November 2, 2008

Maria Ramos Receives Award

East Harlem - October 29, 2008 - Maria Ramos an East Harlem activist and health literacy professional received the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation press release (below) says it all.

Press Release

PRINCETON, NJ (October 27, 2008) – The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation today announced Maria Ramos, a longtime health literacy activist in impoverished New York City communities, as one of ten exemplary Americans who will receive the Community Health Leaders Award for 2008. The distinguished annual award honors extraordinary men and women from all over the country who conquer huge obstacles and take commanding action in local communities to tackle some of the most challenging health and health care problems facing the nation. Awardees are celebrated with national recognition and $125,000.

This year, more than 800 nominations were submitted from across the United States. Through a rigorous process, the Foundation selected ten outstanding individuals, all of whom have worked to improve health conditions in their communities through exceptional creativity, courage and commitment. The Foundation chose Ramos this year for her leadership in developing an initiative to provide free health screenings for hundreds of disadvantaged taxi and limousine drivers in the South Bronx and East Harlem communities. Ramos will accept her award on October 29 at a special ceremony honoring each of the 2008 recipients during the Community Health Leaders Annual Meeting in San Diego.

"Maria Ramos' commitment to her community drives her out-of-the-box thinking that all communities need to adapt to meet constantly evolving challenges," said Janice Ford Griffin, national program director for the award. "Maria is tenacious in her efforts to figure out what will work and how to make it happen."

Through the Taxi/Limousine Drivers Health Initiative, Ramos deploys staff members to 70 taxi bases daily to deliver crucial health services to hundreds of drivers. Using dispatch radios, staff members announce services that are available on-location for that day. The individuals conduct health screenings, including glucose, blood pressure and prostate, breast and colon cancer; administer flu shots; schedule medical appointments and assist drivers with enrolling in health insurance plans. They also educate drivers about chronic illnesses such as asthma, cancer and heart disease. In an effort to limit drivers’ time off the road, Ramos’ "express care" system delivers all services within an hour.

Ramos’ work addresses the health care needs and improves health outcomes for many taxi drivers who suffer from poor circulation and other medical conditions as a result of the sedentary nature of their work. Some fear pursuing health services that they are unfamiliar with and, therefore, have not sought needed treatment. Others have refrained from seeking medical help because of frustrations with language and communication barriers in medical offices. Ramos encourages drivers to take control of their health and manage their medical conditions regardless of such fear or aggravation. In many cases, she also works to alter drivers’ "on-the-go" eating habits to reduce their risks for obesity and diabetes. More than 3,000 drivers comprise the service area of Ramos’ program. Drivers served are predominantly Dominican, West African, Columbian and Venezuelan male immigrants between the ages of 21 and 60. Most are uninsured. In a letter of recommendation supporting Ramos’ nomination for the award, Assemblywoman Carmen E. Arroyo, who represents New York’s 84th district, wrote that Ramos’ program is among her "greatest accomplishments" as a "pioneer for public health" in New York City.

Ramos and each of the 2008 awardees will join the ranks of 153 Community Health Leaders in 45 states and Puerto Rico honored since 1993. The $125,000 award consists of a $20,000 personal gift and $105,000 to support their work. In addition to Ramos in New York, this year, Community Health Leaders hail from Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Massachusetts, California, Utah, New York, North Dakota and Hawaii. Nominations for the 2009 Community Health Leaders Award can be submitted through November 7, 2008. For details on how to submit a nomination, including eligibility requirements and selection criteria, visit

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit



Community Health Leaders 2008

Photo of Maria RamosArea(s) of Expertise: Access to Care

Leader's Biography 2008:
MARIA RAMOS, Network Associate Director, Generations +/Northwestern Manhattan Health Network, New York, New York
In 2003 Maria Ramos saw a need for health services among New York City’s taxi and limousine drivers who frequently suffer from medical conditions as a result of their sedentary work and “on-the-go” eating habits. What began as an opportunity to bring healthcare to those living and working in Harlem and the South Bronx communities, has developed into a mechanism to deliver healthcare services to drivers at 70 taxi bases across New York, where over 3,000 drivers and their families can have access to care. Ramos and her outreach staff travel to area taxi bases daily, utilizing dispatch radios to announce the availability of services for that day. Most services are provided within an hour, which appeals to drivers, who average three customers within that time frame. Ramos’ success has led to other projects, including a collaboration with the taxi bases and the Department of Aging to increase awareness of available healthcare services programs to seniors as she continues to find innovative efforts to meet the healthcare needs of New Yorkers.

Where this Leader can be reached today:
Network Associate Director Community Health Education Program
Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center
234 E 149th St
Bronx, NY 10451-5504
Phone: 718-579-4981
Fax: 718-579-4602

Posted by Jose at 3:34 PM

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

September 21, 2008

Open Letter to the Community

East Harlem - September 18, 2008. Congressman Rangel e-mailed this open letter to the community. East presents it here for your information:

The campaign season has begun, and to no great surprise, I'm now a Republican talking point. But I assure you, I've brought no dishonor to my family, the Congress, my constituents, or my country.

Photo the statue erected in honor of Dr. J. Marion Sims in 1894 on East 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue, on the border of Central Park.My Democratic colleagues in the House – and, privately, many Republicans – have rallied on my behalf. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team have embraced me while denouncing Republican politics as usual. My colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee and members of the New York delegation are standing tall by my side. Most importantly, my family, neighbors, constituents, pastors, and community leaders are solidly with me.

Last July, the Republican Party declared guerrilla war against Democrats and since then has made every effort to smear me and members of my party. It wasn't enough that they had denied 10 million American children healthcare, blocked extension of unemployment benefits, and tried to scuttle $2 billion in promised 9-11 recovery funds for New York.

My record in the Ways and Means Committee and 38 years in Congress is unassailable, so they've pried into my private life and used insinuation and half-truths to write stories that sell papers – what car I drive; where I live; where I vacation with my family; and how I handle my personal finances. They've piled on, even questioning my motives for raising funds for a public college in my district.

I've never violated the public trust, so I'm not worried. I've laid all the available facts on the table and answered every allegation, all of which were based on inaccurate newspaper stories. At my request, the Ethics Committee is investigating whether I've committed any errors of omission. Independent experts are being called in to correct any mistakes in my government filings. In the meantime, my work as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee has not been affected in any way.

For now, nothing is more important than victory in November. So, I'll continue doing my best to help elect Barack Obama president and to expand the Democratic majority in Congress. At stake are all the hopes of Americans to turn this country around and ensure a better future for our children and grandchildren.

The devastating meltdown of the economy has made even clearer the urgent need for an end to policies that favor war over prosperity and greed over fairness. Next year, the nation's priorities must be the creation of jobs, health care for all Americans, the best education for our children, security for our seniors, and the restoration of fairness to our tax system. Those aspirations will be realized only with President Obama in the White House and a strong progressive-minded Congress behind him.

Thank you for the prayers and all of the support over the years.


Charles B. Rangel
Member of Congress

Posted by Jose at 1:03 AM

September 20, 2008

Military Recruitment Under Attack!!

Military Recruitment in New York City Public Schools is under attack by some elected officials. Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, State Senator Jose Serrano, the American Civil Liberties Union and Students or Soldiers Coalition have united to make it more difficult for Military Recruiters to do their jobs.

Photo of Panel of the May 13 meeting.The group’s main contention is that Military Recruiters are “too aggressive” in recruiting students out of New York City Public Schools. They site a September 8, 2007 (unscientific) survey conducted by Manhattan Borough President and the A.C.L.U. whose conclusion is that military recruiters are too aggressive. Included in these assertions are:

• Use of class time to by recruiters to recruit students
• Non universal distribution of Opt-Out forms to all students/parents
• Lack of counselors to point out risks and benefits of joining the military
• Not knowing where to report an overly aggressive military recruiter
• Recruiters intimidating Teachers and Principals

Borough President Stringer and the A.C.L.U. say that the survey suggests that educators, parents, students and administrators have not been adequately informed by the Department of Education about the issue of military recruitment. They also say that some parents have reported experiences with aggressive military recruiters citing harassment and privacy violations.

At a May 13, 2008 East Harem community meeting military recruiters were chastised for their use of class time to recruit, the non-universal distribution of Opt-Out forms, and the lack of counselors to point out the risks of joining the military. They also mention two ridiculous objections, the wearing of military uniforms while recruiting, and arriving at schools in military vehicles. These practices were objectionable to the group because “they influence impressionable young people”. The meeting purpose was to “create steps to protect students” against aggressive military recruitment practices in New York City Public Schools. No military recruiters were present as none were invited to defend themselves from these accusations.

Absurdity at Best
This anti-military project of our elected officials and the A.C.L.U. is an attempt to keep the military from doing their job, mainly defense and recruitment. It stems from a misunderstanding of the use and need of the military at best, their dislike of U.S. foreign policy and of anything military. Since they don’t agree with foreign policy they reason they can weaken it by weakening our military. This is naive and dangerous thinking. Dangerous in that a weaken military will only encourage terrorist to strike both abroad and here at home. It puts all of us at risk.

Let’s take their objections one by one and see how all this pans out.

The Use of Class Time.
The Department of Education gives the military the same access to students as it does for vocational schools, colleges, and businesses. So if schools give any of these other entities class time, the military can not be discriminated against by not giving them the same type of access others get.
This writer did ask a few East Harlem high schools how they handle recruitment. Most allow military recruiters a small room where only students who wish to talk to them can go. Those who do not wish to talk to recruiters don’t go to that room at that time. This is simple and no class time is used. And each students has the choice to talk to a recruiter or not too. This writer thinks it is unfortunate that military recruiters are not allowed to make their presentation to the whole student body. Although anti-military activists and elected officials want a counselor to tell students about the risks of joining the military, they do not allow recruiters to make one presentation to all so that they all know what they are saying “No” too. This is rather interesting from those who like to profess “choice” and “tolerance”.

Non Universal Distribution of Opt-Out forms
This is the only criticism that has any basis in fact. Some schools are either not getting or getting but not distributing and explaining the how and why of the Opt-Out Forms. These forms allow a student/family to inform recruiters that they are not interested and that they should henceforth not be recruited. Meaning, no visits at home, phone calls, cards, letters, etc.. The opt-out form is a fair way to deal with not wanting to be recruited. What is not fair is what this writer has heard about some schools filling out the forms for and without the student’s knowledge in an effort to keep recruiters from recruiting “their students”. You can guess at these schools leadership political leanings.

The non universal distribution of Opt-Out forms is not a matter for the military. It is a Department of Education matter and should be addressed by having a meeting with those officials and not as part of an anti-military meeting. The military does not control the creation, use, or distribution of those forms. So this is a silly charge to level against the military.

Lack of Counselors to point out the Risks of Joining the military
The lack of counselors to point out the Risks of Joining the military is a weird complaint for a number of reasons. First teachers can always point out the risks involved in joining the military. The risks being that you may have to go to war, and that you may get hurt or killed while on duty.

One does not need to hire counselors to warn students against joining our great military. And we should not use over-worked counselors to take time from their busy workload to do the same. Teachers will suffice. It is surprising that elected officials who should know better than to ask our educational professionals to stop what they are doing to in effect push their political agenda. They have much more important things to do then to become a vanguard for the liberal left.

And lastly, the lack of counselors is a Department of Education issue, not one to blame on the military.

Photo of Panel of the May 13 meeting audience.Not Knowing Where To Report Abuses
This complaint is yet another which the military has nothing to do with. The Department of Education is the authoritative place to take this complaint. That there are no mechanisms in place or that some schools don’t read their memos from the Department of Education has nothing to do with the military. The military has no control over where to go to report abuses. So this complaint should have been reserve for a meeting about those things lacking at the Department of Education.

Recruiters Intimidate Teachers and Principals.
This charge against the recruiters seemed weak. As a former school board member and PTA parent this writer has never seen tough U.F.T. teachers or principals back away from anything. Principals especially rule well over their schools and this writer doubts for a second that any principal would allow anyone to intimidate them, not even a military recruiter. It’s possible, but darn hard to believe.

Soldiers Are Getting Killed
Does anyone not spot the obvious problem with this line of thinking? This writer also heard this at a local protest in front of a recruiting station (see prior story). Let’s make this simple. Policemen can get hurt in the line of duty. So can Firemen, Coast Guardsmen, electricians etc.. There are many jobs where danger is part of the job. Not wanting a military because people can get hurt is like pulling all the policemen in the city out of the streets for the same reason. Being in the military entails the possibility that one may see action and risk injury or death because of said action. It is a silly consideration and one made from an uninformed point of view, that being, not know the purpose and use of the military.

This writer is sure glad that the World War II generation were brave enough to support the war effort, else we’d be speaking German right now. The military is there for a reason.

This objection also rings hallow because some of the very same people who object to 4,000 soldiers being killed in the war think nothing of the 4,000 unborn babies aborted each and every day. Half of these babies are girls and will never be able to "Choose" to reproduce or not. Where is their protest against this American genocide?

Civilians Are Being Killed By Our Troops
Civilian casualties do occur in war. The United State is one of a few countries where the goal is to keep civilian casualties at a minimum. Hence the use of laser guided bombs. Pinpoint bombs save civilian lives. It does not help that some enemy states put their munitions plants within populated civilian residences. What the Liberal Left does not mention is the liberation and thankfulness of the people of Iraq. They are now free from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and have begun pretty normal lives, especially after the “Surge”. The surge worked and the quitters were wrong. The defeatists should hide their heads in shame.

Use of Uniforms and Military Vehicles
If this is not the dumbest objection ever I don’t know what is!! It is a juvenile claim. Of course they are going to wear their uniforms! Hello! Duhhh!! It’s part of what identifies them as being military. And yes the uniforms do look nice and suggest organization. It is suppose to do that, not only to students, but to the world at large. And all military personnel are to be in uniform while on duty. This is military law. Recruiters do not have a choice in this matter. Speak to the Pentagon about it, but don’t bother the recruiters with this nonsense.

Besides, everyone recruiting students has a uniform. Businessmen have their suits, Policemen and Firemen have their uniforms and do wear them to school. The example of doctors was mentioned during the May 13th meeting, but this writer has seen doctors in scrubs at schools. What if all liberal elected officials were made to wear nothing but a diaper while speaking in public? That would prevent them from unduly influencing students because of their dress. But that would also be silly. So why ask recruiters to not wear their work cloths? It is their professional dress. It is required by law. And it is a stupid request. When presenting arguments for or against something, use reason and not nonsense about recruiters having an unfair advantage because they wear their uniforms.

Last thoughts
It is sad and frightening that elected officials should want to emasculate this countries’ military. They want to castrate this nation and weaken its power, strength and pride. Some believe that “the military is bad” (simplistic and wrong), others just want to make us weak because they disagree with our foreign policy. (you may disagree but don’t put the rest of us at risk with a weak military). It is like cutting off your nose when scratching it will do. It is dumb and suicidal.

Ever notice how they have nothing good to say about this great nation? They create nothing yet want to take everything from the rest of us. (think high taxes and socialism) Does the word parasite come to mind?

Freedom Is Not Free
The cost of freedom has always been high, and Americans have always paid it. But we must also pay that debt for those who follow us. How can we ask anything of this great country if we are not willing to defend it? Protesting in front of recruiting stations says “I want all the benefits of living here, but don’t wish to contribute to the cost of keeping this place free”.

All those who are part of this anti-military effort would do well to remember that freedom is not free, that their very right and ability to protest, comes from the blood and sacrifice of others. And to keep in mind ALL those who gave their lives that we may be here today, fully free to even have this silly discussion. It has always taken blood and guts to ensure our liberty. This writer challenges these elected officials and the A.C.L.U. to try this very same protest in Cuba, Russia, North Korea, China and see what happens.

American land of the Free and home of the Brave (and now home of the liberal wimps, wussies –not the word I actually want to use, but close enough)

May God Bless America

Posted by Jose at 10:15 PM

April 27, 2008

J. Marion Sims, Surgeon or Monster?

East Harlem - April 27, 2008. A recent poll in the East Harlem Preservation website asks its visitors if the statue of J. Marion Sims should be removed from its present location. The question is phrased as follows: "Should the NYC Parks Department remove the statue of Dr. Marion Sims from its East Harlem location considering his experiments on female and infant slaves?"

Photo the statue erected in honor of Dr. J. Marion Sims in 1894 on East 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue, on the border of Central Park.The question assumes that those being polled have some knowledge of just who was Dr. J. Marion Sims. Hopefully, all polled did some research before adding their two cents.

Dr. J. Marion Sims Jan. 25, 1813 - Nov. 13, 1883.

In viewing the above dates it should immediately strike the reader that we are dealing with someone from outside our current time and place. Dr. Sims was born over 195 years ago. Quite close to 200 years ago. He died just over 125 years ago. Keep this in mind when evaluating Dr. Sims.

J. Marion Sims is famous for pioneering a treatment for vesicovaginal fistula A vesicovaginal fistula can be caused by injury to the urinary tract, which can occur accidentally during surgery to the pelvic area, such as a hysterectomy. It can also be caused by a tumor in the vesicovaginal area or by reduced blood supply due to tissue death (necrosis) caused by radiation therapy or prolonged labor during childbirth.

The most common symptom is constant urine leakage from the vagina. The patient may also experience irritation in the area of the vulva, and frequent urinary tract infections." (Penn State Health & Diseases Topics A-Z)

It seems that Dr. Sims learned, tweaked and homed his treatment for vesicovaginal fistula by working on his own patients and on African Slaves women and children. Dr. Sims has been accused of treating the African Slave women without the use of any anesthetic during the procedure (operation). Although he did administer an opiate after the procedure to alleviate the pain. Some have also accuse Dr. Sims of deliverately trying to addict these women to the opiate. Due to all his pioneering work, Dr. Sims is known as the "Father of Gynecology". His treatment has allowed thousands of women to lead normal lives. Since his time treatments built upon his pioneering work have helped eve more women.

Dr. Sims did in fact try and improve his treatment for vesicovaginal fistula whenever he came across it in his line of work. This included white and African Slave women. The difference was that Dr. Sims did not administer an anesthetic to the African Slave women. Still his actual knowledge was garnered by both white and African Slaves. So that the procedure itself was not a mutilation of slave women and a correct procedure for white women. Secondly, after perfecting his treatment, he applied it equally to all women. And all women benefit to this day.

It seems that the main contention really is that Dr. Sims did not administer an anesthetic to the African slave women. This write acknowledges that was indeed unfortunate and not what I would wish on the worlds worst people. It was unfortunate because those women suffered great great pain. Some of them were repeatedly operated on by Dr. Sims to correct the problem, some to the tune of over 30 times. It is unimaginable the pain these particular women went through.

Repeated operations more than suggest two things, one that Dr. Sims was seeking (exploring) a way to correct this medical problem, hence the repeated attempts, and two that he was determined to try until he found the correct procedure. He could have tried any procedure once or twice, failed, and given up thereby dooming thousands of women to suffer. But he persisted till he figured out how to help these women, all women.

Call for the Removal of the Statue
But some are calling for the removal of Dr. Sims' statue under the accusation that he was "racists" and that he "tortured" slave women. A statue that has been in its present and only location since 1894. Just how fair is that call for the statue's removal?

Let's look at the facts:
Dr. Sims did in fact work out his procedure on women the majority of which were slaves.
Dr. Sims did in fact not anesthetize slave patients choosing instead to give then opiates after the procedure. It is possible that Dr. Sims did not think the slave women to be human beings at all. A not uncommon way of thinking back then, hence the civil war. All of the above does not bode well for the Dr. Sims as more Doctor than monster.

What can mitigate against seeing Dr. Sims as a monster or torturer? First it must be remembered that Dr. Sims operated at a time when anesthesia was just beginning to be used with medical confidence (1846). Not all surgeons had access to anesthesia let alone used it initially. It took time for anesthesia to known, distributed and used properly. Dr. Sims did use it on his white females patients, but not on his African Slave patients as he may not have thought them as fully human. Again a belief common to that time. He did think enough of them to give them an opiate (pain killer) to relive post operative pain. So he was not totally without concern or empathy for these women.

What current day activists are trying to do is punish Dr. Sims for not being like us. He is being punished for not thinking like a 20th-21st Century activist. Much like poor Christopher Columbus, Dr. Sims is the victim tremendously displaced hindsight. Activists are holding past historical figures "guilty" of something they could not possibly possess, which is Current Day Thinking. Basically they are trying impose current day social morality on a 19th century man. The man not having benefited from the last 150 years of knowledge in areas of medicine, and moral discourse. But is still held accountable for it.(for what he does not have) It's like blaming cavemen for not using acrylics to do their cave paintings.

Photo of part of the Dr. Sims column stating his accomplishmentsThe danger of using present thinking to judge historical figures is that the same will be done to us. It is nothing but unfair to anyone it is thrust upon. Imagine 100 years from now when abortion is illegal (due to respect for life). Some writer decides that the statues of all who supported abortion should be brought down, no matter how much "social justice" they did in our current time. Would it be fair to be judged on just one thing? No matter how much good you did?

Or lets say that vegetarians have their way an impose no meat eating upon society. And they decide that all who ate meat should be erased from history. Would you want to be judged in the future on something you barely give a second thought to now?

What this writer is saying is that we must remember the historical context that others had to live in and respect that they did the best with what they knew. They did not have the benefit of our way of thinking. This does not excuse bad behavior or ways of thinking. We can say that Columbus did not treat the American Indians well (sorry I'm too educated to be PC minded), but also realize that way of thinking was not an uncommon way for Europeans to think back then.

But we can still say that Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, Castro, Sandinistas, and others of their ilk were indeed evil people (results of atheism, the biggest killer of people ever). But they all lived in a time when they should have known better by virtue of all the human rights, natural rights and theology around during the turn of the century (1900).

The same can not be said of Dr. Sims. He never heard the great men like Martin Luther King, or Supreme Court Justice Thomas. He never went through the civil rights era and learned from that. He never had the benefit of our current thinking. But he did find a procedure to help all women, white, black, asian, etc.. who had a vesicovaginal fistula. He did not use this correct procedure only on white women, but on all women who came to him for help. And as use of his procedure spread among all surgeons even more women were helped regardless of color, ethnicity, or language.

What do do?Photo of the Dr Sims statue column stating the honors bestowed upon him by this and other countries around the world
It seems Dr. Sims did some good along with some bad. But even the bad that he did, he did in an effort to find a corrective procedure for vesicovaginal fistula. His intention was not to mutilate or disfigure his patients. His intention was to find a way to makes things right, by finding a corrective procedure for vesicovaginal fistula. What do we do with that knowledge of all the good he did? Do we dismiss all the good he did? He was no Dr. Josef Mengele. He was trying to help his patients.

Lastly, a generation of citizens decided to honor Dr. Sims' life by erecting a statue of him. He received honors from Belgium, France Italy, Spain and Portugal. It seems presumptuous and elitist of us to undo their judgment and honoring of Dr. Sims. We are telling that generation and those countries that we know better than they who lived in that very time.

Whatever you decide please remember that you will be judged as you judge and that future generations judge your judgment. Using the same criteria that is being used against Dr. Sims, it could be argued that most of our U.S. and Puerto Rican artist could be called on the rug and taken from history for all of their faults. Dr. Sims at least helped people by virtue of being a doctor, found a procedure to correct vesicovaginal fistula, among all the good medicine he practiced. But how will all our cultural and musical heroes (all the druggie and alcoholic artists) defend themselves having only their art and money received from it (self interest) to show for their faults? How would you like a 25th Century activist judge you and this whole generation based on something we have not even experienced in our time?

Dr. Sim's status should remain right where it is. It would seem sad and petty to yank that statue out of its current location. And for those who whole heartedly believe his statue should go, the question is this: How does the statue's removal correct anything? What does it accomplish? To what end is this act directed? It does not punish Dr. Sims, he is part of eternity now. Is the statue removal effort, an attempt, to scratch a "social justice" itch? Do activists not have bigger and live fish to fry? Or will they continue to pick on those who can not defend themselves because they have died - the easy targets?

Lastly, remember, none of us are totally good. Unlike Dr. Sims, we do not have hundreds or thousands of patients to show how we spent our lives. Most of us have more good intentions than good works done to show for our lives. And yet we dare judge a man who did mostly good, for women no less. It does seem ungrateful.

It goes to show is that hindsight does not a good judge make. - JBR

Posted by Jose at 5:15 PM

April 21, 2008

East Harlemites Protest the War

East Harlem - March 24, 2008. Local Community Activists took to the streets today and protested the war in Irag. The protesters, six (6) in number began their protests at 1700 hours (5:00 PM for all you civilians out there)

Photo local activist protesting the war in Irag at East 103rd Street in front of the Army Recruitment CenterThey choose to protest in front of the Army Recruiting Center. In the great tradition of all East Harlem protests, this one was peaceful. The protesters main contentions were that the war was illegal and not justified and that our military personnel were being needlessly killed. In fact one of their chants was about putting youth in danger.

East does not agree with any of the protester's sentiments. The war is necessary as it send a message to terrorist that the U.S. will not be bullied. And it is strange to hear about putting our youth in danger, as that is part of what it takes to accomplish a military task. It's like wanting to pull policemen out of the streets because criminals might hurt them.

But this writer does respect the protester's opinion and their right (in the great American tradition) to have their voice be heard. In fact it is because we have had a strong military for over 200 years that these very protesters have the right and ability to protest. And this writer is proud of having been part of the long line of those who have served in the military. You might say, I served so that they may be able to protest. And that is not a bad deal at all.

Too all the protesters out there, let your voices be heard and continue to keep it peaceful. JBR

Posted by Jose at 12:21 AM

April 20, 2008

East turns 12 years old

East Harlem - February 25, 2008. Jose B. Rivera, founder and webmaster of East celebrated another year and another milestone. East celebrated it 12th year of existence. It's hard to believe but the local community website has been around since 1996, when the web was young and practically without any graphics. Browsers did not deal with graphics back then.

Photo of the Birthday cake (from Savoy Bakery)East was begun when Mr. Rivera failed to get a community newspaper off the ground. "The costs were too high", said Mr. Rivera. "And when the web presented itself I saw it for what it was, an opportunity to publish with a lot lower costs. I did take one chance however, that people would even use the web. The web was young and only academics and nerds knew of and use it."

Mr. Rivera remembers looking at his first statistics and seeing 12 whole hits a day. "It took a few years, but eventually more and more people became aware of the website to the point that it now gets 525,000 hits a month or serves about 116,000 pages a month. About half from college students doing research for classes.

East has grown in other ways over the years too. It has added a Discussion Forum, Guestbook, Photo Gallery, and Events database.

Other Sites
And the website is not the only East Harlem community website. It was joined by local community activist Marina Ortiz's Virtual Boricua and the more recent East Harlem Preservation, Sadly, another site, was discontinued. This write hopes that it's absence is temporary.

East has been on the news twice (once on MSNBC and once on NY1) and its photos have been used to look for grants, in wine publications, text book covers and various college reports. It also mets the students of both New York University and Columbia School of Journalism. The webmaster has also hosted various student visitors throughout the years.

The Future
The website will continue to provide news about the East Harlem community. With new features to come "online" soon. If there was one thing the Mr. Rivera would change would be to have more contributors writing for the site. Various students have written some stories in the past and Mr. Leon Tulton has been a great asset too, writing numerous stories. But it would be nice to have different points of views and a lot more activity on the Discussion Forums.

How long can Mr. Rivera keep the site up? "Well money is not an issue, but time is. And I need to find more time and energy to devote to the website. Here's to another 12 years, who knows what the web will look like then" adds Mr. Rivera.

Posted by Jose at 11:19 PM

October 22, 2007

Affordable Housing in Northern Manhattan: The New Oxymoron

East Harlem, March 3, 2007. Marion Bell and Joann Lawson share a few things in common. Both are long-term residents of Northern Manhattan and are very active in their community; Bell as a member of Manhattan Community Board 11 and Lawson as the president of the Tenants Association at Lakeview, a 446-unit apartment complex both women call home.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer addressing residents and housing advocacy groups on March 3, 2007 on how the decreasing number of Mitchell-Lama housing is contributing to the affordable housing crisis in Northern Manhattan.<br />
 <br />
The photo was courtesy of the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.<br />
For the last five years, however, Bell and Lawson have also shared something in common with a growing number of tenants in Mitchell-Lama housing throughout New York City: the constant fear of being forced out of their homes if their landlords decide to leave the Mitchell-Lama program. "[If Lakeview leaves the Mitchell-Lama program], my rent is going to double. That I'm sure of," Lawson said about how her home may not be so affordable any more. 'Do I think I can afford it? Absolutely not." Thirty-six year old Bell, who has been a resident of Lakeview since age six, also expressed her desire to stay at the complex. "This is my home," she said. "This is something that I don't want to readily leave." Statements like these are not new to elected officials like Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. The concerns from his constituents about this issue have become so great that Stringer co-hosted a conference in March 2007 to address the declining stock of affordable housing in New York City as more landlords choose to leave the Mitchell-Lama program.

"The fight to save Mitchell-Lama is not new," Stringer told the 500 plus members of the audience who attended the conference. "Residents, advocates, and elected officials have been fighting for decades to protect this critical stock of affordable housing."

According to the borough president, the New York State Mitchell-Lama Housing Program was created in 1955 for the purpose of building affordable housing for middle-income residents. The program, named after two former state legislators who sponsored the legislation, MacNeil Mitchell and Alfred Lama, has been credited by many for sparking the development of affordable housing in New York City. Developers who agreed to adhere to the regulations of the Mitchell-Lama program were rewarded with low-interest mortgage loans and property tax exemptions in exchange for building more affordable housing. Although the Mitchell-Lama program encouraged developers to create affordable housing in the city, it also contained a provision that allowed developers to withdraw from the program, or buy out, after 20 years upon prepayment of the mortgage (or after 35 years in the case of developments aided by loans prior to May 1, 1959). When developments buy out, they are no longer subject to Mitchell-Lama regulation, and apartment need not be kept affordable for moderate-income families. With the real estate market in New York City at an all-time high, more landlords of Mitchell-Lama properties felt that they could make a bigger profit from their buildings through increased rent if they opted out of the Mitchell-Lama program.

The mass exodus of property owners from the Mitchell-Lama program is a growing concern among elected officials such as City Comptroller William C. Thompson. His office has estimated that New York City has lost nearly 25 percent of its affordable housing (36, 629 units) developed under Mitchell-Lama. In 2004 and 2006, the comptroller produced two reports that addressed the fast decline of affordable housing in the city. "Unfortunately since the release of the 2004 and 2006 reports, the [affordable housing] situation has worsen," Thompson said at the March event explaining that more housing units are continuing to withdraw from Mitchell-Lama at an alarming rate. He cited how last year 28 Mitchell-Lama developments (nearly 13,000 units) had started the process to leave the program. Of the 28, nine (approximately 5,700 units) have officially left Mitchell-Lama. "If all 28 [developments] completely withdraw, New York City will have lost 33 percent of affordable units built under Mitchell-Lama," the comptroller warned.

In the 2006 report, the Comptroller's Office identified three apartment complexes in Northern Manhattan whose status in the Mitchell-Lama program was pending. These three are Lakeview at 35 East 106th Street, Bethune Towers at 650 Lenox Avenue, and Lionel Hampton Houses at 301 West 130th Street. East contacted the three buildings to get the owners" reasons for wanting to leave the Mitchell-Lama program. Robert Seavey, one of the two co-owners of Lakeview, stated that he didn't want to comment because he's currently in talk with the City and State and was concerned that any public statement may hinder the on-going negotiation. A representative of Baoton Management, the agency that runs Bethune Towers, refused to comment for this story. "We don't want to participate in this story," the person said before abruptly ending the telephone conversation with this reporter. The manager of Lionel Hampton Houses, who only identified herself as Ms. Rivera, also refused to comment and wouldn't identify the name and contact information of the owner. "I'm not authorized to reveal this information," said Ms. Rivera who added that Lionel Hampton Houses has since left the Mitchell-Lama program in 2006.

Unlike other communities in Manhattan, Washington Heights and Inwood have fewer Mitchell-Lama apartments in the area. According to the 2006 City Comptroller report, only two apartment complexes in Washington Heights and Inwood were listed as housing in the Mitchell-Lama program, Inwood Gardens and Inwood Terrance. Despite the few Mitchell-Lama housing in the community, Washington Heights and Inwood residents may still be affected by the Mitchell-Lama crisis. Evan Hess of Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation argued that Mitchell-Lama tenants displaced from their apartments may look for new housing further north of the borough. "Mitchell-Lama housing was designed for middle-class families," he said. "If they are priced out, they will go to neighborhoods like Washington Heights and Inwood, essentially competing with the area's poorer residents for the few affordable housing that we have."

On July 2007, New Yorkers received some good news from the State when Governor Eliot Spitzer and the Division of Housing and Community Renewal announced regulation to close the "unique and peculiar" loophole, which until now has allowed landlords leaving Mitchell-Lama to immediately and drastically increase rents in their buildings to market rate. By closing the loophole, this will potentially ensured that over 19,000 rent-regulated units would remain affordable in the future.

For Stringer, this was a small victory in the never-ending battle to preserve affordable housing for his constituents. "The Mitchell-Lama community has been fighting to protect their homes for years," the borough president said. "This victory is long overdue and would never have been possible without the tireless advocacy of tenants and organizers throughout New York City and New York State." Bell also viewed Spitzer's announcement as good news for tenants like herself. "Now that we won the victory against the U&P loophole, we need to keep up the momentum that this significant victory has brought us," she said. "It's fabulous that our advocacy has proven effective and we got to bring our individual talents together to fight for the cause for low-and-middle-income-targeted housing."

By Leon Tulton

Posted by Jose at 5:07 PM

East Harlem Remembers 911

East Harlem, September 8, 2007. East Harlem residents and members of law enforcement impacted by the September 11th terrorist attack six years ago gathered last Saturday at the community's first annual memorial ceremony to remember those lost by the tragedy.

Photo of the Precinct Honor GuardAttendees stood in silence and reverence as members of the New York City Police Department's color guard (the department's ceremonial escort) opened the ceremony carrying the U.S. and New York City flags under the blare of the national anthem.

Reverend Gilberto Lopez, the 23rd Precinct's clergy liaison, explained that he organized the community memorial ceremony to give East Harlemites a venue to remember those they lost in their own community. He stated that although East Harlem residents affected by the 2001 tragedy observe the citywide 9-11 memorial ceremony each year, they may not feel connected because the media usually overemphasize 9-11 as affecting only those in downtown Manhattan. "We want to make a statement that not only downtown people were affected, but uptown workers and families as well," Reverend Lopez commented about East Harlem's first annual memorial event. "The whole idea [of this event] is to bring the community to one accord."

Representatives from law enforcement spoke about the importance of continuously honoring both uniformed and civilian victims who perished on September 11, 2001 when two passenger airplanes hijacked by terrorists were flown into the World Trade Center towers, resulting in approximately 2,974 deaths. "We must never forget 9-11 and never forget those who laid down their lives for us," Reverend Jay Gooding, executive director of Chaplains Helping in Police Situations, a chaplain group formed shortly after 9-11, said. Captain Eddie Carrasco, executive officer of the 23rd Precinct expressed how 9-11, despite the tremendous horror associated with the day, had another unexpected effect. "Instead of breaking us down and separating us, the terrorists brought us together and made us stronger," he said describing the resilience of New Yorkers.

Neighborhood children pledging with Reverend Gilberto Lopez, clergy liaison for the 23rd Precinct, on September 8, 2007 to continue the legacy of the fallen heroes of 9-11 by living a positive life and making a difference in their community.When asked to reflect on how 9-11 impacted on their lives, members of law enforcement who attended the ceremony shared their stories with this reporter. Trooper E. J. Herrera of the New York State Police described how his fellow troopers felt the loss of local police officers at the World Trade Center. "In law enforcement, we're one big family so whenever there's any loss, it hurts all of us," he said. "Everyone was down, not just as [members of] law enforcement, but as Americans." Sergeant Miriam Luciano, an auxiliary police officer of the New York Police Department's 26th Precinct, recalled how the tragedy affected the public. "A lot of people were sad "you can see it on their faces," A/Sgt. Luciano said.

Two East Harlem residents interviewed for this story described their own 9-11 tales to this reporter. Gloria Castellanos, through a translator, told how a former employer she worked for was at the World Trade Center site and witnessed the dead bodies at the scene. She described how her former boss was so traumatized by the horror that he eventually turned to drugs and ultimately left New York City. Kwuana Olin recalled how the tragedy extinguished the joy she had a few days earlier when she gave birth to her daughter three days before the terrorist attack. She added that her cousins were at the site that day and thought that she lost them when the towers fell. "Thank God they were alive," she said. "When my cousins came home, they were covered in soot from head to toe."

At the end of the ceremony, kids who attended the event released into the air red, white, and blue balloons, symbolizing a person lost in the tragedy. "Children represent the future of our community," Reverend Lopez stated. "It's important to share our stories about 9-11 so that the memories of those lost in the tragedy will never be forgotten."

Leon Tulton

Posted by Jose at 4:20 PM

August 15, 2007

Congestion Pricing - New TAX, Less Freedom

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is leading the charge to implement Congestion Pricing in Manhattan. A terrible plan which will charge everyday drivers $8.00 and trucks $21.00 to drive into Manhattan below 86th Street. This plan is nothing but a money grab, a cash cow and a new TAX on the rest of us.

Mayor Bloombergs Congestion Pricing is not a good idea for many reasons:

A New Tax!
Unfortunately this is exactly what the imposition of a fee is. Mayor Bloomberg is raising our taxes under the guise of less congestion and health concerns. The truth is that only slightly less people are going to keep away from Manhattan. The congestion will be the same (and the Mayor knows this.) The difference will be that the Mayor will have more money to play with. This is really what this plan is all about, separating the taxpayers from their money.

Health Concerns?

Mayor Bloomberg all sites health concerns. He says that less cars will mean less fumes and therefore less asthma. But we will still have emissions from all the buses that travel Manhattan and the rest of the city that reach us anyway. And the Mayor has not countered arguments that the communities in Northern Manhattan will be adversely affected by all those wishing to park their cars in our communities, thereby adding more pollution locally to Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. So much for health concerns. Of course the Mayor lives in the area will there may be less cars, hence less pollution, what does he care about the rest of us?

Less Freedom
Mayor Bloomberg also wishes to curtail our freedom. He is denying access to parts of the city which have always been free to drive through. Has no one through of the implications of this? Bloomberg is try to move us from a Free country to a country where we must pay to access parts of it. Where does it stop?

Other Concerns
If congestion pricing is implemented in this city, taxpayers need to be aware that the price of access to Manhattan will continually go up. Like bridge tolls and taxes on cigarettes and gas, these punitive access tolls will never go down or ever leave us. So expect access to Manhattan to go up every year.

Money from congestion pricing may tempt politicians to start taxing us in other creative ways. There is always congestion in the subways, so why not impose a 50 cent tax on people using subways during rush hour, or a tax on very popular movies, plays, public events? That will ease congestion in those areas, right?

It is very scary when public officials start taxing access to places. God has given us this wonderful planet to take care of and people like Mayor Bloomberg wish to impose taxes in our movement throughout it. If Bloomberg thought he could tax our everyday marital sexual activity and get away with it he would.

Class Separation
The Mayors extra tax Congestion Plan would also limit access to Manhattan below 86th Street to only those who have the money to pay this tax. So in a way he is clearing the way for those with (money) to have to deal with less of us without money when shopping downtown. He is creating a situation where only those of means will be able to access Manhattan.

He is leaving the little guy out of the equation, and giving him access but for a fee, a new TAX. If the Mayor really wanted to cut congestion, he would limit all private cars access to Manhattan and without a fee. They would cut more congestion then just imposing a fee and eliminating the little guy from accessing Manhattan. But of course he would not do this, how would all his rich friends have access to their places of business? They would have to take public transportation. Which none are willing to do. The Mayor wants to provide less congestion for the rich. He knows they are willing and able to pay his new tax.

Business Tax
It has been reported that businesses in places with congestion pricing has seen less business. And remember that the Mayor will also tax commerce by taxing the trucks in which our food and goods get delivered. Businesses will pass this tax on to us, the consumers. So we get taxed yet again. Any business which depends on daily deliveries will have to pay $21.00 per truck per delivery. How the mayor does not see this and care is beyond reason.

So what can we garner from the Mayors tax scheme? That he wants money so badly that he is willing to deny people the freedom to travel freely and is willing to eliminate low to middle income New Yorkers from shopping in Manhattan in order to obtain money from the rich who will have a slightly better commute. Congestion pricing will not work. Those in Manhattans northern communities will bear the brunt of a lot less parking where they live, higher prices for food and goods and less access to most parts of Manhattan.

Thank God for Congressman Anthony Weiner and our leaders up in Albany, who are asking that this plan be studied before being implemented. Why the rush? The Mayor seems like a desperate man who is trying to push through an idea whether it is good or not, whether it is something we can live with or not. All so that he can get his grubby hands on more money. The hell with the rest of us

Things we should tax
-Stupid ideas
-Stupid Elected Officials
-Stupid ideas from stupid Elected Officials
-Any idea which would cost the tax payer money
-Any idea which would cost the tax payer freedom to move about
-Billionaire Mayors who dont care about the little guy and forget what it is like to be lower or middle class.

We Need to Revolt!!
The foundling fathers revolted for less than this. This city needs a revolution. This writer is encouraging all drivers to hide their license plates when driving into Manhattan below 86th Streets in protest of this new TAX. If need be, obscure photographic cameras view of all cars. They can not charge you if they do not see your license plates. DO NOT PAY THIS TAX. It is also a tax on your FREEDOM.The time has come to stop over taxing citizens. We are over taxed and taken advantage of by leaders who dont care about the average New Yorker. We need to lower taxes. Mayor Bloomberg is just too taxing on New York City.

Held Accountable
All elected officials who help, approve or vote for this extra tax on New Yorkers will be held accountable come election day. Those who impose an additional TAX burden will see the light of day and voters will be reminded of their choice to tax and limit our freedom. This website will list all who support this new tax.

Those Who Wish to Tax You More
Mayor Bloomberg
Governor Eliot "Tax and Spend" Spitzer
Congressman Crowley (sad that a Power Memorial Grad would do this)
City Council President Christine C. Quinn

Those Who Want A Commission to Study This Issue

State Senator Jose Serrano

Those Who Don't Wish to Tax the Middle Classs Away
Congressman Anthonyh D. Weiner

Posted by Jose at 9:38 AM

April 23, 2006

Garden Naming Unfair to East Harlemites

East Harlem, April 20, 2006. In a letter to Councilmember Mark Viverito dated April 20, 2006, well known and loved community activist, Marina Ortiz states her opposition to particular naming the family garden at East 114th Street.


As you may know, has been involved in drafting plans for the district-wide dedication of local streets and parks honoring East Harlem residents. My interest has been fueled by a combination of cultural/historical pride but also by concern over the lack of community input into the preservation and restoration of local landmarks and resources by outside agencies. Such is the case, I believe, with the planned memorial in the Family Garden on East 114th Street honoring the late Broderick John JB Hehman, who was killed on 125th Street.

As per your recommendation during the recent monthly meeting of Community Board 11, I have researched the effort by and the New York Restoration Project. According to WiredNewYork.coms User Remembrance Flyer (see: the first location is in the 500 Block Association of 149th Street West, (Maggie's Garden), although their memorial web page (see: lists both the Family Garden in East Harlem and Maggies Garden in Harlem. also directs contributors to the donations page of the New York Restoration Project (see: with instructions to enter in the "Comments" area: Restricted to JB Hehman Project. However, I found no such information on NYRPs website to indicate that they have publicly sanctioned this effort, and I am therefore curious why they have not yet made the fact that they are taking in donations for this particular effort a matter of public record.

Finally, I would like to direct your attention to some of the more offensive comments made by members of regarding Mr. Hehmans death (see further below). While the majority of posts on this issue were quite intelligent and thought-provoking, the idea that any one of the people noted below might have anything to do with renaming a park in East Harlem leaves quite a bitter taste in my mouth.

I would therefore appreciate your assistance in helping to facilitate local participation and decision-making regarding this matter. Thank you.

Marina Ortiz


April 10th, 2006
I am sorry, but I personally am not able to discuss forgiveness yet. Those "kids" aren't kids the way a 15 year old in the year 1800 was a kid. They are elements dangerous to society, as evidenced by the murder of our dear friend. They knew right from wrong. They knew it was wrong to gang rob somebody. A fierce, uncompromising response to "juvenile" crime is necessary to set an example of intolerance. Perhaps I need forgiveness for thinking," Too bad it has to be these worthless thugs. Their parents are probably as messed up as they are, and I don't care if they rot." That's how I feel right now. Maybe it is the anger talking. I'm familiar with the soft stance toward juvenile crime in Brazil, and look at the result. Kids literally get away with murder every day.

April 10th, 2006

...I see this afternoon that the Daily News -- to their shame -- has once again trotted out the old "Wolf Pack" headline in bold red print...

Yet, I believe the comparison is perfectly logical. None of these kids would have attempted this alone. What was Kipling's line? "The strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf."

April 10th, 2006

I am dreading the lame excuses the families will make for their children's behavior.

Amen to that. Much of the blame rests with them- they are probably the kind of parents that shouldn't be allowed to raise a fish let alone a child. Absentee fathers and skeezer mothers don't generally raise saintly children.

Jennifer in Harlem, April 12th, 2006

You're right. That is the question I'm asking. Reports have stated that these guys hesitated to go after another potential victim because they saw a patrol car. I would hope to hear that there had been more foot patrols instigated around 125 / Park -- as cops on foot can be far more effective in deterring incidents on the street than the occasional passing of a patrol car.

Hi, I live in the neighborhood where JB was attacked. Police foot manpower and the lack is a major complaint with this precinct. Also, Metro North has state police manned at the 125th location. They are never visible or posted in the very corners that JB was running for help. When the cops are around, they deter crime. In the last recruitment, this area received less than 10 new recruits to cover 62,000 square miles. The real culprits in JB's death is the community board, the local politicians and community leaders that continue to substandard police protection.

MidtownGuy, April 14th, 2006

They didn't call an ambulance. They didn't call for help. Rather, they stood on the street corner and laughed as he lay in the road.

No bleeding-heart routine for these creeps, please. Now, since the robbery wasn't completed, and they're juveniles, they'll go free after what amounts to a slap on the wrist. Think that will discourage future mugging/killings? An example should be made of them. After the trial, their pictures should be posted in the neighborhood, detailing what they did, and what the punishment will be. And, their families should be billed for any money the state spends on housing and feeding the little monsters they raised. Zero tolerance for this stuff. If it was up to me, they'd be pilloried. A teenager knows right from wrong unless they are retarded.

Posted by Jose at 4:01 AM

April 3, 2006

Con Ed Sub-Station in East Harlem

East Harlem - April 3, 2006. The Community Association of the East Harlem Triangle has brought up the issue of Con Edison Sub-Stations by holding a Town Hall meeting Friday, April 7th, 2006. Many will see and hear the word sub-station and immediately think of health concerns. Particularly as they relate to electromanetic fields and any harmfull effects they may have.

Photo of Con Edison workers on East 111th Street and Third AvenueThis issue has been brought up in other communities in and around the city for the past 10 years. Because of increase power consumption, more power must be "generated". Consumers have gadgets which did not exists over 20 years ago. Computers, Cable TV, Printers, Modems, Home Theater Systems, etc.

Other Say No
Other communities have been hostile to Con Edison sub-stations near thier residence. They have Protested and have taken legal action to thrawrt the generation of power.

But this does not take care of the issue. Where is the power to come from? In whose community will these much needed sub-stations be built? Are we talking from both sides of our mouths in wanting more power but not being willing to have the sub-station built in our communities.

Are we willing to pay the price of not having sub-stations build in our communities? Mainly power outages in the summer months?

The Community Association of the East Harlem Triangle is providing a valuable community service in sponsoring this discussion. But no discussion about this issue will be complete without the answer to the question - Where will our power come from, if not from local sub-stations?

Taking Responsibility
This writer does not mind not having sub-stations in the community as long as we are not putting the problem in someone elses lap or community. If we use the power, we should then have our own sub-station and any community that balks at a sub-station should be the first to have brown and blackouts throughout the summer months.

Posted by Jose at 8:49 PM

March 19, 2006

East Turns 10!!!

East Harlem - March 8, 2006. Can you believe it? East is 10 years old!!! The site that started out with just one page and 2 hits a day in March of 1996 has grown to over 500 pages and over 700 community photos.

Photo of East Birthday cake- 2001The website grew as the web grew. At first there were no photos, then badly placed photos. From there a few sections were created to organized the site's information.

Now the site features a news section powered by the Movable Type engine and a dicussion forum powered by vbulletin. Also featured is the huge photo gallery powered by Photo Post.

The web site has also grown in size from being just under 25 megabytes for most of its life to over 400 megabytes in its present incarnation.

Many people have contribute to the site over the years, including articles, photos, and suggestions. East thanks them all for their contribution to the site.

Who are some of the most frequent visitors to the site? East Harlmites of course. But students from all over the country actually out number visits by local residents. East humbly thanks all those who have visited the site in the past 10 years.

The future of the site will see more collaboration with other community members and activists. And a quicker way to update the events database which webmaster Jose B. Rivera created using mysql and php.

So Happy Birthday to US!

Posted by Jose at 7:23 PM

November 11, 2005

Recruiting Station in El Barrio? YES!!!

East Harlem - November 11, 2005. On this great day celebrating those who have served this country to give us the freedom we have, East Harlem activists are gearing up to protest the opening of an army recruiting center at 122 East 103rd Street between Lexington and Park Avenues,in front of the Ortiz Funeral Parlor.

Photo of the new Army Career Center located at 122 East 103rd Street near Lexington Avenue.Here we go again, another knee-jerk reaction by liberals to something which is not only good, but necessary. It's amazing that anyone would protest a recruitment center in our community. Harlem has one and no one is protesting over there! And we are no longer in the 60s (nostalgic protest?)

Typical liberal thinking will revolve around how the military is bad (evil even!)or how we should not feed our young to be used in President Bushes adventures over seas! Imagine if the military never recruited in low income communities. Then the very same protesters would be shouting about how we are shunned from serving. Believe it, it would happen.

What Have You Done For This Country?
It's amazing how all those doing the protesting have never once put their life on the line for their fellow citizens. It's far easier to complain than to be one of those who protects that very right.

A strong military is necessary if one is to have a country at all. And in order to have a military, one must have military people. In order to have military people (men and women) then you must have recruiting centers.

Fairy Landers
Of course anti-military folks live in a fairy tale land, where unilateral disarmament and getting rid of one's military would make the world "safe". They believe that the military is "bad" or "evil" and that the world would be a better place without the military. Those beliefs are foolishness. Without a military, someone else's military would walk in and take over. Without a military, gangs would run the cities. And without the military, we would not be enjoying the freedom to protest. It is strange that people would protest that which guarantees their very rights.

Yes, the world will be a better place without the military, but not before Jesus returns, so let's not fool ourselves into thinking that man is good. Man is not as we are a fallen race, imperfect. We can not trust that others will not take advantage of a defenseless nation and not try to take it, hence the need of a strong military. Did September 11, not wake everyone up?

An Army recruiting career center is not a bad thing. Sure it is nostalgic to be anti-military but it is nonsense to think of not having a military. You can't have an American lifestyle, enjoy its rights and then bitch about the military. It's the very military which ensures that your rights are protected. You can't have it both ways. It's like saying you love the food in a restaurant but refuse to pay.

Photo of Jose B. Rivera Wedding complete with military dress.  A military family indeed.What The Military Did For Me
As a former military (U.S. Navy) person I can tell you that the best defense is a strong offense. And for those who don't like the military, why not get rid of the local police while you are at it? Is is not the same thing?

The military gave me the opportunity to be employed and trained at a time in the late 70s. I have previously done some "community activism" for several years for local politicians and had nothing to show for it. After going to several of them for an entry level job and after finding that they had nothing to offer but more free work for them, I joined the Navy.

I came back after a decade, and continued doing community activism, but as a part time thing. Always remembering that one must feed one's family first and do community activism after that was taken care of.

You know I would not mind local activist screaming and yelling about the Army Career Center so much if I did not know that most don't ever create anything. They protest (which is sometimes necessary), and try to keep things from happening, but rarely do they create anything.

Photo of the new Army Career Center located at 122 East 103rd Street near Lexington Avenue.Reminds me of the National Organization for Women during the Clinton Lewinsky scandal. Instead of being up in arms because Pres. Clinton had abused his authority as a supervisor over an intern, they remained quite. Not what they did with Sen. Packwood. I agree that what Sen. Packwood did was wrong and that he was rightfully removed from office, but so should have Pres. Clinton. This episode taught me a valuable lesson. That politics is not about morality. N.O.W. lost all credibility with me. As have most knee-jerk liberals whose stance on an issue depends on who is involved.

East Harlem activist need to start creating change and not just stopping it from happening. What ever happened to the Ralph Flores' of the community?

Come Support Our The Recruiting Center
So this writer says, "Welcome to the recruiting center". We will give you our very best that we may all continue to live in freedom. And this writer invites those who support this country and the armed forces to rally for the recuiting center Monday, November 14, 2005 at 11:00 in front of the recruiting center.

The writer of this article served on active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1979 to 1988. As have three of his Uncles, his twin brother and a few cousins. The Rivera family has never run from its responsibility to serve this nation. And are proud of our service to it. Cowardice does not run in our family.

Posted by Jose at 9:23 PM

August 28, 2005

Real Estate Interests. No community sense

East Harlem - August 28, 2005. As I sit on my stoop and see more and more of the new comers walk about in front of me going from Third Avenue to Second Avenue and from Second Avenue to Third Avenue, I wonder what is to become of my family and me.

Photo of lone individual walking down a street.  Photo taken from the roof of 310 East 102nd Street in the early 90s.Real Estate interests (insert greedy and heartless here) looking to make not a living but a killing are hoovering our community looking for "opportunites". Unfortunately, these opportunities, come at a price. That being a total disregard for the current East Harlem community.

Real Estate interest who worship the "market rate" god and who's need to make money is equal to or greater than their need to breath. Instead of offering housing to current residents by keeping rents to what the residents can pay, they price everything to four to five times what the average East Harlemite can afford.

Their favorite saying is "Well that's what it costs, it's market rate!". Bullshit. Rents can actually be a fourth of what is being charged. It's a shame that housing, a very basic human need, is a commodity and in the hands of fools and greedy individuals. I wonder how many of these same people go to church every Sunday and profess a Christian value system, only to diregard it when it comes to real estate?

Little do they care that they are destroying a community and replacing it with one where only the upper middle class can afford to live in it. Our community is being re-populated with people who having no history here and hence have no sense of community here.

Hey Mr/Mrs. Real Estate where are we suppose to live? How do you propose to keep or maintain a sense of community that has taken over 50 years to cultivate? I know that the answer to that question is that you do not care. Because it has nothing to do with money. But how would you like me to disrupt your suburb, golf course, favorite summer and winter home with my lack of concern for it? The possibility exists that this will happen as a way to protest your total lack of caring for our residents. We may see you soon in your home or in front of your restaurant.

This writer has never liked lawyers or real estate people. Lawyers because they tend to practice law and not justice and real estate people because all they practice is how to flex their monetary muscles. Real Estate interest have no sense of community, nor do they care about what they do to in-place communities. Since they have no roots, they don't care about anyone's roots. It's time for action directed at them where they live. And it's time to deflate the East Harlem real estate market boom.

And no, you are not "Improving" the community. That is totally very white of you to say. We don't need your improvement. We can come up with our own improvement.

New Residents
I see these new people, walk around without a care in the world. Hey, they just landed in paradise. Either they or their parents are saving a bundle over the over priced anywhere else rentals in New York City.

Some walk with a sense of confidence as if they have the world by the balls and can act on it at any time (how little they realy know). Others are quite calm as if they have been living here forever. Most will not look you in the eye as they pass by you on the street, in front of your home, in the store.

Now don't get me wrong, they have every legal right to be here. After all didn't we Puerto Ricans displace all those from Italian Harlem begining not less than 50 years ago? Yes we did. The difference is that this time those being displaced are not moving to the suburbs and don't have the resouces to do so. In fact, I woudn't know where to go if my rent got high enough to push me out.

So why mention these people? One to let them know to be a little more humble and a lot more friendly. East Harlemites can be very unforgiving and direct. Nice people are welcomed, nasty, stoic, greater than thou, and great white hopes are not welcomed.

Remember, it was only economics that has brought them here. They would not have been here otherwise. Also remember, that we were here for the past half century or more and they we have been through the bad times and the hellish times.

We have paid our dues. We deserve to stay too. So if most of you non-indiginous people don't mind, move somewhere else, so that the beaten and forgotten can stay in their own community, our home.

Remember, you are displacing us. If you care at all about us, don't come and together we can show the greedy landlord and real estate interest how not to destroy a community, a lesson they need to learn.

Great White Hopes
On the public service side of things I must say the following. For those of you coming to "help the poor" or "help the inner city", remember that we are enough and don't need anyone's help teaching our children, shopping, consuming, praying, creating new charters schools (boy do you watch too many school type movies!), or anything else. Go find your purpose somewhere else, we are not here to be your mission in life.

My apologies to those coming to help with an atitude of learning as much as you teach and with giving as much as you take. Who will treat residents with dignity and love and not just with a "I have something to impart/teach you for your own good" type of atitude. Remember, humbleness on your part goes a long way.

Posted by muaddib at 8:21 PM

January 27, 2005

Snow Storm Blankets El Barrio

East Harlem - January 23, 2005. Our community was a prestine white after over 13 inches of snow fell on it overnight.

Snow blankets the communityThe snow started accumulating during the day, January 22, 2005. Seven inches of snow fell yesterday with an additional six over night. The snow did not initial stop East Harlemites from going about their business yesterday. Most continued to shop, do laundary, and go out to eat.

But the total accumulation of 13 inches, blocked drive ways and street conrners made navigating the street a bit too much for people to endure. So many spent today at warm in their homes, listening to music or watching the two remaining football playoff games.

East Harlemites, being native creatures of the south or carribean, do not take to snow as those from northern latitudes do. No snow board here. A hot cup of coffee and a warm bed or living room are more like it. There is more than enough time to freeze going to work on Monday. Though children are another story. They will go out and play in the whte stuff, braving the cold chill with no problem at all.

With one month of winter gone, East Harlem and the city have been lucky that this is only the first big snow storm of the season. Let's hope we don't have to endure too many before spring arrives.

Posted by Jose at 6:41 AM

January 21, 2005

It's So Cold That...

East Harlem, January 19th, 2005. Bitter cold has gripped El Barrio this week. Spreading its icy grip throughout the community. It's so cold that even the train tunnels on Park Avenue are dripping icicles. The icicles freeze in place and may be a potential hazard to anyone walking under them.

Photo of icycles sticking out from underneath the train tunnel at Park Avenue and East 106 Street. Taken on January 19, 2005.As beautiful as they look, the icicles can pose a serious threat to pedestrians and motorist alike. With colder weather and snow on the way use precaution when walking the streets. Whatever you do, look overhead before traversing these icicle incubation chambers. Oh, and keep warm.

Update: January 21, 2005. New York's Finest came to the rescue. They came with one of their bigger vehicles and began to swipe the icicles from the top of the tunnel ceilings. This took a little while to do and remember, it's dangerous work, but the police were up to the task. And this happened just a day after writing the original article. This writer does not claim credit for having the NYPD come out to clear the icicles. It's very likely that they would have done so anyway. Very probably that it's done all the time as soon as icicles form. But would like to thank them for getting rid of a hazardous situation.

Photo of The New York Police Department scraping icicles off the ceiling on the train tunnel at East 106th Street and Park Avenue on January 20, 2005.
It's just one of the many things that the New York Police Department do which we citizens may not be aware of them doing. East would like to thank the brave men who cleared the icicles at risk to themselves to ensure that we can travel savely through the Park Avenue train tunnels.

If you look closely at this second photo you can see a policeman standing on top of the small police truck with a think stick, clearing the icicles (he has white lettering on his coat.) The icicles fall just a few inches from his body and down to the ground. Some of these icicles are thick and therefore hard to remove without being hit a few times. Remember, icicles can very easily fall onto the policeman. But he handles the situation expertly ensuring that the icicles are cleared and that he does not get hurt.

Posted by Jose at 10:18 PM

December 29, 2004

Tree Lighting in El Barrio

East Harlem, December 20th, 2004. The East Harlem Tourism Board together with sponsorship from the Potamkin Auto Group, General Motors, WellCare of NY, Banco Popular, and Ponce Deleon Federal Savings have created and given El Barrio it's own community Christmas Tree. The Tree Lighting Ceremony kicked off at exactly 6:05 PM, when New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg pushed the button which instantly lit the tree lights.

Photo the 1st Annual East Harlem Tree Lighting

The temperature was in the double digits and many participants and observers quickly retreated to the Julia Del Burgos Cultural Center to celebrate the tree lighting indoors. Others dignitaries present were Congressman Charles Rangel, State Senator-Elect, Jose Serrano, John Estrella and Raul Rodriguez from State Senator Olga Mendez's District Office, Councilman Bill Perkins, Democratic District Leader, Maribel Masso, Democratic District Leader, John Ruiz, Community Board 11 District Manager Javier Llano, former Community Board # 11 Chairman, Eddie Bacca 23rd Precinct, Commanding Officer, Deputy Inspector, John A. Perno, Salsa musician, Johnny Colon, Kathy Bensen from the Museum of the City of New York and Marina Ortiz from The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.

Mr. Hector Santana, Director of the East Harlem Network Office of Empire State Developoment, came up with the idea of East Harlem having it's own community tree and worked with Jose Carrero, Chairman of the East Harlem Tourism Board to make it happen.

It's hard to believe that East Harlem finally has it's own Tree Lighting Ceremony. This first annual event was brief due to the cold weather, but it is hoped that next years' event (weather permitting) will be even better. All thanks to Mr. Santana, Mr. Carrero, the East Harlem Tourism Board and to the sponsors which made it all possible.

Posted by Jose at 4:20 AM

November 27, 2004

Cristo Rey High School Opens

East Harlem - November 27, 2004. East Harlem has a brand new high school within it's confines. Cristo Rey New York High School, opened it's doors to 99 students on September 7, 2004. The 99 students are from the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. The Manhattan students include those from East Harlem and Harlem.

Photo of Cristo Rey High School.

Cristo Rey New York is a Catholic High School. It's the school that works, because it quite literally is the school that works. All students work full time five days out of the month to garner over 70% of their tuition, with their parents paying the remainder, which comes out to $200.00 a month.

None of the work is at the school. Most of the jobs are located at Wall Street, or Midtown, the West Side and in East Harlem proper. Students are escorted to work daily by Cristo Rey staff, faculty and volunteers. The students are divided into four cohorts (teams) which work on the same day of the week. For instance, there is a Tuesday cohort, a Wednesday cohort , a Thursday cohort and a Friday cohort. Cohorts work on the day they are assigned, the day they represent. So a student in a Tuesday cohort, works every Tuesday. Mondays are rotated by the four cohorts so that Tuesday workers work Monday and Tuesday on the first day of the month, and Wenesday workers work the second Monday of the month and so on. This setup doesn't stay quite so neat as some months have more than four weeks in them, but the rotation stays the same. Once a month all student work a Monday.

Money earned by the students goes directly to the school. It's a way to ensure that the school is viable and there to offer the opportunity that many families would not have had without this way of funding a school.

The Cristo Rey educational opportunity is available only to those families who would not have been able to afford the other Catholic High Schools in the city. Any family found to be able to afford the other Catholic schools will not have their child accepted. They will be asked to attend those other schools.

Cristo Rey New York High School offers a great Catholic education, to those families who would not have had the chance to enter their children into a college preparatory, dual language, coeducational Catholic institution. And it's good to see that those who are usually forgotten are getting an even chance to do their best.

As they settle into their new home, East welcomes Cristo Rey to our great community.

Posted by Jose at 10:47 PM

Building Collapse at E 108th Street

A vacant building at 1723 Lexington Avenue, between East 108th and East 107th Street began to fall apart and on the verge of falling apart. The building began to literally crumple from behind the sturcture. The side facing Third Avenue.

East Harlem, Wednesday, November 10, 2004 Photo the empty space where 1723 Lexington Avenue use to exist.

People who live on the block felt a rumple and noticed that bricks were falling from the back of the building. A seven foot hole opened in the rear of the building from which one could look into a bed room.

The New York City Fire Department was called and the whole block was sealed off. Train service was stopped along the Lexington Avenue line due to fear that vibrations from running trains could hasten a collaps.

Residents in adjoining buildings were evacuated. Those residents did not get back into their homes until the next day. And not before 1723 Lexington Avenue was demolished to ensure that it did not pose a danger to anyone. The demolitions was done over night and by morning an empty space was all that was left where once stood a proud old tenement.

It's sad to see a piece of history go down like that. And it gets harder to maintain older structures, due to their age. One wonders just how much history that old building saw. It walls could talk what would that building have said about the numerous families who occupied that space. About thier struggles and victories? We don't hold memorial services for building, but I for one would like to say, 'Thank You 1723 Lexington Avenue' for all that you gave.

Posted by Jose at 9:34 PM


East Harlem, Saturday, November 27, 2004. I recently entered a new local eatery and started a conversation with the owner. He was a neatly dressed man. Who was taking care of all the details of running the place while speaking to me. And he did not hail from East Harlem. But I could not tell if he was Italian, European or just another New Yorker with a slight accent. He could have come from Brooklyn. It was hard to tell.

I told him who I was, that I ran a local web site and that I may be interested in taking photos of the place to highlight on East He responded by saying that the area is now being called 'Spa Ha'. "It's what the Real Estate agents are calling it", he said.

I was taken by surprise by his response. I have heard the term 'Spa Ha' before, when Mr. Henry Comas, had a comedy company by that same name. When used in that context, it was cute. But to hear an outsider say 'Spa Ha' did not sit well with me. This outsider didn't spend his whole life time in the community. He was not here during the riots of the 60s and 70s. He was not here during the initial outbreak of AIDS, nor was he here during the crack epidemic of the 80's.

All I know is that he is now here during the good times. He is here to take advantage of an opportunity. Having money, he is here, not out of love for our community, but to profit from it. To make more money. And not having had a stake in the community, a stake of the heart, he frivolously decides that it needs a new name. Never bothering to ask us, the community residents, how we may feel about such a thing.

Commercial Interest
Spa Ha is being used by commercial interest in the selling of our community. Look in the real estate section of the newspaper. People may not want to move into or invest in East Harlem, but they will run to take advantage of an opportunity in 'Spa Ha'. I wonder if they believe that it's like SOHO? The problem is that the term 'Spa Ha' seems to be working.

People are moving up here like crazy. Sometimes these newcomers look at us as if saying 'What are you doing here?" Most of the time they just rush on by. But how long will it be before I am the sore thumb, sticking out and not belonging in my own community because it's very character has changed? It's good to have fresh faces in the community, but this is getting scarry. Am I about to be squeezed out by their ability to pay higher rents?

Money Driven
We are being told almost daily that this community is going to change, that the change has begun and that we most likely will not be part of it's future. Rents are going up to the point that we must begin to think about moving north to the Bronx. It's like guarding a fort during an attack, surviving, winning the battle, but then being ask to leave. We were good enough to defend the fort, but not good enough to live in it. All because landlords, real estate agents, speculators, and investors want even more than they already have.

What About Us?
We are all renters here in El Barrio. The landlords, real estate agents, speculators and investors are home owners. It seems that their need for money is more important to them then our need of a place to live and a community in which to raise our children.

We must develop strategies to ensure that we can stay in the community and keep the Hispanic flavor of it alive. This is the cradle of the Puerto Rican migration, the birth place of salsa, and a community full of history and tradition. I believe that is worth another struggle. The struggle to stay.

I don't know about you, but the next time someone tries to call East Harle, El Barrio, Spanish Harlem, 'Spa Ha', I will tell them where to go.

Posted by Jose at 9:11 PM

September 25, 2003

Bus Depot Reopens

Written and Submitted by Leon Tulton An East Harlem bus depot that reopened after five years of renovation was greeted by residents Sunday opposing the facility's presence in their community.

Donning filter masks and carrying signs with statements such as "No More Buses", "Queremos Aire Limpio (We Want Clean Air)", and "Gov. Pataki: Have A Heart", protesters expressed their outrage to the reopening of the 100th Street bus depot. The demonstrators wore filter masks to symbolize their concern about the pollution emitted from the buses. Shouts of protests such as "What do we want? Clean air! When do we want it? Now!" and "Hey hey! Ho ho! This bus depot has got to go!" filled the air as staff from the bus depot watched through the closed gated entrance across the street.

Peggy Shepard, executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action (WE-ACT), a community-based environmental organization, explained the reason for coordinating the demonstration stating, "We organized the protest to keep the issue [of the bus depot] alive, to call on the governor to get the MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] to begin to address the public health, civil rights, and environmental concerns [of Harlem residents]." She explained that residents are concerned with quality of life problems such as excessive noise, light, and pollution that will be produced from the 24-hour operating facility. Shepard stated that a coalition of 12 local environmental groups and four state legislators signed a letter to Governor George Pataki last week to pressure the MTA to be more accountable to the community's concerns.

According to the MTA's website, the state transportation agency is governed by a 17-member board. Six members are appointed by the governor, with four recommended by New York City's mayor and one each by the county executives of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, and Putnam counties (the members representing the latter four cast one collective vote). Pataki's majority appointees include Peter Kalikow, the chair of the MTA board.

Shepard questioned the MTA's decision to reopen the 100th Street bus station in a residential area while closing down the Hudson depot, located in a non-residential area on 16th Street. She stated that the reasons for the Hudson depot closure were "not business necessities, they're political reasons." Shepard added that the MTA has a history of placing a disproportionate amount of buses in communities above 96th Street, many of which are mostly low income and/or minority. She cited that the MTA moved buses from the Walnut depot in the Bronx to Northern Manhattan in 1998 because the state transportation agency sold the facility to the New York Post.

Elected officials were present at the demonstration in support of the East Harlem community. Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Field described the MTA's action as "unconscionable" and questioned the reason six of Manhattan's seven bus depots are located in Northern Manhattan. "Here we are today, with government opening a facility, a bus depot, where diesel fuel will be used," she said. "We want to stop asthma from increasing in this community."

East Harlem has the highest children asthma hospitalization rates in New York City. Exposure to diesel exhaust is harmful to human health because tiny particles in the pollutant can irritate the lungs and trigger an asthma attacks in asthmatics, especially in children.

NYS Senator Olga Mendez of the 28th State Senate District also commented about the high concentration of bus depots in Northern Manhattan. "This is the greatest example of public policy discrimination that ever existed," she said. The state senator stated that her office will put pressure on the MTA to not close down the Hudson bus depot and invest in the establishment of air monitors on and near the 100th Street bus depot to determine if the facility's presence is having an adverse effect on the community's air quality.

East Harlem residents also blasted the presence of the bus depot. Gloria Quinones described the facility as "a monster" because it's an enormous entity that breathes out toxic fumes. "It angers me that they [MTA] got away with building this [bus depot]." Gwen Goodwin, who lives across the street from the bus depot and founder of East Harlem Bus Stop, a community organization, told the crowd that they must continue the fight against the MTA. "The MTA is not coming our way," Goodwin said, manipulating the agency's "Going Your Way" ad campaign slogan to make her point. "We're not going to let the MTA gang come into our neighborhood and murder our children." Melissa Mark Viverito, a resident and Democratic challenger for the 8th City Council district seat, explained that the MTA should look at non-residential industrial areas outside Manhattan to house their buses instead of communities like East Harlem. "There's no need to continue to dump on this community which is a disenfranchised community. It [bus depot] could have been placed elsewhere," Viverito said. "What's at stake here is the health of a community and that's more important and should outweigh anything else."

The MTA was contacted to respond to protesters' allegations that the bus facility would deteriorate the area's quality of life. In a statement released by Charles Seaton, a representative from the transportation agency, it stated that "the 100th Street Depot is a state-of-the-art bus maintenance and storage facility designed to have as little impact as possible on the surrounding community, far less impact, in fact, than the cramped, 108-year-old streetcar barn it replaces." It also stated that the MTA's New York City Transit (NYCT) division has been addressing environmental concerns, such as bus emissions, by introducing and perfecting new technologies. These technologies include hybrid-electric propulsion, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), advanced exhaust filter devices, and the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. NYCT claims that the combined use of the aforementioned technologies has benefited the city's environment by making bus exhaust 65 percent cleaner. "More than 2.5 million daily riders depend on MTA New York City Transit buses," the statement said. "It is a reality of life that these vehicles must be stored and maintained in locations convenient to the routes and customers they serve."

However, Swati Prakash, WE-ACT's environmental health director, strongly disagreed with the MTA. "If depots are meant to be close to the customers they serve, why are there no depots downtown and only one in Midtown?" Prakash said. She also criticized the transportation agency's claim that ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel is cleaner. "The new diesel buses may be less dirty, but they are still emitting particles that people with asthma are extremely susceptible to, and making all the buses less dirty does nothing to address the disproportionate impact we're talking about," Prakash said. "These buses are also still not as clean as Compressed Natural Gas buses, and the MTA's commitment to CNG has been weak."

Posted by Jose at 5:02 PM

May 1, 2003

Operation Impact

Operation Impact
By Sarah Elizabeth Garland.

The implementation of a new police initiative to increase security in the southern half of East Harlem this year has coincided with a stream of middle and upper class newcomers that is blurring the lines between the Upper East Side and El Barrio.

The newest residents of East Harlem are mostly white and Asian, young, and single, and are bringing with them gradual, but noticeable changes to the economy and culture of El Barrio. Many long-time Puerto Rican, black, and Mexican residents are happy to see their neighborhood becoming safer, but many are worried it will be at a price they cannot afford to pay.

The police department implemented Operation Impact in selected precincts throughout New York in January of this year based on comparisons of crime statistics. According to Detective Walter Burns, the 23rd Precinct, covering the southern half of East Harlem, and the 19th Precinct, in the Upper East Side, were chosen because they had a higher rate of overall crime.

According to precinct Compstats, however, rates of violent crime in the 19th and 23rd Precincts have gone down 15% in the past two years, while violent crime has climbed 15% in the northern half of East Harlem, which makes up the 25th Precinct. To explain why the 25th Precinct was excluded from Operation Impact despite its much higher rate of violent crime, Burns explained that the program "was designed to have an impact on overall numbers." He denied that the increase in police presence had anything to do with the changing demographics in the lower half of East Harlem.

The program has been effective, something that older residents are simultaneously cheering and worrying about as they foresee the oncoming gentrification of their neighborhood that may eventually force them out. Officer Chris, who declined to give his last name, was moved to the 23rd Precinct three months ago when Operation Impact started. "Crime's definitely gone down, violent crimes are down, major felonies are down, because there's a lot of cops in the area." He described the people he has encountered on his new beat as mostly black, Mexican, and Puerto Rican, but added, "There are a lot of young, white college kids."
The young white college kids are multiplying and breathing life into new stores, hair salons, and restaurants popping up among Mexican taquerias and De La Vega murals. "It's going to be a great neighborhood. The neighborhood's getting better everyday," said Daniel Steinberger, the co-owner of Dinerbar, a new restaurant-bar on East 102nd Street and Lexington Avenue that caters to the young, "hip" crowd arriving in the area. He continued, "There are more stores opening up, more people moving up into the neighborhood, restaurants, less violence. A lot of young people, it's affordable housing."

When Steinberger moved to the area 13 years ago, he remembers drug-saturated, gang-controlled streets that forced him to sprint to the safety of his locked apartment. "You know when I moved up here in '88, you couldn't walk up here. I was a rough kid, but when I went to the door I had to have my keys ready, to get in the door. I mean, there were crack vials everywhere, all over the streets," he said, adding that now, "It's a lot safer."

Other long-time residents recall similar scenes from East Harlem's past. On East 100th Street, Jos de la Vega and his friend Tony Lopez reminisce about their childhood in front of a newly renovated building flanked with vacant lots full of weeds and soggy cardboard boxes. De la Vega has lived most of his life in Harlem since his family moved from Puerto Rico when he was two months old. "Back in the days when I was a little kid, there was a lot of mugging, you couldn't walk with a leather jacket, you couldn't walk with a Levi's jacket, they would take it from you," he said.

De la Vega is thrilled that violence is decreasing and welcomes the new faces in the area. He said, "I like it, because now it's a mix of Hispanics, black and whites. And I know we're getting along real fine, and there's no violence." He commented that rents are going up however, and that many low-income Hispanic and black residents may not be able to enjoy their new sense of security for much longer.

"A lot of landlords, the word is getting around," said De la Vega, "They're starting to rent a lot of apartments to the people from downtown because those people are willing to pay that rent and can afford the rent." Lopez is the superintendent of nine buildings on East 100th Street. Lopez said, "Before, the owners, they didn't fix the buildings. Now they start fixing it, making it brand new." De la Vega nodded, adding, "The Hispanics, they're moving them out to the Bronx."

Carmen Hernandez Alvarez, an immigrant from Mexico City, who works at a Laundromat on 3rd Avenue and 101st Street, has mixed feelings about the changes she is witnessing. She is glad to see more police when she gets out of work after she was assaulted leaving the Laundromat last year. She is concerned, however, that the increase in police presence is symptomatic of changes that may not in the end benefit the Mexican community in El Barrio.

"Yes, it's changed a little, for precisely the fact that the economy is down, and everything is going up. We Mexicans go to places that are cheaper," she said, "Those who come are the ones who have enough to pay the amount of rent that they're now charging around here."

Other Mexican immigrants are already feeling the pressure of rising rents as far up as 116th Street. Silvia Pineda, who came to New York from Guerrero, Mexico in 1989, has seen East Harlem change from a mostly Puerto Rican neighborhood to a center of the growing Mexican population in New York. "I like this place, because here we are almost the majority, there are a lot of Hispanics and Mexicans," she said, adding, "It's changed, because before there was a lot of drugs and now you don't see as much." She is afraid she and her family will not be able to stay in the neighborhood, however.

Pineda pays $872 in rent right now, but her husband is the only one working while she takes care of their three children. In a good week working his construction job he earns only $200, but most of the time he makes less. Although they split the rent by sharing their two-bedroom apartment with another married couple, Pineda believes they may be evicted soon because they have not been able to make rent for the past two months.

"He [her landlord] has said to us that if we leave, he can rent the apartment for $1500," she said, "And he's done it before, because those who lived next door, he threw them out and now he's renting it for $1500. Who could pay that, can you imagine? Only those who have a good job, that are born here. I think that with their salaries they can afford it, they have a profession that is enough to pay that much, but for us, we can't afford it."

Posted by Jose at 4:43 PM

February 25, 2003

Vigil for Peace

Picture of crowd marching with candlesWritten and Submitted By Sarah Garland
With icy fingers wrapped around the stems of dozens of white carnations and cupping flickering candles, over 60 members of the East Harlem community marched on Tuesday evening to protest violence and crime in their neighborhood. Singing and praying in Spanish, the mostly Mexican group gathered on the corner of 116th St. and Second Avenue where Freddy Ardelio Paez, a 20-year-old Mexican immigrant, was shot in the face two weeks ago. Paez was killed in a fight that witnesses believe was a gang-related.

"We want to demonstrate that we want peace. We want peace for our children, for all of mothers who have children, so that the fights do not continue in the schools," said Leticia Sosa, who moved to East Harlem a year ago from Puebla, Mexico, "We are here asking for peace all over the world." A banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe with a picture of Paez taped to it swung from the awning of the deli over the heads of parents, children, grandparents, and passersby. They expressed a mixture of anger, sadness, and hope that East Harlem might become a more peaceful place to live.
Picture of Cloth Banner with the word Comite East Harlem, NY

The Mexican immigrant community is relatively new in the area, most of them having arrived during the past two decades. New Mexican gangs such as the Vagos and the Mexican Boys have grown up alongside older Latino and African-American gangs in the area. Rivalries between gangs such as the Bloods, a primarily African-American gang which witnesses have linked to the killing of Paez, and Mexican gangs have resulted in fighting and sometimes bloodshed. Just as often, Mexican gangs fight among themselves over the corners and stoops they claim as their own.

"This needs to stop: what happens between the boys, between ourselves," said Francisco Contrera, a Mexican immigrant from Sonora who attended the vigil, "We're killing one another." Many of the participants in the vigil saw it as a first step toward a larger movement to end the violence in East Harlem. Contrera added, "We should be doing this constantly, so that there is more unity between people of different nationalities, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, black people. All of us."

The uncle of the boy who was killed, Pedro Cruz, spoke at the vigil on behalf of his family. Paez's mother, Araceli Cruz has returned to Oaxaca, Mexico to bury him there. "I thought there would be 10 or 20 people, but I feel good to see so many people, like we can begin to fight," said Cruz. The main organizer of the vigil, Javier Guzman, has been a leader in the Mexican community for year. He saw the vigil as a way to turn the outrage many Mexicans felt after the killing of Paez into a positive force.

Picture of young boy in a crowd holding next to a person holding two flowers

"We, the Mexicans, many of us are undocumented. We don't think we have the power to demand and so our participation in the community is limited," Guzman said, "We should capacitate the same people in the Barrio to be active in community decisions." While many people saw the community activism as the primary way to combat violence, others pressed for more vigilance by the schools and police. "When they killed him, we were coming home with the children from school. A lot of people walk here, and we want them to control this, because you can't walk peacefully," said Maria Luisa Ramirez, also from Puebla, Mexico, "They should send police to watch over this."

Elena Sada, the Parent Outreach Program Coordinator for Public Schools in District 4, said that a meeting had been called by school district officials, police and a variety of community organizations representing different groups in the neighborhood for Thursday to address the issue of violence. "A taskforce has been created to respond to the need to foster companionship and partnership between different ethnic groups," she said, "We have to have a situation that involves not just the schools, but also the community."

All Photographs taken by Sarah Garland.

Posted by Jose at 4:07 PM

June 5, 2002

Hispanic Society F.D.N.Y. Calendar

Picture of FDNY Calendar Front CoverWritten and Submitted by By Jennifer Weil.

As a New York City firefighter with Ladder Company 12, Angel Juarbe Jr. saved lives. He was also an aspiring actor who loved animals and spending time with his family.Hector Luis Tirado Jr., a member Engine Company 23, was a father of five who hoped one day to attend medical school.

Both were proud of their heritage and shared a desire to help the Hispanic community. Last May, when executives from the Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation proposed a 2002 calendar featuring firefighters and Emergency Medical Services personnel to raise money for the Hispanic Society F.D.N.Y., Juarbe and Tirado responded.

Juarbe enlisted others because the calendar was to benefit the society's recruitment effort and scholarship fund. "He got on the phone and he started getting all the guys and girls lined up that were interested," said Lt. Miguel Ramos, president of the Hispanic Society. "He was always one of the guys that I called up. He was a very active, outgoing type of guy."

Tirado was also enthusiastic."He was like, 'Wow, I'm not a star, I'm not a model type, but it's a big ego booster,' " said Richard Batista, 29, a firefighter with Engine 76. "I mean who doesn't want to be in a calendar?"

Juarbe and Tirado, who auditioned with 70 men and 15 women last summer, were chosen as models and later posed for the photographer, D.C. Larue.But they never got to take their star turn. On Sept. 11, Juarbe, 35, and Tirado, 30, were among the 343 firefighters who died in the attack on the World Trade Center.

"We were literally put in shock," said Jodi Mutnansky, marketing director for the Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation in New York and the calendar's coordinator.

The plan for a 12-month calendar to be in stores by late 2001 was dashed."It would have been very inappropriate to do it that quickly," Mutnansky said. "We needed time to chill out before we could get back to the normalcy of things." The project eventually went forward, with some changes.

"We decided to go with it and make it a tribute calendar for Angel and Hector," Ramos said.The Hispanic Society also had the blessing of the Juarbe and Tirado families."If they are gone, at least they are going to be alive in our minds and hearts," Juarbe's mother, Miriam, said. "There's no reason to forget them.

They are our heroes. You never forget our heroes, and the more exposure they have the more they will be remembered for the ultimate sacrifice."

The calendar was reformatted to cover 18 months, starting with July 2002 and featuring photographs of 16 men and two women. Rather than follow the lead of fire department's recent "Firehouse Hunks" calendars, the Hispanic calendar features models in more modest poses.

"We changed some of the pictures because they were a little too sexy," said Batista, Mr. September 2002, who had his photo reshot to show his new tattoo, which commemorates the firefighters who died on Sept 11. "A lot of guys actually have sweaters and shirts on, showing minimal skin."

As a personal tribute, Mutnansky said, Tirado (May) and Juarbe (July) are pictured on the months they were born. The Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation, which owns the radio stations 105.9 FM and 1280 AM in New York, originally hoped to sell sponsorships for the calendar. That plan was scratched after Sept. 11, so the company absorbed the production costs.

The calendars are on sale for $10 at 26 Barnes & Noble locations in New York and New Jersey. They are also available through the Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation's Web site,

Picture of Angel Juarbe, Jr.Editor's Note: Though I never met Angel Juarbe Jr., I know people both at work and at home who knew him. All speak highly of him. Of his giving of his time to others, to educate them on the hazard's of fire as he did when visiting school children in East Harlem's Community School District # 4, and of being a good friend. He is sorely missed by all who knew him. And I can only wish that I had the pleasure of meeting this great man. (Left: Picture of Angel Juarbe, Jr) JBR

Posted by Jose at 12:40 PM

October 25, 2001

La Fonda Boricua Opens

East Harlem - October 25th, 2001. East Harlem's newest eatery, La Fonda Boricua opened in Mid July after extensive renovation which added space and a new sense of style.

Formerly George and Gina's, La Fonda Boricua doubled it's space. It is now U shaped (see pictures). East Harlem's intelligencia can now hang together in style. The food is as delicious as ever. As good as mom cooks!! And it is not expensive.

La Fonda Boricua is located on East 106th Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues, though it is a lot closer to Third Avenue, on the North side of the block. The new look has a warm country feel and can now seat about 80 people. An elevated eating area can become a stage for live bands or comedians within minutes. Did I mention the Food? It's great!

But the best part is that now there is somewhere besides a fast food establishment to take your family in our community. A stylish place where you can eat mondongo, arroz con pollo, chuletas, sancocho, etc.. East Harlem hasn't had a place like this at which to eat since two great eateries closed on East 116th. I mentioned the food, right? La Fonda will also cater your event, give them a call, you can't go wrong.

A panaramic view from the rear facing towards the front

After completing this web page. I think I should revisit La Fonda to take a few more pictures (a panoramic shot is needed and one of the elevated stage. Hey, I may as well eat while I am at it. See you there. (More info will be added (Telephone number, operating hours etc..))

Posted by Jose at 3:41 PM

February 26, 2001

East Harlem Online 5 Years Old

East Harlem - February 26, 2001
East Harlem Online celebrated its 5th birthday today. Mr. Jose B. Rivera, founder and webmaster of the site, celebrated at his residence. Mr. Rivera has been the sole supporter of the site all these years. "The cost of the site is nothing compared to what I have received from this community. The site is my way of giving back to my beloved barrio".

East Harlem Online first four pages where uploaded to an internet server on February, 26, 1996. Since then it has grown to over 280 pages of content and more than 500 image and photos.

In July 1996 East Harlem Online was mentioned on both NY1 (New York 1 - Channel 1) and NBC (channel 4). It was also chosen as "Site of the Night" on MSNBC's "The Site" cable show on June 25, 1997. East Harlem Online has gone from having 17 to over 1,000 unique visitors a day. Those who visit the site include East Harlem residents, local, national and international students.

Most questions submitted to the site are from students looking to learn more about the community. The major question though has to do with crime statistics. "One of the reasons I created the site was to dispel the bad reputation our community has", says Mr. Rivera, "The other reason was to have the site serve as a community resource and news gathering organization. So far I have managed to do a little of both, but there is still a long way to before those two objectives are met."

The Future
Mr. Rivera is busy installing discussion board software to give visitors the opportunity to ask questions and to speak to one another. The East Harlem Online Discussion forum will become available by Mid-March 2001. Mr. Rivera also hopes to provide small sniplets of filmed community events later this year.

Congratulations to us!

Posted by Jose at 8:46 AM

February 4, 2001

CB # 11 Installation of Officers

East Harlem - February 4, 2001- Community Board # 11 held its Installation of Officers (of the Board) on the evening of January 26, 2001 at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center auditorium. Civil Court Judge Jose Padilla presided over the event as a Master of Ceremony. Entertainment was provided by the Nigerian African Drummers and by Applause, a local nonprofit group.

The Officers of the Board to be installed included David E. Givens as Chairperson, Cora Shelton as Vice-Chairperson, Marion Bell as Secretary, Henry Calderon as Assistant Secretary, Patricia Byron as Treasurer and Deborah Quinones as Assistant Treasurer.

Before being sworn in by Borough President C. Virginia Fields, the new board officers received greetings from Public Advocate Mark Green, State Senator David Patterson, Assemblyman Keith Wright, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, City Councilman Phil Reed, City Councilman William Perkins, and New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Congressman Charles Rangel was also present. Chairpersons from other community boards were also present at the ceremony including; Kyle Merker (CB # 5), George Goodwill (CB # 9), Stanley Gleaton (CB # 10) and William Garcia, Esq. (CB # 12). Community School Board District # 4 President Juan Estrella also attended the event.

Borough President C. Virginia Fields swore in the new board with the exception of Chairperson David E. Givens, who she sworn in a little later in a separate ceremony. Chairperson Givens then addressed those present. Fr. Karl Krauser of St. Cecilia's Church gave the final Benediction. Miosotis Munoz, the new district manager, was introduced to the audience and a lively reception followed.

The events was well attended and was even filmed by Applause, Inc. and some snippets by East Harlem Online.

Editor's Note: East Harlem Online erroneously reported about a supposed boycott of the event by Hispanic members of the board. East Harlem Online apologizes to Chairman David Givens and to Community Board # 11 for this erroneous report. It was not true. We will be a lot more careful in the future.
Jose B. Rivera - Founder/President, East Harlem Online

Posted by Jose at 8:49 AM

January 1, 2001

Siempre -New Community Newspaper

East Harlem - January 1, 2001- East Harlem has a brand new newspaper. Siempre (meaning "Always" in Spanish), was launched in late October 2000. Israel Torres Penchi is the founder and publisher of the new bimonthly community newspaper.

Mr. Penchi has now published three issues since late October, the first issue dealing with Real Estate in East Harlem, the second on La Marqueta, and the most recent on the Digital Divide. Each issue contains articles from local residents as well as a wealth of info on culture, poetry and immigration.

Advertising rates are affordable even for East Harlem Online (see the 3rd issue on the Digital Divide). Which is a good thing in that many more East Harlem residents and businesses will be able to afford to advertise, something which they could not afford under previous local publications. In fact one quick look at the number of advertisers in each issue will bear out Siempre's affordable advertising rates.

Siempre can be reached at: 212-427-6384 or faxed at 212-427-6302. Their e-mail address is We ask all to support this new local endeavor, by advertising and by becoming an avid reader. The latest issue can be found at local businesses and institutions. We pray that Siempre (as its name implies) will "Always" be with us. Good Luck and Thank You for giving East Harlem/El Barrio a newspaper to call our own Mr. Penchi

Posted by Jose at 4:52 PM

Community Board #11 Makeup

East Harlem - January 1, 2001 - Hispanic representation on Community Board # 11 (located in East Harlem, Spanish Harlem) is only a little over 39% of the board. African-Americans which consist of only 38% of Spanish Harlem's population make up 50% of the board. Out of six Officers of Board # 11, only two are Hispanic, four are African-American.

Community Board # 11 currently has 41 members, 16 are Hispanic, 21 are African-American and four are White. This current board composition is totally out of keeping with East Harlem's population. Which according to 1990 Census figures put the number of Hispanics at 47%, African Americans at 38% and Whites at about 2%.

The questions can be asked, why are Hispanics 11% under represented and African-Americans 12% over-under-represented? Why are community leaders like Roberto Anazagasti constantly being turned down for appointment to the board after continuously trying for years? Why does an appointment process always chose to appoint more African-Americans than Hispanics in a Hispanic District?

Places to Look
The places to look for answers lie in the appointment process and more specifically at the appointers. Members to all community boards are appointed by the Borough President of each borough and the local councilpersonn. In East Harlem those appointers are Borough President C. Virginia Fields and Councilman Phil Reed. Both who happen to be African-American. And although African-Americans vote in a higher percentages than Hispanics in the community, it should bear no direct relationship to the percentage of those appointed, where an accurate reflection of the community's population can be easily accomplished.

The Harlemnization of Spanish Harlem (Expansion & Colonization)
Although is is hard to prove, it is hard not to imagine or feel an African-American agenda for Spanish Harlem. In Harlem all elected officials are African-American, whereas Spanish Harlem can boast of just half of it's elected officials being Hispanic -- Congressman Charles Rangel and Councilman Phil Reed are African American, State Senator Olga Mendez and Assemblyman Powell are Hispanic. Why is that? Why do African-American leaders chose to run and therefore deny total Hispanic leadership in a Hispanic community? Can the blame possibly lie in the fact that the Manhattan Democratic County committee is totally controlled by Assemblyman Deny Farrell, Congressman Charles Rangel, Borough President C. Virginia Fields and other African-American leaders? These leaders have had a history of neglecting East Harlem when it comes to services (but not in running for office here) while deny local leaders like District Leader Felix Rosado, their share of local power, not to mention a lack of respect for Mr. Rosado.

Harlem Political/Business Interests

Because Hispanics have not voted in proportion to their numbers, the Manhattan African-American leadership has chosen to colonize Spanish Harlem as oppose to assisting local Hispanic leadership bloom. The reason for all this is the expansion of Harlem to the advantage of Harlem Political/Business interests. A strong Hispanic community board # 11 would counter Harlem's expansionist agenda for East Harlem. It is for this reason that Community Board # 11 contains only 16 Hispanic members.

Excuses, Excuses
Excuses about not enough "qualified" Hispanics applying for board appointment fall on deaf ears. There are always more than twice the number of candidates for appointment to the board than are appointees. Surely the Borough President and Councilman can't say that not enough Hispanics in East Harlem qualify. That would be preposterous and blatantly untrue. So, why such a small percentage of Hispanic Representatives Borough President Fields, Councilman Reed?

East will press this issue until a satisfactory conclusion is reached and will keep you informed throughout.

Posted by Jose at 1:38 AM

December 31, 2000

Snow Storm December 2000

The year 2000 left East Harlem with over 11 inches of snow. The snowfall started earlier than predicted, but still delivered the punch forecasted by the news. Not that it canceled any pending New Year's celebration in the community.

Most people waited until the 31st to continue their holiday season. Below are some pictures taken during the snow storm.

Most are taken around 111th Street and Third

Picture of East 111th Street between Third and Second Avenues during the snowstornm.  Home owner is begining to dig himself out at mid center of picture.
Looks cold doesn't it.

Picture of Home Owner begining to dig out from the storn
Home owner beginning to dig out from under the snow.

Picture of East 111th Street and Third Avenue, during the height of the storm.
East 111th Street and Third Avenue during the height of the storm.

Click here for a panoramic picture of East 111th Street between Third and Second Avenues.(354K), near Machito Square. Enjoy

Posted by Jose at 4:11 PM

July 25, 1999

Update - Partnership For Change

The East Harlem Partnership For Change, a local Industrial Areas Foundation group, meet on June 14, 1999 at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church auditorium to discuss various issues. Among them were employment for the community, the drug problem, and education. Fr. James Brenan of St. Cecilia's Parish lead the meeting.

Various speakers spoke about the employment issue. They mentioned that in the next few years 10 new hotels would be opening in Manhattan and that those who were skilled in that industry would obviously obtain employment. To that end it was announced that a hotel training seminar would be held on July 1, 1999 at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church auditorium. It was also announced that Congressman Charles Rangel committed over a million dollars for youth employment to the group.

A 23rd Precinct representative spoke to those assembled and said that better cooperation between the precinct and the partnership would help to curtail drug problems in the community.

When it came to education, the group pulled no punches. It was reported that Partnership representatives meet with Community School Board District # 4 Superintendent Evelyn Castro. The Partnership asked Ms. Castro to put all the principals in the district on a one year suspension and that all children in the district be at their grade level, also within one year. Ms. Castro obviously told them that it could not be done (i.e. laws, union contracts, etc...). The way the Partnership reported it, she simply said "No".

The Partnership also reported that a new school was created called the "Life Science Secondary School", sponsored by Mt. Sinai Hospital. The school is scheduled to open in September 1999. East Harlem children will make up %35 of the school population. Partnership speakers demanded that East Harlem children make up %100 of the population in the near future. The 100% population figure was also demanded of all East Harlem advanced schools.

Lastly, the Partnership declared a "State of Emergency" as it pertains to East Harlem schools, citing the importance of education to a community like ours. They obtained an appointment with New York City School Chancellor Rudy Crew on June 16th and will speak to him about education in the community as well as about Superintendent Castro. The partnership also called for a meeting on education to be held on October 25, 1999 at St. Cecilia's Church, to educate 300 parents about the school system.

The last announcement of the night came from Partnership leader Fr. James Brenan. He announced that he was leaving St. Cecilia's and being reassigned to another parish.

Employment; the Partnership has made some headway in the employment issue. They are right on track by combating unemployment with training. People also need to be aware of employment opportunities, and the Partnership is on the ball here too. The Partnership still needs to educate its member on what causes unemployment so that they are better equipped to deal with this issue.

Kudos to the Partnership on taking the lead on the drug issue by pin pointing problem areas and then working with the local precincts to deal with drug pushers. The Partnership need to better educate its members about this drugs, again, to enable its members to deal with this issue.

The Partnership is right in requesting that most East Harlem advanced schools be reserved for East Harlemites. Though it must be said that when St. Cecilia's had a grammar school in the area, they did not follow their own advice. The issue they have with the Superintendent is faulty at best. There are numerous city laws and union contracts which forbid the Superintendent from suspending or putting a principal on probation without due cause and without due process. Due process laws are in place to protect everyone. Fr. Brenan and the leadership of the Partnership are aware of these laws and were just playing to the crowd in even asking Ms. Castro to put principals on probation. Unfortunately, most in the crowd do not know how the system works and therefore assume that Ms. Castro is not interested in improving education in East Harlem. This is dangerous and libelous!

The Partnership is also asking of the New York City public school system that which they do practice in the Catholic school system. This writer finds it very difficult to accept that a Catholic priest can leave so much truth out of encounter with the Superintendent. Superintendent Castro can only due what the law allows. Fr. Brenan knows that. She can not will district grades to improve, she can only due her best to make it happen. The Partnership fails miserably when it does not educate those at its meetings about how things really work. How systems work and how to improve a system. Instead the Partnership excites the crowd by being critical about all issues, but never educating them about how to get involved (i.e. running for school board, being on various community boards, etc.).

It seems the partnership is not so much interested in educating its members (parishioners) as it is in posturing and playing to the crowd. This is the biggest failing of this group. They look for small victories to "show" their members that something can be accomplished, but the members never really learn about how things are truly done.

It was no coincidence that the Partnership chose to meet with Chancellor Rudy Crew just as he was about to announce the firing of some superintendents. Other Superintendents were to be put on probation. Ms. Castro was not one of the Superintendents put on probation (as erroneously reported in local newspapers). But one would not put it past the Partnership to continue to use the news articles erroneously putting Ms. Castro on probation and then taking credit for it. This writer will continue to monitor this group, who has so much potential and the good intentions (but what do they say about good intentions?), but who has gotten community activism all wrong. If one had to categorize the Partnership is would have to be "Symbolism over Substance".

This writer expects better from its neighborhood priests. Especially from the same priest and parish which taught him the importance of truth in our Christian lives. This writer does not expect his church to act like a cult.

Posted by Jose at 3:23 PM

July 24, 1999

Noise - In East Harlem

East Harlem is a noisy place. And it is becoming noisier all the time. Throughout the community people are beginning to complain about street noise invading their homes. Community Board # 11 and the 23rd and 25th Precincts have seen an increase in the number of complaints being received from community residents about this noise problem.

Where is the noise coming from?
You might expect the answer to be from construction or wailing emergency service vehicles, but the complaints are about loud radios, public address systems, extremely loud car stereo systems and those apartment dwellers who feel the need to let the world know what music they listen too.

Cars Stereo Systems
Car radio/stereo systems are especially loud. The street seems to vibrate as they approach and one wonders how the drivers of these vehicles can concentrate on driving or can be alerted to approaching danger with the volume up so high. The good thing about the car as a noise menace is that it is mobile and the noise is short lived for anyone stationary. The car will come and then go taking its noise with it.

Public Address Systems (churches)
The public address systems utilized mostly by storefront churches are another problem. The pastors of these churches feel the need to reach as many people as possible (to save them) and therefore obtain the loudest systems which they can afford. The systems are used both indoors and outdoors. When used indoors the volume is set to low. When used outdoors, pastors tend to crank up the volume to address as many people as possible. The second error these pastors make is to target the same population over and over again. They do this by religiously (pun intended) setting up tent on the same block week after week. The result is that residents in that area are guaranteed not to be able to hear the audio on their own television sets. This can get quite annoying.

Two churches in particular having generated their share of noise complaints. Rev. Zayas' church located on 105th Street and Second Avenue and the Iglesia Pentecostal church located at 111th Street between Third and Second Avenues. Rev. Zayas' church used massive speakers in outdoor services last year and could be heard from 6 city blocks away. The 23rd Precinct has not reissued last year's permit due to the complaints of local residents. The 111th street church uses a smaller speaker in their outdoor services, but resident on the block can still hear the service from a block away.

Street DJs
Street DJ also blast music from their systems, as do those who use boom boxes to let everyone know what they are listening too.

What to do?
Well the Washington Heights community had similar problems until last year, when the local precincts began ticketing anyone whose noise exceeded 83 decibels. This accomplished two things. One, it allowed those who use speakers, radios, public address systems to continue to use their equipment. In the case of churches, it allowed them to continue to practice their freedom of expression. Two, it lowered the noise level to a point where apartment dwellers could enjoy their personal space without having it be invaded from the outside.

Our community needs to implement the same measures which made Washington Heights a quieter place. It will take the cooperation of all involved, radio users, churches, politicians (they make noise too during the campaign season), the precincts and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) of the city of New York. Community Board # 11's Public Safety Committee, chaired by Mr. Richard Toussaint, is leading the fight to decrease noise in our community. Mr. Toussaint is a good listener and his goal is to improve the quality of life within our community by lower the noise in it.

Who to call
If your community has a noise problem contact the Public Affairs Officer in your local precinct, tell him/her the source of the noise, location and time it is usually present. Noise abatement is not a priority issue with precincts, but sooner or later a patrol car will be sent to investigate your complaint. If the noise source is a regular event, the precinct will contact the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to do a decibel reading. If the reading shows that the noise exceeds what is allowed by law, then the party involved (making the noise) will be asked to lower their equipment. If the problem persists, then a ticket/fine will be issued. Don't forget to inform your local community board about the problem too. The community board will track the issue and work along side the precinct to eliminate the problem.

Posted by Jose at 3:35 PM

November 3, 1998

Forum -Turf Wars and Sharing

Place Matters, a joint project of The Municipal Art Society of New York and City Lore in cooperation with The East Harlem Historical Organization held a forum on Saturday, November 7th. The forum was held a a movie showing room of the Museum of the City of New York. The topic of the forum had to do with three different Turf Wars and Turf Sharing. One Generational, one based on issues as they pertained to the Antipoverty program and the last one dealing with turf wars as they related to gangs and stickball.

Picture of teenager Lady Ann Ceballo asks Petra Allende about living in East Harlem in the 1950s

Generational Topic
In the Generational topic, a young 15 year old East Harlemite, Lady Ann Ceballo, interviewed the venerable senior Petra Allende. Lady Ann (yes this is her real name, her mother named her after British Royalty), asked Petra questions about what East Harlem was like when Petra arrived here from Puerto Rico in 1949. Petra answered that although the pay was a low $12.00 per week, she found it easy to find work. She worked at a factory on East 111th Street in the same building which housed the Con Edison offices.

What work was like? Petra said that work was good. She started out sewing and later on moved on to the printing business.

What did they do for fun? The movies were a favorite pastime answered Petra, and there were no shortage of parties thrown by family and friends.

Was raising the children hard? Petra said she made sure that the children respected others and that they respected themselves. Neighbors helped with watching the children after school and ensuring that no harm came to them.

Picture of Anti-Poverty group panelist

Antipoverty Issues Topic
The issues turf discussion had to do with the beginning of the antipoverty programs which panelist agreed begin as a move to curb juvenile delinquency. Many of the original players of the antipoverty program were present on the panel; Norman Eddy, Bobby Montesi, Eugene Calderone, Sarah P. Frierson, Mary Iemma, who told a beautiful story about how she came from close to death to being a vibrant participant in the early programs. This discussion was the most complex of all three presented and is best to watch the video to garner its full impact.

Stickball Topic
The stickball discussion panel drew the most laughs of the day. Especially when it was revealed that policemen of the day (1930s and 1940s) would accept brides in return for letting the stickball team play peacefully. It was surprising to learn that some teams played for money and hence the cops came to get their share, sometimes once for every game played that day.

Picture of the Stickball panelist

The most interesting thing to learn about the stickball teams was that they were in effect a "Sunday Truce" from the other wise ethnic gang wars of the day. During the week, the Puerto Ricans stayed West of Third Avenue for fear that the Italians would beat them to within an inch of their lives. But Sunday allowed stickball team participants to walk right into the "enemy" territory to play against the same said enemy.

The Puerto Ricans were not the only ethnic group enclosed in an enclave. The Italians, Polish, Jewish, African American and other ethnic groups had their own safe heavens and place which they should keep out of. It was very interesting indeed to hear from those who experienced life back then as a series of sectored areas. This author's life never saw it as especially dangerous to go to Third Avenue. But back in 1960, most of the gang nonsense has begun to wane.

Participants for the stickball panel included stickball old timers: Charlie Ballard (age 80), Vito Giannone, John Keeney, John Stephen's, Charlie Candelario and Moe Morrero. Charlie Diaz (East Harlem's own) of the East 111th Street Old Timers was also present and the youngest participant of the panel. The participants had fun and most still continue to play in leagues throughout the United States.

The Forum ended with a nice reception featuring the food of East Harlem's newest ethnic group, Mexican food. It was delicious and well prepared.

Editor's Note: East Harlem Online would like to congratulate Gina Rusch, of Union Settlement and of The East Harlem Historical Organization for leadership and work in getting the forum to the public. Laura Hensen, also of the East Harlem Historical Organization, deserve credit as should Cathy Bensen of the Museum of the City of New York. All the panel participants are also to be congratulated for giving of their time and history.

Recommendations: More forum of this type should be held. The East Harlem Historical Organization is encouraged to continue it good work. Indigenous East Harlem residents should also form their own historical group. The reason being that no one should allow someone outside of their ethnic group to write, tell, present the history of their group. History is experiential and hence not the "objective" thing most make it out to be. At best writing another ethnic groups history can be inaccurate and full of cultural biases. At worst it can be pretty dam paternalistic. It can also (usually) be resented by the group being written about.

How to reconcile this with Gina's group? First is that all interested parties be invited to participate in the East Harlem Historical Organization (this group has been open, so the point is not that is is not, but to have a new beginning). Second, hold the meetings of the group later in the evening when working class people can participate (more later about social workers and East Harlem). Thirdly, split the group along ethnic lines so that each ethnic group can research and write their own history. Lastly, come together on projects such as the recent forum to disseminate information. It would greatly enhance any historical group if the group had funding which would avail full time workers to "recover" the history of the past. In the case of the East Harlem Historical Organization, each ethnic group should employ a full time worker to do the work necessary to complete their tasks.

Accompanying Article:
Obstructed Leadership


East Harlem Historical Organization
Gina Rusch
237 East 104th Street
New York, N.Y. 10029

The Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10029

January 24, 2004 - Webmaster's Note: The East Harlem Historical Organization is now meeting at the Muesuem of the City of New York

Posted by Jose at 1:32 AM

September 5, 1998

Million Youth March

September 5, 1998 The Million Youth March held in Harlem today has revealed a good many things about the Mayor of the City of New York. Nothing new was learned about the March organizers. Everyone already knew of Mr. Muhammads wrong ideas. But even this author supports his right to hold a rally, as provided by our constitution.

Participants put up their fist in response to question
The March/Rally was a peaceful event. Speaker after speaker addressed their speeches to the little youth participating in the rally. Some espoused more rhetoric than others. And many of the speakers tried to be positive by talking about the need for youth to attend school and protect each other.

The negative aspects of the March/Rally were what some people called "hate" speech free speech non-the-less, and of course how Mayor Giulliani reacted. This writer will cover both aspects.

First, the label "hate" speech. I will be the first to admit that I do not agree with Minister Khalid Muhammads ideas. But that is all they are, ideas, concepts, a frame of reference. To label anything "hate" is to judge and condemn it. And who is to determine what is "hate". This writers Christian beliefs are labeled hate by some of the more ultraliberal in society. The danger in labeling anything "hate" and not a "bad idea" "or an idea without merit", or "ignorance" is that sooner or later, somebodys ideas will clash with your own and you will be the holder of a "hate" philosophy.

The best way to handle "ideas or concepts" without merit is in the public domain, in dialog. People like Khalid Muhammad can simply be ignored. His ideas can be debated in public discourse and discarded if found lacking. (Yes I do find them lacking). But he has the right to free speech (God given, to all of us). The right to free speech is among many given to us upon birth, by God. No government has the right to give us the right to free speech nor does any government have the right to deny anyone the right to free speech. That the right is mentioned in the Constitution is irrelevant. The Constitution only points out a matter of fact, that our rights come from God.

This is where the Mayor comes in. The City of New York can slightly modify our rights for matters of safety. The city can not become an impediment in the exercise of those rights. Mayor Giulliani became a petty man over this March/Rally. Instead of ignoring it, he put it up to the light. Instead of taking the high ground, he sunk lower than his opponent. The following are a list of major mistakes the Mayor committed in his personal battle with Mr. Muhammad.

Tried to deny American citizens from holding a rally and had to be taken to court so that American citizens could exercise their right to assemble. (Sound like Germany or Italy in the 1930s? An Italian Mayor should have a longer and better memory).

Tried to appeal the courts decision to allow the March.

Closed all subways in the March area for "safety" reasons. I dont recall the subways being closed for any other reason, including major parades which host a lot more participants.

Picture of participant holding up sign which read "Jobs not Jails"

The Mayor had vast numbers of city workers (HHC and other city services) work this labor day weekend because of the March. The hospitals from East Harlem to the Bronx were put on alert for an emergency that no one thought would occur (and they didn't, did they). Of course the Mayor almost precipitated an emergency by having the police rush the stage and the crowd.

Had the police make it difficult for March/Rally participants to enter the area of the event, having citizens go from blocked corner to blocked corner.

Had the event area divided in such a way that groups of people were contained and not able to freely move about.

There was a large police presence at the event, which was both unnecessary and judgmental about the inhabitants of Harlem and about African-Americans in general. This time the label racists may stick when applied to the Mayor for not trusting the people of Harlem to behave.

Not allowing March/Rally participants to leave the event area at 4:00 PM. People were restricted from leaving the area by police, for no known reason. (Nazi Germany comes to mind again).

Ending the March abruptly at 4:00 PM as if the world depended on it. Again, parades come to mind. Parades are issued permits and they usually do not end on time. Do you ever see police abruptly ending parades to the letter of the law and to the minute? Would the Mayor do this to his middle class constituents, to Jewish leaders, to Italian leaders, to any other group? This writer thinks not. By the way this writer is a strong supporter of Israel and rabid reader of Jewish history. But I did want to make the point about the Mayors behavior to African-Americans as oppose to his behavior towards other groups.

Another participant holding up a sign

Having the NERVE to want to issue arrests to those who wished to continue the March/Rally long enough to end it properly. This is where the Mayors PETTINESS showed. Mr. Mayor, you are one big BABY. Instead of gaining the upper Moral ground and later saying that the March/Rally organizers did not keep their word to end the event at 4:00, you choose to create tension, and get back at the organizers - he wanted to "show them" who is the boss. Oh, what a Man we have in the Mayor. In this writers opinion, the Mayor is not a Man, but a small child with a large responsibility he is incapable of discharging properly

The Mayor had the cojones to attend a church service for Sister Teresa, while his Gestapo tactic were being deployed at the March/Rally. Sounds a little like the last few minutes of the Godfather movies.

This writer has been supportive of some of the Mayors policies of the past. Until today, the Mayor seemed a man of common sense. A little rough on the edges, but common sense non-the-less. But this writer thinks that the Mayor showed his true colors in his opposition to the March/Rally. He also showed his total disregard for people of Color. No, the Mayor is not color blind, but exactly the opposite. He is only too keenly aware of people of color and he readily showed how he feels they should be dealt with.

Due to the Mayors total disregard of the rights of those in charge of the March/Rally and the residents of Harlem, the following actions need to be taken until the Mayor apologizes to us all. This set of action can be called civil disobedience.

The Mayor showed not be acknowledged in public.

The Mayors movement should be restricted. Whenever in public those members of the public present should block whatever exit points exists to give the Mayor a taste of what he gave thousands today in Harlem.

The Mayors speeches should be followed by no applause.

The Mayor and the Police Commissioner should be taken to Federal Court over the police action at the end of the March. They should be sued for using excessive force and for taking actions which could have led to a riot. Their actions smack of racism.

The Mayor should not be allowed in any community where the majority of the residents are people of color. And if he should have the nerve to enter our communities, he should be chased out.

Lastly, the Mayor should be removed from office. Because of the news coverage of the event, the Mayor will receive more support among some (ultra right) and loose even more support among the average middle class voter. The Mayor revealed himself for what he is. And hopefully, the voters of this nation will appreciate that fact and act on it.

Wide picture of police gathered together during the rally

This writer no longer respects the Mayor as a man or as a Mayor (an office like the presidency which has been sullied by its current occupant). He is a dangerous man who has abused his power and who has let a personal issue gain control of him. Imagine what would happen if he had the nuclear codes? He should be run out of office and be held accountable for his racist actions. He owes the people of the city an apology and he should be made to pay monetary damages a fine, for his actions. This writer leaves it in Gods hands. The Mayor is lucky that his fate is not in the hands of man. Such is the luck of all totalitarian "leaders" Jbr.

Posted by Jose at 10:11 PM

August 29, 1998

Washington Houses CICAC

East Harlem - August 29, 1998 - The Washington Community Improvement Council (WCIC) threw its annual summer party today at the East 99th Street and Third Avenue Park. WCIC's party was a great way to end their summer of activities which included a basketball league for youngsters age 12-18, cultural education, youth involvement, conflict resolution, park cleaning and general fun. The WCIC educates the neighborhoods youth as it keeps them off the street and away from trouble.

Harry Rodriguez is the president of the Washington Community Improvement Council. As you may remember, Harry is the former Chairman of Community Board # 11 and is the current Democratic District Leader for Part "B" of the 68th Assembly District. The Executive Director of the WCIC is Eliazer Berrios, also known for his great work at the Union Settlement Association, member of the board of Operation Fightback, former photographer of El Barrio News and probable future editor of El Barrio News. Taina Traverso is the Sports Commissioner for the WCIC. She is also better known for her regularly featured cable show called Applause which airs on Manhattan cable channel 34 on Wednesdays at 1:00 PM. Bernard Bowen is a member of the board of WCIC.

The day was filled with face painting, dancing, music, free food, bands, and award presentations. New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern and City Councilman Phil Reed also dropped by to give their congratulations. Democratic District Leader Felix Rosado was also on hand to help with the festivities.

Picture of cooks making hamburgers
Ahhh, there is nothing as tasty as free food. Here volunteers flip burgers and franks..

Picture of people lining up to get some food
And boy, folks were lining up to get the goodies. Would you believe I wasn't hungry?

Picture of little girl dancing to the music
These little girls danced the day away. The one on the right never did seem to stop to rest.

Picture of the local East Harlem Press, Eliazer Berrios - Photographer, Mike Lopez from Applause, and Taina Traverso, also from Applause Cable TV show
These three (plus me) make up the small but budding East Harlem Press. (left to right)
Taina Traverso, Mike Lopez, and Eliazer Berrios. They were there to document the celebration.

Picture of the organizers and friends, Harry Rodriguez, Eliazer Berrios, Taina Traverso, Felix Rosado, Frank Acosta, Bernard Bowen, Ralph Rodriguez

More important people. (Left to right) Bernard Bowen, Eliazer Berrios,
Harry Rodriguez, Frank Acosta, Felix Rosado, Taina Traverso and Ralph Rodriguez.

Picture of Harry Rodriguez dancing
A bet you didn't know that Harry Rodriguez could dance (well he doesn't either,
but don't tell him that!). What a treat. Go Harry, Go. Look at those legs.

Picture of Democratic District Leader, Felix Rosado, with East Harlem Online Founder/President, Jose B. Rivera
Here's yours truly with Democratic District Leader and friend, Felix Rosado.
Yes I am still wearing the T-shirt I received for Father's Day.

Picture of Democratic District Leader, Harry Rodriguez with East Harlem Online Founder, Jose B. Rivera
Yours Truly with Harry Rodirguez. Am I the only one without the WCIC T-shirt?

Picture of young lady models
Who are these beautiful young ladies? They are models from the East Harlem community.
This group of young women are from the "Duran Sisters" of Uptown Arts World Wide.
Uptown Arts World Wide is an Entertainment group which advances the modeling
careers of young women in our community. They also cover music and other arts.
They can be reached at 917-897-4466.

Picture of Ralph Rodriguez
Ralph Rodriguez inviting all to have fun. Yes, he is Harry's brother, see the resemblance?.

Picture of children enjoying the water sprinklers
Remember doing this when you were young? These kids had a lot of fun
cooling off while the music played on. Nice park isn't it!

Picture of women dancing to the music
Like I said, everyone had fun at this event. Dance, Dance, Dance. Don't feel too bad
if you missed it. There will be another next year and you are invited.

Posted by Jose at 7:13 PM

July 23, 1998

What East Harlemites Do For Fun

Those of you readers who hail from East Harlem may find much of the following to be old news, boring, or refreshing. The following is for those of you who have not been to our community. Ever wonder what we do for fun? Well continue reading and enjoy the following pictures. This is but a little taste of what we do for fun in El Barrio. There are eleven pictures on this page. They may take a little while to download and parse, but they are worth it. If you have any pictures supporting this theme (What East Harlemites do for fun), please e-mail them to me (prefer tiff files) and I will include them on this and other pages. Have fun.

Picture of a big souped up truckThere are those who enjoy riding their big trucks. (my son for perspective, he can't drive yet.) Picture taken on 106th between Lexington and Third Avenues.

Picture of my wife Cecilia listening to musicOthers, like my Wife Cecilia, just like to listen to music near a cool window. Yes, she is listening to "Caliente" A new Spanish language radio station on 105. 9 Mhz. She also likes to listen to La Mega! La Mega se Pega.

Picture of my wife Cecilia looking out the windowThis is an activity most East Harlemites can relate too. Passing the time looking out the window. A fresh breeze and gossip gathering are the goal here. She doesn't look too happy does she? Hot day during the summer of 1998.

Picture of a Latino band playing out in the streetOne of the best things to do on a hot summer day is to dance to the music performed by a band or "conjunto". This shot taken August 23, 1998 on East 105th Street between Second and Third Avenues. Salsa all the way!

Picture of the same Latino music band Hey, it was so much fun, I just had to snap another picture. The music was too good to leave behind. This band was plugging a Spanish radio station on FM.

Picture of a store manager at a discount storeAnother favorite pastime (all year long in fact) is shopping for knick knacks. This gentleman
works at the "Discount Center" near 104th and Third Avenue. Tell him you saw him on the Web.

Picture of resident playing dominosThis seems to be a male only sport in East Harlem, but women play too. This picture taken at Clinton Projects on East 109th Street and Lexington Avenue.

Another picture of resident playing dominos
Youth versus Wisdom. Hey, have you ever seen blue dominos? Only in East Harlem. I wonder if they glow in the dark?

Picture of an icy cart
This is a "Piragua" or Snow Cone cart. Bet you wish you could have one now. A regular cup (plastic) cost one dollar and super size cost two dollars. You can still get a small cup for 50 cents. Picture taken around the corner 105th Street and Third Avenue.

Picture of a public playground on 109th Street and Third AvenueParents and children alike, love to play at the various playgrounds scattered throughout the community. This park was recently renovated and is located at 109th Street and Third Avenue.

Picture of a skelton done by James De La Vega on the sidewalkThis is my youngest daughter, Letticia, admiring street art created by James De La Vega. James has been quite busy creating these black and white skeletons. It goes to prove that even looking down at your feet can be entertaining and culturally uplifting in El Barrio. This art piece is located on the corner of 106th Street and Lexington Avenue on the north east side of the street.

Posted by Jose at 11:02 PM

February 23, 1998

Building Up El Barrio 1998

If East Harlem lived up to it's reputation, you'd think that nothing new is being put up, nothing is being renovated or cleaned to look nice. But East Harlemites know better. There has never been a time when some building or another was not in the process of being renovated. Every now and then new housing goes up too.Picture of buildings on East 109th Street

As is the case at East 110th St. between Second and Third Avenues. These are private homes sold to individuals (some from East Harlem). They contain one, two and three bedroom apartments which help to provide much needed housing and also serve to anchor the block with more middle class residents.

The other new homes in East Harlem are the Esperanza homes. They have just been completed on 112th and 111th streets between Second and Third Avenues. And are built by Gabriel and Associates.Side view picture of the new Esperanza Houses on East 111th Street

Theses homes will open their doors to their owners during the early part of September 1998. Two local celebs will be living there including Yolanda Sanchez, who published a great community newspaper called "Visiones". Yolanda has also been active in Feminist causes and currently provides leadership as the Executive Director of P.R.A.C.A., a Hispanic Foster care agency. Maria Ramos is another home owner. Ms. Ramos and her two teenage young men hope to move in early September.

Maria had been the Associate Executive Director of the Community and Public Affairs Department at Metropolitan Hospital Center. She has since moved on to working in the same capacity at Second Ruiz Belvis Diagnostic and Treatment Center in the Bronx and at Lincoln Hospital, also in the Bronx. Esperanza homes are solidly built with cement between the floors to dampen noise and add strength. Look for a possible pictorial story in this publication when they open in September.

Building being renovated on East 108th Street and Lexington Avenue
"Don Louis' building being renovated on E. 108 St. and Lex. Ave

Up on 108th and Lexington, a corner building, long plagued by fires is being renovated by "Casa Blanca's" owner, Don Louis Perez (Casa Blanca is the communities best Butcher Shop). He hopes to provide market value housing at that location. Mr. Perez had a recent scare, when bricks from a section from a facing wall started dropping off his building. His main concern what that the building would be condemned by the city and he would have to build a new structure from scratch. And as we all know, it is easier and less expensive to renovate a building than it is to build one from scratch. Mr. Perez owns other building in the community which he has renovated for housing. In his role as a landlord and local businessman, he has provided housing to our community.

Picture of building being renovated on East 102 Street and Second Avenue

East 102nd street and Second Avenue, is the site of another building renovation. This building has also been plagued by fire in its past. This corner has seen a lot of work during the past few years. The corner supermarket was blown to bits Dec 11, 1993 by a gas leak (this writer made the 911 call that night). The two buildings on either side of the renovated one have also been renovated during the last three years. The saying "you start a journey one step at a time" holds true for East Harlem housing. You fix up a neighborhood, one floor, one building, one block at a time.

So if you live out of the community and can't see the renovation efforts, or if you live in the community and are too busy to notice, East Harlem is being made a new a little at a time

Posted by Jose at 8:32 PM

November 23, 1997

RBI vs. the World

RBI vs. the World
Or, "How to win on an Issue"

The Harlem RBI, recently petitioned Community Board # 11 for support in their efforts to hold onto the East 100 street and First Avenue playground site until a new site can be found and prepared. Harlem RBI was concerned that they would loose the current site to those who wish to build low income housing on the site before they can obtain a new site. The current site is zoned for housing and not as a park or recreational area. The Metro North Association, Inc. has community over site of the disputed area.

This issue has pitted housing interest against Harlem RBI, children against parents, church leaders (I.A.F.) against the community and construction interest and C.B.O.s against C.B.O.s. This fight for a small parcel of land has grown to gargantuan proportions and has put elected officials and community leaders, especially those on the community board, squarely in the middle of this battle. Being in between competing constituencies is not good way to make friends or in the case of elected officials, a way to necessarily stay in power.

A Brief History
The ball field was originally created as a temporary recreation area until such time that money could be found to build housing. Harlem RBI, the Parks Department, Assemblyman Diaz, and the Metro North Association, Inc, came together to make the ball park a dream come true. This field was to provide a place for East Harlems children to play, a place for Harlem RBI to use (without having to obtain those hard to get Central Park ball field permits), and a temporary good use of the land by the Metro North Association until housing could be built.

Housing moneys have started to become available to the East Harlem community. This is evidenced by new housing/home building on 109 Street between Second and Third Avenues and by the new homes on 113 Street between Third and Lexington Avenues. Other groups such as El Barrio's Operation Fight Back have also created new rental units at 100 Street and Second Avenue.

The Metro North Association, Inc. is no different than any other community based organization given over site of land use in the community. The Metro North Association, Inc. quite naturally wanted to eventually build housing on the site now used as a baseball field. It was the Metro North Associations understanding that Harlem RBI would vacate the field as soon as housing moneys were found to build low to moderate housing on the site. Harlem RBI was just a temporary user of the site.

It came as a surprise to many that Harlem RBI wanted to stay at its current location. Harlem RBI went to the New York City Partnership going over the Metro North Associations head to ask to permission to stay at the 100 Street field. Sources within the Metro North Association, Inc. were upset by this turn of events. After all Harlem RBI was an "...invited guest, who now wanted to become the landlord." This came at a time when it was realistically possible to build housing on the site. Another community group which was said to also be facing the same situation with Harlem RBI is El Barrio's Operation Fight Back. El Barrio's Operation Fight Back has oversight of two lots, one of which RBI also uses as a playing field, and which Harlem RBI also wishes to keep. El Barrio's Operation Fight Back wanted to build housing on its site and gave Harlem RBI the option of using an adjacent lot. Members within El Barrio's Operation Fight Back were not too happy about being put up against the wall by Harlem RBI either. Harlem RBI was seen as being sneaky, deceitful and stubborn.

Harlem RBI and Berlin Fight Back
Harlem RBI on the other hand states that a lot has been invested in creating the baseball fields. It had after all put in most of the money and work of creating the baseball diamonds. They said that the children would be the ones to suffer and that the children should be the first consideration in the decision making. Harlem RBI led by Richie Berlin started a strategically smart campaign to win over the hearts of the community and to put elected officials into a position in which they could not refuse.

Framing the Issue
Mr. Berlin and Harlem RBI started by framing the issue not in terms of Harlem RBI versus CBOs, but in terms of Community Interest versus Children. Richie Berlin gathered and solidified support among the parents of the East Harlem children who are part of his program. He then took his campaign to the community board level. He spoke during public session espousing his cause. He frequently mentioned that children were important and that housing could be built elsewhere in East Harlem. He said that baseball fields were scarce and that Harlem RBI had no other place to go.

Opponents countered with arguments on the need for housing. They also pointed out that Mr. Berlin and Harlem RBI broke their trust and covenant with both the Metro North Association, Inc. and with El Barrio's Operation Fight Back. That said that Harlem RBI were interlopers in the community and that only indigenous programs should be supported as a way to avoid having "outsiders" come into our community to use it and its resources.

Elected Officials
Elected Officials were caught in the middle. They wanted to see housing in East Harlem and some secretly voiced resentment at the fact that "another outside agency was using East Harlem to obtain what they could from the community". Yet most could not come to oppose Harlem RBI publicly because of the way Mr. Berlin and Harlem RBI framed the issue. It would have been political suicide for any elected official to oppose Harlem RBI, for who could afford "to be seen as being against children?"

I.A.F. (East Harlem Partnership for Change)
To further add fuel to the fire, Harlem RBI obtained helpful networking resources and support of the East Harlem Partnership for Change. The Partnership rallied around the easy to support and instructive lesson building issue of children vs. housing interest. It was duly noted by one elected official, (who wishes to remain anonymous) that "Its not surprising that Bob and the Boys from the Partnership would support other "outsiders" over the indigenous communities wishes. Neither Bob, nor Richie and their respective organizations originated in East Harlem, so why should they respect it? They would never dare to do what they have attempted here in a middle class or other communities."

Another official commented, "Mr. Berlin is not looking after our childrens interest, but after RBIs. Isnt RBI just another community group seeking legitimacy and funding to stay alive?"

Other community leaders wanted to know what percentage of children in Harlem RBI are from East Harlem. Do children from outside the area use the field and are they the majority?

In Harlem RBIs defense, it must be said that they have created a truly rich and deep program which actually meets the needs of those they service, youth (an amazing feat when considered with other community programs). Mr. Berlins leadership is honest and Harlem RBI has met with success wherever it goes. Youth are taught leadership skills. Youth are kept away from destruction events, actions and people. All who participate have fun. The baseball field is among the best looking and best kept in the city. Harlem RBI helps East Harlem children.

Crunch Time
Well it all came to a head during the October general meeting of Community Board 11. Mr. Berlin asked that the board agree to Harlem RBI using the 100 Street baseball field until another location of the same size was found within the community. Harlem RBI further asked that they stay at the current location until the new found field be prepared and completed (i.e. grass, diamonds, etc..). Walter Torres led the fight for Harlem RBI. Opponents asked pertinent questions. When the vote was taken, Harlem RBI had won. Well, almost you see the board's vote is not binding. And the actual resolution only "supported" as an ideal, Harlem RBI's request to stay at the current site until a new site could be found and completed. If and when housing moneys become a reality, Harlem RBI will be out of luck. The community board after all does not have the power to prevent housing from taking place. Neither does it have the power to keep Harlem RBI at its current site.

One can see the community activist point of view in wanting to control their community environment. Better put, community activists do not want a continuance of a "lack of control" over the life in the community. Nevertheless, Harlem RBI has a proven track record. They provide a very valuable service and do it without corruption. Yes, Harlem RBI could stand to be more diplomatic in obtaining parks in our community. But let us not mistake zealousness and a few rough edges for a reason to get rid of a good program. Harlem RBI is a needed resource in our community. Overall, who can argue against any organization which helps kids? Especially our own. East Harlem Online will continue to cover this issue as it unfolds.

For Further Information on Harlem RBI:
Harlem RBI (Harlem RBI's own web site, pretty good site!)


Editors Note: The actual Harlem RBI issue aside, it is disturbing that those from outside the community continue to dictate policy in the East Harlem community. Harlem RBI and the East Harlem Partnership for Change will serve as good examples. Both groups do good in our community and both serve a great purpose. The community is better off with them than without. However, they still constitute agencies not originating from this community. And this community should have agreed to standards of who, what, when, where, and how outside agencies can operate within our boundaries.

Issues like these tell us much more about ourselves as a community than anything about Harlem RBI or the I.A.F. It tells us that we are powerless to fend off the advances that outside agencies bring to our feet and to our community. It tells us that we are not together as a community and because of that we tend to let things go against our wishes. Lastly it tells us that anyone can divide us. I would feel much better about dealing with any outside agency if we were on equal footing. If we chose to invite them in as oppose to having them forced upon us. If we could dictate the terms of their stay and when they over stay their welcome, then things would be in their proper perspective. What community would not want to have it that way? What community would want to act as a rug to outside influences?

Again, its not a matter of the merits of Harlem RBI or the I.A.F.; they both serve good purposes. It is just a matter of a communities sovereignty and respect. East Harlem's leaders are no more control freaks than those in the West Side or the Village. East Harlem leaders just wants to have a say in what happens within her borders. Hispanics and African Americans within East Harlem also want respect and a measure of control (total measure that is). Any behavior other than respect by outside agencies is disrespectful to the self-determination and sovereignty of East Harlems residents.

This is not a plea for control for control sake. If we are to develop as a people within and without the New York City community at large, we must learn to have respect for ourselves. Part of this respect involves not allowing external entities to dictate what happens in our community. We are as much at fault in this as anyone. We must also learn to respect ourselves in other ways, for instance, by ending our internal bickering and cooperating with each other. It is a sad thing that politics and the need for power by those on all sides of the factionalized political fence keeps us fighting each other. Coming together will give us the ability to externalizing our self respect and it will allow us to be better prepared to grant or deny access to agencies wishing to work in the East Harlem Community. JBR

Posted by Jose at 7:09 PM