NYC is Greener Than Its Suburbs

(but you knew that)

Borough President Mark Levine highlighted an article in the NY Times that mapped energy usage (carbon footprint) on a district-by-district basis and showed the stark contrast between dense urban areas with many public transit options and car-centric suburbs:

East Harlem Featured in War Era Propaganda Film

An amazing film from 1945 promoting the democratic nature of mid-century public education. Students are seen addressing their ‘comrades’, and protest and activism is promoted. The result of the students’ work is shown to be the gleaming new projects in East Harlem.

The film is short, but you can jump to 18:26 to begin to see East Harlem students and street scenes. There are views of East Harlem from the FDR Drive, from above the Park Avenue MTA viaduct, and much more. Note the virtual absence of women, and the focus on the Italian East Harlem community.

The film was produced by the U.S. Office of War information, overseas branch. It is no. 8 in the American scene series. An Italian-language version accompanies the English.

https://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/objects/13235

See Stan Squirewell at Claire Oliver Gallery

Make sure to head over to the Claire Oliver Gallery (2288 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at 134th – www.claireoliver.com) to check out Stan Squirewell’s premiere solo exhibition.

Squirewell’s work examines who curates and controls the narratives that become accepted as history; from what perspective is history written, whose stories are told, and whose are neglected?

“As a child of the hip hop era, born in the 70s, growing up in the 80s and 90s, I look at my work as almost remixing, crate-digging, but my crates are museums, private collections, and historical narratives,” states Squirewell. “I remix my pieces according to my own way of writing history and who we are as people. My work exists as a veil between the spiritual and real world, it’s a bridge that offers a connection between the two.”

The works on display are founded on the concept of rebuilding identity using painting, photography and sculpture.

Squirewell uses found historic photographs of Black people, whose complex human identities have been erased either through time or through design, as a starting point. He then layers collage, painting and photography with each new element undergoing a ritualized burning.

Squirewell’s own family history has been a driving influence for the artist in his exploration of how we are taught simplified and singular narratives that disregard the complexities of contemporary identity.

Gym Equipment

There has been a lot of media coverage of the removal of gym equipment near the basketball courts in Marcus Garvey Park this past week. Even the New York Times has weighed in on the issue:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/22/nyregion/marcus-garvey-park-harlem.html

Back in January, the Harlem Neighborhood Block Association was invited to meet with the NYC Parks Commissioner about Marcus Garvey Park, and our request/vision for improving this amazing space. Our block association specifically asked (in writing) for:

…more support for the gym users near the basketball courts (a conversation about equipment or facilities, etc.)

and reiterated this in the Zoom call.

(if you cannot get behind the NYT paywall, you can read the text, here: https://www.thebharatexpressnews.com/its-gym-has-made-a-harlem-park-special-city-officials-tore-it-down/ )

Diversity and Origins

New Yorkers come from many different countries. Here is a map of the largest national groups to immigrate and locate in the 5 boroughs.

Below are the top 1-5 national groups in NYC:

And below is a map of the 6-10th largest national groups in NYC:

The clustering is fascinating, and note how Staten Island is not a destination for recent immigrants.

New York City is home to 3.2 million foreign-born residents, the largest number in city history, and immigrants comprise nearly 31.7% of the city’s population.14 The 10 nations constituting the largest sources of foreign-born residents are the Dominican Republic, China, Mexico, Jamaica, Guyana, Ecuador, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Bangladesh, and India.

Immigrants from each of these countries tend to be clustered in specific areas of the city. To name a few examples, a large Dominican community resides in Washington Heights (MN) and the South Bronx, while residents originally from China cluster in several neighborhoods such as Chinatown (MN), Sunset Park West (BK), Bensonhurst (BK), and Flushing (QN). Jackson Heights and Corona in Queens are exceptions, where immigrants from multiple nations live.

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdfs/wwl-plan.pdf

The Unforgivable Sin of the Safety Razor

In March, 100 years ago, The New York Times reported on how the safety razor was the enemy of the Harlem barber.

The barbers’ cartel was said to number (in Harlem) 3-500 barbers in 1911, and they called for a price fixing agreement:

In order to combat the owners of the safety razor, patrons asking for a haircut only (no shave) were to be charged $1. While a standard haircut was to be set at 25 cents with a 15 cent (straight razor) shave.

You can download the full 100 year-old article, below:

Odyssey House – Coming to East 126

Odyssey House is building (first knocking down) 52-54 East 126th Street and reimaginging it as a ~20 single unit supportive housing facility.

Graduates of Odyssey House programming will live on East 126th Street who have progressed beyond transitional housing. This new building will act more like a normal rental where tenants have individual and renewable leases. 

Odyssey House also said that this building will be staffed by two Odyssey House people 24/7.

Racist Coverage at The New York Times – 1911

While America’s “Paper of Record” is an invaluable source for exploring the history of Harlem and beyond, the deeply racist language found in the New York Times’ archives continues to shock.

Clearly, racially motivated discrimination and segregation has always been a part of the Harlem real estate market. Before the first decade of the 20th century, housing segregation was conducted on an ad hoc basis, by individual supers and landlords. As Black New Yorkers (and increasing numbers of southern refugees from racial terror) moved into more Harlem blocks, white residents and property owners began to organize and coordinate their segregationist behavior into compacts and agreements.

The offensive language used by the NYT like “menace” and “invasion”, was tightly interwoven with financial anxiety. Property values were mentioned in the sub heading, and used to both justify racial covenants and to describe the impact a multi-racial neighborhood would have on white property owners:

And, while we know that the work put into the organizations, alliances, agreements, and covenants failed, in the end, the cumulative impact was a self-fulfilling prophecy of overcrowded Black buildings, deprived of capital (improvements) with exorbitant rents. Without the ability to freely choose where they rented, Black New Yorkers were more easily exploited by Harlem’s landlords who could charge significantly more than they would have been able to charge white tenants who could rent in other New York neighborhoods.

The article concludes by essentializing Black New Yorkers as part of a “shifting and uncertain people”, in order to rationalize the white racial anxiety expressed in the article.

To read the original, see: