Tuesday, June 30, 2009

☞ LISTEN: Eclectik Soul


Thursday, July 2nd, 11:00 PM at Shrine. Mississippi-based funkadelic soul band performing until 1 AM. Watch them at Harlem's youngest music venue. See more of the weekly schedule on the official Shrine website: LINK. 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue), between 133rd and 134th Street. Tel.(212) 690-7807. Take the 2,3 train to 135th Street.

☞ EAT: Sip Bar & Lounge


Sip is a cafe with mod looks and a young following on the Morningside Heights/South Harlem border. The bar and lounge is open all day for the morning brew and the laptop crowd, and it turns into a tapas bar at night. The space is on the smallish side and always seems to be packed. Thanks to Bespoke follower, Rachel, for the tip on Sip. 998 Amsterdam Avenue between 109th & 110th Streets. Tel.212.316.2747. www.sipbar.com. Take the 1 train to 110th Street.

☞ TOUR: ModSquad Cycles

Located on FDB/8th Avenue between 114th and 115th Street, ModSquad Cycles provide South Harlemites with a greener option to tour the city. We also love the graphics of this place. $8/hr bicycle rentals. Summer hours: M-F, 10-7. Sat, 10-6. Sun, 12-5. 2119 Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Tel. (212) 865-5050. Take the 2,3 or B,C to 116th Street. www.modsquadcycles.com

☞ REMEMBER: 244 Manhattan Avenue




At the corner of 110th Street and Manhattan Avenue, we always wondered if the old boarded-up building would eventually be restored since it was such a landmark of the block. The first photo from 1941 shows what the complete row of four buildings looked like from the view at Manhattan Avenue in its prime with their matching cornices and contrast ornamentation at top. The 2nd photo is from 2008 and shows the building on the 110th Street side with scaffolding set up and most of the windows covered in plywood for an extended amount of time. The last photo was taken yesterday and shows the complete demolition of this building on the corner lot, which happened sometimes later in 2008. One might recognize this corner when we had the post on the elevated train in this neck of the woods: LINK. Take the 1 train or the B,C to 110th Street to see this part of town. Center photo from newyorkphotoblog.blogspot.com.

Monday, June 29, 2009

☞ EAT: Moustache

For many downtowners, Moustache is a very recognizable, popular Middle Eastern spot in the West Village. As luck would have it, Moustache now has a branch in East Harlem. The charming 19th century storefront is a stand-out, along with the reliable food that has made this family-owned restaurant popular in New York City. Along with the classic fare, there's also the Pitzas, the restaurant's take on pizza using pita. Located on 1621 Lexington Ave, corner of 102nd Street. Tel. 212.828.0030. Take the 6 train to 103rd street and walk one block south.

☞ READ: The NY Times 104th Street Mural Story


This weekend's NY Times article focused on the endangered murals of East Harlem.  The one in the photo is on 104th Street and Lexington Avenue and has been in the neighborhood since 1978.  Unlike most street art today, the mural was painted by brushes and depicts neighborhood locals in their daily activity.  Past meets present and the mural has been "tagged" with graffiti.  Local groups are now trying to secure funds to repair the artwork and also raise cultural art awareness to the new generation of East Harlem. Read more in the NY Times article: LINK. Photo by Jenn Ackerman for the NY Times.

☞ LISTEN: Interoceanico at Shrine


Tuesday, June 30th, 6-8 PM at Shrine. Founder, guitarist, vocalist and composer, Hiroya Tsukamoto, blends traditional South American, Japanese and western influence to form the multi-cultural band Interoceanico. Part of the diverse offerings at Harlem's youngest music venue, Shrine. See more of the weekly schedule on the official website: LINK. 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue), between 133rd and 134th Street. Tel.(212) 690-7807. Take the 2,3 train to 135th Street.

☞ DWELL: 168 West 123rd Street Brownstone


This shell brownstone (far right, with exposed windows) on the border of the Mt. Morris Park historic district will need about another $400k to get it back into shape, so the current asking price of $795K could use some adjustment. The property has been on the market for seven months now, and the usual price reductions happen after six. The building is also on the narrow side at 15 feet wide. Otherwise, the block is in a decent, central area that is in walking distance of 125th Street, historic Mt. Morris Park and the newly developed FDB neighborhood. The 2,3 express train at 125th Street is also the closest station and will get one to midtown in 15 minutes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

☞ EAT: Harlem Brunch


One only has to go to the Harlem Bespoke's EAT tag to see all the new or reliable classic restaurants of Harlem. For a change, try going out to brunch on the weekend. Especially true for the newer eateries in town, brunch is a perfect way to catch up with friends and family while showing off Harlem's sights when there is still light out. Dinner destination favorites such as Chez Lucienne (www.chezlucienne.com) have a brunch crab cake eggs benedict that is usually not found in their evening menu. See what restaurants are close to your part of Harlem by going to the EAT tag: LINK

☞ SHOP: Polka Dots


These dotted patterns haven't been in style since the late 1980's but the resurgence of that decade's design sensibilities are moving past earlier styles to the more polished mid-decade looks. The guys already have the idea with vests, bow ties, cardigans and pork pie hats falling into trend. After the color saturation of the season, patterns and polka dots are starting to look smart once more. For the ladies, the 1950's vintage dress, from Harlem's own Tyler Miggins, has a crossed back detail and is perfect for that summer weekend event. See the previous post on where to find Tyler Miggins Boutique location on Malcolm X or purchase online at tylersknowledge.com.

☞ SEE: Looking for Langston


Showing today, Friday, June 26th, 7:30 PM at the Maysles Cinema. Looking for Langston is an artsy, black and white film shot in 1988 by Isaac Julian and is a collage of images and narratives that provides a romantic glimpse into the Harlem Renaissance's gay demi-monde. Come and see the film or make it an event with dinner afterwards at Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too. See the full details on the Maysles Institute's website: LINK. Suggested admission $10.00 for movie only. Come early for the tour and other separate events during the night. 343 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue bet. 127th and 128th Streets. Tel. 212-582-6050.

☞ REMEMBER: West 124th Street


The corner of West 124th Street and 8th Avenue, shot in 1927, shows what a complete Harlem city grid looked like before the Depression years and the Urban Renewal projects of the 1950's. Looking from the west side of 8th Avenue with Broadway at the center-most point, one can see Grant's Tomb and the International House Building looming in the far distance. In the foreground, there seems to be pipe-laying work being done on St. Nicholas Avenue. This corner of 124th and 8th Avenue did not endure the years since it eventually found itself with open lots once the buildings were left to decay. On the northwest corner, the Magic Theaters have been built recently, they anchor the larger Harlem USA complex. On the southwest corner on the other side of St. Nicholas, one can see the Faison Firehouse, a community theater today. Urban Renewal obliterated most of the far western block towards Broadway, and the view has been replaced by massive public housing superblocks. A recent modern-day rule that the city recommends in building affordable housing is that the height should not exceed ten stories in order to avoid disrupting the integrity of low-scale neighborhoods. Take the A,B,C, D to 125th Street to see how the block has changed today. See more on the Faison Firehouse Theatre: LINK.  Archival photo courtesy NYPL

☞ SLEEP: The W Hotel in Harlem




Actually, a branch of the boutique W Hotel, Aloft, has been breaking ground in Harlem, but many have feared that the recession will affect its April 2010 completion date. This more affordable cousin of the famous hotel chain will be on FDB/8th Avenue at the corner of West 124th Street, and we peered through the plywood yesterday to take the lower photo. There were men in the ground pit hammering away with lots of construction material laying about. For all the naysayers, it does look like things are progressing along, even in this economy. Another six months should have it all coming together. Stay tuned.

☞ REMEMBER: Michael Jackson at The Apollo

Last night's Apollo marquee in tribute to the Michael Jackson on 125th Street. Photo courtesy of brooklynvegan.com.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

☞ SEE: Inside the Bailey Mansion


The Bailey Mansion on Sugar Hill has recently been reduced to $3.5 million which is a sixty percent discount from the original asking price. Not bad for a castle that was owned by P.T. Barnum's business partner. For a tour, take a look at NY Magazines video on the interior. For more information on the mansion, see our previous Bailey post: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: Awnings



From our post yesterday, we marveled at Perk's use of custom domed awnings lending a distinct, classic feel to the brownstone store front that the local bar inhabits. Having also walked by this South Harlem institution yesterday, we noticed some much needed plaster repair work being done to patch up some peeling paint. Upon returning in the next couple of hours, all the awnings had been dismantled and laying on the sidewalk. The contractor relayed that they were being permanently removed. What was so great about them was the repetition and the custom stripes and lettering around the edges. Let's hope something more interesting comes up since the facade would be nondescript otherwise. See the previous post for more information on Perk's: LINK

☞ SHOP: Janoff's Stationery Store


For the uptown artist, it's a tough trek to go all the way downtown for supplies, so the Columbia art store stand-by, Janoff's, is a blessing for those living above 106th Street. Located on Broadway between 111th and 112 Street, the small store is no Pearl Paint, but one can get a pretty decent assortment of basic items for painting (including canvases and easels), drawing, sculpting and model making. 2870 Broadway. Tel.(212) 866-5747. Take the 1 train to 110th Street.

☞ REMEMBER: The View of Grant's Tomb



Once upon a time, architects and city planners not only considered the look of a building but also how it would be viewed at various street angles. A case in point was the way Grant's Tomb was positioned on top of a high elevation with views clearly seen on West 123rd Street as per the photo from the 1930's. The lower photo shows what that view looks like today when a dorm was placed there a few years back. At certain angles, one can barely see Grant's Tomb peeking from the left side of the building but the average pedestrian would not take notice these days. Another interesting point about the top photo is that it shows what the north side of the street looked like before the Urban Renewal of the 1950's erected housing projects in the area. Take the 1 train to 125th Street and head to Amsterdam and 123rd Street to see the view today.  Archival photo courtesy NYPL

☞ WALK: The Mount Morris Turkish Baths




A remnant of the 19th century baths built for public hygeine still remains today on the northeast borders of Mount Morris Park Historic District. Built in the 1893, a time when running water was not found in all living situations since tenement housing was not uncommon for the masses. The city opened most of the public baths for the poor but the Mount Morris Turkish Baths were founded by the area's doctors as a way to help their patience improve respiratory health. Running continuously intil 2003 for sited structrual problems, the baths eventually became a meeting place for gay men and doubled as a overnight homeless shelter. The sign point down to the sub-level with the distinct arched doorway and turquoise paint still exist today for the occasional curiosity seeker to take a glimpse at this institution from the past. Located 1944 Madison Avenue at East 125th Street. Take the 4,5,6 to 125th Street.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

☞ SEE: Paris Is Burning


Showing Thursday, June 25th, 7:30 PM at the Maysles Cinema. One of the first films that I ever saw in New York City was Paris Is Burning in 1991. It really gave me a different perspective on what it was like for gay and transgender minorities living in upper Manhattan. Being transplanted from Kentucky and going to school at Parsons was rich and exotic enough for me at the time; I had never been above 42nd Street for the most part. Now living in Harlem, this blogger comes full circle in recommending this film for folks who might not understand all of the diverse communities within the city but would be open to exploring how others live. The film is at times funny, entertaining, educational and often sad. The above photo is that of the late, great Willi Ninja who is showcased in the movie and was one of the founders of Voguing as a dance form. See the full schedule on the Maysles Institute's website: LINK. Suggested admission $10.00 with limited seating. Come early. 343 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue bet. 127th and 128th Streets. Tel. 212-582-6050.

☞ DWELL: The Dwyer Lofts



Literally born again, the Dwyer Warehouse lofts have been reconstituted from the rubble of their historic past. Finished in early 2008, the units are fully sold out, so one will have to wait until some of the current owners decide to sell to get into this piece of Harlem history. The second photo down shows the cultural center built in tandem with the residential section, as well as the exposed side of the building, revealing part of the original retaining walls. Upon closer inspection of the brickwork on the facade, one can also see some of the original red contrast brick used on the corners of the new structure. Overall, the execution looks good, but a little more of the contrast work could have added some character to the otherwise solid brick surface. See the previous post to view what the building looked like before, when it was the O'Reilly Building: LINK. Take the A,B,C,D to 125th Street and walk to St. Nicholas and 123rd Street.

☞ REMEMBER: The O'Reilly Building




Before it became commonly known as the Dwyer Warehouse, the storage facility on St. Nicholas and 123rd Street was the O'Reilly Storage Building for over sixty years. Cornelius O'Reilly, a successful builder and architect, set up the nine-story storage facility in 1892 to service the incoming middle classes attracted to the new Harlem neighborhood. Of course, that early century real estate bubble burst in a big way and, with too many brownstones and not enough buyers, Harlem would decline for much of the 20th century. The building, with its corner tower and bright orange brick mixed in with decorative red brick (last photo), was one of the tallest structures in the neighborhood and would be a fond landmark until its demise in 2005.

The O'Reilly family sold the building in 1959, and it would then become the Dwyer Warehouse. The government became the eventual owner of Dwyer Warehouse because of unpaid back taxes, but after many years of neglect and failed restorations, the building was in such poor condition that it was eventually demolished. The 2nd photo down is its final stand in 2005. However, an adaptive reuse project retained some of the base structure, adopted the original orange brick color and recreated the silhouette of the former warehouse in a modern line. Take the A,B,C,D to 125th Street to see what the new Dwyer Building looks like today. Lower two photos courtesy of startsandfits.com

☞ ARCHITECTURE: Mt. Olive Baptist Church


Congratulations to the Mt. Olive Fire Baptized Holiness Church for achieving landmark status this week. Located at 304 West 122nd Street, close to the corner of St. Nicholas, this compact church, founded in 1897, has now ensured that it will be around a while longer for the neighborhood to enjoy. Take the A,B,C,D to 125th Street to check it out.

☞ SEE: The Trip On The 8th Avenue El


This 1903 film shows the South Harlem route of the El train, starting out with Morningside Drive (seen on the left), passing Morningside Park and then curving up 8th Avenue with Central Park on the right hand of the screen. See the previous post for the full story on the 8th Avenue El Train: LINK

☞ REMEMBER: The El Train at 110th Street




Everyone in Harlem is familiar with the elevated 1 train at 125th Street Station, but few were around for the dramatic 110th Street elevated tracks. Built as part of the early mass transit system, the El was conceived before digging tunnels became the norm. The top photo shows the brand new system in rural Harlem (when it had an old-fashioned locomotive) in the late 1880's around Morningside Heights. From the following two photos, one can see Morningside Park on the left corner and the El snaking through 110th Street and turning at 8th Avenue. The last photo shows what it looked like before and after the tracks were dismantled on 110th Street in the 1940's and one can see Morningside Park in the distance. The corner view of 8th Avenue/FDB in the last photo is also a glimpse of the block before the monolithic Towers on the Park were constructed. There looks to be some sort of armory tower that was then a landmark of the area. Archival photos courtesy NYPL

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

☞ DRINK: Perk


Perk's has the classic stylings of a bar that is built into a brownstone. The exterior's round window awnings are a standout, as is the pristine interior and clean lines. Hank Perk, the original founder, established this bar over a decade ago and instantly drew a following of local celebrities. These days, under new management, the bar features live jazz on many nights, and the crowd gets younger and more festive into the evening hours. Located at 553 Manhattan Avenue between 121st Street & 122nd Street. Tel.(212) 666-8500. Take the A,B,C,D train to 125th Street.

☞ PROTECT: The West 123rd Street Row Houses


The identical triple row houses a 119-123 West 123rd Street, right before Lenox Avenue, are just outside of the Mount Morris Park Historic District. There have been talks about extending the historic district one more avenue over, to Adam Clayton Powell/7th Avenue, but nothing seems to have happened in the past decade to widen the obvious boundaries of the neighborhood. The last two houses on the left are boarded-up shells, and it is unclear if they have been sold or not. The columned porches are gone, and the pointed cresting on the roof no longer exists, but the houses are as handsome as ever. The top photo was taken in the 1930's for the houses have always been a standout on the block. See the following link on how to protect Harlem historic buildings or districts: LINK

☞ WALK: The Exposed 19th Century Sign


The old warehouse on 128th Street between St. Nicholas Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard/8th Avenue was demolished in the past year or so, and the small two story building once attached to it has revealed a hidden image from the past. A painted sign on the exposed brick, now seen on the side of the building, advertises livestock feed. Seeing that this part of town was basically farmland until the 1880's, it's possible that this sign has been covered for over 100 years. To take a look at it before a building goes up on the spot, take the A,B,C,D train to 125th Street and walk up St. Nicholas Avenue.

☞ SEE: Brother to Brother


Tonight, Tuesday, June 23rd, 7:00 PM at the Maysles Cinema. Rodney Evans' 2004 film, Brother to Brother, won many awards including a prestigious Sundance Film Festival acknowledgment for its portrayal of the struggles of an 18 year-old, gay African-American artist seeking guidance from a senior writer who provides insight and perspective through his telling of the past gay subculture of the Harlem Renaissance. See the full schedule on the Maysles Institute's website: LINK. Suggested admission $10.00 with limited seating. Come early. 343 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue bet. 127th and 128th Streets. Tel. 212-582-6050.

☞ BESPOKE: Mosaic Tiles


The really amazing thing about Harlem is that many of the lobbies did not go through severely modern renovations like their downtown brethren, and original late 19th century details, such as the mosaic tiles in the foyer, are well preserved. Ranging from simple Greek key border trims to intricate carpet-like patterns, the mosaic surface provides color, pattern and function to the common areas of a building. What is also really nice, when still intact, are the different types of marble used for the walls and baseboards as can be seen on the right side of the photo. This particular floor is typical of the style found in the Morningside Heights neighborhood where many well-preserved lobbies can be found.

Monday, June 22, 2009

☞ DRINK: Moca Lounge


Moca Lounge is one of the newer FDB establishments that caters to the South Harlem scene with hip-hop music, a comfort soul food menu and regionally inspired drinks such as Harlem Ice Tea. During the weekends, the live DJ and small dance floor give the spot a club-like atmosphere. For those not aware of dress etiquette uptown, it's all about dressing up. For the gentleman, hats, hoods, sleeveless garments, and the like are not tolerated by management, so come in looking sharp. www.mocalounge.com. 2210 Frederick Douglass Boulevard/8th Avenue. Tel. (212) 665-8081. Take the 2,3 or B,C to 116th Street.

☞ SEE: Blueprint


Blueprint, this Saturday, June 27th, 5:00 PM as part of the Maysles Cinema's Homo Harlem week of film screenings. Kirk Shannon-Butts' debut 2008 film, set in modern-day Harlem, revolves around two young African-American men from different worlds trying to figure things out. College-oriented Keith's straitlaced world changes for the better when he meets with street-smart Nathan. Admission is $10.00 for the show, but one can also buy a full-day package that includes more films, brunch at Chez Lucienne and a walking tour for $45.00. See the full schedule on the Maysles Institute's website: LINK. Suggested admission $10.00 with limited seating. Come early. 343 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Avenue bet. 127th and 128th Streets. Tel. 212-582-6050.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

☞ EAT: Red Velvet Cupcakes


Kitchenette is the place to go to get your red velvet cake fix on the west side of Harlem. For the uninitiated, the bright red cake is a modern derivative of devil's food cake. When cocoa powder was not yet Dutch processed, it would react with the acidic buttermilk added to the cake batter, turning the mixture red. Now that modern cocoa powder is Dutch processed, the red color has to be made by adding lots of food coloring. The bright red velvet cakes are then topped off with white cream cheese frosting. The small dozen cupcake batches at the top of the photo cost about $15, and Kitchenette sometimes sells larger individual red velvet cupcakes alongside the traditional chocolate and yellow cake variety. 1272 Amsterdam Ave between 122nd Street and 123rd Street. Tel.(212) 531-7600. Take the A, C, B, D or 1 train to 125th street.

Friday, June 19, 2009

☞ SEE: Casa Frela



Casa Frela, one of Harlem's newest galleries in Mount Morris Park, is also housed at one of its most prestigious buildings. In 1885, the premier architectural firm of the time, McKim, Mead and White, designed this well-appointed row house for contractor James C. Miller. The top photo is from 1939, and the lower photo is the house today. The museum's founder, Lawrence Rodriquez, showcases new talent and has recently debuted a show especially for next week's Pride celebration. To get more information, go directly to the Casa Frela website: LINK. Casa Frela is located at 47 West 119th Street between Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X and 5th Avenue. Take the 2,3 train to 116th Street.

☞ DRINK: Billie's Black


One of the original New Harlem institutions is celebrating its third anniversary today, June 19th. Has it really been three years, Billie? Join the celebration tonight at this trendy, soul-food, gay-friendly Harlem establishment. Cheers. 271 West 119th Street between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and St. Nicholas Avenue. Tel. 212-280-2248. Website: billiesblack.com

☞ REMEMBER: The Beaches of Manhattanville



The painting at the Museum of the City of New York shows the coastline of Harlem as it was with crystal clear waters, sandy shores and crisp views of the Palisades mountains. Painted somewhere in the 1840's by Victor Gifford Audubon, it shows the Audubon family lounging on the peaceful beaches of the Hudson in an area that is today's Manhattanville. The lower photo was taken a few weeks ago and shows the West Harlem Piers at the same location during sunset. This new park has sea grass, trees, flowering plant and some reference to sand towards the north arbor. To get to the park, take the 1 train to 125th Street and head toward 12th Avenue, underneath the Viaduct.