News Roundup

Nineteen New York residents around increasingly gentried neighborhoods around Manhattan and Brooklyn reflect back to the exact moment they knew the area they once knew was irrevocably different.

El Barrio’s PS 109, a current artspace for local artists, and a decommissioned school building, is currently accepting applicants for artists to move into a residential sector designated for affordable housing for creative individuals as a way to counter the mass gentrification that has become so prominent in Spanish Harlem.

“Artists are always the first to go as gentrification takes hold. This was an opportunity to maintain our artists.”

Local artists in Spanish Harlem have started a campaign called Harlem Independent Theater Project, trying to raise money ($30,350) to build a local theater available for artists to showcase their work, and to provide a space for gallery events. So far, the group has collected $12,024 in donations.


Gentrifying developments in Spanish Harlem continue exponentially, as the neighborhood prepares to knock down three brownstone buildings and renovate three luxury skyscraper residential houses in its place. The buildings are set to be built along Spanish Harlem’s popular East River Plaza.


Local artist is documenting the street art that is embedded in Spanish Harlem’s roots, hosting an exhibit in light of all the irreversible gentrification and paying homage to the native residents of this community.

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El Museo De Barrio

The eastern border of New York City’s Central Park runs from East 58th street in the Upper East Side neighborhood to 110th street in the East Harlem area. The entrance into the park from the east side runs along 5th avenue, also known as Museum Mile, where several of New York City’s most famous landmarks and best museums can be found , including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Africa Center, The Jewish Museum, Museum of the City of New York, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, National Academy Museum and School, all within a 20 block radius of each other, in uptown Manhattan!

El Museo De Barrio, located at 1230 5th avenue on 104th street, features the work of various Latin American and Puerto Rican artists from all around the United States.This educational gallery, located in East Harlem, preserves and pays homage to the art and culture originating from the traditions of Caribbean and Latin American culture. Its purpose, as mentioned on the museum’s ABOUT page on their website is to:

Enhance the sense of identity, self-esteem and self-knowledge of the Caribbean and Latin American peoples by educating them in their artistic heritage and bringing art and artists into their communities.

as well as:

To provide an educational forum that promotes an appreciation and understanding of Caribbean and Latin American art and culture and its rich contribution to North America. (source).


The collection is not only aesthetically pleasing, but offers a deep understanding of the habitus and reflect the history and struggles of Latinos and Puerto Ricans assimilating into American society.



The museum features two exhibits in the whole museum at a time, circulating throughout the year to feature various art contributed by an array of different artists revolving around a theme all the work on display have in common.

During my trip in mid December, 2014, I visited the museum for the first time, a long overdue trip I should have taken years ago as a lifetime resident of Spanish Harlem.

At the time of my visit, on the weekend of December 12, 2014, El Museo featured an artist named Marisol (Maria Sol Escobar), with her solo exhibition MARISOL: Sculptures and Works on Paper, the first solo exhibition the museum has ever featured, followed by an exhibit in the adjacent room named PLAYING WITH FIRE: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts, and Mischievous Actions.

Marisol Sol Escobar, born May 22, 1930 in Paris, France, is known for her large figured sculptures that bare meaning to women’s social roles, the social class system, and contemporary figures in the second half of the 20th century.

Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper is the museum’s first solo exhibition, and the first exhibit where Marisol’s sculptures are also displayed with her drawings and paintings.

Her art explores American life from many perspectives, including different races, classes, and genders using abstract figures and drawings in different styles of work such as pop art and minimalism.

In the room adjacent to the Marisol exhibition was PLAYING WITH FIRE: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts, and Mischievous Actions, exhibiting from September 6, 2014 – January 3, 2015. This exhibit featured a collection of work from a variety of different artist. All pieces are done on varying mediums, including pictures, paintings, and an entire wall of cardboard signs.

The theme that PLAYING WITH FIRE captured revolved around the political imbalance certain social classes and demographics faced in the late sixties, an era of social unrest and radical activism. Using art to express contempt at the status quo and social roles, the work in this exhibit center around different themes in societies such as: colonialism, imperialism, urban neglect, and cultural hegemony, but with satire, humor, and irreverence.

The museum caters to both the Spanish community as well as the audience outside of Spanish Harlem, with all literature including pamphlets and the plaques on the wall to explain the pieces of art in both English and Spanish side by side. The informational plaques next to each piece of work analyze the art from a visual point of view, as well as exploring how the work reflects upon the society the author is in.

Along with the two exhibits going on at the museum at all times, a theater in the main entrance lobby hosts plays in both Spanish and English (depending on which day you plan on going).

Here are some pictures I took of my visit featuring the Marisol and Playing With Fire exhibits!

 IMG_5362 IMG_5363 IMG_5364 IMG_5360 IMG_5366 IMG_5367 IMG_5368    IMG_5372 IMG_5373 IMG_5374




And of course, here is me.


Ongoing exhibits and further information can be found on their website.

To check out other museums along Museum Mile (5th Avenue, Uptown Manhattan 84th street-110th street), information on location and ongoing exhibits can be found here.


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Art for the Public

They say the best things in life are free.

In a community where many of its native residents suffer from a variety of economic and social issues, Spanish Harlem prides itself on its art and culture, to be celebrated by everyone in the community.

There are many characteristics of Spanish Harlem that set this soulful community aside from the rest of the city and world, one of them being the street art that can found all throughout the area, Many neighborhoods in New York, especially in Manhattan, associate street art with vandalism, troublemakers, and destruction of property. Spanish Harlem’s history of expression and artistic liberty is clear and can be seen by anyone visiting the area. Most other conventional neighborhoods, especially those on the island of Manhattan designate a specific place for art and music, and cannot exist outside those confines. Art is rarely found on the street in areas such as Downtown Manhattan, but especially street art, otherwise known as graffiti

Spanish Harlem’s vast collection of street art can be found practically on every other block, displayed for the entire community’s enjoyment. The art that can be found is quantitatively extensive, as well as qualitatively. There isn’t one style that is more prominent than the next. Not only are the pieces that are up aesthetically pleasing, but they reflect on deeper values expressed through the artist’s work. Different themes are explored through street art, such as social issues (ie. class warfare), religion, gentrification, unity in the neighborhood, Spanish history, as well as pieces that were done just to be aesthetically pleasing.

East Harlem Cafe, a recent addition to the community within Spanish Harlem and said to have the neighborhood’s best coffee is an avid supporter of the local arts. Denise Ortiz, 24, the manager of the bustling café and student at Fashion Institute of Technology often hosts the variety of different art shows, open mic nights, and poetry slams at the café. Earlier in 2014, East Harlem Café hosted a party with several artists doing a live painting for the audience. “I’m trying to be an artist myself. So I know how hard it is in the real world to be taken seriously sometimes, especially if you’re doing street art. There aren’t a lot of places that are available to the public to do a street art mural. That used to be 5pointz, but they painted over everything this year.” 5pointz, known as the graffiti mecca of New York City, was the only space that offered a public space (as opposed to private property) to practice and exhibit graffiti and street art pieces without being charged for vandalism. “That’s the cool thing about Spanish Harlem. We have the Graffiti Hall of Fame, and street art is more accepted here because there’s a lot of buildings with a mural or mosaic. I think it makes the neighborhood look nicer and makes everyone feel a lot more welcome and free to express yourself.” Ortiz has been a resident of Spanish Harlem for 12 years.

Graffiti Hall of Fame, 106th and Park in Spanish Harlem.

Graffiti Hall of Fame, E106th and Park Helen Ho.

The brick wall outside the café is adorned with colorful  mosaics, and decided to leave up a graffitied piece of Pedro Pietri, a piece by De La Vega, that was there before the cafe opened its doors in early 2010.

Source: Helen Ho

Well known local Puerto Rican street artist Jimmy De La Vega was born in 1975 in East Harlem. Best known for his murals and street aphorisms, he rose to become the most well known street artist in Spanish Harlem. His work is distinguished by his style in spray painting, as well as his widely recognized tags, his most famous and most frequently seen one being “Become Your Dream”, followed by a signature of his name, or his iconic goldfish line drawing. His work appears on many walls throughout Manhattan, that have stood there and have been enjoyed for many years, but De La Vega is known mainly for the frequent “pieces” that are found on surfaces that last for a very brief time, almost always a piece of furniture (such as a dresser, mattress, mirror) tossed to the side of the street. These pieces are fleeting, and can only be seen in a matter of hours or one day, but his art is so well recognized that it almost always guarantees a blast on social media forums by people passing by. De La Vega is a significant member of the original Spanish Harlem community, achieving fame and recognition when gentrification was merely a seedling of an idea, long before the wine bars, farmers markets, and mass reconstruction of the neighborhood began. As well as being recognized within the city for his art, De La Vega is also known amongst East Harlem residents for being a community activist for his charity work in Spanish Harlem. De La Vega created and auctioned off his renowned styled artwork made from simple free or cheap household surfaces and hardware, such as lampshades, bookshelves, and dressers and donated all proceeds to cleaning up and beautifying the community garden on 104th and Lexington avenue. De La Vega has become one of the most unsurpassed street artists in New York, inspiring and leading many to see a new, modern and unconventional medium of self-expression.

An ongoing issue that has been especially current in today’s headlines is the controversy of police officers targeting certain demographics of people over others. The stop-and-frisk policy has received a lot of criticism over African-Americans more affected by this policy than any other race. Over the last year, an increasing amount of art reflecting the anger coming from groups of people at the inequality of the justice system have been popping up in Spanish Harlem. Today, there can be many posters seen that say “Stop police violence”, “End Stop-and Frisk”. “People are angry”, says Ortiz. “They’re [the community] showing everyone that they want to stop being treated differently than everyone else just because of their race”. The politics being reflected in the art in this community allows its people to express their contempt and gives them a voice that can be seen and heard. IMG_3506

IMG_3523 Political unrest in the community of Spanish Harlem is expressed via publicly displayed posters. Source: Helen Ho


By using street art, they are making unfair policies in the society a real issue, which would otherwise be hard to do through other forms of art that is found in museums for example. Christina Mesa, 32, an educator at the El Museo de Barrio believes art is important regardless of where it is displayed, what medium it was done on. As long as the artist had the intention to share a message through means other than text, that is how we communicate with other people as social creatures. “People don’t think of street art as the same thing as the art you see in museums. There’s a lot of art that speaks for the people living here”.

See pictures of some street art around my neighborhood here!

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Social Media Strategy

My blog, pertaining to Spanish Harlem community will have enormous benefits from social media to update everyone on changes seen in the neighborhood, each one serving a purpose that is best conveyed through its own form of social media and communication. Such changes can include: additions (ie. A new awesome café!), losses (a restaurant that was once a staple to the community is now closing), modifications (A street filled with potholes and consistently littered will undergo construction to make the neighborhood look nicer), status updates on ongoing projects (how much longer this scaffolding will be up for, and what will we expect after construction ends?), etc… I hope that through the use of social media for my specific blog, The Spanish Harlem neighborhood will be better able to communicate with the people living there, and my blogs popularity could make the experience of living within a community a more interactive and involved one.

Such social media platforms that would better promote my blog include:

Instagram: Specific examples of posts I envision include a picture of a restaurant, and a caption letting instagram followers know the latest post on Vanished Harlem is a feature on the latest restaurant to hit the streets of El Barrio, with an interview with proprietors, employees, and customers. Another use Instagram could have would be to snap pictures of changes to the neighborhood as they happen. People really underestimate how many scaffoldings there are in the streets, and posting a picture of a scaffolding when it has been taken down after months will alert people to expect a new addition to neighborhood, revealing what has been in the works for so long. Posts could look like a side-by-side comparison of what the building looked like before, and the newly constructed building as they happen.

Twitter could have many different practical uses, the most important one to the blog being to tell followers there is a new post or update on the blog. Other uses for twitter include letting people know interesting sites around the neighborhood to keep the site active. When there are new events going on in Spanish Harlem, or developments in this constantly changing atmosphere, twitter would be a great way to put the news out.

@eastharlemcafe- Spanish Harlem’s go to café for real coffee (one amenity to the community I’ve lived my whole life in Spanish Harlem without!) This café is relatively new, and emerged at the start of the population transition, so it would be appropriate to update the people that follow East Harlem Café for a continuation on their beloved neighborhood. East Harlem Café also has spoken word and poetry events with a large audience that would benefit from learning more about hidden gems dispersed throughout the neighborhood.

@delavegaprophet- James De La Vega is Spanish Harlem, maybe even one of New York’s most well known and recognizable icons in street art. As a native of Spanish Harlem, his work can be found on a random mattress tossed on the street, trash cans, and other creative surfaces. The works that can be found often attract many people and many people look forward to coming across his work and take pictures of them. Through social media, I could post his works and let people know about pieces that are temporarily displayed on the street.

@Randallsisland- Randall’s island is a beautiful and spacious park that is only available via footbridge connecting through Spanish Harlem. Visitors to Randall’s Island can enhance their trip and experience to the park by finding out about some other places to stop along the way.

@WalksofNewYork: Walking tours could be a popular tourist activity or way to see the neighborhood, and as a follower, WalksofNewYork could find new additions to their list of stops on their walking tour.

@tripadvisor: Trip Advisor’s reviews of different places around New York occasionally feature East Harlem sites. Posts about some unknown or small businesses in Spanish Harlem could be featured on their site and be advantageous to all three parties (trip advisor, the business featured, and this blog).



@ELPASO116- A restaurant right off the subway on 103rd found in Spanish Harlem

@Gothamist- Gothamist is always looking for local stories and features done on areas around the city. As a local Spanish Harlem resident,

@buzzfeed: Their forte of lists and easy reads online could benefit from reading this blog and different features of Spanish Harlem. I imagine some posts including interesting wall art, artistic events, and restaurants in the area that writers of buzzfeed may not have known about before.

@guggenheim (The Guggenheim Museum is found in Spanish Harlem. Similar to the use of the Randall’s Island twitter, followers can stop along at different places if they are visiting the museum. (Subreddit- A forum dedicated to media and info related to the subreddit)


@NatJazzMuseum (In Harlem)


Have a drink with Trini, your bartender in the neighborhood’s most renowned wine bar, Lexington Social! #LexSocialize

Learn about the neighborhood’s most recent sites for you to visit on the weekends #spanishharlemfordummies

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Election Night

Watching the live broadcast of polling results on election night is an exciting event, but the experience of watching it leisurely and for oneself, is a completely different experience than watching it as a journalist and covering the event and reporting the live results. Covering any event as it is being broadcasted live as a journalist puts a great deal of pressure to be thorough and accurate. I found this task to be extremely stressful and much more difficult than I initially expected, learning many different aspects of what makes a successful reporter and live blogger.

Unlike watching a live event for myself, in order to provide readers with detailed and correct information, I had to switch over to using multiple platforms of broadcasting shortly after I begun. While I watched the results live on my television, I also had my ipad on standby to confirm results, find the names and numbers that I may have missed when announcing on the television, but I found that with the new age of live blogging and a digitalized world of communication and broadcasting, the aid of fellow bloggers and twitter users were an essential source to filling in gaps of information to keep up with the demanding speed of covering a live event.

While browsing through examples of other live bloggers, I saw that there were different styles reporters chose to cover, varying in the depth of posts and how frequent their page was updated. Most reporters, such as Bruce Japsen with Forbes magazine would post an average of 15-30 minutes, providing the most essential facts, but taking more time to go into detail. In the beginning of the assignment, I posted everything, because I thought being thorough made me a good reporter. I thought that my audience wouldn’t just be in one state, but all over, so I tried to cover extensive results in all states as best as I could rather than focusing on a few larger states. I found that being a frequent poster did more damage than good, even though it requires more work. Tiny details that realistically almost no one will care about are useless chunks of information, but also take away focus from more important information. About an hour into the event, I realized too much time was spent on posting details that weren’t even that important, that would make readers uninterested, and have to sift through insignificant information, and took time away that could be spent on writing more thoughtful and in depth posts about more important events.


While covering the 2014 midterm election night imagining I was working as a live blogger, I thought a lot about what makes a good reporter, and why people would choose to follow my account to get their news, over all the other blogs covering the same event. Anyone with a television and a platform of social media have the opportunity to live blog this event, what could I post to make myself as a reporter unique and different from all the competition? While reporting observations and objective information is what people are looking for, I found that I was more likely to follow one website over another if they provided posts that summarized research and prior knowledge about what was going on currently. Reporters that would explain what the results of a race means (what it entails for the state, if one party was controlling more and if this was an expected or surprising outcome, if there was a change in parties-why?) gives the reader more background information and a better understanding of the results. I think anyone can report what they see on TV, type it up, and just spit back out the same thing they just saw. But pulling information from a multitude of sources gives readers one place to receive many different perspectives of the same topic. By giving an analysis and more detailed information, the author is doing the research so the reader doesn’t have to, and if he or she is accurate, will make him or her more reputable as a writer and a news reporter.

One of the many issues I came across for the first time as my first live blogging experience was managing the stress of high speed situations. At times, results would pour in simultaneously (ie. updates from several different states, with several different winners of the electoral race, etc…) Not only did I have to type in observations, and the results in coherent sentences to be read by followers, but at times, I began to fall behind while watching the television, and then I had to catch up to the next announcement, but by the time I was typing the next announcement, I was already falling behind on the one after that, and it became a cycle of playing catch up. In the beginning, stressing about missing information would be a self-fullfilling prophet and just make me miss more things, but in the end I realized that if I missed information, I could either make it up at a later time, or if I missed it, then I missed it, and stressing out about it does nothing to help and only further causes trouble.

I was very surprised by how difficult this assignment was, and I think many underestimate the commitment of writers that are live-blogging. As demanding and stressful as it was, I got a lot of my information and many of my sources came from live-bloggers. They are putting out some of the world’s first info available online on a certain event, and live-blogging definitely helps gain popularity (in readers and followers), and requires a certain journalistic skill that is becoming increasingly necessary in the digitalized world.

Attached is a file of timestamped notes I took for this assignment.

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A Tour of El Barrio

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A Brief Tour of El Barrio

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A Tour of El Barrio

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A tour of El Barrio

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Spanish Harlem for Dummies

Gentrified Spanish Harlem For Dummies

One of the first and most essential aspects of the neighborhood to change with the idea to recreate the community within Spanish Harlem were the businesses, or the lack thereof. In the late 2000’s, the people residing in Uptown Manhattan, or East Harlem did not live in a vicinity where they could go to enjoy a good dining experience, a place to watch sports and have beers, any recreational or athletic facilities, have access to fresh foods from a supermarket, even have a proper place outside of their house to do work with a cup of coffee. Before the neighborhood became popular and received all (or any) of the buzz that surrounds Spanish Harlem today, there were only a few places one was able to go to shop for various things:

Eating dining experience: Restaurants/bars

Going out and having activities to do in any area may be overlooked and thought of as frivolous. However, it’s how people are drawn into a part of town. When there are options available to spend time in a certain neighborhood, such as Spanish Harlem, people may visit and explore somewhere they may have never been. A few years ago, spending time in the neighborhood and inviting friends to come to the area I lived in was never really a choice, because there was nothing to really do around here. My only options were to travel outside of my neighborhood. A good restaurant, bar or attraction is a good opportunity to introduce someone who may never have been there to visit for the first time and consider that area as a place of living, and brings in more visitors. Today, there are restaurants such as: El Paso Taqueria, a local restaurant with authentic Spanish Cuisine in “El Barrio” of New York, the Lexington Social Wine Bar, now thriving as one of Uptown Manhattan’s most popular places to go for exotic wines and delicious tapas, _____

Another reason why restaurants and businesses in hospitality are important in a neighborhood is because as a neighborhood with an increasing population and a growing young professional demographic, the residents need places to go where they are able to work such as café’s, bars, or lowkey restaurants. A few years ago, I was confined to working off my computer in my house, or in Central Park, a twenty minute walk from my house only available half the year, with no access to electricity or the comfort that café’s provide, such as a Starbucks on every other block in almost all the other neighborhoods in Manhattan.


In a neighborhood trying to expand itself and trying to draw in more people to a once considered poor part of New York, prospective residents look for AMENITIES that they will have access to if they move in. There wasn’t anywhere I could go sign up for if I wanted to enroll in a gym, which may influence a prospective resident of Spanish Harlem, depending on how seriously they view exercise in their life.


Clothing is tricky to advertise for places to shop at, because style and personal preference is hard to objectify for an audience. Most of the clothing stores found in Spanish Harlem before the area began diversifying were all similar in style- street wear, meant for the active and trendy young adult. Most stores with this style consisted of basketball hear, casual tshirts and tank tops, jeans, along with other clothes popular amongst the demographic shopping for the aforementioned styles. Some of the very few stores that opened it’s doors uptown long before the neighborhood began booming include: Payless Shoe Source and Slam Dunk, which are low cost but a very scarce source for clothing.
FOOD: A few supermarkets were always available before gentrification took over. However, these supermarkets, being the only source of fresh food and produce for the house, were designed for a neighborhood with a prevalent population of lower class residents and people on welfare. Census surveys and charts reveal Spanish Harlem is a neighborhood in manhattan with some of the highest numbers of people with little money. Many are only able to support themselves and the family using EBT (food stamps) and welfare money.
With the new gentrified community moving into the neighborhood, businesses have moved into the area, reflecting the increasing wealthier middle class and upper class residents.
Food: Businesses such as supermarkets have opened it’s doors to a new demographic that is slowly expanding beyong Spanish Harlem’s native residents. Since new condominiums and businesses have opened up in the area, 4 new markets have already opened up within 98-107th street. These places are particularly exciting additions to the neighborhood, because for the first time, local residents of the neighborhood are able to buy organic and farmers market produce, instead of groceries that are often stale and low quality such as the vegetables offered in every single other supermarket.

East River Plaza: With smaller businesses opening up in the area, the neighborhood has seen an increase in quality of life, with all these new additions to the neighborhood. Along with these smaller businesses and stores, the East River Plaza, on 116th street along the FDR Drive opened its doors in early 2012, offering: Costco, Target, Marshalls, Bob’s Discount Furniture, Petsmart, Gamestop, as well as a multi-tiered parking facility. Local residents of the neighborhood are able to go to this “mall”, for a shopping experience that Spanish Harlem has never seen before. The Costco and Target are rare stores for the city, and the plaza attracts many from all around the city, outside of El Barrio. The plaza, opening at the peak of Spanish Harlem’s gentrification boom, has really put East Harlem on the map for land developers, and businesses trying to expand.

Spanish Harlem, once regarded as a neighborhood with outstanding social issues and known for its low prevalence in low income housing and residents, has really seen a shift in demographic, and as a result, the city is paying attention to us, which has never happened in the past. A community thrives on its people, but as well as its local resources. As East Harlem was once a neighborhood with scarce places to find many necessities, the variety of different stores that are now accessible in our neighborhood means local residents no longer need to travel several miles and commute in order to get fresh vegetables from all the other supermarkets every single other neighborhood has access to.

***And as an additional personal statement and opinion, I disagree with the city’s decision to displace the tenants that have lived here for several decades, who built the culture that is one of this neighborhood’s best features, and what makes Spanish Harlem so unique. But as a resident, still living in the area after 21 years, it is exciting to say the least, to see the city paying attention to us, almost as if we weren’t even being taken seriously in the past. The quality of life of living in Spanish Harlem has increased significantly, at least from a subjective experience. There are some things I am proud of, and other things I am ashamed of in living in a gentrified Spanish Harlem, but my love for this neighborhood has definitely grown now that life is a little easier living between 96th street and 149th street in Uptown Manhattan.

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