Sunday, October 31, 2010

☞ WALK: Around Town this Weekend

It's perfect fall weather and folks have been really dressing up their homes and neighborhoods around Harlem.  The top photo shows the tree median decorations around the Mt. Morris Park neighborhood and the restaurant Il Caffe Latte's festive displays.  We just had a quick bite over in East Harlem and there's a Mexican Dia de los Muertos street fair that was just setting up east of Lexington on 116th (middle photos).  Brownstone owner love to decorate their stoops so its sort of a fun Holiday to check out how folks are celebrating.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

☞ EAT: Harlem Halloween & Restaurants

It's that time a year that even adults like to dress up and local restaurants have joined in the festivities at past events.  The lower photos are from Mojo at 185 Saint Nicholas Avenue (corner of West 119th Street) during their Halloween revelries last year.  Check out Mojo's Facebook site for more photos: LINK.

Tonight, Saturday, October 30th, Bier International will have their first Halloween celebration starting at 5:00 PM with a contest at 11:00 PM that gets the winner a free dinner. Bier International is located at 2099 FDB/8th Avenue and 113th Street.

☞ READ: Last Week's Most Viewed Posts

Last week's most viewed post ranking along with comment count. Frizzante seems to still be closed as of this weekend.

1. What's up with Frizzante? (12)
2. The 163 Lenox Reveal (7)
3. Cooking with Marcus Samuelsson (3)
4. Harlem Cyclist Fatally Doored (4)
5. Harry Houdini of Harlem

Friday, October 29, 2010

☞ DWELL: 430 West 147th Street Townhouse

Open House: Sunday, October 31st by appointment only. There's not a lot of new property being shown this week so here's one folks might remember from a past post: LINK. Number 430 west 147th Street (or 393 Convent Avenue) is a 23 x 66 foot wide corner building that has an estimated 7,500 square foot of space with an ambitious renovation and asking price to match.  The landmark Hamilton Heights limestone townhouse has 10 bedrooms, 4 Full baths, 1 Partial bath and enough original details but will the recent price reduction make a difference? Originally up for $4.8 million 3 years ago, the price landed at $2.99 million  in early 2010 and is now at $2.85 million (just reduce from $2.89 million).  High caliber renovations on a charming, intact block have only reached the max of $2 million in the past couple of years so is this price realistic?  The house has its own website for those who want to set up an appointment: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: The Red Rooster Bar Details

Another clue to the overall look of the yet-to-open Red Rooster restaurant was revealed today through Twitter.  Chef Marcus Samuelsson posted the lower photo of the woodwork detail at the bar of the new restaurant soon to open at 310 Lenox (just north of 125th): LINK.  As mentioned in our previous post, folks should expect a modernist take on Harlem building colors such as reds, amber and brown which will then be combined with classic finishings: LINK.  October is almost up so the November is probably the most realistic opening date but no updates have been reported lately.

☞ INTRODUCING: Aloft Harlem in the News

Another day, another delay and another news story on Aloft Harlem. NY1 gets a better look at the inside of the new Aloft Harlem hotel and announces that the opening date is now November 11th (last update was the 4th). The good news is that they hired 72% of the staff locally based on interviews at the Apollo and decided not to have a restaurant in house because they did not want to compete with the local eateries. Check out the video on the NY1 site: LINK

☞ ARCHITECTURE: The Houdini House Gates

For some reason, every time Halloween comes around, the renowned Harry Houdini becomes popular once more.  The iconic early 20th century figure is more of an illusionist than a performer of arcane arts but folks visit his grave in Queens or do searches for the house Houdini formerly lived in during this time of year. We have written a few articles on Harry Houdini in the past and most folks walking by 278 West 113th Street (just east of FDB/8th Avenue) will find the cast iron gates marking the magician's modest estate. Mr. Houdini moved into the Harlem brownstone with his wife in 1904 and would live their until his untimely death 22 years later: LINK. There's one of those bright red plaques with a little bit of history on the door but most can't really get to it because the gate separates the porch entrance.  Apparently the historic home is now divided into several rental units.

☞ LISTEN: American Legion Post 398

The brownstone at 248 West 132nd Street (between FDB/8th and ACP/7th) has the American Legion 398 sign out front by day but is also the location for a popular basement jazz session at night. A reader sent in an article they had looked at while on a flight that spotlights the hot spots of Harlem and the underground venue was one of the top picks: LINK. Apparently popular on the weekends, the house gets packed by 8:00 PM with folks who are served southern fried specialties on styrofoam plates and drink bottled beer while watching a range of jazz artists perform. It's been going on for 10 years now and there are even reviews on Yelp: LINK.  Has anyone dropped by lately?  Lower photo by Dorothy Hong

Thursday, October 28, 2010

☞ DWELL: Genesis Affordable Rentals on Market

All of the Genesis affordable rental buildings have recently been finishing up and now the lottery applications are available for those new constructions.  A total of 85 affordable units are hitting the rental market and the deadline for the applications is on December 27th.  The 3 developments include the grey brick building at FDB/8th Avenue and 112th Street, 2078-80 FDB (top photo), 311 West 141st Street (middle photo)and 203-209 West 119th Street (last photo).  Studio monthly rents start out at $872 with an income cap of $45.7K, 1 bedrooms around $1,093 with income cap approximately $52K and 2 bedrooms going for roughly $1,668 for income cap of $79K-$107K (for one person). Move-in date is approximately set for Winter 2011.  Get more details on each building and apply on line here: LINK.  Read more on the developments in our past post: LINK.

☞ REVIVE: New Building at 229 West 131st Lot

Walking past 229 West 131st Street this past week (between FDB/8th and ACP/7th), we were surprised to see a new construction taking over the former lot (lower photo).  This is the north end of some major housing projects and there are a few shells leftover but some houses are in decent condition: LINK.  DOB filings show that a new 2-family, 4 story building with a penthouse will be on the site when things are completed.  At this rate, it looks like this one will be ready by end of winter or early spring. Right now, it's unclear if this will be a house for sale, condos or just a rental building. Any tips? Check out what readers had to say about the shell that's further down the block which may or may not be owned by a local celeb: LINK

☞ SHOP: Restored Storefront Displays

There's more than a few available storefronts in Central Harlem and proprietors seem to be making some efforts in making them as appealing as possible.  The corner shop at West 133rd Street and FDB/8th Avenue had its entire facade restored earlier in the year and now poster advertisement cover up all the windows. Even a small side window has a splash of red color to it so that the store is completely packaged.  From the earlier photos (lower two) one can see the rough phase of the shop earlier this year and everything now has been properly covered and concealed (top photo).

On a design note, the original column have been revealed and also painted over nicely with a coat of black paint that contrast against the cream cornice.  The side window is also a point of interest since this usually gets blocked up by cinder blocks in recent decades (for security?) but the owner has now decided to let the light in.

☞ ARCHITECTURE: The Hamilton Grange

It's been a couple of years since the historic Hamilton Grange building was moved to its new location on the north most hill of St. Nicholas Park (at 141st Street) but the inevitable delays have still prevented it from opening to the public.  The last date announced was Fall 2010 but an update from the Friends of St. Nicholas Park site now has a Spring 2011 debut planned for the future.  Both the interior and exterior are getting a complete restoration, so these things do take their time. From the top photos, one can see the original color and the primer that recently has gone up on the facade.  More interior restorations can be found at the Friends of St. Nicholas Park site: LINK.  Read more about the famous house that named the Heights and its last location in our past post: LINK

☞ EAT: Amor Cubano

For those looking for the authentic Cuban sandwich with fried plantains, East Harlem's Amor Cubano may be the answer.  According to one notable local chef, the Cuban eatery at 2018 3rd Avenue  (between 110th & 111th Street) is the place to go uptown when looking for the real deal: LINK.  While Floridita in Manhattanville is looking for a new location, folks might want to hop on the 4,6 train and get out at the 110th Street stop for some authentic eats.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

☞ DWELL: 276 West 127th Street in Contract

Townhouses facing public housing are a tough sell but probably afford a better discount for the right buyer.  Number 276 West 127th Street (between FDB/8th and ACP/7th) is a 17 foot wide SRO brownstone that went up on the market in March of this year for $695K and has since been reduced to $499K as of July.  Since early October, the fixer-upper has entered contract. The property that is part of a half dozen remaining brownstones on the block probably needs a complete overhaul and some of its neighbors are even in worst shape. On the plus side, the A,B,C,D express at 125th is only a couple of blocks away.

☞ REVIVE: The Mansion at 72 Hamilton Terrace

Since a fire gutted the corner building at 72 Hamilton Terrace (approximately West 144th, east of Convent), the limestone building with the crested mansard roof has become the haunted mansion of Hamilton Heights since at least 2004 (?).  We found a Times article from 6 years ago that describes the state of the former Nazareth Deliverance Spiritual Church with the estimate that the property would have been worth $500K if it was on the market then: LINK.  At community board meetings, some have voiced concern over the building since it has not been offered to sell and the owners do not have funds to restore it.  It's an official NYC landmark but demolition by neglect is a threat that many shells face if not properly maintained. Does anyone have any further insight on this property?

☞ READ: Maya Angelou Donates Documents

Over 300 boxes of personal documents have been donated by Maya Angelou to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as reported by the associated press, via the Wall Street Journal today. The celebrated poet and writer's collection of notes, manuscripts and drafts also include letters received from James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X: LINK. What's not mentioned in the article is that Ms. Angelou is also one of the newer Harlem residents (since 2004) and owns a brownstone in the Mt. Morris Park Historic District in which she stays when visiting the city: LINK

☞ EAT: Bajan Bistro in East Harlem

Bajan Bistro is another business that started to appear close to East Harlem's La Marqueta and  DNAinfo takes a look at the restaurant that features cuisine from Barbados: LINK.  The location (just east of Park Avenue and 121st Street) apparently is a draw for folks who work in the area during the week and Caribbean ex-pats who are looking for some home cooking on the weekends.  There's more of a take-out feel to the place but informal seating seems to be available for guests who are looking for Bajan favorites such as Flying Fish steaks and savory patties made out of puff pastry.  We first noticed this restaurant in August but never got to see it open when covering the Fat Witch bakery facility around the corner: LINK

☞ DRINK: Harlem Bar & Restaurant Crawl 2010

Thursday, October 28th, 6:00 PM-10:00 PM, $15 in advance, $20 at door.   Tomorrow will be another Oktoberfest event that invites folks out to try out the restaurant and drinking establishments around South Harlem. Tickets can be bought at the day of the event from Nectar, Harlem Vintage, Melba's and Native.  These locations are also the pickup points to receive an event bracelet that will provide mostly 2-for-1 drink deals at participating restaurants or wine tasting at Harlem Vintage and Nectar (specials vary for each restaurant). 5 & Diamond is also included and will have 50% off their appetizers!  To get discount advance tickets and more details on restaurant specials, go to the event site: LINK

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

☞ DWELL: 1889 Lexington Avenue Townhouse

When walking by the up-and-coming East Harlem transportation-commercial hub of 116th Street and Lexington Avenue, one will notice the lone brownstone that still stands on the block.  Development is literally next door with the Lancaster Lexington going up immediately to the right and Embelesar 118 just around the corner on the other side.  That said, the 16 foot wide home is trying to be part of the area's construction boom and is currently asking for $1.3 million.  The major issue here would be the current SRO status and that there seems to be folks living in the building(?). There's also the facade and infrastructure of the townhouse which looks like it needs a complete overhaul.

☞ REVIVE: 753 St. Nicholas Avenue Progress

Smaller constructions seem to take more time to build versus the larger developments for some reason. There's a building just south of 148th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue that hasn't made that much progress since the walls starting going up in March of this year. The new condo at 753 St. Nicholas Avenue has six floor, 11,500 square foot of space and will have a single elevator inside for the 12 apartment units which have taken over a former lot. This one had to be approved by the Landmarks since it's in the Sugar Hill historic district and we thought it would have made more gains by now since some of the larger sights have topped off further downtown. There also seems to be a website that just went up for the development:

☞ LISTEN: Comedy Club Proposed on West 133rd

A recent NY1 news clip featuring Doug E.'s Chicken and Waffles also reveals a future venture just a block away from the new restaurant: LINK.  Doug E. Fresh just opened his Hip Hop inspired eatery on ACP/7th Avenue and 132nd Street and now reveals that the vacant storefront a block up on 133rd Street (lower photo) will be transformed into a comedy club.  Folks have been waiting quite some time for Doug E.'s restaurant to open so it's unclear what the timeline for the comedy club will be (hopefully sooner than later). The planned live performance space will also be across the street from the Shrine music venue so this section of Central Harlem might one day become an entertainment row again if all works out.

☞ INTRODUCING: The Ringgold Children's Museum

DNAinfo reports on the recent zoning approval for the proposed Faith Ringgold Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling.  We had a report up on the $70 million, 13-story project which would also include 124 units of affordable housing, backing in November of last year: LINK.  The original drawing gives a better perspective (above image) than that of the article since it shows the hill of West 155th Street in relationship to the surrounding West Harlem neighborhood.  As seen in both of the above photos, a gas station will still remain but the unique parking garage with the terracotta minarets will be demolished to make way for the new building. The DNAinfo article has the building cast in a really dull grey so let's hope the exterior finishes will be a little more nuanced than the most recent sketches: LINK.  Groundbreaking is apparently happening at the end of this year and the project will finish by 2012.  On a side note, those not familiar with Ms. Ringgold's work might recognize her mosaic murals which are up on the 125th Street subway stop: LINK

☞ READ: Lack of Funds for Public Housing

The New York Times reports this week on the nation's quandary of maintaining a vast portfolio of public housing that is over half a century old. Over the past 15 years, 150,000 units of public housing have been sold or torn down in other cities but New York City has uniquely held on to its stock.  Since the New York City Housing authority has over 106,000 repair requests and no money, only 9,000 of those jobs will be attended to in 2012.  A 2005 study estimated that $7.5 billion was needed to get all of the city's public housing repairs in order but NYCHA only has $1.5 billion in total. Solutions discussed (which all have their issues) include having volunteer groups help with repairs, financing private mortgages on the public buildings and land or switching to the voucher model instead of focusing on retaining existing buildings: LINK

Monday, October 25, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: Bickford's Coffee Shop at 145th

A reader mentioned that there used to be a Bickford's automat on the corner of 145th Street (at Broadway) and wanted to know if we could find any old photos.  The top image is a colored postcard from around the 1940's (?) that shows the charming white terracotta building at 3540 Broadway with all of its original neon signage.  The chain was founded in the early 1900's by Samuel Longley Bickford and this branch apparently had the vending machines with the hot food in the windows for customers to buy from.  The Bickford family still runs a chain of restaurants in the New England area so maybe one day they can come back to town a set up a new branch back at the old Hamilton Heights location.  There were several other Bickford locations in Manhattan but those shops were either demolished or not as distinct as this location.  Get the full list and more history here: LINK