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New Push For Tourism

By Jose B. Rivera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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