Tag Archives: Exploring Harlem

Day One Hundred and Sixty Two: “I Love New York” from the 1970’s, 80’s and Today! March 30th, 2020

I was just watching ’60 Minutes’ tonight and it has never been scarier to be in New York City. The hospitals are being over-whelmed by patients that are low on supplies and the medical staffs are tired, burnt out and still stepping up to the plate to help get people better. The streets are empty with people as the last of the tourists left two weeks ago and the crowded streets of Manhattan that only in December were packed with so many people that you could not walk seems like a distant memory.

NY Restaurant Show II

https://www.internationalrestaurantny.com/

What should have been a great night for everyone. Michigan State WON 80-69!

 

As you have read from my last two blog entries, I was in Manhattan from March 7th until March 10th walking the International Restaurant Show, watching the Michigan State-Ohio State Basketball game at Blondies Bar on the Upper West Side for who would be the Big Ten Champion (MSU won Go Green Go White) that Sunday night, at the Anthology Film Archives watching Sandra Bullock in “The Net” for a series the movie theater had on 1990’s Internet films on Monday night and then my last night in the City on Tuesday, March 10th for the Gerhard Richter Exhibition at the Met Breuer for a Private Members Night. All this while everything was going on around us.

Met Breuer

The Met Breuer at 945 Madison Avenue

https://www.metmuseum.org/visit/plan-your-visit/met-breuer

Anthology Film archives

The Anthology Film Archives at 32 Second Avenue

http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/

The night I went to the Anthology Film Archives,  I stopped in Chinatown first to go to Wonton Noodle Garden on Mott Street (see review on TripAdvisor) for dinner. What shocked me was how empty the place was that evening. This is a restaurant that is packed all the time and it is open until 2:00am. The only people who were there were myself and two tables of NYU students.

Wonton Noodle Garden II

Wonton Noodle Garden at 56 Mott Street

http://www.wontonnoodlegarden.com/

When I asked the waiter where everyone was, he through up his shoulders and said “Everything going on in the world”. I knew it did not look good that night as the rest of Chinatown was empty. The East Village was hopping with college students and the neighborhood around me was busy but you could feel the mood shifting.

Wonton Noodle Garden

Wonton Noodle Garden’s Cantonese Wonton Soup with Egg Noodles and Roast Pork can cure all ills.

‘The Net’ Trailer

Sandra Bullock can cheer anyone up!

I felt this at the Restaurant Show where you could walk down the aisles of the show and never bump into anyone. The Tuesday afternoon that I went in to see the show one last time by 3:30pm most people had packed up and gone. The show did not close until 4:30pm. They were ready to go by early that morning. So my last five days in Manhattan I felt the mood changing as people were not sure what to do.

That last night at the Met Breuer as  I walked the crowded floors of the museum enjoying the Gerard Richter Show before the opening to the public, I could hear in the corners members saying “I am really surprised they did not cancel this.” and “Could you believe this crowd with what’s going on?” It was like all of us knew this was the last night of “ballyhoo”.

 

Gerhard Ritcher artist

Artist Gerhard Richter in front of his works

https://www.gerhard-richter.com/en/

All over the world people are banding together to contribute what they can and keep the human spirit alive by volunteering where they can and helping one another out. I know that between my work at the College and the Fire Department everyone has me running around and my spirit of volunteerism is never lacking.

So to all my readers especially the ones who are displaced New Yorkers remember that New York City has seen it darker days in the past and has risen to overcome them. There is a real spirit in the City that is not replicated anywhere else in the world and we saw that in the 1970’s, 80’s 90’s and on 9/11 to current days.

That was until 1977 when we rediscovered that spirit and said “I LOVE New York!”

To cheer everyone up, I pulled the old campaign from YouTube from the dark days of the 1970’s and 80’s to show how the human spirit can overcome anything if we pull together. So this special entry of “MywalkinManhattan” is dedicated to all of you who will never let that spirit die both here and where you live now. We will get through this!

I love New York III

After all “WE LOVE NEW YORK!”

The song that started it all:

 

The original campaign videos:

 

 

 

 

New York City after 9/11:

 

 

 

The Original Campaign videos from the 1980’s 1-5:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the “I LOVE NEW YORK” campaign came about:

 

This excellent documentary was done by a New York High School student in 2006.

 

Songs that represent the true spirit of New York City:

Native New Yorker by Odyssey:

 

The Great Liza Minnelli singing the best version of “New York New York”

 

We will get through this everyone and God Speed!

Day Seventy-One Walking: Walking SoHA in East Harlem (Upper Spanish Harlem) from 125th Street to 110th Street from Park Avenue to FDR Drive & the River April 7th-13th, 2017

I finished walking East Harlem and it was an interesting experience. It took two weeks to crisscross the whole neighborhood and I was lucky that I double-backed on several streets so I got a more detailed experience. There was a lot of interesting architecture and some wonderful restaurants, bodegas and bakeries along the way to experience. I got to walk the parks at different times of the day and I finished the walk when the schools were closed for Spring Break, so I got to see the neighborhood come to life with families out and about.

My first day of the walk, I could not have asked for beautiful weather. It was clear, sunny and in the 60’s. It was perfect outside weather. After a busy morning at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (they had me working the hurried bread station and you would think that the homeless were at Starbucks with all of their requests), I took the number 6 subway to 110th Street to start the walk of East Harlem, now known as ‘Upper Spanish Harlem’. I have never seen so much renovation and building going on in one area which is changing the face of the neighborhood.

I started my walk up the Avenues and traveled on the north to south part of the neighborhood the first afternoon. I walked 3rd Avenue, 2nd Avenue and 1st Avenue and revisited Pleasant Avenue and the surrounding streets. It’s an interesting mix of commercial and housing space that houses a diversity of businesses.

Before the area was known as ‘El Barrio’, a Spanish neighborhood of Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Dominicans, it had the city’s first ‘Little Italy’ from the turn of the last century to about the late 1950’s to early 60’s when people moved out to the suburbs. There are still traces of the neighborhood left with some churches, businesses like Rao’s and Patsy’s still going strong and the streets named after famous Italians.

East Harlem III Pleasant Avenue

Pleasant Avenue off 120th Street in East Harlem

The area around Pleasant Avenue is going through a tremendous renovation as all the brownstones look like they are getting snatched up and being updated and a much younger crowd is beginning to move in. The biggest change that I saw that was attracting this crowd is the new Target Mall that was refitted into an old factory space between 118th-116th Streets. This mall has attracted everyone from the housing projects to the college students from the other side of the island. On a late Friday afternoon the place was mobbed.

In 2019, the area gained designation as a National Historic Landmark district. The new district is centered between East 114th and East 120th Streets near First and Pleasant Avenues, covers roughly two dozen blocks. The area contains some of the oldest buildings in the district includes churches such as Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on East 115th Street. This district has some of the most important designs of tenement housing in New York City.

The area is concerned with the coming of the extension of the Q subway line to 125th Street of losing these sights. This area has seen its share of immigration from being an Italian to a Puerto Rican community and wanted to preserved this culture. This area has been designed as the “East Harlem Historic District and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places (The Spirit Westsider 2019).

East Harlem II.jpg

The Historic district of East Harlem

I started the afternoon at the Blue Sky Deli (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) on the corner of 1st Avenue and 110th Street (2135 1st Avenue), home of the now cult-like ‘Chopped Cheese Sandwich’, which has become the rave of the internet as the hipsters enter Harlem. I have never seen such a debate over a sandwich so I saved my appetite from my morning at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (another busy day)and dove into the experience.

Blue Sky Deli

Blue Sky Deli (Haijj’s) at 110th Street and First Avenue; ‘Home of the Chopped Cheese’

The ‘Chopped Cheese Sandwich’ is basically a double cheeseburger that is chopped up. It is two hamburger patties cooked on a flat grill with two slices of American cheese on top, cooked with onions and peppers and topped with chopped lettuce and tomato. It is then tucked into a hoagie roll and then pressed. With ketchup and mayo to finish the sandwich, it is heaven on earth. I took my sandwich and a Coke into Jefferson Park on 111th Street and watched the neighborhood kids play soccer and do track.

Chopped Cheese

The famous ‘Chopped Cheese Sandwich”

The sandwich is a great blend of flavors and for $4.25 is a great deal. I know that comment gets a debate and rebuttal on the internet but when you are on a budget it is well worth it. Blue Sky Deli, also known in the neighborhood as ‘Hajji’s’, is known as the ‘home of the chopped cheese sandwich’ and is well worth the trip to this part of Harlem.

On the first day in the neighborhood, kids were just getting out of school and the streets were mobbed with children and parents or grandparents picking up their kids. After a relaxing lunch, I walked through the commercial district of 1st Avenue ending up back at the Wagner Houses at the edge of the neighborhood between 120th and 124th Streets.

The one thing I can tell you about walking around the Wagner Houses is that there are police there all the time. In the courtyards, by the schools and in the commercial district. I don’t know who was watching me more, the guys that looked like gang-bangers or the police trying to figure me out. Between them and the bodega owners with the wondering looks on their faces, it seemed to me that people were just trying to ‘figure me out’. I just keep quiet and smile a lot.

Wagner Houses.jpg

Wagner Houses at 120th Street

Talking about commercial real estate, I have discovered that developers will build anywhere to make money. One developer is in the middle of construction of a luxury building on the corner of 1st Avenue and 120th Street right on the edge of Wagner House complex. Its almost as if they are mocking the residents that live in the projects. That and who would want to buy these things. As I walked by the construction site, one senior resident said to me “They are not even that well built.” I commented that living in the Wagner Complex was safer than these homes that are put up quickly and that it will last longer. She just smiled and gave me a funny look.

I even went back to visit the Pleasant Finest Deli at the corner of Pleasant Avenue and 120th Street (see review on TripAdvisor) as the kids were getting out from school again across the street. I guess the tinted glasses through them off as they gave me strange looks as well like ‘what was I doing back?”. They were polite but in a formal way as I was buying a bag of chips. Maybe I was just picking up on it.

Walking on 1st Avenue has its advantages as you start to pass the last of the Italian businesses in the neighborhood. Pasty’s Pizzeria at 2287 1st Avenue (See Review on TripAdvisor) being the most famous. This is worth the stop. The pizza is excellent and at $1.75 a slice is a great deal. I haven’t tasted that fresh of a tomato sauce in a long time. There is a sit down place but stop in for a slice and just walk with it. On sunny day there is nothing better. Everyone else must have thought the same thing as I saw slices walking down the street.

Patsy's Pizza Harlem.jpg

Patsy’s East Harlem

I took a break and relaxed again in Thomas Jefferson Park on 114th Street and watched the soccer teams play. This is a nice park that I misjudged the first time I walked through it. Yes, the park does need some work but it is used by the whole neighborhood. From the hoopsters to the hipsters, I saw all types in the park playing sports, working with team competitions and parents of all sorts just relaxing with their kids. Over the three day period that I walked the neighborhood, residents just spread out, brought their lunches and snacks and relaxed.

Thomas Jefferson Park.jpg

Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem

To save some time and the fact that the kids were out, I walked the length of 1st Avenue down to 96th Street to the new Q subway line and doubled back and walked 102nd, 105th, 106th and 110th again to the Harlem River. This is scary stuff and a word of advice to readers, please avoid this section of the city. All along 1st Avenue in this section by the river are all housing projects especially the very dangerous East River Projects.

East River Houses

Avoid walking around the East River Houses on First Avenue

As I walked down both 105th and 106th Streets (the side streets on either side), I did notice that Citybike was located on both sides as well as luxury condos were across the street and next door to the projects. That’s well and good but when you glance into the parking lots at 106th, you see what is happening and I swear that I may have stopped a drive-by shooting from a guy who was watching the basketball players a little too closely. Either during the day or night, avoid these two side streets as they are considered two of the most dangerous blocks in the city (along with Lexington Avenue from 123rd to 124th Streets). Please stay away!

As I walked back up First Avenue, I noticed that surrounding these projects are many luxury condos and new stores. It is a strange mix in the same neighborhood as you can see that the neighborhood is transitioning. Still it is not the safest part of the city.

Needing to walk off a sandwich, a slice of pizza and two bags of chips, I crossed 110th on the way to 2nd Avenue. As you walk up 2nd Avenue, you pass the rows of brownstones and prewar housing that in some cases is falling apart mixed in with sliver luxury homes and new restaurants. The lower part of 2nd Avenue is quirky until you hit 112th Street and then you are back in the Jefferson projects. To cover 113th Street, which is two small cul-de-sacs, you have to walk through the projects.

This is when I really discovered how short-changed people in the housing projects are by living here. Talk about being treated like caged animals. All the lawns are fenced in, the parks are sterile with little life due to the equipment in them, garbage that is piling up in dumpsters or in the grassy area flying around in the wind and sitting areas that are damaged.

Because 114th Street stops at Lenox Avenue by the Martin Luther King Houses and does not start again until you exit from the Thomas Jefferson Houses by the Jefferson Park, you have to walk through the heart of the housing projects and you begin to see a lot. Maybe it is home to a large portion of the population up here but by the designs, they are almost warehousing people in this section of the city.

Thomas Jefferson Projects.jpg

Thomas Jefferson Projects in East Harlem

There is some light to this with pocket parks off to the side of 112th Street and the Robert Wagner Playground at 120th Street. There was some life from the kids in the community as well as you see it in droves in Thomas Jefferson Park. There was some sunshine in that when you walk through the housing projects in that some residents have set up raised vegetable gardens and have planted flowers along the borders of some of the playgrounds. Kudos to these residents for bringing a personal touch to a sterile environment.

Walking both 2nd and 3rd Avenues you may have to really look but community pride does exist in these small gardens and in the community gardens on the side streets all over the area.

Between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, as you walk to the 120’s, this area is also in a state of transition with a branch of the SUNY campus and housing, most of East 125th Street being knocked down and eco-friendly housing between 124th and 125th Streets across from the Wagner Houses. As you get closer to 125th Street, the whole area is being knocked down and rebuilt as is the whole shopping corridor of 125th Street. If it has not already been knocked down or renovated, it is about to be or planned to be. In about five years the whole block will look like Times Square.

The biggest renovation that I saw was the Taino Towers around 122nd Street. The whole place is being ripped apartment and renovated. It is considered Section 8 housing but after the renovation I can see it will go mixed-use and change the neighborhood again. It is a nice complex and will interesting to see one they renovate the theaters and add a health club.

Tiano Towers

The Taino Towers under renovation

Like most of this section of the neighborhood above 120th Street, the area is mostly commercial and from previous walks in the neighborhood above 125th Street is where the bus stations are, dealerships are located and more City buildings are rising.

My second and third day in the neighborhood, I walked the side streets. Since I had already covered 125th, 124th, 120th,116th, 114th and 110th at length, I walked the rest of the blocks in one afternoon. Who knew it was take six hours and all the interesting things I saw along the way. I started the afternoon rounding 110th Street and stopping once again at the El Chevere Cuchfrito at 2000 3rd Avenue this time visiting the bakery (See review on TripAdvisor).

El Cheve Cuchifrios

El Chevere Cuchfrito at 2000 3rd Avenue

Unlike some of their counterparts around the neighborhood, El Cheveres bakery is really good and very reasonable. I had a glazed filled doughnut for $1.00 and it really hit the spot. The glaze was so thick you could cut it with a knife and there was a large selection of baked goods. A definite spot to stop when visiting the neighborhood just for the pastilitos alone. The food here is really good and cheap. Just come knowing a little Spanish. They appreciate it even if its bad.

I walked the side streets this afternoon to finish the neighborhood. There are a lot of interesting sites along the way in East Harlem. I started on 115th Street and I seemed to hit every bakery in the area. My first stop on the journey was the market under the Park Avenue underpass, La Marqueta, at Park Avenue and 115th Street to try Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor-Now Closed for Business), which had been written up many times but was never open when I visited the market.

Hot Bread Kitchen.jpg

Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery

I tried two of their Mexican Chonco’s, which is a buttery-brioche type of muffin with either a vanilla or chocolate topping. Needing my carbs for the long walk I brought one of each ($2.00 each). Well worth it. The best part is your helping the bakery train people for a new profession and they do an excellent job.

I left the market to explore the rest of 115th Street and there are some interesting sites along the way. You have the Rodale Pleasant Community Garden at 437 114th Street that stretches to 115th by the church is an active community garden with flowers and vegetable beds. I could only see it from a distance at a distance as the gate was locked but great care I could tell went into maintaining it.

Rondale Pleasant Community Garden

The Rodale Pleasant Community Garden at 437 114th Street in the Summer months

Across the street, the famous Italian church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is located. This church is noted for the famous dance each August when the Giglio Society does their famous “Dancing Giglio” dance carrying a giant statue of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders (along with a band). That is enough for another trip up to the neighborhood in the summer.

Dancing of the Giglio East Harlem II

Dancing of the “Giglio” in East Harlem every August

I had also wanted to visit the National Museum for Catholic Art History which was on 115th Street in part of the church complex but it had closed a few years earlier for lack of attendance and funding. So I criss-crossed back to Park Avenue making various stops to look at churches and note menu’s on restaurants I wanted to try in the future.

I revisited 116th Street to look over restaurants I had seen on previous days. The street is the main shopping and restaurant drag for this part of SoHA and runs pretty much the whole length of the island. It has an interesting places to eat so if you have the time take the time to walk around.

I spent most of the afternoon snacking around the neighborhood wanting to try many of the bakeries and small restaurants I came across. There are loads of reasonable places to eat for under $10.00 and if you are visiting remember to have about $10-$20.00 in ones as most of the these places do not take credit cards.

One of my stops lead me to Bermudez Bakery at 1875 Lexington Avenue right off 116th Street (See review on TripAdvisor). I don’t know what I do that freaks people out so much but one of the guys who was inside called his friend from around the counter who was speaking jovial Spanish to everyone else took one look at me and spoke in more formal English. He could not have been nicer but when I turned around, all the other men inside had left the bakery. I thought that was weird.

Bermudez Bakery.jpg

Bermudez Bakery at 1875 Lexington Avenue

The baked goods are excellent though. I has a flaky pastry with a mango jelly but the best was their apple turnovers. They are so good and they melt in your mouth. This bakery is a must go to. It may look dumpy on the outside but the product speaks for itself.

Bermudez Bakery II.jpg

The pastries here are really good!

I crossed over to 117th Street and walked from Park Avenue to the river. Outside St. Paul’s Roman Church just off Park Avenue you will find an Altar to the Virgin Mary that is very interesting. Take some time to read the plaque and look over the building. It is such a beautiful church.

St. Paul's Church II

St. Paul’s Church in East Harlem

Walking further down the street at the corner of 117th Street and the corner of 3rd Avenue there is an interesting mural on the side wall of a Payless Shoes store dedicated to the Island of Puerto Rico. This colorful artwork shows the strong roots of the neighborhood in the island as well as the pride these residents feel. Really look at the detail work.

Look for the Street art in the neighborhood

The neighborhood around Pleasant Avenue, which was the former Italian enclave is changing again as all the brownstones and apartment buildings are being sandblasted and renovated back into shape. Home to Rao’s Italian restaurant and Patsy’s original pizzeria, these blocks are still visited by tourists and residents looking for authentic Italian food. Pretty much outside these two business and the relationship to the churches most of the Italian heritage of the neighborhood is gone.

Between 118th and 119th Streets along Pleasant Avenue the neighborhood has created the Pleasant Valley Community Garden with a large flower garden and raised vegetable gardens in this full block garden. Many people were out that afternoon working in the garden and waved over when I was looking it over. The residents take immense pride in the garden and it will be interesting to see what it looks like in the middle of the summer.

Pleasant Valley Community Garden.jpg

Pleasant Valley Community Garden

As you turn the corner on 119th Street, on the wall of River East Elementary School, the kids have painted the most interesting mural that lines the wall of the back of the school. Look over the colorful interpretation of robots. The kids painted a very whimsical mural as only kids can do.

The kids were out in full force that afternoon playing games and doing sports as they off for the spring break and I guess the parents needed to keep them occupied. All sorts of activities were keeping the kids busy and I noticed a large police presence in the neighborhood while all of this was going on. I made another pit stop for a Coke at the Pleasant Finest Deli on the corner of Pleasant Avenue. I swear those owners are always giving me funny looks when I walked in like I am going to bust them or something.

The last part of the walk I covered 121st to 123rd Streets which is lined mostly with businesses, schools and many new apartment buildings that are going up around the new SUNY College. Most of 124th Street in this area has been rebuilt with a new eco friendly apartment building across from the Wagner Houses, so new businesses are opening to cater to those residents as well as the whole area from 2nd Avenue to river is being ripped up and rebuilt with a renovation of he park and the extension of the esplanade along the river (the esplanade currently stops at 124th Street and is closed off with fencing). When this park is done, it should look spectacular with new lawns and the pool opened.

Word of advice if you are going to walk near Lexington Avenue between 123rd and 124th Streets, this is considered one of the two most dangerous blocks in Manhattan with two rehab clinics and a shelter on the same block. There were three police officers hidden in a doorway in between the block and when I stopped for a Coke in a bodega on the corner of 123rd and Lexington Avenue, there were some pretty shady characters hanging out on the corner. This block is best avoided at anytime of the day.

I double backed down 123rd Street and cut down 1st Avenue and 120th Street to the Wagner House Playground and saw the impressive statue of Robert Wagner Sr., who the houses were named after. Frankly, I don’t think anyone notices it or knows how important the man was in New York politics helping with housing and social security. That and being the future Mayor of New York’s father.

The statue was created by artist Georg John Lober and dedicated in 1959. Mr. Lober was originally from Chicago and studied Beaux-Arts sculpture at The Institute of Design and the National Academy of Design (Wiki).

Georg Lober

Georg John Lober, the Executive Secretary of the New York City Municipal Arts Commission

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_J._Lober

He started working the New York City Municipal Arts Commission in 1942 until 1960 just before his death in 1961 (Wiki).

Robert Wagner Sr. Statue.jpg

Robert Wagner Sr. Statue by the Wagner Houses by Georg John Lober

My last stop was for a snack at the Jamaican restaurant, Jam Hut at 2327 1st Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) for a beef patty. These large beef patties are freshly made and rather large. Again the owners gave me a rather odd look when I ordered my food.

You think no one had ever seen a 6:3 white male in the neighborhood before. I have now spent over a month in East Harlem. I had walked every block, park and set of Housing Projects.

You think they would be used to seeing me walking around at this point.

 

Places to Visit:

 

Thomas Jefferson Park

2180 First Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/thomas-jefferson-park

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

 

Rodale Pleasant Community Garden

437 East 114th Street

New York, NY  10029

https://www.nyrp.org/green-spaces/garden-details/rodale-pleasant-park-community-garden

https://greenthumb.nycgovparks.org/gardensearch.php

 

Pleasant Valley Community Garden

342 Pleasant Avenue

New York, NY 10035

https://livinglotsnyc.org/lot/1016220050/

 

Urban Garden Center

1640 Park Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 872-3991

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-9:00pm

https://www.urbangardennyc.com/

https://www.facebook.com/urbangardennyc/

 

La Marqueta Marketplace

1590 Park Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 534-4900

Open: Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm

https://edc.nyc/la-marqueta

https://www.facebook.com/lamarquetanyc/

 

 

Places to Eat:

 

The Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s)

2135 1st Avenue & 110th Street

NYC, NY  10029

(646) 632-7488

Open 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12328617-Reviews-Blue_Sky_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/74

 

El Chevere Cuchifrito

2000 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 427-9352

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-7:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12179355-Reviews-El_Chevere_Cuchifrito-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery (Now Closed)

1590 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10029

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4921122-Reviews-Hot_Bread_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Bermudez Bakery

1875 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 427-2877

Open: Sunday 5:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Friday 5:00am-6:00pm/Saturday 5:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12331283-Reviews-Bermudez_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Pleasant Finest Deli

375 Pleasant Avenue

New York, NY 10035

(212) 348-6666

Open: Sunday-Saturday 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12379766-Reviews-Pleasant_Finest_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Patsy’s East Harlem

2287 First Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 534-9783

https://www.thepatsyspizza.com/

Open: Sunday 11:30am-12:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-11:00pm/Friday & Saturday 11:00am-12:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d457168-Reviews-Patsy_s_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Jam Hut

2327 First Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 860-2253

Open: Sunday-Saturday 12:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12331273-Reviews-Jam_Hut-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Day Sixty-Eight: Walking SoHA (South Harlem from 110th to 125th Streets from Frederick Douglas Boulevard to Park Avenue February 22nd-April 3rd, 2017

 

The realtors have changed the borders many times to extend  neighborhoods from their traditional borders to include areas that have improved and been renovated to add to the value of the neighborhood. This is what I have seen in SoHA (South Harlem). Morningside Heights has creeped across the border, leap-frogging over Morningside Park to include a new ‘Restaurant Row’ on Frederick Douglas Boulevard making it the new eastern border of Morningside Heights.

What the borders might be now, I really could not say but I can see how the area has changed in the last twenty years. When I visited the Columbia campus in the early 90’s, I remember overhearing some of the students talking about all the fires that they saw the night before in the area on the other side of Morningside Park and how metal gates used to be in front of the steps leading to the park. Oh how times have changed in this area.

I started my walk during the winter break from school and the weather was in the high 60’s and low 70’s the whole week and it seemed that everyone had a case of cabin fever. People were all out and about this whole week. I started my walk that Wednesday morning and the weather had to be about 68 degrees and it was just beautiful out. It had started out a little cloudy then just cleared giving me perfect weather to walk around. My first part of the trip to me to the border of ‘SoHA’, South of Harlem 125th Street.

125th Street, which is the main artery of Harlem, is still being developed. All over the place things are under scaffolding or being knocked down and rebuilt all over the street. It is amazing the changes that have taken place so quickly since the summer. Since the summer, many of the side streets are under scaffolding as brownstones have been bought and even ones that have been bricked up for years have been sold and are being gutted.

My first part of the day was exploring Morningside Park by walking down Morningside Avenue and walking through the park area in the late morning. Most of the buildings facing the park have been renovated and sandblasted back into beauty and I am sure have gone up in value in the last 15 years. New playgrounds and spring plantings and clean up were happening all over the park as the park service had their crews were working all day to clean up the park for spring. The warm weather had plants popping up all over the park about a month early as I could see daffodils ready to bloom.

Morningside Park

Morningside Park has come back to life with the renovation

The park was full of mothers with strollers and kids playing baseball and soccer. The schools were out for the winter break and these kids really lucked out with the beautiful weather. It was more like late spring instead of the middle of the winter with warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. Everyone was taking advantage of the warm weather.

I was impressed by how nice the park looked with its new landscaping, well-tended paths and new playgrounds. It was a far cry from the drug dens that my father described when he was attending Columbia. The police would not even let him cross the park when he took the wrong subway and wanted to walk across the park to get to class. They made him go back downtown and take the 1 subway uptown.

Morningside Park II

Morningside Park by Columbia University

I  was fascinated by a statue of George Washington and General Lafayette that stood at the corner of 114th Street and Morningside Avenue. This impressive statue sits in a small triangle park across the street from Morningside Park and is surrounding by Victorian looking apartment buildings. The whole block surrounding the park has been sandblasted and renovated back to its original elegance. It is an impressive block of brownstones and prewar apartment buildings that surround this pocket park.

Lafayette and Washington

“Washington Greeting Lafayette’ by Morningside Park

The Statue of George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who had designed the Statue of Liberty. This copy of the statue was donated to the City of New York by Charles B. Rouss, who was a merchant in New York City at the time (Walk About New York).

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was born in Colmar, France in 1834 and had attended  the Lycee Louis de Grand in Paris and then went off to study architecture and painting. In 1871 on his first visit to the United States he suggested the idea of a massive gift from France to the United States for the Centennial Celebrations which resulted in the “Statue of Liberty (Wiki).

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi

Fredrick Auguste Bartholdi

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904)

As I exited the park, I can see all the new construction that is taking place on 110th Street which now looks like the Upper East Side. Pretty much everything from Riverside Drive to Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard has been renovated or rebuilt and has become an extension of Columbia University. The whole area was loaded with students going to classes or just trying to escape their classes by sitting in both Morningside and Central Parks. Several of the apartment buildings along 110th Street look straight off Park Avenue downtown with their elegant facades and their doormen.

The first day I walked this part of the neighborhood, I walked the Avenues and was able to walk Manhattan Avenue, Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, Nicholas Avenue (which crosses these Avenues)  and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. It is amazing how the neighborhood changes from block to block.

Morningside Avenue and Manhattan Avenue are lined with elegant brownstones and prewar apartments that are beginning to see signs of college students moving in. I saw students milling around the area all day long. These and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard (which in the not so distant future will probably be renamed Central Park North) have extended Morningside Heights further west. These three blocks east of the park are starting to cater to Columbia students and faculty.

Fredrick Douglas Boulevard has become ‘Restaurant Row’ to the college students and hipsters living in the area. I had never seen so many new restaurants on a fifteen block stretch and the funny part was you know that they are not catering to the local crowds as the cheapest entrée on most of the menus was between $15.00 to $20.00. All of these places were ridiculously expensive for this part of the city and the menus were very similar. On such a warm day though, the outdoor cafes were in full swing and the street was loaded with people either walking their dogs, catching up with friends or eating outside. I have to tell you this though, the white population in this section of SoHA is growing fast and they are young.

After covering these streets from 110th to 125th and back, I took a break and relaxed at the Harlem Meer (Dutch for Lake) located in Central Park North at 110th Street. On a beautiful sunny day, there is no better place to relax than on the benches facing the meer. People were outside fishing with their children and seniors were relaxing with their fishing poles bobbing by the side of the meer and gossiping about their neighbors. Behind them, loads of small children and their parents were running around the playground.

Harlem Meer

The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center and the Harlem Meer in the Summer months

I took some time out from my sunning and walked around the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, where the bathrooms (note these are open late), visitors center and the history the park played in the Revolutionary War are located here. You can also arrange walking tours or become a member of the Central Park Conservatory ( I know because I did). I took some time out and looked over the history of the park. It is a very interesting timeline of the park during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Take a half hour out and look over the display.

Charles A. Dana Discovery Center II

Inside the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center

I walked up and down the every changing Nicholas Avenue that cuts across the neighborhood from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard across 7th Avenue to exit at Lenox Avenue. This ever changing street has loads of new restaurants and businesses on it. It starts off a small triangle a block below 125th Street that has a theater and a slew of new restaurants. You can see how the blocks keep changing with a lot of the buildings under scaffolding and for rent signs. There was an impressive memorial tribute to Harriet Tubman at 122nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue with a beautiful statue located on a triangle over looking the road crossing.

Harriet Tubman Statue

The Harriet Tubman Statue at St. Nicholas Avenue and Fredrick Douglass Boulevard by Artist Alison Saar.

Ms. Saar is a Sculptor and Installation artist from California, who graduated from Scripps College with a BFA and another degree in MFA from Otis College of Art & Design.

Alison Saar artist

Artist Alison Saar

http://www.lalouver.com/saar/

I was able to cover a small section of Lenox Avenue the first day in the neighborhood and between 112th to 115th Streets stretching from Lenox Avenue to 5th Avenue the area is dominated by the Martin Luther King Jr. Houses and then from 5th Avenue to Park Avenue by the Taft Houses.

Martin Luther King Houses

Martin Luther King Houses

It looks like the city just bulldozed down an entire part of the neighborhood to build this hideous public housing. No wonder Jane Jacob said in “The Death and Life of American Cities” that public housing was the failure of a neighborhood and how it disengages itself from the rest of the neighborhood. There was a lot of renovation of the houses and parks in both areas but it looked out of place with the blocks of prewar buildings and brownstones (Who knew that living in the projects was so trendy?).

Taft Houses

Taft Houses

It was getting dark on my first day in the this part of the neighborhood but with so many people outside, I never felt unsafe even walking through the projects. I double backed down part of Lenox Avenue and discovered at the corner between 109th and 110th Streets in a series of restaurants, a small take out Chinese restaurant named Hunan Chen’s Kitchen at 1003A Columbus Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor). This little hole in the wall is amazing.

Hunan Chen's Kitchen

Hunan Chen’s Kitchen  at 1003A Columbus Avenue is excellent

The food and the service is just excellent. The place is so small it can barely hold three people comfortably and it has only one table to sit on and that is always full. The food is so reasonable and the portion sizes are huge. I was there for a second time and had to try their General Tso’s Chicken, which had been raved about online on Grubhub.

general tso's chicken

The General Tso’s Chicken is worth the trip

At about twilight, I took my food and ate it on the benches at the entrance of Morningside Park on the corner of 110th Street and just watched the crowds of people in the park. The large portion of chicken was well-fried and the sauce had a tangy sweetness and just enough fire from the hot chilies to wake me up. It was excellent. The food was steaming hot and the egg roll had just come out of the fryer. With a Coke, the whole meal which could have easily fed two people was $8.25. It was a real steal and the food was wonderful.

My second day I walked in the neighborhood, I concentrated on walking more of the avenues and covered Lenox, Madison, Park and Lexington Avenues. That took time as I walked from 110th to 125th Streets both sides up and down. I also stopped in various parks and businesses. I could see traces of the old Italian neighborhood up on 116th Street east of Park Avenue with many Italian restaurants with Spanish menus.

All three streets are dominated by public housing surrounding 110th Street and between 112th and 115th Streets. The Taft Houses, the Martin Luther King Jr. Houses and the Jefferson Houses pretty much surrounds this section of the neighborhood and you see as far as you can about a dozen hulking buildings surrounded by small businesses. Again, once you cross 116th Street, it starts to change again with new apartment complexes wedged a block from the projects that cater to a whole other person. Surrounding those new apartment buildings are new restaurants and shops especially coffee shops are dotted all over this section of the neighborhood. They are the hang outs for all the twenty and thirty something’s that live there.

Lenox and Fifth Avenues above 116th and near Mount Morris (Marcus Garvey) Park is dominated by the Mount Morris Historic District. Streets that surround the park on the west side of the park are either scaffolded or have already been sandblasted to their original charm. These brownstones and prewar apartments have a turn of the last century charm to them and the blocks are very elegant and well-maintained. When you pass them, really look at the stonework and detail work in the carvings. Are those flowers and faces in the buildings?

Mount Morris Historical District

Mount Morris Historical District

Park Avenue has its own charm and uniqueness to it after you go above 98th Street when the tracks become elevated and it cuts the street in half. Some businesses have been established under the tracks to add to the charm of the area.

The Urban Garden Center at 1640 Park Avenue has a huge array of products for the urban gardener including the trees, bushes and all the equipment for heavy duty gardening. La Marqueta Marketplace is at 1590 Park Avenue, which has an interesting grouping of bakeries and shops that cater to both the locals and the hipsters.

Urban Garden Center

Urban Garden Center at 1640 Park Avenue

https://www.urbangardennyc.com/

La Marqueta III

La Marqueta at 1590 Park Avenue in East Harlem

https://edc.nyc/la-marqueta

There are about three bakeries inside the market and it is a nice place to venture on a long day. Hot Bread Bakery has quite the reputation in the neighborhood.

La Marqueta V

The vendor “Hot Bread Kitchen” at La Marqueta

I stopped at Patisserie Vanessa one afternoon and had a Caramel Caneles ($2.00), which was a tiny crème caramel with burnt sides (see TripAdvisor review). It was a delicious little chewy dessert and was cute to look at and had a wonderful bite to it.  The problem is that these bakeries never seem to be open during the week.

La Marqueta VI

 

The Inside of La Marqueta

Another nice bakery I came across is Lee Lee’s Bakery, which I stopped at for a much needed pastry. This bakery is located at 283 West 118th Street.

Lee Lee Bakery

Lee Lee’s Bakery is at 283 West 188th Street

I had the most amazingly buttery peach pastry that melted in my mouth (see review on TripAdvisor). They also have the most delicious buttery rugelach, little cinnamon pastries. This little store is located right off Fifth Avenue and is worth the trip uptown.

Lee Lee Bakery II

Lee Lee’s Bakery pastries are so buttery

There are several Community Gardens tucked in between the blocks of businesses and the projects. I cam across Peaceful Valley Community Garden at 117th Street that looked like it was being replanted in the middle of the winter in the warm weather. Chenchita’s Garden was at East 112th Street and was also being worked on in the warm weather.  The Villa Santurce Jardinera at East 112th Street looked like it was going to need some work in the spring. That is the resourcefulness of this neighborhood is that the residents have taken these empty lots and created something beautiful in their place. It shows the pride of wanting to build a neighborhood.

Peaceful Valley Community Garden

Peaceful Valley Community Garden at 117th Street

I walked the last section of SoHA on April 3rd and it took most of the day. After a long day of working at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (which I do most mornings before I start by neighborhood walks), I took the subway up to 125th Street and walked down the street from Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard to Park Avenue. 125th Street keeps morphing.

It seems that every building on the block around 5th Avenue is going through some sort of renovation or is being knocked down. It is so funny to see a Red Lobster next to the Apollo Theater (but it is the same when you pass the Cotton Club and how it is dominated by the new Columbia campus extension. It is out of place now). Once you pass 5th Avenue, the businesses start to get a little fancier reflecting the changes in this part of the neighborhood with the renovation of the brownstones around Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park).

Mount Morris Park

Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)

I stopped at Lady Lexis Sweets Bakery at 1931 Madison Avenue to grab a quick snack to keep me going before lunch. They had a nice selection of cookies, candy and cakes in the cases and very creative art work on the walls (See review on TripAdvisor). The mother-daughter team that runs the bakery does a nice job. I had a from scratch M & M cookie that was pretty good but a little on the expense side. I think that $1.75 for a cookie is a little steep but it was well worth it. It had a sugar cookies sweetness to it.

Lady Lexis Bakery

Lady Lexis Bakery at 1931 Madison Avenue

I rounded the corner of 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue and decided to pin-point the walk between 5th Avenue and Lexington Avenue between 125th Street and 116th Street and then Lenox Avenue from 115th Street to 110th Street and retraced my tracks on 125th, 124th, 116th and 110th Streets. The scaffolding keeps going up.

It was such a nice day that I took some time out and walked around Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park) or about a half hour. I was able to walk all over the park but I want to warn readers about going into the park. I walked around the upper level of the park and there were more than a few suspicious looking guys hanging around the top of the hill of the park. They took one look at me walking around and they left the top of the hill.

I walked around the hill and watched them and then walked around the perimeter of the park. I watched the families in the playground and by the dog park and admired a structure of huts by artist Simone Leigh, that had been placed in the park. Ms. Leigh is an American artist from Chicago now living in New York who holds a BA in Art and Philosophy from Earlham College. Her specialty is art of an auto-ethnographic with a specialty in African art, vernacular objects and feminism (Wiki).

Simone Leigh

Artist Simone Leigh

http://www.artnet.com/artists/simone-leigh/

The exhibit was part of the ‘Flex Public Art’ display as part of the city’s ‘Changing Landscapes’ program. Its a work that shows three huts or ‘imba Yokubikira’ or called ‘kitchen houses’ based on structures in Zimbabwe. The artist from what I read was trying to show the sense of community or a loss of it. They are located the entrance to the hill and are very interesting public art.

Simone Leigh II

Simone Leigh’s ‘Imba Yokubikira’ in Mount Morris Park

After walking the whole park, it was off down 123rd Street and covering the upper section of the neighborhood. Most of the this section of SoHA is dominated by schools and businesses. Before you cross over to 118th Street, most of what I saw were the commercial strips of 125th Street and its back lot 124th Street. As you walk in this area, there are a lot of elementary schools, health clinics, churches and apartment buildings, especially a lot of affordable housing buildings that are being renovated. It seems that the city is trying to upgrade its public housing.

Around 118th Street and Madison Avenue, the neighborhood starts to change again with new apartment buildings and businesses dominating 5th, Madison, Park and Lexington Avenues. This area is being knocked down for new construction and small residential buildings are opening all over the place. The strangest thing is that there is luxury housing opening right next door to the public housing. It seems that the next generation of luxury owners does not mind this arrangement.

In the midst of all of this change and renovation, you discover all sorts of pocket parks and street art.  Artist Naomi Lawrence has a yarn work called ‘Lotus’ on the fence at the corner of Park Avenue and 120th Street.

Version 2

Artist Naomi Lawrence

https://naomirag.com/

Ms. Lawrence is a fabric artist that hails from England who now lives in East Harlem and uses acrylic yarn to create her works of art on chain link fences by schools and public places. This flower sculpture is woven into the fence and is the image of a colorful opening up. This street art that is also part of the ‘Changing Landscapes’ project (Naomi Lawrence Blog site).

Naomi Lawrence II

Artist Naomi Lawrence creating her interesting weaves on a school fence

The ‘Three Women’ sculpture in front of the new apartment building at 120th and 5th Avenue by artist Nnamdi Okonkwo, shows three somewhat rotund women hugging one another. Mr. Okonkwo was born in Nigeria and graduated with a BFA from BYU-Hawaii and currently lives in Fayetteville, GA.

nnamdi Okonkwo II

Artist Nnamdi Okonkwo in front of his work, “Friends”

https://www.nnamdiart.com/

It was interesting to see how these artists expressed themselves. It was not typical of you might see outside.

Nnamdi Okonkwo

“Friends” by Nnamdi Okonkwo

I discovered more urban community gardens while walking around the neighborhood. The Peaceful Valley Community Garden at 117th and Madison Avenue and the Jackie Robinson Garden at 122nd and Park show the creativity of residents with space and plantings. They have managed to put in raised vegetable beds, flower gardens, modern sculpture and stone paths into a tiny area and still make it attractive. I have noticed these small urban parks that are part of the ‘Green Thumb’  initiative. The city is really backing all these small gardens that dot Harlem.

I also noticed that even in the projects that people are adopting the raised vegetable beds. Many of the residents are fencing off space to grow fruits and vegetables in obscure parts of lawns and playgrounds. I noticed this as I walked 114th Street through the Taft, Johnson and Jefferson Housing Projects. There is a little ray of sunshine in these rather depressing complexes. It is sad to walk through what was once supposed to be ‘transition’ housing’ and see desolate parks and playgrounds and the mountains of garbage piling up in their dumpsters and wonder how the city has let this happen.

I also wondered what people thought of a six foot white guy walking the length of these complexes.  These interlocking complexes stretch from Lenox Avenue to 2nd Avenue from 115th to 112th Streets and it is an interesting and eye opening walk of how not to ‘warehouse’ people. Small groups of people gave me either the strangest looks or just pretended that I was not there. Try to walk around the exterior boundaries of these areas.

I revisited 116th Street again with its dozens of eating selections and took a pit stop for lunch at Sam’s Famous Pizza at 150 East 116th Street on the corner of 116th and Lexington Avenue. These over-sized slices are well worth the $2.25 price (See review on TripAdvisor). The sauce has the right amount spices and a rich tomato flavor and is well cooked. The owner and his son seem to know everyone in the neighborhood.

Sam's Famour Pizza

Sam’s Famous Pizza at 150 East 116th Street

For dessert not far from the end of the projects, I discovered Milenio Bakery at 2030 Third Avenue not far from Thomas Jefferson Park. This amazing little bakery (see TripAdvisor review) has a selection of both Spanish and Italian baked treats run by an Asian family and trust me, nothing gets lost in translation.

Milinio Bakery

Milenio Bakery at 2030 Third Avenue

I had the most delicious Spanish sugar cookie, filled with mango cream, I had ever tasted. It was two chewy sugar cookies with the cream in the middle and gave a new twist to a traditional Woopie pie. Among the mouthwatering pastries in the cases were mango and lemon filled puffs, apple turnovers and several Spanish desserts that I have never seen before. The quality is excellent and the selection is interesting. The nice part is that the owners are very engaging and want to be sure that you made the right selection.

I took to munching it on the way back to Thomas Jefferson Park, across the street from the Thomas Jefferson Houses. This park attracts everyone from the kids in the projects playing basketball and soccer to the hipsters who are moving into the former Italian neighborhood strolling with their kids. It is a very Democratic park. It is also in need of a dire renovation and could be a jewel of a park with its view of the river and extensive recreational options. Just try to avoid it towards sundown when most people leave the park as the characters in it get very interesting.

Thomas Jefferson Park II

Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem

My last section of the neighborhood that I covered was the entire lengths of 112th and 111th Streets from Lenox to the Jefferson Park and by the time I exited Lenox Avenue at 110th Street, I needed to rest by the Harlem Meer.

At the time of the day, the clouds had started to roll in but people were still playing with their kids in the park or fishing or reading or singing. At sundown, there was still a lot of action going on in Central Park. All I know that after walking 24 blocks by 4 city blocks I was done for the day.

This is why East Harlem is so interesting.

 

Places to Visit:

 

Morningside Park

Morningside Drive

New York, NY  10026

(212) 639-9675

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-1:00am

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/morningsidepark

 

The Harlem Meer/ Charles A. Dana Visitors Center

The Northeast Corner of Central Park

New York, NY 10036

https://www.centralparknyc.org/attractions/harlem-meer

https://www.centralparknyc.org/attractions/charles-a-dana-discovery-center

 

Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)

6316 Mount Morris Park

New York, NY  10027

(212) 639-6795

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marcus-garvey-park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marcus-garvey-park/history

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

 

Thomas Jefferson Park

2180 First Avenue

New York, NY  10029

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/thomas-jefferson-park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/thomas-jefferson-park/history

Open: 6:00am-10:00pm

 

Peaceful Valley Community Garden

50 East 117th Street

New York, NY 10035

https://www.facebook.com/peacefulvalleygarden/

https://livinglotsnyc.org/lot/1016220050/

 

Jackie Robinson Community Garden

103 East 122nd Street

New York, NY  10035

https://livinglotsnyc.org/lot/58958/

https://www.explorenycparks.com/parks/jackie-robinson-community-garden

 

Chenchita’s Community Garden

1691-1693 Madison Avenue

New York, NY  10029

https://www.citizensnyc.org/grantee/chenchitas-community-garden

https://www.facebook.com/Chenchitas-Group-Garden-422890787843772/

 

Villa Santurce Jardinera

72 East 112th Street

New York, NY  10029

https://sw-ke.latest.facebook.com/422890787843772/photos/a.1260492604083582/1260495747416601/?type=3&eid=ARCztmOp2frn70B3r1c1u3WQCbA6jitCVYHsKvj6naDBhacgSNrrqU7HeCDtY8rSlZnWQ_eorgiJ0Cp7

https://www.culturenow.org/index.php?page=entry&permalink=00903&seo=Villa-Santurce-Jardinera_

 

Places to Eat:

 

Sam’s Famous Pizza

115 East 116 Street

New York, NY 10029

(212) 348-9437

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sams-Famous-Pizza-116th/288482227842244

Open: Sunday-Saturday 12:00pm-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12295525-Reviews-Sam_s_Famous_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Milenio Bakery

2030 Third Avenue Number 2

New York, NY  10029

(646) 476-9530

Open:

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12295539-Reviews-Milenio_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Patisserie Vanessa

1590 Park Avenue

New York, NY  10026

(347) 630-2418

https://www.patisserievanessa.com/

Open:  See their website

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12295544-Reviews-Patisserie_Vanessa-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Lee Lee Bakery

283 West 118th Street

New York, NY 10026

(973) 493-6633

https://www.leeleesrugelach.com/

https://www.leeleesrugelach.com/ordernow/

Open: Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Saturday 10:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5455686-Reviews-Lee_Lee_s_Baked_Goods-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Hunan Chen’s Kitchen

1003 A Columbus Avenue (Between 109th & 110th Streets)

New York, NY  10025

212-222-1118

https://www.hunanchenskitchen.com/

Open: Sunday-12:00pm-11:00pm/Monday-Thursday-11:00am-11:00pm/Friday-Saturday-11:00am-11:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4980909-Reviews-Hunan_Chen_s_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Lady Lexus Bakery

1931 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10035

(212) 722-4111

Open: Sunday and Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm

http://www.ladylexissweets.com/

http://www.ladylexissweets.com/about

Open: Sunday & Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4920198-Reviews-Lexis_Lee_s_Sweets_N_Treats-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Places to See:

 

Artist Naomi Lawrence’s Work

https://naomirag.com/

https://www.nycgovparks.org/art/art799

 

Artist Simone Leigh’s Work

Who Is the Activist Sculptor Simone Leigh? Here Are 5 Things to Know About This Year’s Hugo Boss Prize Winner

https://www.artsy.net/artist/simone-leigh

 

Artist Alison Saar

http://www.lalouver.com/saar/

http://www.artnet.com/artists/alison-saar/

 

Artist Nnamdi Okonkwo Work

https://www.nnamdiart.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NnamdiSculptures/

 

Urban Garden Center

1640 Park Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 872-3991

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-9:00pm

https://www.urbangardennyc.com/

https://www.facebook.com/urbangardennyc/

 

La Marqueta Marketplace

1590 Park Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 534-4900

Open: Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm

https://edc.nyc/la-marqueta

https://www.facebook.com/lamarquetanyc/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Sixty-Seven: Walking SoHA (South of Harlem: Morningside Heights, South Harlem & Spanish Harlem) from 125th Street to 110th Street from river to river February 22, 2017

I started the day walking 125th Street again on a beautiful sunny February day. It must have been 62 degrees out, sunny and glorious.  The kids in the city like in the suburbs were off from school for the winter break, so everyone was outside in the parks enjoying the warm weather. The streets were crowded with people walking their dogs, students from Colombia walking around between classes and neighborhood children playing football and baseball in the parks.

With all the area above 125th finally complete, I have started to walk the neighborhoods below traditional Harlem and above the Upper East and West sides. Morningside Heights is the area bordered by Morningside Avenue to 110th to 125th to Riverside Square Park, South Harlem is from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, South Harlem is bordered again from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard to Fifth Avenue from 110th to 125th Streets and Spanish Harlem from 5th Avenue to FDR Drive  from 110th to 125th Streets. So this time to make it easier I have broken it up into three sections to do the walk.

I started the walk today at 125th Street at Morningside Avenue walking shoppers and tourists milling around the shopping district at 125th Street. The whole shopping district is going through a transformation from old cut-rate stores and family businesses to a series of chain restaurants, stores and gyms. Every business you find in a suburban strip mall are coming to Harlem from TJMax and Rainbow to Red Lobster and Olive Garden. It is pretty shocking how fast it has changed but even more how the flavor of the area is being adjusted to tourism.

Apollo Theater

The famous Apollo Theater is surrounded by Red Lobster and Whole Foods now

Another surprising aspect of the neighborhood is how nice it has gotten. Gone are the days that Colombia University had to practically erect walls to keep the neighborhood out. Colombia students like their fellow SUNY students thirty blocks up are starting to move in and take over this neighborhood. The South Harlem area is awash with scaffolding of people renovating the buildings and new restaurants and shops.

Morningside Park, which pretty much is the traditional border between the university and Harlem has been renovated over the past twenty years and is no longer the dismal overgrown park that you would get mugged in if you entered. My dad went to Colombia in the 60’s and my cousin in the 80’s and in those years, you would never enter the park. In 1993-95, the park was renovated and had new plantings and equipment installed in the park, giving it the same cheerful appearance of any other park in the city. Does it have it’s share of problems still? Like any park in New York City after dusk, you have to watch yourself.

Morningside Park.jpg

Morningside Park near Columbia University

Because of the weather being so warm at this time, the park was being spruced up with park employees raking and cleaning up the beds and lawns. The garbage was being picked up as well and the park looked clean and well planted. With it being February, not much is in bloom but you can see where tulips and daffodils are starting to pop up in the soil. Lots of people were jogging in the park, walking with baby carriages or playing sports. A far cry from the needle and crack cocaine days in the 80’s. You can see the new landscaping and water features that have been created in the park and at dusk the lights actually work.

I traveled down the road planning on visiting the park again in more detail. I turned at 110th Street and walked the entire length of 110th from west side to east side and talk about a street of extremes. As you walk towards Riverside Park, you have Colombia to the north and the very top of the Upper West Side to the south. The buildings on this side of West 110th have been sandblasted back to their original elegance and from what I can see of the residents had never really gone down hill with the rest of the neighborhood.

Riverside Park 110 Street

Riverside Park by 110th Street

Amsterdam Avenue north of 110th Street has some interesting restaurants that I will need to try and I am discovering the holes in the wall that must cater to the students. Many have reasonable lunch specials and some have creative menus. I stopped in Riverside Park for a bit to relax before the long walk and the park was busy with nannies and mother’s with their kids in the 110th Street Tot Playground. The place was teaming with toddlers having a good time. The park still has not had the hint of Spring but having traveled this area last summer, it is a beautiful park when in bloom.

I walked down to Columbus Avenue and walked around the newly planted park area and discovered Hunan Chen’s Kitchen, a tiny hole in the wall restaurant at 1003 A Columbus Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor and on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).   This little restaurant has only one table and is so small you can barely turn around. What is lacks in atmosphere, it makes up in food and service.

Hunan Chen's Kitchen.jpg

Hunan Chen Kitchen off 110th Street at 1003A Columbus Avenue

The lady who works the counter could not have been friendlier and accommodating. The prices were so cheap that you can order a nice meal for under $10.00 that could feed two people and for $5.00 you can buy a nice snack in their appetizer and soup section. I ordered an eggroll and a pint of Roast Pork Lo Mein. I must have gotten a pound of Lo Mein that was steaming hot and loaded with roast pork. It was delicious and well seasoned. The eggroll could have had more roast pork in it but was still plump and well-cooked. I was able to eat in on the benches in Morningside Park at the entrance at 110th Street. It was nice to people watch on a warm day and fun to see the students finally utilizing the park for pleasure.

roast-pork-lo-mein.jpg

Roast Pork Lo Mein with egg roll

After lunch, it was a the long walk to the northern stretches of Central Park and the Harlem Meer. This section of the park was packed with people. Seniors were fishing in the Meer (lake) and the kids were playing in the playground by the Lenox Avenue entrance. This area had been replanted and fixed in the late 90’s and again in the early 2000’s by the city with the help of the Central Park Conservatory. People were taking pictures of the ducks or chasing the pigeons around the park.

Harlem Meer.jpg

The Charles A. Dana Discover Center and the Harlem Meer

I had an interesting afternoon at the Charles A. Dana Discover Center located on the Meer and reading how the area was so influential in the Revolutionary War. Much of the battles had taken place in this area and the forts were located right in the park boundaries. The Battle of Harlem was not far from this spot and it was amazing how the area went back to nature once the war was over. The panels tell the story of the area and you should take about an hour and really read about the areas part in the war. On such a beautiful day the park really sparkled and it looked like a lot of adults were playing hooky on such a nice day.

Crossing Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue is the start of the extremes of 110th Street. You will pass what was once public housing but looks like it is going ‘market rate’ with renovations and once you pass the border of Madison Avenue, you will enter Spanish Harlem and a series of public housing projects. Again this area was alive with people but the mood of the area is completely different.

The Spanish influence was all over the place. On the walls of the stores and in the restaurants and signs as well as the music. There must be at least four or five housing projects in this area in various degrees of maintenance. Some were well maintained like by the Lehman Houses. By the  Houses, it got a little scary. I would not venture in that area at night. At the end of 110th Street, you have the East River Houses, that look like a more pleasant middle-class looking development.

Lehman Houses

Lehman Houses (be careful walking around them)

I walked around Thomas Jefferson Park, a space of green that needs a serious renovation. The park could use a little sprucing up from what I could see. I did not want to enter the basketball grounds due to a scary looking group of teens and walked around the edges of the park.  Just south of the park on New Street, Zip Car seems to have their headquarters and the whole lot is lined with cars.

Thomas Jefferson Park II

Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem

The funny part about 110th street in this area is that it is dotted with new housing, bars and restaurants. The 20 year old set is starting to move into this area. On a rather seedy stretch of 110th, I was always looking over my shoulder until I saw some 20 year old ‘hipster’ with shorts on and an expensive IPhone playing that I felt like a jerk. Either I was the one worrying or he was putting himself at risk.

I stopped for a snack at El Chevere Cuchifritos, a Spanish restaurant, take-out place and bakery at 2000 Third Avenue for some pastilitoes. I ordered them with my broken Spanish which seemed to pass fine as the woman waiting on me understood what I said. I ordered a chicken and beef but got a cheese and they were good but not as good as some I have had in Washington Heights. They are reasonable at $1.50 each and very fresh. They have a nice selection of reasonable hot foods to take out and I just munched on them on the trip back up 110th to Fifth Avenue.

El Cheve Cuchifrios.jpg

El Cheve Cuchifrito Bakery at 2000 Third Avenue

Fifth Avenue from 110th to 125th Streets was where I was lining my walk to concentrate in this area. I walked up and down Fifth Avenue to Marcus Garvey Park and walked around the park which was packed with people walking their dogs by the dog park and kids playing in the playground. Even though the avenue is lined with public housing, the area is dotted with new developments  especially on the north and west parts of the park.

marcus-garvey-park.jpg

Marcus Garvey Park (Mount Morris Park)

The west side of Marcus Garvey Park is the Mount Morris Historical Area. This stretches from about 124th Street to 118th Street and has the most beautiful and graceful brownstones the line the side streets by the park. This area like the rest of Harlem is being sandblasted and renovated back to an earlier era and people are snatching up these homes.

mount-morris-historical-district.jpg

Mount Morris Historical District

I finished this park of the walk by walking down Fifth Avenue through the Taft Homes that line the streets and back down 110th and back up Morningside Avenue and then down Manhattan Avenue to finish off the walk for this part of the visit to the area.

This is a huge area to cover so I will be breaking the visit down into three sections to really see what the neighborhood has to see and offer. I have already walked the boarders of 125th Street and 110th Street and will continue on to do the avenues first and then the side streets. So join me as we explore the newest in ‘hip’ areas, SoHA.

Places to Visit:

 

Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)/Historic District

120th to 124th Street by Madison Avenue

New York, NY

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marcus-garvey-park

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Morris_Park_Historic_District

 

Thomas Jefferson Park

2180 First Avenue

New York, NY  10029

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/thomas-jefferson-park

 

Harlem Meer/Charles A Dana Discovery Center

Central Park North

New York, NY  10029

(212) 860-1370

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/harlem-meer.html

https://www.centralpark.com/things-to-do/attractions/harlem-meer/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d291434-Reviews-Harlem_Meer-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d4563063-Reviews-Charles_A_Dana_Discovery_Center-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Places to Eat:

Hunan Chen’s

1003 Columbus Avenue Store A

New York, NY  10025

(212) 222-1118

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-10:30pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-10:30pm/Friday & Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4980909-Reviews-Hunan_Chen_s_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/24

 

El Chevere Cuchifritos

2000 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 427-3952

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-4:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12179355-Reviews-El_Chevere_Cuchifrito-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Day Sixty-Four: Back to Harlem between 145th Street to 125th Street East of St. Nicholas Avenue (NoHA) December 30th, 2016-February 16th, 2017

I started walking Harlem again after the holidays and I saw the last vestiges of the holidays all over the neighborhood. Some of the brownstone owners still had their wreaths and garland decorating their homes and it was still quite striking to see a ‘Victorian Christmas’ in front of me. There were still some Santa’s up and trees with lights at twilight and it was nice to see that some people kept their decorations up for the Epiphany.

Christmas in Harlem II

People had not yet taken their decorations down

I started my day by walking the avenues first and then I would do the side streets. It is very different to do this walk in the winter months than in the summer as the days get short and it gets dark very quickly. Some parts of this part of the neighborhood can be somewhat sketchy so try not to venture out too late. I would not say that some parts are dangerous but in any part of New York City even in daylight, you should watch yourself. Even parts of the Upper East Side can be daunting after dark.

The part of the neighborhood that I was covering on this part of the walk is from south of 145th Street east of Fredrick Douglas Boulevard and Edgecombe Avenue to FDR Drive, which is near impossible to walk as their is no outlet to get onto it with getting yourself killed.

I had covered most of First, Second, Third and Lexington Avenues over the summer but I walked them again to see if there were any changes. There were a few as new buildings are going up by 128th Street and some of the businesses in the area had splashed some new paint on the buildings. This area of the triangle bounded from Lexington Avenue from 131st Street to 125th Street is dominated by commercial buildings and the bus depots with a few small parks that have seen better days.

Harlem River Park

The nicer side of Harlem River Park

There is a very nice recreational area that I walked through on 128th Street, The Harlem River Park,  that was very active in the Summer with loads of kids playing soccer and baseball but in the winter months, there were a few kids milling around and playing chase and soccer. Mostly groups of kids hanging out after school. As I walked up the ramp to the 3rd Avenue Bridge to the Bronx, I noticed a few pairs of eyes watching me as I was watching them. The same thing happened at Colonel Charles Young Playground on West 145th Street and Lenox Avenue.

Colonel Charles Young Playground

The Colonel Charles Young Playground could use some work

In the summer, the Colonel Charles Playground was very active with a huge basketball tournament that had attracted a big crowd. In the winter, it had just a few kids playing basketball and a few mothers strolling with their kids. The site of a six foot tall white guy had people staring at me  but I have gotten used to it by this point.

Colonial Charles Young

Colonel Charles Young, the third Black graduate of West Point

Even Park Avenue in this part of Manhattan is not very glamorous. Much different from the blocks south of 96th Street. Up here, it is more commercial with a few schools in the area and a few new apartment houses. There are many small businesses and the area is mostly geared towards transportation. It is not a place to be late at night if you are not from the neighborhood.

Around 132nd Street down to about 128th, the glamour continues with the Department of Sanitation having one of their uptown buildings. This area under the train underpass is where they keep all the garbage trucks and the area is really busy during the days of pick up. It gets a little scary up here at night and it does smell but also too you get to see how the city works. I just wonder how this effects the health of so many residents who are living in public housing that surround the area.

Once you pass Park Avenue, then the neighborhood becomes more residential and you really see the beautiful brownstones and apartment buildings. From Madison Avenue to 7th Avenue, most of the streets are lined with the most graceful buildings from the turn of two centuries ago. Some of the doorways were still decorated for the holidays and it complimented the homes nicely.

This area of Harlem is dominated by many large public housing complexes, which is the reason why the Harlem section of the city will remain a  diverse section of the city. This is unless the city decides to sell off their housing department to meet the demand for housing at market rates. This would really change the complexity of the city.

Walking the Avenues did not take as long as walking the streets. I was able to walk from 1st Avenue to Fredrick Douglas Boulevard in two days and get a real view on how the commercial districts are slowly changing. Since the summer, many businesses I have noticed have closed or have been replaced by chain businesses. It is funny that for the number of years that the city moaned and groaned about chain businesses not wanting to enter the city it is now being dominated by these businesses often pushing out the mom & pop businesses that give each neighborhood its uniqueness.

The one thing about Harlem is that if you ever want a quick snack, there is no lack of bodega’s and small restaurants that are reasonably priced. I stopped in at Food Company Deli at Madison and 130th Street (now closed) for pastilitos, those wonderful and reasonable meat pies I enjoyed so much in Washington Heights. They were $1.25 here but still delicious.

They were freshly cooked and full of chicken and beef respectively. They had a wonderful selection of hot snacks, probably for the after-school crowd from the two schools around the corner and the people playing in the park down the road. All I know is that the owner got very excited about me being there and jumped through hoops when I walked in and paid for my purchase in cash.

empanada stand II

The Beef Empanadas were delicious

When both walking the avenues and the streets, you will notice that there are a large number of public housing units that spread over several blocks. The Drew Hamilton Housing Complex dominates from 144th to 141st Streets from Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue) to Fredrick Douglas Boulevard (8th Avenue) and Fredrick Samuels Houses run from 141st to 139th Streets between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue).

 

Drew Hamilton Houses

The Drew Hamilton Houses

fredrick samuels houses harlem

The Fredrick Samuels Houses were just hit by a fire

Saint Nicholas Houses at 127th to 131st Streets was my start off point since the summer months and where I completed the walk in February at 6:30pm while watching a group of kids play basketball (their park is still having a major makeover that has been going on since the summer months).

St. Nicholas Houses

The Saint Nichols Houses were also just struck with fire

Between 142nd Street and 139th Streets, from Lenox to 5th Avenue, you have the mixed income and renovated Savoy Park Apartments. They are gated and you can see by the landscaping and the cars in the lots not public housing. It is much better taken care of then the surrounding housing but reading reviews on the internet, they still seem to have similar problems. Even though this series of former public housing still has older residents and am not sure if all the buildings are fully renovated yet.

Savoy Park Apartments

I walked through most of these complexes around twilight and no one ever bothered me. Most people either ignored me or looked the other way. Sometimes groups of young men would be on their cell phones while I was walking on one side of the street and then would disappear by the time I walked back down the other side of the street. Since I criss-crossed most of the neighborhood for a second time, I was able to judge how the neighborhood was changing just in the few months it took to walk this side of Harlem.

The areas the surround the CUNY campus seem to have the most changes to it. Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard keep changing all the time in the areas between 140th Streets to about 132nd Street. Many of the buildings have the ‘new window’ syndrome, where you can tell the building is either been renovated or in the process of being renovated.

This is where your newer restaurants and shops are popping up. This is especially true at around St. Nichols Boulevard and Edgecombe Avenues where brownstones and pre-war apartments being sandblasted back to sparkling perfection with new plantings and artwork to accompany them.

Dorrance Brooks Square

Dorrance Brooks Square Park and the Historic District

The homes around Dorrance Brooks Square Park between 136th to 137th Streets have a real beauty to them with their unique designs and big windows over-looking the small park. The park was named in 1925 after Dorrance Brooks, a WWI veteran killed in action before the end of the war (his father was a Civil War veteran as well).

Dorrance Brooks

Private First Class Dorrance Brooks WWI

A native to Harlem, he was the first Black soldier to have a park named after him (NYParks.com).

Dorrance Brooks Square II

The homes around Dorrance Brooks Square Park

The area gets even nicer in the fast gentrifying St. Nicholas Historic District, known as ‘Strivers Row’ of brownstone homes between 137th and 139th Streets right off St. Nicholas Park between Fredrick Douglas and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevards. These majestic buildings were once ‘the’ area of Harlem and are fast taking their rightful place in the neighborhood again. So much of the block I have passed over the past two months has been under scaffolding (as much of the neighborhood has been).

Strivers Row

‘Striver’s Row’

These buildings built between 1891-1893 in the Colonial, Georgian and Italian Renaissance styles and  have been home to many famous residents including musician Eubie Blake and congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Really take time to look at the architecture and the detail work. You can still see traces of the past century in the details.

Strivers Row II

‘Striver’s Row’ in the East 130’s

The commercial avenues is where you are seeing the most changes. The weird part is that it changes from block to block. Even the restaurants change. You can have a hip new barbecue place next to a Chinese restaurant with bullet proof glass and a small slot to get your food. The funny part is when the young white kids enter these Chinese restaurants and the looks on their faces when they are ordering. It can such a juxtaposed array of businesses catering to both old and new residents. Even when I walk in the owners seemed perplexed with who I was and what I was doing there. This happens right across the street from the housing projects but even in the nicest restaurants in the area, it is a mixed crowd of residents enjoying themselves.

One note when walking this upper part of Harlem is that there are scarce public bathrooms around the area. Outside of the McDonald’s on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard the only  other bathroom you can use in the neighborhood is in the much needed in renovation Fred Samuels Park. The park was named after Frederick E. Samuel, the three term Harlem Congressman who passed away in 1985 and had brought significant positive changes to the community.

Fred Samuels Park

Fred Samuel’s Playground has decent bathrooms

Their bathrooms are clean but still falling apart. The park is located between 139th and 140th Streets off Lenox Boulevard and is well used both days I passed it. You would think of the condition of the park and its bathrooms though that the park system could do more for the neighborhood.

Another part of the neighborhood is the very busy and very famous “Harlem Hilton”, Engine 69, Ladder 28 Battalion 16 located on 143rd Street, a block that I am sure has completely changed over the years. The years of the ‘burn baby burn’ days are long over but the company was out the whole time I was there making calls all over the neighborhood. This famous fire company had seen it share of fires over the years. With all the public housing in the area, it looks like the companies are kept busy.

Harlem Hilton II

The ‘Harlem Hilton’ Engine 69/Ladder 28 one of the busiest houses in the FDNY

Two unique blocks that I passed was the 132nd Street neighborhood and their garden, the West 132rd Street Community Garden that is tended and planted by the neighborhood association and compliments the well-taken care of brownstones on the street. The effect must look nice in the summer.

132nd Street Community Garden II

The West 132nd Street Garden in the summer months

Another nice looking garden is the Harlem Rose Garden at 6 East 129th Street. It was under a foot of snow the time I passed it but it must be quite nice in June.

132nd Street Community Garden

There are also the ‘Harlem Grown’ gardens at West 127th Streets, which is an urban youth garden that caters to the children in the neighborhood by sponsoring programs and volunteer planting while working with schools to create school gardens.

Harlem Grown

Harlem Grown in the summer months

This unique programs gets kids involved with the whole process of urban farming. Again under a foot of snow when I passed it , you could see traces of activity in the small green houses on the property.

Harlem Rose Garden

Harlem Rose Garden at 6 East 129th Street

Some of the most beautiful buildings in the neighborhood was the Astor Row block on West 130th Street. These 28 single family brick houses were built by William Backhouse Astor Jr. between 1880 to 1883. These homes, mostly newly renovated have front and side yards and wooden porches that have been added again since their renovations. Most have renovated  but in the middle of the development there is one home that is bricked up with a huge sign that says ‘not abandoned and not for sale. Don’t inquire.’ on the door. This is how desperate people are to buy into the historical housing in this area.

Astor Row Houses

Astor Row Houses

After seven weeks of walking this part of North Harlem, I finally reached 128th Street, months after the summer months of walking from 125th to 128th Streets. It was so nice to see the park at the Saint Nicholas Houses where I had started so many months ago.

Much has changed since the summer months with Colombia University growing by the Hudson River side of the island and scaffolding all over the areas surrounding the areas between Madison Avenue to Fredrick Douglas Boulevard where brownstones and prewar apartments are being snatched up quickly.

More college students are moving in and venturing to further reaches of the area and the housing projects are even going through their own renovations. It won’t be so strange this time to see college students sunning themselves in St. Nicholas and Jackie Robinson Parks anymore. The whole area is changing and there is a lot of investment in the neighborhood not just in housing but in the parks as well. With community gardens and block associations cleaning up empty lots, the pride of Harlem is alive and well. You just have to look for it.

This part of the walk completes the whole neighborhood above 125th Street known by the realtors now as NoHA, North of Harlem.

Now on to Morningside Heights.

 

Places to Visit:

 

Harlem River Park

Harlem River Drive at 128th Street

New York, NY 10035

(212) 639-9675

Open: 7:00am-6:00pm (See website)

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/harlem-river-park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/harlem-river-park-bikeway

 

Colonel Charles Young Playground

West 145 Street & Lenox Avenue

New York, NY  10037

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/col-young-playground

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/col-young-playground/highlights/19658

Open: 7:00am-6:00pm

 

Dorrance Brooks Square

6 Edgecombe Avenue

New York, NY 10030

(212) 639-9675

Open: No posted hours

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/dorrance-brooks-square/highlights/11986

http://6tocelebrate.org/neighborhood-items/dorrance-brooks-square-manhattan/

 

Fred Samuels Playground

Lenox Avenue and East 140th Street

New York, NY  10030

(212) 639-9675

Open:  Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-6:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/fred-samuel-playground

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/fred-samuel-playground/history

 

The 132nd Street Block Association Garden

117 East 132nd Street

New York, NY  10027

https://www.nycservice.org/organizations/983

https://www.nycgovparks.org/about/history/historical-signs/listings?id=12185

 

Harlem Rose Garden

6 East 129th Street

New York, NY  10035

https://www.facebook.com/HarlemRoseGarden/

 

Harlem Grown

127 West 127th Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 870-0113

http://www.harlemgrown.org/

http://www.harlemgrown.org/about

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Fifty-Four: Walking ‘NoHA’ North of Harlem, Manhattanville and Hamilton Heights North of 125th Street September 6th-10th, 2016.

It has taken several days to walk NoHA (North of Harlem), what ever that means. The realtors in New York get a great joy out of naming areas of the city so that real estate  prices can go up. NoHA is pretty much everything from 155th Street to 125th Street from river to river (that being broken into Hamilton Heights from 145th Street to 125th Street west of St. Nicolas Park and then below 125th until 110th Street is Morningside Heights) and SoHA is everything from 125th Street to 110th Street.

Then on the West Side it is know as the Upper Upper West Side until you hit 96th Street and on the East Side it is Spanish Harlem (that is slowly changing as well) until you hit 96th Street then you’re in Yorkville. The Upper East Side starts traditionally on 86th Street. Don’t forget Manhattanville right above Morningside Heights and below Hamilton Heights. I still think the arty crowd calls it NoHA

Most of my days were spent on the on the west side of CUNY campus, which stretches from 141st Street to 130th Street. St. Nicholas Park sits next to the campus and stretches from 141st Street to 127th Street and pretty much cuts the West Side from the East Side of Harlem. Again like the rest of my walk, this area is in heavy transition because of the college and the investment both the college and the city have made in this area.

When I started the walk in this neighborhood, CUNY was out for the summer but as school started, the areas parks, restaurants and streets bustled with student activity. Many of the streets, especially Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway, were beginning to be lined with new bars, restaurants and shops catering to the students and new locals. There is a big difference between the bodega customer and the bar customer as I found out everyone time I entered one.

CUNY II

The Entrance to the CUNY Campus in Hamilton Heights

My first day walking around was extremely humid and not exactly the best day to walk but I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. The biggest issue with this area is that the side streets on the west side of St. Nicholas Park are very hilly, a reminder again that Manhattan was not flat to begin with when they were laying out the grid.  Walking up and down those hills especially by Riverside Park can take a lot out of you. I was a pool of sweat as I finished walking up and down this part of the neighborhood. The nice part of being so close to campus are the numerous number of bodegas in the area. There is a cool drink and a quick snack always close by.

Over a period of four days I covered a lot of territory in the neighborhood. My walk took me from elegant brownstones to some pretty shady areas that I would avoid like the plague. There are just some parts of these neighborhoods that I am sure that the residents avoid.

Most of the streets west of the CUNY campus are very beautiful especially close to the campus, the streets that line Riverside Park and many of the homes that surround Convent Avenue just north of campus. You will find some of the gorgeous townhouses and apartment buildings line the streets of Convert and Nicholas Place with their sandblasted fronts with potted plants and decorations for the upcoming Halloween season. This once exclusive area is becoming exclusive once again.

halloween in Washington Heights

The Brownstone neighborhoods are so beautiful at Halloween

The nice part about the CUNY campus in the summer is that there are not many students on campus during the summer break. I was able to relax on the campus lawn and the security guards left me alone. They probably thought I was a returning student or a Prof on an afternoon break. I was so sweaty and tired from walking all around the campus, I fell asleep for while in one of the chairs that was out on the patio in the middle of campus. During the quiet summer, it is a nice place to relax.

St. Nicholas Park II

St. Nicolas Park just below the CUNY campus

One of the nicest surprises in the area was the Hamilton Grange, the home of Alexander Hamilton and his family during the summer months. Back then, Harlem was the country side for people living and working in lower Manhattan and many wealthy patrons built country homes in this area. He lived here in the summer months with his wife, Elizabeth (nee Schuyler) and their eight children. After his time in the military, he worked as a lawyer in New York City and working for the federal government.

Hamilton Grange

The Hamilton Grange by the CUNY Campus

After his death in 1804 when dueling with Aaron Burr, Elizabeth and her children stayed in the house. Elizabeth had helped start an orphanage among other interests and stayed in the house well into her 80’s. At age 91, she went to live with one of her daughters in Washington DC and died in 1854 at the age of 97. The house had sat neglected into recent times and it was bought by one of the local churches as part of their property. The house has since been moved three times and is still going through a restoration (Wiki and Hamilton Grange History). The grounds were being worked on my volunteers during the time of my visit.

Elizabeth Schuyler

Elizabeth Schuyler, the widow of Alexander Hamilton

I went in on a weekend where the house was open for tours to the public and I got to tour the first floor at my own pace. The bottom level is a history time-line of Hamilton’s life and accomplishments plus information on the house. There is a short movie to see and if you do not know much about Alexander Hamilton’s life, you will learn it here.

Hamilton Grange III

The entrance area of the Hamilton Grange

The upstairs is the only place you can tour and there are only a few rooms to see. The parlor room, dining room and living room are all done in period furnishings and the hallway has been renovated in period look.

Hamilton Grange IV

The Hamilton Grange office area

The whole tour will take about a half hour. Since the musical ‘Hamilton’ came out, the tours have been four fold at the house so take that into consideration when visiting the Grange. It is located at 414 West 141st Street.

Hamilton Grange II

Hamilton Grange Living Room

The house is located at the very tip of St. Nichols Park right next to the CUNY campus. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of the students sunning themselves in the park while you are there. Be sure to take your time touring the homes along Hamilton Terrace and Convent Avenue. There are some beautiful brownstones to look at around the Grange.

Touring in St. Nichols Park is interesting. The summer students used the hills on the side of campus to sun themselves, read, do homework and converse with their friends and classmates while the neighborhood kids played basketball and hung out. It was a real hodgepodge of people in the park the many afternoons that I was there. Between Jackie Robinson Park and St. Nichols Park, I don’t see the local college students too intimidated by the surrounding neighborhood.

St. Nicholas Park

The St. Nicholas Park hill where students like to hang out

They seem to be spreading out into it. One thing not to miss is the old Croton Aqueduct which has been turned into the Harlem Stage at the Gate House at 150 Convent Avenue at 135th Street. This beautiful building was built between 1884-1890 and is now a theater. This used to regulate the amount of water flowing underground. The little park surrounding it is nice for a break as well.

Croton Aqueduct Building

The Croton Aqueduct building at 150 Convent Avenue

The lower sections of the park and the college give way to a fast gentrifying neighborhood where many seniors hang out on benches outside the park and talk while the summer students entertain their family and friends in many of the new restaurants lining Amsterdam Avenue. On a warm summer night, there are a lot of people conversing in the outdoor cafes. This area is extremely hilly so take plenty of time to walk up and down the hills. Most of this section between Broadway and the river, you will be walking up and down the roads and will get a big work out.

As you west of the campus toward the river, most of the blocks west of Broadway are lined with elegant pre-war apartment buildings whose residents are a cross section of Hispanic families, young Yuppie couples and depending on the block, older couples who like to walk their dogs. These buildings lining Riverside Park like everything else in this part of the city are under scaffolding and some in the process of sandblasting. The closer you get to Riverside Park and to Columbia University, the nicer it gets.

One great stop for a snack is Las Americas Bakery on the corner of 136th Street and Broadway right by the subway station (See review on TripAdvisor). The guava flips, apple turnovers and doughnuts are really good and are only $2.00. Load up on carbs here for your walk and remember the bottled water.

Las Americas Bakery

Las Americas Bakery was at 3362 Broadway (closed 2019)

When you reach 125th Street on this side of Manhattan, it really becomes the tale of two cities as Columbia University starts to dominate this side of the island. The new extension of the campus is being built between 125th Street and 133rd Street, west of Broadway to the river. This is all across from a major housing project. These glossy new buildings give an entirely new look to the area and the irony is that the famous Cotton Club which sits on a island between 125th and 129th on the break in the street grid, sits isolated now with the campus being built around it. There is a Dinosaur Barbecue restaurant next door and a Fairway supermarket up the road. 12th Avenue is lined with new restaurants and bars and the city has renovated this part of the park.

Cotton Club

The Cotton Club is in a obscure spot under the subway

West Harlem Pier Park offers the most spectacular views of New Jersey and the extension of Riverside Park that lies ahead. On a sunny warm day, it is a great place to relax and enjoy the view. Many residents and students alike are biking, sunning themselves, fishing or just sitting enjoying the amazing view on a sunny day. The park has been replanted with paths and places to sit and look at the river. It will be even more utilized once the new college buildings open up.

The area across Broadway is one of the larger housing complexes and seems to be going though it s own renovations. The Manhattanville Houses dominate around from 133rd Street to the 126th and 127th grid that changes above 125th Street. The streets do get a little choppy in this area and skip around due to the projects that dominate in this area. Just do yourself a favor and avoid Old Broadway between 133rd and 131st Street at night. It is a little shady after twilight with too many places to hid.

Manhattan Houses

The Manhattanville Houses sit in a quickly changing area

This side of Amsterdam Avenue is going through its own type of renovation as warehouses are becoming loft and studios and many of the old time businesses along this stretch of 125th, 126th and 127th are starting to change hands and many chain stores are moving in. It so weird to see an IHOP right next to the projects but it is a reasonable restaurant and the neighborhood deserves to have the same comforts as the rest of the city.

The longest part of this part of the walk was the walk back and forth on 125th, 126th and 127th Streets.  Going back and forth from one side of the island to another takes a lot of time and be prepared for not just a walk but a big transition in neighborhood in just a few blocks.

CUNY and Columbia Universities are having their presence known in the blocks between Amsterdam to Fredrick Douglas Boulevard between 131st to 125th Streets. Most of the apartment buildings that I saw at afternoon time had anxious students running out the doors. 126th and 127th Streets between 7th Avenue and Park Avenue are mostly lined with old brownstones which are quickly getting scooped up and renovated. This was one of the nicest surprises as the brownstones are very elegant.  This neighborhood I noticed is a very mixed neighborhood of white and black residents that seem to look out for one another.

As I walked these many blocks, I would see residents conversing with one another and stop to watch me walk by as if to say ‘what are you doing here’? I see that a lot in this area of the city. Most of the homes have been sandblasted and were being decorated for the fall. In between many of the homes, new smaller apartment buildings are being tucked in between and look quite expensive. Here and there, there are brownstones that have not been fixed up yet but give them time as the middle class residents in this part of the neighborhood don’t look like they would stand for it. They won’t stay that way long.

The scariest part of the neighborhood is the area from Lexington Avenue between 131st Street to 125th Street surrounded on all side by the Harlem River. This area is mostly commercial with two bus depots, a health orientated building going up and a dealership. The walking on sidewalks in this area is awkward with not much places to cross. Projects dominate between Park and Lexington Avenues and as I walked the short blocks by the parks, I really stood out with many residents looking me over as I walked up Lexington Avenue, walking over the 3rd Avenue Bridge and looking over the kids playing soccer and football.

Even though there are loads of kids in these parks after school and parents are all over place, I would give you a safe bet to avoid this small corner of the city at any other time of the day. I walked down 128th Street to 7th Avenue and then crossed over to 129th Street to walk through the Saint Nichols Houses to get back to Fredrick Douglas Boulevard.

St. Nicholas Houses

St. Nicholas Houses

It was a very busy evening with people coming home from work and families yelling at one another. The saddest thing I saw was a small group of brownstones sitting across from a school on the project property, sitting empty and falling apart. The poor things looked sad as I don’t know how many people would want to buy a dilapidated brownstone across from a busy school. I rounded the small blocks of 129th, 128th and 127th Streets that lie between Fredrick Douglas Boulevard and the park.

The weird juxtapose of this area is that new hip restaurants are opening in this area right across from the projects and these homes again seem to be dominated by a mix of locals and college students. I cut though the park on a hilly path  on 128th Street to finish walking 128th, 129th and 130th Streets below the campus. Be prepared to be long winded after this part of the walk as you are going up and down hills. This section was my best work out since the streets by Riverside Park. This area gives you the perspective that Manhattan is definitely not flat.  Also, when walking down the stairs on 129th Street by the warehouses, plan to do this during the day. Again not a great area to walk alone at twilight. As I said before, most people left me alone but kept looking me over.

My last stop of the evening was dinner at Sylvia’s Soul Food Restaurant at 328 Malcolm X Boulevard. This meant walking from the hills of 128th Street down to 126th Street and crossing over to 125th Street. That alone was a long walk.

Sylvia's Soul Food II

Sylvia’s at 328 Malcolm X Boulevard

I was not thrilled by the food as much as  I was by Charles Southern Fried Chicken or Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread. Maybe it was the sheer exhaustion I felt from all the walking or when I was finally able to relax or the pitcher of the overly sweet iced tea but by the time I got my food, I was feeling nauseous. I had ordered the Fried Chicken Dinner which was two pieces of white meat with mac & cheese and candied yams on the side. It just didn’t strike me as being as good as the other restaurants in the area. I remember on of my professors who took us on a tour here years ago saying it had gotten very commercial. I could see why.

Sylvia's Soul Food

The chicken dinners at Sylvia’s are over-rated or I just hit a bad night

Most of the clientele that night was white and mostly touristy looking people who could not get into the very busy Red Rooster down the road. The Fried chicken was crisp on the outside and chewy and dry on the inside. The candied yams and mac & cheese tasted like it had been made in batches and were warmed up. It’s not that it wasn’t good but I expected more from it. The food was average.

What it lacked in the quality of food, it made up in service as the waitress handled the whole room by herself and could not have been more professional and friendly (see review on TripAdvisor). Needless to say that the manager of Sylvia’s was not the happiest with my review. Oh well, it was an experience anyway. I had wanted to try the restaurant for years.

Overall, this area of the city will take you through a real difference in neighborhood sites, from projects to brownstones from historical through commercial. Sometimes right next to one another. Like any place else in the city, it is going though the ‘change’ and won’t stay the same for very long. You can see the transition going on around you.

Just be prepared to walk up and down hills.

 

Places to Visit:

 

St. Nicolas Park

St. Nicholas Avenue and St. Nicholas Terrace

New York, NY  10030

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/st-nicholas-park

Open: 6:00am-10:00pm

 

West Harlem Piers Park

Marginal Street and East 132nd Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/west-harlem-piers

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-1:00am

 

The Hamilton Grange

414 West 141st Street

New York, NY  10031

(646) 548-2310

http://www.nps.gov/hagr

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday-9:00am-5:00pm/Closed Monday-Tuesday

Fee: Donation

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105813-Reviews-Hamilton_Grange_National_Memorial-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/20

 

Places to Eat:

Las Americas Bakery (now closed)

3362 Broadway

New York, NY  10031

(212) 234-7715

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4986794-Reviews-Las_Americas_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Sylvia’s Soul  Food

328 Malcolm X Boulevard

New York, NY

212-996-0660

Home

Menus

Open: Sunday 11:00am-8:00pm/Monday & Tuesday 11:00am-10:30pm/Wednesday-Saturday 9:00am-10:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426044-Reviews-Sylvia_s_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Fifty-Three: The walk through Upper Harlem from 155th Street to 145th Street between Bradhurst Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard August 28th, 2016

I finally completed my walk of the entire Harlem neighborhood from 155th to 145th Street. I was lucky that it was a nice day with not much humidity. It has been pretty bad with the weather lately. This part of my walk took me to the area east of Jackie Robinson Park from Bradhurst Avenue to the East River. It was one of the harder sections of the city. I always felt that I was being watched by someone.

As I walked along the side street between 145th Street and 155th Streets the residents reacted to me differently. Some were smoking pot on the street and when I came back walking on the other side of the street they disappeared. One woman was having a very heated argument with a man on Frederick Douglas Boulevard that was getting pretty heavy and when she saw me immediately shut up. When I walked down the other side of the street, she and the man had also disappeared.

The police in the area kept driving around looking me over and when I was walking on 147th Street, someone threw a bottle from the building that hit the other side of the street I was walking on. I never thought I ever screamed ‘cop’ before but I got a pretty good idea that that’s what the local residents thought I was that afternoon. Things really quieted down as I walked around this area.

Like all other areas of Harlem, the area is quickly gentrifying. I have never seen so many young perky white kids running around the area. All the buildings lining Bradhurst Avenue by Jackie Robinson Park especially closer to 145th Street are all brand new and there is even a Starbucks on the corner of 145th and Bradhurst Avenue which means that the neighborhood is past the ‘transition’ stage.

Most of the area around 145th Street to Frederick Douglas Boulevard are new housing a lot of it catering to the CUNY students who are boldly pushing the boundaries of the campus into all parts of Harlem. They walk all over the neighborhood, sometimes much to the surprise of the local merchants.

Entering Jackie Robinson Park at 145th Street is very pleasant. There are basketball courts, a public pool, picnic and barbecuing areas that are very popular with the local residents and walking trails. The rock formations in the middle of the park not too different to the ones in High Bridge Park tell the story of how the Ice Age molded these parks for the future.

Jackie Robinson Park

Jackie Robinson Park

The large formations are mostly covered with vegetation but still make quite an impression. The park was very busy that afternoon with kids crowding into the pool and many pick up basketball games going on. On the upper reaches of the park, there must have been four barbecues going on at once, many were having birthday parties and many of the area seniors were sitting around talking and watching what I was doing. I didn’t know that me walking around was such a topic of discussion.

It must have spread around the neighborhood because a bottle came flying down from one of the apartment buildings on 147th Street. That surprised some of the people walking around the neighborhood. Between that and the police vans trolling the neighborhood, I felt like I was being followed.

Walking down Bradhurst Avenue, the street is lined with new buildings facing the park and many new shops that have opened between the park and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard along 145th Street like Starbucks and Popeye’s that cater to the students and residents alike. As you move further into the neighborhood, local businesses line the avenues along Fredrick Douglas and Maccombs with interesting local stores and restaurants. The chain stores have found themselves up here so the services are changing in the shopping area.

At 146th Street is the Robert Clinkscales Playground and Community Park at 234 West 146 Street that was founded in the neighborhood in 1983. This small park has an active playground on one side with a cooling area in the middle and raised vegetable garden on the right side of the park with sitting areas throughout. Even on a Sunday, the playground was very active with lots of kids being looked upon by their grandparents. The vegetable garden was in full form with lots of tomato and herb plants all around the gardens. It is a nice refuge from the hot streets and a good portion of the brownstones and apartment houses that surround the park have been renovated.

Robert Clinkscales Playground II

Robert Clinkscales Playground at 234 West 146th Street

I have noticed a trend in all the neighborhoods I have walked so far in Upper Manhattan. If a neighborhood puts the time and effort into Community Garden or triangle park, all the real estate around it improves. Time and time again I have seen homes renovated around these small parks and that the owners enjoy having a view of something.

Robert Clinkscales Playground

The Flower beds at Robert Clinkscales Playground

As I worked my way up the side streets, the area of renovation depends on how close you are to Jackie Robinson Park. The closer you are to the park, the newer the buildings and more construction is going on. The further you get away from the park towards Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, you move towards the projects. Even the projects are going through a renovation in the neighborhood as most are under scaffolding and look like they are getting a sandblast and new windows.

The lower part of the neighborhood is dominated by a bus depot at 145th Street and Lenox Avenue. Large apartment buildings dominate around this area of Lenox Avenue and the streets can get quite busy on the weekends. A lot of residents hang out outside their buildings gossiping with their neighbors. No one seemed to pay attention to me walking by until I made my way onto their side of the road and then everyone seemed to disappear.

As I made my way onto 152nd Street, the street was dotted with many small Community Gardens. There is a real community spirit with in the neighborhood when it comes to Community Gardening.  The ‘Garden of Love’ run by the Bradhurst Garden Association at 321 West 152nd Street has beds of flowers and vegetables but locked from the outside and the 8th Avenue Garden at 301 152nd Street near Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, were small patches of green on this residential strip. The neighbors reclaimed these spots and by planting them and taking care of them really add to the fabric of the community as well as teaching the kids about gardening. Their a special touch to the neighborhood.

Walking up Macombs Place, I saw a neighborhood that is starting a very early transition. Beautiful townhouses and apartment buildings line the street and lead into the Bronx where Yankee Stadium is located. People were smoking pot outside one of the apartment buildings when I passed and where fighting with each other and when I walked back down the street, there were long gone. This seemed to be the trend where ever I went.

The exception was Colonel Charles Young Triangle at Macombs & 153rd Street, the one big park in the neighborhood  outside of Jackie Robinson Park. This large triangle is in the corner of the neighborhood at 154th Street just off the bridge and dominates a very busy traffic corner. The park is named after the third Black graduate of West Point.

Colonial Charles Young Triangle

Many of the people in the neighborhood gather here to talk or in some cases have family parties as I had seen the three times I walked in the park. It is not well taken care of as it needs a good weeding and planting. The only thing I did was turn some heads.

Colonial Charles Young

Colonial Charles Young, third Black soldier to graduate from West Point

Much of the upper part of the neighborhood is commercial and when you walk down the steps to 155th Street, you are facing probably the most sterile and probably one of the more dangerous projects in the city at the old Polo Fields where the NY Giants used to play. As I said on a previous day, please do not linger around here. Even the police stay in their cars in this neighborhood and the site of a preppie 6:4 guy walking around the neighborhood for a third time must have had everyone wondering what I was doing there.

Polo Grounds II

The Polo Ground Houses on 155th Street

Trust me, I walked down 155th Street to Bradhurst Avenue as fast as I could go and then crossed down Bradhurst before the other set of stairs that leads up to Harlem River Drive and Edgecomb Avenue where High Bridge Park is located. Pretty much the park separates the two areas from one another.

My last stop on the tour of this neighborhood was dinner.  I stopped at Charles County Pan-fried Chicken on Fredrick Douglas Boulevard between 152nd and 153rd Streets and a neighborhood staple. While eating lunch, I talked to Charles, the owner, who was taking a quick break. He could not believe the makeup of his customers that day which were mostly white and some were out of town tourists. I told him that everyone reads about the restaurant on TripAdvisor and Yelp and that’s why he has such a hodgepodge of customers. There were some excellent reviews online. I just found the place while walking around earlier and checked TripAdvisor for what people were saying.

Charles Country Pan Fried chicken

Charles Country Pan-Fried Chicken

Thank God I ate there that day because Charles said  that this was his last day at this location. He had been there for over twenty years and was moving to a bigger spot on 137th Street which is closer to CUNY. He explained that he needed more room as big groups wanted to visit and he had to keep turning them down. He only had about five tables and they were all full.

The food is excellent. He really does cook his chicken in a very large cast iron pan and chicken is constantly cooking so it is fresh. They give you a big portion for a meal so bring your appetite (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the fried chicken dinner which consisted of a freshly fried chicken breast and wing, a big portion of creamy mac & cheese and candied yams that were a syrupy candied on the yams and were sweet and moist. The chicken is crisp and flavorful on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside. It was one of the best fried chickens I had in a long time.

Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken II

The Fried Chicken, Mac & Cheese and Sweet Potatoes are delicious

As I was eating, I told Charles that I thought his food was excellent which he appreciated. Remember to wash it all down with their fresh lemonade. It will really cool you down on a hot day. It was nice to eat with and talk to the owner of the restaurant.

The day ended with a final walk into Jackie Robinson Park and a cool down period on this humid day. Many of the CUNY students have come to sunning themselves on the lawn on the hill off 145th Street or cooling down in the pool located in the park. After that, a quick subway ride from 145th Street back to midtown. The whole area between 155th Street to 145th Street both sides and in between had been done.

It was quite a walk that afternoon.

Jackie Robinson Park I

The stairs and lawn where CUNY students now sun themselves

Places to Visit:

Robert Clinkscales Playground

234 West 146th Street

New York, NY  10039

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-6:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/robert-l-clinkscales-playground-and-community-garden

 

Colonial Charles Young Triangle

Macombs Place & 153rd Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/colonel-charles-young-triangle

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/colonel-charles-young-triangle/history

 

Garden of Love Community Garden

321 West 152nd Street

New York, NY  10027

 

Places to Eat:

 

Charles Country Pan-Fried Chicken

2461 Fredrick Douglas Boulevard

New York, NY  10027

(212) 281-1800

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles%27_Southern_Style_Kitchen

Open: Sunday 12:30pm-10:30pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d1830370-Reviews-Charles_Pan_Fried_Chicken-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d479292-Reviews-Charles_Southern_Style_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

 

 

Day Fifty-One: Walking in Harlem on the East & West Side 155th Street to 145th Street between Broadway and Edgecombe Avenue August 8th, 10th and 11th, 2016

I finally finished my two Brooklyn tours through school and was back up in Harlem today. It was a long day of walking as those city blocks across are long. I started at the subway stop at 168th Street and walked down to 155th Street (the subway was not running to 155th Street over the weekend). As usual when I have to walk down Broadway, I stopped at my new favorite bakery, Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway (check out the numerous reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for chicken pastilitos and cubanitos.

If you like hot snacks and sweet desserts, this will be your ‘go to’ place for a quick snack when walking up here. It is still one of the reasons why I don’t complain about getting off at 168th Street when the C subway is not in service. I like to stop at one of the pocket parks on Broadway to relax and eat. It was a long afternoon of walking.

Estrella Bakery.jpg

Don’t miss this excellent Dominican Bakery on Broadway

My walk over these three days took me from 155th Street to 145th Street from Riverside Drive to Lenox Avenue (there are still some side streets on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park that I have not finished yet). Don’t let these maps fool you, these are long blocks being walked in humid weather.

I started my walk today at the Hispanic Society of America Museum at 155th Street which is on the Boricua College-Manhattan Campus. It shares the campus with the American Academy of Arts & Letters, which closed down in June for the rest of the summer. The Hispanic Society of America is a free museum that is small enough that you can enjoy the visit for about an hour without being over-whelmed like you would at one of the bigger museums.

Hispanic Society of America.png

The Hispanic Society of America

It was a small but no less impressive collection of Spanish Art from different periods. The Hispanic Society of America was founded as a free museum and research library in 1904 by the American scholar and philanthropist Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955). Over the past century, the Hispanic Society had promoted the study of the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Spain and Portugal and their areas of influence in the Americas and throughout the world. The Museum and Library constitute the most extensive collection of Hispanic are and literature outside Spain and Latin America (Hispanic Society of America literature).

The museum  had a nice crowd that afternoon, (how these people found it I will never know. I never knew it existed) and the galleries were small but the work was impressive. Some of the pieces that stood out were Jouquin Sorallo y Bastida’s ‘Vision of Spain’ created between 1911-1919, with many traditional views of parts of Spain and ‘After the Bath’ done in 1908, which looked more like a contemporary beach scene. The one piece that stuck in my mind was a new piece to the collection, ‘The Four Fates of the Soul’, which showed Death, Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. The sculpture really proved it’s point and made me think that we really are being watched from above. Even the guard as I was leaving said it was a new piece to the collection but people really talked about it as they were leaving.

After the museum, I had about ten minutes to walk  around Trinity Cemetery, which is  a quiet but scenic place.

Trinity Cemetery photo

Trinity Church Cemetery plaque

The graves on this side of Broadway overlook the Hudson River and are so peaceful with beautiful views, it makes you think of where you want your final resting place to be located. To live eternity here says something. Even the views of New Jersey  are gorgeous. Be sure to get to the museum and the grave site early as they do close at 4:00pm.

Trinity Church Cemetery

Trinity Cemetery on 155th Street

I began my zig-zag trip of this part of Harlem at 154 Street and from there until 145th Street, the areas between Riverside Drive and Edgecombe Avenue house some of the most beautiful and elegant brownstones that I have seen in the city. So many of the them are under scaffolding as the new population moving up here is putting a lot of money into the renovations of these properties. The results are amazing with wooden doors, elegant metal work cleaned up and lively planters all around the stairs and the windows.

Sugar Hill I.jpg

Sugar Hill Neighborhood

With the CUNY campus just south of this area, you can see that college population is spreading its wings all over the neighborhood as the students, even in the summer, are moving in or living in this neighborhood and invest in buying in the bodegas, restaurants and hanging around the parks. The more diverse population looks like it is really making an effort to work together for this neighborhood. The most beautiful of these blocks is concentrated between Amsterdam Avenue and Nicholas Street so take time to really look at these homes and see the love and care that is put into them.

Jackie Robinson Park I

Jackie Robinson Park where the students hang out.

Another stop I made was in the Hope Garden at 153rd Street that runs through 152nd Street. This was an empty lot between all the buildings that has now been cleaned up and the neighborhood held their Annual Open House & Barbecue for the neighborhood. It was not much of a turnout at that point of the afternoon but all the neighborhood seniors looked at me like ‘oh oh, another one is moving in’. You begin to pick up on these things when you walk through neighborhoods that have not seen me before.

Hope Steven Garden II.jpg

Hope Steven Garden

Everyone was really nice though and some of the ladies were explaining how the neighborhood banded together to clean and landscape the garden. The garden now contains peach trees, berry bushes and a grape arbor while supporting a cat colony that lives in the garden. Some of the neighbors were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs and older residents were chatting amongst themselves. No one made a fuss about me eating and since I was not hungry, I did not partake in the barbecue but it looked pretty good.

Most of the residents sat around and chatted with their neighbors or busy working in the garden. As I sat down to rest, two of the women who volunteer here, looked like they wanted to recruit me to do the same as they told me the story of how the city’s water aqueduct runs underneath the garden so they can never build here and how bad the neighborhood had become and how it was coming back to life. It takes a big person to show the immense pride in a neighborhood.

I stopped back in Convent Garden again to visit Ms. Davis, who was chatting the afternoon away while getting her exercise working in their garden. She was telling me that they will be having a jazz concert with food on Labor Day Weekend and invited me to join in. This I don’t want to miss as it is my two favorite things, jazz music and food. The volunteers were really working away at making this garden the well maintained and colorful place that the garden is to the neighborhood. Everything is in full bloom right now.

Convent Garden Manhattan.jpg

Convent Garden in full bloom

The Sugar Hill neighborhood is really impressive and you could see that this was not one of the places that went downhill as the rest of Harlem decayed in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. It was and still is an grand group of homes that their owners take a lot of pride in. Now that the rest of the city has caught up with it, it will be interesting to see what comes out of it the next few years.

Another small oasis exists on 149th Street, which is Maggie’s Garden. It was locked at the time but also another garden taken from an empty lot and brought back to life. Maggie Burnett, are Harlem resident, turned what was once a ‘rickety old house’ when torn down into an urban oasis starting in 1974. Fighting off drug dealers to build the garden, she got some help from New York Restoration Project and its founder, Bette Midler who assisted in 1999 helping clear the site and now it is a garden with trees, flowers, a full vegetable garden and a barbecue. You could not see all that from the locked gates. (Daily News article).

Maggie's Garden.jpg

Maggie’s Garden

I was able to start my walk on the other side of Bradhurst Avenue on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park. I will let you know that the college students from CUNY have discovered the park and were sunning themselves the afternoon I walked around the park. Bradhurst Avenue has a lot of new buildings on it and the businesses include a Starbucks so you know that neighborhood is going through a transition.

Jackie Robinson Park

Jackie Robinson Park

To let you know though, this transition stops here and the further you get away from the park, the seedier the area gets. By the time you hit Lenox Avenue, gentrification has not hit this area of the neighborhood and you should watch yourself. The buildings are beautiful and there is a police station a block in but it still needs a lot of work on this side of West 145th Street.

The end of the walk that day was at 145th Street and lunch at Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings at 346 West 145th Street (now closed) which is right next store to Victorio’s Pizza that is more of the rave. The pizza was just average and the sauce did not have much flavor to it. The funny part was to listen to Indian music while eating my pizza.  That was strange. My recommendation is go to Victorio’s Pizza and get it to go and eat it in Jackie Robinson Park. The middle of the park has benches to sit on and the park is really pretty with its slopping walkways and rock work and it’s large trees to sit under.

The entire walk between 155th Street and 145th Street with an extra afternoon walking down Convent Avenue took almost five hours. Again, don’t let these blocks fool you as they are long and you will want to stop in the  parks and gardens and walk around.

 

Places to Visit:

 

Jackie Robinson Park

85 Bradhurst to Edgecombe Avenues at 145th Street to Manhattan Avenue

New York, NY 10039

(212) 234-9607

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/jackie-robinson-park_manhattan

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/jackie-robinson-park_brooklyn

 

Convent Garden

Convent Avenue & St. Nichols Avenue

New York, NY  10031

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/convent-garden/highlights/7737

 

Maggie’s Garden

564 West 169th Street

New York, NY  10031

https://www.nyrp.org/green-spaces/garden-details/maggies-garden

 

Hope Steven Garden

505 West 142nd Street

https://www.manhattanlandtrust.org/contact-us/hope-steven-garden/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hope-Steven-Garden/222694217809657

 

Sugar Hill Neighborhood

Between 135th Street to 162nd Street and Edgecombe Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue

http://www.sugarhillmap.com/about.asp

 

Hispanic Society of America

163 West 155th Street

New York, NY 10032

(212) 926-2234

https://hispanicsociety.org/museum/

Open: The museum is currently closed for renovations. Please check the website for the opening.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d110237-Reviews-Hispanic_Society_of_America-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/160

 

Places to Eat:

Victorio’s Pizza

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY 10039

(212) 283-2100

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-8:45pm

https://www.victoriospizzaplusmenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10539122-Reviews-Victorio_s_Pizza_Plus-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

5 Star Estrella Bakery

3861 Broadway

New York, NY 10032

(212) 795-5000

Open: Sunday-Saturday 5:00am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4416394-Reviews-5_Estrella_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/407

 

Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(646) 455-0942

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10715273-Reviews-Harlem_Brothers_Pizza_Wings-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Day Forty-Nine: Walking Riverside Drive from 86th Street to 155th Streets July 10, 2016

I went to the Museum of Natural History this morning for a walking tour called “The History of Sharks” that took us through several galleries as the tour guide explained the history of sharks from pre-historic times to present day. How we live with sharks, how their DNA developed over the years and a discussion on the famous attacks on the New Jersey shore in 1916 to the movie ‘Jaws’. The museum runs these special tours for members and it was nice to explore the museum as a small group. Their volunteers do a wonderful job explaining things and the museum, in anticipation of a major rainstorm that never happened, was packed to the gills. I never see it that busy.

After my visit to the museum, I decided to take a walk up Riverside Drive. It was such a beautiful day with no sign of rain coming, I walked the length of Riverside Drive from 86th Street to 155th Street, crossed over 155th Street to St. Nicholas Avenue and walked down the street to 145th Street to get a better look at the brownstones and mansions and then back up to 155th Street and back down the other side of Riverside Drive to 110th Street and across to the subway station the corner of Central Park. This part of the walk took me past many historical sites and statues, past pocket parks and mansions and the beauty of Riverside Park.

First there is nothing like walking around the west side of Manhattan along Riverside Park. It is a truly wonderful park with people jogging, biking, sunbathing and picnicking. Everyone was really enjoying this clear, sunny Summer afternoon. On a quiet Sunday, the park is mostly yours depending on where you are walking.

All along the way uptown, Riverside Park and Drive are lined with many memorials and statues. I was amazed on many were in the area of the drive. My first stop along the way was the Soldiers’ & Sailors’Monument at West 89th Street that was dedicated to the Union Army soldiers and sailors who contributed in the American Civil War. This structure was completed in 1902 and President Theodore Roosevelt presided over the opening. A very impressive structure that I can see most people miss.  Part of the structure is still in disrepair but you can still walk around the pillared structure and gaze at its beauty.

Soldier and Sailor Monument.png

Soldier’s & Sailors Monument

I took a turn and swung into Riverside Park to visit a small playground and a very lively birthday party. I dropped into Hippo Park at 91st Street, a lively little playground with tons of kids running around, climbing on playground structures and actually acting like kids. I see far too many children obsessed with the cell phones not paying attention to what is going on around them. The kids were obviously having fun while the parents handed out food and gossiped amongst themselves.

Hippo Park is part of the Riverside Park Conservatory and run by volunteers in the neighborhood that also provides entertainment during the summer with outdoor concerts and a newly renovated playhouse for parties. Check out their website for details.

Hippo Park

Hippo Park

The next monument that I passed was the Firemen’s Memorial at 100th Street and Riverside Drive. This is a very quiet and relaxing sculpture that is dedicated to the members of the Fire Department who have lost their lives in the line of duty. This sculpture was dedicated in 1913 and has been renovated a few times since. During the tragedy of 9/11 in 2001, this became a vigil site for those morning the loss of so many members of the FDNY. This stop is a must for all fire fighters.

Firemen's Memorial Riverside Park

Firemen’s Memorial

My next stop was at the Franz Sigel Statue at West 106th Street. The majestic statue of a Major General in the Union Army during the Civil War. He encouraged many then German-Americans to fight for the Union. After the war, he became a proud New Yorker. This small park faced Riverside Drive on the other side of the street.

Franz Sigel Statue

Franz Sigel Statue

As I continued the walk up further, the monuments continued with the statue of Samuel Tilden, a former Governor of New York located at West 112th Street. Tilden’s career was illustrious with fights  against the Tweed stronghold in NYC and some saying that he had the Presidential election stolen from him with the Electoral College by Rutherford Hayes. His large estate and book collection helped found the New York Public Library.

Samuel Tilden Statue.jpg

Samuel Tilden Statue

I finally made it to one of my goals for the day, Grant’s Tomb (see the reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com), the final resting place of our 18th President Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia. This monument has had a love-hate relationship with the city. The President died of throat cancer in 1885 and his wife recommended that his burial place be in New York City over West Point and Washington DC as President Grant and his wife made this their home for the last years of their life.

Grant's Tomb.png

Grant’s Tomb

The monument was finished in 1897 and the President’s remains were moved here before the dedication. His wife died in 1902 and was buried along side her husband.  In 1958, the National Park Service took the monument over and was given a small budget to oversee it.  In the 70’s and 80’s as the city had declined, this part of the park was a mess and the monument was vandalized to the hilt. It had gotten so bad at one point where the descendants of the family threatened to pull the bodies out of the tomb because of neglect. Since the 90’s, the monument and the park have been restored and it is open to the public for limited times during the week.

The park now is used for picnicking and parties as many were going on as I walked through the park. The tomb itself was closed for the day and was fenced off to the public. Not a good sign for the parks system for such an important piece of the city’s history.

Off to the side of the monument,  inside Riverside Park next to the path, is the Amiable Child Memorial (See review on VisitingaMuseum.com), the resting place to St. Clair Pollock. This touching little monument is dedicated to a child who died in 1797 in the fifth year of his life from a fall from the cliffs somewhere in the current park. It is one of the private graves located on public land. This small stone funeral urn is on a pedestal marking the grave. It is a very touching grave to a small child. I left a coin there as many have in the past.

Tomb of the Amiable Child

Tomb of the Amicable Child

I continued the walk up through the park until I hit Riverbank Park on 145th Street, one of the unique parks I have ever seen. The 28 acre park is built on the top of a water treatment plant that was inspired by parks built on roof tops in Japan. This park has everything. It has a pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, soccer field, baseball field, a cool off fountain and ice skating rink. It has it all and has the neighborhood embraced this park. The place was packed in all venues. It was a truly democratic park as all races play here.

I was most impressed by the number of families having parties and barbecues in the park. There must have been about a dozen birthday parties going on at once. The smells of barbecue meats and vegetables wafted in the air and the sounds of laughter and singing was all over the place. Even on a hot day, nothing stops people from having a good time.

I was most impressed by the Snack Bar located in the park’s main building. For $6.00, I got a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke and for a park snack bar they were really good. The portion size was generous and I can tell you for fact that the fries are excellent. Even if you don’t like sports make a special trip to snack bar and you won’t be disappointed. (See review on TripAdvisor)

After a 45 minute detour of this amazing park, I walked the rest of the way through Riverside Park until I hit Trinity Cemetery again and crossed 155th Street to St. Nichols Avenue again. I wanted to take a better look at the mansions at 150th Street in Sugar Hill. This section of Sugar Hill I did not have time to take a good look at the last time I was walking St. Nichols Avenue.

Sugar Hill.jpg

Sugar Hill Brownstones

The homes and brownstones in this area are just gorgeous and give you a totally different prospective of Harlem. Most of these buildings have been sandblasted and restored or in the process of being done. The mansions on the corner of 150th Street and Edgecomb Avenue hark back to a time when this was a very fashionable avenue and don’t miss the Bailey House that is fully restored.

I took a pit stop and stopped for a quick slice of pizza on 145th Street at Victorio’s Pizza Plus at 348 West 145th Street and one of the best slices of pizza I have ever had for $1.00. The pie had just come out of the oven and it was a thin crust made with fresh mozzarella and it was heavenly. Flavorful sauce and the right amount of cheese that was cooked perfectly at any price the pizza was delicious. This is a must for all the CUNY students. (See TripAdvisor review)

The walk took me back across 155th Street and back down Riverside Drive. The park, even at twilight is busy. There were so many bikers, joggers and walkers that you had to move a lot on the sidewalks. My last structure I saw as I walked down Riverside Drive was the Ralph Ellison art piece “Invisible Man” (the picture above) done by sculpture Elizabeth Catlett at 150th Street. It was dedicated to the novelist work on his book “The Invisible Man” about his experience as a Black man during the Civil Rights Movement in NYC. Ralph Ellison lived in the area before he died in 1994. It really is quite the statue.

Invisible Man

Invisible Man Sculpture Riverside Park

As I passed Grant’s Tomb, there were about three parties going on in the park. I don’t think the President even partied that much in one evening when he lived in the city. I could not believe that the park around the tomb would be this busy at eight at night. There were colorful lights all over the trees and a grill going.

I got to 110th Street around 8:30pm and as I rounded Riverside Drive to 110th Street the neighborhood which had been on the fringe for many years has completely changed. The area by Riverside Park had always been nice but as I walked further down the street this area has been sandblasted and rebuilt. Many parts of uptown that had been ignored for years look more like the Upper East Side.

I even saw people walking into Morningside Park which when I was working in the city in the 90’s was a death trap that you would not walk anywhere near but like the rest of the parks like Tompkins Square in the Lower East Side and Bryant Park behind the main library time has passed and they have been fixed up, cleaned up and the area around them now is priced higher.

Morningside Park

Morningside Park

My last stop of the evening was Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too at 366 West 110 Street. This neighborhood staple has been around for years and in a much gentrifying neighborhood that seems to be getting away from its Harlem roots. I hope owns the building. The food and service were just excellent. The biggest problem I had with the restaurant is that I over thought how hungry I was that night. After a big lunch at 5:00pm and a slice of pizza by the time the food came I was barely hungry.

Miss Mamie’s is not to be missed. They had a dinner special that was $19.99 for a salad that was one of the best restaurant salads I had had in years. It was crisp with fresh lettuce and tomatoes with a light dressing, for the entrée was freshly fried chicken that was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside and the chicken had so much flavor to it. I had it with mac and cheese and candied yams, not the most healthy choices but after a five mile walk I figured I had burned off a few calories. It was so much food that I had to take half of it home with me along with the Peach Cobbler dessert that was included in the meal (See the review on TripAdvisor).

Miss Mamie's Spoonbread

Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too

The service was friendly with out being overwhelming. I must give off certain vibes in this neighborhood because the waitress asked me if I was a lecturer for Columbia. I laughed at the one and asked why. She said I looked smart. I don’t know what looking smart is but I took it as a compliment. Usually above 110th Street every assumes that I am either a cop or DEA. Amazing what being tall is to people.

I ended the evening totally exhausted and took the subway from the 110th Street and Central Park West. Another sign of changes in the neighborhood is that I saw people jogging into the northern park of Central Park at 9:30pm. Things have really changed up here.

Places to Visit:

Hippo Park Conservatory

West 91st and Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10025

(212) 870-3070

https://riversideparknyc.org/groups/hippo-playground/

 

Riverbank Park

679 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10031

(212) 694-3600

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riverside-park

https://parks.ny.gov/parks/93/details.aspx

Reviews on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d565030-Reviews-Riverbank_State_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

General Grant’s National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb)

122nd Street & Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

https://www.nps.gov/gegr/index.htm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105812-Reviews-General_Grant_National_Memorial-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My Review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1354

 

Tomb of the Amicable Child

524 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riversidepark/monuments/1206

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/630

 

Various Statues along Riverside Drive

See Riverside Park Memorials NYCParks.com

 

Places to Eat:

 

Victorio’s Pizza Plus

348 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 283-2100

https://www.victoriospizzaplusmenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10539122-Reviews-Victorio_s_Pizza_Plus-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread

366 West 110th Street

New York, NY  10039

https://spoonbreadinc.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426019-Reviews-Miss_Mamie_s_Spoonbread_Too-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Riverbank Park Snack Bar

679 Riverside Drive

Riverbank Park at West 145th Street

New York, NY  10031

 

 

 

 

 

Day Forty-Six: Walking through Harlem on Broadway, Hamilton Place and St. Nicolas Avenue from 155th to 145th Streets July 1st, 2016

I continued walking the Harlem neighborhood this afternoon after a very exhausting morning working in the Soup Kitchen. I am beginning to discover that I should not combine the two together as it gets to be too much to do in one day. I was a food runner by myself and we served 660 meals that morning. When you serve mac & cheese to the homeless, you had better wear comfortable shoes.

After I left, I took the Number One subway to 155th Street and ended up back at 168th Street again. I never win. I walked down to 155th Street to start the walk at my starting point at the cemetery. I walked around the local arts campus and around the cemetery again. It is a beautiful to just sit and think with a gorgeous view of the Hudson River. I walked through Audubon Place reminding myself to leave time for their museums in the future.

Trinity Church Cemetery

The church cemetery

My walk today took me down Broadway and St. Nicolas Avenue and back. Like every other part of Manhattan that I walk, everything is in a state of flux. I have noticed one thing in the area, the closer you get to the CUNY campus, the more gentrified it becomes. It seems that the old students who may have in the past avoided the area that surrounded the college, the new students seem to embrace it and rather enjoy it.

CUNY

The CUNY Campus

Let’s be fair in that the area is so much safer and cleaner than it was even ten years ago. I remember taking a walking tour with a professor from FIT and the area has changed so much since then. I remember her saying how fast the brownstones were changing hands and how the shell of a building was going for over a million dollars and us smirking at her. That same property is probably worth six times that now.

Most of Broadway is filled with interesting shops and restaurants catering to both students and residents or both. My first part of the walk started at 5 Star Estrella Bakery, on the corner of Broadway and 161st Street. This amazing little bakery is so reasonable and the food is great. To add to the mac & cheese I indulged in at Soup Kitchen, I had the most delicious cinnamon Danish and a ‘papa’ a type of Dominican croquette that is filled with meat tucked into mashed potatoes and then deep-fried. (See my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) Everything I try there is good and fun to munch on while walking.

Estrella Bakery

5 Star Estrella Bakery

You start to see Broadway’s transition from a Dominican neighborhood to college town between 145th Street to about 138th. The commercial area is filled with bike shops, trendy little restaurants and clothing stores. Bars seem to be opening up all over the commercial area. Between 155th and 145th and further down, there are many a hole in the wall and good sit down Spanish restaurants offering reasonable prices on traditional meals.

On the trip back up Broadway, I walked the length back and forth of Hamilton Place, which is lined with some of the most beautiful brownstones and apartment buildings that I have seen in Harlem. So many of the stairs to these homes are lined with flowering potted plants and the whole area looks like ‘Old New York’, with their washed fronts and vine lining the home. This stretch of the neighborhood I predict will be the next ‘hot neighborhood’ with the college being so close by and two very popular subway lines.

Hamilton Terrace

The Hamilton Place and Terrace areas are amazing

There were some unusual and trendy little shops in the area that seemed out-of-place at this point in a neighborhood in transition. I just don’t think too many students or residents in the area is going to go for a $12.00 pie at Sweet Southern Style Bakery at 122 Hamilton Place but that’s just me. Everything at the shop looks so good from the window. Next door is the trendy Hogshead restaurant with a delicious sounding pulled pork sandwich and sliders. I see more of these restaurants opening up in the small spaces that line the brownstones.

Sweet Southern Style Bakery

Sweet Southern Style Bakery at 122 Hamilton Place

Hamilton Place also has its share of pocket parks. At the top of the street is Johnny Hartman Plaza originally know as Hamilton Park after the founding father’s whose home located here. Hartman was a musician who lived in the neighborhood back in the 1960’s. If this park is honoring someone it should be better weeded and taken care of by the community.

Johnny Hartman Plaza

Johnny Hartman Plaza at Amsterdam Avenue and 143rd Street

Further down the road is a very nice family park in the Alexander Hamilton Playground at West 140th Street, a popular spot for young families trying to cool down in the hot weather. It is funny that some people say that they would never raise a child in the city but these kids looked pretty happy to me.

Alexander Hamilton Playground

Alexander Hamilton Playground at West 140th Street

At the end of the block that leads to Broadway is Montefiore Park at West 138th Street, where it seems that the whole neighborhood meets. There are several food vendors here to check out, especially the lady who sells the flavored ices for a dollar.

Montefiore Park

Montefiore Square Park at West 138th Street

By the number of people playing dominoes and cards, it is popular meeting place for the retirees in the neighborhood. There is a lot of yelling and laughing going on most of the day. Walking back up to Amsterdam Avenue, you can walk the side streets to see the beautiful restoration of the brownstones in the area. There is so much care to this area.

At 113th Street, look down the road to see the amazing view of the Hudson River and then up the road to see the CUNY campus and you will now know why I think this is going to be a hot neighborhood. It offers parks, stunning housing close to a college campus, great views of the river and some great restaurants that cater to the whole community.

I was able to walk around the CUNY campus without the campus police bothering me and I have to say that it might be a small campus but it is a pretty one that is an oasis in a busy neighborhood. I was surprised that the neighborhood was not more tailored to the students but I could tell for a long time that the students must have felt very isolated being so far uptown.

St. Nicholas Park II

St. Nicholas Park behind CUNY

To the west of the campus is St. Nicholas Park, a very well used but overgrown park. The paths, basketball courts and bathrooms really need some capital improvement and the park needs a good weeding. The views of the neighborhood and beyond are quite spectacular. I could see why Alexander Hamilton had his home here. The Hamilton Grange as its called was closed for the day but in its day, it must have been an amazing estate. Hamilton was married into the Schuyler family and at that time they were the Gates and Buffets of their day.

Hamilton Grange

The Hamilton Grange, the home of Alexander Hamilton and his family

After the walk up and own the commercial strip of Broadway, I walked across 155th Street again and walked down St. Nicholas Avenue. This part of the city has some of the most beautiful architecture in Upper Manhattan. This part of the walk took me down St. Nicholas Avenue from 155th to 125th and then back up. All along the way there are beautiful restored mansions, elegant brownstones, small well-landscaped pocket parks and delicious restaurants to try.

Some of the most beautiful restored mansions I saw line 150th Street off the avenue. The breathtaking mansion on the corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and 150th Street was once owned by the Bailey family of Barnum & Bailey fame. The mansion and the surrounding four mansions have been beautifully restored to their true glory. The owners have taken a lot of pride in the exterior and the landscaping of these homes. There are about four or five mansions to walk around in the area to view their unique beauty.

Harlem Baily House

The Bailey Mansion in the Hamilton Heights section of Harlem

This area is known as ‘Sugar Hill’ for the sweet life that it gave its residents. The area is bounded by West 155 Street to the north, West 145th Street to the south and Edgecombe Avenue to the east and Amsterdam Avenue to the west. Sugar Hill got its name in the 1920’s when the neighborhood became a popular place for wealthy African-Americans to live during the Harlem Renaissance and people like Clayton Powell Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway resided here. (Wikipedia)

Harlem Sugar Hill

“Sugar Hill” in Harlem

The whole area is going through a massive gentrification with scaffolding all over the place. People are snatching up these buildings and revitalizing them. I call it the ‘new windows’ effect. When you see new windows in the building, it means that it has already changed hands. There are three historic districts in the area but view the row houses between 718-730 St. Nicholas Avenue and you will respect the true beauty of the area.

The area also has a series of pocket parks. One gathering place is the Donnollan Square Park named after Timothy Donnollan, Private First Class during WWI. This attractive little park is a place for some serious sports conversation as I found out when some guy asked me about all my Michigan State gear. The way he approached me I thought he was ready to say ‘Hi Officer’. This well landscaped little park is a nice to place to just to sit and relax.

Donnollen Square

Donnollen Square at 150th Street

Further up on 151st Street is the Convent Garden, which is a small pocket park Community Garden off West 151 Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. The park has a unique history.

In 1985, a gas station occupying the site was demolished and the remaining empty lot was an eyesore to the community until local activist Luana Robinson and a small group of female volunteers from the Coalition of Hamilton Heights Tenants Associations established the Convent Garden to Women. In 1989, Convent Garden was the pilot location for the new Greenstreets program, which was launched by the Parks and the Department of Transportation to transform traffic triangles and other paved areas into green spaces.

Convent Garden III

Convent Garden Park at 150th Street

After the site was heavily disturbed by the removal of underground gas tanks in 1998, Juliette Davis and other local residents began to rebuild the garden. The gazebo, donated by the Marriott Corporation, was installed in November 1998 and in the spring of 1999, the Convent Garden Community Association added three wooden benches and a new lawn. (New York Park System online)

Convent Garden IV

Juliette Davis at the entrance of her pride at Convent Garden in Harlem

While I was walking by this time, the park was open and I was able to walk around. I was introduced to Ms. Davis, who was working in the park with her grandchild. She said she keeps healthy by doing some of the work around the garden with her neighbors and family helping with the hard stuff. “It did not even have grass when we first started. We had to dig the whole thing out,” she said with a lot of pride. When she won a grant from the city for all of her hard work, she put the lawn in. The park is such a tranquil place with several flower beds, benches to sit, a lush lawn and flowers all over the place. The volunteers do such a nice job keeping the park up and I had just missed on of the local choir groups perform in the park that day. Maybe next time. It was just fun watching Ms. Davis’s grandchildren run around the park ‘trying to help’ as most kids do. Her pride in the park I think is what makes it so special. It’s that care in the community.

On my way back to 155th Street, I stopped at Victorio’s Pizza at 348 West 145th, right across the street from Jackie Robinson Park. OMG. This is some of the best pizza that you can get for a dollar a slice. I was completely blown away by the quality of the fresh mozzarella and the sauce had so much flavor. The service was very friendly and the woman behind the counter seemed surprised when I walked back in and said how much I enjoyed the slice. (See TripAdvisor for the full review).

Victorio's Pizza

Victorio’s Pizza at 348 West 145th Street

I took the train back down to Times Square from 155th Street and then it would be off and running for another day. I covered the whole area from 155th Street to 125th Street both Broadway and St.Nicholas Avenue’s. It was a long day but there was so much to see.

 

Places to Visit:

Johnny Hartman Plaza

Amsterdam Avenue, 143rd Street and Hamilton Place

New York, NY  10013

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/johnny-hartman-square

 

Alexander Hamilton Playground

Hamilton Place and 140th Street

New York, NY  10031

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/alexander-hamilton-playground

 

Montefiore Park

Hamilton Place and West 138th Street

New York, NY  10031

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/montefiore-square

 

St. Nichols Park

St. Nichols Avenue and St. Nicholas Terrace

New York, NY  10030

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/st-nicholas-park

 

Donnollen Square

397 West 150th Street

New York, NY  10031

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/donnellan-square/history

 

Convent Garden Park

Convent and St. Nichols Avenue

New York, NY  10031

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/convent-garden/highlights/7737

 

The Hamilton Grange National Memorial, a National Park

414 West 141st Street

New York, NY  10031

(646) 548-2310

Hours: Sunday 9:00am-5:00pm/Monday & Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm

Fee: Free for Admission

https://www.nps.gov/hagr/index.htm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105813-Reviews-Hamilton_Grange_National_Memorial-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/20

 

Places to Eat:

5 Star Estrella Bakery Corporation

3861 Broadway

New York, NY  10032

(212) 795-5000

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4416394-Reviews-5_Estrella_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/407

 

Victorio’s Pizza Plus

348 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 283-2100

https://www.victoriospizzaplusmenu.com/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:00pm/Monday-Friday 11:00am-8:45pm/Saturday 3:00pm-8:45pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10539122-Reviews-Victorio_s_Pizza_Plus-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905