It’s not often you link Harlem and 1970’s heavy metal, but a weird factoid popped up on of those LinkNYC screens the other day that noted that Gene Simmons taught (for six months) grade 6 in East Harlem before his band – KISS – took off in 1973.
From Our Georgia Correspondent
On a (very) different branch of the entertainment tree, Harlem, GA’s most famous son is emblazoned on their municipal water tank.
CUNY has come up with a somewhat pedantic restaurant guide for East Harlem.
They’ve covered most of the bases, but oddly have some restaurants that haven’t been open for 2 years now and others are located firmly in Central Harlem. It seems surprising that they didn’t check whether or not the restaurants were still in business, and you wonder if they really know the geography of East Harlem?
Nevertheless, it’s worth checking out to see if some of your old favorites are there, or if something new worth checking out is listed:
If you haven’t watched this short film (black and white, shot on 16mm film stock in 1948) you should, just to get a sense of East Harlem in the immediate post-war era.
Puerto Ricans and Italians make up the majority of the people (often children) filmed via small, hidden 16 mm film cameras. This unique record of East Harlem street life shows the joy and vibrancy found in one of Manhattan’s poorest neighborhoods.
Redistricting Changes to Harlem
The boundary between KRJ and Diana Ayala as it currently exists:
The proposed boundary for the next election cycle:
And the boundaries superimposed on the same map (note the color purple is the new proposed boundary whereas the blue line is the current boundary):
Here is the interactive map to test out. Move the slider at the top, left and right:
Dan, who presented on Redistricting at one of our spring HNBA meetings, writes:
I hope everyone is having a great week so far! As you all have likely seen, the NYC Districting Commission released it’s first draft maps of the proposed Council district lines on Friday. The folks at CUNY have uploaded these draft maps to their website Redistricting and You, to make it easy to compare the new proposed lines with the current districts.
The new maps made changes to districts all over the city. Some of the most impactful decisions the commission made were:
Staten Island – Staten Islanders lobbied hard to keep three full council districts on the island, without having any district cross-over to Brooklyn or Manhattan. The commission abided their requests. Staten Island was under-populated, so to accommodate this request the commission lowered the population maximum for every other council district in the city. This was done to ensure that every district met the legal criteria requiring no more than a five percent population deviation between the smallest and largest districts. The end results were that the three districts in Staten Island are substantially smaller than nearly every other district, and that the commission had much less flexibility with population sizes for the rest of the districts.
South Brooklyn – The commission united the Asian-American communities in Bensonhurst and Sunset Park, to create an Asian majority district. To do this, the map makers redrew several districts in southern Brooklyn, including changing CD 38 to include Bay Ridge, and moving Red Hook into CD 39.
Western Queens and UES – The draft plan creates a new crossover district uniting CD 26 with Roosevelt Island and parts of the Upper East Side.
Keeping neighborhoods intact – The commission united several neighborhoods that had previously been split between multiple council districts – for example Van Nest in the Bronx. Other neighborhoods currently intact in one council district got split, such as Hell’s Kitchen.
Citizens Union will conduct a closer analysis of the proposed map in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts on the maps. Please feel free to email [email protected] to share any thoughts or comments.
New Yorkers will have 30 days to look through these draft maps before the Commission takes comments. The next round of borough-specific public hearings will be on August 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 22ndfrom 4pm-7pm. This round of hearings will be critical in determining the ultimate council lines. If you are unhappy with the maps, we encourage you to testify; similarly if you like the new lines in your district, that is also very important to tell the commission.
To submit written testimony to the Districting Commission, please contact: [email protected]
If you’d like to read more, here is some recent press about the new maps, with more expected over the coming week:
The current show at MOMA’s PS1 – Greater New York – has a number of Harlem artists/images on display. One particularly great collection is a wall of photos from Hiram Maristany, who filmed the unrest and revolution in East Harlem during the Young Lords Era of 1969-70.
Maristany was born in East Harlem and became the official photographer of the Young Lords Party (founded in 1969). His photos of dental clinics, TB testing trucks, the Garbage Offensive, and the takeover of the United Methodist Church (Lex/111), have become the images of this period that captured the frustration, anger, spirit, and pride of the Puerto Rican residents of East Harlem.
The work will be up (in LIC, Queens) until April.
New Building – Park Avenue between 126/127
If you’ve been on Park Avenue above Metro-North you may have seen excavation underway for a new residential building. The building will be 18 stories, face Park Avenue, and have a couple of floors of commercial space below. Artimus is the general contractor.
For years, one of Harlem’s major flashpoints has been, and remains, the sale of Black churches. For many, the decline of a church and its sale, represents a dissolution of the Black presence in Harlem. For others, there is the loss of a cultural as well as religious space. Some focus on the material presence of the church – primarily as manifested in the architecture or interior decoration/design.
The Catholic church has undergone a remarkable shrinkage in the last few years. In 2007 the archdiocese decided to close or merge 21 parishes. Then, in 2014, the archdiocese — which encompasses Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, and seven other New York State counties — embarked on another deeper series of cuts, including parish closings and mergers. This striking consolidation was driven in part by financial constraints (partly due to the financial challenges of defending and paying out in sexual abuse cases. In other parishes, the changing demographics and dwindling church attendance influenced the archdiocese’s decision to close/or merge.
The consequence of all this is not only a surplus of buildings to be sold – Harlem’s 118th street St.Thomas Church (shown below) was sold and deconsecrated – but also a surplus of religious art and decoration, like the stained glass that once adorned St. Thomas’s facade windows.
In a warehouse on Staten Island, the Archdiocese of New York stores altars, statuary and other relics that can be reused in churches around the world. The 17,000-square-foot storehouse stuffed to the rafters with artifacts salvaged from scores of churches deconsecrated and sold since 2004. Known as the Patrimony Warehouse, the facility was established to preserve the sorts of relics that sometimes wound up in antique stores, the homes of parishioners or the trash.
In addition to storing sacred items like altars and incense censers, which according to canon law are permitted to be only in places of worship, the warehouse is a repository of secular artifacts like stained-glass windows.
The pieta (above) is one example of material rescued from St. Lucy’s Church in East Harlem after the church’s deconsecration in 2017. Laypeople are not permitted to shop at the warehouse, and there are generally no listed prices. When an artifact is transferred to a parish, the archdiocese typically asks for a donation commensurate with that parish’s means.
Since 2007, the number of parishes in the archdiocese has shrunk to 284 from 403. In that time, 30 churches have been deconsecrated for secular use in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, leaving 172 Catholic churches in those boroughs. And the consolidation continues.
Whenever possible, new religious homes are found for salvaged relics. In 2008, some 30 stained-glass windows from the imposing neo-Gothic Church of St. Thomas the Apostle on West 118th Street in Harlem, designed by the Mayer of Munich studio in Germany, were removed and reconditioned after a preservation campaign failed. Those windows were later installed upstate, in the new Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Church, in LaGrangeville. Other windows went to St. Brigid’s Church in the East Village.And last year, 14 smaller windows from St. Thomas depicting angels were shipped to a church in Taiwan. (As for the 1907 church complex of St. Thomas the Apostle, it was sold to Artimus Construction for $6 million in 2012; the church was truncated, and its remaining front portion now serves as a vaulted event space called Harlem Parish.)
Two of the most striking items in the warehouse are a pair of white-marble angels that once flanked the high altar at the Church of All Saints, on Madison Avenue and 129th Street. The splendid Italian Gothic Revival-style church, built starting in the 1880s after designs by the architect James Renwick Jr., is sometimes called the St. Patrick’s of Harlem — a reference to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, which Mr. Renwick also designed. All Saints is a city landmark, a designation that protects its exterior, but not its interior.
In 2015, the parish of All Saints merged with that of the Church of St. Charles Borromeo, on West 141st Street, and in 2017 All Saints was deconsecrated.
That’s when the Patrimony Warehouse came into play. After a church is deconsecrated and made available for secular purposes andpossible sale, canon law holds that all sacred relics and furnishings must be removed for use in other sacred edifices or stored in ecclesiastical custody. If the church’s altars cannot be removed, they must be destroyed.
After the deconsecration of All Saints, a comprehensive inventory of its valuable objects was made. Before disassembly, the component parts of large items like the high altar were carefully labeled, photographed and documented, so each artifact could one day be put back together like a giant, sacred jigsaw puzzle. Photographs and descriptions of each item were compiled in a binder that serves as a shopping catalog for warehouse visitors.
The dismantling of the church’s interior was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and finally completed early this year. Workers disassembled the great marble altar with power saws fitted with masonry blades. To reach the clerestory windows high above the pews, somefour stories of scaffolding were erected inside the church, and most of the stained-glass windows were taken out — over the objections of preservationists — and replaced with clear glass. The city Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the removal of stained glass and exterior sculptural masonry associated with religious imagery.
The altar and stained glass now reside in the warehouse. The 16-foot-high gilded crucifix is stored in crated sections, is shown, above.
“The pipe organ” — built by the Roosevelt Organ Works in 1892 — “was the last piece to go out” of the church, Mr. Amatrudo said. “It’s being reconditioned and will go to St. Paul the Apostle,” a church on West 59th Street.
In addition, a small wooden altar of sacrifice was sent to Moore Catholic High School, on Staten Island. The church’s richly carved pews, among the city’s most elaborate, went to a church in Chicago. And marble statues of Joseph and Mary landed in Bridgeport, Conn. (The All Saints complex, which includes an attached parish school and parish house, was sold in March for $10.85 million to the developer CSC Coliving. A modernization of the school and conversion of the church into a school auditorium, designed by Tang Studio Architect, is underway, and the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School plans to move into the two buildings next fall on a long-term lease.)
Back in the warehouse, Mr. Amatrudo is eager to use two darkly varnished vestment cabinets from All Saints to enhance his merchandise display. He has arranged the cabinets — neo-Gothic beauties made of quarter-sawn oak — in a felicitous manner in the entry chamber and plans to leave their doors open, filling them with vestments to make a good first impression on shoppers.
“These cabinets have style,” he said proudly. “So when you walk in the front door, this is what greets you.”
The January HNBA meeting will be virtual, and you are invited.
We’ll gather on Thursday, January 20th at 7:00 PM to hear from, and ask questions of, NY State Senator Cordell Cleare. If there is something you want Albany to do for you, or Harlem, here’s your chance to speak directly to our state senator.
In addition, we’ll have a brief presentation from the West Harlem Art Fund on Florence Mills, and the Art Fund’s effort to name the plaza in Historic St. Nicholas Park after her.
Make sure to invite a neighbor.
Click COMMENT (below) to request the Zoom link.
A number of scenes from the blockbuster film of the 70’s, Serpico, were filmed in East Harlem.
This site details them all and shows how the area around Pleasant Avenue, Rao’s, and Jefferson Park was crucial for a number of scenes.
Over-incarceration has not made Manhattan safer. Years of data and research have proven that incarcerating those charged with nonviolent and minor offenses leads to recidivism, and makes us less safe. Proven strategies to address the root causes of this behavior, such as mental health and drug and alcohol addiction, make us safer.
And with jail now costing a half million dollars per year just to house one person, reserving this tool only for those who commit truly violent acts allows our city to use those millions of dollars to prevent gun violence and focus on truly violent crime. Tellingly, for years, Manhattan has over-incarcerated relative to every other borough in NYC, and has higher crime rate (see charts).
Through his personal life growing up in Harlem and his professional life as a civil rights lawyer and prosecutor, DA Bragg has seen every side of the criminal justice system. He’s released his policies and guidelines for his office to deliver safety and fairness for all.
Here are key points:
Continuing to prosecute dangerous crimes – Safety is paramount. New Yorkers deserve to be safe from crime and safe from the dangers posed by mass incarceration. DA Bragg will be tough when he needs to be, but will not be seeking to destroy lives through unnecessary incarceration.
Not prosecuting minor offenses that have no impact on public safety – This will not only make us safer by not further destabilizing lives, it will also free up prosecutorial resources to focus on violent crime.
Increasing the use of diversion and evidenced-based programs in lieu of incarceration – Well-designed initiatives that support and stabilize people – particularly individuals in crisis and youth – can conserve resources, reduce re-offending, and diminish the collateral harms of criminal prosecution.
Reduce Pretrial Detention – Particularly given the ongoing crisis at Rikers, and drastic rise in deaths in custody, we must reserve pretrial detention for very serious cases. The data show that the overwhelming majority of those released pretrial do not commit a violent crime while at liberty. The data also shows that incarceration in and of itself causes recidivism, so unnecessary incarceration makes us less safe.
Limit Youth in Adult Court – Research tells us that prosecuting children in adult court can lead to recidivism, making us less safe. This should be reserved for only the most serious cases.
Limit sentence length – Research is clear that, after a certain length, longer sentences do not deter crime or result in greater community safety.
Actively support those reentering – Supporting those returning from incarceration reduces recidivism and makes our communities safer. Over half of people returning to the city from state prison end up in homeless shelters. Finding better supports for them will make us safer.
Invest in communities impacted by gun violence – Communities impacted by gun violence need additional funding for community-based programs to strengthen community bonds and to support vulnerable individuals.
Day 1 Memo – FAQ
1. Why did he make these changes?
Alvin Bragg was elected to deliver safety and justice for all. From growing up in Harlem and working as a prosecutor, he’s seen every side of the criminal justice system and one thing is clear – what we are doing now is NOT working. He released a plan to fix it. New Yorkers deserve to be safe from crime and safe from the dangers posed by mass incarceration. He will be tough when we need to be, but we will not be seeking to destroy lives through unnecessary incarceration.
2. What does the Day 1 Memo say about resisting arrests?
Answer: First, assaulting an officer is a felony crime that the DA will prosecute (and has prosecuted previously in his career). Our policy change states that people cannot be charged with resisting arrest as a standalone crime, or when resisting arrest for a non-criminal offense such as “disorderly conduct.” This means that if someone is charged with a genuine crime and resists arrest, they can be prosecuted.
3. What does the Day 1 Memo say about robberies?
Answer: Robberies are a serious offense and will continue to be prosecuted (and have been prosecuted by DA Bragg previously in his career). The memo instructs ADAs to make a common-sense difference between two very different types of cases: a person holding a knife to someone’s neck, and someone
who, usually struggling with substance use or mental health issues, shoplifts and makes a minimal threat to a store employee while leaving. We will not treat these cases equally. We will continue to charge those who pose a genuine risk of harm with violent felony offenses, but will not over-charge those who pose no genuine risk with the same violent felony offense.
4. Over the last couple of years, there appears to be more mentally ill people on the streets. How will your Office help?
Answer: We will address the root causes of this, working hand in hand with the Mayor’s Office and other agencies to invest in services, including supportive housing, to ensure seriously mentally ill people receive the services they need and to ultimately reduce crime in our communities. When those charged with crimes present mental health issues, we will find appropriate programs to address those issues, and not send them to jail where we know they will not get the help they need.
5. What charges will no longer be prosecuted?
Answer: All felonies will continue to be prosecuted, but we will not prosecute certain low-level misdemeanors that will not impact public safety, unless they are part of a larger felony case. These include: marijuana, fare evasion, some trespass cases, driving with 1 or 2 license suspensions, non- criminal offenses such as traffic infractions, resisting arrest for any non-criminal offense, prostitution, and obstructing governmental administration.
6. How will we address repeat shoplifting?
Answer: We will establish a taskforce to work with mom-and-pop business owners, cure violence providers, community leaders, advocates and law enforcement to develop community-solutions and support services to this serious issue.
Vote on Tuesday
If you live in the 68th Assembly District (Robert Rodriguez’s old district)
Until the late 19th Century, New York’s middle class identified with the single-family home – a house that was only occupied by one family (servants were not considered in this calculation). Part of this strong class identification with the single-family home was a reaction against the crowded conditions in the tenements of the time. Multiple-family dwellings were seen as “lowly”, and in response, developers of the 19th century covered farmland in Manhattan, Harlem, and Brooklyn with row upon row upon row of brownstones – a row-house compromise between the developers’ desire for density and the middle-class owner (or renter’s) desire for singularity.
The promotion of “French Flats” – what we would simply call apartment buildings – was only possible once the elevator not only came into existance, but was mass produced enough to make it economically viable for inclusion in a 6 story (or taller) residential building. With the elevator, middle-class (and wealthy) New Yorkers could be tempted to imagine themselves living in an apartment building with other families. In addition to elevators, perks like security, laundry facilities, central (steam) heating, garbage removal, etc. were heavily promoted as class signifiers and as tempting amenities for the apartment curious.
The first true apartment building in Harlem still stands on the corner of 120th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. The Washington boasted a number of amenities that were meant to signal high-class, leisure, and labor-saving.
Well lighted, ventilated rooms, elegantly decorated, cabinet finished, elegant gas fixtures, mirrors and cornices, private halls, refrigerators, dumb waiters, electric bells, speaking tubes, sanitary open plumbing, steam heat, etc., were all promoted heavily on the advertising copy. The apartment, at the time, listed as ranging from $600 to $1,200 (per year).
(Note the use of the adjective ‘elegant’ which today has been replaced by ‘luxury’ in real estate marketing.)
East Harlem in a Video Game
East Harlem is featured as a location in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Edition. The look of the video game is inspired by the movie Spider-Man: No Way Home. In Marvel’s Spider-Man game, you play as Peter Parker as he tries to balance his normal life with saving New York City from Mister Negative, who wants to unleash a new virus called the Devil’s Breath, while also having to deal with some of his iconic villains.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place after the events of the original game, and follows Miles as he tries to learn how to be a hero himself, while defending East Harlem from both the Tinkerer and the Roxxon Power Corporation. Both games feature many suits that callback to various points in each characters’ comic book history, and a lot of Easter eggs from both Spider-Man and Marvel lore. Being able to get both games at once now will be great for anyone that’s a fan of either Peter or Miles’s version of Spider-Man.
The Ultimate Edition of Miles Morales is available now as a Playstation 5 exclusive. You can check out the trailer for the new edition below.
With the 2nd Avenue Subway getting (theoretically) closer and closer to becoming a reality for East Harlem, it’s interesting to ask where does all the soil and rock that used to take up the space the tracks, tunnels and trains now occupy.
First of all, it’s important to note that Donald Trump held back funding for the East Harlem portion of the 2nd Avenue Subway for the entirety of his term. It was only when President Joe Biden and the Democrats passed President Biden’s infrastructure bill that New York finally had/has the funds to begin the East Harlem portion of the subway.
This is interesting given that Trump himself benefitted from the earlier Upper East Side section of the 2nd Avenue subway. First of all, a number of his properties on the East Side benefitted from the increase in accessibility and thus the value of the property itself. But, more interestingly, the Trump golf course that was built on the Bronx side of the Whitestone Bridge was made from some of the rubble from the Upper East Side portion of the 2nd Avenue Subway.
All those ‘features’ you see on the golf course – an attempt to mimic the windswept rolling landscape of coastal Scottland – were built by piling load after load of rock that was quarried below 2nd Avenue.
But what about other subways in our community? What happened to that subway rock that was removed so the trains could travel underground?
East Harlem’s other lines – stressed and desperately in need of the 2nd Avenue Subway – the 4/5/6 were constructed under Lexington and the rock and rubble from that construction went into New York Harbor to extend Governors’ Island to the south. The large (mostly) parkland area, furthest away from Manhattan, was built from 4/5/6 subway excavation material.
Rubble was not just used for golf courses and island expansion, the gorgeous Manhattan schist that gives the historic City College of New York’s buildings their black, sparkling look, was also material from subway construction. The digging of the 1/2/3 lines brought tons and tons of Manhattan schist to the surface and City College used this material to create some of the most impressive neogothic buildings in New York City.
Mulchfest 2022 will run from today through January 9. New Yorkers will be able to drop off holiday trees at one of 74 sites—35 are chipping sites—across the five boroughs, including parks and GreenThumb gardens. The trees are then chipped and recycled, and the mulch is used to nourish city trees and plants in every corner of the city.
During the chipping weekend—January 8 & 9—residents can bring their tree to a chipping site and watch their tree being chipped, and bring a bag of nutrient-rich mulch home with them. Weather-permitting, DSNY will also collect and compost clean trees left at curbs from Thursday, January 6, 2022, to Saturday, January 15, 2022.
Mulchfest, part of the New York City holiday tradition, encourages New Yorkers to make greening a family activity—turning holiday trees into mulch which can be used for gardening and to increase soil fertility.
Bring your tree to Marcus Garvey Park and give your tree a starring role in helping the community gardens of New York.