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A bridge overlooking city buildings showcasing 'story 5' location

Looking East along 30th and 31st from the Spur

Northern Chelsea, from 23rd Street to 34th Street.

What

Content note: racist violence and violent imagery

Northern Chelsea was the epicenter of Black culture in New York City decades before Harlem. While it was a well-known historical red-light district, the Tenderloin was also a rich, densely packed community of churches, arts organizations, and cultural institutions cultivated by the growing Black community into the late 1800s.

In 1900, a fight between Arthur Harris and plainclothes police officer Robert J. Thorpe resulted in Thorpe’s death, and an ensuing a riot that left many Black people injured by roving white gangs in retaliation. When Mayor Robert Anderson Van Wyck sent in the police, the police disproportionately arrested Black men and women, many of whom experienced severe beatings while in custody.

Impact

In response, Black residents formed the Citizens Protective League, an organization that demanded accountability with the police department; however, no legal action was ever taken against the police.

In the following years, nearly 10,000 Chelsea residents were displaced when four city blocks were razed for the construction of Penn Station between 1900-1910. With this, the remnants of Chelsea’s once thriving Black community were fully displaced into other neighborhoods, most notably Harlem.

Provocations

Questions to Consider

How do people ensure their own communities are safe for them? How does perceived safety reveal our own mental models about different neighborhoods and the communities within them?

How can communities push for positive change in cases of injustice when the structures of power always seem to silence them?

Share Your Story

Help us gather more stories from this community and beyond. if you have a story or suggestion about this location, please leave a comment below.

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