Tuesday, July 31, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: 125th & 8th circa 1939


A photo from 1939 shows the congestion along 8th Avenue (today's FDB) and 125th Street along with a view of the elevated subway tracks that used to part of the scenery in much of Harlem.  Those said tracks would be torn down a couple of years after the archival photo was taken but the corner building in the photo still remains today.

Top image courtesy the digital collection at NYPL

☞ DWELL: 33 West 126th Street Brownstone

Number 33 West 126th Street just arrived on the market a couple of weeks back for the asking price of $1.3 million. The impressive 19-foot-wide, 3-family house has a unique bay window front that is quite rare uptown and apparently has been renovated but albeit in a very minimalist sort of fashion.  This block located just east of Lenox Avenue's bustling restaurant strip, the Red Rooster and is close to the express train.  With that said, there still are quite a few shells at this location and several stalled mystery developments.  More details on the broker site: LINK

☞ READ: St. Nick's Pub in the Times

The Times has a follow up on the closing of St. Nick's Pub on Sugar Hill and provides a little background on why the historic jazz club has failed to open again.  Basically everything ended back in 2011 when the city shut down the business on 149th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue because it was operating without a liquor license.  Back in 2010, the owner passed away and her son took over but was not able to renew the license. Talks of renovating the space and opening in fall has been floating about but without a liquor license, there does not appear to be hope that the venue will open anytime soon.  This family business also owns the building so the overhead does not seem to be the problem here: LINK

☞ LISTEN: Ray Mantilla at Grant's Tomb

Wednesday, August 1st, 7:00PM-8:30Pm, Ray Mantilla at Grant's Tomb, West 122nd Street and Riverside Drive.  Jazzmobile has started its free Harlem summer concert series and will feature Ray Mantilla this week at the outdoor plaza in front of Grant's Tomb.  This is one of those true uptown events where all the neighbors come out and listen to an evening of free music. All concerts are weather permitting and subject to change.  More details at:  Jazzmobile.org

☞ REVIVE: Safety Improvements on ACP

NYCDOT will be implementing safety improvements on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd from West 134th Street to West 153rd Street starting August 1st. These changes will include extending the center medians with paint and flexible bollards (as shown in above photos), installing dedicated left-turn lanes, installing left-turn signals at West 135th Street and 145th Street, and installing a Lead Pedestrian Interval at 125th Street to give pedestrians a head start and widening curbside parking lanes.

Some of the local papers have been pointing out that there have been pedestrian casualties along ACP but apparently a group of vocal locals do not want any changes made to the boulevard because it would affect the avenue's cultural heritage: LINK

☞ SEE: Current Art Exhibits at Taller Boricua


Through August 11th,  Bold As Love and Portraits from Another America at the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center, 1680 Lexington Avenue, between 105th and 106th streets. East Harlem's cultural institute is currently exhibiting contemporary artist Julie Torres' Bold As Love and documentary photographer Joseph Rodriguez's Portraits from Another America. Free Admission. Gallery Hours: Tues. thru Sat. 12-6pm, Thurs. 1-7pm. Sun. and Mon. Closed. Subway: 6 train to 103rd Street. Entrance on Lexington Avenue between 105th and 106th

More information on East Harlem's Taller Boricua can be found on the organization site: www.TallerBoricua.org

Monday, July 30, 2012

☞ DWELL: 66 West 132nd Street in Contract

An 18.75-foot-wide, 3-family brownstone went up on the market at 66 West 132nd Street last month and has now gone into contract with a current listing price of $1.1 million.  This brownstone located just east of Lenox Avenue faces the Lenox Terrace super block of buildings and pretty much has a basic renovation done to the interior: LINK.  Brokers are starting to call this area the Lafayette Theatre District of which we reported about back in 2010: LINK.  In the past few months, Community Board 10 has proposed designating many of these Central Harlem brownstone blocks as a new historic district but nothing official has come about as of this point in time.

☞ SHOP:What's Up with Harlem Vintage & Nectar?


A couple of Bespoke readers have noticed that Harlem Vintage has now been shuttered for the past couple of weeks and that there has been some activity next door at the old Nectar space.  As most might recall, the wine bar called Nectar at 121st Street closed its doors back in February and now the sister wine shop appears to be following the same path.  Harlem Vintage was one of the first boutique wine stores to open in the lower FDB corridor but a tip mentioned that there was a sign on the door recently that mentioned that back rent was due to the landlord of the building.  As for the Nectar space, the activity on site is basically to expand the Kumon Learning Center which is the adjacent shop on the right side of the storefront.  Does anyone have any other details on the closing of Harlem Vintage?

☞ SEE: London Street Photography at MCNY

London Street Photography & City Scenes: Highlights of New York Street Photography at The Museum of the City of New York,  1220 Fifth Avenue at East 103rd Street. 

London Street Photography features images by over 70 photographers who have recorded fleeting moments in London, capturing the faces and lives of ordinary people who populate this complicated and ever-changing metropolis. The exhibition, organized by the Museum of London, where it brought in record crowds, features work by such notables as John Thomson, László Moholy-Nagy, George Rodger, Bert Hardy, Roger Mayne, and Nick Turpin, as well as by countless anonymous photographers whose contributions have been just as important in recording the city. Through more than 150 striking images, London Street Photography traces two compelling histories: the development of the practice, aesthetics, and technology of street photography the course of a century and a half, and the simultaneous growth of a modern city.

A small companion installation organized by the Museum of the City of New York, City Scenes: Highlights of New York Street Photography, will provide a counterpart illustrating the rich tradition of street photography in New York City. City Scenes showcases 30 key works by New York photographers, including Jacob Riis, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, William Klein, Nan Goldin, and Joel Meyerowitz. Together, these selections highlight the similarities and differences of subject matter and style by practitioners working simultaneously thousands of miles apart in major western metropolitan cities: LINK

☞ MEET: Coffee Bark at St. Nicholas Park

Saturday, August 4th, 9:00AM-11:00AM, Coffee Bark at the St. Nicholas Park dog run, St. Nicholas Avenue, closer to 136th Street. Coffee Barks are monthly events for dog owners to meet one another, and discuss issues and volunteer opportunities in the dog run. Coffee Bark is held on the first Saturday of the month at the St. Nicholas’ Dog Run. Coffee, donuts, and other refreshments are provided: LINK

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Friday, July 27, 2012

☞ DWELL: 136 West 121st Street Brownstone



OPEN HOUSE: Sunday, July 29th, 1:00PM-2:00PM.  Number 136 West 121st Street arrived on the market back in March and the (golden) 20-foot-wide brownstone adjacent to the Mount Morris Park Historic District was initially listed for $2.875 million. The asking has now decreased this month by 8% to $2.65 million price point.  For those who want a fully renovated, single-family, modern townhouse with apparently higher end finishes, this one might be worth checking out. More details and photos can be found on the broker site: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Outdoor Umbrellas in Harlem





Now that the summer season is at its height, we noticed that several of the new outdoor eateries have introduced umbrellas to their outdoor seating areas.  Up on Lenox and 126th Street, the Red Rooster sticks to the more traditional scheme of things with a matching red umbrella shading guests from the sun.  Chez Lucienne next door switches things up by adding a pop of complimentary colors in turquoise and orange to brighten things up.  On lower FDB/8th Avenue, Lido sports brand new white parasols while Five and Diamond has a vibrant blue to contrast the restaurant's mostly black tinted facade. Further up the block, Harlem Tavern on West 116th Street follows the Rooster's lead and sticks to a matching red theme.  Harlem's boulevard sidewalks are wide so the additional umbrellas provide and extra touch of shade when the awnings do not reach as far out.

☞ READ: Urban Garden Center in the Times

East Harlem's Urban Garden Center has been the major newcomer at the old La Marqueta market underneath the Park Avenue railroad tracks and the Times catches up with the business that serves up all things flora alongside live music.  Owner Dimitri Gatanas not only has the largest outdoor garden center in Manhattan but also has a chickens running around a compost yard designed for the community and has a greenhouse set up for special events.  Moscow 57 now has a weekly Wednesday night set up that specializes in Russian cuisine with a touch of live music at that said greenhouse and the center has become more than just a place to shop for plants. Read more in the Times: LINK

☞ SEE: Around Harlem this Weekend

Friday, July 27th, 12:00 noon, The Summer on the Hudson Concert Series with The Harlem Chamber Players at West Harlem Piers, West 130th Street and the Hudson.  A lunchtime outdoor concert sponsored by the New York City Parks Department. Free live music featuring wind octets by Mozart and Beethoven conducted by Tali Makell at West Harlem Piers Park (Enter at 125th): LINK

Saturday and Sunday, July 28th, July 29th, 6:00AM-6:00PM, Harlem Treasure Chest Flea Market, 117th Street and FDB/8th Avenue.  South Harlem's first flea market arrives just in time for the warm weather.  Check out the offerings from local antique vendors this weekend: LINK

Saturday, July 28th, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM, The Morningside Park Farmers Market at 110th Street and Manhattan Avenue. Drop by the corner of 110th and Manhattan Avenue to check out what's in season at the Morningside Park Farmers Market. These local markets only grow and improve with community support so make sure to visit each Saturday: LINK.

Saturday, July 28th, 8:00 AM-4:00 PM, The Mount Morris Park Historic District Farmers Market at 122nd Street and Lenox. The Mount Morris Park Historic District Farmers Market returns for 2012 at a new location right on Lenox Avenue.

Saturday, July 28th, 5:00PM, The Fats Waller Dance Party at Annunciation Park, Amsterdam Avenue at 134th Street.  After four sold out performances in 2011 at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, Jason Moran and Meshell Ndegeochello team up for a second year to present the Fats Waller Dance Party - this time as a FREE outdoor experience. Awakening the spirit of the legendary Fats Waller and re-envisioning the importance of moving to jazz, Moran and Ndegeocello rework his music to create a dance event reminiscent of late night jams and rent parties. Backed by a 5-piece-band and joined by the dancers of Organic Magnetics.  More details at the Harlem Stage site: LINK

Sunday, July 29th, Kehinde Wiley World Stage: Israel at the Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue by 92nd Street.  Kehinde Wiley's amazing exhibition at the Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side ends this weekend. Mr. Wiley started out at the Studio Museum in Harlem and has since then worked on painting portraits of the African Diaspora throughout the world: LINK

☞ REPRESENT: West Harlem Art and Culture

Saturday, July 28th, 5:00PM, Be Identified and Be Represented, at Annuciation Park on Amsterdam and 135th Street (behind the Harlem Stage Gatehouse). Community Board 9 is calling on West Harlem's Creative Community: Artists, Arts & Culture Organizations, and Art Businesses to be Identified and Be Represented. Fill out a servey this Saturday during the free  Fats Waller Dance Party at the CB9 Arts & Culture tent that will be pitched at the event.  By completing the Data Collection Survey, West Harlem will be able to leverage more arts funding for the community so come out and represent! Those who cannot attend this event can request a survey online by contacting: westharlemsurvey@gmail.com

Thursday, July 26, 2012

☞ DWELL: One Left at Apex Condos


Having the Aloft chain of the W Hotel franchise as part of condo development appears to have helped sales along for one new construction.  The development known as Apex condos on FDB/8th Avenue at the corner of 124th Street started initial closings about a year ago and now only 1 of the 44 available units is left on the market according to Streeteasy: LINK.  Average recorded sale prices are approximately at $566 per square foot which seems to be right for the going rate of condos uptown.  This location is right in the South Harlem corridor's bustling retail row and located a block away from the express train on 125th Street so buyers must have noticed the convenience of living in the area.

☞ BESPOKE: African Prints at Cassava Leaf Boutik

Prints and color are a key fashion trend of the season and African textiles are now looking fresh again with bold colors that can be used for the home.  We noticed Cassava Leaf Boutik at the recent Harlem Arts Festival in Mount Morris Park and marveled at the collection of updated ethnic prints that were the main design elements of the custom pillows and soft furnishings.  For the time being, the Cassava Leaf home collection can be purchased via Estsy for those who are interested: LINK

☞ REMEMBER: M&G Diner circa 2001

Raymond Sicignano painted portraits of Harlem storefronts over a decade ago and the above is a close up of M&G Diner back in the day.  The diner has since closed, the yellow paint stripped from the building and the store space is now up for lease.  Check out the full painting and some of the classic spots that have since disappeared on the Raymond Sicignano site: LINK

☞ REVIVE: 256-262 West 116th Street


A couple of Bespoke readers inquired on the activity at the building over at West 116th Street and FDB/8th Avenue so we did a little research to see if anything interesting came.  Number 256-262 West 116th Street had some scaffolding up several months ago and the permit for that time period basically allowed for the removal of the intricate cornice that was still intact at top.

Currently the windows have now been exposed on the formerly blocked off upper levels and more current permits reveal that they will be replaced along with the addition of new wood floors in the interior.  Other than that, not much else is known about what will happen to the building eventually but losing some the historic character seems to be on the agenda.  It is also unclear if those blocked side windows will ever be exposed again. Does anyone have any other details for this property?

☞ SEE: Sing Your Song at Jackie Robinson Park

RESCHEDULED FOR AUGUST 1ST BECAUSE OF WEATHER. Thursday, July 26th, 8:30PM, Sing Your Song Outdoor Screening at the Jackie Robinson Park Bandshell, 148th Street and Bradhurst.With remarkable intimacy, visual style, and musical panache Sing Your Song, surveys the inspiring life of singer, actor, and activist Harry Belafonte. From his rise to fame as a singer and his experiences touring a segregated country, to his crossover into Hollywood, Belafonte's groundbreaking career personifies the American civil rights movement.  More details for this free event can be found at the Maysles Cinema site: LINK

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Harlem Bespoke also has a Twitter account for those who want daily updates about stuff that's happening in the neighborhood. If you Twitter, check out our Harlem tweets and join here: LINK.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

☞ DWELL: 245 Lenox Brownstone for Sale

After writing about the restoration of 241-245 Lenox Avenue, we discovered that Number 245 is now up for sale at the asking price of $3.2 million.  This 4-family townhouse with a commercial space on the ground floor at West 122nd Street is in the charming Mount Morris Park Historic District, close to retail store, Marcus Garvey Park and express transportation.  As previously mentioned, the 20-foot-wide house has been fully renovated in the past couple of years with an accurate facade restoration that holds true to the building's heritage. With that said, the interior appears to have one of those severely modern upgrades that look nice in a glass condo but somehow seem out place in a historic brownstone.

Harlem sales have been getting close to the $3 million mark in the past year but most of those properties had interiors with much more historic elements intact.  More photos and details on 245 Lenox can be found on the broker site: LINK

☞ EAT: Chef Putnam Leaves Lido

The second Italian restaurant to arrive at the corner of 117th Street and FDB/8th Avenue has done well with Stephen Putnam at the helm of the kitchen but we have now been informed that the Executive chef has left the South Harlem restaurant and plans to open a new eatery in the neighborhood.  Lido has thrived where a former Italian restaurant at the same location has failed so the talents of chef Putnam will be surely put to use in the future venture.  The Harlem resident will be one to look out for in the upcoming months so stay tuned.

☞ REVIVE: A Set of Three on Historic Lenox


Within the period of two years, the three brownstone shells just north 122nd Street have gone under major restoration process to renovate them accurately to their original grandeur.  It all started with number 245 Lenox which has now been accurately restored and is a multi-family home.  Then the corner building at 241 Lenox Avenue started up renovations back in 2011 and finished up earlier this year.

As for number 243, it appears the city had to step in and start the process of suing the owner to get repairs done and all worked out at the end since that formerly derelict brownstone is going through the final phases of facade rehabilitation today.  If these properties were not in the Mount Morris Park Historic District, the city would have been powerless to force the owners to clean up their properties but their designation has since saved them from demolition and have provided more adaptive reuse housing for uptowners.  Now the only other major restorations needed to be had in the area would be further south at 190 and 192 Lenox Avenue.

☞ SHOP: M&G Diner Space Still Vacant


It's been well over a year since the old M&G Diner space finished up the facade renovations but the shuttered soul food retail space has yet to find a new tenant.  This intersection at 383 West 125th Street had been the home of one of Harlem's most recognizable eateries for decades but the proprietors left the business a few years back.  Only one of the iconic signs have been left up as a decorative reminder of the storefront's history and it was reported that Marcus Samuelsson took one of the other ones for the lounge at the Red Rooster.   What should go in this space?

☞ INTRODUCING: The Fall Season at Harlem Stage



Harlem Stage continues its excellent arts programing in West Harlem for Fall 2012 with a new schedule of events planned for the upcoming season.  Much of the programing will be shown at the castle-like Gatehouse Theater which was a former pumping station on the grounds of City College at West 135th Street but now has been converted to community space.  Check out the full schedule on the Harlem Stage site: LINK

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

☞ DWELL: 436 Lenox Avenue Brownstone


A 17-foot wide, 3-famiy home at 436 Lenox Avenue has arrived on the market this month for $1.35 million. This section of Central Harlem close to West 132nd Street is more of a commercial main strip and the building has a retail space on the ground floor which apparently was a funeral home.  There appears to be some details intact inside but it is unclear if the infrastructure has been upgraded.  The block is also still on the up-and-coming side and the building next door has the top floors boarded up.  Express trains are at 135th Street and some of the better shops have been opening up just a few blocks south.

☞ SHOP: The Coffee Shop Trend in Harlem




After Society Coffee shuttered on the lower FDB corridor in the past year, it appeared specialty coffee shops might not have a good run in Harlem but several new contenders have opened and seem to be doing well.  Lenox Coffee at 129th Street takes the lead with its reclaimed wood floors, tin ceiling and vintage milk glass pendant lights while the neighboring Astor Row Cafe just up the block at 130th and Lenox appears to be doing well at its corner location. Both offer specialty roasts and the neighbors have made each newcomers a welcome addition to this section of Central Harlem.

Over on the west side, a few new spots have opened that have been attracting locals to grab some java and work on their laptops. Chokolat opened up by Broadway and 125th's Street just this fall and Kuro Kuma Coffee opened up just two blocks south in the past month.  Both appear to be doing well and proves the point that even a couple of blocks makes a different for most New Yorkers when it comes to convenience. The Chipped Cup up in Hamilton Heights also is providing some much needed caffeine to that section of Broadway over by West 148th Street and has become the spot to hang out at during the day.  Good coffee, a warm environment and free WiFi appear to be a successful combination these days and uptowners have taken notice to those shops that serve it up.