East Harlem On The Rise?
By Ron Howell
November 8, 2003, 9:43 PM EST
Across the street from an East Harlem drug treatment program, developers are planning to build a $190-million Courtyard by Marriott hotel they hope will draw Fortune 500 businesses and tourists.
It's a sure sign, some say, that East Harlem is on the rise.
"In my opinion, this is an entry point into Manhattan," said one of the developers, Michael Caridi, speaking of the 29-story hotel he said would be completed within two years.
Across the street from the site, he noted, is the recently renovated 125th Street Metro-North rail station.
Caridi likes to say the new Marriott would be the first hotel in Harlem since the Theresa closed in 1966.
But a little peripatetic research shows that claim should be modified. Just to the east of the vacant lot where Marriott plans to build — on the other side of Park Avenue is the Park Avenue Hotel, where guests, often in pairs, rent rooms at $40 for six hours.
Just to the north of the planned hotel, across East 125th Street, is the Covenant House drug treatment program.
Some neighborhood residents fear the new Marriott will drive up rents and force many to find cheaper housing elsewhere. But many hail the announcement, hoping it will signal a continuing revival for the area.
"The entire area is changing drastically, and I think for the better," said Jose Carrero, who manages La Marqueta shopping center 10 blocks to the south for the city's Economic Development Corporation.
Statistics from the local community board show that more whites have been moving into East Harlem along with Mexicans and other immigrants.
What's more, a significant number of Puerto Rican professionals, like Carrero — who grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn — have been flocking there in a kind of cultural return to their roots.
Christopher Bell, who wrote a book titled "East Harlem" (published this year by Arcadia press), said the area is often overshadowed by the largely black community of West Harlem.
"East Harlem has its own separate identity," he said. "Every nationality and race has lived there. In the future I see an emerging East Harlem that is more upper-middle class, where people are working and owning their properties and taking pride in their community and everything that it has represented."