This post will go over the history of East Harlem and has been shared by the East Harlem workers’ compensation attorneys at The Disability Guys.

East Harlem Thousands Of Years Before The Arrival Of Europeans

Section of East Harlem near workers' comp law firm.For nearly 12,000 years before any European arrived in North America, the Lenape tribe lived in the area that is New York City. The Lenape are a semi-nomadic tribe that is divided into clans. Clans would choose a location and build a temporary village, living there until clan elders decided that the surrounding land had been exhausted. Then the village would move to a new location.

In the 1600s the first Dutch settlers arrived and traded with the Lenape for the land. They established settlements and began to farm.

Over the next several centuries the local population grew and New York City was established, including the neighborhood that is now known as East Harlem.

East Harlem’s More Recent History

East Harlem was a fairly rural community until the 1800s until the elevated transit line was constructed to connect Harlem to the rest of the city. Then, in the 1860s, residential communities were constructed and the subway was also connected to the area.

Initially, the community was inhabited by poor German, Italian, and Eastern European Jewish immigrants. In the late 1800s, the neighborhood became known as Italian Harlem and became the first section of Manhattan to be called Little Italy. A number of well known Italian crime families, such as the Genovese family were founded in this neighborhood.

The Italian population remained strong until the 1980s. Today, however, the neighborhood is now called Spanish Harlem and is predominately Latino.

The neighborhood has seen a huge drop in crime, however, it still has one of the highest crime rates in Manhattan.

Notable Residents From East Harlem

A few well-known people who are or were once residents of East Harlem include:

  • Walter Berry: a former NBA player;
  • Ray Santos: Grammy-winning Latin musician;
  • Al Pacino: actor (if you don’t know who Al Pacino is then you need to see The Godfather!);
  • Langston Hughes: writer and social activist.

Our East Harlem workers’ comp lawyers hope that you have enjoyed learning more about East Harlem.