A Modest Proposal: Density

Gotham Gazette has a well thought out essay on how density should be a planning goal for our community in light of the 2nd Avenue Subway extension:

High-quality planning and significant upzoning could boost ridership on the new line and remake East Harlem into a place that more comfortably accommodates current and future residents–of all income levels. The New York City Department of City Planning, the MTA and its New York City Transit division, and NYCHA need to plan proactively and “think big” for the neighborhood’s future.

The first phase of the Second Avenue line (with stops at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets) serves the Upper East Side. This affluent district is characterized by large apartment buildings permitted primarily by R8 and R10 zoning. Major institutions like Hunter College and hospital complexes attract thousands of daily subway commuters. The first stops of the Q Line quickly attracted about 200,000 riders per day, and patronage is rebounding amid pandemic recovery.

This strong ridership was predictable. Upscale, high-density redevelopment of the East Side tenements has been a civic priority since the 1940s. Big, bulky apartment buildings are often frowned upon in NIMBY circles, but the vitality of the Upper East Side demonstrates the value of concentrating hundreds of thousands of people together in suitable housing near transit. The apartment buildings frequently have stores at the base and wide sidewalks. Many remaining tenement buildings have been renovated for higher-income renters. Population density of this type is one of New York’s enduring assets–and a key to its rebounding fortunes in the post-covid era.

Extending the subway line in East Harlem along Second Avenue between 96th Street and 125th Streets is a different story. The neighborhood’s threadbare low-rise tenements remain a dominant feature. Developers, due to redlining, ignored the area for decades. Overcrowded apartments, rent-burdened families, and building code violations in the area are well documented. The longstanding Puerto Rican and Black communities in the area have thrived despite widespread housing exploitation and poor living conditions.

The city and NYCHA redeveloped sections of the district since the 1940s, but these efforts have lost their luster. East Harlem retains one of the nation’s largest concentrations of “tower in the park” public housing. The iconic red-brick towers, built far below the allowable zoning envelope, were once a showpiece of the city’s social vision. Today, however, growing maintenance issues, because of limited capital and operating subsidies, have undermined resident quality of life.

Despite their Manhattan location and the Lexington Subway line running nearby, planners built the NYCHA housing projects at low-density levels with acres of lawn and surface parking. The local stations through which the current Lexington Subway runs (103rd, 110th, and 116th Streets) have modest ridership compared to stations below 96th Street. Very few NYCHA developments have stores at ground level, creating empty zones along major Avenues.

Read the full article, here:

https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/11193-east-harlem-nycha-second-ave-subway-housing-transit

New Art Exhibit

Make sure to head over to 2605 Frederick Douglass Blvd (at 139th Street) to AHL’s Space Uptown, for a new exhibit featuring a number of uptown artists, including our neighbor Buhm Hong:

https://www.aaartsalliance.org/events/space-uptown

The exhibit will continue until May 21.

Watch Blurring the Color Line

Blurring the Color Line is being shown at the Harlem International Film Festival.

Following director Crystal Kwok’s personal journey of discovery, BLURRING THE COLOR LINE digs deep into how her grandmother’s family navigated life as neighborhood grocery store owners in the Black community of Augusta, Georgia during the Jim Crow era.

This documentary serves to disrupt racial narratives and bridge divides.

To watch a conversation about this film see:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/16dtI5Ao4do8NYs0OMG8D4u2uDIUqImqn/view

And here is more about the film:

https://www.blurringthecolorline.com/events

Join Jane (Walking East/West Harlem)

Event Registration

Jane’s Walk 2022: A Great Day in Harlem: Crossing the 5th Avenue Divide

05/08/2022 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM ET

Admission

  • Free

Summary

Take your mother for a stroll around East and Central Harlem above 125th Street, straddling Fifth Avenue, the traditional dividing line between East and Central Harlem. Members of Landmark East Harlem (LEH) will introduce you to the treasures of the second historic district that LEH has proposed for listing on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Featured sites include 19th-century wood frame houses, Victorian-era rowhouses, landmarks associated with James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, former church buildings that have been given new purpose, and the brownstone stoop that served as the site of the iconic 1958 photograph of jazz musicians by Art Kane for Esquire magazine. A virtual live stream will be available on Landmark East Harlem’s Instagram channel: @LEH_NYC.

Free Concert in MGP

Gabriel Chakarji Group
Join us for a concert with an amazing composer and musician: Gabriel
Chakarji. As a Venezuelan immigrant in NYC, by linking together his
past and present, he combines contemporary jazz and improvised
music techniques, with elements of the rich Venezuelan music culture,
especially the African influences of rhythm and drum parts, call and
response, and the spiritual and social context of the music.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022 || 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

This event is FREE, but space is limited. To RSVP, go to jazzpf4.eventbrite.com
Pelham Fritz Recreation Center | 18 Mount Morris Park, New York, NY 10027
Located at 112th St. Phone (212) 860-1373

Traveling While Black

Make sure to visit the Schomburg Library before the end of the year to see the fantastic exhibit “Traveling While Black”. The Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Kevin Young notes:

Since the start of their experience in the Americas, Black people have been defined by travel, displacement, and resistance. 

Whether in the horrors of the Middle Passage or the rebellion of Maroon communities made up of escaped slaves, travel has meant much—and something much more—for Africans in the Americas. This exhibition, our first as we celebrate The New York Public Library’s 125th anniversary and the Schomburg Center’s 95th, explores over a century of travel. Moving from the Great Migration of African Americans north and west at the start of the twentieth century to the restrictions and resistances of travel in the Jim Crow South and the Jane Crow North, Traveling While Black examines a history of travel, from those who found themselves exiles within their own country down to the pilgrims and pleasure seekers of our time. 

War marks many of the peregrinations of the last century, often offering African American soldiers their first glimpse of other cultures beyond the United States. They returned with a new energy and renewed hope, whether in the offerings of jazz after the Great War, or the opportunities abroad for expatriates after World War II. The freedom that African Americans sought at home and fought for abroad they often found in travel. Returning Black officers and recruits started motorcycle clubs and organized tour groups, traditions that continue today. The somewhat open road and the mostly great outdoors provided Black sojourners with literal and emotional vistas to revel in. 

While confronting restrictions from Jim Crow laws and surveillance by would-be law enforcement agencies stateside, everyday travel meant obeying unspoken rules of the road. Domestic journeys involved ingenuity, often employing the Green Book, that guide for Black travelers developed in Harlem by Victor Green. Carry your Green Book with you…you may need it! reads one tagline for the guides. The Schomburg Center retains the largest and most complete collection of Green Books in the world; in many cases we hold the only known copy. But as any number of African American guidebooks found here indicate, from runaways to resorts, the idea of escape has had larger resonances for Black culture. Questions surrounding Black bodies in motion—whether driving, walking, or traveling while Black—still persist, asking us to consider the meaning of migration, movement, and freedom. 

—Kevin Young

It’s My Park Day

Kente Royal Gallery

Make sure to take a moment to visit the Kente Royal Gallery on ACP at 139 to see Elan Cadiz’s work on Scaffold: The Equality of Treatment:

https://www.kenteroyalgallery.com/gallery

The current exhibit there from

Scaffold: Equity of Treatment

2020 – ongoing

Scaffold: Equity of Treatment is about the importance  of self-reflection and preservation and how these very important practices need to be manifested  through  equitable treatment in our homes, communities and world. The use of the scaffolding is to symbolize the individual care and support we all need. Elan’s goal is to encourage discussions on self-reflection, self-love and practice in deciphering what we need as individuals and ways our systems of support can better meet these needs. 

Cadiz sees the Scaffold project as a kind of visual spiritual alchemy that challenges the viewer and subject to see themselves as a universal being made up of their experiences and understanding. The scaffold serves as a form of protection and support, it symbolizes the relationship between consciousness and matter within self. When we know ourselves and the kind of support we need, we can better ask of what we require  from the world in order to  bring satisfaction and harmony to ourselves and others. 

College Scholarships for Harlem Teenagers

If you know of a Harlem or East Harlem teenager who fits the criteria on the PDF (below), get them on it! MMPCIA has released their annual college scholarship application.

Community Fridge

126 West 134th Street

Harlem Link is hosting a Spring Fair

In The Heights

This note from Carolyn Brown, the head of our sister block association on Sugar Hill:

Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,
I wanted to alert you all to the wonderful ‘peoples’ showing of  Lin Manuel- Miranda’s musical IN THE HEIGHTS.  It’s showing outdoors in 5 different spots in Manhattan and in other boroughs.  And also in the beautiful theater across from the GW Bridge Bus Station.
It’s streaming on HBO MAX tomorrow, which is $14.00 a month but you can cancel it after. 
WHY WATCH IN THE HEIGHTS?This is the first award winning production of Lin Man.uel, a graduate of Hunter High School . I saw the Broadway version and apparently this one has been updated – about the Dreamers, gentrification of Washington Heights  – It begins with – ” I’ll tell you a story about Washington Heights and a block that’s disappearing.”  
The Broadway version featured a young Dominican girl who got into Stanford but flunked out because she ran out of money, had to get a job, and couldn’t keep up with her classes. She returns to the neighborhood ashamed to face everyone whose hopes were on her – they called her ‘The Genius’. And then she fails.  I don’t know if she remains in the story but it’s kind of like Harlem’s story. 
The dancing and music is spectacular – a combination of Salsa, Bolero, Merengue, Reggaeton – and the lyrics are so political.  The dance scenes in the middle of the street!!!!  And the swimming pool in Washington Heights. Hundreds of dancers!!! You’ll recognize all the spots. Superb!! Jimmy Smits is the father. A  family friend – Daphne Rubin Vega  from Panama – who played in the original RENT plays one of the grandmothers. You’ll recognize the taxi drivers, the Dominican beauty parlor ladies , the corner bodegas, etc. The shots of the GW Bridge are just amazing.
So – Be sure to watch it. I’ve been watching the trailers for several months just waiting for it to start. There are also some incredible interviews with Lin Manuel and several commentators explaining what a brilliant artist Lin is. He went to Hunter and he produced  Fiddler on the Roof , which some commentators say was one inspiration for the style of the musical. Also the West Side Story. This is a wonderful picture with a ton of excellent LatinX actors. It’s really something when you see your city on the big screen.
Here are some of the links:Trailers 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbyFM4dggCA&list=RDCMUCnIup-Jnwr6emLxO8McEhSw&index=2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0CL-ZSuCrQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa9jMTkN5Q4
Carolyn “You can’t walk down the street without running into someone’s BIG PLANS”

P.S. There’s  also a very political documentary about Lin’s father Luis Miranda. It’s called SIEMPRE LUIS, also on HBO. He came from PR, helped pull Latinos into NYC government and supported Letitia James for Atty Gen’l.  It’s about how he – after the hurricane hit Puerto Rico – arranged for Hamilton to be there to raise money for the restoration of the island It’s a beautiful  It opens with him in a doctors office having a check up after a heart attack!
His trailer is amazing too: https://youtu.be/WHttYJysAV8  Siempre Luis Attachments areaPreview YouTube video IN THE HEIGHTS “96,000” Song ClipIN THE HEIGHTS “96,000” Song ClipPreview YouTube video IN THE HEIGHTS – Official TrailerIN THE HEIGHTS – Official TrailerPreview YouTube video In the Heights Trailer #2 (2021) | Movieclips TrailersIn the Heights Trailer #2 (2021) | Movieclips TrailersPreview YouTube video Siempre, Luis (2020): Official Trailer | HBO

Tiny Gallery Opening – Odetta Gallery

A fascinating gallery has an exhibit on view:

Seth Callander, The Waters We Swim, 2020, wood, paint, glue, overall dimensions 9 h x 16 w x 24

Of tiny sculptures in a miniature display – Odetta Petite:

ODETTA, in response to the current paradigm, is excited to introduce a new exhibition space, ODETTA Petite. Replicating the gallery’s original Bushwick venue, Ellen Hackl Fagan and Seth Callander have created a scaled-down space to enable its artists to return to gallery exhibitions. The new space is 9H X 16W x 24L inches. With a touch of humor, Fagan’s channeling a combination of International Style and Wes Anderson, ala Alice in Wonderland.

As we navigate the uncertainties of the pandemic, we can’t help wondering what, if anything, will be normal again. What will be returned and what has been permanently lost? How can we maintain what we love and what does that look like now? These are the questions central to this, our present. This is a moment when the whole world is “at sea.”

Seth Callander’s installation “The Waters We Swim” is a direct response to the feelings of chaos, exacerbated by the lack of clear information, that our entire global society is engulfed in. We’ve all experienced frustration, loss, and confusion, as the months continue to roll on.
 
Callander’s abstract sculpture fills the Lilliputian gallery floor with a series of three constructions that, at scale, would be about 7 feet tall, 24 feet wide by 30 feet deep.
 
A visitor to a room the size of the original ODETTA would be surrounded by waves of the blue stained massive work, constructed in aluminum. In its diminutive presentation, his piece is as much a stand-alone site-specific installation as it is a proposal for monumental landscape sculpture.

In the rear of the gallery is a wire maquette titled “After the Wreck”. It is part of series Callander calls “My Father’s Work.” which are reflections of the work of artists from all disciplines that have been his primary influences.

This piece combines the work of sculptor John Chamberlain with Adrienne Rich, who wrote the moving collection of poetry, “Diving into the Wreck”. The piece will be realized in wood, and about 7 feet tall.

You can learn more about this project at Untapped Cities.

Leo Goldstein

The Bronx Documentary Center has a great online exhibit of the photography of Leo Goldstein. Goldstein photographed East Harlem in the 50’s and captured, in black and white, the gritty world that awaited many Puerto Ricans who moved to New York in the post-war era.

Goldstein belonged to The Photo League which was targeted by the FBI in the postwar witch hunt period as a subversive organization and forced to disband in 1951. However, Leo and a number of former members continued to meet at each other’s homes on a round-robin basis to show and critique their work.

For more of Goldstein’s work, see: https://www.laffbdc.org/leo-goldstein