The MTA Wants To Hear From You

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Dear Valued MTA NYC Transit Customer,
Even in a global pandemic, we’re working hard to improve your experience with the transit system. As we plan for more customers to return, we need to hear from you, even if you haven’t used transit since before the pandemic began in March 2020. We’d like to get an idea about your concerns and travel needs, so that we can better meet and exceed your expectations.
The survey will be open 24/7 through Sunday, March 28, at 11:59 PM.
Finish the survey by then, and you can choose to be entered into a drawing to receive one of ten 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards or one of five 7-Day Unlimited Ride Express Bus Plus MetroCards.
Depending on how many subway lines and/or bus routes you choose to evaluate, the survey should take less than 15 minutes.
Take the survey.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us,

Sarah Meyer

MTA Chief Customer Officer

Harlem Sawmill

In 1639 the Dutch colonial authorities needed a steady source of lumber to build their mercantile city at the tip of Manhattan island. Harlem – a small coastal hamlet – at that time encompassed land as far south at 72nd street, and thus included the site of the Dutch sawmill that was erected in the northern forest lands. The site of the mill was located at what is now 74th Street and 2nd Avenue, and it was at this location that the Dutch company which controlled New Holland, sent a number of its slaves to work.

Enslaved Africans built New York, and it was their forced labor enabled the colonial Dutch to prosper.

For more on the Dutch and their use of enslaved labor, see:

Worrisome Harlem COVID Trends – Wear a Mask!

In East Harlem’s 10035 ZIP code, the positivity rate more than quadrupled from 0.37 to 1.53, and it more than doubled in Central Harlem’s 10030.

Here is the four-week testing data through Oct. 24 for the eight ZIP codes covering Harlem:

  • 10026 – Central Harlem (South): 38 positive cases, 1 death, 1.01 percent positivity
  • 10027 – Central Harlem (South)/Morningside Heights/West Harlem: 49 cases, 1 death, 0.69 percent positivity
  • 10029 – East Harlem: 112 cases, 0 deaths, 1.59 percent positivity
  • 10030 – Central Harlem (North): 34 cases, 0 deaths, 1.38 percent positivity
  • 10031 – Hamilton Heights/West Harlem: 101 cases, 3 deaths, 2.1 percent positivity
  • 10035 – East Harlem: 51 cases, 0 deaths, 1.53 percent positivity
  • 10037 – Central Harlem (North)/East Harlem: 15 cases, 1 death, 0.83 percent positivity
  • 10039 – Central Harlem (North)/Washington Heights (South): 23 cases, 0 deaths, 1.22 percent positivity

To see more, see:

And to see the data:

Give Us A Poem – Glenn Ligon

While the Studio Museum is currently not only closed, it’s actively under demolition (it will be rebuilt in the same location on West 125th Street as designed by the West African/British architect, David Adjaye), many of the artworks that museum-goers came to expect to encounter during a visit to the Studio Museum, are in storage.

One of my favorite pieces currently in storage is a neon work by The Bronx artist Glenn Ligon. This work called Give us a Poem (Palindrome #2), is built around an incident that occurred at Harvard in 1975, when Muhammad Ali had just finished a speech and a student in the audience asked him to improvise a poem: “Me/We” was the pithy verse Ali offered. Even then, at the height of the Black Power movement, it was an intriguingly opaque statement that could have been read as a gesture of solidarity between the black boxer and his white audience, or as an underlining of their difference. In Ligon’s work, the two words become a visual palindrome, of sorts–symmetrical top and bottom–and alternate being lit (white) and unlit (black).

Glenn Ligon is also well known for his works on paper and for years I’ve been fascinated with an early series of lithographs where he approached the issue of contemporary (self) identity as seen through the lens of 19th-century runaway slave notices.

Ligon’s series (in which the accompanying text are descriptions given by various friends who were asked to describe Glenn) powerfully combine the humorous with the terrifying.

All of this links to something I came across recently, the earliest known record of a Harlem runaway slave notice:

Whereas, there is lately a Negro Servant run away from his Master’s service, and supposed to be gone your way toward New England. These are to require all persons within this government and to desire all others, if the said Negro can be found within your liberties or precincts, that you forthwith seize upon and secure him, and cause him to be safely conveyed to this place, or to his Master, Daniel Tourneur, at Harlem, upon this Island. The Negro is big and tall, about 25 or 26 years old, and went away from his Master four or five days since. Given under my hand at Fort James, in New York, this 28th day of June, 1669. 


For more on Glenn Ligon’s powerful work, see:


Enslaved Africans in Dutch Harlem

Last year a number of major museums in The Netherlands began to cease using the term “Golden Age” to describe the 17th-century Dutch empire that included New Amsterdam, and the village that became Harlem. In particular, Dutch society has begun to wrestle with fact that much of the power and wealth centered in Holland during the 17th century was based on the transatlantic slave trade:

“The Western Golden Age occupies an important place in Western historiography that is strongly linked to national pride, but positive associations with the term such as prosperity, peace, opulence, and innocence do not cover the charge of historical reality in this period,” van der Molen explained. “The term ignores the many negative sides of the 17th century such as poverty, war, forced labor, and human trafficking.”

In the spring of 1664, for example, the landowners in Harlem travelled to New Amsterdam (the lower tip of Manhattan) to participate in a slave auction. James Riker, in 1904, notes:

The opening spring brought its share of work for the farmers. A shelter was needed for the young calves turned out to feed on Barent’s Island, and at a meeting held March 13th it was agreed to build on April ist. They also resolved to fence the gardens. Some of the inhabitants, in want of servants and laborers, seized the opportunity to buy a number of negro slaves, sold at auction in Fort Amsterdam, May 29th, by order of the Director and Council. They had arrived on the 24th instant, in the company’s ship Sparrow, from Chicago. At that sale were eager bidders, Johannes Verveelen, Daniel Tourneur, Nicholas De Meyer, Jacques Cousseau, Isaac De Forest, and even Jacob Leisler, himself, in 1678, enslaved by the Turks, and years later the champion of liberty! Verveelen bought a negro at 445 a., De Meyer one at 460 fl., and Tourneur another at 465 fl. These were probably the first slaves owned at New Harlem, and, strange as it may seem, the recollections of the living run back to the time when negro slavery still existed here.

For more on the Dutch role in the transatlantic slave trade see:

To see a visualization of the transatlantic slave trade, see:

To see a visualization of a transatlantic slave ship, see:

More on The History of Slavery in New York City

This article from Untapped Cities talks extensively about other New Yorkers who are deeply intertwined with New York City history and our history of slavery.

Realtime MTA Subway Data

If you ever wanted to know when the next train was coming, the new MTA map of the subway is for you.

Simply click on a station, and the map gives you ‘next train’ information. Below I clicked on the Lenox – 125th Street 2/3 station:

To test it out, use this link:

1619 and 1658

The New York Times and its 1619 Project has brought forward the centrality of Black Americans to United States history to many of its readers and beyond. The core thesis of the 1619 Project:

 “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of [The United States’] national narrative.”

But what about the centrality of Black Americans in the history of Harlem?

The founding document that established Harlem in 1658 included a reference to enslaved Africans (see the 5th item, below).

Ordinance for establishing a new village at the end of Manhattan Island (Harlem)

The director general and council of New Netherland hereby give notice, that for the further promotion of agriculture, for the security of this island and the cattle pasturing thereon, as well as for the greater recreation and amusement of this city of Amsterdam, in New Netherland, they have resolved to form a new village or settlement at the end of the island, and near the lands of Jochem Pietersen, deceased, and those which adjoin thereto. In order that the lovers of agriculture may be encouraged thereto, the aforesaid proposed new village is favored by the director general and council with the following privileges:

First, each of the inhabitants thereof shall receive by lot, in full ownership 18, 20 to 24 morgens of arable land, 6 to 8 morgens of marshland, and be exempt from tenths for 15 years commencing next May, on condition that he pay within the course of three years, in installments, eight guilders for each morgen of tillage land for the behoof of the interested, or their creditors, who are now or formerly were driven from the aforesaid lands, and have suffered great loss thereon.

Secondly, in order to prevent similar damage from calamities or expulsions, the director general and council promise the inhabitants of the aforesaid village to protect and maintain them with all their power, and when notified and required, to assist them with 12 to 15 soldiers on the monthly pay of the company, the village providing quarters and rations; this whenever the inhabitants may petition for it.

Thirdly, when the aforesaid village has 20 to 25 families, the director general and council will favor it with an inferior court of justice; and, for that purpose, a double number is to be nominated out of the most discreet and proper persons, for the first time by the inhabitants and afterward by the magistrates thereof, and presented annually to the director general and council, to elect a single number therefrom.

Fourthly, the director general and council promise to employ all possible means that the inhabitants of the aforesaid village, when it has the above-mentioned number of families, will be accommodated with a good, pious orthodox minister, toward whose maintenance the director general and council promise to pay half the salary; the other half to be supplied by the inhabitants in the best and easiest manner, with the advice of the magistrates of the aforesaid village, at the most convenient time.

Fifthly, the director general and council will assist the inhabitants of the aforesaid village, whenever it will best suit their convenience, to construct, with company’s Negroes, a good wagon road from this place to the village aforesaid, so that people can travel to and from it on horseback and with a wagon.

Sixthly, in order that the advancement of the aforesaid village may be the sooner and better promoted, the director general and council have resolved and determined not to establish, or allow to be established, any new villages or settlements before and until the aforesaid village be brought into existence; certainly not until the aforesaid number of inhabitants is completed.

Seventhly, for the better and greater promotion of neighborly correspondence with the English of the north, the director general and council will at a more convenient time, authorize a ferry and suitable scow near the aforesaid village, in order to convey cattle and horses, and favor the aforesaid village with a cattle and horse market.

Eighthly, whoever are inclined to settle themselves, or to have servants set up some farms there, shall be bound to enter their names at once or within a short time at the office of the secretary of the director general and council, and to begin immediately with others to place on the land one able-bodied person provided with proper arms, or in default thereof to be deprived of his right.

Thus done at the session of the director general and council held at Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 4th of March 1658.