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January 2007
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Archive for January, 2007

The Federation of Black Cowboys, A Place That Matters

federation black cowboysThe Federation of Black Cowboys, at 83-11 South Conduit Avenue in Howard Beach, Queens, are dedicated to teaching city kids the fundamentals of horsemanship and the history of Black cowboys in the American West. Since 1994, they’ve been practicing these arts at Cedar Lane Stables on land leased from the Parks Department. Just last week that lease was renewed, ending a long period of uncertainty about the future of the stables. You may also have seen the cowboys at parades and events around the city. Continue Reading>>

Jahn’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, A Place That Matters

jahns ice creamJahn’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor at 117-03 Hillside Ave., in Richmond Hill, Queens. It was nominated by two great fans. Jahn’s (locally pronounced as Jan’s) has been continuously operating in Richmond Hill since the early 1930s. It was one of four branches opened by founder John “Papa” Jahn in Brooklyn and Queens during the first half of the twentieth century. One of our nominators, a Queens historian, wrote, “It has very much been a Richmond Hill institution because of its unique specialness. Its décor, including decorations, photographs, paintings, player piano machine, ceiling and booths all demand a preservation of its history, heritage and tradition.” Ice-cream lovers used to line-up around the block for a chance to enjoy Jahn’s lovely interior and great ice-cream. The liveliness that once made it a major destination seems to be gone, but Jahn’s is still there and still looks much the same as it did. Even the old soda fountains are intact (if not in service). Summer 2007 would be a good time to visit. And be sure to log onto the Place Matters website to read our new profile of Jahn’s. The website of the Richmond Hill Historical Society will tell you more about the history of the area.

The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, A Place That Matters

general society of mechanics tradesmenThe General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, at 20 W. 44th St. in Midtown is the second oldest subscription library in the city, founded in 1820. The origins of the Society go back further, to 1785, soon after the end of the Revolutionary War and the British departure from New York. The founding artisans–sailmakers, silversmiths, potters, and men from other trades–founded the society for mutual aid in a time of hardship and to provide cultural, educational, and social services to members. Continue Reading>>

Harlem Record Shack, A Place That Matters

harlem record shackHarlem Record Shack at 274 W. 125th St., Harlem, nominated by Bobby Sanabria. Sikhulu Shange adopted NYC after coming here in 1964 to perform at the World’s Fair with a South African dance troupe. Four years later he opened the Harlem Record Shack, and four years after that moved the store to its present location, across the street from the Apollo Theater. All these years, he has been stocking the kinds of music that he and his customers have loved, whether or not the big companies or stores recognized its value. At the end of this month, the Record Shack will lose its lease, and Mr. Shange is trying to prevent it. Record stores like the Record Shack function like community centers for music and culture. Their knowledgeable proprietors, unusual inventory, and willingness to sell what might not be popular yet make them valuable. But discount stores, digital downloading, and development pressures are nearly doing them in. Bobby’s Happy House lost its right-off-125th St. location in January after being in business since 1946. Casa Amadeo (est. 1941, listed to the National Register of Historic Places) is struggling against outsized rent increases. One piece of good news is that Record Mart, a legendary Latin music store in the Times Square subway station, just re-opened after 9 years. Here are some things you can do: Shop: Harlem Record Shack, 212-866-1600 (Mr. Shange invites you to sign his Save the Record Shack petition) Casa Amadeo, Longwood, Bronx, 718-328-6896 Casa Latina, East Harlem, 212-427-6062, Listen: WFUV, 90.7 FM, Cityscape visits Casa Amadeo and interviews proprietor Mike Amadeo, City Lore folklorist Elena Martinez, and community activist Lorraine Montenegro. Sat. Mar.8, 7:30-8am. Podcast available, Follow the news: To see the city’s rezoning plans for 125th St., link to the Dept. of City Planning website.

Phoenix Bar and Chapel of the Black Madonna, A Place That Matters

phoenix barPhoenix Bar and the former Chapel of the Black Madonna, at 447 E. 13th St., East Village, Manhattan. When Sicilian immigrants came together in 1905 on E. 13th St. to celebrate their first public feast in honor of their hometown’s spiritual patroness–the black Madonna del Tindari–this was called the Lower East Side, not the East Village, and the area around 1st Ave. was heavily Italian. In 1913, having formed a society and commissioned a statue of the Madonna and Child, the group secured a storefront space and created a chapel and social club. black madonnaFor decades the society sponsored a festa on E. 13th St., only dissolving the organization in 1987. Today, the Phoenix Bar stands on the spot. A new generation of Italian Americans has taken to gathering at the bar every September 8th–the Madonna’s feast day–to reclaim the Black Madonna as a potent symbol of an inclusive spirituality. Everybody is welcome. Read the new profile about the chapel by Joseph Sciorra on the PlaceExplorer. Find more by Sciorra on this topic in the Voices journal. Visit and shop where the First Ave. Italians used to go: DeRobertis Caffe (176 1st Ave.); Veniero’s Pasticceria & Caffe (342 E. 11th St.); and Russo’s Mozzarella & Pasta (344 E. 11th).

The War Resister’s League, A Place That Matters

war resisters leagueThe War Resister’s League [339 Lafayette Street in Manhattan], organized in 1923, is one of the nation’s oldest pacifist organizations. In 1969, the League bought the three-story building at the corner of Lafayette and Bleecker to secure a place for itself and other like-minded groups. In 1978, it transferred ownership to the A.J. Muste Institute, named after one of America’s leading anti-war, labor and civil rights activists. Continue Reading>>

The Alku Toinen Nonprofit Housing Cooperative, A Place that Matters

Alku Toinen Nonprofit Housing CooperativeNew York has always been an immigrant city. Every year, immigrants come from around the world to simultaneously make New York their home and to bring a part of their home to New York. But in 1916 when the Finnish Home Building Association built Alku (Finnish for ‘beginning’) in Sunset Park, they created an entirely new kind of home never before seen in the United States, a non-profit housing cooperative. Continue Reading>>

The Year of Moynihan Station

farley post office moynihan station frontWith an unspoiled new year ahead, and a new, reform-minded governor in Albany, there is fresh hope that a grand new train station will be realized in Midtown Manhattan. Now more than ever, the pressure is on to ensure that the public will benefit from what will also be an extraordinary real estate deal for the private sector partners. When construction finally ends, we must be left with a train station we can be proud of. Continue Reading>>

Imagine Flatbush 2030 Kicks Off

flatbush new york urban deisgn planning communityImagine Flatbush 2030 kicked off at Temple Beth Emeth in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on November 19, with a preliminary stakeholders’ meeting of 50 groups. Following a discussion of the meaning of neighborhood sustainability, the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030, and why neighborhoods need to create their own agendas to work in tandem with this plan, workshop attendees formed groups to talk with their neighbors about both things they cherished about Flatbush and things they perceived as challenges. A second workshop on December 12 focused on collectively identifying sustainability goals for the neighborhood. Continue Reading>>

Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy Gets Lease

With the lease in hand, the conservancy can now begin planning for a long-delayed restoration program and an expansion of public programming. The armory, on Park Avenue at East 66th Street, received a major boost in 2005 when the state announced a $30 million grant for the effort. The restoration campaign began 12 years ago as a special project of the MAS. The conservancy was formed shortly afterward under the tireless and dedicated leadership of Elihu Rose and Wade F. B. Thompson. For more information about the 7th Regiment Armory, visit