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

Bitter Root Coming to the Big Screen

For those of us who are graphic novel/comic fans, it was exciting to hear that Regina King is going to directing an adaptation of David F. Walker, Sanford Green, and Chuck Brown’s Harlem Renaissance-set comic book Bitter Root for Legendary Pictures.

Set in the ‘20s, the book is about a family of monster hunters called the Sangeryes who are tasked with defending Harlem from supernatural threats.

You either get it and love it, or you don’t. We’ll see how the film adaptation turns out…

East Harlem Waterfront Connector

The often delayed (what, 2 or 3 years delayed?) East Harlem waterfront connector is now being visualized in a number of images from the city. This new connector is to help connect the waterfront of Manhattan and reduce the distance of on-street-detours.

Drugs and Children

I Walk on Water

Filmmaker Khalik Allah has a new film – IWOW: I Walk On Water – coming in at a massive 200 minutes.

As with earlier work, Allah returns to Lex/125 and films a hallucinatory portrait of the men and women of the M35, K2, mental illness, and homelessness:

Since 2011, filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah (Black Mother) has attracted global attention for his radiant portraits of the denizens of 125th and Lexington in East Harlem. In IWOW: I Walk On Water, Allah returns to the intersection as the foundation to explore personal narratives of intimacy, voice, memory, identity and personal transformation. 
Allah focuses his attention on longtime muse Frenchie, a 60-something schizophrenic, homeless Haitian man. Over the summer of 2019, Allah and Frenchie’s lives became increasingly intertwined—a relationship that Allah documents with radical, spiritual transparency. In parallel, Allah also turns the camera on himself to document a turbulent romantic relationship and grapple with personal notions of spirituality and mortality – all inquiries about which he gathers advice from charismatic confidants including Fab 5 Freddy, members of the Wu-Tang Clan, and, in deeply moving exchanges, his own mother. 
By questioning universal and personal inward dynamics, IWOW obscures the boundary between conceptual art and memoir. Sometimes painful in its vulnerability, often extremely funny in its candor, and always visually extraordinary, Allah’s one-of-a-kind, intimate epic is a contemporary rethinking of the diary film: Gordon Parks meets Jonas Mekas. 

March 9th, HNBA Meeting

Mark your calendars. On Tuesday, March 9th we’ll have 3 amazing presentations.

7:00 PM – We will have a Q+A with Kristin R. Jordan, who is a candidate for Council District 9 – [email protected]. In addition to giving us a sense of who she is and what her key platforms are, Kristin will address the burden that our part of the district bears with 2 sanitation garages, the M35 Bus, numerous homeless shelters, and the Lee Building’s infamous role as a regional methadone megacenter.

7:30 PM – Nicole from – rankthevotenyc – will help us all understand Ranked-Choice Voting that will affect us all in the voting booth this June and later in November, and beyond. If you have questions about ranked-choice voting, and how you can use this new form of voting to strategically vote for more than one candidate, Nicole will answer all. 

8:00 PM – Ray McGuire, will join us to introduce himself, and to present his plans for New York City’s post-COVID recovery. Ray was the first in his family to graduate from college and after Harvard University and a law degree, he worked on Wall Street for many years. Ray will introduce himself, his platform, and talk about his impressions of, and plans for East Harlem and New York City as a whole (he has spent significant time in our community, listening to business owners and neighbors at Ginjan Cafe, and knows many of our issues well.). Come out to learn more about RayForMayor.

Ray McGuire as a young man

Made in Harlem

Join the Maysles Cinema for free screenings of seminal documentaries on Harlem.

The films listed below are streaming (for free) from March 5-19. See the Maysles site for more details: https://www.maysles.org/madeinharlem202


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From These RootsWilliam Greaves, 1974, 28 min An exploration of the extraordinary artistic, cultural and political flowering that took place in Harlem during the “Roaring 20s.” This vivid portrait of the Harlem Renaissance is created entirely with period photographs. Narrated by the actor Brock Peters, with original music specially composed and performed by Eubie Blake, From These Roots is a winner of 22 international film festival awards.
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The Quiet OneSidney Meyers, 1948, 65 min.Considered one of the earliest docudrama films and one of the first mainstream American films to feature a Black child as its protagonist, The Quiet One follows a young boy named Donald and his transformation and adjustment after attending the Wiltwyck School for Boys. Nominated for two Oscars: Best Documentary Feature and Best Screenplay.
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The Torture of Mothers: The Case of the Harlem SixWoodie King, Jr., 1980, 52 min.In 1963 a group of young Black boys living in Harlem were involved in an incident that earned them the nickname “The Harlem Six.” Intent on protecting and clearing the names of their sons, several mothers bonded together to make their story known. This work emerges as a powerful close up of police brutality, and of power dynamics of 1960’s Harlem.
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A Dream Is What You Wake Up FromLarry Bullard and Carolyn Y. Johnson, 1978, 50 min..While using a documentary/drama hybrid style, filmmakers Larry Bullard and Carolyn Y. Johnson follow three Black families, one of which is living in Harlem, as they share their stories and strategize toward their survival. The film speculates across several time jumps and migrations to create a visual
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In The Face of What We Remember: Oral Histories of 409 and 555 Edgecombe AvenueKaren D. Taylor, 2019, 45 min.This documentary captures the story of two legendary buildings in Harlem’s Sugar Hill whose residents included W.E.B. DuBois, Elizabeth Catlett, James Weldon Johnson, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Louise Thompson Patterson, Joe Louis, Cassandra Wilson, and more.

Pre-Register for a COVID-19 Vaccine

The Manhattan Borough President’s Office is asking any Harlem residents who qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine, to fill out this form:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/B8ZG9LR

The Borough President would like to prioritize Harlem residents in the queue for vaccines, and this is asking you (if you qualify) to preregister using the link, above.

Token of Hope Inc. New York is working hard to connect the Harlem community to much needed resources and help. In partnership with the Manhattan Borough President Office, Token of Hope Inc. is collecting names of residents in the Harlem community in need of the vaccine.  This information will be provided directly to the Manhattan Borough President’s staff for expedition and attention. Please complete this survey as soon as possible to ensure that you receive service as the vaccine is available.

James E. Hinton – Recording Black Activism

The New Yorker has an amazing video of work by the photographer James E. Hinton who made his name memorializing some of the most prominent figures of the civil-rights era. Hinton photographed not only Black leaders of the time (athletes, artists, politicians, thinkers, musicians – including Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Muhammad Ali, Mahalia Jackson, and Miles Davis), but also left a huge body of work at Emory University that celebrates ordinary Black life in mid-century America.

Emory University notes that: James E. Hinton (1936-2006) was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He attended college at Howard University (Washington, D.C.) in the 1950s and served in the United States Army from 1960-1962. He studied photography with Roy De Carava at the Kamoinge Photography Workshop for African Americans in 1963. Hinton worked as a freelance photographer throughout the 1960s, capturing images of the Civil Rights Movement in cities such as Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; and Harlem, New York, and photographing unknown activists and foot soldiers in the movement as well as leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.; Stokely Carmichael; H. Rap Brown; and Huey Newton. He also photographed artists and athletes including singer Mahalia Jackson and boxer Muhammed Ali. In the 1970s, Hinton began working in film and television as a cinematographer and director. He was the first African American to join a cameraman’s union, Local 600 in New York City, and won an Emmy for his direction of WNEW’s program “Black News.”

The New Yorker has highlighted excerpts from two of Hinton’s films: “The New-Ark” and “May Be the Last Time,” that were digitized by the Harvard Film Archive, which holds a collection of Hinton’s work.

To watch this powerful record see:

https://www.newyorker.com/video/watch/an-unseen-body-of-work-shows-a-different-side-of-black-power

Patch Report on Vacant Storefronts

Nick Garber from Patch.com has a great, albeit depressing map of vacant storefronts along the 125th Street business corridor

Nick Garber notes:

All told, 42 stores sat empty along that stretch — not counting active construction sites or businesses that shut down during the pandemic but have pledged to reopen at a later date. That’s a rate of nearly one vacancy per block.

To see and read more:

https://patch.com/new-york/harlem/harlems-empty-storefronts-42-vacancies-along-125th-street

Chester Himes

After reading a collection of Chester Himes’ short stories and having previously read most of his novels, I was intrigued to watch the film Come Back Charleston Blue.

Come Back, Charleston Blue is a 1972 comedy film starring Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques, and is based on Chester Himes’ novel The Heat’s On. It is a sequel to the wildly popular 1970 film Cotton Comes to Harlem.

Come Back, Charleston Blue is great for a number of reasons but for residents of Harlem, the street scenes of our neighborhood in the early 70’s are fantastic (much of the film was shot in the winter of 1971/72 and snow abounds).

The viaduct under Riverside Drive:

Cars on Harlem Streets:

125th Street looking east from Lenox:

The Mosque on 116th Street:

And the National Memorial African Bookstore on 125th Street:

To watch the film:

The Silent March

In the 1970’s a back-hoe operator noticed scores and scores of film canisters and reels poking out of the soil where he was digging a new septic system:

The wet, dirty, and frozen film reels represented a trove of silent era films that the world had not seen for generations.

Dawson City in Canada’s far north was the end of the line, the last stop in the distribution chain of silent era films. Once everywhere else was finished with the films they ended up in Dawson City where they were stockpiled and the distributors refused to pay for their return (especially since they were, by then, 2 to 3 years old). The stockpile grew and grew. Some of the pile were dumped in the local river, some were burned. The trove that was found in the 70’s were used as fill to fill up a former swimming pool (along with soil) so a new hockey rink could be built atop the former pool.


Amid the more than 500 reels of film that were recovered was a short 28 second clip of the 1917 Silent Parade (or the Silent Protest):

Indeed if you’ve ever seen black and white film clips of the parade, you’ve likely seen part of a reel that was dug out of a former swimming pool in Canada’s arctic, after being buried for 60 years. (See: https://naacp.org/silent-protest-parade-centennial/ for more on the parade and its significance for American history.)

Here is the 28 second clip:

On July 28, 1917 W. E. B. Du Bois organized a parade of African Americans that ran down Fifth Avenue from 59th Street to 23rd Street. Dressed in white, and silent except for a muffled beat of drums, thousands marched in protest of the recent mob violence and lynchings in Waco, Memphis and East St. Louis.

NOTE: This clip originally appeared as part of Universal Animated Weekly, Vol. 5, Issue 83, released on August 1, 1917. In 1929 it was buried, along with 532 other film reels, in a defunct swimming pool in Dawson City, Yukon Territory Canada. It was unearthed in 1978 during a construction project, after being inadvertently preserved for 49 years in the Yukon permafrost. The exhumation of the collection was administered by the Dawson City Museum, and was then jointly preserved by Library and Archives Canada and the US Library of Congress, where the nitrate originals and duplicate safety copies of the collection are now housed. The clip was first excerpted for use in Bill Morrison’s 2016 documentary “Dawson City: Frozen Time” some 38 years after it was originally discovered. The Dawson City Museum, Library and Archives Canada, Library of Congress and the film “Dawson City: Frozen Time” should be credited in any re-use.

To learn more about the film trove and how important this collection is to both film history and history in general, see Dawson City: Frozen Time:

400 Miles to Freedom

If you’ve ever been curious about internal race relations within the Jewish community (in Israel and here in in the US), 400 Miles to Freedom is a great introduction. I’m including it here because of some wonderful shots of our neighborhood in the film:

400 Miles to Freedom (2012)

In 1984, the Beta Israel, a secluded 2,500-year-old community of observant Jews in the northern Ethiopian mountains, fled a dictatorship and began a secret and dangerous journey of escape. Co-director Avishai Mekonen, then a 10-year-old boy, was among them. 400 MILES TO FREEDOM follows his story as he breaks the 20 year silence around the brutal kidnapping he endured as a child in Sudan during his community’s exodus out of Africa, and in so doing explores issues of immigration and racial diversity in Judaism.

16mm Black and White Film of Count Basie Available on Ebay

A 7 minute 16mm film of the Count Basie orchestra is currently up for bids on Ebay.

For jazz fans this might be an interesting find.

Look at the piano he’s conducting from.

For more (and to place a bid) see: https://www.ebay.com/itm/283962234531?ul_noapp=true