Tuesday, August 31, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: Jimmy's Chicken Shack circa 1940



When doing some research on 148th Street, we found an old photo from 1940 showing Jimmy's Chicken Shack which apparently was a famous eatery and jazz hangout in West Harlem. Besides a music group named after the lost Harlem establishment that shows up in searches, there wasn't a lot to go on except that it was Malcolm X's favorite restaurant. The middle photo shows St. Nicholas Avenue and the block south of 148th Street before the single level retail spaces found today were built on the eastside open lot. While searching on the westside, a telltale clue was left behind at 741-743 St. Nicholas Avenue. Above the greasy spoon Texas Star storefront, one can see the leftover sign bracket from the long gone Jimmy's (last photo). The first enlarged photo is a bit grainy but the number 743 (?) can barely be made out at the bottom of the sign. Anyone remember this place and when it closed? Archival photo courtesy NYPL.

☞ DWELL: 139 West 123rd Street Brownstone

The old mason's house (mason's crest is at the front awning) at 139 West 123rd Street, just West of Lenox has been up for sale this past year. The facade-intact, 3,565 square foot brownstone reaches the golden 20 foot wide front dimension and is not an SRO. The current asking is $725K for a house that is classed as an S5, 5-6 family building with commercial space but the interior is reportedly set up as a 4 family. Has anyone been inside this one? Apparently it is in habitable condition but the overall shape of the building looks like it definitely needs some upgrades. Location wise, the townhouse is just outside the historic district and a short couple of blocks away from the 2,3 express at 125th Street and better restaurants in the area.

☞ INTRODUCING: The Parc Standard Update

UPDATE: STREETEASY HAS 15 CLOSINGS LISTED BUT ONE OF THEM APPEARS TO BE THE ENTIRE BUILDING SUMMARY. When the 25 contracts were revealed for the Parc Standard in South Harlem ( at 2101 FDB/8th Avenue, between 113th and 114th Street) this past July, many were skeptical that they would indeed go through. Out of the new building's 28 units, the majority went into contract very quickly and Streeteasy now shows that 14 of those units have closed: LINK. Out of the sold condos, it appear that prices were reduced 3%-7% and the average selling price per square foot was in the mid $600-$700 range. Read the numerous comments that readers had on the subject of why these condos are selling (or not) in our past post and get more details: LINK. *Also, a reminder that User Names are a must if comments are to stay permanent to current threads.

☞ EAT: Inside Mi Mexico Lindo Bakery




We recently took an old Mexican American former schoolmate into the main bakery in East Harlem's growing Mexican cultural center in and around East 116th Street. Mi Mexico Lindo Bakery has a lot of old world charm with pastries, cream-filled donuts and breads filling up the windows and freshly displayed on baking racks in the small, somewhat shabby store. There's a window with a register in the back end, a beverage refrigerator in the corner and that's pretty much it. Shoppers just pick up a paper bag, some tongs and just pick what they want that's on display. This is probably one our favorite ethnic shops in East Harlem so check it out if you haven't seen it already. Mi Mexico Lindo Bakery is located at 2267 2nd Avenue, between 116th Street & 117th Street. Tel.(212) 996-5223. Take the 6 train to 116th Street to get this location. Photos by Ulysses

☞ WALK: The Mount Morris Park Historic District


There has been a lot of debate in the past on the borders of the the Mount Morris Park Historic District so we are also examining the map of the area and its proposed extension. The GRAY areas on the map are the official limits of the landmark district which start roughly at 119th Street at the south and borders 124th Street at the north. Lenox Avenue is the west border while Mount Morris Park West roughly borders the east.

The blue section indicates the area that extends west to ACP/7th Avenue which was recognized in the National Register of Historic places back in 1996. This designation does not have the protective element as an official New York City Landmark designation of which the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association has been trying to achieve for some time. Does anyone have updates on how that's coming along? Read more on the Historic District Council site: LINK

☞ SEE: Howard Bennett Courts in the WSJ


The Howard Bennett Playground, between 5th and Lenox Avenue on West 135th Street was featured in a Wall Street Journal short video on how various local tennis courts maintain their sites since the city lacks the resources in this area. The Riverside tennis courts have an association consisting of wealthier patrons that staff, upkeep and even provide gardening for the those courts. Harlem had a local youth tennis club activists securing funds for a new June 2011 renovation. Brooklyn, on the other hand, had a bunch of local enthusiast looking up self help videos on how to resurface tennis courts and did the work themselves.

Monday, August 30, 2010

☞ DWELL: 183 Lenox Avenue Sold in August

When the landmark, 19 foot wide, 4,139 square foot brownstone with a storefront at 183 Lenox and 119th Street went on the market six weeks ago, things looked pretty grim. The SRO building asking for $899K needed a lot of work and its status made the property available for cash buyers only. That buyer seems to have come along in a relatively short amount of time since the brownstone has been sold about a week ago (based on public records) for the price of $795K. Maybe the new owner can now get that great storefront up and going again. Who knew all cash buyers were still running around in this market? Photo by Ulysses

☞ REVIVE: Some Activity on Harlem Hyatt Site

A reader mentioned they saw some activity on the corner lot at 125th Street and Lenox Avenue this morning so we decided to take a look at the future home of the proposed Harlem Hyatt. Folks might remember that back in early June, the city's Economic Development Corporation voted to proceed with "$19.7 million in Recovery Zone Facility Bonds to assist in the development and construction of an approximately 100,000-square-foot hotel on a 32,500-square-foot vacant parcel of land located at 100 West 125th Street in Harlem." Based on the press release, the goal was to have ground breaking within 2010 and the project finished by 2012. More specifically, September was given as the exact timeline for things to start happening.

As far as what went on today, it doesn't seem like anything major since work permits are not up on the DOB site for 100 West 125th (AKA 293-297 Lenox). There was a car, a small truck and the larger one seen in the photo (which was connected to a narrow hose leading into the sidewalk). The crew is digging around currently on the grounds but nothing is happening that apparently requires a permit. Emmitt Smith's $80.6 million hotel would be a great boon to the 125th Street corridor but many are hesitant to believe that it will happen until the structure actually starts rising. Read the official press release from June: LINK. See what Harlem had to say in our original post on the announcement: LINK.

☞ EAT: Doug E.'s Chicken and Waffles Update



A reader mentioned last week that they saw some activity at the long delayed Doug E.'s Chicken and Waffles at 132nd Street and ACP/7th Avenue and we walked by to see if there was any activity to the celebrity eatery. The shutters were partially opened as can be seen in the top photo and a couple of workers were active on the inside. In comparison to recently closed wing shops down on lower FDB/8th Avenue (Just Wingin' It and Atomic Wings), Doug E. Fresh has name recognition and an undeveloped area of Central Harlem to give the new business a push when it does open. For longevity, the food will eventually be what keeps bringing folks in so were are hoping for a great spin on this Harlem original southern fare. Anyone have tips on when to expect an opening? All photos by Ulysses

☞ INTRODUCING: 361 West 125th Street Addition



Scaffolding went up over the building at 361 West 125th Street (just west of St. Nicholas Avenue) at the end of 2009 and the 2 floor addition just recently finished up work. The center photo shows that the facade detail on the new floors stayed true to the building's design but the original yellow brick color has now been replaced with a coat of orange paint. The building's cornice (lower photo) is also missing which could have been reused since the proportion at top did not change. This building is apparently belongs to the Harlem Commonwealth Council and the Figure Skating in Harlem organization: LINK

☞ SEE: Grant's Tomb Unicyclist Club in the Times

This past May, we had a quick write up about the monthly unicycle club meetings at Grant's Tomb and the New York Times recently featured the group in a short video documentary: LINK. This diverse members of enthusiast can be seen twice a month practicing their favorite mode of transportation at the historic site but some apparently use the single wheels for their daily commute. Read more about the New York Unicycle Club in our past post: LINK. Those who are interested in joining should check our club official site: www.NewYorkUnicycle.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: The Debutante Ball circa 1950



The above 1950 Life magazine photos of a cotillion in Harlem is a rare look at a society that vanished in the following decades along with an interior view of a once prominent building. Young ladies of distinguished backgrounds would be presented at a debutante ball dressed in the most formal of attire. This was also an important event for the young gentlemen of the upper class and they would be paired off with the ladies at the gala.

The other interesting point of reference is that this appears to be the Renaissance Ballroom in Central Harlem which is currently in a decayed state. The formal classical balconies and the layout look the same as the ones in the derelict photo of the box seats taken last year by Nathan Kensinger: LINK. The ballroom was prevented from being declared a landmark based on the understanding that a planned condo conversion would not happen quickly if that were to happen: LINK. That was three years ago and the decaying building still sits on the corner of 138th and ACP/7th Avenue waiting for the day that it will be restored.

☞ SEE: LOUIS - A Silent Film at the Apollo


UPDATE: THIS SHOWING APPARENTLY HAS BEEN SOLD OUT. The New York Times also had a review of the new silent film LOUIS that will be showing at the Apollo tomorrow night with Wynton Marsalis present to perform the music from the movie: LINK. We also found the above trailer and the film looks like a 1907 fantasy telling of how a young Louis Armstrong found his way to the Jazz Age in New Orleans. Tickets still can be bought for the one-night-only August 30th premier at the Apollo: LINK.

Friday, August 27, 2010

☞ DWELL: 156 West 132nd Street Townhouse




OPEN HOUSE: Sunday, August 29th, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM. There was a narrow open lot a couple of years back at 156 West 132nd Street, between ACP/7th and Lenox, but today, a new brownstone building sits on the formerly abandoned site. The new 3-story, 2,340 square foot townhouse is not entirely historically accurate but trying to get a 2-family building (two 2-bedroom duplexes) out of a 12 foot wide building must provided a lot of design challenges. The interior has pretty moderate grade finishes but actually done in a non offensive way. The only questionable design choice would be the exposed gas meters at the front and the less than accurate entrance door. Location wise, it's only 3 blocks to the Lenox 2,3 express train at 135th Street (as recently noted) but the block still has that one shell to the left side of the building. The asking price is currently at $999K. Thoughts?

☞ SEE: Around Harlem This Weekend



Friday, August 27th, 7:00 PM-8:30 PM, Jackie Robinson Park Bandshell - 148th Street & Bradhurst. Atoinette Montague will be performing this summers last FREE Jazzmobie event: LINK

Friday, August 27th, 8:00 PM-9:00 PM at Shrine, 2227 ACP/7th Avenue at 134th Street. Catch some Rock and Roots music from band Juneteenth at Harlem's top rotating music venue: LINK

Saturday, August 28th is also the day for Harlem Farmers Market. So make sure all you folks check out the Mount Morris Park Historic District Market at 124th and 5th Avenue, the Morningside Farmers Market (get local caught fish!) at 110th Street and Manhattan Avenue and the 145th Street Farmers Market at Jackie Robinson Park's south side.

Saturday, August 28th, 7:30 PM at Riverbank State Park, 145th Street and Riverside Drive. The last FREE performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth is on Saturday and the weather should be nice: LINK

Sunday, August 29th, 2:00 PM-4:00 PM, 110th Street Central Park North, between 5th and Lenox. Cuban salsa group Cocomama will be performing for FREE at the Harlem Meer: LINK

☞ REVIVE: HCZ to Restore Urban Renewal Block



Last in our series of posts on repairing Urban Renewal superblocks is actually a story that has been featured this past May: LINK. Basically, the New York Housing Authority is leasing out the land that is located in the middle of the St. Nicholas Houses of Central Harlem and repairing an existing street that was previously discontinued (top photo is looking west from 7th Avenue and 129th). The 4 block deep public housing projects span between ACP/7th Avenue and FDB/8th Avenue, from 127th to 131st Street. At the center, there still remains a remnant of 129th Street which ends in a cul-de-sac (click on map to enlarge). The red area on the lower map shows the parking lot that is currently blocking off the westend of 129th at this section of FDB.

So the big news is that the new $100 million HCZ building (shown in blue) will take over some unused green space and the city plans to reconstruct the balance of 129th Street. In doing so, NYCHA has given away land for new development and also started the process in restoring this part of the city grid that was lost decades ago. It's a small move, but a major first step in figuring out how to retrofit the failed Towers in the Park model of city planning. Read the rest of the series on retrofittng the city's housing projects: LINK. The largest retrofit development recently happened just south of Harlem: LINK

☞ SHOP: Boutique Hair Salon for 2220 FDB


With some of these smaller shops setting up new businesses, it's hard to tell if something interesting will showing up as was the case of 2220 FDB/8th Avenue and 120th Street: LINK. The question mark paper on the window was up for at least a year and it looked like a dead end retail opportunity until activity picked up in the last couple of months.

It now appears that a boutique salon is arriving on this corner of South Harlem. Walking by recently, a sign announcing the arrival of Bibi could be seen out front of the formerly questionable storefront. It actually makes a whole lot of sense since there aren't any contemporary hair salons for this part of town and the service is a definite must have. A website is currently up already for those interested: www.BibiSalonNYC.com

☞ EAT: Did 5 & Diamond Close Recently?

Walking by 5 & Diamond on recent nights, folks might assume that the restaurant has shuttered its doors since it has been locked up in the past week. The restaurant just north of 112th Street on FDB/8th Avenue was Harlem's first entry into the celebrity chef arena and now it seems that major changes are at hand. The sign posted on window states that the restaurant is currently under renovations and will be open again on August 27th (today). This might make better sense when reading the past EATER article on how founding chef Ryan Skeen is slowly fazing out of his partnership with the establishment: LINK. New York magazine reports that new chef David Santos has been introducing his own stamp to the restaurant recently and will be having a special tasting menu set up for 35 guest this coming Monday, August 30th, at $85 per person : LINK. Call for reservations to see what the new 5 & Diamond is all about: 646-684-4662. UPDATE: Yesterday, New York magazine just revealed David Santos is leaving 5 & Diamond: LINK

☞ READ: Bakeries Proceeding Under La Marqueta

Curbed just reported that the proposed shared bakery facilities under East Harlem's La Marqueta are still happening: LINK. Right now, this is the EDC plan to revitalize the majority empty stalls in the only building that is up and running along the Park Avenue tracks at 115th Street. There are few vendors up front in this space but the back end apparently is empty. This plan may be contradictory to the new La Marqueta Mile proposal since the bakeries are only for production and will interrupt the continuous, open air retail row that has been recently proposed for the length of 111th to 133rd Street: LINK. We reported on the bakery facility currently established on the eastside of La Marqueta this week and this is separate from the EDC plan to revive the tracks. The city's Economic Development Corporation basically owns La Marqueta so they will have the final say in the matter.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: 6 East 129th Street circa 1932


There's a large community garden just east of 5th Avenue at 129th Street and we found an old photo from 1932 that shows what was on the parcel of land previously. There apparently was a 5-story wood frame house with a mansard roof, built as a corner property on the plot next to the line of brownstones that mostly still exist today. Interestingly enough, there was also a curb cut at the time and some sort of formal parking arrangement next door. Many of these older homes that predate the brownstones did not make it past the 1940's but we just found a demolition permit from 1977 on the DOB site so maybe some folks remember this one? Archival photo courtesy NYPL.

☞ DWELL: 50 West 127th Street Condominiums

A reader pointed out the classic lines of the new construction called 50West in Central Harlem and we decided to take a closer look at this development. The 8-story, elevator building at 50 West 127th Street (between 5th and Lenox) has 23 units in all, a private gym and underground parking and looks like the vast majority of the building sold back in 2007. For the 3 condos left, 2010 apparently was a slow year since only 1 of those units went into contact after the price changed from $795K to $575K (plus common charges paid in full for one year). That would make the latest contract out at $448 per square foot. Those aforementioned common charges run from around $700 to the lower $1,000 range per month depending on the size of the unit. The construction appears top notch on this one and the overall aesthetic is contextual for a modern building but that pediment at the roof line looks slightly heavy-handed. The particular block is quiet enough and consist mostly of brownstones. Has anyone seen this one? Check out Streeteasy for more stats: LINK. Photo by Ulysses

☞ REVIVE: Manhattanville Demolition Up Close




For those who do not live in West Harlem, the whole new Columbia Manhattanville campus is quite confusing to figure out so we are taking a closer look at Phase 1 that is scheduled to finish in 2015. The first image is the architect's model plan of the new buildings to be built (looking north) in the industrial area of far west Manhattanville (which is bordered by the elevated 1 line on broadway at the eastside and the riverside viaduct at the westside). West 125th Street is the diagonal street at the lower section of the construction area.

The area between 129th and 130th, which has been shown in all the recent photographs (2nd photo down), is highlighted in green at the top model map (click to enlarge). The second photo shows the site looking westward from the elevated 1 subway tracks at Broadway. The furthest building under the dark scaffolding in the distance is the building right before the Tuck-it-Away facility at 12th Avenue (see 3rd photo down for street view). The building furthest west currently under demolition is marked in orange at the top map.

What's left of phase 1 is highlighted in yellow at the top map. The said Tuck-It-Away storage building is the small yellow wedge furthest to the left. The yellow wedge in front of the green demolition area is the Floridita building which also had a lot of controversy in recent years since that business was displaced (this is the low yellow structure with the striped awnings in the 2nd photo). The gas station in question of the the eminent domain hearings is the small triangle right in front of Floridita.

The three smaller buildings furthest south at bottom of the top map (facing 125th Street) consist of a line of low level commercial buildings and a McDonald's at the corner of Broadway. This corner land was negotiated so that a new school would be built for the community (which might be a charter). The last photo shows the current lot today from 125th Street looking south. Check out the diagram of phase 1 on the Columbia site: LINK. Phase 2 will be reviewed further next week. Model map courtesy of SOM and Jock Pottle.

☞ SEE: LOUIS Premiering at the Apollo

Monday, August 30th, 8:00 PM at the Apollo Theater. Don't miss out on the exclusive preview of LOUIS, which is a recent Hollywood film about the life of Jazz Age legend Louis Armstrong. This sure to be visually compelling movie is a mix of fact and fantasy with all 70 minutes presented as a silent film and Wynton Marsalis himself performing the live music at the event. The story is set in 1907 and the director wanted to explore not only the dawn of modern music but also the birth of moving pictures. Brilliant! Read more about LOUIS in the Wall Street Journal: LINK. Note this film has not been released yet and Harlem will get a preview of it for one night only. Tickets are $35 and $50, so reserve them now at the Apollo website: LINK

☞ LISTEN: Jazzmobile Featuring Cynthia Holiday

Thursday, August 26th, 7:00 PM-8:30 PM, 132nd Street between ACP/7th and Lenox Avenue. The 132nd Street Block Association hosts the second to last summer Jazzmobile performance tonight. The rain has gone away so don't miss out on one of the best FREE entertainment events in Harlem. www.Jazzmobile.org

☞ WALK: Hacia Afuera in East Harlem

FREE Outdoor Art & Music Festival (rain or shine), August 28 & 29 (Sat-Sun), 12:00-5:00 PM, 105 St & Lexington Avenue. ART FOR CHANGE presents Hacia Afuera, a weekend-long festival celebrating art, music, food, and performance. The festival will take place in Spanish Harlem’s streets and public community spaces and is being produced in partnership with local arts and social justice organizations. Taking Back Our Streets Through the Arts!

Outdoor Art Exhibition featuring art by: Patricia Cazorla & Nancy Saleme, Esperanza Cortes, Aissa Deebi, Roberto De Jesus, Laura F. Gibellini, Marissa A. GutiƩrrez-Vicario, Alejandro Endoke Makuendo Guzman, Gabriel Pacheco, Tara Parsons, Michael Pribich, Elisa Pritzker, Gabriel Reese

Live Performance* by: Camila Meza Trio, Genesis Be, George Trivino, La Bruja, Los Mas Valientes, The Stepkids

PLUS Storytelling by Bobby Gonzalez, Live Theater by Coatlicue Theater Company, Arts and Crafts for kids, Film Screenings, Drumming Workshop and food from local street vendors. artforchange.org

*Performances subject to change.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: 135th Street and Lenox circa 1941


The top vintage photo shows the southeast corner of Lenox and 135th Street circa 1941. One can make out the corner store called Cushman's along with the prewar buildings that used to line this particular block of Central Harlem. Also, at the far right, the original cast iron subway entrance for the 2,3 line can be found. The lower photo shows the corner today which is basically an open lot with some retail stores fronting the superblock of affordable housing called Lenox Terrace. The side steps to the Lincoln Theater building can be made out to the far left of both images but that building has been altered and is unrecognizable from its original appearance today: LINK. Archival photo courtesy of NYPL.