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definition - East_Harlem

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East Harlem

Spanish Harlem redirects here. For the song, see Spanish Harlem (song).
East Harlem
—  Neighborhoods of New York City  —
Country United States
State New York
County New York
Population (2000)
 • Total 117,743
 • White 7.3%
 • Black 35.7%
 • Hispanic 52.1%
 • Asian 2.7%
 • Median income $21,480
ZIP code 10029, 10035
Area code(s) 212, 917, 646

East Harlem, also known as Spanish Harlem and El Barrio, is a section of Harlem located in the northeastern-most area of the New York City borough of Manhattan.[1] East Harlem is one of the largest predominantly Latino communities in New York City, mostly made up of Puerto Ricans, as well as a rising number of Dominican and Mexican immigrants.[2] It includes the area formerly known as Italian Harlem, in which the remnants of a once predominantly Italian community remains.

East Harlem has the highest violent crime rate in Manhattan.[3] The area is patrolled by both the 23rd Precinct and the 25th Precinct of New York City.[4] The neighborhood suffers from many social issues, such as the highest jobless rate in New York City, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, drug abuse, homelessness, and an Asthma rate 5 times the national average.[5] It has the second highest concentration of public housing in the United States, closely following Brownsville, Brooklyn.[6]

The neighborhood, all of which lies within Manhattan Community District 11, is bounded by East 142nd Street along the Harlem River to the north, the East River to the east, East 96th Street to the south, and Fifth Avenue to the west.[5]

El Barrio is notable for its contributions to Salsa music. It is also the founding location of the Genovese crime family, one of the Five Families that dominate Italian organized crime in New York City as part of the Mafia (or Cosa Nostra).[7][8]



  East 116th St storefronts often represent El Barrio's Hispanic population.

Manhattan Community District 11, which covers East Harlem in its entirety, is a mostly low and moderate income area. It is made up of first and second generation Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, Italians and a growing population of Mexicans, West Indians, Dominicans, Asians and Central American immigrants. It has one of the highest concentrations of Puerto Ricans in all of New York City. In the 2000 Census, 52.1% District describe themselves as of Hispanic origin, 35.7 as Black Nonhispanic, 7.3 as White Nonhispanic, 2.7 Asian and Pacific Islander Nonhispanic, 1.7% as Two or more Races Nonhispanic, and 0.5% as other. By New York City averages, the youth makes up a larger than normal percentage of the East Harlem population with 30.6% of residents age 18 or younger.[5]

93.6% of all housing units are renter occupied, and over 25% of the population resides in public housing units managed by the NYCHA. 46.5 percent of the population receive a form of income support by the government.[5]

According to the 2010 study, East Harlem as well as Harlem has witnessed a small, but very surprisingly significant numbers of Asians, primarily Chinese growing. This is due to outrageous increasing rent prices in Lower Manhattan's Chinatown. Many Chinese have moved into public and subsidized housing developments in the area. Advocates have been calling for Chinese language services to be available in the community centers to accommodate the growing Chinese residents in the area and not have to travel all the way down to Lower Manhattan's Chinatown for services.[9][10][11]


The construction of the elevated transit to Harlem in the 1880s urbanized the area, precipitating the construction of apartment buildings and brownstones. Harlem was first populated by German immigrants, but soon after Irish, Italian, and Eastern European Jewish immigrants began settling in Harlem. In East Harlem, Southern Italians and Sicilians soon predominated and the neighborhood became known as Italian Harlem, the Italian American hub of Manhattan. In 1895, Union Settlement Association, one of the oldest settlement houses in New York City, began providing services in the neighborhood, offering the immigrant and low-income residents a range of community-based programs, including boys and girls clubs, a sewing school and adult education classes.

Puerto Rican immigration after the First World War established an enclave at the western portion of Italian Harlem (around 110th Street and Lexington Avenue), which became known as Spanish Harlem. The area slowly grew to encompass all of Italian Harlem as Italians moved out and Hispanics moved in during another wave of immigration after the Second World War.

In the 1920s and early 1930s, Italian Harlem was represented by future Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in Congress, and later by Italian-American socialist Vito Marcantonio. In certain areas, particularly around Pleasant Avenue, Italian Harlem lasted through the 1970s. Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the first Italian feast in New York City, is still celebrated every year in East Harlem. Italian establishments still exist, such as Rao's restaurant, started in 1896, and the original Patsy's Pizzeria which opened in the 1933.

  Wagner Houses, one of the many low-income housing projects in East Harlem.

East Harlem was one of the hardest hit areas in the 1960s and 1970s as New York City struggled with deficits, race riots, urban flight, gang warfare, drug abuse, crime and poverty. Tenements were crowded, poorly maintained, and frequent targets for arson. In 1969 and 1970, a regional chapter of the Young Lords which were reorganized from a neighborhood street gang in Chicago by Jose (Cha-Cha) Jimenez, ran several programs including a Free Breakfast for Children and a Free Health Clinic to help Latino and poor families. The Young Lords coalesced with the Black Panthers and called for Puerto Rican self-determination and neighborhood empowerment. Today the Latin Kings are prevalent in East Harlem.

With the growth of the Hispanic population, the neighborhood is expanding. It is also home to one of the few major television studios north of midtown, Metropolis (106th St. and Park Ave.), where shows like BET's 106 & Park and Chappelle's Show have been produced. PRdream.com, the 12-year old, award-winning web site on the history and culture of Puerto Ricans, altered the cultural landscape of East Harlem with the founding of its new media gallery and digital film studio called MediaNoche in 2003. MediaNoche (www.medianoche.us) continues to present technology-based art on Park Avenue and 102nd Street, providing exhibition space and residencies for artists and filmmakers working in new media. They regularly web cast events and PRdream.com continues to collect oral histories and conduct screenings.

Major medical care providers in the East Harlem area include Metropolitan Hospital Center, North General Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital, which serves residents of East Harlem and the Upper East Side. Many of the graduates of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have pursued careers in public health initiatives critical to East Harlem, including the battle against asthma, diabetes, unsafe drinking water, lead paint and infectious diseases.

  In Media



  • Patricia Cayo Sexton's book Spanish Harlem: Anatomy of Poverty (1965)
  • Piri Thomas's memoir Down These Mean Streets (1967)
  • Salvatore Mondello's novel A Sicilian in East Harlem (2005)
  • Nora Roberts's novel Salvation in Death (2008)
  • Ernesto Quiñonez's novels, "Bodega Dreams", "Chango's Fire" (Vintage 2000), (HarperCollins, 2005)

  Notable people

  E 110th Street, named after musician Tito Puente.


The education system in East Harlem is defined by low test scores and high drop-out and truancy rates.[13] Students must pass through metal detectors and swipe ID cards to enter the buildings.[14] Nevertheless, since 1982 the community has been home to the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.[15] It replaced Benjamin Franklin High School, which had the smallest graduating class in the city at the time of its closing.[16]

Among the public charter schools in East Harlem are Success Academy Harlem 2 (of Success Academy Charter Schools), the Harlem Village Academy, and the DREAM Charter School.

  Social issues

Social problems from poverty, crime to drug addiction have plagued the area for some time. Although crime rates have dropped from the historically epic numbers of the past, East Harlem suffers from Manhattan's highest violent crime rate with 15 murders in 2011.[17][18]

East Harlem has the highest concentration of shelters and facilities in Manhattan, with 8 homeless shelters, 36 drug and alcohol treatment facilities and 37 mental health treatment facilities. It also has the highest jobless rate in the entire city, as well as the city's second highest cumulative AIDS rate. The Asthma rate is also 5 times larger than national levels.[5] The neighborhood also suffers from a high poverty rate.[19] Union Settlement Association is one of the neighborhood's largest social service agencies, reaching more than 13,000 people annually at 17 locations throughout East Harlem, through a range of programs, including early childhood education, youth development, senior services, job training, the arts, adult education, nutrition, counseling, a farmers' market, community development, and neighborhood cultural events.

  Fresh food

  Associated Supermarkets grocery on East 116th Street.

A lack of access to healthy food causes serious hardships to citizens of East Harlem, a neighborhood considered to be a food desert. According to an April, 2008 report prepared by the New York City Department of City Planning, East Harlem is an area of the city with the highest levels of diet-related diseases due to limited opportunities for citizens to purchase fresh foods.[20] With a high population density and a lack of nearby supermarkets, the neighborhood has little access to fresh fruit and vegetables and a low consumption of fresh foods. Citizens of East Harlem are likely to buy food from grocery stores that have a limited supply of fruits and vegetables, which are often of poor quality and generally more expensive than the same products sold at supermarkets. Compared to the Upper East Side, supermarkets in Harlem are 30% less common.[21] Without access to affordable produce and meats, East Harlem residents have difficulty eating a healthy diet, which contributes to high rates of obesity and diabetes[22]

  La Marqueta public market entrance.

Recently, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer announced a program which would send Veggie Vans to East Harlem senior centers and housing projects.[23]

  Housing and recreational facilities

After a wave of arson ravaged the low income communities of New York City throughout the 1970s and "planned shrinkage" policies, many of the residential structures in East Harlem were left seriously damaged or destroyed. By the late 1970s, the city began to rehabilitate many abandoned tenement style buildings and designate them low income housing.

Despite recent gentrification of the neighborhood, large numbers of apartment buildings have been deliberately kept vacant by their owners. Although the businesses on the ground floor are retained, landlords do not want to have the trouble involved in residential tenants. In some cases, landlords are waiting for a revived economy, warehousing the apartments so that they can hopefully rent them at a higher rent in the future.[24]

In 2007, a survey of Manhattan’s buildings that found 1,723 were significantly vacant, three-fourths of them north of 96th Street. A 1998 survey found that one-quarter of low-rise residential buildings on avenues or major cross streets in East Harlem had sealed-up residential floors, despite having commercial businesses on the ground floor.[24]


Until 2006, property values in East Harlem climbed along with those in the rest of New York City. With increased market rate housing, including luxury condos and co-ops (most built on formerly vacant lots), there has been some decline of affordable housing in the community. A number of young professionals have settled into these recently constructed buildings. However, East Harlem has yet to see any major changes to its demographic and general feel.[13]

  Land use and housing

East Harlem is dominated by public housing complexes of various types. There is a high concentration of older tenement buildings between these developments. Newly constructed apartment buildings have been constructed on vacant lots in the area. The neighborhood contains the highest geographical concentration of low income public housing projects in the United States. The total land area is 1.54 square miles (4.0 km2).[25][26]

  Low income public housing projects

  Metro North Plaza Houses
  Jefferson Houses

There are twenty-four NYCHA developments located in East Harlem.[27]

  1. 335 East 111th Street; one, 6-story building.
  2. East 120th Street Rehab; one, 6-story rehabilitated tenement building.
  3. East River Houses; ten buildings, 6, 10 and 11-stories tall.
  4. Edward Corsi Houses; one, 16-story building.
  5. Gaylord White Houses; one, 20-story building.
  6. George Washington Carver Houses; 13 buildings, 6 and 15-stories tall.
  7. Governor Dewitt Clinton Houses; six buildings, 9 and 18-stories tall.
  8. Jackie Robinson Houses; one, 8-story building.
  9. James Weldon Johnson; ten, 14-story buildings.
  10. Lehman Village; four, 20-story buildings.
  11. Lexington Houses; four, 14-story buildings.
  12. Metro North Plaza; three buildings, 7, 8, and 11-stories tall.
  13. Metro North Rehab; seventeen, 6-story rehabilitated tenement buildings.
  14. Milbank-Frawley; two rehabilitated tenement buildings 5 and 6-stories tall.
  15. Morris Park Senior Citizens Home; one, 9-story rehabilitated building.
  16. Park Avenue-East 122nd, 123rd Streets; two, 6-story buildings.
  17. President Abraham Lincoln; fourteen buildings, 6 and 14-stories tall.
  18. President George Washington Houses; fourteen buildings, 12 and 14-stories tall.
  19. President Thomas Jefferson Houses; eighteen buildings, 7, 13 and 14-stories tall.
  20. President Woodrow Wilson Houses; three, 20-story buildings.
  21. Senator Robert A. Taft; nine, 19-story buildings.
  22. Robert F. Wagner Houses; twenty-two buildings, 7 and 16-stories tall.
  23. U.P.A.C.A. (Upper Park Avenue Community Association) Site 6; one, 12-story building.
  24. U.P.A.C.A. (Upper Park Avenue Community Association) U.R.A. Site 5; one, 11-story building.

  Other subsidized housing

  1. Taino Towers - East 122nd Street and Third Avenue. Two 35 story towers, 656 apartments. Opened 1979.[28]


  1. ^ http://www.nyc.com/visitor_guide/el_barrio_spanish_harlem.75851/editorial_review.aspx
  2. ^ http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/culture/features/1397/index1.html
  3. ^ http://nymag.com/docs/08/01/080114crimemaps.pdf
  4. ^ http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-05-11/news/31672547_1_violence-east-harlem-community-leaders
  5. ^ a b c d e http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/pub/mnneeds_2012.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20110414/harlem/lowincome-parents-worry-cuts-childcare-will-force-them-out-of-work
  7. ^ http://americanmafiahistory.com/genovese-family/
  8. ^ http://mafia.wikia.com/wiki/Morello_crime_family
  9. ^ http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20110803/harlem/east-harlem-tries-serve-huge-influx-of-chinese-residents
  10. ^ http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/chinese-population-climbs-200-harlem-east-harlem-10-yrs-article-1.947039
  11. ^ http://www.apaforprogress.org/chinese-american-population-harlem-nyc-surges
  12. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69BwlFLOgJg
  13. ^ a b http://streeteasy.com/nyc/area/east-harlem-manhattan
  14. ^ http://harlemworldmag.com/2010/10/10/east-harlem-harlem-ny/
  15. ^ http://www.mcsmportal.net/
  16. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1982/07/11/nyregion/a-failed-high-school-preparing-for-renewal.html
  17. ^ http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statistics/cs025pct.pdf
  18. ^ http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statistics/cs023pct.pdf
  19. ^ http://home2.nyc.gov/html/ceo/images/misc/chart_5.jpg
  20. ^ http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/supermarket/index.shtml
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VHT-4JFF050-9/1/454aff0c39b9414160f4d2d1fa4d5441
  23. ^ http://www.dnainfo.com/20110208/harlem/veggie-vans-slated-sell-fresh-produce-east-harlem
  24. ^ a b Berger, Joseph (31 October 2011). "East Harlem Landlords Keep Apartments Sealed Up". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/31/nyregion/east-harlem-landlords-keep-apartments-sealed-up.html. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  25. ^ "Manhattan Community Board 11". nyc.gov. New York City Department of Planning. 2007-12. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/lucds/mn11profile.pdf. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  26. ^ "Census Tract 240". US Census Bureau American Factfinder. US Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/DTTable?_bm=y&-context=dt&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U&-CONTEXT=dt&-mt_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U_G001&-tree_id=4001&-transpose=N&-redoLog=false&-all_geo_types=N&-_caller=geoselect&-geo_id=15000US360610240009&-search_results=16000US3474630&-format=&-_lang=en&-show_geoid=Y. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  27. ^ NYCHA
  28. ^ Baldwin, Susan, "Taino: 'Dream' Housing For Poor Set To Open: From 30 years ago: Long in the making, a unique subsidized housing project finally opened its doors", City Limits Magazine, January 5, 2009. This includes the original article: Baldwin, Susan, "Taino: 'Dream' Housing For Poor Set To Open", City Limits Magazine, February 1979, Vol. 4, No. 2

  Further reading

  • Araujo, Richard, (5/3/03), Comedia Politica desde El Barrio, El Nuevo Dia, http://www.voteforme-themovie.com/articles/elnuevodia.pdf
  • Bell, Christopher Images of America: East Harlem . Arcadia Publishing. 2003
  • Bell, Christopher Images of America: East Harlem Revisited. Arcadia Publishing. 2010
  • Bourgois, Philippe. In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1995 (2002)
  • Cayo-Sexton, Patricia. 1965. Spanish Harlem: An Anatomy of Poverty. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Davila, Arlene. Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos and the Neoliberal City. University of California Press. 2004
  • Jennings, James, and Monte Rivera (eds.) (1984). Puerto Rican Politics in Urban America (Westport: Greenwood Press).
  • Mencher, Joan. 1989. Growing Up in Eastville, a Barrio of New York. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Moreno Vega, Marta (2004). When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio (New York: Three Rivers Press).
  • Padilla, Elena. 1992. Up From Puerto Rico. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Quiñonez, Ernesto. Bodega Dreams. Random House (Vintage). 2000
  • Salas, Leonardo. "From San Juan to New York: The History of the Puerto Rican". America: History and Life. 31 (1990).
  • Thomas, Piri. Down These Mean Streets. Random House (Vintage). 1967
  • Wakefield, Dan. Island in the City: The World of Spanish Harlem (1959)
  • Zentella, Ana Celia (1997). Growing Up Bilingual: Puerto Rican Children in New York (Blackwell Publishers).

  External links

Coordinates: 40°47′52.64″N 73°56′24.17″W / 40.7979556°N 73.9400472°W / 40.7979556; -73.9400472


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