National Geographic : 1990 May
Long the refuge ofpoor immi grants,the tenements of Span ish Harlem march south like barrackstoward the skyscrap ers of midtown. Many Harlem buildingshave been abandoned by landlordsas unprofitable, andsome have been torched, leaving streetspocked with vacant lots. Towering projects, erected by the city after the 1940s, break the low skyline on both sides of busy Third Ave- NEW nue. These superblocksprovide JERSEY needed housingfor some of the area's 120,000 residents. Saddled with ownership of more than 60 percentof the vacant land and buildings,the city provides grants to groups o 2km 0 2mi 5 NGCARTOGRAPHIC 5 DIVISION willing to renovate and buy. It is not enough, according to home steaders like Estela Vdzquez oNX and her husband, Key Martin (right), who have spent five years of evenings and weekends r submittingforms, framing win dows, and guarding against ||da/ls vandals. Wards Is. "It feels sometimes like we're building the Pyramids," says E.96th St. Estela. Hergroup, one of only Q S three active in el barrio, sees the QUEENS character of the neighborhood itself at stake. With speculators buying up buildings and one bedroom condominiums selling for $130,000, real estate values are bound to rise, forcing long time residents from their homes.