But are there too many associations in one neighborhood? Some think so — but foodies are beneficiaries.
To make Harlem a restaurant destination, six different neighborhood groups have carved up the neighborhood in a turf war of overlapping districts and conflicting events.
The public is the beneficiary of this uptown food fight this month with close to a dozen events such as booze tastings, chef throwdowns and bike eating tours.
You’re forgiven if you get confused, what with so many groups — Harlem Park to Park, West Harlem Food & Beverage Association, New Harlem East Merchant Association, East Harlem Merchants Association, the Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance and the West 125th Merchants’ Alliance — serving one neighborhood.
Harlem Park to Park is hosting four events during the next four weeks, while the West Harlem Food & Beverage Association is throwing 10 bashes, included the sherry tasting soirée this Saturday. And the East Harlem Merchants Association has six events include next weekend’s “Harvest Bike Tour” where cyclists can ride and get free samples at area eateries.
To some, it’s too many events from too many groups.
“There should be one strong merchants association representing the community,” said Mahmut Mavrul, 50, owner of H&M Art and Home Decor on E. 125th St., which is geographically within four of the neighborhood’s six groups.
“One strong merchants association could strengthen local business. If there are two groups, it will create unnecessary competition. We don’t have enough merchants for that. It will only weaken us.”
“Harlem is really three distinct neighborhoods,” said Harlem Park to Park founder Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, citing the gentrifying Central Harlem, the Latino-flavored East Harlem and the Columbia University-dominated West Harlem.
Evans-Hendricks started her group in 2009 — a few months after East Harlem Merchants Associations was created. In 2012, West Harlem Food and Beverage, the Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance and the New Harlem East Merchants Association joined the mix. The latest addition — West 125th Merchants Alliance — plans to start working with shops later in the fall.
“Time will tell which groups are sustainable and which are not,” said Savona Bailey-McClain, head of West Harlem Food and Beverage, which overlaps with both Harlem Park to Park and Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance.
Bailey-McClain claims her group is tailored specifically for restaurants, unlike the others.
There are differences in each group’s fees, too.
Harlem Park to Park, for example, charges $300 a year while Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance charges $125.
“Why is there so many?” said Susannah Koteen, owner of Lido an Italian restaurant and co-founder of the Frederick Douglass group. “There is a new Harlem Renaissance. And it’s a positive thing. It’s good to work as a group rather do things on your own.”
She ought to know: Lido also belongs to Harlem Park to Park as well as Koteen’s own group. The West Harlem Food and Beverage invited Koteen to join its organization, but she said no.
Three groups for one restaurant were just too many, she said.
Here are some of the Harlem events this month:
l Oct. 5: Sherry Tasting (sponsored by West Harlem Food & Beverage Association) l Oct. 10-13: Harlem Harvest Festival (sponsored by Harlem Park to Park). l Oct. 12: Lenox Ave. vs. Frederick Douglass Blvd. chef battle (sponsored by Harlem Park to Park) l Oct. 17: Uptown Open (sponsored by the West 125th Business Improvement District) l Oct. 23: Harlem Hospitality Conference (sponsored by Harlem Park to Park) l Oct. 24: Sip & Smoke Night (sponsored by West Harlem Food & Beverage Association) l Oct. 24: Teen Battle Chef Cook-Off at Harlem Fairway Market (sponsored by the West 125th Business Improvement District) l Oct. 25: Harlem Salsa Fridays After Work at Dino BBQ (sponsored by the West 125th Business Improvement District)