Harlem, Cuba or Harlem, Montana

While looking on Ebay recently I came across a token from Halrem, Montana which led me to wonder how many other places are named Harlem, or Haarlem, for that matter.

The Dutch histories that link South Africa and Suriname are logical sites for Haarlem placenames. (Interestingly, under force in the 17th Century, the Dutch surrendered claims to Dutch North America – including New York and Harlem – for Suriname which was then controlled by the British)

But I had no idea that there were so many Harlems in the U.S.

The Harlem in Cuba, was perhaps the most shocking to me, but the others are fascinating as well.

To look up place names from around the world, see: http://www.maplandia.com/ which is worth visiting if just to see a classic, early 2000’s look and feel website (note the barely functioning banner ad, the cartouche buttons, and the use of ‘placemarks’ – a kind of ads-on-a-map naming possibility.)

Erasing Stone

This looks as if it might have been a costly mistake. A carved limestone cornerstone, detailing the founding of the church on West 128 at 5th Avenue:

When suddenly it was realized that it should read 1932, not 1952 as the ‘Organized’ date.

Whether or not the cornerstone was already cemented in, or the tweak was done before it was laid, nevertheless, someone carefully carved the “5” and tried to make it appear to be a “3”

Dutch New Haarlem

A 19th century sketch map of the Dutch colonial settlement of New Haarlem shows a number of interesting features.

Notice how the streets are oriented to true north/south, not on a ‘Manhattan-esque’ angle as they are now (based on The Commissioner’s Plan). Also, New Haarlem was centered around 122 and 2nd Avenue, not west along 125th Street. The Dutch village ultimately used the Harlem and East Rivers for most travel to/from other settlements.

As you can see below, there was a pond, centered on 125th street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues:

And a road, leaving for Spuyten Duyvel (Inwood) headed due north from the church farm land which was on the outskirts of the village:

Lastly, the churchyard and graveyard were around 125/126 and 1st Avenue, where we now know there is a burial ground of enslaved Africans:

Shoe Polish

If you’ve walked north on Madison from 125th Street you might have seen the faded ad on the side of an east-side building:

Looking carefully, you’ll see it’s an ad for shoe polish. The brand of which I can’t make out:

Shoe Polish

Improves your


Shoe Polish


Night Watch

If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, or been in an art history class, odds are that you’ve come across the painting Night Watch by Rembrandt. This famous painting shows a group of well off townsfolk who’ve assembled with weapons and a drum, to ostensibly keep the peace in their town.

The painting is, of course, a life-size puff-piece to celebrate the men at the center of power, their taste in clothing, their fancy weapons, and their bonds to one another.

What then, does this painting from 1642 have to do with Harlem? Well, at almost exactly the time when this painting was commissioned and completed by Rembrandt (take a look at the scale of it, below, under restoration), our Harlem created its own night watch to protect the inhabitants.

The members of the 1676 Harlem night watch were admonished to:

  • The whole or half corporalships, whose turn it is to watch, shall in the evening, at the hour of eight, upon beat of the drum, be in full number at the watch-house, shall place their sentinels, and take the necessary rounds: and shall not retire before the beating of the morning reveille; upon a forfeiture, fixed or to be fixed, of 3 guilders. 
  • Whoever neglects the watch without a lawful cause, or making the same known to his corporal beforehand, shall each time forfeit 6 guilders. 
  • Each watchman coming to the watch shall be provided with suitable side and hand arms ; also with sufficient powder and lead, upon forfeit of 3 guilders. 
  • The watch shall be kept quiet, without much calling or noise, upon penalty of 3 guilders. 


CB11 Report

Harlem neighbors,

Thanks to your feedback to the Mayor, some of our elected officials have taken action to address quality of life issues on 125th street and its vicinity.

Earlier this month, in Community Board 11’s Full Board meeting, City Council member Diana Ayala’s representative gave an update on the outcome of the Mayor’s visit on 125th street, as reported by Patch here on November 10 this year.

1) Arrangement was made for the street to be powered washed everyday unless temperature drop below freezing point (exactly where is unclear)

2) Increased density of police patrolling 125h street

3) Increased density of homeless services agents on the street

4) Extell on the Pathmark site has been requested to put on lighting on the construction site on their sidewalks to improve safety and discourage loitering

5) A handful of arrests have been made. Those related to K2 synthetic drug sale, were immediately released due to a loophole in the law. (Note they can’t say whether the arrests were due to long standing investigations or newly initiated ones)

6) A task force headed by Diana Ayala has been created to meet with relevant agencies to tackle this problem on an on-going basis. (note the meeting is currently not opened to public but is attended by community board leaders)

When asked what she thinks is the root cause of these problems, Ayala says it is due to homelessness, drug dealing, the drop-off of homeless shelter residents from Wards Island, and COVID. She said it is a long-standing problem and thus will take time to fix.
CB11 vice-chair Xavier thanked Robert Rodriguez and Brian Benjamin’s office to help get OASAS to show up to today’s meeting. Xavier also announced that a resolution for a moratorium of increase of harm reduction services in East Harlem will be on the agenda in the next full board on Jan 26.

Mayor De Blasio Toured 125th Street

The mayor toured 125th Street on Sunday to see how dire our quality of life issues are.

City Council Member Diana Ayala toured with the mayor.

Note that on Sunday the methadone clinics are closed and most of their client base uses their ‘take home’ allocation that is given to them on Saturday. So the mayor didn’t see the full extent of our issues.

Thanks to Uptown Grand Central for the photos!

The Bell

In the case of an emergency in 17th century Dutch Harlem, residents beat a drum. After nearly a century of this practice, the ‘old stone church’ – Harlem’s first church, located at 127/1st Avenue -acquired the first-ever bell in Harlem. Note the Graveyard indicated by the red arrow, and the churchyard immediately below it in this early 20th-century sketch map of the Village of New Harlem:

When this original church was demolished, the bell passed to the Elmendorf Reformed Church which you may know as one of the driving forces behind publicizing and advocating for the Harlem African Burial Ground project.

The bell that the Elmendorf Reformed Church now has was cast in Holland. Among other metals, it is said to contain “twenty dollars worth of gold and twenty dollars worth of silver,” according to an article in The Harlem Traveller of 1861.

The venerable bell which was cast in Amsterdam, Holland, expressly for the Harlem Church in the year 1734. It remains on display in the rear of the sanctuary, the archive area of the church.

The inscription on the bell reads: AMSTERDAM Anno 1734 ME FECIT.

About a quarter of an acre connected with the original church at 1st Avenue and East 127th Street became known as the “Negro Burying ground”.

The first documented African Americans in New Harlem were slaves purchased in 1664 by the village’s settlers, who used slave labor to work their expansive farms and help build and maintain the settlement. By 1790 a census tally of the Harlem district found 115 slaves working upper Manhattan’s farms and estates, roughly one-third of the population.

It is not known when African Americans were first interred at Harlem’s original village burial ground but at some point, the eastern end of the graveyard was designated for that purpose. By 1771 it was formally identified as the “Negro Burying Ground” on historical documents.

For more on the Harlem African Burial Ground project, see:




20 Reasons Why New York and New Yorkers are Awesome

TimeOut NY has a great list of 20 reasons New York, even in this time of crisis, is an awesome place to live. We all, I think, need to be reminded how incredible this place is, and this article is a timely reminder:


Vote for Love

Census Data from 1661: Multicultural and Multilinguistic Dutch New Haarlem

The first European colonists to arrive and settle in Harlem were strikingly diverse. The Dutch West Indies company that settled the village that would become New York City, focused on the robust accumulation of wealth as a primary objective and not on a monocultural populace. The earliest record of Harlem residents shows a variety of ethnic origins:


  • Daniel Tourneur
  • Jean Le Roy
  • Pierre Cresson
  • Jaques Cresson
  • Philippe Casier
  • David Uzille
  • Jacques Cousseau
  • Philippe Presto
  • Francois Le Sueur
  • Michel Zyperus
  • Jan Sneden

Walloon (Belgian)

  • Simon De Ruine
  • David Du Four
  • Jean Gervoe
  • Jan De Pre


  • Dirck Claessen
  • Michiel Janse Muyden
  • Lubbert Gerritsen
  • Meyndert Coerten
  • Aert Pietersen Buys
  • Sigismundus Lucas


  • Jan Pietersen Slot
  • Nicolaes De Meyer
  • Jan Laurens Duyts
  • Jacob Elderts Brouwer


  • Nelis Matthyssen
  • Monis Peterson Staeck
  • Jan Cogu


  • Adolph Meyer
  • Adam Dericksen
  • Hendrick Karstens

This list, of course, only itemizes white, European men. Children, women, Indigenous People, and African slaves, were not included in this 1661 census.

Jacob Lawrence Panel Discovered

Our neighbor’s blog: https://gothamtogo.com/the-met-discovered-a-missing-jacob-lawrence/ alerted me to this important mid-century Harlem artist and the stunning discovery of a ‘lost’ painting of his:

The Met announced the discovery of a painting by esteemed American artist Jacob Lawrence that has been missing for decades. The panel is one of 30 that comprise Lawrence’s powerful epic, Struggle: From the History of the American People (1954–56), and it will be reunited immediately with the series, now on view at The Met through November 1 in Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle. Titled by the artist There are combustibles in every State, which a spark might set fire to. —Washington, 26 December 1786, the work depicts Shays’ Rebellion, the consequential uprising of struggling farmers in western Massachusetts led by Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays; it protested the state’s heavy taxation and spurred the writing of the U.S. Constitution and efforts to strengthen federal power. The panel is number 16 in the Struggle series.

The painting has not been seen publicly since 1960, when the current owners purchased it at a local charity art auction. A recent visitor to The Met’s exhibition, who knew of the existence of an artwork by Lawrence that had been in a neighbor’s collection for years, suspected that the painting might belong to the Struggle series and encouraged the owners to contact the Museum.

The work will be specially featured at The Met and will also join the touring exhibition, organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), for presentations in Birmingham, Alabama; Seattle, Washington; and Washington, D.C., through next fall.


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:


The Mail

Harlem has had a mail system since 1673. In order for mail to travel, however, the road to Harlem to New York and beyond had to be finished, or at least made usable. Eventually, a monthly mail between New York and Boston was officially announced and the earliest letters set out on the first of January, 1673.

The novelty of the mounted postman reining up at the tavern at Harlem, with his dangling “portmantles,” crammed with “letters and small portable goods,” but tarrying only so long as necessary to deliver his mail and refresh himself and horse, added another to the sights and incidents which dutifully noted by all in town.

By-Mail Absentee Voting (Using the USPS)

After making your votes on the ballot, fold the ballot and put it in a smaller envelope. Sign and date the back of the envelope. Seal the envelope and put it in the larger envelope that is addressed to the Board of Elections. Mail or deliver your ballot to your borough Board of Elections office.

An absentee ballot must be postmarked by Election Day and must reach the Board of Elections no more than 7 days after the election to be counted.

To learn more:


And, to find your polling place:


The NYPD Wants Your Opinions

“Police and Community Working Together”

Your input is invaluable and your perspective is vital in assisting the Police Department in its efforts to reform and reinvent its policies. We have launched a brand new initiative to collect feedback from New Yorkers. We will incorporate what we learn into a plan of action to make the NYPD more transparent and fair for everyone. We want to hear all feedback. What is working? What isn’t working? How can officers better work with the community members they are sworn to serve? What are best practices we can replicate across the city? While in-person attendance is limited due to COVID-19, all meetings are streamed on Zoom and Facebook. The schedule is below along with the links to join and participate.

Wednesday October 28th in Manhattan North – Click here to RSVP

To join through Facebook, please visit : https://m.facebook.com/NYPD/

For more information click here: https://www1.nyc.gov/nypd/reformcollaborative

Thank you in advance for your help.

Phone Banking for the Election 2020

Join volunteers from around New York State as we virtually make calls to swing states for Biden+Harris. Now through Election Day.

New volunteers welcome! Click the link below to see the schedule and sign-up.


Nieuwe Haarlem > Lancaster > Harlem

Harlem has, since the Dutch settlement of Manhattan, been known by 3 names. Nieuwe Haarlem, Lancaster, and Harlem. The name Lancaster was imposed (unsuccessfully) by Richard Nicholls, the governor of New York, in 1666, during the brief period between May 1688 and April 1689, during which New York was part of the Dominion of New England, the territory was known in this period as the Province of New York.

His proclamation read:

That from and after the date of these Presents the said Town shall no longer be called New Harlem, but shall be known and called by the name of Lancaster; and in all deeds, bargains and  sales, records or writings, shall be so deemed, observed and written.

Richard Nicholls

A Tourist Guide’s Guide to 6 Must-See’s in Harlem

I confess I”m suspicious of any guide to our community that uses an image of Brooklyn in the chapter on Marcus Garvey Park, but nevertheless, this article did make me ask myself, ‘What are my top 6 Must-See’s in Harlem?’