Saturday, January 24, 2009
I Heart East Harlem
Sam and I moved to East Harlem on Halloween in 2008. We fell in love with the area right away, even before we moved in. We would "visit" our building – just staring up at the window of our new place months before our lease began. The area is very different than where I was living, the Upper East Side. East Harlem is a vibrant, diverse area. It's the sort of area that I always imagined living in when I thought about living in New York City.
I grew up near Manhattan, in Long Island, and my parents took me to visit the city a great deal growing up. Little Italy was my favorite. I thought about living there – I imagined it would be a place above a pastry shop. I loved those old buildings, the little shops, the street vendors selling everything from shirts to tiny turtles. It felt like a real city to me, which meant culture, traffic, noise, and grit. I loved to imagine what it was like for the people who lived there. I imagined people saying hello to each other in their buildings and on the way to work. I imagined getting coffee and pastries at a local shop and buying produce in small groceries. The Little Italy of my childhood (or my imagination) has changed, of course. It's a bit more of a tourist trap then I'd like to admit. Where my childhood vision of the city and reality converge is East Harlem. It's a community, a neighborhood. Unlike any other place I know in New York.
I love my neighbors, I love the restaurants, I love the languages flying around the streets on my walks, I love being a minority - the area is so culturally diverse it seems like everyone is. In the reality version of my city life I live above a Mexican restaurant. I have neighbors from all over: France, England, Haiti, and we're renting from a fantastic guy from Singapore. When I order Chinese food or a bottle of wine around here it's through bullet-proof glass. It's a bit gritty, but it's real.
I wanted to start this blog because I saw an area that I loved not being served by the traditional sites I would go to for information about New York City. I wanted to push myself to explore everything there was to see, taste and do in my new neighborhood, and I wanted to help other people get information on this great area.