Uptown Grand Central is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming East 125th Street into a thriving corridor by delivering programs that put advocacy into action through collaborations with businesses, residents and neighborhood organizations across East Harlem.
Since 2013, when we got our start as the New Harlem East Merchants Association (NHEMA), we have brightened hopes for the community via programs that include organizing our small businesses; hiring formerly homeless individuals to clean our streets; beautifying the commercial corridor with seasonal plantings and holiday lights; sponsoring street festivals and promotions including Uptown Restaurant Week; and adopting the space underneath the Metro-North tracks at 125th & Park as a community plaza that features live music, exercise classes, a year-round farmers market and “pop-up” small business snack shop. Along the way, we have grown to actively advocate for our neighborhood and bring the community together in an effort to showcase all that is "grand" about Uptown, and put East Harlem on the map.
What We've Achieved
cleaning, greening & great public art
- Our merchants first banded together in 2013 to hold our first street clean-up. After an overwhelming positive response, we then partnered with the Association of Community Employment (ACE) to hire formerly homeless individuals to clean the streets from Second to Fifth avenues between East 123rd and 126th streets.After receiving valuable job experience and training from ACE, 10 formerly homeless individuals have gotten a fresh start, and we have now hired one of the graduates as our permanent street maintenance man.
- Each season we plant new plants and refresh the street trees along East 125th Street, greatly improving the street’s aesthetic appeal.
- Each December, we've installed holiday lights at each intersection along East 125th Street, adding some holiday cheer and sparkle to the neighborhood.
- In September 2015, working with youth artists from Creative Art Works, we sponsored the bright new "Harlem Sunrise" mural on the former Metro-North comfort station located on the south side of East 125th Street & Park Avenue intersection. Inspired by "Harlem Encore," the public sculpture on the sides of the Metro-North viaduct by African-American artist Terry Adkins, the mural represents hope for prosperity and the vitality of the diverse peoples who pass through the 125th Street crossroads.
- In 2016, we installed the brightly colored storage container under the train tracks that now houses our pop-up shop on weekday afternoons. Artist Gera Lozano returned from Creative Art Works to paint the sunshine rays of "Harlem Sunrise" on the container's doors.
- In 2017, we partnered with the 100 Gates Project to spruce up the metal roll-down gates on our storefronts.
- In the summer of 2015, working together with the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership, the NYC Department of Transportation's Plaza Program, NYC Small Business Services, and the Association of Community Employment (ACE), we cleaned up the community plaza underneath the Metro-North viaduct at East 125th Street & Park Avenue -- an area with a reputation among area residents for trash and drug use.
- This community space now welcomes area residents and commuters with a packed calendar of programming that includes a year-round Fresh Food Box farmers market, a Pop-Up Shop featuring our local small businesses, Good Moves exercise classes, Good Vibes concerts and a UNI Project mobile library and science lab.
- We love to bring the community together with street fairs! Over the years, we've sponsored Weekend Walks celebrations, and every year since 2015 we've organized the Big Apple Crunch for area schools and families. In 2017, we convened the first-ever Party On Park and Solstice Soul Train.
small business support
- We are the neighborhood partner with the New York Department of Small Businesses Services and East Harlem Neighborhood 360 to help our local small businesses survive and thrive. In 2014, we conducted a customer retail experience report to better understand what merchants on the East 125th Street Retail Corridor were doing right and what they could do better. In 2015, we conducted an extensive Commercial District Needs Assessment to better define ways in which we can help merchants to better serve their retail customers, and attract new business.
- We highlight our area small businesses throughout all our programming, plus in our weekly newsletter, and on our social media and website. Our goal is to help orient customers to discover all the good that our neighborhood has to offer.
- We host regular merchant meetings and trainings on topics ranging from social media to financing to registering as MWBEs.
- Each Saturday after Thanksgiving, we celebrate Small Business Saturday with special discounts at our small businesses. We use this day every year to tell the story of our small businesses and explain all that they mean to our neighborhood.
- Since 2016, we've celebrated the best our local restaurants have to offer with twice-a-year Uptown Restaurant Weeks!
- Want to spot one of our participating merchants? Look for their Uptown Grand Central window decal and sidewalk sign!
- We work with elected officials to address the issues of mental illness and drug use in our neighborhood, and serve actively on City Councilwoman Diana Ayala's 125th Street Task Force.
- In 2018, we will be partnering with the Design Trust for Public Space on "Public For All" -- a project that will explore how we can create quality public spaces in our neighborhood that are safe, clean and healthy for all people in our neighborhood.