Neighborhood: East Harlem
Adjacent Neighborhoods: West Harlem, Upper East Side
Population Density: Fairly dense, heavily residential; population density here is about three times that of the city as a whole. Expect to see people around at most hours of the day.
Public Transit:4, 5, 6 Trains to 125th St;A,B, C, D Trains to 125th St;M60, M10, M15, M100, M103, M106, M116 Bus;125th St- Metro North Train
What’s Here?: East Harlem, also known as Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio, has one of the largest Latin American communities in all of New York. It also has a sizeable Italian community and has recently been a popular hub for Chinese immigrants. Cultures collide in the neighborhood! One of the five families of the New York mafia, the Genovese family, hails from here, as do several of America’s best joints for salsa music. Museo del Barrio at the very top of Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue is a museum dedicated to Latin American and Afro-Caribbean culture, with exhibits on NYC and special events celebrating the history and diversity of the neighborhood. Newest to the museum scene is the Museum of African Art, which houses a collection of diverse artifacts reflecting the varied heritage of the neighborhood. Central Park ends at 110th St, and the top of the park is a great place to relax, go for a stroll, or even try fishing in one of the small ponds. The New York Mosque is located at east 96th Street and is an architectural triumph worth visiting. 110th St, between Lexington and 3rd Avenue became NYC’s first Smoke-Free block in an effort to reduce asthma. Earl’s Beer and Cheese, a restaurant on Park Avenue is known throughout the city for its delicious, if not greasy, cheap eats.
Flat or Tall?: East Harlem has seen the development of a number of high-rise luxury buildings in recent years. The neighborhood still has a large number of public housing developments, and of older, smaller apartment buildings.
History: In 1860, a residential settlement was developed on 110th St and 3rd Ave, and soon after the elevated railway was extended to reach to the neighborhood. By the 1880s, rowhouses in East Harlem became home to thousands of immigrants, mostly of German and Irish descent. Soon after, Italians began moving into the neighborhood in large numbers, and by the mid-1890s the neighborhood became known as Italian Harlem. In 1919, the Lexington Avenue Subway (now the 4, 5, 6, lines) reached to the neighborhood, which contributed to substantial population growth. At the time, the area had one of the largest Jewish populations, second only to Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In the mid-twentieth century, people of European descent began moving elsewhere, and Puerto Ricans, who had first started moving to the neighborhood after the First World War, became the dominant group in the neighborhood. They opened cultural institutions like churches, dancehalls, restaurants and bodegas. This led to the nickname of the neighborhood “El Barrio.” Around the same time, several public housing projects arose to house the influx of immigrants. Today, East Harlem is very diverse; about one-third of its population is Puerto Rican, and the rest ranges from Italian, African American, and various other groups. An influx of Chinese people both from abroad and from other neighborhoods in New York City has greatly increased the size of the Chinese population in East Harlem; it’s now one of the largest Chinese enclaves in the city (though the Mexican and Puerto Rican populations here are still many times larger).
Activities: Dining, Afro-Caribbean dance halls, live music, salsa, Museo del Barrio, open markets, local and family-owned businesses.
Check it out: On the second Sunday of June every year, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade walks up Fifth Avenue, culminating in huge festivities in East Harlem. Celebrate with a flag bought off the street or at a bar proudly vending Don Q or Bacardi cocktails.