Thursday, December 31, 2009

☞ DWELL: FDB's Glass Coast finishes up 2009

One thing that is not debatable is that FDB/8th Avenue is getting glassier by the day. The Aloft hotel at 123rd Street (top photo) has started the process on its lower floors while its neighbor 2280 FDB down the block has its windows basically complete (second photo). The last photo shows the two consecutive blocks together looking north. Just another block south, 220 St. Nicholas has also received its windows this side of the year. All of these newer buildings should be complete by Spring 2010, so let's hope they get it together and secure some better retail in the ground floors (i.e. no more Dunkin' Donuts). Photos by Ulysses

☞ CELEBRATE: New Years at Amy Ruth's

Harlem's iconic Southern-style eatery will be open for 24 hours starting New Year's Eve and into New Year's Day. Where else can you get a prix-fix menu with a selection that includes waffles, wings, collard greens, Hoppin' John and bread pudding for $20.00? Amy Ruths' is on 113 West 116th Street between Lenox Avenue (6th) & Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th). Tel. (212) 280-8779. Take the 2,3 or B,C train to 116th Street.

☞ EAT: Maybe Sometime in January

It seems that sometimes restaurants and buildings open overnight, but the opposite is also true with the slow movers. The businesses pictured above, mainly below 125th Street, were slated to open in 2009 but have been in limbo since this summer. The new One Bar on Lenox and the corner of 120th has had a stop-work order on the building since the fall and has not really moved in any direction since then (top photo). Right across the street, the reported new space for The Den lounge does not even have signage up except for advertising that the retail space is available for lease (second photo down). Further west, Frizzante, the new Italian Bistro on FDB and 117th Street, has had the exterior and interior (with palm trees in place) ready to go for the past couple of months but has not had any signs of opening any time soon. Finally, the grand old Dinosaur Bar-B-Que will debut its new space past its initial fall estimate opening date on West 125th Street and 12th Avenue (last photo). All photos by Ulysses.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

☞ INTRODUCING: Wild Olive Market

The cheap storefronts at 4-12 East 125th and Fifth Avenue will soon be home to a better grocery store called Wild Olive Market. With its proximity to Mt. Morris Park and the developing areas just north of 125th Street, this new addition to Harlem's famed commercial row might herald a new era for the storefronts in the area east of 5th Avenue. Formerly the domain of an express Taco Bell and 99 cent stores (lower photo), the new owners have taken over five storefronts and will substantially be changing this block on the south side of East 125th Street. There's a large open corner building lot at the Madison end but things seem to be picking up once more so maybe its days will be numbered. This might be the game changer from the cheap big chain stores that keep popping up along the historic street that used to be Harlem's more stylish department store and theater district. As of today, the interior still looks like a work in progress, but the awnings are already in place. Stay tuned. The closest subways are the 2,3 and A,B,C,D trains at 125th street. Top photo by Ulysses. Special thanks to Bespoke reader Thomas for the tip.

☞ SEE: The Alex Adam Gallery

While walking past West 120th Street in the Mount Morris Park Historic District, we noticed that a small gallery had established itself at building No. 78 which is right between Lenox and Mount Morris Park West. The building now serves as a gallery and studio space for resident artist and part of the proceeds from the gallery are donated to a fund to help support emerging talent. Check out their website for more details: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

☞ DWELL: 133 West 122nd Street Brownstone

One of the more interesting properties on the high end of the market is on the most distinct brownstone rows in Harlem for the asking price of $2.895 million. No. 133 West 122nd Street is on the fringe of the Mount Morris Park Historic district but can easily be considered one of the most handsome set buildings in the city. Apparently fully restored by an architect who worked on the New York branch of famed Japanese department store Takashimaya, the single family, five bedroom, five bath, 4,500 square foot townhouse has all the modern underpinnings with the original details intact. The closest train is the express 2,3 at 125th Street and the boutique shops of the Mount Morris Park Historic District are only a block away. House photo by Ulysses.

☞ WALK: The Three Kings Day Parade

January 6th, from 11:00 AM -1:00 PM at El Museo del Barrio. The three kings are the gift givers in Christmas lore and many Latin American countries celebrate Three Kings Day as the time to exchange gifts during the Holidays. Children would leave some hay and water under their beds for the king's camels and would wake up with a gift in the morning.

El Museo del Barrio will be hosting the 33rd Annual Three Kings Day Parade next week to celebrate the time-honored tradition that will fill the streets of East Harlem. Live camels, herds of sheep, adults and children in costume are all part of a grand procession that will hark the arrival of the three kings. Get more details at the El Museo website: LINK. El Museo del Barrio is located at 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street. Closest train is the 2,3 express at 110th Street or the 6 train at 103rd. Photo by Mario Tama.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

☞ BESPOKE: Frosted Flame Sconces

We have a few antique lighting catalogs lying around and noticed the Victorian flame shades in the past. Yet we'd never seen them on an actual building. Walking by the Hamilton Heights historic district recently, our search finally ended with No. 473 West 143rd Street, between Amsterdam and Convent Avenues. Although a little odd when presented in a catalog lineup, these frosted shades in actuality provide a great dose of drama and character to any historic facade.

☞ EAT: Cafe One

Hamilton Heights' Cafe One is one of the only cafes in the City College part of town, and some might say that the small eatery is a much-needed additional amenity to the nabe. Free WiFi, decent coffee, pastries and soup are the main attractions at this spot, which some feel could improve a little on ambiance. There's not too many options on this strip of Amsterdam Avenue, so it's a good find for those in need of a place to grab a quick bite and get some work done. Cafe One is located at 1619 Amsterdam Avenue, between 139th Street and 140th Street. Tel. (212) 690-0060. Nearest subways are the 1 train at 137th Street or the A,B,C,D train at 145th. Photo by Ulysses

☞ LISTEN: The Band Droidz at Shrine

Wednesday, December 30th from 10:00 PM-11:00 PM at Shrine. The Band Droidz are a NYC trio of guys with an indie mix of 80's punk and 90's grunge sounds. Check them out at Harlem's busiest new music venue. Come support the new talent at Shrine this weekend and see what else is going on in the local and international music scene. 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue), between 133rd and 134th Street. Tel.(212) 690-7807.

Monday, December 28, 2009

☞ DWELL: 130 West 130th Street Brownstone

Soap actor Cameron Mathison's block is probably one of the more up and coming ones in central Harlem but prices are somewhat at a standstill. The house at 130 West 130th Street (between ACP and Lenox) is only a few buildings away from the celebrity home and is currently asking $2.49 million. The three bedroom, three and half bath, single family home was renovated in 2006 and has wood burning fireplaces. The finishes are definitely on the high end and the the price is about $200k below what the Mathisons were asking for their place. Then again, the renowned neighbors brownstone just went rental. In this tough market price cuts might be appropriate to get these properties moving.

☞ REMEMBER: Percy E. Sutton

Percy E. Sutton, the former Manhattan Borough President, Lawyer for Malcolm X, radio tycoon and saviour of the Apollo Theater passed away on Saturday at the age of 89. The above photo by John Sotomayor in 1977 shows Mr. Sutton (second from left) with Muhammad Ali and David Dinkins. Read more about the pioneer African-American politician who left an indelible mark on Harlem and New York City in yesterday's NY Times: LINK

☞ ARCHITECTURE: The Odeon Theatre

Another former theatre-turned-church is the Odeon on West 145th Street between FDB and ACP. Opened in 1910 as a vaudville venue, the theatre eventually converted to completely showing motion pictures by 1925. The St. Paul Community Church currently occupies the building which had its last days as a cinema sometimes in the early 1960's. The nearest subway to the former theatre is the A,B,C,D train at 145th Street. Photo by Ulysses

Saturday, December 26, 2009

☞ SEE: Only in New York: Photos from LOOK

Exploring New York City from the mid-1940s until the early 1960s, the exhibition Only in New York: Photographs from LOOK Magazine accompanies the publication of the first-ever book devoted to the museum's extraordinary LOOK photography collection. To LOOK's editors and photographers, among them Stanley Kubrick, New York was both a newly emergent international capital of world-class museums and glamorous nightclubs as well as a hometown for millions who rode its subways and thrilled to its baseball teams. We especially like the exhibit for its candid take on everyday life in the New York City of that time period. Images vary from the churches of central Harlem or the night streets of East Harlem, mixed in with photos of celebrities and the movers and shakers of the time. Catch it at the Museum of the City of New York in East Harlem until April 2010. The Museum of the City of New York is at 1220 Fifth Avenue, between 103rd and 104th Street. Nearest subway is the 6 train at 103rd Street or 2,3 at 110th Street.

Friday, December 25, 2009

☞ READ: Harlem Churches in the Times

For the Holidays, the New York Times takes a look at the major churches in the city. Three prominent uptown churches are featured in the article and the following slideshow. The Abyssinian Baptist Church, St. John the Divine and Riverside Church all have their day in the spotlight on Christmas day. Read and see more in the NY Times article: LINK. Photo by Piotr Redlinksi

Thursday, December 24, 2009

☞ WALK: The St. Nicholas Park Christmas Tree

Christmas arrived a little earlier at St. Nicholas Park this year. The folks at City College donated a small Christmas tree to the park and the little charmer just received its first tree lighting event alongside a weekend of snow. The top photo was shot after the big blizzard this past weekend and the lower photo shows the tree lit at night (via Friends of St. Nicholas Park). This tree is such a great gift for the people of Hamilton Heights to receive for the evergreen will only grow more taller and majestic as the years progress. Top photo by Ulysses. Read more about this year's inaugural Christmas lighting event at the Friends of St. Nicholas Park blog: LINK

☞ READ: New Books on Harlem Legends

Sweet Thunder and Thelonious Monk are two major books out this year that might also be great literary gifts. There's been much written this on the two books featuring key Harlem legends so the window display at Book Culture in Morningside Heights caught our eye as we walked by. The hardcovers are well designed an would be a handsome addition to any home library. Read more about the new Book Culture store on Broadway and 114th Street in our past post: LINK. Photo by Ulysses.

☞ REVIVE: Old Broadway Temple's Stained Glass

We always marveled at the beauty of the Old Broadway Synagogue and its stained glass window on the eastward section of Manhattanville. Although modest, the temple is probably one of the last continuously running synagogues from Harlem's former Jewish population. On their blog, there is a photo of what the building windows look like from 1960 until 2003-which was basically cinder blocks and metal screens. In 2003 a generous grant from the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Upper Manhattan Historic Preservation Fund helped the congregation restore what was left of the original windows and they now let in the natural light into the century old establishment. Check out their blog for more information and also a peak at what the building looked like beforehand: LINK. The Old Broadway Synagogue is located at 15 Old Broadway, which is a block east of Broadway and one block north of 125th Street. The nearest subway is the 1 train at 125th Street. Photo by Ulysses

☞ SEE: The Harlem Quartet on the Today Show

Tune in Christmas morning for the national television debut of the Harlem Quartet on the Today Show. The group members are laureates of the Sphinx Competition which helps cultivate diversity in the classical music world. Having toured all over the nation this past year and even performing at Carnegie Hall, these guys are really ones to look out for. Check them out on the Today Show with performances on Friday morning at 7:00 AM, 7:30 AM and 9:00 AM. Read more about the Harlem Quartet in our past post: LINK

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

☞ SHOP: Harlem's Next Farmers Market

A reference that Harlem celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson has focused on in recent interviews is that of the local grown and farmer's market movement. There's a lot of seasonal vegetables, organic and local foods trending at the top restaurants of the country but Harlem is still a little behind this movement. Samuelsson also made a distinct point about poverty in the big city by stating "You can go to any market in Ethiopia regardless of income and you can get local eggs and organic. Here, if you don’t have money you eat poorly. It’s one of the only countries where low income and eating poorly is connected."

So Marcus Samuelsson is a celebrity and he probably could start up a major farmers market in Harlem but where would it be? The market at Union Square has been a point of reference for what a proper market should look like so we figured the spot had to be scenic and central. In our opinion, top contenders would be Morningside Parks, Marcus Garvey Park or the Harlem Meer.

For example, Morningside Park's West 110th Street and Manhattan Avenue corner which is centrally located between two major subway lines, has the beautiful landscape in the background and already has a small market during warmer seasons (top photo). If Samuesson promoted this area, surely more vendors would come by the underused location which will be a block away from the new FDB Circle. On the other hand, there is a huge, unsightly building lot on the east corner of Manhattan Avenue and the location is a bit far west. The second choice would be Marcus Garvey Park (second photo) with its majestic natural background, scenic brownstone streets and close access to the 2,3 express trains. The slight flaw is that the community building takes up a lot of the park and is not as historically accurate as the rest of the nabe. Finally, Central Park North's Harlem Meer with its charming victorian boathouse architecture (lower photos), vast natural scenery (which includes a lake) and central location by the 2,3 express train. This just might be the winner since it also is at a location where West and East Harlem start to transition. Suggestions anyone?

☞ READ: Marcus Samuelsson's American Table

After reading various reviews on Harlem resident Marcus Samuelsson's just published cookbook titled New American Table, we were inspired by how this unique work represented the chef's hometown. Having been born in Ethiopia, growing up in Sweden and now residing in New York City with his wife, Mr. Samuelsson understand a little about cultural diversity and wanted to create a book about all the ethnic cultures that are a big part of America. Either be it Jewish specialties, Asian home cooking, or southern classics, America was created and strengthen by all of its various peoples. In a sense, the book might be considered reflective of Harlem's original cultural boom of African-American, Italian, Jewish,German and spanish groups moving uptown up to over 100 years ago to create one of the most famous neighborhoods in New York City and the world. This one might be a great holiday gift for the chefs in the family. Get it at your local bookstores or on Amazon: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

☞ SEE: Over 1,000 at Riverside New Year's Eve

FREE event: In celebration of the New Year, over 1,000 people from all walks of life are expected to fill the halls of historic Riverside Church for its New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service of music and worship, in the Nave of The Riverside Church on Thursday, December 31, from 10:00 p.m. to midnight, 490 Riverside Drive (bet. 120th & 122nd St.), Morningside Heights.

The celebration will begin with a Carillon Recital at 10:00 p.m. with Carillonneur Dionisio A. Lind, followed by an Organ Recital at 10:30 p.m. featuring organist Christopher Johnson on the Nave Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. A Festival Service of Worship will follow at 11:00 p.m. in the soaring gothic cathedral.

There is no charge for this event and for additional information the public can call 212-870-6722. The closest subway is the 1 train at either 116th Street or 125th Street. Photo by Ulysses

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

☞ DWELL: 2 West 123rd Street Brownstone

The brownstone in the Mount Morris Park Historic District at 2 west 123rd Street has been on the market well over one year and still is holding on its asking price of $3.25 million. The home is a single family, 20 foot wide classic brownstone, has five bedrooms and six full baths (most families would not need so many baths in their home so maybe closet space would be a better use for half of them). There appears to be a lot of original details but is the price realistic? The closest subway is the express 2,3 train at 125th Street and this building is stone's throw from Marcus Garvey Park aka Mount Morris Park.

☞ WALK: The Red Clapboard Church

The Carmansville section of Hamilton Heights never cease to fascinate with its random smattering of freestanding buildings. One of the more charming ones, which is a red clapboard church building, can be found on West 150th Street, one building east of Broadway. One can actually see the cupola and weathervane of the building looking over the Broadway side as one approaches 150th Street for there is only a squat, one story C-Town supermarket on that end of the avenue. The fully detached building must belong to the bigger church next door but might have been a private resident at some point in time. The nearest subway is the 1 train at 145th Street. Photo by Ulysses

☞ SHOP: Awnings with Photographs

We started noticing the aesthetically challenging trend of awnings with photographs on them and wonder why vendors choose this look. Especially if it's food related, what's usually pictured is not particularly appetizing to look at when it's blown up in technicolor and exposed to the elements. While classic awnings with lettering or stripes get a little character with age, the food and other images just get gritty, faded and depressing. The above photo is that of the new Mexican restaurant on Amsterdam, between 110th and 111th Street (that took over the perpetually empty Indian eatery) and were surprised to find one of these photographic awnings up. The Morningside Heights restaurant row has classics establishments such as the Hungarian Pastry Shop and P&W Sandwich Shop (lower photo) and is right across from St. John the Divine. Most folks know that if you have photos of food or clothes on your store signage, it probably not a high quality place. Rule of thumb, stick to classic letters for signage , especially if the neighborhood you are opening up shop in is a traditional part of town. Photos by Ulysses

☞ READ: East Harlem British Landlords Bankrupt

Today's New York Times features an article on the rise and fall of British real estate giant Dawnay Day which sought to gentrify East Harlem and add it to their world portfolio. Back in 2007, the firm which was known for transforming the rough London nabe of Brixton into an up-and-coming enclave, bought out 47 East Harlem rental buildings for $225 million. The high wheeling, yacht buying, modern art collectors led a flashy lifestyle while many of the 1,100 apartments that the corporation owned on the east side languished. Many tenants felt like they were being forced out by neglect of service and some eventually moved out. Those who now remain are not sure of their future since the properties are in limbo and conditions will probably not improve until another investor comes along. Dawnay Day was a HUGE real estate force globally but they went the way of those who over speculate at the wrong time. The British company totally collapsed this past year and there is more uncertainty in the air on what will happen to the buildings they once owned on Harlem's east side. Read more in the NY Times: LINK. Photo of East 116th Street by Ulysses.

Monday, December 21, 2009

☞ REMEMBER: Harlem Horse Trolley Circa 1892

If folks think the subways get cold in the winter, can you imagine what it was like sitting in a horse-drawn trolley to get uptown? That's exactly what folks had to deal with while using the main mode of transportation for the public from 1855 until around 1904, before the first subway was available. The Harlem Trolley's had metal wheels that followed metal tracks but had no engine. Horses supplied the power and the above photo shows what it must have been like traveling through a blizzard in 1892. It must have taken a couple of hours just to get to 125th Street from Wall Street! In 1870 the elevated trains would become the choice mode of transportation but both forms of travel was said to still have been a freezing way to get about in the winter. Click on photo to enlarge.

☞ DWELL: 318 West 119th Street Brownstones

Is it a brownstone or is it a condo? The entire block of West 119th Street between FDB/8th Avenue and Manhattan Avenue appear to be brand new brownstones but they are actually one big condo complex. Probably one of the only new constructions to actually use a brownstone material for the the exterior in recent year and for those interested, a handsome condo unit is currently on the market for the asking of $1.46 million (with the maintenance of $1,535 per month). The unit is a total of 2,106 square feet, six rooms total, three bedrooms and two and a half bath. Additional perks include the garden outback and a gym within the complex. Nearest trains are the B,C train at 116th Street. Thoughts anyone? Photos by Ulysses.

☞ SHOP: Last Minute Christmas Trees

For those procrastinators out there, the holiday tree market on Cathedral Parkway aka West 110th Street and Morningside Park is still open for business. We snapped the above photo this past Sunday right after the blizzard and the guys still had the shop out front with rows of trees and decorative wreathes. Folks who keep odd hours can rest assured since this pop up market is apparently open 24 hours and they deliver. The closest subways to the tree market is either the 1 or the B,C train at 110th Street. Just head to southern border of Morningside Park to get to this holiday vendor. Photo by Ulysses