Spanish Harlem in Manhattan NY

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Spanish Harlem, a/k/a El Barrio, located on the North East Side of Manhattan between the East River and Central park from 100th street to 125th street. This lively and developing neighborhood has a rich history, and two celebrated cultural institutions, El Museo Del Barrio and the Museum of the City of New York. With many beautiful townhouses, Spanish Harlem boasts some excellent ethnic cuisine as well easy access to Central Park and the East River walk.

Get there by Subway

6 to 110th Street for East Harlem; 2 or 3 to 116-th Street for Central Harlem; A, B, C, or D to 125-th Street for West Harlem.

History of Spanish Harlem from 19-th century to Present

The construction of the elevated transit system to Harlem in the 19-th century urbanized the area, precipitating the construction of apartment buildings and brownstones. Harlem was first populated by German immigrants, but soon after Irish, Italian, Lebanese and Russian Jewish immigrants began settling in Harlem. In East Harlem, Southern Italians and Sicilians soon predominated and the neighborhood became known as Italian Harlem, the Italian American hub of Manhattan. Puerto Rican immigration after the First World War established an enclave at the western portion of Italian Harlem (around 110th Street and Lexington Avenue), which became known as Spanish Harlem. The area slowly grew to encompass all of Italian Harlem as Italians moved out and Latinos moved in another wave of immigration after the Second World War.

In the 1920’s - 1930s, Italian Harlem was represented by future Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in Congress, and later by Italian-American socialist Vito Marcantonio. Italian Harlem lasted in some parts into the 1970s in the area around Pleasant Avenue. It still celebrates the first Italian feast in New York City, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Some remnants of Italian Harlem, such as Rao's restaurant, started in 1896, and the original Patsy's Pizzeria which opened in the 1930s, still remain.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s Spanish Harlem was hit with deficits, race riots, urban flight, drug abuse, crime and poverty. Tenements were crowded, poorly maintained and frequent targets for arson. Spanish Harlem still has some of the worst problems with poverty, drug abuse and public health in New York City. Latin Kings are extremely prevalent in Spanish Harlem. However, like the rest of New York, it has enjoyed resurgence in the past two decades.

The neighborhood is expanding with the growth of the Latino population. It is home to one of the few major television studios north of midtown, Metropolis located at 106th St. and Park Ave., where shows like BET 106 & Park and Chappelle's Show have been produced. The major medical care provider to both East Harlem and the Upper East Side is the Mount Sinai Hospital, which has long provided tertiary care to the residents of Harlem. Many of the graduates of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine make careers out of East Harlem public health initiatives including the battle against asthma, diabetes, unsafe drinking water, lead paint and infectious disease.

Many artists have lived and worked in Spanish Harlem, including the renowned timbalero Tito Puente (110th Street was renamed “Tito Puente Way”), Jazz legend Ray Barretto and one of Puerto Rico’s most famous poets, Julia de Burgos among others. Piri Thomas wrote a best-selling autobiography titled, "Down These Mean Streets" in 1967.

El Museo del Barrio, a museum of Latin American and Caribbean art and culture is located on nearby Museum Mile and endeavors to serve some of the cultural needs of the neighboring community. There is a diverse collection of religious institutions within the confines of East Harlem: from mosques, a Greek Orthodox monastery, several Roman Catholic churches, including Holy Rosary Parish-East Harlem, and a traditional Russian Orthodox church.

Spanish Harlem is now home to a new influx of immigrants from around the world. Yemeni merchants, for example, work in bodegas alongside immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Italians live and prosper next to the influx of Central and South American immigrant populations. Other businessmen and local neighbors can be Korean, Chinese or Haitian in origin. The rising price of living in Manhattan has also caused increasing numbers of young urban professionals, mainly Caucasians, to move in and take advantage of the inexpensive rents, relative to the adjacent neighborhoods of Yorkville and the Upper East Side.

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