Monday, May 31, 2010

☞ SEE: Unicycling at the Grant National Memorial

The skateboarders might have been exiled (second photo) at Grant's Tomb in Morningside Heights, but it now seems that the national memorial has attracted single-wheel-wielding fans. We have seen a couple of these guys with their unicycles heading west towards Riverside Drive from time to time and caught a glimpse of them in action in the springtime, where they've made the awe-inspiring General Grant National Memorial their venue of choice. Completed in 1897, the striking neoclassical temple-like building at far West 122nd Street would attract more tourists to New York City than the Statue of Liberty at the turn of the last century. To check it out, take the 1 train to 125th Street and walk south to 122nd Street before turning west. For more on the unicycling group that meets twice a month, check out their website: Photos by Ulysses

Sunday, May 30, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: The Old 125th Street Post Office

The low-level drugstore just west of FDB/8th Avenue on 125th Street was originally designed for public duty. The top photo shows this corner of Harlem's main street, and one can see three panels of engravings (covered up by signs today) that stated the building's purpose circa 1938. From left to right, the engravings read: New York, Station J, Post Office. The building has held up pretty well over the years, although the left-most section of the front roofing has seen better days. A new, mid-century post office was later built further west, past St. Nicholas Avenue, but this one is a nice reminder of 125th Street's architectural past. Archival photo courtesy of NYPL. Current photo by Ulysses

Saturday, May 29, 2010

☞ DWELL: 17 East 128th Street Townhouse

OPEN HOUSE: Sunday, May 30th, 2:00-3:00 PM by Appointment. The civil-war era fantasy of a house at 17 East 128th Street just recently got a major price chop. First on the market back in September 2008 with the asking price of $2.35 million, the renovated wood frame house would stick around for a year until the listing was removed from the market in November 2009. The 3 story, 22 foot wide, 4,000 square foot (?), 9 bedroom, 4 bath, single family house was then listed earlier this year at $1.795 million. The area is just east of 5th Avenue in a particularly quiet, albeit not eventful part of town. Has anyone seen it? Thoughts? This has to be set up by the broker for those who are interested: LINK. House photo by Ulysses

Friday, May 28, 2010

☞ REVIVE: Hopes for the Victoria Theater

This week's Crain's reports the former RKO Keith Theatre in Queens, whose lobby is landmarked, has been purchased by condo developers for $20 million. This deal, which means that the historic space will soon see an adaptive re-use, reminds us of neighborhood disagreements about the Victoria Theatre on 125th Street. Some have suggested that the city should not landmark architect Thomas Lamb's classic hall for fear that it would discourage or simply prevent future development of the space. Yet the RKO deal suggests otherwise. If a less distinguished building in Flushing merits landmark status and can attract commercial interest, perhaps there's hope for the state-owned Victoria yet.

Two recent opportunities have slipped through the Victoria's fingers. With the construction of Aloft in South Harlem, it is highly unlikely that a W Hotel, once targeting the Victoria, will plan to rival its sister hotel just blocks away. The future home of Harlem's jazz museum, also once interested in the theater's location, is now slated for the former Mart 125. Does anyone have information or thoughts about what's next for the Victoria? Read more about the Queen's RKO deal in the Crain's article: LINK. To see the interior of the Victoria, see our past post: LINK. Photo by Ulysses.

☞ BESPOKE: More Examples of Globe Lights

We referenced 2056 Fifth Avenue in our original post on period-appropriate globe lights and just realized that an apartment building in the Mount Morris Park Historic District had their building lamps restored recently. The pre-war apartment complex on Mount Morris Park West north of 122nd Street has a fresh new row of standing globes that illuminate the sidewalks nicely at night (lower photo). As per the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Orgranization's suggestion, leaving such lights on at night helps keep the nabe much safer. We actually think it also beautifies the block at night and gives it quite an old-world charm. Happily, one of the owners at 2056 Fifth Avenue recently commented that the building will add their globe lamps in the upcoming months: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

☞ EAT: Another Rao's Auction on eBay

Harlem Bespoke broke the original story on the eBay charity auctions at Rao's back in December (which received over 29 bids and over $3,000 for charity), and now the Wall Street Journal reports on a second, similar event. So Rao's, the 100 year-old restaurant in the former Italian Harlem section of Pleasant Avenue, is currently selling a dinner reservation for four on July 27th, 2010 to benefit the National Italian American Foundation. The legend goes that reservations are so difficult to get that even Madonna was turned away at some point. Former President Bill Clinton had to "loan" a table from a patron to get a chance to eat at this East Harlem institution. The restaurant is booked for the entire year, so this new charity auction, with bids starting at $5,000, is a way to secure a table if you have deep pockets. If competing with others is not your thing, the four-person meal can be yours for the "buy-now" price of $20,000. See more on eBay: LINK. Read more details in the Wall Street Journal: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

☞ SHOP: The Morningside Park Farmer's Market

The end of May is the start of farmer's market season, and it seems that the one in Morningside Park might be opening soon. On the official Community Markets site, the Morningside Park Farmer's Market has a start date of May 29th, but we are not sure if this is current. The farmer's market is sponsored by Friends of Morningside Park and is usually held on Saturdays, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. This is the only major one in Harlem at this point, but it hasn't really been growing in the past couple of years. We just need more folks involved and make the trip over to Morningside Park on the weekend so that more vendors can see the benefit of coming uptown. Check out the Community Markets site for more information: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

Thursday, May 27, 2010

☞ DWELL: 2280 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard

The six story mixed use building at 2280 ACP/7th Avenue and 134th Street is basically now half off from its original asking price of $3.85 million back in October 2008. This building has a swanky owners triplex at top and a three level work/commercial space on the lower floors. There's HVAC, all the stainless steel brand names in the kitchen but most importantly, there's a garage at the side of the over 5,000 square foot property. So what do folks think? Is $1.85 million the right price? The area is still up and coming but relatively quiet for the most part. Nearest subways are the B,C and 2,3 at 135th Street

☞ REVIVE: 753 St. Nicholas Picks up Pace

When we last checked on the empty lot at 148th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, the new building planned for the site was just getting its foundation together at the end of March. A couple of months later, the form of the decidedly modern building that was approved for construction in the Sugarhill historic district seems to be at its max height. The oriel-like building extension is currently being filled in and we are guessing this new condo complex to really be coming together by end of summer. This is one of the newest buildings to be added on the block for quite some time so it will be interesting to see how it blends in (Landmarks approved it, so it should be good). See the original sketch in our past post: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

☞ DRINK: What's Up with Bier International?

Seeing that it's the end of May, many folks are wondering what's going on with the new beer garden set to open on 113th Street and FDB/8th Avenue. Some have commented on how work has seemed to have stopped in the past month on Bier International, and the facade photo from this week doesn't show much progress on the outside. Harlem Bespoke was informed in the middle of April that the DOB was about to sign off on some major plumbing and electrical work permits and that things were coming along.

When we past the storefront on this recent venture, there was some activity inside but it was apparent that all the infrastructure work was still at hand since the wall beams and ceilings were exposed. The end goal is to be ready for the World Cup games that will be happening in the next couple of weeks so let's hope all the permit stuff finishes up quickly. With its great location, and (ideally) affordable fare, this one looks like it will be flirting with success once they get their doors open. See the final design of the space in our original post: LINK. Current photo by Ulysses

☞ Tour: Harlem's Uptown Bike Lanes

We often rent out bikes to ride along Riverside Park but this week's New York Times article on extended lanes in East Harlem had us wondering what are the main paths in Harlem? The above photos show the wide paths from West 96th to the more rural looking sections underneath the George Washington Bridge at West 178th Street (that's the Little Red Lighthouse). This park path is fine for a leisurely weekend but what are the options for serious commuter in Harlem?

Looking at the NYC bike map, there only seems to be a couple of main avenues for most cycle enthusiast. FDB/8th Avenue is the main course to take from 110th Street to 120th at which St. Nicholas Avenue becomes the main path (all the way up to Washington Heights). For east to west connections, 119th and 120th Street is apparently the way to go. East Harlem's north to south bike course adjoins to the Upper East Side along 1st Avenue. The NY Times article confirms that another course along 2nd Avenue is forthcoming and the city has the eventual goal of connecting both east side avenues to Houston Street: LINK. View the NYC bike map: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

☞ SEE: Through the Night Extended Shows

Those who missed Daniel Beaty's last performance of Through the Night at the Riverside Church Theatre last Sunday can catch extended showings in the first week of June. Back by popular demand, four more performances have been added: Sunday, June 6th, at 3:00 PM and 7:30 PM, Monday, June 7th at 7:30 PM and Tuesday June 8th at 7:30 PM.

Through the Night addresses subjects that concern the African-American community specifically and all people generally. In the play, characters face a wide range of issues that include family relationships, fatherhood, economic stability, health and wellness, incarceration, youth violence, activism, education, sexuality and religion.

The Riverside Church Theatre is at 91 Claremont Avenue and 122nd Street. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for senior/student tickets. Tel. 212.870.6784. Take the 1 Train to 116th Street and walk west to Claremont Avenue. Go to the website for more on schedule and to buy tickets: LINK. Photo by Sherry Rubel

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: 405-407 Lenox Circa 1938

The little semi-detached house at 405 Lenox Avenue and 130th Street (lower photo, looking south) always had us wondering what was originally at the lot next door. The top photo (looking north), taken somewhere around 1938, shows that there was a mirror image house on the lot which would have been number 407. The remaining building is now a church and the lot next door is just used as parking. Note that in the modern day photo, the building is missing the original wooden porch and oriel windows directly above it. The buildings on this west side of Lenox were always kind of interesting because of their low scale in comparison to the taller apartment complexes that populate this section north of 125th Street. The closest train to this location is the 2,3 at 125th Street. Archival photo courtesy NYPL. Currrent photo by Ulysses

☞ DWELL: 528 West 142nd Street in Contract

Just across the street from yesterday's souped-up townhouse is a vacant 7 unit building that just went into contract. Number 528 West 142nd Street is a 20 foot wide, legal 7 unit building with a lot of original details but in a pretty sad state. There's 3,600 square foot overall and the asking price was at $899K. The property, listed in May 2009, never had a price cut and went into contract this past April. The area still is up and coming and the house will take a lot of effort to change into a desirable configuration. Did anyone get a look at this place? The closest train to this location is the 1 at 145th Street.

☞ READ: City Sues Brownstone Owner for Neglect

We were happy to see number 245 Lenox Avenue with all the scaffolding work removed, along with having a new brownstone surface (yes, it's basically troweled on cement & sand to look like brownstone) but the neglect of the next door building (at left) is really infuriating to see in this landmark district. This reminds us of today's Daily News report on how one Cobble Hill Brooklyn brownstone owner was successfully sued by the city to fix up the house in the historic neighborhood.

The DOB and Landmarks Commission just won the case against the property owner who has left his historic brownstone in derelict condition for the past 10 years. Now there's a 10 month timeline to finish the job or there will be fines of $1,000 for each day that the building has passed its deadline. Has this type of case ever been tried in the Mount Morris Park Historic District? This corner of 122nd Street and the buildings by Settepani at 120th Street are ones that come to mind on properties that need the city's intervention to get back into shape. What's the point of a landmark designation if the city does not chase after property owners that refuse to maintain their buildings? Read more in the Daily News: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

☞ SHOP: Lee Lee's Bakery to Close Next Week?

Lee Lee' Bakery in South Harlem has been reported to be closing at the end of the month. A reader informed us that Mr. Lee's business is down drastically and that the baker of one of New York City's best rugelach will shutter his doors after this coming Monday. So what should be done in this situation? The suggestion at hand is that folks who don't want to see one of the best baker that we have uptown go out of business should head on down FDB and 118th Street and start making some big orders! The shop is not open in the early morning so come by in the early afternoon and tell Mr. Lee to hang in there and show your support. Lee Lee's Bakery is at 283 West 118th Street, between Frederick Douglass Boulevard (8th Avenue) and St. Nicholas Avenue. Tel. 917-493-6633. The closest subway is the B,C or 2,3 at 116th Street. Photo by Ulysses

☞ EAT: 5 & Diamond Serves Portuguese Brunch

The new Ryan Skeen restaurant in South Harlem will now be serving a Portuguese style brunch. New York Magazine reports that 5 & Diamond will finally open its doors on Saturday afternoons and will offer a brunch which includes Portuguese Sweet Bread and Butter, Grilled Piri Piri Shrimp, Oven-Baked eggs & Chorizo, Seafood Turnovers and a Pork & Clams dish. Read more about it in New York Magazine: LINK. 5 & Diamond is at 2072 FDB/8th Avenue, between 112th and 113th Street, and the nearest subway is the B,C at 116th Street.Photo by Hannah Whitaker

☞ LISTEN: Asako Takasaki at Shrine

Thursday, May 27th, 6:00 PM at Shrine. Quirky Japanese jazz vocalist Asako Takasaki performs early Thursday evening with Tadataka Unno at the piano. Come for the after work drinks and check out Harlem's best venue for new and international talent! Shrine is at 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue), between 133rd and 134th Street. Tel.(212) 690-7807. Take the 2,3 train to 135th Street.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: 124th and Hancock Circa 1927

The small, triangular island at Hancock Place and West 124th Street has always been used for a gas station but the 1927 photo shows quite a different structure in the earlier days than the one most are familiar with today. Instead of the minimal, triangular brick building, the early station was a circular affair with the white doric columns of a Greek temple supporting the decorative roof. Above a substantial, dental cornice was also a sign that read "BANG" from this particular vantage point and consisted of those fancy bulb lights that most associate with old Broadway signage.

By the 1930's, this station would be replaced by an Art Deco Shell station that had the exterior lined with ceramic tiles. That station would also eventually be demolished and the smaller, nondescript model would replace the more intricate version in modern times. Also note the buildings behind the station would too be torn down and replaced by some major housing projects. Archival photo courtesy NYPL. Current photo by Ulysses.

☞ DWELL: 527 West 142nd Street Townhouse

Another 20 foot wide townhouse on the market is up in Hamilton Heights. Number 527 West 142nd Street is located somewhere mid block, between Broadway and Hamilton Place and just was listed this week with the asking price of $2.3 million. This one looks like it has been really fixed up and has that Upper East Side decorator feel to it. There's four bedrooms, 3 baths and apparently over 4,250 square feet of living space. This is not in the landmark district but the block is relatively peaceful especially since it is basically next door to the Friary. The last point of interest would be the Koi pond out in the back yard of this single family home. The section of Broadway to the west of the townhouse is still up and coming, so one will have to travel for their shopping and dining needs. The 1 train at 145th Street is the closest subway to this location. More details here: LINK.

☞ BESPOKE: Etched Brownstone Glass Doors

There's not much etched glass to be found in Manhattan these days and the house at 139 West 120th Street might be one of the few examples of this custom art. Two large, decorative, Art Nouveaux letter B's can be found etched on the glass doorway of the house located just east of ACP/7th Avenue. The only information we have found on the building is that it is a rental and not much else. Does anyone know how old these doors are or if the windows were added in recent years? Also, what do those letters stand for? Photo by Ulysses

☞ SHOP: The New La Marqueta to Open in July?

New York Magazine reports on the farmer's market food truck that is set to launch their offerings at the new and improved La Marqueta on July 1st. A 32 year old banker and his cousin decided to get a truck to sell produce and meats from their family farm (which has been around since the 1760's) and to circumvent all the paperwork that one usually has to go through to get set up in the city's regular farmer's markets. They also just got approval for accepting food stamps so the community at large will be able to benefit from the regionally grown goods.

As far as La Marqueta is concerned, there's been talk of reviving the market that sits under the Metro North tracks in East Harlem and it seems like there's some activity at hand. Last year, there was a lot of news about setting up bakery shops inside the formerly popular local market on Park Avenue, between 111th and 116th Street. There hasn't been much said about it since then, so this bit of new information is encouraging. Fortunately, things seem to be a go at this point and a farmers market will be part of the big picture for the new La Marqueta. Read more about the farm truck in the New York Magazine article: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

☞ WALK: 272-278 Manhattan Avenue

The blocked-up prewar elevator building off of Manhattan Avenue, between 111th and 112th Street always had us wondering what was going on? The prewar apartments, which is apparently owned by HPD, is not boarded up at the lower level but the top section has cinder blocks sealing them off. It's quite a large building with lovely details and the location faces Morningside Park. So why hasn't it been renovated or sold? Anyone out there know the history ? The closest subway to this location is the B,C at 110th Street. Photo by Ulysses

☞ READ: L-Hostel Shuts Down Permanently

The Real Deal has reported that L-Hostel, at 1961 ACP/7th Avenue and 118th Street, will not open its doors again in the future. Last month, the Department of Buildings shut down the business for building violations and now it seems that those issues can not be resolved. To make the matters even more complicated, the real estate company that represented the building, when it was originally marketed as Lotta Condominiums, is now suing the owners for up to $150,000 in unpaid advertising bills and services. Part of this sum also included a reported $50,000 "break-up fee" which would penalize the developer if they decided to walk away from the condo deal. So, maybe it's time to change it back to a condo development? Read more about it in the Real Deal: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

Monday, May 24, 2010

☞ DWELL: 252 West 139th Street in Contract

Strivers Row is back in the news since number 252 West 139th, between FDB/8th Avenue and ACP/7th Avenue, is another one of those houses asking for $2 million and has recently gone into contract (as of this past April). The semi-detached, corner building has been on the market for over two years and originally started at the asking price of $2.7 million back in 2008. The 20 foot wide, 4,480 square foot home is currently used as single family house but has a legal C of O for a two family residence. There's some original details, 5 working fireplaces, 5 bedrooms, an upgraded kitchen and newish 3 baths, along with a garage out back (last photo). Location wise, it's on one of the landmark blocks of Strivers Row and most folks seem to appreciate the historic nature of the nabe. There's not much to do in this section of town but having a car in the garage would solve that particular problem. Thoughts? House photo by Ulysses

☞ REVIVE: Mart 125 Closer to Development

Ever since the city proposed to develop the decrepit Mart 125 space as the new location for the National Jazz Museum a couple of years ago, nothing much has been going on. Today, Crain's reports that the next step for the two-story, former street vendor space on the north side of 125th Street (between FDB and ACP), is to have developers come up with proposals for the possible 67,000 square foot building which would also include the ImageNation Theater, a cafe and retail space on the ground floor. The old structure would basically be torn down and a building roughly six times its height will take its place. It's unclear why it has taken two years to put out the offer to developers but we are crossing our fingers that 2010 will be the next big year for 125th Street. All submissions are due on July 30th. Read more in today's Crain's: LINK.

Read the NY Times article from 2008: LINK.

☞ READ: Harlem Churches Struggle to Stay Open

Today's New York Times article on how some smaller churches in Harlem struggle to stay open because of dwindling numbers covers many topics including gentrification, long-time residents selling their brownstones and moving to the south, along with the fact that older members are passing away. The one thing it does not really touch upon is that the newer generations of New Yorkers might not be as religious as their parents. If anything, the population of Harlem (since 2000) is growing for the first time in over four decades so there is a potential for growth if the new arrivals were so inclined to go to religious services. So what is the problem? Read more in today's NY Times: LINK. Photo courtesy of Ozier Muhammad

☞ BESPOKE: Black Fashion Museum Collection

Harlem Bespoke had the story on Harlem's lost Black Fashion Museum this past April and the fate of the historic African American designer collections was unclear until the Washington Post shed some light on it this past Sunday. Ms. Lois Alexander Lane's lifetime dream founded the museum in a brownstone on East 126th Street (between Lenox and ACP) but her death in 2007 left an uncertain future for the collection that documented the great works of African American dressmakers of the past century.

It turns out that Ms. Lane's daughter saved the collection by donating it to the Smithsonian institute and now the modest local museum's works will be on a world stage at the new National Museum of African History and Culture in Washington D.C. (set to open in 2015). One of the great pieces from the collection includes a the circa 1900 opera coat in the above photo which was designed by former slave, Louvenia Price. See the full slide show at the Washington Post site: LINK. For those not familiar with newly planned museum to be added to the National Mall in Washington, check out last year's NY Times article: LINK

☞ SEE: The Dalai Lama At St. John the Divine

Many might have noticed the traditionally garbed, Asian tourist on the trains this weekend and we originally thought it had something to do with Asian Heritage Month (this May). As it turns out, this past Sunday, the Dalai Lama spoke to a sold out audience at Morningside Height's St. John the Divine. The event had the likes of Richard Gere and Naomi Watts visiting the uptown nabe in support of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. This follows an appearance on Friday at Radio City Music Hall of which photos can be seen at the Dalai Lama website: LINK. For more details of the New York visit and photos at St. John the Divine, check out the Associated Press article: LINK

Sunday, May 23, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: 126th and Madison Circa 1928

There's an open lot on the east side of Madison Avenue, just a half block north of 125th Street, that had us wondering what was there in a previous life. The impression of a mansard roof can be found on the side of the next brownstone building at this location and we eventually found the archival photo which shows the original wood frame house circa 1928. The lower floors of the building had signage set up for a jewelry store and that's really all the info we have on the lost structure. The exposed building impression (lower photo) looks relatively fresh but we don't quite remember it being torn down in recent years. Is there anyone out there who has a little history on this one? Archival photo courtesy NYPL. Current photo by Ulysses