Afro-Caribbean Cultural Center Set For Construction in East Harlem

The landmark East Harlem Firehouse building on 125th Street in New York is slated to become the new home of the Caribbean Cultural Center.

Set to become the nation’s leading Afro-Caribbean Cultural center, construction will begin in 2014. The landmark firehouse was shuttered by the city in 2003 in a cost cutting move. The crumbling, ancient horse and buggy-era firehouse had been vacant for over a decade and creates a dead zone on Harlem’s booming main street.

It is expected by summer 2015 that this will dramatically change when the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute will open its doors in the four story red brick and stone structure. Founded in 1976, the nonprofit CCCADI plans to totally transform the 8,500 square foot site into a showcase for educational and cultural programs, highlighting the African traditions that have been uprooted to the Caribbean and the Americas.

Marta Moreno Vega, CCCADI’s founder and president said, “We hope one day soon we’ll be a line item in the New York City budget so we can receive annual funding — just like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History.” She continues, “People come to the Met to see the stories . . . but we also have a responsibility to tell our stories — the stories of people of Caribbean descent and African ancestry, and our contributions to the city and the nation and the world.”

City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said of the project, “A vacant firehouse is about to become a vibrant cultural space, a major community asset, an economic engine for the neighborhood — and a great bridge-builder between Latinos with African roots and African-Americans.”

The center will have concerts, gallery tours, workshops, performances, conferences, art exhibits, seminars, spiritual gatherings and artist residences when it is complete.
Photo: Jonathan Reingold