Manhattan’s First Uptown Preservation Conference

On April 29, twelve community-based organizations will host a day-long forum titled “Harlem and the Future: Preserving Culture and Sustaining History in a Changing Environment” (“Harlem and the Future”) that will discuss the changes, the best practices and the imminent challenges that are affecting Harlem’s social fabric, built environment, and cultural heritage.

The day’s events will be include a keynote address, three panel discussions, optional walking tours, and screening of the film “Gentrification.” After a welcome by Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Terrance McKnight, the evening host on WQXR, will lead a panel that examines cultural heritage. Following will be panel’s on “Built Environment,” moderated by Carlton Brown, an early leader in global sustainable development, and “Social Fabric – Churches at Risk,” led by John T. Reddick, who writes on Harlem’s architectural and cultural history. Writer, lecturer, historian and activist, Michael Henry Adams, will deliver the closing remarks.

Ticket reservations:


Saturday, April 29, 2017

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

The City College of New York  Spitzer School of Architecture

141 Convent Avenue at West 135 Street in Harlem

Cost: $10.00 includes lunch and walking tour

Free for Seniors & Students / RSVP Required

The Panels

Cultural Heritage

Moderator, Terrance McKnight, Host on WQXR Radio

  • Kenneth J. Knuckles, President & CEO, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone
  • Karl Franz Williams, CEO & Founder, Good Ice Marketing
  • Sarah Saltzberg, Co-Founder, Bohemia Realty Group
  • Eric Pryor, Executive Director, Harlem School of the Arts

Harlem is not just a geographic locale in Upper Manhattan, but a diverse African-American community with a rich history represented by a remarkable architectural heritage.   While the success of the play “Hamilton” has led to an explosive growth in visitors headed uptown to see the Hamilton Grange historic site, the physical embodiments of Harlem’s cultural heritage have long been simultaneously celebrated and threatened.  What would today’s Harlem be if residents had not fought to preserve and nurture the cultural spaces that fostered the talents of Miranda, Strayhorn, Gershwin, and countless others?  The continuous changes in the community prompt further questions:  Who decides what stories are preserved and retold?  How do we prioritize what we want to save to illustrate Harlem’s cultural development?  This panel will focus on these questions and look at the cultural brand of Harlem, which has attracted global attention, and reflect on whether it represents the community as a whole.

Built Environment

Moderator, Carlton Brown, Architect

  • Chris Cirillo, Lott Community Development
  • Daniel Marks Cohen, Housing Partnership Development Corporation
  • Joseph Coppola, AIA Principal, Dattner Architects

Harlem’s built environment, from its ornate brownstones to its human-scale character, tells the story of the neighborhood’s development and evolution.  Unfortunately, much of Harlem’s physical fabric has been lost to demolition, both by neglect and redevelopment, over time.

Landmark designation has proven itself to be an important tool in the fight to preserve character and manage change but it may not always be the most effective nor desirable way to protect a neighborhood.  As demonstrated by the remarkable restoration of PS 186 on 145th Street,   community activism and public-private partnerships can lead to positive results even without landmark designation. This panel will look at the ways Harlem residents can reinforce their community’s identity while also adapting to growth and development.

Social Fabric: What’s the New Religion?  Churches at Risk

Moderator, John T. Reddick, Architectural & Cultural Historian

  • Rev. Michael A. Walrond, Jr., Senior Pastor, First Corinthian Baptist Church
  • Rev. Reginald Bachus, Associate Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church
  • Ann-Isabel Friedman, Sacred Sites Program, NYC Landmarks Conservancy

The beautiful stone churches of Harlem stand out as landmarks in the neighborhood.  While these buildings have lasted decades, the congregants that utilized them reflect the evolving character of the community.  Throughout their history, Harlem’s churches have served as a home and well-spring in shaping the neighborhood’s social dynamics.  In particular, the role of the church in Harlem’s African American community is evidenced in everything from music to the civil rights movement.  Today, technological and demographic shifts, both globally and locally, have reshaped the way Harlemites interact with one another and created new “congregations” outside of religious institutions.  These changes leave congregants, preservationists, and residents asking what’s to become of the buildings imbued with historical, architectural, and social value.  In seeking to explore, “what’s the new religion” this panel looks to consider how contemporary needs and uses may revitalize and breathe new life into Harlem’s historic church buildings.

Sponsored by:

West Harlem Community Preservation Organization

SAVE Harlem Now!

Historic Districts Council

City Council Member Mark Levine

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

The City College of New York,

The New York City Landmarks Conservancy

Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association

Landmark West!

Manhattan Community Boards 9 and 10

Harlem One Stop

The Audubon Park Alliance