Michael J. Palma – A lifelong and a second-generation resident of Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Mr. Palma has been a community activist all his adult life. Mr. Palma divides his time between work in the theater and photography as well as being an advocate for a better quality of life in West Harlem. Mr. Palma is twice graduated from Columbia University with a BA in English and a Master of Fine Arts from the Hammerstein II Center. As a photographer, Mr. Palma has documented cultural life in Upper Manhattan since the 1980’s and has curated and participated in various Upper Manhattan photo groups. Most notably, he co-curated and participated in “Vague Terrain: Manhattanville” at the Compton-Goethals Hall Art Gallery in City College, where Mr. Palma spent a year chronicling the architecture, artifacts, and people of Manhattanville; a photographic testimonial during a period of ongoing and dramatic changes for the community. More recently he curated a photo exhibit named “Selfless Selfies” at the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance Gallery, a black & white exhibit by Upper Manhattan photographers, narrating stories about their changing communities. Mr. Palma also conducts free photography workshops for the Fort Tyron Conservancy and for the Montefiore Park Neighbor Association and is the resident staff photographer to the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling.
As a community activist, Mr. Palma has focused on increasing West Harlem’s quality of life and affordable housing. Along with many other community volunteers, Mr. Palma is one of the volunteer leaders of the Montefiore Park Neighborhood Association, who seek to revitalize Hamilton Heights, by transforming Montefiore Park into a focal point of community life. MPNA activities is held at the park throughout the year, engage residents of all ages, as well as enlist the collaboration of local schools, businesses and city agencies. Reaching beyond the footprint of Montefiore Park, MPNA activities impact the surrounding Hamilton Heights neighborhood bounded by 133rd Street and 141st Street, St. Nicholas Avenue and 12th Avenue.
Mr. Palma is one of the founding members of the HDFC Coalition, which began in 1992 as an effort to advocate for improvements in the policies of the City of New York towards HDFC cooperatives. In early 2016, the Coalition decided to become more active in response to recent City efforts to terminate existing tax relief programs for HDFCs and modify regulations pertaining to HDFC buildings. In 2011, Mr. Palma joined Broadway Housing Communities as its Director of Housing and saw to the marketing and rent-up of its new affordable housing building on Sugar Hill. An active member of community board 9 Manhattan for the past 17 years, he has served on both the Housing and Arts & Culture Committees. In theatre, Mr. Palma produced and presented Spanish language classic and contemporary dramas for the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, INTAR and TeatroStageFest, and as Director of Capital Planning and Project Development for Repertorio Español.