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About La Fortaleza

Our History

La Fortaleza Project was conceived by published poet and former NYS Department of Youth Services, Alberto O. Cappas, with the thought in mind of an organization comprised of vested community investors and neighborhood stakeholders in arts/culture, small business & non-profit sectors, faith leaders and residents. It represents a growing trend in raising progressive social consciousness, re-mapping neighborhoods, defending communities against encroachment, while taking management of its assets and resources.

Puerto Ricans, NYC's predominant Spanish-speaking group since 1900, inherited a neighborhood in decline, East Harlem, and turned it into “EL BARRIO: La Cuna/the Cradle” of its community. "LaFORT" takes what others deem as negatives and re-assesses their value as assets/resources to generate jobs, incorporate youth in cultural maintenance, and to claim El Barrio/East Harlem based on our longevity and contributions with the purpose of reaping its wealth building potential.

Its unincorporated founding board of directors consisted of the Educational Pledge (Alberto O. Cappas), the East Harlem Business Capital Corporation (José Garza), and local P.E.G. Access media organization, AfterDark CATV PRO (Félix Leo Campos). From 2011 to 2012, Kenneth Cole/Columbia U and Colegio Técnico de Mexico helped La Fortaleza survey and map the neighborhood producing a final report and content for a web site with details, photographs, and testimonials. The report is a guide for building community around its rich history and identifying avenues for residents to be gainfully employed and open local retail ownership opportunities.


Noted as a reason for why $484 million in revenue leaves El Barrio/East Harlem are the redundancy of businesses in small areas, i.e. the number of bodegas (convenience stores), barber shops & beauty salons, tattoo parlors, etc. Their work revealed avenues previously thought of as ancillary, but that have great social, cultural, and political importance and are building blocks for sustainable growth, arts/culture & the non-profit sector. They mapped under utilized venues and locations available for performances and exhibitions. Our events take place at these venues. Each venue represents a "parapet" along the perimeter.

Metropolitan Hospital Center

El Barrio's Artspace P.S. 109

Poets Den

Taino Towers (Crystal Ballroom & Tato Laviera Theater)

Mount Sinai Medical Center

NYC School of Medicine

El Museo del Barrio

La Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center

Children's Aid Society East Harlem Center

Furthering the need is a report published by the Harlem Community Development Corporation together with the East Harlem Business Capital Corporation which found that $484 million is spent outside the neighborhood namely for lack of choices, particularly in the cultural, artistic, night life of El Barrio/East Harlem. La Fortaleza recognizes that revitalizing the local economy, its social and cultural (nightlife) Arts & Culture need to step up & play a pivot role.

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