Harlem had 42,415 dwelling units, according to the 1990 census. The housing
structures in East Harlem comprise of four to six story tenements, row
houses and high-rise public housing developments with pockets of brownstones
dispersed throughout the district. A majority of the occupied dwelling
units are in high rise (seven stories or above) buildings constructed
East Harlem is a community with a diverse street scape that changes from
block to block. The community district is an area where the built environment
is characterized by a variety of building heights, inconsistent street
walls, and infrastructure or developments that create distinct boundaries.
East Harlem contains an historic district, as well as many landmarks,
notable buildings and open spaces.
Harlem is comprised of brownstones and walk-ups, commercial areas, high-rise
housing complexes, large institutions and "super block" developments.
In fact, East Harlem has the highest concentration of public housing developments
in New York City. These developments are structures surrounded by open
green areas, often on "super blocks" (blocks that were merged with other
blocks, the roadway eliminated).
The existence of "super blocks" make it difficult to travel east to west
through certain parts of the district by foot or car. For example, from
Fifth Avenue to First Avenue, there are no cross streets between East
112th and East 115th Streets. The other high-rise super block public housing
developments are shown on Map 6. The major cross-town streets in East
Harlem are East 106th, East 116th and East 125th Streets.
These tower-in-the-park super block developments also tend to discourage
the pedestrian street activity because they interrupt the ground floor
retail continuity. The retail continuity is inconsistent throughout much
of the district. Although the public housing complexes may have open spaces
and other amenities, these assets were sometimes poorly designed. Many
of these flaws have been corrected by NYCHA open space rehabilitation
in the 1990s.
The Metro North Viaduct, running the length of the district along Park
Avenue, divides the district into two parts. From East 97th Street to
East 111th Street the viaduct is made of stone and from East 111th Street
to East 133rd Street it is made of steel. While the arches of the stone
viaduct have architectural character, they impede visibility and circulation.
The pedestrian underpasses of the viaduct are narrow and dark. The crosswalks
leading to the underpasses are poorly marked. The available space under
the steel viaduct between East 115th
and East 116th Streets is currently being used by La Marqueta and at East
125th Street by the Metro North station.
of 1990, East Harlem had 42,415 dwelling units which was 27% less than
the 1940 high of 58,889. During the past 50 years, East Harlem lost over
16,000 units of housing with nearly 5,000 units lost between 1980 and
1990 alone. While 17,323 public housing units were built between 1941
and 1989(7) the district still suffers from severe housing shortages.
Furthermore, the construction of high rise public housing units have dramatically
shifted the type of housing options for East Harlem residents. Forty percent
of the total housing stock is now found in public housing complexes and
another 22% in other publicly funded subsidized and restricted housing(8).
These require certifications, on-the-books jobs and tax records that prohibit
access to many of the hard working but undocumented newcomers and residents
in East Harlem.
TOTAL HOUSING UNITS
New York City
Department of City Planning. Neighborhood Land Disposition Plan: Northern
East Harlem (New York: 1993).
Half of all housing units (public and private) are found in high-rise
buildings with 50 or more units; 23 percent are found in buildings with
20-49 units; 19 percent are found in buildings with 5-units; and four
percent are in structures with less than five units.
East Harlem has a higher concentration of vacant housing units (11 percent
in 1990) than Manhattan (7 percent) and New York City (5 percent). The
CIVITAS survey in 1997-8 found 2,562 vacant apartments on the avenues
and five commercial cross streets alone.(9)
Homeowners are few. In contrast to the eight percent in Manhattan and
the 22 percent in New York City, only five percent of East Harlem residents
own their housing units. Of the 95 percent of the population that rents,
only 55 percent five in units that have rents stabilized by government
regulation. The 40% who live in NYCHA developments have rent set at 30%
of their income.
7. New York City Housing Authority Project Data, 1/1/94, listed in Calvert,
Main Streets of East Harlem , CIVITAS, 1998, R. 27.
8 Calvert, op cit. p. 29. "Not for profit Housing Development Data".
9 CIVITAS Citizens, East Harlem Commercial Corridors Property Survey,
1998, p. 5
median contract rent in 1990 was $323 which represented a 25 percent increase
from 1980 ($259). Forty-five percent of the renters in East Harlem pay
less that $300 rent per month. Thirty-one percent pay between $300 and
$499; 13.5 percent between $500 and $699; and 9.7 percent pay $700 or
more. The median gross rent to income ratio is 30. One-third of the population
spends over 35 percent of its household income on rent. This places East
Harlem third for the highest in the rent to income ratio in Manhattan.
While East Harlem has a relatively high vacancy rate (counting unrentable
apartments sealed up), the occupied units tend to be overcrowded. For
the first time since 1940, the number of persons per housing unit began
to increase from 2.44 to 2.61 in 1990. Close to 15 percent of the population
live in quarters that are considered to be overcrowded.
The Community Board estimates that almost half of the people in public
housing are "doubled if up
PUBLIC HOUSING COMPLEXES IN East Harlem
here to view Major Housing map - 329K)
(Click here to view Urban Renewal
Areas map - 328K)
East River Houses
New York City Housing Authority. Tenant Data Characteristics of Tenants
as of January 1.
10 This chart omits Franklin Plaza built by
three rehabilitation projects and two
In addition, a substantial number of publicly subsidized housing has been
constructed, such as, Franklin Plaza Cooperative (1,63 5 units built by
NYCHA), Riverton (1,3 84), Taino Towers (656), 1199 Plaza (1,500), the
East Harlem Triangle developments (696 units), UPACA developments (1,170
units), Hope Community's various rehabilitations (1,037), Harlem Gateway
and North General Hospital's Maple Court cooperatives. In addition, there
are 6 Section 202 Senior Citizens developments plus 3 more in the pipeline.
Finally, another 6,500 units have been rehabilitated under the City's
ten year plan, most sponsored by local community-based agencies, as well
as 2,141 developed by private entrepreneurs".(11)
Although the average age for all housing structures is 50 years old or
older, the rehabilitation of a majority of buildings in East Harlem and
the increasing activity of the private market give cause for optimism.
Still in 1990 14% of the housing stock was rated poor and more than 12%
of the buildings had five or more structural deficiencies.
Public housing complexes, mainly located below 116th Street, are typically
clusters of fourteen story buildings which contain an average of 1,000
Many of the public housing complexes provide services for tenants, often
operated by a corporation of the Tenants Association. The George Washington
Carver Houses, for example, has a community center and a mental health
clinic. The center also provides children's programs, children's health
services and preschool cooperative programs.
NEW AND REHABILITATED HOUSING
CBOs in East Harlem were active participants in the Ten Year Plan of the
City of New York, using Federal programs such as Section Eight, alternative
management programs, low income housing tax credit, and Federal senior
housing. Since 1986, the number of new housing units has decreased annually
but the number of units rehabilitated each year by the community based
organizations had increased markedly.
The number of rehabilitated units financed by the New York City Department
of Housing Preservation and Development has increased in the past few
years. Since 1987, over 700 dwelling units have been rehabilitated. Typically
thirty percent of those units were for the homeless and two percent were
for the elderly and handicapped. Renovations have occurred at 13 public
Recent bold developments by the East Harlem Renewal Agency, North General
Hospital, New York City Housing Partnership and NYCHA's co-op housing
are expanding the ownership numbers. More homes, condominiums, and cooperatives
are in the pipeline.
11 "See Calvert, G., Rebuilding Main Street in the Village of East
Harlem. (CIVITAS, New York)pp.26-33.
SPECIAL NEEDS HOUSING
number of seniors over 65 in 1990 was 12,717, a six percent increase since
1980. If these numbers remain constant, approximately 9,400 additional
people will reach retirement age by the year 2000. There are presently
13 senior centers that accommodate their needs.
There are approximately 12,160 people, or 11 percent of the population
in the district, who have a disability that limits their self care skills.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with AIDS are also considered
handicapped and are covered under the law. East Harlem has the highest
proportion of adults with AIDS in New York City.
Presently, East Harlem has housing developments serving the elderly and
disabled: the Twee Mill House on East 126th Street between Lexington and
Third Avenues and the Jackie Robinson Houses between East 128th and East
129th Streets on Lexington Avenue. Both are subsidized by the Section
202 Program. Other developments serve mothers with AIDS, youth in half-way
houses, shelters fro the homeless, and treatment centers for addicts.
URBAN RENEWAL AREAS
acres of land were set aside in the 1960s for urban renewal areas. While
the concept did accomplish something in other parts of the City, the low
market estimates and the lack of bank participation kept investors from
rebuilding on these urban renewal blocks. These urban renewal areas were
cleared, removing factories, stores, churches, and social clubs, with
a disastrous economic and employment impact on East Harlem. What resulted
in these urban renewal areas were weed-strewn blocks 80,000 square feet
(or two acres) of vacant land for over thirty years.
Finally home ownership plans have been approved and state housing trust
fund development are in the pipeline. The overall impact of these renewal
programs needs to be carefully examined by the City and CB# 11.
A grass-roots alternative to development is the construction of long-term
interim site use, creating its own constituency and support for the preservation
of ball fields, gardens, parking, and summer events.
Others maintain support for a strong housing stock as important to the
success of East Harlem's neighborhoods. There is the potential to redevelop
the abundance of vacant land into mixed income housing, rehabilitate old
brownstones and improve the condition and appearance of the public housing
complexes. Some specific recommendations are outlined below:
I. HOUSING RECOMMENDATIONS
1 Promote a wide range of housing including middle-income housing by rehabilitating
vacant buildings and constructing new mixed-income development on existing
vacant lots. Construction of small homes should be part of a home ownership
program. Neighborhood-based housing development groups and institutions
must be given priority and support these efforts. CB# 11 encourages the
NYC Housing Partnership homes development.
2. Identify and renovate all occupied and vacant City-owned buildings
through programs such as the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Program (NEP),
the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP), the Tenant Interim Lease
(TIL) and other useful rehabilitation programs.
3. As the number of elderly and handicapped residents increase, their
social service and housing needs must be addressed through subsidized
housing by City, State and Federal programs.
4. Housing for East Harlem residents with special needs includes mental
health, mental retardation, ex-offenders, veterans and people with AIDS
and the silent homeless doubled up in our apartments. Proposed
special needs housing must consider balanced, fair share, citywide development
5. The City should review if code violations exist on any privately-owned
buildings currently warehoused or boarded up. The city must enforce code
violations if owners of privately-owned boarded up buildings are found
to be in violation.
6. The City must use loan programs to assist private owners of boarded-up
apartments to rehabilitate for occupancy. CB# 11 seeks at least 200 units
7. The City should repossess property purchased at city auctions where
the buyer failed to fulfill the purchase contracts for improvements and
reclaim these buildings for local development.
8. The City must enforce laws against illegal commercial activities in
its buildings. The City should establish a site selection committee that
would include CB# 11 and law enforcement agencies that would screen applicants
for commercial tenancy in City owned buildings.
II. NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT
of HOUSING PRESERVATION and DEVELOPMENT
HPD was formerly the second largest owner and manager of property in East
Harlem. HPD housing managers still have a large caseload, making it difficult
to supervise the building superintendents who are responsible for maintenance,
sanitation, exterior repairs and reporting illicit drug activity. Also
more supervision of HPD service contracts is needed for capital improvements,
roof repairs, snow removal and boiler replacements until the completion
of the much awaited transfer of all HPD buildings to tenant cooperatives,
not-for profit ownership and management, or private ownership.
1 HPD must comply with and vigorously enforce all housing laws, health
and sanitation rules and regulations and recycling code enforcement.
2. HPD must never consolidate any of their buildings without consultation
with CB# 11. There should be adequate prior notice given to tenants and
block associations. Consolidated buildings must have gas, electricity
and water turned off, windows sealed, doors and other openings sealed
with cinder blocks. The City should monitor consolidated buildings on
a regular basis to prevent squatters and other illegal activities from
3. HPD should follow Community Board # 11 in allocating a special housing
preference for veterans of military service for the United States.
4. All HFD occupied and un occupied buildings should be transferred to
private ownership by the year 2004. Owners could include occupants (as
in cooperatives and condominiums), not-for-profits, or private ownership.
5. HPD must cooperated with East Harlem in promoting an average growth
per year of 600 units above the number of units demolished each year.
III. RELOCATION PROTECTION
1 . Whenever displacement of any tenants may result from any public or
plan, a relocation protection plan is required before any displacement
occurs and should follow U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines.
A relocation plan must be submitted to CB# 11 for its review prior
to any displacement.
2. If a tenant prefers, all relocation must be in the East Harlem community
the equal or better housing. Relocated residents are to be given priority
in returning to the new rehabilitated housing development.
IV. NEW YORK CITY HOUSING AUTHORITY
Community Board I I is concerned with the need for upgrading the East
Harlem NYCHA buildings and public spaces. There has been moderate and
commendable open space redesign, however, more maintenance and landscaping
needs to occur.
NYCHA should recognize that open spaces as a community resource. Pursue
the redesign of the NYCHA open spaces with the involvement and approval
of all NYCHA Tenant Associations. NYCHA should incorporate retail uses
as well as not-for-profit community uses within the NYCHA buildings and
2. NYCHA must implement Housing and Urban Development 964 guidelines that
protects NYCHA tenant rights and the rights of the NYCHA Tenants Associations.
3. Legislation should be proposed allowing NYCHA Tenants Associations
to collect established fees from all residents for acquiring security
4. Community district jurisdiction must include the delivery of NYCHA
services. Current NYC Charter does not mandate a review of NYCHA services
by Community Districts because of NYCHA's federal agency status. Community
Districts should have oversight responsibilities in areas such as East
Harlem where 40% of the population is housed by NYCHA.
5. NYCHA needs to reapportion the current NYCHA districts coterminous
with East Harlem.
6. Community Board 11 is open to new NYCHA management alternatives. The
City should conduct a feasibility study on the current ownership of NYCHA
housing and review the possibility of turning over ownership to a private
or nonprofit ownership or tenant management. Other operational and
management options should be explored.
7. NYCHA should develop a special drug task force program and expand the
drug elimination program for the NYCHA drug infested buildings.
8. NYCHA should consider providing on site housing security guards to
supplement current NYPD efforts.
9. NYCHA should study the lighting around its development in East Harlem.
Lighting should be expanded to include one light every 25 feet on center
and placed lower than 12 feet from the sidewalks and pathways.
10. NYCHA should install garbage compactors in projects located in East
Harlem and reexamine sanitation and refuse collection procedures. Such
compactors must attractive, landscaped, and frequently cleaned.
11. NYCHA should reexamine parking lot needs and operations.
13. NYCHA should allow installation of public, coin-operated toilets for
use by the needy a long way from their apartments.
V. URBAN RENEWAL AREAS
1. The City in consultation with CB# 11 should review all currently designated
urban renewal areas in East Harlem to determine whether their status has
encouraged or deterred development. If a negative assessment is determined
from this review, the City should revise or de- designate the sites or
currently located in Urban Renewal Areas.
1. The City must enforce night lights requirements at entrance to all
At least one light (minimum equivalent 200 wattage incandescent lamp)
lower than 12 feet high, should be required and placed every 25 feet,
on center, on all institutions, stores, schools, hospitals, recreation
areas, churches and residential buildings.
(Repeat # II. 4 All City-owned occupied and vacant buildings in East
Harlem should be transferred to private ownership, whether the Housing
Development Finance Cooperatives, nonprofit or private ownership
by the year 2004.)
Sections of the 197-A Plan
History of East Harlem
Demographic and Socio-Economic Profile
Land Use and Zoning
City-Owned Vacant Property
Housing and Urban Renewal
Tranportation and Infrastructure
Institutional and Historical Resources
Non-Profits At Work In East Harlem
For Profits At Work In East Harlem
Maps (all pertain
to Community Board # 11)
The maps are in Gif format. File sizes are big, but you can better see
the details in the maps.
Board District # 11 (162K)
Population of Race and Ethnicity by Census
Land Use (Color 579K)
Zoning Map (244K)
Major Housing Developments (329K)
Urban Renewal Areas (328K)
Empowerment Zone (630K)
Economic Developement (628K)
Public Transportation (672K)
Historic District and Landmarks