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East Harlem
Looking north from 2nd Avenue and 96th Street (2019)
Looking north from 2nd Avenue and 96th Street (2019)
Location in New York City
Coordinates: 40°47′42″N 73°56′20″W / 40.795°N 73.939°W / 40.795; -73.939
CountryUnited States
State New York
CityNew York City
Community DistrictManhattan 11[1]
 • Total115,921
 • Hispanic/Latino52.1%
 • Black35.7%
 • White (non-Hispanic/Latino)7.3%
 • Asian2.7%
 • Other0.2%
 • Median income$21,480
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
10029, 10035
Area code212, 332, 646, and 917
Looking north over East Harlem between 3rd and Lexington Avenues
Looking north over East Harlem between 3rd and Lexington Avenues

East Harlem, also known as Spanish Harlem or El Barrio, is a neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, New York City, roughly encompassing the area north of the Upper East Side and bounded by 96th Street to the south, Fifth Avenue to the west, and the East and Harlem Rivers to the east and north.[3][4][5] Despite its name, it is generally not considered to be a part of Harlem proper, but it is one of the neighborhoods included in Greater Harlem.[6]

The neighborhood is one of the largest predominantly Latino communities in New York City, mostly made up of Puerto Ricans, as well as sizeable numbers of Dominican, Cuban and Mexican immigrants. The community is notable for its contributions to Latin freestyle and salsa music. East Harlem also includes the area formerly known as Italian Harlem, in which the remnants of a once predominantly Italian community remain. The Chinese population has increased dramatically in East Harlem since 2000.[7][8][9]

East Harlem has historically suffered from many social issues, such as a high crime rate, the highest jobless rate in New York City, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, drug abuse, homelessness, and an asthma rate five times the national average.[10] It has the second-highest concentration of public housing in the United States, behind Brownsville, Brooklyn.[11] However, East Harlem is undergoing some gentrification. In February 2016, East Harlem was one of four neighborhoods featured in an article in The New York Times about "New Hot Neighborhoods", and the city was considering re-zoning the area.

East Harlem is part of Manhattan Community District 11, and its primary ZIP Codes are 10029 and 10035.[1] It is patrolled by the 23rd and 25th Precincts of the New York City Police Department.[12][13]


Early history

The area which became East Harlem was rural for most of the 19th century, but residential settlements northeast of Third Avenue and East 110th Street had developed by the 1860s.[3] The construction of the elevated transit line to Harlem in 1879 and 1880, and the building of the Lexington Avenue subway in 1919,[3] urbanized the area, precipitating the construction of apartment buildings and brownstones. The extension of cable cars up Lexington Avenue into East Harlem was stymied by the incline created by Duffy's Hill at 103rd Street, one of the steepest grades in Manhattan. East Harlem was first populated by poor German, Irish, Scandinavian,[14] and Eastern European Jewish immigrants, with the Jewish population standing at 90,000 around 1917.[3] In the 1870s, Italian immigrants joined the mix after a contractor building trolley tracks on First Avenue imported Italian laborers as strikebreakers. The workers' shantytown along the East River at 106th Street was the beginning of an Italian neighborhood, with 4,000 having arrived by the mid-1880s. As more immigrants arrived, it expanded north to East 115th Street and west to Third Avenue.[15]

East Harlem consisted of pockets of ethnically-sorted settlements – Italian, German, Irish, and Jewish – which were beginning to press up against each other, with the spaces still between them occupied by "gasworks, stockyards and tar and garbage dumps".[15] In 1895, the Union Settlement Association, one of the oldest settlement houses in New York City, began providing services in the area, offering the immigrant and low-income residents a range of community-based programs, including boys and girls clubs, a sewing school and adult education classes.

Italian Harlem

Southern Italians and Sicilians, with a moderate number of Northern Italians, soon predominated, especially in the area east of Lexington Avenue between 96th and 116th Streets and east of Madison Avenue between 116th and 125th Streets, with each street featuring people from different regions of Italy. The neighborhood became known as "Italian Harlem", the Italian American hub of Manhattan; it was the first part of Manhattan to be referred to as "Little Italy".[16] The first Italians arrived in East Harlem in 1878, from Polla in the province of Salerno, and settled in the vicinity of 115th Street.[17]

There were many crime syndicates in Italian Harlem from the early Black Hand to the bigger and more organized Italian gangs that formed the Italian-American Mafia. It was the founding location of the Genovese crime family, one of the Five Families that dominated organized crime in New York City.[18] This includes the current 116th Street Crew of the Genovese family. During the 1970s, Italian East Harlem was also home to the Italian-American drug gang and murder-for-hire crew known as the East Harlem Purple Gang.

In the 1920s and early 1930s, Italian Harlem was represented in Congress by future Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia.[3] After becoming mayor, La Guardia helped plan a large expansion of Thomas Jefferson Park at First Avenue, between 111th and 114th Streets, in the mid-1930s.[19] The neighborhood was represented, in the 1940s, by Italian-American civil rights lawyer, activist, and socialist Vito Marcantonio. The Italian neighborhood approached its peak in the 1930s, with over 110,000 Italian-Americans living in its crowded, run-down apartment buildings.[3] The 1930 census showed that 81 percent of the population of Italian Harlem consisted of first- or second-generation Italian Americans, somewhat less than the concentration of Italian Americans in the Lower East Side's Little Italy with 88 percent; Italian Harlem's total population, however, was three times that of Little Italy.[17]

The Italian community in East Harlem remained strong into the 1980s, but it has slowly diminished since then. However, Italian inhabitants and vestiges of the old Italian neighborhood remain. The annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the "Dancing of the Giglio", the first Italian feast in New York City, is still celebrated there every year on the second weekend of August by the Giglio Society of East Harlem. Italian retail establishments still exist, such as Rao's restaurant, started in 1896, and the original Patsy's Pizzeria which opened in 1933. In May 2011, one of the last remaining Italian retail businesses in the neighborhood, a barbershop owned by Claudio Caponigro on 116th Street, was threatened with closure by a rent increase.[20]

Spanish Harlem

Puerto Rican and Latin American migration after the First World War[21] established an enclave at the western portion of East Harlem – around 110th Street and Lexington Avenue – which became known as "Spanish Harlem". The area slowly grew to encompass all of East Harlem, including Italian Harlem, as Italians moved out – to the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, upstate New York and New Jersey – and Latinos moved in during another wave of immigration in the 1940s and 1950s.[3] Although in certain areas, particularly around Pleasant Avenue, Italian Harlem lasted through the 1970s,[22] today most of the former Italian population is gone. Most of these predominantly older residents are clustered around Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, mainly from 114th to 118th Streets. According to the 2000 Census, there were only 1,130 Italian-Americans still living in this area.[23]

The newly dominant Puerto Rican population, which reached 63,000 in 1950, continued to define the neighborhood according to its needs, establishing bodegas and botánicas as it expanded; by the 1930s[21] there was already an enclosed street market underneath the Park Avenue railroad viaduct between 111th and 116th Streets, called "La Marqueta" ("The Market").[3] Catholic and evangelistic Protestant churches appeared in storefronts.[3] Although "Spanish Harlem" had been in use since at least the 1930s to describe the Latino enclave – along with "Italian Harlem" and "Negro Harlem"[24] – the name began to be used to describe the entire East Harlem neighborhood by the 1950s. Later, the name "El Barrio" ("The Neighborhood") began to be used, especially by residents of the area.


In the 1950s and 1960s, large sections of East Harlem were leveled for urban renewal projects, and the neighborhood was one of the hardest hit areas in the 1960s and 1970s as New York City struggled with deficits, race riots, urban flight, gang warfare, drug abuse, crime and poverty. Tenements were crowded, poorly maintained, and frequent targets for arson. In 1969 and 1970, a regional chapter of the Young Lords which were reorganized from a neighborhood street gang in Chicago by Jose (Cha-Cha) Jimenez, ran several programs including a Free Breakfast for Children and a Free Health Clinic to help Latino and poor families. The Young Lords came together with the Black Panthers and called for Puerto Rican independence and neighborhood empowerment. Still, as of the early 2000s, the Latin Kings gang remained prevalent in East Harlem.

Recent history

By the beginning of the 21st century, East Harlem was a racially diverse neighborhood, with about a third of the population being Puerto Rican.[3] As it has been throughout its history, it is predominantly a working-class neighborhood.[14]

Until 2006, property values in East Harlem climbed along with those in the rest of New York City, leading to gentrification and changes to area demographics.[25]

On March 12, 2014 at 9:00 EDT, a large explosion and fire at 1644–1646 Park Avenue killed eight people and injured more than 70.[26][27][28]

The New York Post listed one part of the neighborhood – the block of Lexington Avenue between East 123rd and 124th Streets – as one of "the most dangerous blocks in the city" because police crime statistics for 2015 showed that 19 assaults had taken place there, more than for any other city block. The Post also reported that there were, according to the Harlem Neighborhood Block Association, "22 drug-treatment programs, four homeless-services providers and four transitional-living facilities" in East Harlem.[29]

East Harlem has begun to feel the effects of gentrification.[30] In February 2016, an article in The New York Times about "New York's Next Hot Neighborhoods" featured East Harlem as one of four such areas. A real-estate broker described it as "one of the few remaining areas in New York City where you can secure a good deal". The article mentioned new luxury developments, access to transportation, the opening of new retail stores, bars and restaurants, and national-brand stores beginning to appear on the outskirts of the neighborhood. Primarily, though, it was the cost of housing in comparison to the rest of Manhattan, which the article noted as the major factor.[4] Beginning in 2016, the New York City government was seeking to rezone East Harlem "to facilitate new residential, commercial, community facility, and manufacturing development".[31][32] The residents of the neighborhood generated a suggested zoning plan, the "East Harlem Neighborhood Plan", which was offered to the city in February 2017,[33] but in August 2017 residents and the Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, complained that the city had ignored their plan almost entirely.[34]

In 2019, the oldest portion of the neighborhood, the blocks of East 111th through 120th Streets between Park and Pleasant Avenues, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the East Harlem Historic District.[35]


The New York City Department of City Planning classifies East Harlem into two neighborhood tabulation areas: East Harlem North and East Harlem South, divided along 115th Street.[36] The two areas had a combined population of 115,921, an increase of 1,874 (1.4%) from the combined 114,047 in the 2000 Census.[2]

Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of East Harlem North was 58,019, an increase of 871 (1.5%) from the 57,148 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 573.94 acres (232.27 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 101.1 inhabitants per acre (64,700/sq mi; 25,000/km2).[2] The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 6.8% (3,936) White, 35.5% (20,625) African American, 0.2% (128) Native American, 3.0% (1,766) Asian, 0.0% (9) Pacific Islander, 0.3% (185) from other races, and 1.3% (769) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 52.7% (30,601) of the population.[37]

Based on data from the 2010 Census, the population of East Harlem South was 57,902, an increase of 1,003 (1.8%) from the 56,899 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 389.41 acres (157.59 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 148.7 inhabitants per acre (95,200/sq mi; 36,700/km2).[2] The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 17.4% (10,072) White, 24.6% (14,227) African American, 0.2% (96) Native American, 8.3% (4,802) Asian, 0.1% (55) Pacific Islander, 0.4% (218) from other races, and 1.6% (933) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 47.5% (27,499) of the population.[37]

The most significant changes in the racial composition of East Harlem between 2000 and 2010 were the Asian population's increase by 109% (3,427), the White population's increase by 68% (5,689), and the Black population's decrease by 12% (4,625). Although more of the influx of Asian and White residents was in East Harlem South, the greatest percentage growth was in East Harlem North, while the Black population's decrease was evenly split. The Hispanic/Latino population also decreased by 4% (2,485), a decrease almost entirely concentrated in East Harlem South, where it fell from being the majority group to the plurality group. The small population of other races experienced a slight increase of 5% (132).[38]

The entirety of Manhattan Community District 11, which consists of East Harlem, Randall's Island, and Ward's Island, had 124,323 inhabitants as of NYC Health's 2018 Community Health Profile, with an average life expectancy of 77.3 years.[39]: 2, 20  This is 3.9 years lower than the median life expectancy of 81.2 for all New York City neighborhoods.[40]: 53 (PDF p. 84)  Most residents are children and middle-aged adults: 21% are between the ages of 0–17, while 33% are between 25 and 44, and 23% are between 45 and 64. The ratio of college-aged and elderly residents was lower, at 10% and 13% respectively.[39]: 2 

As of 2017, the median household income in Community District 11 was $36,770.[41] In 2018, an estimated 23% of Community District 11 residents lived in poverty, compared to 14% in all of Manhattan and 20% in all of New York City. One in nine residents (11%) were unemployed, compared to 7% in Manhattan and 9% in New York City. Rent burden, or the percentage of residents who have difficulty paying their rent, is 48% in Community District 11, compared to the boroughwide and citywide rates of 45% and 51% respectively. Based on this calculation, as of 2018, Community District 11 is considered to be gentrifying: according to the Community Health Profile, the district was low-income in 1990 and has seen above-median rent growth up to 2010.[39]: 7 

Ethnic groups

Community District 11 is a mostly low to middle income area. It is made up of first and second generation Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Asian-Americans, West Indian Americans (especially Dominican Americans and Cuban Americans), and a growing population of Mexican Americans and Salvadoran Americans and other Central American immigrants. It has one of the highest concentrations of Puerto Ricans in all of New York City.[1] As of 2010, the Puerto Rican population was 27.7% in zip code 10029,[42] and 23.4% in 10035. 10035 also has a large Mexican population, at 10.7%.[43]

As noted before, the number of Asians in East Harlem more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, largely due to Chinese people moving to East Harlem. Increasing rents in Lower Manhattan's Chinatown have driven many into public and subsidized housing developments in the neighborhood. Advocates have been calling for Chinese language services to be available in the community centers to accommodate the growing number of Chinese residents in the area. In 2000, the Chinese population in the northern portion was less than one percent, but by 2010, it has gone up to being three percent in the area. In the southern part, it rose from 4.6% to 8.4%.[7][8][9]

Social issues

Social problems, including poverty, crime, and drug addiction, have long plagued the area. Although crime rates have dropped from the historically high numbers of the past, East Harlem suffers from a relatively high violent crime rate, especially in the 25th Precinct above 115th Street. In 2019, the 25th Precinct had the third-highest rate of felony assault, the sixth-highest rates of rape and robbery, the tenth-highest rate of burglary, and the fourteenth-highest rate of murder out of the New York Police Department's 77 precincts.[44]

East Harlem has the highest concentration of shelters and facilities in Manhattan, with eight homeless shelters, 36 drug and alcohol treatment facilities and 37 mental health treatment facilities. It also has the highest jobless rate in the entire city, as well as the city's second highest cumulative AIDS rate. The asthma rate is also 5 times higher than national levels.[10] The neighborhood also suffers from a high poverty rate.[45] Union Settlement Association is one of the neighborhood's largest social service agencies, reaching more than 13,000 people annually at 17 locations throughout East Harlem, through a range of programs, including early childhood education, youth development, senior services, job training, the arts, adult education, nutrition, counseling, a farmers' market, community development, and neighborhood cultural events.


Metro North Plaza Houses
Metro North Plaza Houses
Jefferson Houses
Jefferson Houses
Washington Houses
Washington Houses

East Harlem is dominated by public housing complexes of various types, with a high concentration of older tenement buildings between these developments. The neighborhood contains the second-highest concentration of public housing in the United States, behind Brownsville, Brooklyn.[11] The total land area is 1.54 square miles (4.0 km2).[46][47]

After a wave of arson ravaged the low income communities of New York City throughout the 1970s, many of the residential structures in East Harlem were left seriously damaged or destroyed. By the late 1970s, the city began to rehabilitate many abandoned tenement style buildings and designate them as low income housing. Despite recent gentrification of the neighborhood, large numbers of apartment buildings have been deliberately kept vacant by their owners. Although the businesses on the ground floor are retained, landlords do not want to have the trouble involved in residential tenants. In some cases, landlords are waiting for a revived economy, warehousing the apartments so that they can rent them later at a higher rent.[48]

In 2007, a survey of Manhattan's buildings found that 1,723 were significantly vacant, three-quarters of them north of 96th Street. A 1998 survey found that one-quarter of low-rise residential buildings on avenues or major cross streets in East Harlem had sealed-up residential floors, despite having commercial businesses on the ground floor.[48]

Public housing projects

There are twenty-four New York City Housing Authority developments located in East Harlem.[49] As of 2013, 93.6% of all housing units were renter-occupied, and over 25% of the population resided in public housing units managed by the NYCHA.[10]

  • 335 East 111th Street; one 6-story building
  • East 120th Street Rehab; one, 6-story rehabilitated tenement building
  • East River Houses; ten buildings, 6, 10 and 11 stories tall
  • Edward Corsi Houses; one 16-story building
  • Gaylord White Houses; one 20-story building
  • George Washington Carver Houses; 13 buildings, 6 and 15 stories tall
  • Governor Dewitt Clinton Houses; six buildings, 9 and 18 stories tall
  • Jackie Robinson Houses; one 8-story building
  • James Weldon Johnson Houses; ten 14-story buildings
  • Lehman Village; four 20-story buildings
  • Lexington Houses; four 14-story buildings
  • Metro North Plaza; three buildings, 7, 8, and 11 stories tall
  • Metro North Rehab; seventeen 6-story rehabilitated tenement buildings
  • Milbank-Frawley; two rehabilitated tenement buildings 5 and 6 stories tall
  • Morris Park Senior Citizens Home; one 9-story rehabilitated building
  • Park Avenue-East 122nd Street, 123rd Streets; two 6-story buildings
  • President Abraham Lincoln; fourteen buildings, 6 and 14 stories tall
  • President George Washington Houses; fourteen buildings, 12 and 14 stories tall
  • President Thomas Jefferson Houses; eighteen buildings, 7, 13 and 14 stories tall
  • President Woodrow Wilson Houses; three 20-story buildings
  • Senator Robert A. Taft; nine 19-story buildings
  • Robert F. Wagner Houses; twenty-two buildings, 7 and 16 stories tall
  • U.P.A.C.A. (Upper Park Avenue Community Association) Site 6; one 12-story building
  • U.P.A.C.A. (Upper Park Avenue Community Association) U.R.A. Site 5; one 11-story building

Other residential developments

Other subsidized housing includes:

  • Taino Towers – East 122nd Street and Third Avenue. Four 35-story towers, 656 apartments. Opened 1979.[50]
  • A new 68-story rental tower at 321 East 96th Street was approved in August 2017.[51] The 1,300,000-square-foot (120,000 m2) building, which is currently the site of the School of Cooperative Technical Education, would house three schools and retail space along with a mix of 1,100 affordable and market-rate apartments.[52]


The neighborhood is home to one of the few major television studios north of midtown,[53] Metropolis at 106th Street and Park Avenue,[54] where shows such as BET's 106 & Park[55] and Chappelle's Show[56] have been produced., a web site on the history and culture of Puerto Ricans, founded a media gallery and digital film studio called MediaNoche in 2003. It presents technology-based art on Park Avenue and 102nd Street, providing exhibition space and residencies for artists and filmmakers, and webcasting events.

Police and crime

NYPD 25th Precinct station house
NYPD 25th Precinct station house

East Harlem is served by two precincts of the NYPD.[57][58] The area north of 116th Street is served by the 25th Precinct, located at 120 East 119th Street,[12] while the area south of 116th Street is served by the 23rd Precinct, located at 164 East 102nd Street.[13]

The 25th Precinct has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 65.5% between 1990 and 2019. The precinct reported 3 murders, 23 rapes, 172 robberies, 329 felony assaults, 108 burglaries, 461 grand larcenies, and 21 grand larcenies auto in 2019.[59] Of the five major violent felonies (murder, rape, felony assault, robbery, and burglary), the 25th Precinct had a rate of 1,340 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2019, compared to the boroughwide average of 632 crimes per 100,000 and the citywide average of 572 crimes per 100,000.[60][61][62]

The 23rd Precinct also has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 75.5% between 1990 and 2019. The precinct reported 2 murders, 20 rapes, 168 robberies, 330 felony assaults, 79 burglaries, 296 grand larcenies, and 21 grand larcenies auto in 2019.[63] Of the five major violent felonies (murder, rape, felony assault, robbery, and burglary), the 23rd Precinct had a rate of 819 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2019, compared to the boroughwide average of 632 crimes per 100,000 and the citywide average of 572 crimes per 100,000.[60][61][62]

As of 2018, Community District 11 has a non-fatal assault hospitalization rate of 130 per 100,000 people, compared to the boroughwide rate of 49 per 100,000 and the citywide rate of 59 per 100,000. Its incarceration rate is 1,291 per 100,000 people, compared to the boroughwide rate of 407 per 100,000 and the citywide rate of 425 per 100,000.[39]: 8 

In 2019, the highest concentration of felony assaults in East Harlem was around the intersection of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue, where there were 39 felony assaults. This location is well known as an open-air drug market and hotspot of other crimes.[64] The highest concentration of robberies, on the other hand, was around the intersection of 116th Street and Third Avenue, where there were 21 robberies.[60]

Fire safety

East Harlem is served by four New York City Fire Department (FDNY) fire stations:[65]


As of 2018, preterm births and births to teenage mothers in East Harlem are higher than the city average. In East Harlem, there were 108 preterm births per 1,000 live births (compared to 87 per 1,000 citywide), and 10.8 teenage births per 1,000 live births (compared to 19.3 per 1,000 citywide), though the teenage birth rate was based on a small sample size.[39]: 11  East Harlem has a low population of residents who are uninsured. In 2018, this population of uninsured residents was estimated to be 3%, slightly less than the citywide rate of 12%, though this was based on a small sample size.[39]: 14 

The concentration of fine particulate matter, the deadliest type of air pollutant, in East Harlem is 0.0082 milligrams per cubic metre (8.2×10−9 oz/cu ft), more than the city average.[39]: 9  Eighteen percent of East Harlem residents are smokers, which is more than the city average of 14% of residents being smokers.[39]: 13  In East Harlem, 28% of residents are obese, 17% are diabetic, and 34% have high blood pressure—compared to the citywide averages of 24%, 11%, and 28% respectively.[39]: 16  In addition, 23% of children are obese, compared to the citywide average of 20%.[39]: 12 

Eighty-four percent of residents eat some fruits and vegetables every day, which is lower than the city's average of 87%. In 2018, 76% of residents described their health as "good," "very good," or "excellent," less than the city's average of 78%.[39]: 13  For every supermarket in East Harlem, there are 17 bodegas.[39]: 10 

Metropolitan Hospital Center and Mount Sinai Hospital are both located in southern East Harlem. North General Hospital, which formerly served the area as well, is now closed.[70][71] In addition, FDNY EMS Station 10 is located close to Metropolitan Hospital Center.

Associated Supermarkets grocery on East 101st Street
Associated Supermarkets grocery on East 101st Street

Fresh food

A lack of access to healthy food causes serious hardships to citizens of East Harlem, a neighborhood which is considered to be a food desert. According to an April 2008 report prepared by the New York City Department of City Planning, East Harlem is an area of the city with the highest levels of diet-related diseases due to limited opportunities for citizens to purchase fresh foods.[72]

With a high population density and a lack of nearby supermarkets, the neighborhood has little access to fresh fruit and vegetables and a low consumption of fresh foods. Citizens of East Harlem are likely to buy food from grocery stores that have a limited supply of fruits and vegetables, which are often of poor quality and generally more expensive than the same products sold at supermarkets. Compared to the Upper East Side, supermarkets in Harlem are 30% less common.[73] Without access to affordable produce and meats, East Harlem residents have difficulty eating a healthy diet, which contributes to high rates of obesity and diabetes.[74]

In 2011, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer announced a program which would send Veggie Vans to East Harlem senior centers and housing projects.[75] In 2012, Whole Foods announced two uptown locations, one being on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue, the other in the Upper East Side.[76] In 2010, Aldi's Grocery opened at the East River Plaza[77] located at E. 117th St. and the FDR Drive, providing access to affordable food for East Harlem's residents. In 2013, a new Super FI Emperior Grocery store opened up in East Harlem on 103rd Street and Lexington Avenue.[78]

Post offices and ZIP Codes

East Harlem is located in two primary ZIP Codes. The area south of 116th Street is part of 10029 and the area north of 116th Street is part of 10035. The extreme northwestern portion of East Harlem is also located in 10037.[79] The United States Postal Service operates two post offices near East Harlem:

  • Hellgate Station – 153 East 110th Street[80]
  • Triborough Finance New Station – 118 East 124th Street[81]


A school named after musician Tito Puente
A school named after musician Tito Puente

East Harlem generally has a lower rate of college-educated residents than the rest of the city as of 2018. While 38% have a college education or higher, 25% have less than a high school education and 37% are high school graduates or have some college education. By contrast, 64% of Manhattan residents and 43% of city residents have a college education or higher.[39]: 6  The percentage of East Harlem students excelling in math rose from 25% in 2000 to 51% in 2011, and reading achievement increased from 33% to 39% during the same time period.[82]

East Harlem's rate of elementary school student absenteeism is higher than the rest of New York City. In East Harlem, 30% of elementary school students missed twenty or more days per school year, more than the citywide average of 20%.[40]: 24 (PDF p. 55) [39]: 6  Additionally, 67% of high school students in East Harlem graduate on time, less than the citywide average of 75%.[39]: 6 

As in other parts of the city, some schools require students pass through metal detectors and swipe ID cards to enter school buildings.[83]


The New York City Department of Education operates public schools in East Harlem as part of Community School District 2. The following public elementary schools are located in East Harlem:

The following public middle schools are located in East Harlem:

The following public high schools are located in East Harlem:

The public charter schools in East Harlem include:

St. Cecilia's School in East Harlem was closed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York – which operates Catholic schools in Manhattan and the Bronx – in 1991.[119]


The NYPL Aguilar Library
The NYPL Aguilar Library

The New York Public Library (NYPL) operates two branches in East Harlem:

Two additional NYPL branches are located nearby. The 96th Street branch is located at 112 East 96th Street, at the border with the Upper East Side,[122] while the Harlem branch is located at 9 West 124th Street, near the border with Harlem.[123]


Bridges spanning the Harlem River between Harlem to the left and the Bronx to the right

The Harlem River separates the Bronx and Manhattan, necessitating several spans between the two New York City boroughs. Three free bridges connect East Harlem and the Bronx: the Willis Avenue Bridge (for northbound traffic only), Third Avenue Bridge (for southbound traffic only), and Madison Avenue Bridge. In East Harlem, the Wards Island Bridge, also known as the 103rd Street Footbridge, connects Manhattan with Wards Island. The Triborough Bridge (officially the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge) is a complex of three separate bridges that offers connections between Queens, East Harlem, and the Bronx.[124]

Public transportation service is provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The New York City Subway's IRT Lexington Avenue Line runs through East Harlem, with an express station at 125th Street (served by the 4, ​5, ​6, and <6> routes) as well as local stations at the 116th Street, 110th Street, 103rd Street, and 96th Street (served by the 6 and <6>​ routes). There is also a Second Avenue Subway station at 96th Street on the Q route.[125] MTA Regional Bus Operations' M15, M15 SBS, M35, M60 SBS, M96, M98, M100, M101, M102, M103, M106, M116 and Bx15 bus routes serve East Harlem as well.[126] Metro-North Railroad has a commuter rail station at Harlem–125th Street, serving trains to the Lower Hudson Valley and Connecticut.[127]

Notable people

In popular culture




  • The film Popi (1969), written by Tina Pine and Lester Pine and directed by Arthur Hiller
  • Nelson Denis's film Vote For Me! (2003)
  • In The Heights (2021), Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda and Directed by Jon M. Chu.

Music videos




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Further reading

  • Araujo, Richard, (5/3/03), Comedia Politica desde El Barrio, El Nuevo Dia
  • Bell, Christopher East Harlem Remembered McFarland Publishing. 2013
  • Bell, Christopher Images of America: East Harlem . Arcadia Publishing. 2003
  • Bell, Christopher Images of America: East Harlem Revisited. Arcadia Publishing. 2010
  • Bourgois, Philippe. In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1995 (2002)
  • Cayo-Sexton, Patricia. 1965. Spanish Harlem: An Anatomy of Poverty. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Davila, Arlene. Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos and the Neoliberal City. University of California Press. 2004
  • Jennings, James, and Monte Rivera (eds.) (1984). Puerto Rican Politics in Urban America (Westport: Greenwood Press).
  • Mencher, Joan. 1989. Growing Up in Eastville, a Barrio of New York. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Moreno Vega, Marta (2004). When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio (New York: Three Rivers Press).
  • Navarro, Mireya, (2003-5-6). Smile, You're on Candidate Camera: With an Insider's Eye, a Film Skewers Harlem Politics, The New York Times
  • Padilla, Elena. 1992. Up From Puerto Rico. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Quiñonez, Ernesto. Bodega Dreams. Random House (Vintage). 2000
  • Salas, Leonardo. "From San Juan to New York: The History of the Puerto Rican". America: History and Life. 31 (1990).
  • Thomas, Piri. Down These Mean Streets. Random House (Vintage). 1967
  • Wakefield, Dan. Island in the City: The World of Spanish Harlem (1959)
  • Zentella, Ana Celia (1997). Growing Up Bilingual: Puerto Rican Children in New York (Blackwell Publishers).

External links

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