Friday, July 30, 2010

☞ SEE: Around Harlem This Weekend

Saturday, July 31st, all day. We are alway reminding folks to head out to the farmers markets on the weekend. So make sure to check them out and make a few purchases. There are some great vendors at the Mount Morris Park Historic District market at 124th Street and 5th Avenue. For those who want first pick of the produce and especially the flowers, head out early. The Morningside Farmer's Market is closer to FDB and folks further west can get an amazing selection of seasonal offerings along with amazing fresh local caught fish at this location at 110th Street and Manhattan Avenue.

East Harlem Cafe at 1651 Lexington (between 104th and 105th) is launching a range of latin inspired items on their menu with the dulce de leche muffin making its first appearance this weekend. The nearest subway to this location is the 6 train at 103rd Street.

Saturday, July 31st, 3:00 PM-4:30 PM, 139th Street, between FDB/8th and Edgcombe. The Jazz Mobile will make a stop at West 139th Street and will feature jazz pianist Barry Harris. Nearest subways are the A,B,C,D at 145th or the B,C at 135th.

Sunday, August 1st, 2:00 PM-4:00 PM, at the Harlem Meer. Sabor Brasil will perform at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center which is located inside Central Park at 110th Street between 5th and Lenox Avenues. Nearest subways are the 2,3 at 110th Street.

☞ DWELL: 30 West 120th Street Brownstone

OPEN HOUSE: Sunday, August 1st, by appointment only. There was a lot of conversation happening when 30 West 120th Street first went on the market in April for $3.45 million. July saw a price reduction set for the property on the south border of Marcus Garvey Park and the 18 foot wide, 5 bedrooms, 4 full and 2 half baths, 4668 square foot building (apparently single family home) with 4 wood-burning fireplaces and HVAC system is now being offered at $3.1 million. A reader mentioned that it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's property but we could only find Point Dana Trust from Long Beach California behind the paperwork. Thoughts on the new-and-improved asking? Has anyone seen Mr. Abdul- Jabar around the Mount Morris Park Historic District? Contact the broker to set the appointment up: 212.531.7710. Facade photo by Ulysses

☞ EXCERCISE: The Pool at Jackie Robinson Park

When the Colonial Park recreational pool was set up back in the 1930's, it became an oasis for city kids in the summer but that was not always the case. The park that spans the lower half of the promontory cliff of Edgecombe Avenue (from 145th to 155th Street), now known as Jackie Robinson Park, also went through some rough times as per one of our reader's comments:

"I lived a few blocks away from Colonial Park on w.145st between Broadway and Amsterdam and was in easy walking distance to this park and pool.

Unfortunately in the mid '60's and 70's this park was dangerous and we could not use this pool as kids were often jumped and robbed if we appeared not to be of the immediate neighborhood.

Instead we would travel up to Highbridge Park and Pool. At this time Washington Heights and the surrounding areas was beautifully maintained clean and safe. We would rather travel to Highbridge rather than go to Colonial which was sad as it was a beautiful pool and fairly well kept park.

I'm glad to see the park has been restored as it truly went down hill in the '70's."

The top photo shows the armory-like structure that fronts the pool and one can actually see the pool when walking by the south end (lower image). See the original history of the park in our past post: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

☞ DRINK: Bier International May Open in August

Bier International (at 113th Street and FDB/8th Avenue) has had everyone waiting since spring for the return of Harlem's first beer garden in decades but delays just seem to keep on slowing progress. When we walked by last night, there actually seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. All the drywall, air ducts, bar, floors, electrical and lighting looks like it's all in place (middle two photos) and the decorating part of space was well on its way with the hand-painted, multi-lingual drink graffiti.

The center current images show the beer hall part of the space which probably just needs furniture at this phase. The last photo provides a view of the other bar-half of the interior from last week (you can see the start of the flooring project at the lower right) and on the back wall, one can see a couple of horizontal strips of wood that is the start of the key decorative feature in that corner. Currently, these rustic wood strips now cover the whole portion of that said wall (compare to top sketch).

As for the opening date, the owners keep saying, "maybe next week" every time someone talks to them but seeing is believing. We're guessing having a nice cold one early August is very realistic at this point in time. Read all about Bier International in our past post: LINK. The nearest subway to this location is the B,C at 110th or 116th Street. We have been getting a lot of tips for this part of town recently so if readers feel their nabe is neglected or want their block reported on more often, send tips to: Current photo by Ulysses.

☞ REVIVE: What's Up with the 2049 FDB Shop?

We noticed another gutting of an old storefront on FDB/8th Avenue and 111th Street a week or so ago and several readers were quick to send in tips last night that some major construction was happening by early evening (the facade was being replaced and interior drywalls were going up). So what's going to take place of the former liquor store corner shop at 2049 FDB? Based on DOB records filed last month, a "check retail" business will be arriving soon. A reader found out, after talking to someone on site, that the bank started out in the Bronx and encourages clients to transition into having a bank account instead of basic weekly check cashing. At least it's not an empty liquor store anymore. Photo by Ulysses

☞ READ: Gospel Uptown Files for Bankruptcy

After being open only a little over a year, Crain's now reports that Gospel Uptown at ACP/7th Avenue (close to the corner of 126th Street) has filed for bankruptcy. The soul fusion restaurant also featured live jazz and was the newest business to arrive at the historic Alhambra Theatre building. More recently, the name of the establishment changed to the Uptown Grand. Read more details in the Crain's article (Harlem eatery praying for miracle after bankruptcy): LINK. Read more about the history of the Alhambra Theatre in our past post: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

Thursday, July 29, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: The Failure of The Radiant City

Most designers know Le Corbusier (last photo) for his iconic mid-century modern chairs (center), but few realize that the Swiss-Frenchman has had a wider impact on the design of New York City itself. What was a conceptual ideal that theoretically seemed innovative on paper soon was absorbed en masse by less creative government officials. From the Time 100 website, educator and architect Witold Rybczynski provides the modern insight on the outcome of this once hopeful plan:

"He called it La Ville Radieuse, the Radiant City. Despite the poetic title, his urban vision was authoritarian, inflexible and simplistic. Wherever it was tried — in Chandigarh by Le Corbusier himself or in Brasilia by his followers — it failed. Standardization proved inhuman and disorienting. The open spaces were inhospitable; the bureaucratically imposed plan, socially destructive. In the U.S., the Radiant City took the form of vast urban-renewal schemes and regimented public housing projects that damaged the urban fabric beyond repair. Today these megaprojects are being dismantled, as superblocks give way to rows of houses fronting streets and sidewalks. Downtowns have discovered that combining, not separating, different activities is the key to success. So is the presence of lively residential neighborhoods, old as well as new. Cities have learned that preserving history makes a lot more sense than starting from zero. It has been an expensive lesson, and not one that Le Corbusier intended, but it too is part of his legacy."

This does not mean that affordable housing is not relevant. The challenge today is how to reinvent the idea and come up with a plan that repairs the damage of the superblocks, which have destroyed many vibrant neighborhoods. Read more on the Time 100 website: LINK.

*This article was originally posted by Harlem Bespoke a year ago: LINK. Two methods of rectify "superblocks" of projects are starting to make their way into New York City. The most obvious one for smaller projects is basically demolition and then building new, community- friendly neighborhoods which has already started in Brooklyn: LINK. The next method is to mend the broken city street grid and "fill in" the empty spaces surrounding the project with mixed-use complexes and housing. We will have more on how the latter is happening in upper Manhattan and something minor that is currently planned for Central Harlem in future posts. The top sketch is not New York City, but Le Corbusier's 1925 plan to redesign Paris.

☞ DWELL: The Livmor Condominiums

The Livmor Condominiums are still just finishing up at 2131 FDB/8th Avenue (corner of 115th Street) and are around 60% sold in less than 3 months based on their website. A quick search does show at least 18 units are a done deal and 7 are currently in contract. The initial asking for roughly 820 square foot one-bedrooms, 1,300 square foot 2-bedrooms and 3,000 square foot 3-bedrooms were around $600 per square foot. Maintenance landed in around the $700-$900 per month range and units that have sold went for about $580 per square foot when all contracts had closed. Also, this is one of those church deals where the land was sold and a part of the development had to contain the new church inside the building.

So are these condos priced right and what is the main selling feature that's making them move? Location, quality or value? There's also the 3.5% down FHA approval and 25 year tax abatement which seems to be standard these days. Seeing that there are a lot of opinions out there, we will start looking closely at how condo developments are doing at least once a week. User names on comments, please. Facade photo by Ulysses. http//

☞ EAT: Manhattanville Brick Oven Pizza Eatery

The restaurant that took over the defunct 125 Stop restaurant (at 3143 Broadway) on the border of Manhattanville and Morningside Heights is coming along these days. The top photo shows the old lounge getting some truly gaudy yellow marble paneling removed and we noticed in recent weeks that the facade now has some rustic wood details added on. This section of West Harlem, just a couple of blocks south from the 125th Street elevated train station, is probably not going to sell on the glamour angle (the old paneled doors were in a bright brass finish) so rustic, old New York might be the better way to go. The lower photo shows the brick oven that was installed a couple of weeks back. Recently, the light fixtures and bar have been installed and furniture was seen being loaded into the space. At this rate, an early August opening should be at hand. Stay tuned. All photos by Ulysses

☞ FOCUS: User Names and Comments

This is just a reminder to type in a user name (initials, nickname, first name or last name) for comments to stay permanent on each post. As usual, avoid adding .com or other personal address links outside the URL address (which does not have to be filled out) and no form of soliciting is permitted. Article links are okay.

☞ READ: Wiring the WSJ Harlem Brownstone

We have been following Wall Street Journal writer Julia Angwin's home renovations since we noticed the dumpsters outside the building at West 123rd Street (on the brownstone block west of Morningside Park) back in February. The topic of the day that many don't even think about until the time comes around is the wiring of the interior space. Do houses still need phone jacks in each room? Are land lines still relevant? Then there's Wi-Fi,WiMax, Ethernet jacks, cable jacks and all sort of outlets most brownstones builders never thought of when they were constructed 100 years ago. What is standard these days for modern technology becomes a big question.

Even with all the updating going on in this townhouse on the border of Morningside Heights and the southern half of Central Harlem, Ms. Angwin and husband also seem to be hanging on to the past. The couple can't bear throwing out their 25 year old TV and then there's a severely out of date, oversized sectional couch that does not even fit in the parlor space (it was gift). Read more in the WSJ article and check out the controversial couch: LINK. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Taylor.

☞ SEE: Through the Night Takes Off-Broadway

Daniel Beaty's one-man show Through the Night recently had a sold out run at the Riverside Theatre and with that success, the producer is now moving the show Off-Broadway. Starting September 10, the production will head downtown to the Union Square Theater for an extended engagement. Check out our past posts on the recent performances and see what the New York Times had to say: LINK. Mr. Beaty will also perform one act at Riverside Theatre on August 9th to promote 50% discount pre-sale tickets. RSVP:

☞ SHOP: H&M 125th Street Grand Opening

Friday, July 30th, 10:00 AM, H&M at 125 West 125th Street. Just in case folks missed the link on Monday's H&M new building renovations story, there's going to be some grand opening giveaways this Friday. H&M Harlem will offer the first 200 shoppers in line an Access to Fashion Pass, valued from $10 to $300 and one will get an expert style consultation. The closest trains to this location are the 2,3 express at 125th Street. If you missed the story, see the before-and-after shots in our past post: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: Schinasi Factory Turns Charter

We learned from a member of our Facebook site that the old Schinasi Factory building in South Harlem will become a bilingual charter school this fall. Morris Schinasi built his Turkish cigar factory back in 1907 at 309-311 West 120th Street (just west of FDB/8th Avenue). The lower photo shows the building today which was until recently the Harbor Morningside Children's Center.

Apparently The New York French American Charter School is set to open in this space sometimes in September 2010 based on their site (they are also still accepting applications): LINK. The thing that was always strange about the modern facade alteration to this structure was the fact that the owners sealed off most of the windows. Maybe the new school will revert it back to the original plan for it would seem beneficial for school children to get some daylight. Read more about the former Harlem factory in our past post: LINK.  Archival photo via

☞ DWELL: The Eubie Blake House Sold Last July

The Eubie Blake House at 236 West 138th Street (between ACP and FDB) was under contract this time last year and we just found out what the Jazz Age legend's townhouse finally went for. Priced at $2.4 million in early 2009, the asking would quickly dip to $1.9 million when it was clear the market was weakening. The 21 foot wide, landmark 2-family home on Strivers Row would finally be sold for $1.692 million. Check out the above old New York magazine clip that we had on file which tours the house. Read more about Eubie Blake in our past post: LINK

☞ REVIVE: 2078-2080 FDB Condos Top Off

Started this past March, the mixed-income housing condos at 2079-2080 FDB/8th Avenue has topped off in the past few weeks and the facade work is currently speeding forward. Research from a reader provided some of the HPD stats for this particular building which doesn't seem to have a name yet:

"Site 2 is located at 2078-2080 Frederick Douglass Boulevard (Block 1828, Lots 63 and 64) between West 112th and 113th streets. The subject site, which consists of two city-owned lots, has approximately 4,850 square feet of lot area and is zoned R8A/C1-4...The proposed project will provide approximately 22 condominium units in a twelve-story elevator building. Four of the units will be affordable at 80% of the AMI. The project will include approximately 26,261 square feet of residential floor area, 2,893 square feet of commercial floor area and 1,000 square feet of open space. The commercial floor area will be located on the ground floor and the open space will be accessible through the second floor and roof top terraces."

The government thankfully is throwing out that old model of monolithic towers with no vibrant street life and structures that completely block the view of the sky. Most new tall constructions in low-rise neighborhoods are now required to have a "step-back" if the building goes above the roofline of the others in the surrounding area. Anyways, most can probably agree on the fact that this is a huge improvement from that open lot that use to stand in this part of town. See our past post on this location: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

☞ WALK: Garbage and Harlem Public Parks

Last week, a few readers brought up quality of life issues such as garbage in the parks. We are guessing this mainly concerns the clean-up after summer weekend BBQs since the typical day-to-day seems to be pretty manageable for the most part. The lower photos are of St. Nicholas Park's 135th Street Plaza and there was already clean up at 8:00 AM in the morning. Benches that surround the historic parks seem to also be an area that has cups, bags or newspaper left behind. Our usual rounds are during mid-day and the lawn and areas such as the pond at Morningside Park have actually been pretty clean this past year (we noticed persistent garbage around its perimeter last summer).

So what are readers' thoughts on the situation and which park specifically needs the most help? Marcus Garvey Park always looks especially pristine on visits (although top photo has one bag on the ground) but we are not really around the area in the late day. Morningside Park (2nd and 3rd from top) seems to have more garbage around benches on the northern perimeter, St. Nicholas Park always seems okay during the weekday and Jackie Robinson Park doesn't really have us raising any eyebrows. All photos by Ulysses

☞ EAT: El Paso Taqueria Opens New Takeout

There was a new, better sit-down-and-eat deli shop at the corner of 104th and Lexington that opened in spring (top photo) but now it seems like another place has taken the spot over. El Paso Taqueria (lower photo), which is directly across the street, seems to be expanding their empire now that they newly acquired this corner storefront as a takeout joint. They also have a small restaurant on 116th Street that is not quite as large as the flagship restaurant in this section of East Harlem. Glad to see that these guys are doing pretty well in these tough times. Also, the lower photo partially shows the big lot that currently has construction going on for that Glass Spire building: LINK. El Paso Taqueria to Go is at 1642 Lexington Avenue, Tel. 212.722.1113. Read all things El Paso Taqueria in our past posts: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

☞ SEE: Outdoor Family Movie at St. Nicholas Park

FREE EVENT: Thursday, July 29th, 8:30 PM, the 135th Street Great Lawn at St. Nicholas Park. Disney's The Princess and the Frog will be screening tomorrow night at the St. Nicholas Park Plaza right by West 135th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. The closest trains are the B,C which stop right in front of this location. Check out more details on the Friends of St. Nicholas Park site: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: The 145th Street Lutheran Church

The little Mt. Zion Lutheran Church that sits on the corner of Convent Avenue and 145th Street probably looks the same as it did 100 years ago. The only thing that changed in this landmark district was the name of the church which was originally the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew, which is shown in the top image form 1934 (looking east). It's old and has some funky yellow, chippy paint on the facade but this compact temple of worship really gets the imagination going every time we walk by this intersection. Archival photo by NYPL. Facade photo by Ulysses

☞ DWELL: 437 West 147th Street Townhouse

A Hamilton Heights townhouse on 437 West 147th Street that recently appeared on the market is one of those buildings on the skinny side but has some details to it. The building itself (at center left) is 13 foot wide but is apparently considered a 4-family dwelling and is asking for $1.2 million for 2,896 square foot of space. On the plus side, there's original woodwork galore and the backyard is in decent condition. The downside is that it's very narrow, doesn't have much going on around the immediate block and has a forgettable kitchen (no bath photos). Location wise, the townhouse is close enough to the 145th Street hub which has the A,B,C,D express trains and some emerging basic amenities. Coincidentally, the house fits the topic du jour since it too is currently being used as a B&B. Facade photo by Ulysses

☞ REVIVE: Replacing Facade Ornamentation

We have been raving about 245 Lenox Avenue's facade restoration and the guys have really been detailed with the exterior ornamentation (last photo). The brick stack (at top) that was the base of the newels at the end of stoop also recently got stuccoed and detailed (middle). What's lucky about this situation is that the contractors had something to look at to duplicate the details but what if there aren't any references around?

A reader asked us recently is there a way to get a photo of one's house from 50+ years ago for a detail reference? Home renovators will be happy to hear that New York City keeps a tax photo record of all older homes, and photos can be retrieved from the 1940's and the 1980's. We would stick with getting the 1940's copy for the most accuracy. Small copies are $35 and larger sets are $50 (which might be better for detail). Check out the NYC Tax Photograph site here: LINK. Read more about 245 Lenox in our past post: LINK. Photos by Ulysses