Wednesday, July 31, 2013

☞ REVIVE: Storefront Reno at West 116th

There appears to be some renovation work being done at a storefront by the corner of 116th and Manhattan Avenue.  We always admired this brownstone lined avenue just west of FDB/8th Avenue but not much has happened in recent years in the area as far as better businesses.  With the brownstone stock and proximity to the FDB Corridor, one would expect Manhattan Avenue to develop more quickly.  Does anyone know what is happening to this particular space?

☞ SHOP: More at the Joe's Crab Shack Opening

We updated our Facebook page last night with the above press photo showing the 600 folks lined up at the Joe's Crab Shack opening on 125th Street yesterday.  The PR company also mentioned that the offer of 1 year's worth of free crab for the first 100 in line was extend to the first 300.  The following 200 in line thereafter received certificates for free crab steam pots.  So what does all this commercial success mean for the future of 125th Street?

A few folks mentioned their dislike for having such a mainstream chain on the boulevard but city planners have always wanted 125th Street to be commercial.  Smaller boutique businesses on the side boulevards or brownstone streets will benefit from the foot traffic and are more appropriate for those sections of Harlem.

On the other side of the conversation, some see that the planned Whole Foods on 125th Street might be too expensive for the neighborhood.  Why not Trader Joe's?  From what we can see, Trader Joe's is kind of conservative when it comes to opening in new neighborhoods.  It seems that they wait for Whole Foods to take the lead.  Harlem right now is a diverse economy so there will be room for all types of businesses in the future.

Until now most of the chains showing up on Harlem's commercial main street have been geared towards the lower range but the arrival of mid range business might eventually attract a Home Depot or eventually an Apple Store.  Folks who want the high end retailers to suddenly show up should remember that those businesses are more reserve when selecting new neighborhoods and that 125th Street success will happen in increments.

☞ REVIVE: Further Progress at One Morningside

The 88-unit new construction at Morningside Park and 110th Street keeps making great strides.  Right now it appears that 16 floors have finished up as of the end of July but expect six more stories when things top off probably by the end of summer.  This new construction called One Morningside should break some records once it opens since the location by Central Park and the lower FDB Corridor is one of the most desirable in South Harlem.  Check out the building's finished rendering in our past post: LINK

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: Crossing 125th and 7th circa 1938

An archival photo from 1938 shows what the north side of 125th Street by 7th Avenue used to look like back in the day when the neighborhood had most of its original structures.  The lower photo shows this intersection now and that entire block has been demolished and replaced by new buildings in the past couple of decades or so.  Another interesting detail of the older image is that one can see how diverse Harlem was back in this particularly decade.

Vintage photo via Shorpy

☞ ARCHITECTURE: Cornice Restored on 149th

We received a tip earlier this year that the cornice at a brownstone over on West 149th and Broadway that was wrongfully torn down by the city was now being restored.  The lower photo shows the brownstone today of which the local block association saved from completely being destroyed.  This townhouse was a former shell that had all the paperwork together for a gut reno but the city somehow had deemed it unstable a couple of years back and a demo crew ripped the cornice off but the folks of west 149th spent the entire day calling local authorities to stop the rest of the destruction.  Now the building is the new gem of the block and a symbol of the strength of how a well organized group can affect the outcome in any neighborhood.

☞ EAT: Joe's Crab Shack Harlem Opens Today

Joe's Crab Shack at 125th at FDB/8th Avenue had a soft opening last night and will officially open to the public today.  This is our first outing at the national chain and the Crab Shack's first New York City presence also. A giant shark display greeted guests as they arrived on the top floor of the eatery along with a young, helpful staff dressed in tie dye tees.  One other thing that stood out the most is that the front area is very much a sports bar and the drink menu is quite extensive.  New England style props decorate the main dining area but this event was more for socializing and like a cocktail party with small bites served.

Menus were past out to guests to take home and prices appear to be in the low twenties to the thirty dollar range for the various crab boil pots.  Those same crab pots attracted around fifty folks who formed an early line last night to be the first 100 guests at today's opening who will receive a year long free crab membership.  By 7:00 last night there was tent that was pitched also out front.  With all that said, Joe's Crab shack should be a popular destination for a lot of families in the neighborhood and a key factor in developing the quiet upper FDB corridor located north of 125th Street.

UPDATE: There ended up being over 600 people waiting in lone for the opening today and Joe's extended the year's worth of free crab award to a total of the first 300 instead of just 100.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

☞ INTRODUCING: The Greyston in West Harlem

We received a bit of early sales press on a boutique condo development called the Greyston House at 540 West 149th and decided to check the building this past weekend.  This West Harlem 4-unit development appears to still be under construction but a lovely pale gray hue has been painted on the exterior to reflect the townhouse's namesake.  Apparently 1 to 2 bedroom units will arrive on the market starting at $455K for those who are interested.  Based on the graphics and the quality of the facade restoration, we expect the Greyston to be one of the new developments to look out for.  The website is now taking inquiries so register here:

☞ REVIVE: A Manhattanville Campus Tower Rises

Here is the most updated photo of the first tower over in Manhattanville rising just north of 125th and Broadway which does not appear to have topped off quite yet.  Currently there are seven floors now but it appears that there will be around ten floors altogether when all is finished at the Renzo Piano designed structure.  Work has been coming along at a steady pace this year and hopefully things will be finishing up about this time next year for this phase of Columbia University's new $6.8 billion West Harlem campus.  Check out some of the additional renderings for this first building here: LINK

☞ SHOP: Fabric Stores in Harlem

We are used to just going to the Garment District in Midtown to get fabric but occasionally go local for more basic items. Alexli Telas at 1772 Amsterdam between 148th and 149th is on a sleepy section of West Harlem but had some qualities that worked when we were looking for basic curtain fabric.  Does anyone have other suggestions uptown for fabric shopping?

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Friday, July 26, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: Sugar Hill's Poosepahtuck Club

The space at the shuttered Sugar Hill jazz joint known as St. Nick's Pub was the oldest jazz spot in Harlem which has stayed open over the decades.  Number 773 St. Nicholas Avenue was originally called the Pooseepahtuck Night Club back in 1935 which debuted on Sugar Hill a good 4 years earlier than Lenox Lounge on Lenox Avenue.  St. Nick's Pub closed a few years back and apparently the owner plans for a comeback but the deteriorating state of the facade over the years does not bode well for the future of the space.  If a new owner came in to revive the spot, that probably would be the best thing to happen to keep the place running but it is unclear if the current proprietor would ever make this move.  More about the various names of St. Nicks can be found in our previous post: LINK

☞ EAT: Signs up at Barawine on Lenox

Barawine on the corner of 120th and Lenox has their signage up but it does not look like they will be open by this weekend.  The new bistro in the Mount Morris Park Historic District was aiming for a late July debuted but it still appears that more work needs to be finalized within the interior before that happens.  With that said, we really do admire the new graphics for the store and the retro shadow font is something that has not been seen in Harlem until now. Read more about Barawine in our past post: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Harlem Shake Outdoor Seating

Harlem Shake received their cafe license just in time for the last months of summer and have been setting up as of yesterday.  The new burger joint on Lenox at 124th Street has been receiving great press since it opened the outdoor seating should now really add to the eatery's popularity.  Read more about Harlem Shake's arrival in our past post: LINK

☞ SEE: When Fashion Danced at MCNY

LAST DAY SUNDAY JULY, 29TH: When Fashion Danced at The Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue at East 103rd Street.  Back in 1973,  Stephen Burrows was one of the five great American designer chosen to present against French couture giants such as Dior and YSL in a fashion show to raise money for repairing the Palais Versaille in France.  This legendary event eventually showed the world that Americans had arrived in modern times and the French could be somewhat stiff in their fashion traditions.  Mr. Burrows represented the energy of the 70s disco era and When Fashion Danced tries to capture a bit that decades magic: LINK

Thursday, July 25, 2013

☞ EAT: Harlem Backyard Patio Dining

Harlem has a lot of wide boulevards so outdoor cafe seating has been popular with many of the new businesses popping up.  So what about the backyard cafes?  The above photo is that of the one over at the Chipped Cup cafe on Broadway at 148th Street in Hamilton Heights and there's really not much else happening Central or West Harlem. A better restaurant in a brownstone space with a backyard dining area might do exceptionally well but apparently this setup is difficult to find.

☞ REVIVE: New Heights at 2272 FDB

One of the last vacant lots on the lower FDB corridor is quickly progressing as the next new development in the area.  Number 2272 FDB/8th Avenue has been empty since at least the 90s and a formerly stalled project appears to be making major strides now at the corner of 122nd Street.  From permits we have reviewed in the past, this should be 8 stories in total and sign on the plywood mentions that Spring 2014 is the finish date.

☞ QUESTION: Solar Panels for Brownstones?

More a more brownstone renovations in the neighborhood are interested in solar power.  A Bespoke reader wanted to know if there were any recommended contractors out there?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

☞ DWELL: Harlem Record Selling Townhouses

The average townhouse is in Harlem is still going for around $1.5 million but some of the standouts have broken the barrier in the past few years.  A combination of great renovations with historic details, impressive locations on charming blocks and proximity to better retail or restaurants along with transportation options have made these homes particularly attractive to the high end buyer.

CENTRAL HARLEM - No. 2036 Fifth Avenue for $4 million.  We expect this 2013 sale to be the record for some time and the large house has one more additional level than most brownstones: LINK

SOUTH HARLEM - No. 357 West 121st Street at $3 million.  At 16 foot in width, this house makes up for lack of space by being on a great block close to everything in the desirable South Harlem corridor.  The little charmer sold last year: LINK

WEST HARLEM - No. 329 Convent Avenue for $2.3 Million.  This historic district house broke the $2 million range back in 2011: LINK

EAST HARLEM - No. 2087 Fifth Avenue at $2.075 million.  Technically in East Harlem, this centrally located 2011 record breaker was owned by an architect with an appreciation for historic restoration: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: Topiary at Paw Prints Dog Spa

The new dog day spa called Paw Prints on St. Nicholas at 115th Street has very bespoke topiary out front to that is an inviting beacon for folks on the street. We walked by this section of South Harlem this weekend and noticed that the custom dog bone planters were out front and took the above photo.  This little humorous patch of green not only dresses up the storefront but also adds a bit of charm to this corner of the Avenue.  Read more about Paw Prints in out previous post: LINK

☞ READ: More Joe's Crab Shack in the News

Everyone in Harlem knows now that Joe's Crab Shack will be opening next week on July 30th at the corner of 125th Street and FDB/8th Avenue but the Daily News is now reporting the details to the city at large.  One thing to note also is that the first 100 guests at next Tuesday's Grand Opening will get 1 year of free crab at the seafood shack.  Read more in the Daily News: LINK

☞ REVIVE: Some Activity at PS 186 Site

We walked by the old ruins of the PS 186 School Building on 145th Street this week and noticed that the front courtyard had all of the trees chopped down for the most part. The top interior levels still look like a jungle but his is probably the first time we can see the courtyard for as long as we can remember. This is only a slight improvement for the building that was supposed to be restored over 30 years ago and apparently the owners had a meeting last week with the community board on the new timeline for this development.  Does anyone have an update to what's happening with the restoration of PS 186?

More details on the efforts to restore this grand structure in Hamilton Heights can be found in our past post: LINK

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: Bernheimer & Schwartz Brewery

We are reposting this article from a couple of years back with updated photos since the Mink Building has become one of the Harlem developments to look our for in 2013.

 A rare old illustration from around the turn of the last century shows Manhattanville's Bernheimer & Schwartz Brewery building as it stood in full capacity on the blocks between today's West 126th and 128th Street over on Amsterdam Avenue. What's fascinating about the surrounding block are the stables which remain intact in various sections on both side streets.  The brewery was apparently also a major distributor and thus the horse stables on both sides of the street would have made sense. Later on, the brewery would shutter and the building would become a storage warehouse for furs and thus has been named the Mink Building in more modern times.  Interestingly enough, a new brewery will be opening up in Harlem across the street from this location in about a year's time.

So what ever happen to Mr. Bernheimer and Mr. Schwartz?  Looking back at an old New York Times article from 1911, it appears that the beer barons made their exits in a dramatic fashion before the factory would shut down during the Prohibition years of the 1920's. The unmarried Simon Bernheimer was part of a wealthy brewing dynasty but six years after his Harlem factory opened, he died of a stroke at the age of 62 while taking the opportunity to play the bass drums at a social event. Bernheimer's  partner Anton Scwhartz evidently committed suicide the year before after the untimely death of his 24-year-old-son. More details in the Times from 1911: LINK.

☞ READ: A Harlem Guide for Tourists

We received a note from the folks over at the Fathom travel site on there wonderful new feature on Harlem as a destination spot.  These guys have done a great job pinpointing the best of the best in Harlem in a concise, up to date fashion. With that said,  Fathom also gives Harlem Bespoke the thumbs up for the blog to read to keep everyone updated.  Check out the Fathom travel site and recommend this article to a friend who might be visiting the neighborhood: LINK

☞ LISTEN: Dear Summer at Corner Social

We do not post too many flyers unless the graphics are bold and engaging (the type also shrink down so the fonts have to be large and legible). This Dear Summer promo feels like a fun tee shirt of summer and really makes us want to go to the event on Saturday July27th at noon at the Corner Social on Lenox. We are assuming that cocktail specials will be abundant based on the flyer and folks should RSVP for this event at:

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Monday, July 22, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: A Restaurant Renaissance in Harlem

When celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson opened Red Rooster on Lenox Avenue back in 2010, there were many doubters who have since been proven wrong by the eatery's success.  Samuelsson's culinary skill and clout has put Harlem on the map in a way that has not been seen since the Renaissance years and the chef's peers are now taking note.  Restauranteur Richard Notar of Nobu fame will open a new version of the former Lenox Lounge a block away from Red Rooster just south of 125th Street and Shake Shack's Danny Meyer is reportedly looking in the neighborhood a little further north by 135th Street.

The downtown crowd is now venturing uptown to visit Harlem mainly because of Red Rooster but that will change soon within the next year.  Harlem is still one of the last neighborhoods left with a bit of mystery in a city which constantly seeks to be unique and thus has suddenly become attractive to those who want a location that is not standard or mainstream.

☞ REVIVE: A Boutique Hotel for Manhattanville?

The area over by the Mink Building has big plans for it already but could a boutique hotel be arriving soon on West 126th Street?  We had a tip come in over the weekend that a deal had closed for a building connected to the main Mink Building warehouse on Amsterdam.  Seeing that we have been by the block many times, it was odd to us that any hotel could arrive at the relatively low rise structures that were attached next door.

After walking by the area again, we noticed a couple of permits that might verify that a large establishment could be arriving soon.  DOB paperwork approved in the past few months for 461 West 126th Street show that two of the smaller (possibly former stables) are currently being combined and the height will almost double to 9 stories.  Currently about 48,500 square feet exist between the buildings and the pending vertical addition will set the final total at 88,400 square feet.

One of the very notable downtown boutique hotels had been connected to the project but we could not find any details online to confirm this information.  With that said, we alway thought that the industrial sections of Manhattanville looked like the Meat Packing District and could eventually be revitalized as a destination spot if the right businesses arrived.

As previously reported, the empty parking lots across the street were recently sold to developers with talks of a hotel rising also: LINK

Then there is that beer manufacturing center planned just across the street from this intersection: LINK

This of course is all a couple of blocks away from Columbia's new $6.3 billion campus currently rising over on Broadway and 125th: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Suzy-Q's Bar-B-Q on ACP

A Bespoke tip came in that a bar was under construction at a commercial space on ACP/7th Avenue and 112th Street so we did a little research.  A public notice went up for a liquor license approval for Suzy-Q's Bar-B-Q and the new eatery will have 1,500 square foot space with 57 seats overall plus room for 12 patrons at the bar.  The said bar was being installed when we passed by over the weekend so Suzy-Q's might be opening by early fall.  This picturesque area of Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard is right by Central Park but does not have much happening as far as businesses so a casual BBQ bar could be the thing to bring some foot traffic to the area.

☞ LISTEN: Opera at Jackie Robinson Park

Tuesday, July 30th, 7:00PM-8:00PM, The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series. arlem Pride at Jackie Robinson Park, 145th Street and Bradhurst Avenue. An evening of favorite opera arias and duets by up-and-coming Met artists Ying Fang (soprano), Mario Chang (tenor), and Brandon Cedel (bass-baritone), accompanied by pianist Bradley Moore.  Additional details can be found on the City Parks Foundation site: LINK

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Friday, July 19, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: Barbecue Spaghetti at Sherman's

Summer is here and the Barbecue season also reminds us of Sherman's which shuttered its last branch over a year ago.  The location on 145th Street and ACP/7th Avenue had an Art Deco exterior similar to that of Lenox Lounge and served up ribs along with one unique southern regional specialty.  Barbecue Spaghetti is one of the odd American takes on traditionally ethnic food that should not work but has become a favorite to many as a side order.  Greater New York City is sort of having a resurgence of quirky regional American fare being featured at the more hip restaurants but it appears that BBQ spaghetti left town when Sherman's closed shop for good.

We made this southern side dish this week for the memories but updated the spaghetti with thicker bucatini pasta that worked better with the recipe slightly passed al dente in texture.  The base is basically a tomato sauce to thicken the addition of leftover shredded barbecue meat and BBQ sauce.  A sweeter BBQ sauce (i.e. brown sugar or honey) actually works better than something too smokey so also keep that in mind.

Read about the time The Beatles in their younger years stopped into Sherman's on Amsterdam Avenue in our past post: LINK

☞ SHOP: Moroccan Sweets at Flea Marqueta

The Sunday flea market at the Marqueta underpass by 116th and Park Avenue is starting to pick up and  one particular vendor caught our eye with their specialty sweets.  Moroccan Sweetslali had this great table display with wrapped treats such as stuffed dates contained within beautiful silver servers that really wowed us on a hot afternoon.  There was also fresh ice tea blends on hand for those who want a break from the heat along with a handful of other vendors. This market is just starting up and they still are looking for more specialty businesses so those interested should check out the official Facebook site for more details: LINK

☞ EAT: Harlem Joe's Crab Shack Open Date

We received a press kit this week from Joe's Crab Shack on FDB and 125th Street officially announcing the restaurant's opening date on Tuesday, July 30th.  This will be the first Manhattan location for the chain that specializes in  buckets of steamed seafood in all variations and should be a very popular spot in the neighborhood based on the response receive so far.

☞ LISTEN: Jazzmobile Presents Patience Higgins

Friday, July 19th, 6:30PM-8:00, Jazzmobile Presents Patience Higgins and the Sugar Hill Quartet, at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, Mount Morris Park West and 122nd Street.  Jazzmobile's free summer concerts continue with Patience Higgins at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater this weekend: LINK

Thursday, July 18, 2013

☞ ARCHITECTURE: Lights on at Minton's Club

Facade work over at the Minton's Supper Club in the former Cecil Hotel is still quickly progressing.  The neon was taken down briefly at this corner of 118th and St. Nicholas Avenue but we noticed that everything has been installed again this week.  Another design element to note is the decorative cast iron which have now been painted a rich maroon color and the embossed leaf motifs now have a nice contrasting color to them.  This restoration appears to really keep with the spirit of the time period of the famous jazz club so we look forward to seeing what the interior will finally look like.  Read more about the revival of Minton's in our past post: LINK

☞ DWELL: 369 West 120th Street Browntone

The brownstone blocks in the 120s by Morningside Park have another notable sale set for a Harlem townhouse.  Number 369 West 120th Street hit the market for the asking price of $2.999 million back in March and closed by end of April for that exact price.  This classic corner brownstone appears to have all the modern updates but also has retained the original details that high end buyers look out for.  We prefer the interior the upgrades of Marcia Gay Harden's former house that sold on the block for $2.75 million last year since it had more contextual lines to the modern additions: LINK

On the next block north, the record holder for this micro neighborhood also sold in the past year for $3 million which now appears to be a consistent trend for the area: LINK

☞ SHOP: Retail Available at the Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange Building restoration has not started quite yet over on 125th and Park Avenue but there appears to be ads out already for the lower retail storefronts.  All of the top floors that will be reconstructed and eventually be reserved for office use but the lower level has over 8,000 square feet to lease out.  This East Harlem landmark next to the train station is one of the more unique buildings uptown and any commercial entity that arrives in the future will have follow landmark guidelines when setting up shop.  Get more details here: LINK

☞ QUESTION: Ask Harlem Bespoke

If any readers out there have a question they would like to throw out to the Bespoke audience on neighborhood organizations, restoration services, property search or history, just send them over and we can possibly have it written up as a future post:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

☞ EAT: Barawine Set for July Opening

Barawine has a new awning up and is set for a July opening according to signs placed out front of the Mount Morris Park Historic District restaurant.  This new eatery at the corner of 120th Street and Lenox is also hiring so folks should stop by 200 Lenox Avenue if they are looking for a job in the restaurant world.