La Fortaleza

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Felix Leo Campos, Project Co-Founder & Executive Director

Photo of Felix Leo Campos

Arts & Culture: Business/Economic Development: The development of a striving business district in the community with an art and cultural theme – a strategy/magnet to attract human traffic.

Concept by Alberto O. Cappas

Concept/Project: To make 116th Street a creative locale that fosters a cultural /arts industries and new Latino businesses that generate jobs and income; spin off new products and services and attract unrelated businesses and skilled workers.

Mission: To set in place the economic, business, and community development in el Barrio (East Harlem) with emphasis on the Arts and Culture, a solid base to attract tourism and new money to Spanish Harlem….

Description: With a long history of being a multi-ethnic immigrant community, with strong and lasting ties with “old world” traditions blending into one another to create a unique “Ensalada” (salad) local identity, East Harlem has faced difficult times since the 1960’s. The disenfranchisement didn’t stop El Barrio’s (East Harlem) growth or tradition of cultural maintenance. The sixties through the eighties were periods of Puerto Rican/Boricua/Nuyorican identity branding into New York City’s social, historic, political, and economic landscape. The “Nuyorican” scene opened the doors to new immigrant groups and established a vibrant arts and culture scene in New York’s inner-city.

A research conducted by the East Harlem Business Capital Corporation (EHBCC), a partner in La Fortaleza, and Columbia University, found that residents spend $745 million annually but, only 35% remains in the neighborhood. Nearly half a billion dollars ($484 million) leaves the community due to the lack or absence of variety, quality products and services.
La Fortaleza calls for a transformation of El Barrio’s four major commercial corridors beginning with East 116th Street, East River to 5th Avenue. Conceived by Alberto Cappas (Educational Pledge), jointly with EHBCC and AfterDark CATV PRO, La Fortaleza is working to turn East 116th Street into the central economic heartbeat of East Harlem, applying arts and culture (theater, readings, art galleries, performances and exhibition spaces) as its engine. It will serve as a place-making project identifying local points of interest, historic figures, and little-known facts that serve to draw visitors and maintain local revenue re-invested into the community.
In the future, existing businesses like La Fonda, Camaradas, East Harlem Café, and others, who have shown a continued interest and support of opening new venues to the arts, will be able to increase and improve their financial base due to the planned enhancement of East Harlem’s commercial and economic infrastructure, bringing in new faces and revenue.
The goal is to create an enterprise district in Spanish Harlem, from 96th Street to 124th Street, from East River to 5th Avenue. La Fortaleza recognizes the re-energizing contributions of new arrivals but the zone is designed to attract and create a Puerto Rican-Latino economic/commercial engine, with plans to attract Latino businesses (including Latin American countries through their embassies, missions, and consulates) into the area and ensure that local residents receive top priority for jobs created by the zone. The main concern is for Latinos to develop their own economic plan for Spanish Harlem as opposed to be hit by “foreign gentrification” and local encroachment. We strive to bring a new Latino face and character of direct benefit to our traditional Latino Arts and Culture, providing an economic base for our local poets and artists.
It worked with each subsequent European immigrant group coming to the United States and that continues with La Fortaleza. With the recent influx of Dominicans, Mexicans, West Africans, and the Middle Eastern, La Fortaleza is a welcoming ceremony of anyone honoring the identity, history, and culture of East Harlem as organic social additions that respectfully contribute and honor local prestige.
Marketing and promoting the positive contributions of East Harlem is the role of media production, including print and electronic media. Television and new media outlets such as Facebook, Vimeo, Youtube, and other social media networking outlets are useful tools to attract interest and new markets. La Fortaleza cannot accomplish these goals alone. Your input and active support will go a long way to make the concept of La Fortaleza a reality. Contact us to find out how to be more directly involved.
Contact: Felix Campos, Co-Founder/Executive Director / 1-646-546-1901 / 

Projects: Coming, in editing stages