Thursday, September 30, 2010

☞ DWELL: 415 West 150th Street Condominium

Walking by the new construction at 415 West 150th Street (between Convent and St. Nicholas Avenue) always had us wondering what was going on with the building.  Based on Streeteasy, it appears that there were condos for sale back in April 2009 but that tough year saw no action for this building: LINK.  There appears to be one current rental listing but not much else going on so it's probably all rental at this point.  A recent listing for the ground floor retail space mentions that the building is 90% occupied: LINK. Has anyone seen these apartments?  We kind of think that the bathroom looks like a good mix of old and new with the subway tile and black marble accents.   The area right by Sugar Hill in Hamilton Heights is pretty well kept and less than 4 blocks away from the B,C entrance at 146th Street. Other than that, there's nothing really fancy going on in the immediate neighborhood.

☞ WALK: West Harlem's Vinegar Hill

When one searches for references on Vinegar Hill, the micro nabe of Brooklyn pops up so it's often difficult to try to find the origins of the West Harlem neighborhood of that name.  The first clue of the Harlem neighborhood's border can be found on the sign at 135th Street and Amsterdam which has Vinegar Hill Corner marked on it.  Then there's the recently closed Vinegar Hill bread market at Broadway and 137th along with the landmark Ladder 23 Vinegar Hill firehouse at 139th Street and Amsterdam.  Community Board 9 describes Vinegar Hill as the northeast section of Manhattanville so we are gathering that the mid West 130's, east of Broadway and bordered by City College and Amsterdam (at the top of St. Nicholas Park) is the general area since it's basically a great hill.  We came across a Vinegar Hill blog from an old resident who grew up in the area back in the 1950's and the neighborhood name was attributed to a popular Irish bar in the area: LINK.  Does anyone remember where this bar was located at or have any other information about the neighborhood's origins?

☞ READ: The Business of Gospel Sundays

There's a recent Slate article that breaks down the origins of the Gospel tourist trade in Harlem and how it all got started.  About 60 of Harlem's 338 Churchs do some major business with mainly European money ever since local officials figured out they could promote the energetic church services in all the NYC tour books back in the 1980's.  One baptist church that was featured by the New York Time in 1996 attracted over 300 tourist every Sunday from Brazil but when that country's economy faltered a decade ago, the financial gains were no longer seen at the dwindling Sunday services.  Now that the $900-$1,500 additional weekly income from the tourist trade has diminished, that said church has now filed for bankruptcy.

Additional notable mentions include the fact that church service is a seriously formal affair in Harlem and sightseeing tourists in their weekend casual shorts and flip flops are not permitted in houses of worship. Nevertheless, one parishioner mentioned that he felt that "It's like you're going through a safari, and we're the animals as you are on the bus riding by, pointing at the zebras."  Read more in the Slate article: LINK

☞ SEE: Home Design in New York at MCNY

Saturday, October 2nd, 1:00 PM – 5:30 PM, Home Design in New York at the Museum of the City of New York.  The Museum's fourth annual event exploring residential design will examine some of the city's great residential spaces. Sponsored by and presented in partnership with the New York School of Interior Design and Taconic Builders. Cocktail reception to follow.

Participants will include interior designers Jeffrey Bilhuber, Albert Hadley, Jayne and Joan Michaels, Amy Lau, along with James Zemaitis, VP, 20th Century Decorative Art & Design at Sotheby's.

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED: $25 Museum members, seniors, and students, $35 general public. For more information, call 917.492.3395. Buy tickets on line: The Museum of the City of New York, located in East Harlem, 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.

☞ INTRODUCING: The New Dinosaur BBQ Opens

The September deadline to open the new Dinosaur Bar-B-Que at 700 West 125th was met last night at a celebratory party where food and drink flowed freely. Originally opened in 2004 at 131st Street and 12th Avenue, Harlem's arguably best barbeque joint has been planning to move their entire operation a couple of blocks south at another abandoned warehouse for some time to make way for Columbia's Manhattanville campus construction. After a years delay, the switch finally happened last night and the restaurant will be serving the public starting today.

At last night's party, guests were treated with old fashion hospitality and a preview of the new signature space at a more prominent intersection of 12th Avenue. All of the roadhouse charms are still intact within building with exposed red brick walls, vintage artwork and industrial lighting. A live band on a concert stage that is unique to new space kept folks happy along with buckets of beer and BBQ stations that had prep chefs on hand to customize orders. Founder John Stage was also making the rounds with interviews and greeting revelers in a casual plaid shirt (last photo). This location is closer to the 1 train at 125th Street or the BX15 Bus stop so we expect even greater success for these guys. Well done!  For more information call the restaurant at: Tel 212.694.1777.  Read all about the one and only Dinosaur BBQ in our past post: LINK.  More photos will be loaded on the Harlem Bespoke Facebook site: LINK

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

☞ DWELL: 116 West 118th Street Townhouse

Up on the market since last month, the townhouse at 116 West 118th Street has some great details inside and out.  The 20 foot wide, limestone building is divided up into a 3-family SRO layout and has about 5,200 square foot total.  An initial asking price is about $1.4 million but what's unclear is the condition of the kitchens and bathrooms.  Seeing that there are not any photos to be had, they probably need some work. Location wise, the block is tree-lined and is nicely intact with an array of barrel front brownstones. Although technically not part of the Mt. Morris Park Historic District, this particular block is just on the perimeter and the housing stock is comparable to the landmark areas. The 2,3 express in only 2 blocks away at 116th Street and some great cafes are just around the corner. Has anyone seen the rest of this house?

☞ EAT: Taco Truck Arrives on West 125th Street

In the past, we mentioned the lack of good food trucks around Harlem except for a notable taco truck in East Harlem: LINK.  When going to other parts of the city, one can find novelty food trucks doing major business and now it looks like one of the Mexican ones have headed further west in Harlem.  The above taco truck was seen parked at West 125th Street, between Morningside Avenue and Manhattan Avenue this morning.  We haven't really seen one before this close to Central Harlem and tacos look like they are going for around $2.50 each (click image to enlarge). Anyways, if you are the area, check it out.

☞ REVIVE: 651 St. Nicholas Avenue

When following up on the Harlem School of the Arts building restoration, we walked a block up north to see if anything was going with lot at 651 St. Nicholas Avenue.  A reader mentioned that there was a For Sale sign at some point over in the summer (middle photo) but walking by this time around, we noticed that the sign was taken down.  This is the wide parcel before the old gas station building at this section of St. Nicholas Avenue and roughly 143rd Street.  Does anyone know what's going on with this property?  It seem like a lot of vacant space to be sitting around that could be put to good use.

☞ INTRODUCING: The HSA Facade Restoration

The scaffolding up on the front of the Harlem School of the Arts finally went down in the past month and the Harlem arts institution is once more back in business.  There was a point in time this past spring that we didn't think that the building at 645 St. Nicholas Avenue would finish up since the news came out of a permanent closing because of financial mismanagement.  Thankfully, the media, local officials, charitable groups and a notable singer stepped in to save the day: LINK. For more information on classes at the Harlem School of the Arts, check out their website:

☞ LISTEN: Garden Grooves in East Harlem

Thursday, September 30th, 7:00 PM at the Target East Harlem Community Garden. New York Restoration Project (NYRP) will be transforming the Target East Harlem Community Garden into a live performance space and vibrant sounds of pop, rock and hip hop will fill the garden’s intimate setting.

NYRP presents Garden Grooves, a two-part outdoor concert series at community gardens in Manhattan and Brooklyn. These free musical performances will feature a superlative stream of local artists bringing newfound musical glory to NYC’s neighborhood green spaces.

The Target East Harlem Community Garden is located at 415-417 East 117th Street, between First and Pleasant Avenues. Take the 6 Train to 116th Street and walk Northeast to Pleasant Avenue and 117th Street.

☞ PROTECT: Six To Celebrate

The Historic Districts Council recently announced a new annual advocacy program, “Six to Celebrate.”

Each year, HDC will solicit submissions from neighborhood groups and individuals that feel their neighborhoods are worthy of preservation. The purpose of this program is to provide strategic help to the chosen neighborhood groups at a critical moment so that they can reach their preservation goals. The program will help local residents learn to use tools such as documentation, research, zoning, landmarking, publicity, and publications to advance a local preservation campaign. The selected groups will receive HDC’s hands-on help strategizing and implementing all aspects of their efforts.

From their long experience helping neighborhoods campaign for preservation attention, HDC will coach neighborhood leaders on:

• how to establish defensible district boundaries that recognize a neighborhood’s special character
• how to involve other community members
• how to formulate an argument for preservation and present their case convincingly
• how to create campaign goals and make plans to meet them

A word about eligibility: the neighborhoods submitted for consideration must be distinct areas - not individual parks or structures. They must be located in New York City, and be architecturally, historically or culturally significant. Both organized groups and individuals may apply. Deadline for nominations is November 1st and the “Six to Celebrate” will be announced in early 2011, as part of HDC’s 40th Birthday celebration.  Get more information, applications and contact info on the HDC website: LINK

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

☞ DWELL: 236 East 111th Street Townhouse

On and off the market since 2007, the East Harlem farmhouse-church-condo conversion at 236 East 111th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenue) had been trying to sell one of its 2 duplex apartments initially in around the $2 million range.  Now after several price chops (and no sale of the one unit), the entire 4,965 square foot designer house is being offered for asking price of $2.545 million. There's 7 rooms, 3 bedrooms and 4 baths with total common charges of $1,000 per month. The 4,6 train at 110th Street and Lexington is less than 2 blocks away east.  This is a pretty unique space and the asking price is one of the highest ones in all of Harlem.

☞ INTRODUCING: Convent on Convent Progress

The new modern Convent on Convent Avenue and 150th Street has been make progress since it started construction in the past year. The top photo shows the frame of the building going up back in April and the 2nd image is the building's state in the past month.  The brickwork and the windows seem to be all in place and the the only thing missing is the trellis tower that will top off the corner of the building.  The Convent Avenue side of the new construction has a lower level strucuture that lines up nicely with an existing neighbor (last photo). Check out our past post for more information and final design sketches with roof gardens: LINK

☞ WALK: South Harlem

We have heard the saying "below 125th Street" many times by mid 2000 but when did the name South Harlem come into play recently? The Central Harlem southern neighborhood is bound by Morningside Avenue at the westside, 5th Avenue on the east and 110th Street at the border of Central Park North. So the big question is who came up with the region's moniker of South Harlem or its shorten form SoHa? The condo building SoHa 118, which was constructed in 2007, was named in relation to its location and the above map of hot spots in South Harlem was also published that year: LINK.

Probably the oldest existing establishment with the label is Max SoHa at Amsterdam and 123rd Street so we looked for more information on when the restaurant actually opened. A New York Times article featuring the debut of the restaurant back in 2001 explains that the owner chose the name because of its location in South Harlem or SoHa for short: LINK. We are not sure if the restaurant was first to come up with the term but if one looks at the neighborhood maps, the eatery's location is actually a hair on the Manhattanville side of "below 125th Street.": LINK

☞ REVIVE: The New 124th Street ConEd

Seeing that the ConEd building on West 125th Street is currently under demolition for the New Harlem Success Academy, one might wonder where are folks paying their bills?  Walking by the old Oswald Supply Company warehouse at 116-120 East 124th Street, we noticed that that the formerly abandoned building received a scrub down of its hand painted signage.  ConEd has since moved into large building east of the tracks on Park Avenue and we were pleasantly surprised that they chose this site to relocate to. One can still see some remnants of the old painted lettering above the lower floor windows but not much is left to intimate the original use of the structure.  Read more about what's happening to the other building in our past post: LINK

☞ READ: Harlem Tailor Seeks Apprentices

There's a great article in DNAinfo that recently talks to 84 year old Harlem tailor Marion Anderson on his search to pass on his skills to young men in the neighborhood: LINK. We first noticed the Manhattanville Needle Trade School at 419 West 141st Street (between St. Nicholas and Hamilton Terrace) when taking photographs of the charming brownstones facing the park (top photo).  It turn's out that Mr. Anderson teaches his trade at the ground floor of the brownstone that he owns and he now wants to end the sagging pant trend by teaching young men the right way to contstruct, tailor and fit pants.

The Daily News also had a story on the Harlem tailor's search for a half dozen apprentices but the search  is still ongoing.  After approaching a group of young men out on the streets with the said saggy pant syndrome and offering up free courses, he has yet to hear from any of them back.  If anyone knows of young men out there between the ages of 17 and 25, call (212) 283-4615 to get them started.  Read more in the Daily News: LINK.  Photograph of Marion Anderson courtesy of Jeff Mays

Monday, September 27, 2010

☞ DWELL: 265 West 113th Street Sold in June

The townhouse at 265 West 113th Street (between FDB/8th and ACP/7th) sold back in June for $963,538 in a possible behind doors deal.  We hadn't seen any ads for the 18 foot wide, 3-family, 3,600 square foot, red brick building (at left) but it seemed like the previous owner was in the process of renovations since  the parlour floor was still boarded up until recently. The street location to lower FDB and the B,C train stop at 110th Street and Central Park probably made this one attractive to the new owners.

☞ SHOP: Marrone Bakery in East Harlem

We never really got a chance to duck into the Marrone and Son bakery on 324 East 116th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue, before it closed but the storefront that has been there since 1956 still stands.  There doesn't seem to be a lot of bakeries in town anymore that offer various kinds of fresh-baked breads (instead of cookies and cakes) and Marrone might do well these days since there are quite a few better restaurants that probably could use them as a wholesaler.  Word has it that they had great, brick oven-baked black olive loaf and prosciutto bread as part of the selection. This East Harlem institution was one out of four remaining shops that were still around today from the years when the neighborhood was mainly Italian.  Now there's only Rao's, Patsy's and Claudio's barber shop.  Get more details on the closing of Marrone back in 2007 from the New York Times: LINK.

☞ REVIVE: 313-315 West 125th Retailer Ready

One of the few cast iron buildings left on 125th Street seems to be getting a full restoration and gut renovation in hopes to attract a major commercial retailer.  We reported back in July that scaffolding was just coming up on 313-315 West 125th Street which is just west of St. Nicholas Avenue.  The 5-story building had cinder blocks in all the windows and appeared to be entirely abandoned.  DOB reports show that the first two floors will be combined into one level with dramatically high ceilings and we were wondering if the conversion was related to a particular tenant.  As one can see at the lower photo, a sign has now been placed on the sidewalk shed advertising the availability of the retail space (click to enlarge).  Maybe this one is getting an extreme makeover to attract the right tenant seeing that other developers along 125th Street have now reported interest by big box retailers: LINK.

☞ READ: Langston Hughes House Back on Market

After disappearing off the market for a week, the Langston Hughes House at 20 East 127th Street is apparently back on the market as of September 22nd. Today's DNAinfo reports that the property (currently listed on the DOB site as SRO restricted and a C5 walk-up apartment) resolved the high tax issue at hand which was around $17,000 per year. Anything categorized with more than 4 units are basically a rooming house, SRO or apartment complex and taxed exponentially more than a typical brownstone.  Somehow the classification must have been changed recently.  The article also reveals that Mr. Hughes was not a renter at the house but actually bought the property with friends back in 1947. Read more in DNAinfo: LINK.  Check out our various past posts on this famous property: LINK

☞ WALK: The Mahatma Gandhi Peace Walk

Saturday, October 2nd, 11:00 AM at Marcus Garvey Park. The Mahatma Gandhi Health and Peace Walk aims to inspire people to follow his example and walk everyday to enhance their wellness, reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. While Mahatma Gandhi is universally admired for his belief and practice of non-violence, few know that Mahatma Gandhi had a habit of walking to maintain his health and he walked every day with his sons so that they could get their daily exercise. Bearing the slogan "In His Footsteps, For Your Health," the walk will take place in New York City's Marcus Garvey park between11:00 am and 12:00 noon this Saturday, October 2 which is Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. You can join the walk and the thoughts of the creator of this campaign, Rahul Sur, on the relevance of Gandhi's life in combating these growing public health problems of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. While the event is free online registration is required: LINK

Sunday, September 26, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: 141-145 East 103rd Street

The top photo circa 1931 shows the brownstones at 141-145 East 103rd Street (just west of Lexington) from the book When Harlem Was Jewish written by Jeffrey Gurock. As noted by the author, the sign just below the top floor reads "Workers! Your newspaper is the Morgen Freiheit." The sign over the door reads "Harlem Jewish Children's School, International Worker's Order."  The lower photo shows the same block today and one can see that number 141 was replaced by a low-level modern structure some times ago.  Otherwise, the pediment over the doorways of number 143 and 145 still exist today along with an added level on top of both buildings.  Current photo by Ulysses.