Not 129, But…

A great photo of Harlem from 1946. Note how few trees there are on the streetscape:

The text on the back claims it’s on 129th Street, but the distinctive porches on the right (south) side are unequivocally Astor Row (West 130th Street).

It’s interesting to compare the tree cover 75 years later:

However, the text on the back of the photo shows that housing has (for generations) been a significant concern in New York City. The photo is up for sale on Ebay:

Meet Al Taylor, Tonight

Tonight at 7pm, please join our 1-on-1 discussion with Assembly Member Al Taylor who is running for City Council in District 9. He is trying to unseat incumbent Kristin Jordan and compete with Inez Dickens. This is also an excellent chance to advocate for safety, sanitation, and economic development for our district to an elected official. 

Register for the zoom call here.

Al currently serves as an Assembly Member of district 71, Inwood, Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights. In this district, he has worked on youth gun violence issues in NYCHA housing. Interesting to note that Al is a minister and he has voted against access to abortion and against LGBQT rights.

Housing Inequality

Harlem’s rate of homeownership is strikingly low. A new choose your adventure video game attempts to explore why housing in the U.S. has not fairly delivered housing-derived middle-class lives to many Americans, particularly people of color. This game explodes the larger American myth that homeownership can be achieved by anyone through hard work and smart decision-making. 

The game – Dot’s Home – was created by housing and community advocates and wants to reveal the illusion of choice and opportunity in the housing system. 

In “Dot’s Home,” players step into the shoes of Dorothea “Dot” Hawkins, a young Black woman living in her grandma’s house. The home, in a disinvested Black neighborhood in Detroit, is in desperate need of repairs. “Dot” travels back in time, via a magic key, to help her family make crucial housing decisions that will ultimately affect her own future. These decisions include whether her grandparents should invest in a shoddy house as their first home, and whether her parents should move away from their community  to the suburbs after their home in a public housing development is set for demolition.

But here’s the rub: In the game that is the American housing system, there are no great outcomes for a Black woman — just ones that are more or less bittersweet.

As Dot, players pass through different decades, each one highlighting a defining moment in history for Black homeownership: the Great Migration of the 20th century, urban renewal efforts in the 1990s, and finally, the 2010 foreclosure crisis that helped spur gentrification. Along the way, players navigate racist housing policies and predatory lending practices whose impacts reverberate across generations in real life.

“We wanted players to play the game and not necessarily empathize with Dot’s family but just to bear witness to, and accompany them through, these very intimate but consequential moments,” says Christina Rosales, housing and land director at the community organizing nonprofit PowerSwitch Action and a co-producer of the game.

By offering an intimate look at how housing discrimination affects one family, “Dot’s Home” aims to be relatable to its target audience — someone who knows these challenges first-hand, and whose experience is not unlike that of the team behind the game.

“This game is essentially made by people of color, for people of color,” says Rosales. “So it contains all of these intimate moments that are a reflection of the team’s own family histories and interactions with neighbors.”

The game, free to download through Steam, was recently featured at the Game Developers of Color Expo and was a 2021 Impact Award Nominee at IndieCade. 

We are often told, when it comes to housing, that we have a choice. We can choose where we want to live, we can make all these sacrifices and build our wealth. We are told that, if we just do the right things, we can have a prosperous life.  The developers wanted to have players explore that feeling of false agency and false choices.

Racial Bias in Home Valuation

Examining housing appraisals from Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2021, researchers found: 

  • 12.5% of appraisals in majority-Black census tracts came in below the contract price of the houses they assessed compared to 7.4% of appraisals in white tracts. For appraisals in majority-Latino tracts, 15.4% were valued lower than the contract price. For both Black and Latino areas, the percentage of undervalued appraisals increased as the white population percentage decreased. 
  • The undervalued appraisals occurred more frequently in Black and Latino tracts even when taking structural and neighborhood characteristics into account.
  • Racial gaps were found even when just looking at the race of the mortgage applicant as opposed to the neighborhoods the homes were in: 8.6% of Black applicants received appraisals lower than the contract price of the house, as did 9.5% of Latino applicants, compared to 6.5% of white applicants and 7.1% of applicants overall.

To read the full story:

Oh, and Co-Ops…

HNBA’s March Meeting with Wilfredo Lopez

Topic: HNBA Meeting
Date: Mar 8, 2022 10:03 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

You can copy the recording information below and share with others 

Passcode: .A19uC7n

Harlem Restaurants

So many New Yorkers, and out-of-town guests, for that matter, come to Harlem for the food. Eater recently put out their list of To-Try restaurants but one wonders how recent the intelligence is given that Mountain Bird (highlighted here) is listed while no longer in business.

Another quibble is that Chaiwali isn’t included, but I suppose it’s someone’s list, not mine.

$100,000 for First Time Homebuyers

NEW YORK—The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) today announced that the HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program will offer up to $100,000 to support qualified first-time homebuyers purchasing a home in New York City. The expansion more than doubles the amount of financial assistance available for first-time homebuyers and achieves a key goal of City’s Where We Live NYC fair housing plan to empower low-income New Yorkers with more housing opportunities in well-resourced neighborhoods.

Under the enhanced program, which takes effect today, the City aims to grow the number of homes affordable to low-income, first-time homebuyers, particularly in neighborhoods where housing prices place ownership out of the reach of low-income families.

“For too long, there’s been unequal access to homeownership, the largest wealth creator in this country,” said Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development. “This critical expansion of “HomeFirst” will serve to make New Yorkers more economically secure, our neighborhoods more stable, and a recovery for all of us more certain.”

“This major expansion of down-payment support is a big win for equity and diversity as it tackles one of the biggest barriers to homeownership for low-income families and families of color,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll. “Positioning more families to own a home, build wealth for their kids, and take ownership of their communities is a key strategy for achieving our vision of a more equitable New York City.”

“In minority communities, one of the only ways to build and transfer wealth is through the accumulation of equity in properties,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy. “As Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee, I am delighted at this new source of funding. We can come up with creative ways to support new homeowners, so HPD deserves praise for this new resource.”

HomeFirst offers financial assistance towards the down payment or closing costs of a home for first-time homebuyers of one-to-four-family homes in the five boroughs. Eligible applicants can earn up to 80 percent of the Area Median Income, or $86,000 for a family of three. HomeFirst participants must complete a homebuyer education course, contribute savings to the purchase, and live in their home for up to 15 years to receive the full benefits of loan forgiveness through the program. The Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City (NHS) administers the program on the City’s behalf, and it is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Pool Tournatment

Who shoulders the burden of housing disrepair?

Housing disrepair goes far beyond inconvenience or mess. Disrepair can harm health.

As a result of the segregation and disinvestment caused by redlining, Black and Latino people have less access to healthy housing. They are more likely to live in buildings that have health-threatening maintenance issues.

These disparities persist across income levels.

Black and Latino people have less access to healthy housing, but this isn’t due to higher poverty rates in these populations. Black and Latino people with higher incomes are also more likely to live in buildings with serious maintenance issues – further suggesting that racism is behind these disparities.

These healthy housing problems can’t be fixed by a little bit of tidying up – they stem from chronic neglect of maintenance by building management and landlords, and old housing stock in disrepair after decades of disinvestment.

And the disparities in access to healthy housing are related to real estate practices that maintain segregation.

To see disrepair by income:

Delta is Here! Get Vaccinated

Infant Deaths

How Calculated: 

Number of deaths occurring at less than 1 year of age in an area, divided by the number of live births among resident mothers of the area; expressed as cases per 1,000 live births. Infant deaths are restricted to those that can be linked to a birth certificate of a NYC resident mother and are mapped to the mother’s usual residence at birth. For more information about this measure, click here.

Source: New York City Bureau of Vital Statistics

Hot Sauce

Seen on 1st Avenue, between 109/110:

Someone attached a flame-cut sign that says “Hot Sauce”.

Youth Housing Summit

Victory Beyond Sims: A Community Report Back

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


Held virtually on Zoom


Through the Percent for Art program of NYC’s Department of Cultural Affairs, Vinnie Bagwell was selected as the artist to replace the J. Marion Sims statue with a new artistic piece titled Victory Beyond Sims. The COVID-19 pandemic halted progress on her work. The Committee to Empower Voices for Healing and Equity is sponsoring a community conversation where we will provide updates on the process and discuss the larger City effort to remove, remodel, or reframe controversial statues in NYC. Artist Vinnie Bagwell will be in conversation alongside writer and medical ethicist Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.


Harriett Washington
Author of Medical Apartheid

Vinnie Bagwell

Housing Units in New Buildings Since 2010


Harlem’s Jewish Past

The Jewish presence in Harlem before The Depression has given us a number of landmarked structures that have (often) since been converted into churches. One of the most elegant of these buildings is, of course, the Mount Olivet Baptist Church which was once Temple Israel.

But Jewish Harlem had more than houses of worship, they also had houses of amusement. This article from the New York Times details the construction of a new Harlem Yiddish Theatre:

Note the transition from a white church, to the First Colored Church, to a Yiddish theatre.

As the neighborhood changed, this building, 11 West 116th Street, would also change hands and become a church, again.

Today this location is a construction site where a residential building (with commercial below) is being built.

A few doors east – The Mount Morris Theater – would also start as a Yiddish theater and Harlem movie house, but by the 1930s, become probably the most popular of several Spanish-language movie houses in New York. Spanish-speakers from all over the city would come to “Spanish Harlem” to enjoy the stage and screen shows offered at the Teatro Campoamor, which would later be known also as the Teatro Cervantes, Teatro Hispano and Radio Teatro Hispano.

This former theater/movie house is now an Apostolic Church

Food Drive

Life Expectancy at Birth


Infant Mortality

New Home for Silicon Harlem

Silicon Harlem – currently located up at 148th Street – is going to have a new home, along with affordable and mixed income housing on West 126th street.

The project is called Balton Commons, and is a $19-million mixed-use development currently under construction at 267 West 126th Street. The seven-story building will have 4,500 square feet of tech incubator space managed by Silicon Harlem, 1,200 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, 1,350 square feet of community facility space, and 37 residential units of housing for residents between 30 and 90 percent of the area median income.

Designed by Aufgang Architects, the structure is being built to Passive House standards.

Residential amenities include a fitness center, a shared laundry room, bicycle parking, and common outdoor spaces. Units will come in a mix of 11 studios, 12 one-bedrooms, 11 two-bedrooms, and three three-bedroom units. Residents can expect self-regulated heating and cooling, and dishwashers. Some homes will also have private terraces.

Construction is expected to be completed by winter 2021.