East Harlem Merchants to Pay Homeless to Tackle 125th St. Trash Problem

New East Harlem Merchants Association Trash Plan

New East Harlem Merchants Association Trash Plan

HARLEM — For more than a decade, neighbors have complained about the hundreds of homeless people who gather at a bus stop at Lexington Avenue and 125th Street to commute to shelters on Ward’s Island, blaming them for contributing to the garbage overflowing from the trash cans.

Now a Harlem business improvement district is hoping to employ some of the 700 to 900 homeless people who ride the M35 bus to help clean up the mess, recruiting local property owners to contribute to a fund to pay them to keep the area clean.

Kwanza Smith, executive director of the New East Harlem Merchants Association, has reached out to the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless to develop a program to hire homeless men to clean the area. When she brought the executive director of ACE New York to the corner he said it was one of the filthiest he had ever seen, Smith said.

“We are sensitive to the fact that these men are homeless. We want a plan for them,” Smith said.

The goal is to raise $75,000 to employ eight people to clean the area between Fifth and Second avenues, between 124th and 126th streets, five days a week.

So far, the association has raised almost $16,000 with an online fundraiser and by reaching out to local businesses, asking them to donate $3,000 a piece.

Property owners such as Artimus, 125th Street Gateway Ventures —  for whom Smith works — Wild Olive Market, Blumenfeld Development Group and the Northern Manhattan Nursing Home have contributed to the fund.

Despite tremendous development in the area, including a Pathmark and co-ops, cleanliness has not kept pace with the improvements. A recent cleanup effort by 60 volunteers collected 50 bags of garbage filled with food containers, paper and cigarette butts.

“This has been going on for years. People who walk up this street feel like the neighborhood is one big trash can,” Smith as she stood next to one of the overflowing trash cans. “We’ve had all this development over the past 10 years so this area shouldn’t look like this.”

Kwanza Smith, executive director of the New East Harlem Merchants Association, knows that by the time sanitation trucks ...

Kwanza Smith, executive director of the New East Harlem Merchants Association, knows that by the time sanitation trucks …

At 3:30 p.m. on a recent afternoon the four trash cans at the corners of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street were all filled to the brim. Smith warned that by the time sanitation trucks arrived the next day, the trash would be blowing around the streets.

“Today isn’t even that bad,” Smith said.

The merchants association is also trying to get more frequent trash pick-ups and larger trash cans.

The neighboring BID, the 125th Street Business Improvement District, has street cleaners, but its boundary ends at Fifth Avenue. The group is in the planning phases of  a river-to-river expansion, said President and CEO Barbara Askins.

Askins said having a cleaning crew has made a big difference further west on 125th Street.

“This is a step in the right direction because businesses want to see an organized effort to address the problem,” Askins said. “People are not willing to invest in an area that is dirty.”

When a pizzeria at the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street closed recently, Smith said a conversation with the owner revealed that the trash and general environment of the area contributed to their departure.

“It’s hard to maintain a business on this end of 125th Street,” she said.

By Jeff Mays on September 23, 2013 6:48am | Updated on September 23, 2013 6:48am


East Harlem Wants a Business Improvement District Despite Past Failures

HARLEM — After several failed attempts, East Harlem officials say they want to set up a business improvement district on one of the historic neighborhood’s main commercial corridors.

xxA portion of 116th Street, Third Avenue or Lexington Avenue are being considered as Community Board 11 begins the process of identifying a group to sell the idea to local property owners and merchants.

“We are one of the only districts in Upper Manhattan that does not have a business improvement district, we do not have a local development corporation or a thriving merchant association,” said Diane Collier, chair of CB 11’s Culture, Tourism and Economic Development committee. Continue reading

Theater at East Harlem’s Julia de Burgos Cultural Center Gets New Operator

Taller Boricua co-founder Fernando Salicrup outside the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center.

HARLEM—The city’s Economic Development Corporation picked two local East Harlem groups and a national Latino organization to operate an underutilized theater at the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center.

The Julio de Burgos Arts Alliance will be comprised of the East River North Renewal, which hosts live music and domino tournaments at La Marqueta; Los Pleneros de la 21, a performing arts group that already rents space at the center; and the national organization, The Hispanic Federation, which provides grants to Latino nonprofits.

The groups will reactivate the 2,800-square-foot theater and multi-purpose space at the center, located at East 106th Street and Lexington Avenue, by providing programming and opening the space up for use by community groups, EDC President Seth Pinsky told DNAinfo on Monday.

“What we ended up with will be a huge benefit to East Harlem,” Pinksy said. “Upper Manhattan and East Harlem has a vibrant cultural scene. The fact that this theater was dark for a long period is unfortunate. The community is excited.”

The new consortium will provide 1,700 hours of programming at the center during the first year, including more than 700 hours in the theater space.

The announcement comes a year after a controversial decision by EDC to not renew the lease on the space with Taller Boricua, which translates to “Puerto Rican Workshop.”

The beloved 40-year-old arts organization was not fully utilizing the space and did not have clear guidelines for renting the space out to community groups, said East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito.

Taller Boricua founders Fernando Salicrup and Nitza Tufiño said the loss of the space would crush the organization.

They still maintain space in the cultural center.

However, the theater needs hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs such as soundproofing. That was one of the reasons it was not always programmed, Salicrup and Tufiño said.

They also said they charged groups based on what the organizations could afford to pay, but they had to cover $50,000 per year in rent to the city and $20,000 in insurance costs.

Members of Community Board 11 and other local leaders criticized the EDC’s process, saying Taller Boricua was not given a chance to explain the situation or make any changes.

“It’s really clear that it was an undemocratic and untransparent process that reflects politics as usual,” said Marina Ortiz, founder of East Harlem Preservation, a neighborhood advocacy group.

She was also concerned that the involvement of a national organization, the Hispanic Federation, removed the influence of local groups such as Taller Boricua which fought for the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center to be created for the community.

“With La Marqueta, 125th Street, East River Plaza and the Corn Exchange we have huge parcels of land being turned over to outside entities. Our community is being parceled out bit by bit,” said Ortiz.

Mark-Viverito disagreed with the assesment about Taller Boricua being left out.

“The leadership of Taller Boricua never reached out to me as a local elected official to seek assistance — financial or otherwise — at any point along the way in this process or prior to this process being initiated,” she said.

Taller Boricua was also free to respond to EDC’s proposal request, said Mark-Viverito.

“I believe that the consortium selected has a fantastic proposal, including a strong community access plan, that will ensure that this building becomes the vibrant, active cultural space it was always meant to be,” said Mark-Viverito.

She said the Hispanic Federation will provide a “solid organizational base” for the effort as it has done with other ventures. The Hispanic Federation helped to launch the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance in 2007.

“The Federation has stepped up to help incubate this alliance and provide technical assistance, as it’s done for many other ventures in our communities,” said Mark-Viverito. “I believe this is a model that will work and will provide a strong foundation on which to build to ensure the future viability of the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center.”

Community Board 11 Chair Matthew Washington said in a statement he hopes the new agreement will “ensure that fair and equal access is granted to all potential users.”

Pinsky said the EDC worked closely with the community to gain their feedback during the selection process.

City capital funds will be made available to make repairs to the theater, said Pinsky. The new consortium will also be able to produce more revenue and reduce the gap between the center’s operating costs and the subsidy the city has to provide to cover the shortfall.

The group has agreed to a five-year lease with an option to renew for another five years.

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/20111121/harlem/theater-at-east-harlems-julia-de-burgos-cultural-center-gets-new-operator#ixzz1eUiskDhi

East 104th Street Renamed Union Settlement Way

Union Settlement Association Executive Director David Nocenti, Comptroller John Liu, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito and Community Board 11 Chair Matthew Washington. (DNAinfo/Jeff Mays) Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/20110928/harlem/east-104th-street-renamed-union-settlement-way#ixzz1ZIR93AyR

HARLEM—When Jocelyn Lambert was looking for a place to send her son to daycare in East Harlem, one name kept coming up — Union Settlement.

“Everyone talks about Union Settlement in this neighborhood,” said Lambert, 31, as her seven-year-old son Zaire played in the background. “A lot of people who live in the area have worked here and they have so many programs like GED and summer camp.”

It’s hard to avoid Union Settlement’s influence on East Harlem. The massive social service provider, which serves 13,000 low-income people at 17 sites, has been located on East 104th Street, between Second and Third avenues, since 1895.

Now, the block has officially been renamed Union Settlement Way to honor the agency’s contributions to the neighborhood.

“Union Settlement has been a part of New York City history for over 100 yeas in a neighborhood that has undergone constant transition,” said Comptroller John Liu. “Today’s unveiling further cements that legacy.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also declared Tuesday Union Settlement Association Day.

The agency provides a multitude of services, including childcare, college preparation, home care and adult literacy classes. Union Settlement was founded by alumni, faculty and students of Union Theological Seminary to help new immigrants struggling to make it in America.

A year later, the group was serving 2,000 clients per month. In 1942, it started one of the first programs for the elderly in the city. In 1965, it started one of the first Head Start programs in the country.

Union Settlement Association Executive Director David Nocenti said the street was named Union Settlement Way as a homage to the holistic services the agency provides.

“You can’t help the individual unless you know the family and you can’t help the family unless you know the community,” Nocenti said.

And the program gets results. Councilman Robert Jackson said he was an alumni of Union Settlement’s college Upward Bound program in the 1970s.

Associate Executive Director Laura Johnson came to Union Settlement 40 years ago to help her niece transition to child care.

“I felt like I had gone to heaven because everyone was so wonderful there,” said Johnson.

When Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito asked how many people gathered in the crowd had participated in a Union Settlement program, the majority of hands went up.

Matthew Washington, chair of Community Board 11 and a fourth generation East Harlem resident, said that the neighborhood wouldn’t be the place that it is today without Union Settlement.

As the crowd walked to a reception at the El Sitio Feliz community garden, Washington recalled how it used to be a vacant lot before Union Settlement got a hold of it.

“I remember as a kid that this was a decrepit lot that people told you to stay away from,” he said. “That’s why Union Settlement is one of the places that defines East Harlem.”

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/20110928/harlem/east-104th-street-renamed-union-settlement-way#ixzz1ZIQxVZKW