By Carla Zanoni
UPPER MANHATTAN — In the face of a changing landscape north of 155th Street, a thriving online community has risen up to preserve the history of the area as well as document new experiences of residents.
In Inwood and Washington Heights, the Uptown Collective blog is aiming to become the definitive voice of "uptown."
"Up here there is east of Broadway and west of Broadway," editor-in-chief Led Black said of the socioeconomic and cultural divide many say exists on either side of the avenue in Northern Manhattan. "The Uptown Collective is Broadway. We’re both sides."
The Uptown Collective IS a local blog that covers news about crimes and quality of life issues when necessary, but likes to turn its attentions to more uplifting topics whenever possible.
"There’s enough about the negative things in this neighborhood," Black said. "This neighborhood is going through so many changes and we want to change the trajectory. We are there to document it."
Eileen Fuentes, the site’s health and wellness writer and Black’s wife, echoed the sentiment and said that the site is not trying to be everything for everyone.
"People already have a place to go get that kind of news," she said. "This is a different spin. We’re trying to have people feel good about their neighborhood."
Indeed, when the Uptown Collective was initially formed in August 2009, the founders said they wanted to "address the void that exists in the Uptown area for an indigenous voice that speaks for the people and the businesses of the community."
Eunice Dilone, 34, said she was thrilled to see a site dedicated to uptown after relying on word of mouth to learn about neighborhood events for many years.
"I always read it to find out what’s going on in the neighborhood," Dilone, a Washington Heights native, said. "It gives you a new perspective of Inwood and the Heights."
Each of the 11 contributors covers diverse subjects like raising a family in an urban setting, the burgeoning uptown art scenes or how to make healthy eating choices in the face of delicious local cuisine like chicharon, tostones and mofongo.
Contributors now include local writers, artists, entrepreneurs and business owners who say they want to invest in their own community and "keep those uptown dollars uptown."
The list of contributors seems to grow every week.
Paul Lomax is a photojournalist with a photography site that covers his international portfolio.
Claudio Cabrera writes about sports, race, fashion and everything in between on Live Above Mediocrity.
Carolina Picardo writes about issues felt by parents raising kids in an urban environment on a personal blog called Young Urban Moms, which includes a network of parenting sources.
Although most are excited to see a site dedicated to the neighborhood they have long loved, some say the fact that a site dedicated to uptown even exists signals a change that might not all be for the better.
For Marcia Ramos, 37, who has lived on Sherman Avenue in Inwood for 23 years, Uptown Collective is a fun site to visit, but does not always reflect her lifestyle.
"I like Uptown Collective, because I can read about the new restaurants here, but I don’t know if I could really afford to go to some of those places," she said of the popular strip of Dyckman Street that editor-in-chief Black calls "Dominican Disneyland."
Black said he recognizes the tension that is sometimes felt within the community not only between old timers and newcomers, but within the old timers as well.
"My own mother doesn’t like the site," he said explaining that the site has always had a progressive slant. "But she doesn’t like anything that is not traditional Dominican. We want uptown to be a little more than that."