Not one East Harlem zip code made the Starbucks neighborhood heat map, and the explanation is simple: No Starbucks! The appearance of the ubiquitous mermaid logo has served as the official stamp on a neighborhood's gentrification for years, and the chain has flirted with East Harlem (Spanish Harlem, El Barrio, etc.) as a new crowd arrived, but only on its fringes. There's a location on the south side (a crucial distinction) of 96th Street at Madison Avenue, and a baby 'Bucks hidden within the new Target store at East River Plaza (more on that in a sec) that doesn't really count. But now, the time has come for East Harlem to make the java jump.
Tomorrow the company will officially cut the ribbon on its new LEED-certified store at 96th Street and Lexington Avenue. The north side of 96th Street, which, according to the Official Curbed Rule Book, means that this is East Harlem's first brick-and-mortar Starbucks location, and not the Upper East Side's 10,000th. Release the confetti! Disagree with our methods if you will, but one thing's for sure: You'd better not call it a "Harlem" Starbucks. We learned that lesson by reading Daily News columnist Dolores Prida's rant against the East River Plaza mall's homogenizing of Harlem. Por ejemplo, Target's grand opening was accompanied by huge "Hello Harlem" signs, not "Hello East Harlem." That's a no-no:
I remember when I moved here being asked by downtown taxi drivers with foreign accents, "Why does a nice girl like you want to go up there for?" and then locking the doors as soon as we passed 96th St. Now, miracle of miracles, behold East River Plaza, a suburban-style shopping center curled up at the edge of the FDR Drive from 116th to 119th Sts. It has brought East Harlem heretofore unseen sights, such as throngs of downtown people roaming our streets and a Starbucks (who would have thunk it!).
Suddenly, El Barrio is visible and desirable, and what happens? We've become Harlem.
Maybe, but does it soften the blow to know that now there's a venti-sized Pike Place Roast for every man, woman and child?
· Starbucks Heat Map Proves FiDi Loves Its Frappuccinos [Curbed]
· The shopping plaza that devoured East Harlem [NYDN]