Everyone knows Harlem’s iconic 125th street. But under-the-radar, 116th, from the Hudson to the East River, has come to symbolize the once and future Harlem.
The now vibrant commercial strip fell onto hard times in the 70s. Dilapidated apartments, abandoned buildings and increased violence left the street a shadow of its former self.
Today it tells a very different story. From Columbia university in the east to El Barrio in the west, 116th Street has become the unsung hero in the revitalization of Harlem.
El Barrio, as the neighborhood is fondly called, has one of the largest Hispanic communities in the city. The once Italian, now Puerto Rican neighborhood has also grown to absorb immigrants from Central America who’ve found the language and cultural connections a helpful transition into the city. Despite these strong ties, residence fear this once sleepy corner of 116th street would lose its Latin roots.
The East River Plaza mall, which houses Target, Costco and other big brand stores, have brought much needed jobs to the low income neighborhood while simultaneously disrupting local mom and pop shops. A proposed 1,100-unit luxury complex on top of the mall has been the focus of anger and outrage from hundreds of community members who fear the creeping effects of gentrification.
This fight isn't made any easier with the East Harlem Chamber of Commerce's recent attempt to create a Business Improvement District along 116th.
Le Petit Senegal
Despite the nickname Le Petit Senegal, immigrants from this community also come from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Mali. This section, mainly focused on Central Harlem, has some of the busiest commerce on the entire street.
Stores, community spaces and hair salons run by West African immigrants populate almost every doorway. During lunch and after work, restaurants such as La Savane Restaurant are filled patrons speaking French or Wolof.
The influx of West Africans into Harlem began in the mid 80's but from 2000 and 2010 more black Africans arrived in this country than came to North America during the more than three centuries of the slave trade. The Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market both symbolizes and cements this change.
The Market has become a slice of West Africa in the middle of city with shop owners selling authentic jewelry, oils and imported drums made with animal skin. Timeout New York recently called it one of the best bargains in New York.
Food meets Tech.
MIST Harlem embodies the interesting intersection of food and technology. The event space has transformed itself into a watering-hole for the budding tech industrialists in the neighborhood. Tech startups such as Silicon Harlem and other local incubators regularly host meet-ups and conferences there. It also helps that Madiba, a South african styled restaurant based in Brooklyn, just opened up a second location on the premises.
Also just one block away, world famous chef and restauranteur, Marcus Samuelsson, also recently opened Streetbird, a 1980's/1990's hiphop themed restaurant. These add to the other many Harlem social staples on the street such as Harlem Tavern, Silvana and the historic Amy Ruth's Restaurant.
The West Side
On the far West Side, the behemoth Columbia University campus reigns over 116th Street. The college's $7 billion expansion which will eat up even larger swaths of West Harlem and will continue to change the color of the community. One hundred sixteenth street stretches through the campus as a pathway to Morningside Heights.
One hundred sixteenth street is a microcosm of New York City. The 2-mile strip from river to river tells the story about the positive and negative effects of immigration, gentrification and housing policy on a local community.
Our piece examines those affects.
The package will tell the story of the entrepreneurs, activists and developers through in-depth interviews accompanied by photo portraits, short videos for the web and an interactive graphic map.
Given the nature of the piece, a multilingual component would also be included.