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, casalatinamusic.com 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, www.wfuv.org. 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).