A lot of attention is paid to West Harlem, or what many people traditionally consider THE Harlem, thanks to its rich history rooted in places like the Apollo and up-and-coming hot spots like the Studio Museum in Harlem and Marcus Samuelson’s renowned restaurant, the Red Rooster. But east of Fifth Avenue, there’s a history just as deep, and the neighborhood is at that fragile stage where it could easily be thrust into a wave of gentrification at any time.
Defined as the area bound by Fifth Avenue and First Avenue from 96th to 125th Streets, East Harlem is commonly known as Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio by locals. What many people unfamiliar with the neighborhood don’t know, though, is that this area got its start as Manhattan’s first Little Italy. And if you’re the type of New Yorker who doesn’t venture above 86th Street, you’re likely unaware of the slew of new developments sprouting up in East Harlem thanks to a 2003 57-block rezoning.