Along 116th Street from Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue is a hill whose crest is Park Avenue which itself lies beneath the elevated tracks whose city terminus is Grand Central Station. Walking east, down the hill, takes you into the heart—the Rose—of Spanish Harlem.
Come Spring, Spanish Harlem takes on a vibrant persona less apparent during colder months. The difference is in the number and diversity of the street vendors, the size of the crowds that jostle among them, and the countless shops whose open doors and windows let in rejuvenating air. Shops selling jewelry, clothing, food, pawnshops, and aspiring restaurateurs line one side of the sidewalk. On the other are tabletop vendors whose offerings are even more diverse. One of these, a woman just south of Patsy’s Pizza window on the corner of First Avenue and 117th Street—sells 10-ounce cups of squeezed orange juice for $5.
Another is the food truck Color World which sets up on the corner of 116th and 2nd Avenue, rain or shine. There, CJ and Howard operate two BBQ ovens from which they serve beef, pork, goat, oxtail, and chicken for $10 a plate. Without ‘Rasta Pasta’ (Bell pepper, carrots, rice) or steamed cabbage a chicken leg costs $5. Their BBQ is succulent, the portions big and the prices are spot on. Springtime business is good.
Streets are cacophonic with excitement and energy; music with aggressive bass lines thumps from car windows, sirens scream from near and far, horns honk, and business booms.