?

Quick. Do you know where your sinks, bathtubs, showers, and toilets eventually empty? For most of us in Harlem, our sewage waste goes to Wards Island to the sewage treatment plant that was built in the 1940’s in the shadow of the Hellgate Bridge.

A 2013 plan to upgrade the facility is ongoing, but since the Public Works Administration built the Wards Island plant, your sewage flows (in a pipe) under the East River to Wards Island where in 8 hours, the solids are removed, the liquid cleaned, and the resulting clean water is put into the East River.

In the map above, any drain or toilet in the purple area, eventually gets to Wards Island.

Please note that you should never believe that anything labeled ‘flushable’ is indeed flushable. Do not put it in the toilet. Place it in a garbage can and take it out with the solid waste.

COVID-19 Positivity and Vaccination Rates for Harlem


Hover over a Zip Code or click on a line to focus on that particular data.

Nick Garber from has information on our community and the vaccine:

Latest Harlem vaccine data

  • 10026 – Central Harlem (South): 34 percent received one dose, 20 percent fully vaccinated
  • 10027 – Central Harlem (South)/Morningside Heights/West Harlem: 33 percent received one dose, 19 percent fully vaccinated
  • 10029 – East Harlem: 36 percent received one dose, 22 percent fully vaccinated
  • 10030 – Central Harlem (North): 28 percent received one dose, 16 percent fully vaccinated
  • 10031 – Hamilton Heights/West Harlem: 34 percent received one dose, 21 percent fully vaccinated
  • 10035 – East Harlem: 39 percent received one dose, 23 percent fully vaccinated
  • 10037 – Central Harlem (North)/East Harlem: 32 percent received one dose, 20 percent fully vaccinated
  • 10039 – Central Harlem (North)/Washington Heights (South): 27 percent received one dose, 16 percent fully vaccinated

West 124th Street Library

Landmarks has recently moved closer to landmarking the NYPL on West 124th Street on the north side of Marcus Garvey Park.

Completed in 1909 and funded by Andrew Carnegie, the branch “nurtured African-American cultural and intellectual life, especially during the Harlem Renaissance,” said Timothy Frye, the LPC’s director of special projects.

The library once housed the groundbreaking Rose McClendon Players theater group and is the only one of Harlem’s five Carnegie libraries that has not been designated a city landmark.

The beautiful limestone facade has faced the park for decades. High up, however, you might have noticed that there are 4 open books, carved into the limestone. While my photo (below) isn’t clear enough to show the books in detail, they are not blank books.

Each of the left-hand pages begins with the alphabet, has some text and: “This New York Public Library, No. 37, Will Contain Wholesome Books.”

The carving also includes “What Boy Cut Letters On These Pages To Give Texture To the Surfaces,” and “Why Does It Matter. Drawing The Whole. Lamkin Robson,” followed by however much of the alphabet would fit. The ending on the western-most book is ”Does It Matter? Drawing These, Patrick Clune. Where Does Reason Commence [Illegible] Does End.”

And there are more oddities. In some of the text on the left side of the spreads, you find the word ”Paddy,” in others ”Benny.”

East Harlem vs. UES

NY1 has an interesting article on disparities between East Harlem and the Upper East Side.

Below 96th Street, more than a quarter of all adults have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. 

Above it, about 13% are fully immunized — and there are fewer than half as many sites at which to get the vaccine, including sites at local pharmacies.  

In East Harlem, COVID death rates for the pandemic are more than triple that of the Upper East Side, according to city data. One of its ZIP codes, 10035, has the highest death rate in the borough. 

The map (below) is somewhat difficult to parse, but essentially the intensity of the red color indicates COVID-19 death rates, whereas the percentages shown in the 3 zip codes, indicates what percentage of residents have been vaccinated.

For the full article, see:

Bob Dylan

Many Harlemites don’t know that Bob Dylan lived in Harlem, on Strivers Row, for many years.

Bob Dylan owned the home for 14 years before selling it to its current owners in 2000. They purchased the house from the folk icon for just $560,000. The four-story townhouse at 265 West 139th Street

Richard Avedon took the (above) black and white photo of Bob Dylan on Nov. 4, 1963. The location is approximately 132nd Street and the Harlem River. The 22-year-old Bob Dylan is just south of the Metro-North Bridge between Manhattan and the Bronx, which crosses out of Manhattan at Park Avenue and 134th Street in East Harlem.

The black and white photo, of Dylan in jeans, a flannel shirt, and a battered guitar case, is often contrasted with Avedon’s next photo of Dylan, taken in 1965 along Central Park East, with Dylan wearing a fashionable long dark coat and tall leather boots and bearing a world-weary superstar’s look.

Click the following link to see the location from FDR Drive – showing the earlier photo’s location:

Lung Block

For many of the reasons that remain today (and are evidenced in the COVID-19 death rates among Black Americans vs. white Americans) in the 1930’s tuberculosis and pneumonia killed nearly twice as many Black Harlem residents as white New Yorkers.

By 1934 one Harlem block was deemed “Lung Block” on account of the widespread infection rates in this part of Harlem. The block was located between 142 and 143rd Street, and 6th and 7th Avenues.

Community Level Violent Crime and Incarceration Rates in NYC

It is interesting to compare the map above with the jail incarceration rate map, below.


Free COVID-19 Testing

Cayuga wants to get the word out that they are offering free COVID -19 testing at 2183 3rd Avenue on Monday, March 8th, 9:30-4:00

M11 DSNY Depot Coming

The M11 DSNY depot is coming to 127th Street at the Potamkin site. Site clearing has been done, and the project is underway.

Note that M10 (Central Harlem) already park their trucks under the Metro North Tracks, between 130-132. Our neighborhood will have two open air DSNY lots. Other, wealthier communities have combined, and enclosed facilities even though our community has some of the highest childhood asthma rates in the city.

We need Council Member Diana Ayala to fight for the funding for a consolidated, enclosed DSNY depot.

NYC Now Has a Vaccine Tracker

To see the live version:

Black Businesses

Plenty to celebrate during both Black History Month and all year long:

Head to Uptown Grand Central’s Small Business Guidethen Listings or Map, then select “Black-Owned” as your detail. More than 100 restaurants, retail, barbershops/salons and fitness/wellness businesses will pop up. You can also search by “Historic,” to find businesses that have been around for 25 years or more (such as our own Omo Sade Skincare, above).

Have a business to add? This guide was built for our community, so email UGC at [email protected].

Latest (Pre-COVID) Data II

As mentioned yesterday, one of the depressing things about looking at the data from the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) is that it repeatedly tells the same story – for decades, OASAS has packed substance abuse programs into Harlem and East Harlem; programs that wealthier and often whiter communities have successfully rebuffed.

One question often asked is who is behind the large opioid treatment programs (methadone) in East Harlem. The graph below shows that 3 of New York City’s largest methadone providers (in red) are located here, in our community:

As mentioned yesterday, OASAS has exploited the weak political resistance in Harlem and successfully lied to the community by repeatedly stating that programs in Harlem were for our neighbors, our family members, or our colleagues. The chart below shows where men and women being treated in East Harlem come/commute from to get treatment here:

Note that the largest number of non-East Harlem residents who come here for substance abuse treatment travel from Westchester and Long Island.

Time to Check Your Voter Registration

Nothing shows someone you care more than making sure your voter registration information is up to date (maybe that’s just me!).

Valentine’s Day is the last day to update your voter registration information for citywide elections. To make sure the Board of Election receives your request, it’s best to check your information TODAYClick here to check your voter registration information!

If you plan to vote by mail, it is especially important that you check that your address is current. Additionally, only voters registered as Democrats in Manhattan can vote in the Democratic Primaries, including for Manhattan DA (June 22!), so make sure to confirm your party affiliation.

Now, will you spread the love and ensure your friends will be eligible to vote for a better, more fair Manhattan, too? Forward this email along!

(Thank you to Tali Farhadian-Weinstein for this timely PSA)

Latest (Pre-COVID) Data

One of the depressing things about looking at the data from the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) is that it repeatedly tells the same story – for decades, OASAS has packed substance abuse programs into Harlem and East Harlem; programs that wealthier and often whiter communities have successfully rebuffed.

OASAS has exploited the weak political resistance of Harlem elected officials, and the generosity of spirit in Harlem, both of which permitted OASAS to successfully lie to the community by repeatedly stating that programs in Harlem were for our neighbors, our family members, or our colleagues.

The data, however, shows unequivocally that opioid treatment programs in East Harlem are not used by East Harlem residents. They are used by men and women who have to commute into our community because our political representatives do not have the spine to demand local, small-scale treatment programs in all New York City neighborhoods.

Only 18% of the men and women you see lined up to get methadone in our community, live in East Harlem. The rest commute here.

This big lie, told by OASAS and repeated by our elected officials, can also be seen in the graph, below, which shows how the capacity of opioid treatment programs in East Harlem far, far exceeds even our community’s addiction rate.

This tremendous gap between the size of the programs in East Harlem and our addiction rate shows how programs in East Harlem were not built for East Harlem residents, they were built to serve people who live in other communities.

The data presented here is from March 1st, 2019 to February 28th, 2020 (just before the COVID pandemic took hold).

New York State Senator Brian Benjamin Sponsors a Harlem COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall

Dear Neighbor,
This pandemic has been hard on the country and has been disproportionately deadly to Black and Latino populations. Additionally, people of color in America have historically been subjected to severe medical mistreatment. So, it is only natural that some of our neighbors may have fears and reservations about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. I am committed to ensuring that our community knows that the COVID-19 vaccine is: Here, Safe, Effective, and Free!
It is essential and life-saving for those in our community to be sufficiently informed about the vaccine, especially the most vulnerable among us, and for those in our community to have equal and equitable access to the vaccine. To inform you and to answer your questions about the vaccine, please join me and a panel of medical experts, government leaders, and a few of our Harlem neighbors who have taken the vaccine for a “Harlem COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall.” The event sponsors and I are doing this to ensure that our community is not left behind or left in the dark regarding this vital, life-saving tool to counter COVID-19.
Join us to receive accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine, so we can all play our part to help our community to be healthy and safe.
WHEN:Friday, February 195:30PM
WHERE:ZOOMTo RSVP, register at

Brian A. BenjaminNew York State Senator

Black History Month And Two Pandemics

200 years ago, the population of New York was 123,706.

Electron Microscope Scan of Smallpox

10,086 of those New Yorkers were a mixture of free or enslaved Black New Yorkers or just over 8% of the city’s population. (New York City was, 200 years ago, home to the 4th largest Black population in the United States. Only Baltimore, Charleston, and Washington DC had larger Black populations.)

Exactly 200 years ago, a pandemic also swept through New York City. At that time the pandemic was caused by a disease we don’t typically think much of anymore (it was last observed in 1979, and now only exists in bio-lab stockpiles), but is both deadly, and rapidly spread – smallpox.

394 New Yorkers died in this wave which, when compared to the city’s total population, was an exceedingly small 0.3% of people residing in the city. What the number 394 doesn’t convey is that 113 of those 394 smallpox victims were Black New Yorkers. This means that 29% of the New Yorkers who died, were Black. And while this outbreak of smallpox killed only 0.2% of white New Yorkers, it killed 11.2% of Black New Yorkers.

By comparison, the latest estimate of the national death rate of our current pandemic – COVID-19 – in the US is 1.7% as reported by Johns Hopkins University:

According to the CDC, Black Americans have 2.8x the death rate from COVID-19 that white Americans have. The racial disparity in health outcomes (and in this case the disparity in death rates) as shown in the 1821 data has persisted for hundreds of years. And, while the gulf between white and Black COVID-19 death rates is less than the gulf that existed in 1821, the very fact that a racial disparity exists at all is a national disgrace.

America needs to prepare to exit the COVID-19 era with a clear mission to not only prepare for the next pandemic but to simultaneously fight for equal health outcomes for all who live here.

No country with our resources should be willing to passively accept the stain of racial disparities in health outcomes in the 21st century.

The Atlantic has an article on the last person known to have smallpox before it was declared eradicated in 1979.

Biden/Harris and MLK Weekend of Service

Volunteers wanted to help distribute masks in the community:

Join volunteers across New York as we honor the legacy of Dr. King and celebrate the Biden+Harris administration with a day of service to distribute masks to those in need and educate our neighbors about Covid-19 and its vaccine.

This event has two options. Please sign up for one or both:

Daytime – In-person volunteer opportunity. 2-hour volunteer shift (10am, 12pm, 2pm). Sign up to distribute masks and materials in a socially distanced manner to your community. Masks and resources will be provided by our team and shared with you so you can distribution them to NYCHA residents, seniors, families, restaurant workers, and commuters in your local neighborhood.

Evening – Virtual educational opportunity (6:30pm – 8pm) Hear representatives from the Dept of Health present an update on Covid transmission rates by zip code and information about access to the vaccine for your community:

Mount Sinai Methadone Program Conversation

Join The Greater Harlem Coalition on Thursday next week for a conversation with Mount Sinai who runs the methadone programs in the Lee Building (125th Street and Park Avenue). The Zoom Town Hall will be at 7:00 PM. Click here: To Register

East Harlem Vaccination Site Coming

Patch’s Nick Garber reports that the Mayor has said that East Harlem will be the side of a large-scale vaccination center.

Rabbis, Mean Streets, and Disney

East Harlem has always been a melting pot. I came across this recently and wondered what was now located on East 103rd Street.

The site is located next to the beautiful stone MetroNorth tracks and a trio of stone arches (one for cars, two for pedestrians) but is now a park run by NYRP. The New York Restoration Project – started by Bette Midler – got co-sponsorship from the Disney Corporation for a park overhaul.

Both the former yeshiva and the current Disney park bracket the mid-century life that Piri Thomas brought to the printed page in

his novel Down These Mean Streets which takes place right here, on East 103rd Street – across from the abandoned yeshiva, and before the Disney park.