Friday, December 31, 2010

☞ BESPOKE: Farewell to 2010

It's been a really eventful year and this will be the last post until 2011!  We have updated the blizzard images earlier on this week since some great photos were submitted by readers but the last two received seemed more fitting to say goodbye to 2010 and welcome to 2011.   The top shows the lights on 125th Street during the final epic weather event of the past few days.  Our final photo of the year is a Baby New Year of 2011 who had his picture taken on West 139th Street right after the storm passed.  Best wishes to all and have a safe New Year's Eve.

☞ EAT: Hoppin' John for New Years

Hoppin' John is a dish served up in the South for New Years that is traditionally said to bring good luck to those who eat it.  The stew of black eyed peas accented with smoked pork or bacon is usually served over rice or mixed together for a southern take on rice and beans.  Purist only use onions and garlic sauteed in the pork fat as the main seasoning (before adding the peas and light stock) but others argue the recipe should have chopped bell peppers or celery to the vegetable mix.  A little brown sugar also adds a nice depth to the dish for those who want to mix it up a little further. Recipe variations aside, some accounts say that the good luck part of the New Years tradition goes back to the Civil War when the northern troops raided all the southern farms and the locals would have starved if not for the field peas left behind (the dry goods were thought to be only animal feed).  Since southern cooking was brought to the North during the Great Migration in the early 20th century, many traditional eateries uptown serve up this recipe as a side dish on a day-to-day basis.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

☞ READ: The Most Viewed Harlem Posts of 2010

Below are the top ten most viewed posts of this past year along with comment count. Please make sure to have user names on comments and follow the new posting standards: LINK

1. The Harlem Tavern Arriving on 116th (46)
2. Red Rooster Harlem Officially Opens (11)
3. Fifth on the Park Public Art (52)
4. Columbia Demolishes Brownstone Block (8)
5. New Window Signs at the Red Rooster (21)
6. 2192-2196 FDB Finishes (124)
7. Hamilton Heights Thai Opens (13)
8. Aloft Harlem's Soft Opening (12)
9. Mt. Morris Turkish Baths For Rent (7)
10. The Douglass Rapidly Receives TCO (37)

☞ REVIVE: The Malclom Shabazz Gardens

The 41 modern townhouses that line West 117th Street between Lenox and ACP/7th Avenue were all built as affordable housing a decade ago and the Malcolm Shabazz Gardens are another example of low level contextual housing in Harlem.  All of the 3-family homes apparently sold out immediately when placed on the market and the block today is an interesting addition to the vernacular of Harlem brownstones.  As seen from the top photos, the scale of the townhouse are similar to ones built over a century ago but the motifs take on a modern, geometric pattern in the stonework and the cast iron details.  Walking by a house at number 118, we noticed that a particular homeowner decided to bring back a classic touch to the doorway portico (lower photo).  Either way, this development was a thoughtful way of reviving a block and attracting new homeowners from the community right before the major construction boom in the area started up. Read more about the townhouses in the original press release: LINK

☞ DRINK: Shrine for New Year's Eve

Friday, December 31st, starting 8:00 PM at Shrine. For those in Central Harlem who want to avoid the midtown crowds on New Year's Eve, Shrine is having a viewing event with a big screen of the ball drop on Friday night.  Harlem's newest and most prolific music venue for young talent will be charging $20 to get in at the door but that will also include a free drink. Check out all the details for the celebratory event at the Shrine site: 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.

☞ REMEMBER: Billy Taylor

We were sadden to find out that jazz great Dr. Billy Taylor had passed away at 89 years of age on Tuesday night.  This year would have marked the renowned jazz pianist and educator's 90th birthday and Harlem had been celebrating the Jazzmobile founder's auspicious event in the past couple of months with various concerts at cultural centers uptown.  The lower photo was taken this past summer during one of the Jazzmobile free concerts at Grant's Tomb at which hundreds of neighbors gathered to enjoy an art that Dr. Taylor worked to keep alive in the hearts of the young and old.  Channel Thirteen probably filmed one of the last interviews with the jazz musician this year and that clip can be seen from a post in November: LINK.  Read more details on the life of Dr. Billy Taylor in the New York Times: LINK. Top photo courtesy Sara Krulrwich

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

☞ DWELL: 2282 ACP Townhouses

The set of 2 white adjacent 3-story townhouses at 2282 ACP/7th Avenue and 134th Street has had a major price reduction recently but will the new asking price of $2.1 million make sense for a couple of buildings that need major renovations? With a combined total of 36 feet in width (total 5,344 square foot), the two townhouse are basically 18 foot wide each and there's only two floors of living space because the ground floor is currently used as a funeral parlor. This area of Central Harlem has started to develop in the past years but there's not so much going on that it feels like there's a lot of amenities to be had.  That said, the express 2,3 train is only a block away on the east side and the B, C trains are about 3 blocks west.  A million for each of the houses which need a lot of work still seems a tad bit high in our opinion so maybe 2011 will bring down prices even more?

☞ VOTE: Harlem's FDB vs Northside in Finals

UPDATE: POLLS ARE OPEN UNTIL NOON, JANUARY 1ST. Today is the finals of the Curbed cup best neighborhood of 2010 which will pit Harlem's own FDB/8th Avenue against Northside Williamsburg. The combined forces of Harlem Bespoke readers pushed the vote for Harlem into the last round by defeating Park Slope with 63% of that previous final count. It all really is a final showdown between Manhattan and Brooklyn so vote and vote often: LINK.  The polls stay open until JANUARY 1st at Noon so make sure to check in on the final minutes also (and vote again!).

☞ DRINK: Bier International New Year's Eve

Bier International will be open for New Years Eve and brunch on New Year's Day for those who are around town: LINK.  It's the first year for Harlem's favorite international beer garden and we have to really hand it to these guys for having the vision and the ability to open up a proper business.  There's always something new and seasonal going on and the menu specials constantly change.  New Year's Eve dinner is casual with no reservations required or cover charges so they really get that people live in Harlem because it's not over priced and stuffy but quality is still in demand. Additionally, these guys are great with all the social media exchange of information on Twitter, Facebook and also having regular email updates on upcoming events (basically working all the new ways of doing business).

Bier International is located at 2099 FDB/8th Avenue and West 113th Street. The closest subways are the B,C at 110th or 116th Street.

☞ INTRODUCING: 125th Street Charter Progress

The new Harlem Village Academy site at 32 West 125th Street looks like it has been completely demoed as of last week and we took a before and after photo of the ConEd building that used to stand on the spot. Back in October, a Harlem Bespoke reader found the sketch of the 5-story contextual building that will rise thanks to $42 million in funding from the school construction authority: LINK.  All this new activity brings us back to a recent article published in the New York Times on the exit of schools chancellor Joel Klein in which he mentioned that 40 percent of students in Harlem are now attending charters: LINK.  The one comment that sticks out the most to us in the article is a quote from Mr. Klein that sums up the education reform movement's goal in recent years:

"There was really a deep belief that there’s only so much you can do, particularly for high-poverty kids. That poverty is, if not destiny, a significant hindrance to effective education. And changing ideas, changing hearts, changing minds — those things are difficult. And not surprisingly, people are going to push back. It’s a lot easier for the school system to say we graduated 45 percent of our kids because our kids had lots of problems and there’s only so much education you can do. It’s a lot harder to say we graduated 45 percent of our kids because we blew it; we didn’t do the job that we needed to do. That kind of ownership is a major kind of transformation."

Now that another Harlem's Children Zone will be also constructed on West 129th Street, it would seem that charter attendance might even go up higher in the new year: LINK.  There are definitely major changes happening in Harlem these days and education is also included in the mix.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

☞ DWELL: 245 West 122nd Street Brownstone

The 18 foot wide, 3-family house at 245 West 122nd Street just hit the market a little over a week ago with the initial asking price of $1.375 million.  Location wise, the townhouse is just between FDB/8th and ACP/7th and only about a 5 minute walk to either the A,B,C,D or 2,3 express lines on 125th Street. Most of the interior consist of the brick and drywall type of renovation but looks like its all been updated. This particular blocks also includes many taller prewar buildings and does not have brownstones lining both sides throughout.

☞ PROTECT: MMPHD Recognized by HDC

We mentioned the Historic District Council's efforts to recognize  neighborhoods that still need landmark protection last September and now a half dozen candidates have been selected.  Six to Celebrate is an annual advocacy program that neighborhoods apply to and the selected few in return receive guidance from HDC on how to further achieve their preservation goals.  This year's prestigious Historic District Councils recommendation includes the Mount Morris Park Historic District and the proposed extension of its boundaries which would double the district's size.  Even though the organization does not have the official landmark authority to protect a building, the HDC is highly respected and has been instrumental in preservation movements in the past.  Check out all of the six neighborhoods selected and see a map of the proposed MMPHD extension on the HDC site: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: Evi Abeler Photography in Harlem

We've been showcasing a few artists in the past and wanted to introduce a Harlem based photographer who is currently available for projects.  Evi Abeler recently moved from West Harlem to the Mount Morris Park Historic District and specializes in food and still life photography which are all done out of her private studio.  If business goes well she hopes to move to an appropriate commercial space in Harlem and partner up with other professional photographers and stylists. Check out other examples of the local photographer's work on the her new website:

☞ READ: Harlem's Soul Food Scene Shifts

There's an interesting article today in the Uptowner about the ubiquitous Manna's Soul Food restaurant chain of buffets in Harlem and how it is an example of one proprietor changing with the times so that business can thrive.  Betty Park is a 57-year-old Korean immigrant who started up in Harlem during the recession of the early 1980's and has since survived when traditional soul food eateries uptown have folded. During the past couple of decades, Ms. Park has learned that restaurants have to work alongside the community by providing jobs and react to change along the way in order to be successful.

Londel Davis (who is the owner of the established Londel's restaurant) states that the many soul food businesses that have closed in the past ten years failed because of "their own shortcomings."  The article basically explains that the old businesses who are disregarding the influx of "hispanic, whites and food tourist" into the neighborhood are losing the new customer base that is also changing Harlem's food culture.  Another point of interest in the article is that the younger customers have not developed a taste for offal or pigs feet so southern-style basics like fried chicken seem to be more popular these days.  Read more in the Uptowner: LINK.  Lower photo courtesy Jason Tomassini

☞ EAT: Cheap Eats at Melba's

There's another fifty percent discount out on one of the popular dining sites and this time South Harlem's Melba's at FDB/8th Avenue and 114th is up for the deal.  We had a post up on Settepani last week and over 400 tickets were bought.  Support this local business and save some change at the same time but sign up quickly since the offer is only for one day: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Recycle Trees at Mulchfest

MulchFest will take place on January 8th and 9th of 2011. Mark your calendars and have the city recycle those holiday trees into mulch to help grow other trees and plants in the future. The NYC Parks department will host 35 chipping sites and 35 additional drop-off locations: 70 sites in all!  Checkout the official website for more information on where to go: LINK

Monday, December 27, 2010

☞ DWELL: 64 West 119th Street in Contract

Another landmark house on the block of West 119th Street, between Lenox and 5th Avenue, has recently gone into contract in the past couple of weeks.  There are quite a few SRO buildings in this part of the Mount Morris Park Historic District but it looks like this 17 foot wide brownstone is a legal 3-family used as a 1-family house. First on the market a year ago for $1.7 million, there has been quite a few price cuts until the current $1.49 million asking finally achieved an accepted offer. The 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath, 3,635 square foot townhouse looks like it's in pretty good shape but the finishes seem more on the moderate end.  As discussed in the past, a lot of the houses are landmarked in this part of town but the block is on the shabby side. Neverthless, one of the best independent art galleries in Harlem is located across the street and a better quality pizza parlor is set to open at the end of the block in the next coming months. Did anyone see this one?

☞ VOTE: Harlem's FDB vs Park Slope

Harlem's FDB/8th Avenue is the only Manhattan representative standing in Curbed's annual neighborhood vote and is now basically up against the toughest competitor.  Park Slope has had a lot of press this year as being the best place to live in the NYC area but the Curbed vote is based on popularity.  Harlem Bespoke readers have swayed the vote heavily last week against Downtown Brooklyn (a 60 percent majority win, which BTW is the highest victory so far out of all the nabes) and if Park Slope gets defeated this time around, then uptown will be in the finals.  So vote and vote often - just go to the Curbed site and click on the FDB button: LINK.  Voting started right before noon and will only be counted during the next 24 hours.

☞ REVIVE: 144 West 139th Street

We really weren't sure on what was going on with 144 West 139th Street (aka 2375 ACP/7th Avenue) until the derelict building recently had signs of progress on site.  Based on the DOB permits filed last month, the entire 5 floor walkup building will be getting a full facade repair and renovation work on all floors.  The corner building is HPD owned so this one will either be a co-op conversion or an affordable rental.  Anyone else with more information on this project?

☞ EAT: What's Up with Mojo?

Mojo over at 185 St. Nicholas Avenue and West 119th Street seems to have been doing some great business these past couple of years but a reader pointed out some signs of concern recently. While arriving for dinner a weekend ago, one guest saw a sign up that stated the restaurant will "no longer be serving food (just cocktails) and that their hours of operation would be scaled back."  The offerings have been consistent at this hot spot since they first opened and the service really came together in the past year so we are a little surprised by the changes.  What's going on here?

☞ SLEEP: The Aloft Opening & Inclement Weather

Aloft Harlem at West 124th Street and FDB/8th Avenue apparently will have guests arriving today based on the hotel's twitter comment this past weekend: LINK.  The top photo shows the work being done at the entrance on Thursday and we are now wondering if all the snow that hit town last night might delay things a little bit further. Reports in the past have also intimated the official opening will be sometimes in January and that the December dates would be considered a soft opening.  With all the delayed dates and various news reports, we are not quite sure what today's event actually falls under. Any tips out there?

☞ SEE: Photos of Winter Blizzard 2010

We only found a couple of blizzard 2010 Harlem photos submitted in the New York Times today: LINK.  If any readers want to share any cool shots from yesterday, send them over to: Top photo courtesy of Sean Nagle via the NY Times.

Friday, December 24, 2010

☞ WALK: Holiday Decor around Harlem

The brownstone neighborhoods uptown have been getting more and more festive these past years but luckily there's nothing too flashy.  We are going to have to take off for the long weekend but will have the occasional post up in the next couple of days.  Have a great one!

☞ READ: A Mexican Christmas in East Harlem

There's a charming article on the NPR website that talks about the tradition of La Posada  arriving to East Harlem via the new Mexican population that has recently become the majority in El Barrio. Groups of family and friends would re-enact the homeless state of Mary and Joseph prior to the birth of Jesus, knock on the doors of the host home and ask to be accepted to enter.  Once the hospitality was granted, a nativity sscene would be brought in and festivities would start.  In the homeland, folks would have the procession through a yard but in the city, the scene changes with the revelry seekers climbing up steps.  Check out the rest of the NPR article for more details: LINK.  Photo courtesy Nusha Balyan

☞ REVIVE: St. Mary's Church in Manhattanville

One of Harlem's oldest houses of worship (from a time when there were only villages uptown) seems to be going under some much needed facade repair as of late. The church building at 521 West 126th Street has been around since 1908 and was built on a plot where a wood frame steeple structure from the 1820's originally stood.  Alexander Hamilton's widow and children were reported to have been part of the congregation in the earlier days when this part of West Harlem was still considered the countryside.  Check out our original post to see an even more village-like structure that is directly attached to the old Manhattanville church: LINK