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Located between First and Fifth avenues, and running from East 96th to East 125th, East Harlem is a neighborhood known to many as Spanish Harlem and affectionately referred to as "El Barrio" by locals. Home to one of the largest Latino communities in the city, Spanish Harlem is predominantly Puerto Rican. However, more recently, the neighborhood has experienced an influx of Dominican, Salvadoran and Mexican immigrants.
East Harlem was a rural area until it was settled in the late 19th century. The creation of transit lines to the area spawned its urbanization. Soon, East Harlem would become Manhattan's first Little Italy. It became a hub for organized crime and was the founding place of the Genovese family, one of the most notorious crime families in New York City.
Following World War II, Latino Americans began moving into the area around 110th Street and Lexington. As Italians moved out of the area, more Spanish-speaking residents moved in and eventually Spanish Harlem grew to its current size. Today, East Harlem's Italian presence is small but significant. There are still some Italian restaurants in the area, including the original Patsy's and the even more famous Rao's. Every year, the Italian community celebrates the neighborhood's Italian heritage with the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the "Dancing of the Giglio."
East Harlem experienced a decline in the 1950s, as urban renewal projects transformed the contours of the neighborhood. The 1960s and 1970s brought more trouble as New York suffered deficits, gang warfare, drug abuse, crime and poverty.
Ever resilient, East Harlem was the birthplace of the Nuyorican Movement, which spawned an artistic renaissance. El Museo Del Barrio, located on Upper Manhattan's Museum Mile, is one of the neighborhood's most important cultural institutions. Other museums in the area include Museum of the City of New York, the National Jazz Museum, and the World Series of Stickball Community Gallery.
East Harlem boasts several important luxury developments that are helping to add new cachet and higher prices to the area. One Museum Mile -- designed by the renowned Robert A.M. Stern -- is the future home of the Museum of African Art, which will occupy three floors at the base of the building. The building's upper floors contain 113 luxury units that are selling above the average East Harlem selling price.
Other large developments in the area include 1212 Fifth Avenue, a renovated pre-war building, which recently completed sales of all 55 units; and 1200 Fifth Avenue, the conversion of a former rental building designed by pre-eminent architect Emery Roth.
A few key places to visit in East Harlem include Casa Latina Music Shop, which has Latin music and collectibles, and La Casa Azul Bookstore, offering book signings and film screenings. For a nostalgic experience, stop by Claudio's Barbershop. Claudio, East Harlem's last Italian barber, opened up his shop around World War II and continues to cut hair.