Tuesday, November 30, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: The Black Yankee Stadium

The City Concealed series' latest video reveals that the stadium where the Black Yankees would play for crowds of over 10,000 spectators was not actually in New York City.  Back in New York's early baseball history, the Polo Grounds (which were just past the northern reaches of Harlem at West 155th Street) was home to the Yankees before they moved to the Bronx in 1923. This was during the time of segregation so the sport was all white until the Negro League was formed and played over in New Jersey's Hinchliffe Stadium.  Check out the above video clip for more on the Black Yankee's history and a bit on historic stadium design which includes Harlem's Polo Grounds. There's also an accompanying article and more details on the Channel Thirteen site: LINK.  For more history on the Polo Grounds, check out our previous posts (scroll down after connecting to the link): LINK

☞ DWELL: 5 West 120th Street Sold in August

When we walked by 5 West 120th Street this past weekend, there seemed to be a lot of activity at the formerly boarded up townhouse.  This block between Mount Morris Park West and Lenox Avenue has some of the most beautiful brownstones in Manhattan but there are couple of mystery houses at the east side.  Checking back on the sales records, this abandoned SRO was sold at the end of summer this year for $700K.  A work permit from 2005 show that all the filings were in place for converting the SRO into a 4-family, class "A" building and another permit was also issued this month.  Apparently the 20 foot wide townhouse was classified as "I1" which is basically a hospital or sanitarium. Whatever the case may be, this property was boarded up for a long time and it's quite good news to see men on site restoring the landmark building.

☞ SLEEP: Aloft Harlem Opening Delayed Again?

The December 2nd debut date for Aloft Harlem at 124th Street and FDB/8th Avenue is just a couple of days away but now the hotel's website has removed that announcement.  We've seen this happen a dozen times before so this highly anticipated opening may be once more delayed.  Check out the Aloft Harlem site for details: LINK

☞ REVIVE: The Dempsey Tops off

The other major affordable housing building started this year in Central Harlem has topped off in the past week.  All we really know about the Dempsey at 130-150 West 128th Street is that it will have affordable 80 units all together on a parcel of land that used to be a rather large parking lot. The lower photo shows the center part of the building that is located between ACP/7th and Lenox Avenue which will eventually have a bit of glass in the main entrance to break up all the brickwork.  No news on the lottery as of yet but more details and the original rendering of the building can be found in our previous post back in February: LINK

☞ SHOP: New Eatery at 3151 Broadway

The old commercial strip along Broadway in Manhattanville, just a couple of blocks south of the new Columbia campus site at 125th Street, has had some empty storefronts in the past year but more activity seems to be happening as of recent.  Number 3151 Broadway was formerly a drycleaning service which competed with another like establishment down the block.  The space has been empty for some time but we noticed a new work permit up in the past week. This immediate block just had the popular Bettolona restaurant open this past summer and now a casual eatery apparently is arriving also.  After some more research, we find that the new "eating and drinking" establishment will be some sort of falafel restaurant. These places either go for charming and rustic or fast food and bland.  It's unclear which direction this eatery will follow but a better casual falafel joint is something that is popular in most downtown neighborhoods. Check out our past post on the arrival of Bettolona: LINK

☞ DRINK: 67 Orange Street 2nd Anniversary

Saturday, December 4th, 10:00 PM at 67 Orange Street.  They seem like they have been around forever now but the old school speakeasy called 67 Orange Street at 2082 FDB/8th Avenue and 113th Street is only celebrating their 2nd anniversary this Saturday.  We always admired this place for its downtown aesthetics since the establishment is the only bar in Harlem that has those early century filament light bulbs.  Space is tight so making a reservation is a must for this weekend's celebration: reservations@67OrangeStreet.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

☞ EAT: Cafe St. Germain Arrives in East Harlem

Cafe Saint Germain is the second French cafe to open up on East Harlem's Lexington Avenue but it is also unfortunately the most hidden.  Having debuted earlier in the year, the super cozy eatery with warm wood paneled walls has been concealed under some major scaffolding at 1695 Lexington Avenue (between 106th and 107th Street) until a sign was recently added on to the construction site.  Inside, one will find proprietor Mario Douge at work on freshly baked French pastries and specialty sandwiches during breakfast and lunch hours. We were informed that dinner services was coming sometimes in the near future and it's pretty much BYOB for evening hours until they get their liquor license set up. There's also free WiFi for those who just want to have a coffee and hangout with the laptop.  Check out more details and some positive reviews on Yelp: LINK.

☞ DWELL: The 262 West 121st Street Lot

Now that 260 West 121st Street (grey building) has finally been sold, its neighboring lot is now up on the market.  The next door 18 x 101 foot parcel that is currently being used as a parking lot has finally been offered on the market separately from the aforementioned townhouse.  Asking is currently at $600K for this piece of South Harlem just east of FDB/8th Avenue.  Zoning for the land permits up to 10,900 square foot to be built so the chances of one of those narrow towers going up is pretty high.  Most developers won't spend the money to get the facade details right so we would rather have something lower scale like the new house on 123rd Street if an architectural revival doesn't come about: LINK. Numbers 254-264 were originally a matching set of six brownstones so in an ideal world, someone would replicate the twin building at number 256 (at far left of photo) on this empty lot at number 262 West 121st Street. At any rate, anything would be better than the parking garage with the chain link fence.

☞ REVIVE: Mount Moriah Church Up for Sale

When the Mount Moriah Baptist Church at 2050 Fifth Avenue (between 126th and 127th Street) had an availability sign up front in the beginning of the month, we were not too sure if the historic building was up for sale. From what we can gather, the church sold in foreclosure for $480K this past summer but a reader just mentioned to us that there is a new price tag on the building.  We haven't seen any listing so far but apparently there is a quick flip in mind since $3.5 million is the reported ballpark asking price for those interested. As we mentioned in our past post, a condo conversion was planned a few years back to subsidize the religious organization but the congregation seems to have not been able to make it happen in time to get out of a financial quandary: LINK.

☞ INTRODUCING: 163 Lenox Shops Revealed

Neighbors of 163 Lenox Avenue at 118th Street were excited to see the restoration of the building nearly finished last month and the last remaining bit of plywood around the ground level has finally been removed (lower photo).  A reader mentioned last week that the two shops have finally debuted in the co-op building that has been under various forms of construction since 2007.  The great little restaurant Native is next door and will probably do a lot better without the cumbersome sidewalk shed that had blocked most of the path at this point of the Avenue.  It's yet to be seen if there is any interest in the spaces but we are hopeful that another better boutique will come along in 2011.

☞ LISTEN: Jazz and Japanese at Shrine

Jazz is big in Japan and a lot of the new faces on the scene today seem to be coming from ex-pats of that particular country.   Performers at Shrine this week includes Yuko Okomoto, Kenji Yoshitake and Hironori Momoi who represent a younger, international generation of jazz musicians. Check out the full list of up-and-coming talent at Harlem's best venue for new music: LINK.   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. No cover charge unless specified.

☞ SEE: Wall Street Journal Walks Harlem

Another Wall Street Journal story up this past weekend had a local Harlem-based magazine mogul walk the sights of 125th Street in a short video. We have to say that this one is a little awkward for the Journal since the restaurant Chez Lucienne was featured but the descriptive title "Bistro Provencal" is only mentioned in the article accompanying the clip: LINK.  The Apollo also gets a quick review but the camera doesn't really capture much detail in the iconic space.  As newspapers explore this new form of media, the challenge seems to be having higher production values on a limited budget.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: Sherman's BBQ on Amsterdam

Sometime in the early 1960's, the then famous girl group from Harlem called the Ronettes ended up on a date with the up-and-coming British band called the Beatles at one of uptown's local restaurants.  Lead singer Ronnie Spector grew up in the former Carmansville section of Hamilton Heights (Amsterdam in the West 150's) and wanted the British boy band to have a taste of local homestyle cooking.  We mentioned previously that the establishment that served up some old fashion Harlem barbecue to the Beatles was Sherman's on Amsterdam but research has shown that there's not much out there on the original location except that it was in 150's or 160's.  The actual address of the building turns out to be 1835 Amsterdam Avenue which is the corner of West 151st Street.  One can find the building still standing today but the lower retail space is currently a bodega.  The center photo shows the very charming old neon signage that used to be up out front which has been replaced by a perfunctory awning in recent years.  From what we can gather from our Sherman's research, it seems like this main shop shut down by the late 1980's or early 1990's and only one of the take-out branches still remains in Central Harlem.  Check out what the Sherman's on ACP/7th Avnenue look like today from our previous post on the eatery with some interesting memories from readers: LINK. Archival photo via Urban Photo on Flickr

Saturday, November 27, 2010

☞ READ: Last Week's Most Viewed Posts

Last week's most viewed posts along with  comment count.

☞ REVIVE: National Dance Institute at PS90

One of the goals for the adaptive reuse condo conversion of the formerly abandoned PS90 building in Central Harlem was also to have a community space established and it now looks like one will finally arrive.  The Wall Street Journal reports that the National Dance Institute has finally found a permanent home after 34 years and that the new residence is indeed in Harlem.  A total of 18,000-square-foot of space inside the converted schoolhouse at 220 West 148th Street has been sold for $6 million this past week to the organization known for providing dance education and courses to public schools.  The National Dance Institute focuses on low-income neighborhoods and the fact that it is now located in a former New York school building is all the more fitting.  Read more details in the Wall Street Journal: LINK.  For more details on the PS90 building, check out our past post: LINK

Friday, November 26, 2010

☞ LISTEN: A Touch of Taylor

A Touch of Taylor - Jazzmobile Celebrates Dr. Billy Taylor, Monday, November 29th, 7:00 PM at the Schomburg Center.  A Panel and Performance with Jimmy Owens - Trumpet/Moderator, Dave Gibson - Drums, Norman Simmons - Piano, Frank Wess - Sax/Flute, Paul West - Bass. At Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture - 515 Malcolm X/Lenox Avenue @ 135th Street. Tickets $10. For tickets: 212-491-2206 or Telecharge.com - www.schomburgcenter.org

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

☞ REVIVE: Lenox Tree Medians Finally Planted

It's planting season and the city seems to be following up on making the new tree medians at Lenox Avenue between 124th and 125th Street a little more green.  The crew was on hand this morning and just finished up planting a single tree on each plot of dirt.  Our question now is that since they have so much more space in these new wider plots, will additional low level foliage arrive early in spring?  There's more than enough room for a few flowering bushes.  Any gardeners out there who know the planting season for non-tree planting? Check out our past post in August when the medians were first completed: LINK

☞ ARCHITECTURE: The Original Ringgold Museum

The proposed Faith Ringgold's Children Museum  at 155th Street and St. Nicholas Place that will break ground at the end of the year now has a modernist, stacked-block design to it but the building originally went for a contextual direction.  We found an early rendering that took the terracotta elements of the existing ornate garage along with Manhattanville's 125th Street Viaduct's iconic arches to form the base of museum and the affordable housing up top.  The idea is quite interesting but the early computer drawings are not realistic enough to give a sense of what the structure would actually look like (that's supposed to be all glass on each level). Click on the top image to enlarge.   For more details, go to the following site for additional sketches: LINK.  See our past post on Harlem's new children's museum and the final design selected: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: Harlem's Most Purple Brownstone

Walking by East 128th Street and Madison Avenue, one will find the most distinctly purple brownstone in all of Harlem.  We're not a big fan of purple as far as classic color combinations go but this one has a sort of San Francisco "painted lady" row house feel to it.  The white accents add a nice pop to the details and one literally can't pass by the residence without taking a second look.  Also of note is that the next door brownstone (2024 Madison) at the left was a shell over a year ago and it looks like it has been restored in full.

☞ SHOP: Patsy's Corner Store up for Rent

The original East Harlem Patsy's pizzeria at 118th Street and 1st Avenue might have had its 77th Anniversary this year but the East Harlem institution is currently trying lease out some excess store space.  Don't worry, the substantial main dining area and the take-out section will still be intact. We don't quite remember what was going on in the corner shop but it does have a lot of vintage charm still going for it.  With the arrival of Target in this former Italian section of Harlem, maybe a revival of additional better eateries could add on to the changes at hand?  Click on lower image to enlarge for contact information.

☞ SEE: Knock Me a Kiss

November 21st - December 5th, at the New Federal Theater, 466 Grand Street (downtown), tickets $25.  Knock Me a Kiss is a play showing downtown that fictionalizes the uptown "wedding of the century." The year is 1928 which is the height of the Harlem Renaissance and renowned African-American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois has set up a marriage with his young daughter Yolande to the Renaissance's famous poet, Countee Cullen.  Based on true life events, the main problem to this perfect marriage of intellect, beauty and art was that Countee Cullen would soon confess to his new wife that his proclivities were towards the masculine ideal.  The Times gave it a pretty good review and we often wonder why not a lot of small Harlem Renaissance plays like this one ever make it uptown: LINK.  Get more details and ticket information at:  www.theatermania.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: Hedda Gobbler of Morningside Park

Hedda Gobbler was all over the news back in 2006 when she set up camp in Morningside Park but Harlem's residential turkey has been MIA for the past couple of years.  The bird watcher from the Bloomingdale Village blog took some of the last photos of Hedda back in 2008 and we haven't found any more visual evidence of her presence in the park ever since.  Uptown had some coyote sightings in 2010 but turkeys were all the rage a few years back when Morningside Park, Riverside Park, Central Park and Battery Park all seemed to have become home to the wild birds. The turkey that would be named Hedda was found roaming the grounds of the Riverton Houses on East 135th Street six years ago and had been frequently photographed by bloggers and the press when she was transplanted to Morningside Park: LINK.  Has anyone had a sighting recently?  These guys do fly for short distances so they can easily migrate if necessary.

☞ DWELL: 30 West 120th Street Off Market

A reader mentioned that they just noticed the For Sale sign removed from 30 West 120th Street and it would seem that reported brownstone of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been taken off the market.  The 18 foot wide home was up for $3.1 million recently after having the priced reduced from the original asking price of $3.45 million. This building, which is located in the Mount Morris Park Historic District, has been on the market since April and received a lot of press in the past month.  We are guessing it's either in the middle of a quick sale or the asking is just not working out in the current climate.  Based on Streeteasy, the house was pulled off the market a couple of weeks ago but this is actually the 2nd time the property was pulled this year. The top photo was taken yesterday and the sale sign was nowhere in sight.  Anyone have any inside tips?

☞ BESPOKE: Contrasting Cast Iron on East 127th

The final decorative accent on all brownstones can be found in the cast iron work that adorn the facades of the buildings.  We are often fascinated by the various conditions of these century old townhouses and the way they have been maintained.  While walking past 20 East 127th Street, one of the most striking examples can be found at the Langston Hughes house which has both of its decorative finials painted in contrasting colors.  Most folks tend to restore the intricate metalwork with a solid coat of paint but those who know what they are doing can sometimes add a little character by contrasting the details.  The lower photo shows a neighboring house on the same block with a renovated stoop that has somehow consumed part of the side rails and has been remiss in replacing the newel post.  The solid green is nice enough but the missing components makes the renovation look incomplete.  For those who are wondering, the Hughes house is still up for sale but no news at this point.

☞ EAT: Sneak Peek of the Triangle Cafe

We first noticed that the little flatiron Triangle Building at 121st Street and FDB/8th Avenue had some permits up back in January for a new cafe to open but the space has mostly been dormant for 2010.  In the past month or so, some activity was seen at the commercial space in 2230 FDB and we also noticed new craft paper up on the windows (which used to be painted over white).  The last photo down is a shot of newly finished oak panel bar area inside that we were able to get a view of when recently passing by the new eatery.  It's going to be called the Triangle Cafe since the space is indeed the shape of a triangle and this corner would definitely be perfect for cafe tables on the 2 sides of the building.  If they move along quickly enough, maybe this place will be open sometimes in early 2011?

☞ INTRODUCING: New Look for the 1 Train

There's a lot of construction going on the 1 line these days and we noticed some new subway technology being introduced recently.  Earlier on in the year, the new digital signs announcing estimate train arrival times were introduced to the numbered subway lines and it now seems like some fancier technology for each train has come about.  We first thought from a distance that an "O" train had arrived in the station on a previous outing but upon closer inspection, miniscule electric bulbs were found forming a circle around the red 1 logo of the car window. The lit up signage must be a new prototype since we haven't seen one since.  Is this the new look for all New York City subways?

☞ READ: Dance Theater of Harlem's Return

After having been shuttered for the past 6 years, the New York Times reports that the Dance Theater of Harlem is ready for a comeback. The first major black ballet troupe formed by Arthur Mitchell in 1969 faced over $2.3 million in debt back in 2004 and the organization had to tell its 44-member company to disband.  Now under a the new direction of Virginia Johnson, a smaller troupe has formed with 18 dancers,  the company has hired a new marketing associate and debt has been reduce to $1 million.  There's a five year plan to grow the company into a $5.5 organization and the now diverse troupe has debuted a monthly Sunday mantinee (which will feature excerpts from the Nutcracker in the December 12th event): LINK.   Read more about the Dance Theater of Harlem in the New York Times article: LINK.  Photo courtesy of Andrea Mohin

Monday, November 22, 2010

☞ DWELL: 148 West 120th Sold in November

The house at 148 West 120th Street, which was first listed back in April, just sold according to public records.  At 17 foot wide, the 2-family, 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath, 3,380 square foot property was in move-in condition and still has 10 years left on a government tax abatement. Some folks thought the original asking price at $1.795 million was a bit steep for a moderate renovation of a townhouse just a hair outside of the Mount Morris Park Historic District (west of Lenox).  A lot of debate went on the previous post but many of the commenters hit the nail on the head for the range of the final price which landed at the $1.525 million mark: LINK

☞ READ: Catching Up with 88 Morningside

We were going to follow up on new condo development 88 Morningside but Curbed recently posted on the sales and even had some interior photos: LINK.  The 73-unit building hasn't finished up yet on the upper floors but 13 contracts are already out.  One of the model apartments shown in the article (last photo) has a surprising view of the boarded up building next door on the north side of 122nd Street but it would seem buyers are attracted to the direct west facing view of Morningside Park along Morningside Avenue.  Columbia's main campus is a less than 10 minute walk in the same direction and express subway access is 3 blocks north.

The quiet, brownstone-lined side streets in this part of Harlem could easily be considered landmarks but like the corner building, some are in better condition than others. Price ranges are form $300K-$900K which is kind of in the affordable category for Manhattan.  For more on what's going on with that building next door, check out our previous post: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Hamilton Heights Thai Opens

The rumors have turned out to be true that a Thai take-out will open at the front end of the laundromat at 754A St. Nicholas Avenue and 148th Street. A reader provided a tip that Tri Thai Cuisine has finally opened in the rounded glass block atrium of walk-in laundry and dry cleaning establishment last Friday.  We checked it out this weekend and found that the cuisine and proprietors do match up (most asian establishments uptown are run by chinese owners) and the take-out corner oddly pleasing in a contemporary fashion.  Green, red or yellow Thai curry options are only around the $5.00 range and we noted a lot of the signature Holy Basil ingredient enhancing the dishes.  Curry filled pastry puffs are all under $1.00 and they sell Thai iced coffee along with other beverages. The owners mentioned that they will try to open a sit-down restaurant in the area if the take-out service does well.  So if you are in the Heights, make sure to drop by the only authentic Thai take-out above 110th Street.  Delivery service will be up soon but they don't have menus printed as of this moment. As a reader noted in the past, the dream of getting one's laundry AND Thai food delivered has finally become a reality.  Only in Harlem folks!  Closest subways are at the A,B,C,D stop on 145th Street.