Tag Archives: Exploring SoHA

Woven Art by Artist Naomi Lawrence

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

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

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 Lycée 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

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

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 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 overlooking the road crossing.

Harriet Tubman Statue

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

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

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

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 between 112th-115th Streets

https://affordablehousingonline.com/housing-search/New-York/New-York-City/King-Towers/10067850

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 at 1694 Madison Avenue from 112th to 115th Streets

Click to access Taft.pdf

It was getting dark on my first day in 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

https://www.hunanchenskitchen.com/

The food and the service are 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

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

Click to access 0452.pdf

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

HOME

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)

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

Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey

https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/marcus-garvey

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

https://www.ladylexissweets.com/

https://www.facebook.com/LadyLexisSweets/

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. It’s 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 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. As I kept reentering the playgrounds to cross the projects to get to the other side, I noticed that people kept disappearing. 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

https://www.menupix.com/nyc/restaurants/380269545/Sams-Famous-Pizza-New-York-NY

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

https://restaurantguru.com/Milenio-Bakery-New-York

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 at 2180 First Avenue in East Harlem

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

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d548724-Reviews-Morningside_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html

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

Open: Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm/Monday & Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d4563063-Reviews-Charles_A_Dana_Discovery_Center-New_York_City_New_York.html

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d615656-Reviews-Marcus_Garvey_Memorial_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d23344895-Reviews-Thomas_Jefferson_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html

Peaceful Valley Community Garden

50 East 117th Street

New York, NY 10035

Open: See website

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

Open: See website

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/

Open: See Website

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_

Open: See website

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

https://restaurantguru.com/Milenio-Bakery-New-York

Open: Please call their number

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

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/

The Harlem Meer in Central Park

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

Homepage

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

Their Roast Pork Lo Mein with egg roll is the best!

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

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

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)

Click to access Lehman.pdf

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 Chevere 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

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

Expanding Historic District Boundaries- Mount Morris Park

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  10029

(212) 639-9675

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

(212) 639-9675

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

The Hamilton Grange, home of Alexander Hamilton

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 known 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

Home

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 Professor 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

https://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/history-and-heritage/dutch_americans/elizabeth-schuyler-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

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Dance—Night-Club/Cotton-Club-153672974700821/

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.

Harlem Pier Park

West Harlem Piers Park is at the end of 125th Street next to the new Columbia campus extension

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

https://www.facebook.com/pages/NYCHA-Manhattanville-Houses/155849952023323

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

Home

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: Sunday-Saturday 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

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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