October 3, 2008

East Harlem Cafe Opens

East Harlem Cafe LogoEast Harlem – October 23, 2008. The day finally arrived, the day which Michelle Cruz has been working and planning for a good long time. It was the day she finally opened her East Harlem Café. It takes a lot of effort to open a business, and Ms. Cruz did all that was necessary to open to make her dream come true.

Photo of those gathered to participate in the ribbon cutton ceremonyThe Grand Opening ceremonies began at 5:00 PM and included such dignitaries as; Borough President Scott Stringer, State Assemblyman Adam C. Powell IV, State Senator Jose Serrano Jr., Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, Democratic District Leader Yvette Zayas, Hope Community Inc. Executive Director, Robin Leabaron, Hope Community Inc. Board Chairman, Robert Caban, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone President Mr. Kenneth Knuckles, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Vice President Hope Oliver, Community Board 11 Chairman Roberto Rodriguez, East Harlem Business Capitals Corporation Coordinator of the East Harlem Empire Zone, Sandra Morales-De Leon, , veteran community activist, Roberto De Leon, East Harlem Poet Jesus Papoleto Mendez, Art Historian Mario Cesar Romero, and East Harlem activist/webmaster (www.eastharlempreservation,org) Marina Ortiz.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was held outside and went off without a hitch. Everyone then went back inside to sample the coffee and chat with friends. The inside of the café is spacious a nice rustic color scheme. Artistic photos cover the walls to give the café an artistic flavor. The East Harlem Café will be a great place to meet with friends over a cup of Joe or to hold small meetings for your group. It is rumored the communties’ intelligencia will begin to gather there. See you there!!

Posted by Jose at 11:07 PM

January 7, 2008

El Barrio's First Upscale Men's Salon Celebrates 1st Year

An East Harlem-based business that specializes in grooming services for men celebrated its first-year anniversary November 14, 2007, challenging the myth that taking pride in one's appearance is only for the ladies.

Team BBRAXTON celebrating the shop's first year anniversary in East Harlem.<br />
(Starting from back) Anthony Van Putten, Co-owner; (starting from left of  middle row) Kammie Jordan, Assistant Manager & Barber/Stylist; Sasha Robertson, Nail Technician; Brenda Braxton, Co-owner; Jessica Pellot, Receptionist; Wanda Tucker, Nail Technician.  (Starting from left of front row) Rumi Kitagawa, Master Barber; Helen Arias, Assistant Manager; James Hadden, Barber/Loctician. <br />
The men's salon, called BBRAXTON, located on 1400 Fifth Avenue along West 116th Street, was the result of an idea by Brenda Braxton and her husband Anthony Van Putten, co-owners of the facility. According to Braxton, who is also a Tony-nominated Broadway actress currently performing in the musical Chicago, the idea was based on a discussion she had with her husband about men who wanted grooming services like pedicures and facials in an environment where they felt comfortable. Our Latino and African-American men want a place where they can be pampered without having to go to a salon that caters mostly to a female clientele, she said. Braxton explained that the few salons that exclusively serve men, such as John Allan's Club and Truman's Gentlemen's Groomers, are not located in Northern Manhattan and may not be used to handling ethnic grooming issues related to Latino and African-American men such as maintaining dreads and handling problems of ingrown hair. "It"s something that our Latino and African-American gentlemen need and it's right here in the middle of Spanish Harlem," Braxton said about her East Harlem-based business.

The services offered at BBRAXTON are like that of a barber shop, salon, and spa all rolled into one. According to its website, services include manicures and pedicures, natural hair care (including twist and lock maintenance), and therapeutic massage.

Male customers who attended the celebration party spoke positively about the salon. East Harlemites Owen Charles, 27, and Audie Vilot, 32, expressed their gratitude for this type of service being located in the community. "There"s definitely a market in this particular part of Harlem," Charles said. Vilot added that he was pleased to see the store opened in his neighborhood instead of an area below 96th Street. "There are people here [in East Harlem] who have regular jobs [or are making] six-figure [salaries] who want the better things in life without having to go downtown," he said.

Other customers from outside El Barrio also voiced their approval of BBRAXTON. Frazier Tharpe, 47, of New Jersey stated that he liked how the salon maintains an atmosphere of exclusivity for men who may feel hesitant about getting the types of services traditionally received by women. Marcus McGaughey, 32, from Brooklyn also said that he appreciated the "gentlemen's club" feel to the salon. "It"s a place that makes you feel exclusive and different from the rest," he said.

When asked how they felt about men who take pride in their personal grooming being stereotyped as either being gay or metrosexual, the male clients argued that these perceptions serve no purpose other than to stigmatize and do not look at the full spectrum of what defines a professional man. "I don't see a problem with men doing what women have been doing for ages," Marcus Felder, 24, an East Harlem resident, said challenging the negative perception of being well-groomed. Ayejay Spraggin, 33, of West Harlem, also expressed his opposition to professional men like himself being labeled as gay or metrosexual because he like to take care of his personal appearance. "It's perceived that you're more masculine if you're more rough and unclean," he said. "That's something that we need to challenge."

Although BBRAXTON successfully hit its first-year mark, the owner confessed that the business did initially encounter some obstacles along the way, including three burglaries and facility issues. "It was bad enough that we had to deal with three break-ins, but we also had to deal with flooding inside the building due to the pipes freezing up and bursting," Braxton said. "We definitely came a long way since those trying times."

Braxton said that she wants to expand the facility by buying a vacant store next door. She is also in the process of duplicating her East Harlem success by opening another salon in Las Vegas, Nevada. "Expanding opens up plenty of opportunities, but Harlem will always be home for BBRAXTON."

For more information about BBRAXTON or to schedule an appointment, visit its website at http://www.bbraxton.com or call 212-369-3094.

By Leon Tulton

Posted by Jose at 6:43 PM

February 20, 2007

Savoy Bakery A Delicious Treat

East Harlem, February 20, 2007. Brian Ghaw gently wipes the glass where his delicious cakes and pastries are displayed. As owner of the recently opened Savoy Bakery, Brian wants to ensure his business covey's a sense of warmth. Something which he accomplishes with both the look of the bakery and with his easy going manner. The bakery is both warm and welcoming.

Service with a smile Owner Brian Ghaw choose the current East Harlem location after a friend of his made him aware of the community. Mr. Ghaw said he was "looking for growing community" What he found was "the last neighborhood in Manhattan". Meaning, he was looking for a place with a sense of community.

First Impressions
The very first impression one gets of the Savoy Bakery is the neat and clean look from outside looking inside. The bakery has a golden light hue. And the smell of freshly baked goods hits you upon opening the doors. Everything is presented well. The cakes are absolutely gorgeous to look at. It is almost ashame to cut into them. They look like works of art. The cookies and bread are also very tempting. All are baked fresh daily. And it gets better. Taste any of the baked goods and you will not be disappointed.

Photo Various parts of the Savoy Bakery, from outside to the insideAll of the baked goods at the Savoy Bakery are made with butter and no trans fats. So they contain less cholesterol than you may expect from baked goods. Can this get any better? Well yes, prices are very reasonable! (see photo).

See For Yourself
The Savoy Bakery opened December 12, 2007 and is located at 170 East 110th Street (not too far from the Aguilar Library). The bakery is opened from 7:30 AM to 7:00 PM on weekdays and from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Weekends. You may have to wait a little in the mornings as that is the time a lot of community residents choose to buy their coffee and pastry. Soup is also available for lunch. They will delivery certain items so be sure to call 212-828-8896 to learn more. Also you can visit their website at www.savoybakery.com.

Mr. Ghaw has done well in opening the Savoy in our community. East Harlem deserves it! It feels good to buy a great product at a great looking place, served by local residents (and some from the Bronx). The service is quick and courteous, the baked goods are light airy and contain no trans fats. And boy do they taste good! Whatever you do, Enjoy.

Posted by Jose at 5:49 PM

December 13, 2005

Ev's Gift Shop

Esther Vincent (EV, hence Ev's Gift Shop), is doing well at her brand new location at 234 East 106 Street, which is located between Second and Third Avenues.

Photo of Ev's Gift Shop.Photo of Esther Vicent owner of Ev's Gift ShopEv's Gift shop moved from it's prior below ground level location at Lexington Avenue between East 106 and 107 Streets. It's not any business owner who can pull this type of move off.

But Esther Vincent is not just any store owner. Esther kept her business afloat at its prior location while eyeing better locations throughout the community. Any other business would have folded, but Esther was not about to let this happen to her dream and now is at a much better location.

Esther arrived in New York in 1977. After starting a career in insurance Esther jumped into her dream of owning a gift shop. She did so after attending an East Harlem Business Capital Corporation Business Wise course. The course are offered for 15 weeks and provide entrepreneurs with the "how to" of starting and maintaining a business.

Esther is a great example of someone who has a dreams, pursues it, takes a leap of faith and starts a business. Our community is lucky to have her here. She is both friendly and personable. Not a bad business combination.

So if you need to get a birthday, anniversary, holiday or any occassion gift, EV's is the place to go. See store here

Webmaster's Note: Sadly Esther had to close shop in 2007. I will miss her and her shop. JBR

Posted by Jose at 4:54 AM

December 29, 2004

UMEZ Gives 340K to Small Biz

The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone gives $340,000 to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in East Harlem.

Photo of Ms. Elizabeth Colon receiving ceremonial check from the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone

New York, NY (December 28, 2004) The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation announced the completion of a deal to give $340,000 to the East Harlem Business Capital Corporation. The Corporation will use the money to provide businesses and entrepreneurs in East Harlem with one years worth of technical assistance, including loan packaging, business plan development, software training and assistance in obtaining business licenses, permits and certifications. Including todays grant, the Empowerment Zone has given more than $1.2 million to the Corporation since 2000 to support their business development programs and help capitalize their small business loan fund..

Our grant provides East Harlem entrepreneurs and businesses the critical tools they need to succeed in todays economy, said Kenneth J. Knuckles, the Empowerment Zones President and CEO. Small businesses represent the key economic engine of East Harlem. Their continued success hinges on learning how to plan for the future and then access the capital needed to implement their growth plans.

The Corporation plans to help 25 local businesses or entrepreneurs in obtaining loans from financial institutions, provide over 1,400 training slots in business plan development and software applications such as Word and Excel, as well as assist in obtaining at least 150 business permits, licenses and other certifications.

Our business is ensuring the success of local businesses in East Harlem, said Elizabeth Colon, Executive Director of the East Harlem Business Capital Corporation. The Empowerment Zones support ensures that we can continue offering customized support that address the unique needs of our diverse, entrepreneurial and immigrant community.

About the East Harlem Business Capital Corporation

East Harlem Business Capital Corporation is a nonprofit community development and financial organization created in 1997 to promote economic development in El Barrio by providing small business owners and entrepreneurs access to capital and business technical services. Over the last five years, EHBCC has achieved certification by the U.S. Department of Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and as an Intermediary Lender by the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 2001, EHBCC was designated as the NYS Empire Zone Administrator, and recently led a successful effort to expand the boundaries of East Harlems NYS Empire Zone.

Its office is located at 2261-63 First Avenue, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10035 (entrance on East 116th Street) and can be reached at (212) 427-6590 or online at www.ehbcc.org.

About the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation

The Development Corporation is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to sustain the economic revitalization of all the communities of Upper Manhattan through job creation, corporate alliances, strategic investment and small business assistance. It offers financial assistance to businesses and not-for-profit groups through low-interest loans, grants and, in select cases, equity investments. In addition, businesses located in the Empowerment Zone are eligible for certain tax benefits. The Development Corporation is financed by the New York Empowerment Zone, which was established in 1994 with a $250 million commitment shared equally by the United States government, the State of New York through the Empire State Development Corporation, and the City of New York. The New York Empowerment Zone also finances the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation.

Together, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and the New York Empowerment Zone work to reinvigorate the distressed communities of Upper Manhattan by using tax incentives and public funds to attract meaningful private investment. Both organizations work to stimulate economic growth and create jobs in the communities of Central, East and West Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. For more information about the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, visit www.umez.org.

Contact: Aaron Donovan

(212) 410-0030, ext. 234


Marina Ortiz
Marketing Associate
Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone
(212) 410-0030, Ext. 211

Webmaster's Note: This article was provided by the Upper Manhattaqn Empowerment Zone.

Posted by Jose at 4:36 PM

October 1, 2003

New Push For Tourism

East Harlem has much to offer in the areas of culture history, and the arts. However, only a small number of people, aside from residents, know about El Barrio's treasures and rich history.

Picture of Mr. Hector M. Santana, Jr., Director Empire State Development, East Harlem Community Network Office

Written and Submitted to Siempre by Mr. Hector Santana.
Our thanks to Siempre for allowing us to reprint their article.

East Harlem has much to offer in the areas of culture history, and the arts. However, only a small number of people, aside from residents, know about El Barrio's treasures and rich history.

As the community, strives to be competitive in the larger economic picture, more options are being explored for their potential to create jobs and spur economic growth. One of the options with the greatest potential is tourism.

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in New York City, with a substantial proportion of those tourism dollars being spent less than three miles away from East Harlem. However, even with the presence of two major institutions and a myriad of cultural and arts organizations, we have been unable to tap into this thriving industry.

Harlem has increased its tourism efforts and contributed substantially to its local economy with tourism dollars. Washington Heights is rallying around several destinations to attract a growing number of visitors and improve its local economy.

A recent study by NYC & Company and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone determined that tourism dollars spent annually by visitors was $54 million, creating and maintaining nearly 800 jobs for the local community and strengthening local community-based cultural and arts organizations. Moreover, organizations catering to tourists spent $32 million on industry related expenditures, including $9 million on capital improvements.

This activity generated $4.36 million per year in tax revenues and contributed toward a total of $167 million in Upper Manhattan operational and capital spending by Upper Manhattan institutions in the tourism area.

With two major museums, a cultural center, a thriving art scene, significant historical and architectural sites, and a host of shops and restaurants, East Harlem is poised to increase its share of revenue from the tourism industry. A new effort led by the State of New York is underway to implement the East Harlem Tourism Initiative, a project designed to market El Barrio's cultural, historical, and artistic significance to the local, national, and international tourist markets.

The newly created East Harlem Board of Tourism will focus on the business of tourism development, while channeling the efforts of cultural, historical, and business organizations into a marketing campaign utilizing advertising, literature distribution, and special events to drum up tourism dollars that will create more jobs and a stronger local economy.

Members of the group include El Museo del Barrio, the Museum of the City of New York, El Taller Boricua, Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center, East Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Community Board #11 and Banco Popular, among other notable community leaders and arts organizations..

Together these organizations have forged a three-year plan that will develop a series of tourism corridors.

In tandem with the development of three tourist corridors on 106th, 116th and 125th streets, the State of New York, through Empire State Development, will also implement a variety of initiatives aimed at business development and infrastructure improvement.

Discussions are underway between Empire State Development and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone to secure funding to upgrade the aesthetic value of 106th Street through a series of improvements that include street lighting, banners, store front improvements and side walk/street resurfacing.

The success of the East Harlem Board of Tourism initiative will require more than hard work and good ideas. The key is collaboration. The residents and businesses in East Harlem must rally around the initiative. Only that way will everyone in the community benefit.

About the writer: Hector M. Santana, Jr. is the Director of the East Harlem Community Network Office of the Empire State Development located at 2249 Second Avenue - Suite G, NY, NY 10029 and can be reached at 212-987-9202.

How do you feel about Tourism in East Harlem? Is it a good idea? Join in a discusison on this topic at the East Harlem.com Discussion Forum. Remember you must be a registered member to join in the discussion. But you don't have to be to read it.

Posted by Jose at 5:05 PM

August 23, 2002

Edwin's Cafe

East Harlem - August 23, 2002. Edwin's Cafe opened for busines at the southwest corner of East 111th Street,with many local dignitaries in attendance.

Picture of Edwin Marcial in the forground with an outside shoot of his cafe in the background vspace= Among those who visited to eat and wish Edwin Marcial good luck were Dem District Leader Carmen Quinones, Fireman John Ruiz, and Nelson Denis among many. And Edwin added some class to the event by providing live music (see photo below).

Edwin had munchies on this first day of business (really opened for family and friends). And will have mondogo (tripe_, chuletas(pork chops), pollo(chicken), arroz blanco & amarillo(white and yellow rice), sopa de camaron(shrimp soup) and much more. The food is well prepared and taste great, dont' take this writer's word for it, see for yourself.Picture of Edwin's Cafe table layout from the inside

Edwin Marcial really outdid himself. The physical space is nice. It's like an UNOs for East Harlem. And the tables are numerous, but not enough so that you can't walk. Having a view of Third Avenue is also a nice touch.

It seems that Edwins can become the next major place in El Barrio to "hang out".

It's a pleasure to be served by Edwin's staff. They are quick (you don't have to wait an eternity to have your order taken or to pay your bill) and they are courteous. Of course they are bilingual Tip them well.

Edwins hopes to begin serving breakfast at 7:00 AM and then providng lunch and dinner Monday through Sunday till about 11:00 PM. There will be LIVE MUSIC on some days and COMEDY on some nights (to be determined).

More Photos
Edwin's Inside
Live Band
Edwin's Staff

Editor's Update: (January 16, 2005) Edwin's has closed.

Posted by Jose at 3:36 PM

July 24, 1999

Update: East River Plaza

What's New?
The Personalization of an Issue

The East River Plaza debate is heating up as the vote on the project by Community Board 11 draws near. Most of the noise is coming from the opponents of project, mainly B.A.R.A. members (click on link to learn more about B.A.R.A.). B.A.R.A. seems to be at every committee meeting of Community Board 11.

Their attendance at board committee meetings is often times loud, rude, and downright uncivilized. At other times they behave properly. The main targets of their vindictives are board members Juana Pacheco and Jose B. Rivera, though Juana has gotten the worst of B.A.R.A.s verbal tongue lashings.

B.A.R.A. Members seemed convinced that only people who "sell out the community" are for the project. A mindset which says to the effect that if you do not think as I do, then you must have sold out. Again this mindset does not acknowledge or conceive the possibility that people have their own minds and can and do occasionally differ from what the ultra-liberal mindset feels is right.

A brief history of the last 30 days
A non binding public hearing was held in the auditorium of the East Harlem Multi-Service Center on April 21. Community Board 11 was one of the sponsors of the event as were B.A.R.A. Members Though billed as a public hearing, the event was actual a sounding board for the opponents of the project. The people invited to speak were ALL opponents of the project. So much for being fair.

Among the speakers were Ilene Bronsoff, who spoke about noise abatement and how much noise the additional truck traffic would hurt East Harlem and its children (from nearby schools). A speaker from Columbia University, whose near thesis tested the audience patients, and Sr. Regina who was concerned about the effect of the project on the learning habits of children in nearby schools. Other speakers spoke about the increased risk of Asthma to our children due to higher traffic cause by retail trucks bringing in goods.

Much of the oppositions concerns focused on everything. They opposed the project because of the noise, a potential rise in asthma, childrens learning habits, the effects on small business, traffic congestion, unreliability of an impact study, the worthlessness of the employment opportunities, employee hiring practices, employee mistreatment by Home Depot/Costco, the disintegration of the Pleasant Avenue sub-community and the disintegration of East Harlem as a whole.. One can see someone objecting to a project based on one or two concerns, but when their concerns take in the whole universe of possible objections, then you wonder if their concerns are legitimate or just a bad attempt to oppose the big and bad corporate world.

B.A.R.A. leader Gloria Quinones at the

B.A.R.A. would have done better to focus their concerns to one or two issue. It surprises the writer of this article that such well seasoned veteran activists such as those found in B.A.R.A. can make such a strategically bad mistake. They should have focused their message and then drummed it into the ears of the community. B.A.R.A. put forth a multitude of objections to the project thereby watering down any potential strong message which the community could have listened to and taken to heart. Their multitude of concerns served to make them seem like chicken little, who thought the sky was falling. Alarmist seems to be a good description of how they seem to many. This writer knows better, they are not alarmist, but boy did they miss an opportunity to get this right.

The last fifth of the public hearing allowed proponents of the East River Plaza project to voice their opinion. Although proponents were civil when hearing from the opponents of the project, opponents were not as well behaved when they heard from the proponents of the issue. Board Member Jose B. Rivera received most of the opponents wrath and boos when he made the following analogy:

"It sometimes seems that East Harlem is like a child learning to walk with the assistance of two parents. The parents being the church on one arm of the child and social service agencies on the other arm. In this instance the child has learned to walk, but the parents refuse to relinquish their assistance to the child in an effort to control where he walks". (sorry, I had to paraphrase, who can remember exact words?).

The nuns who sat up front where offended as where many in the audience who work for social service agencies. But they all missed the point in their effort to allow themselves to be hurt by this statement (no one can hurt you, you must give them permission and allow them to hurt you). The point being, that native East Harlemites must and will make their own decisions as it pertains to them and their needs. It is not the duty of the church to make decisions for us, their role should only be as facilitators. For if they go beyond their role, what they are in effect saying is that we are children and can not yet have a say in our future. The same goes for Social Service Agencies. The church also has a history of putting in pastors and the rest of the clergy who come to this community to do good, make policy for us, the residents of East Harlem, and then leave when re-appointed somewhere else. In other words they do not have to live with the results of their policy (just like Congress use to be). This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Mr. Rivera did not mean to offend any one, it is not his fault people can not follow an analogy.

B.A.R.A.'s other mistake was the personalization of this fight. Instead of seeking compromise, being diplomatic and winning over opponents , they have chosen to attack community board members who are for the project. Mainly, Juana Pacheco and Jose B. Rivera (the writer of this article). Both Juana and Jose have been accused of having a conflict of interest

In a B.A.R.A. letter written to Community Board Chairman David Givens, B.A.R.A. Leader Gloria Quinones writes:

Dear Mr. Givens:

We want to call your attention to a potential conflict of interest if Mr. Jose Rivera and Ms. Juana Pacheco, member of Community Board 11, are allowed to vote in matters pertaining to the above project. Both members are either actively employed by, or seeking employment with, the developer of this project, directly or indirectly.

Prior to his appointment to the Board, Mr. Rivera had informed me that he had been hired to create a website for the developer. Its my understanding that as recently as last week, Ms. Pacheco and Mr. Rivera were actively pursuing a new contract with the developer.

Another possible conflict of interest is that of any staff or board member of E.H.C.C.I. (East Harlem Council for Community Improvement), who may also be a member of the Community Board since this organization has been assured the contract for hiring.

These are the only cases of conflict that our organization has been made aware of this far. We trust you will take the necessary precautions to insure there are no other conflicts at the time of voting on May 26th.

Your Truly,

Gloria E. Quinones

Jose Rivera
Juana Pacheco
Raul Rodriguez, EHCCI

Community Board 11 member Juana Pacheco at a recent East Harlem Chamber of Commerce meeting. Juana is in Pink.

The personalization comes through clearly at Community Board 11 committee meetings where Gloria Quinones broke with her usual good naturedness and verbally attacked Juana Pacheco in front of Juanas own children. Something which is both unnecessary and unlike the Gloria Quinones we all know and love.

Gloria has worked hard for this community and her opposition to the East River Plaza project can only be seen as an extension of her love for and the continuation of her hard work on behalf of the East Harlem community. Her motives will never be questioned by this writer. She truly believes in what she is doing and no one will fault her for acting upon her beliefs. As one of this writers early role models, Gloria has done well to serve this community. Her fight, vigor and intelligence are commendable, good to emulate and done with goodness of heart. It is just surprising that she attacked Juana the way she did. This writer chooses to see this an emotional moment and nothing less. As someone who had broken bread in Glorias beautiful home, it can be said with certainty that the Gloria at committee meetings is not the Gloria we all know and love.

It is hoped that B.A.R.A. as a whole does not choose to follow the path of personal attacks against proponents of the East River Plaza project. Personal attacks serve only to cloud the issue, hurt feelings, create enemies, and most importantly bring B.A.R.A. to a low ethical standard. Something which because of the integrity and history of those who compose B.A.R.A. Would be a shame.

Just because people differ on an issue doesnt give us permission or license to act below a certain level of respect, and personal interaction with others. We all still live in this community and therefore will more likely than not have to someday work together on some other issue. If we keep it civil, we can get through this and still break bread some other day.

Conflict of Interest
Gloria Quinones does bring up an important point to the table. That of the conflict of interest as it pertains to Mr. Jose B. Rivera. Unlike the current occupant of the White House, Mr. Rivera believes that the law is what keeps us from being barbarians and should be respected above all else. He has written to the Conflict of Interest Board asking for a ruling on this matter and will abide by that ruling even if it means that he will not be able to vote on this issue. If it turns out that Mr. Rivera can not vote, Gloria Quinones should be credited for bringing the conflict of interest matter before the board, as is her job as an opponent of this project. Mr. Rivera does not take this personally, but sees this as a natural outcome of the dynamics of this process (proponents and opposition via an issue). Again, the law is king and made to serve and protect us.

Mr. Rivera does not feel like he has a conflict of interest for the following reasons:

The East River Plaza web site was complete a few weeks before Mr. Rivera was appointed to the Community Board.

Mr. Rivera was subcontracted by Aurora Communications to do the web site and was not as presently believed to be hired directly by BDG, Inc. the developer of the project.

It remains to be seen if this is enough to allow Mr. Rivera to vote on the project. What do you think?

The Vote
This writer believes that there are enough votes on the Community Board to approve the re-zoning of the project area from "Manufacturing" to "Retail", that by the way is what the Community Board will actually vote on as it pertains to the East River Plaza project on May 26, 1999 (see this month's calendar for more information). Juana Pacheco will be allowed to vote and Mr. Rivera will at least get the opportunity to speak for project if he is found to have a conflict of interest.

It is sad that peoples feelings were hurt and that former friends do not speak to each other, all because a few have chosen to personalize this issue. It was unnecessary and does not serve the individuals who personalized it or the community at large. It is hoped that this was an aberration and will not happen again. We all live here, we may as well get along.

Posted by Jose at 2:40 PM

February 24, 1999

Forces Against Progress

When the PathMark supermarket idea first sprang up, forces in East Harlem began to align themselves against it. When a Home Depot/Cosco mega stores were suggested for the old Washburn Wire Co. site, forces sprung up to stop the development (see B.A.R.A. article). When tourism is mentioned for East Harlem, the same forces get their juices going to prevent it too.

What is it about progress that some people don't like? It seems that anything beneficial, especially in a big way, is frowned upon. Is it that people feel threatened? Is it that they are afraid of change? Do they wish to forever condemn our community to the least, the most expensive and the worst of choices?

Forces against change did not like the PathMark supermarket because they said it threatened the smaller food markets in the community. Did anyone bother to ask the people of the community what they wanted? No. Ask anyone in this community, especially the women, who do most of the shopping, and they will tell you; "we want better food, produce... and cheaper prices". It is a well known fact that poorer communities pay higher prices for their food than those in middle or upper class communities. This one fact should rid one of the guilt associated with not supporting local supermarkets over the PathMark issue. With stores like PathMark in our community, the consumer will have a wider choice of goods, higher quality, at a cheaper price. And unlike some social service professionals who work here and live somewhere else and who have the means (car) to go to New Jersey or the Bronx to buy their food; we most often have to use a shopping cart to move our goods from the supermarket to our homes. We do not have the means to go to far off places to buy our goods. We are pretty stuck with what we have here in our community. Is it too much to ask that we have a better choice in what we buy?

Home Depot/Cosco
The Home Depot/Cosco issue is pretty much the same. Except this time activist are objecting to the traffic, noise, health problems which such a mega site could bring. In this day and age, everything is possible. Instead of objecting outright to this new development, activist should work with the developers to overcome their objections. Sometimes it seems that the NO is developed first and then the reasons/objections are made to justify the NO. Why not work together to overcome the objections. Doesn't East Harlem Deserve bigger, better looking stores with better high quality products at lower prices? Don't East Harlemites deserve what the rest of the world takes for granted? I've lived in Florida, Albany, New Orleans, Chicago and even Bayonne, NJ and they have such nice stores. What do we have?, 1950s looking stores which are badly constructed as to give store owners great space behind their counters and hardly any walking room for customers. Even stores should be user friendly.

The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone recently held focus group meetings on Tourism for the Upper Manhattan communities. Luckily, none of the activist (negators) were invited. It seems most at these groups liked the idea of developing tourism in our communities. Yes there were objections, but these objections were seen as things to overcome and work out, not as a sole reason to dismiss the idea of tourism in our communities. I wonder what possible objection "non-progressives" would have to tourism?

The East Harlem community is in a transitional state. It is moving into the 21st Century. Nothing will stop this progression. The people are beginning to move into the middle class and are desperately trying to stay in a community with no housing for those of their class. The community deserves better services, the jobs that come with these new stores, the better products at lower prices and above all the myriad of choices that come with super stores.

Jose B. Rivera


To: Jose@east-harlem.com
Subject: East Harlem Improvements
From: JDVALLE@aol.com
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 10:08:32 EDT

It is definitely a shame that activists would rather expend time and energy objecting to those developments that would enhance and improve the quality of our community rather than figuring out why more of this type of investment isn't taking place. Why is it that people object to good things happening and are completely blind to the fact that no money, or not nearly enough money and attention, is paid to housing improvements. And although housing is important, commercial improvements are also an integral part of a community and self-support.

Furthermore, activists shouldn't worry so much about the small grocers who would lose out to the big Parthmarks of the world when, in fact, our biggest problem in East Harlem is that we don't keep enough of our own money within the community. Most of us make our money outside the community and because of the lack of choice, end up spending our money outside of the community as well. The ability to be able to invest the money within our own neighborhood is what will help us to improve our surroundings.

Another issue they can spend their time on is getting us more banking opportunities, or would this be too much of a threat to the two banks that are of any good to us now? Citibank - which is out of the way for most of us, and Banco Popular, which rarely has money available at their ATM's, are inadequate for the growing community we live in.

Still, more importantly, who has bothered to check into whether, or how much, investing these two banks do within East Harlem? Why don't they spend a little time researching that? Anyway, just thought I'd vent my issues. Thanks for the avenue to do this! By the way, the El Barrio site is informative. I just happened upon it and wondered why it isn't advertised more. Take care.

PS: I think the Pathmark and East River projects are great for East Harlem!

To: Jose@east-harlem.com
Subject: East Harlem Plaza Mall
From: R72@webtv.net (Richard Blondet)
Date: Mon, 31 May 1999 12:51:49 -0400 (EDT)

As a former resident of East Harlem (117th St & Pleasant) I have to completely disagree with Gloria Quinones and the other gentleman. A mall between FDR & Pleasant is just what that community needs. The claim the oppositionists make about how people will get sick and how construction will speed up the asthma rate is ridiculous and unfounded. How come no one complains about 2nd hand smoke? Or car exhaust? The problem with redirecting traffic I find also to be unnecessary. Personally, silly. There's as much chance of an accident occurring near the site as their is near La Marqueta or 5th Avenue. The improvement and progression of the community should not be allowed to diminish because of some of these individual's selfish motives. They are only creating a retrogression of the neighborhood and it's time to put a stop to it. Let's face it.

Small Businesses like Bodegas and outlet & clothing stores have not provided any substantial amount of employment to members of the East Harlem Community. These small business owners also wish to eliminate the project at 125th Street. Why? The Super Stores and Malls will only enrich the neighborhood and it's residents and provide much needed employment. Take a poll within the community and you will see a lopsided approval rating for these projects over what the people who oppose them claim. They being the so-called representatives of East Harlem. As sorry as I am for the small business owners who may take a dive in profits due to these larger corporations establishing themselves in E. Harlem, they are not in any way aiding the community or giving it an economic face lift worthy of it's Latino and African American residents. El Barrio se merece mejor...... Richie Blondet

Posted by Jose at 2:24 PM

December 3, 1998

El Fogon - Cafe Restaurant

Mr. Philip Colon

Picture of the outside front view of el fogon

Philip Colon, a local community activist turned restaurant owner has given our community a wonderfully warm and friendly place in which to eat Puerto Rican food. Mr. Colon had originally established his restaurant in the East 116th Street "La Marqueta" for the past two years. He decided to move his business to 83 East 111th Street on Machito Square. (near the corner of Third Avenue and 111th Street. Picture of el fogon chef Maria Velez

Dinner can be any of the following: rice, peas, green bananas, pernil (roast pork), pastelles (meat patties, season for Christmas), beef stew, soup, salad, yellow rice, red rice, beans, pork chops, steak, potatoes etc. Most meals cost $5.50.

Graphic of El Fagon's Handout

Mr. Colon will be happy to talk to you about local community activities, politics, and life in general. He is very talkative and friendly. When it's warm one can chose to eat in a open yard adjacent to El fogon. And unlike a fast food place, there is no rush to leave, as you are not timed. Once you get your meal, take your time eating. When done eating, stay and talk away.

El Fogon was recently featured on the New York Daily News' City Life section. Writer Lenore Skenazy was very impressed with El Fogon's food, decor and price.Picture of El Fogon customers.  The man to the right is Mr. Colon's son

This publication highly recommends El fogon as a place to visit, eat, and talk. Mention East Harlem Online and..... well you get to mention East Harlem Online. But seriously tell Philip that Jose sent ya. Who knows, he may direct you to the table at which I'll be sitting, happily enjoying my meal.

Editor's Note: April 13, 2001 - Since the original publishing of this article, El Fogon has closed for business. We will keep this page up as a reminder of the good work which Mr. Colon has accomplished in East Harlem and of course of his wonderful and friendly eatery.

Posted by Jose at 2:12 AM

December 1, 1998

BARA Vs. East River Plaza

A group of East Harlem residents has united to prevent the construction of the East River Plaza Shopping Mall. This mall will be located at 116th-119th Streets between the FDR drive and Pleasant Avenue. The group has united under the name B.A.R.A., East Harlem Business and Residents Alliance, Inc. Some of the members of this group include Gloria Quiniones, William Gerena, John Kozler and others.

B.A.R.A. opposes the mall on many grounds. B.A.R.A. does not like the location of the Mall. They argue that it is too close to schools and areas where children play. In other words, children can get hurt due to the high traffic the mall will bring to the area. They also site higher car emissions and worry about an increase in children's asthma as a result. The group is also concerned about noise from increased traffic and from freight trucks.

Increased traffic and less parking could also be a problem. B.A.R.A. also does not believe that promise of employment to area resident will come to pass. It is illegal to promise a set number of jobs to a community. Equal employment laws prohibit it. So East Harlem residents are not guaranteed the promised jobs. The possible loss of affected local merchants could change the character of the community.

What B.A.R.A. does propose is that the site be used for small business development and as a waterfront promenade. B.A.R.A. will hold its own public hearing on this issue on January 28th, 1999. at Holy Rosary Parish Hall, which is located at 444 East 119th Street. The meeting will begin at 7:00 P.M.

B.A.R.A. can be reached at:
341 Eat 116th Street, New York, N.Y. 10029
Tel: 212-348-8004 E-mail: BARA116@aol.com

B.A.R.A. Flyer
Actual size Gif  of front page of B.A.R.A.
flyer (107K)

Actual size Gif  of back page of B.A.R.A.
flyer (98K)

B.A.R.A. brings up some good points. This issue was brought before Community Board #11 and was approved. This writer believes that there is still time to look into the concerns which B.A.R.A. brings up. These issues need to be resolved to the community's satisfaction. Traffic can be redirected so as to contribute as little noise and pollution as possible. Traffic should also clear as much as possible from schools where accidents can occur. Pollution and the potential increase to our asthma rate needs a very detailed evaluation. But ultimately, this project is too important to let go.

Our community residents can not usually travel to New Jersey, Long Island, or upper Westchester to obtain the less expensive, higher quality goods which a mall of this type can bring to our doorstep. Ask any East Harlemite and they will tell you they can't wait for PathMark, Home Depot, Cosco and other big name stores to come into the area. It means less expense and travel to obtain items they need and higher quality goods. Employment should also be a consideration of this project. Malls never hire just a few people. The East River Plaza Mall will employ people with different skill sets, laborers, managers, office staff, cashiers, cleaners, etc. Something for everyone. Employment means more jobs, and with more East Harlemites working, we all gain. More East Harlemites with money means more spending in East Harlem. All merchants benefit.

Gloria Quiniones and William Gerena are great people who have contributed much to our community. They are also personal friends. Knowing them tells me that they are not being trivial about this project. They act on their beliefs. They do nothing on a whim and think things out before pursuing them. This writer respects them enormously. The project's sponsors would do well to listen to B.A.R.A.s concerns. This writer recommends doing whatever possible to deal with B.A.R.A.s concerns and to allow the project to continue. jbr.

Note: This writer has replied to a Request For Proposal to design and maintain the web site for this project. It is entirely possible that the request will be successful. This writer believes in this project and has since it's inception. It will be good for the community. This writer feels it would be in keeping with honesty and integrity to reveal this possible connection to the project along with this article. Jose B. Rivera

Note 2: The East River Plaza web site has been completed and can be found at: www.eastriverplaza.com

Posted by Jose at 1:57 AM