Tag Archives: Harlem

Day One Hundred and Thirty Seven ‘Happy Father’s Day’ Dad: In memory of my Father, Warren George Watrel June 16, 2019

I dedicate this blog with much love to my father, Warren George Watrel, who inspired this blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”. I wanted to wish him a very ‘Happy Father’s Day’!

My dad was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and still considered himself a ‘Brooklynite’, even though he was raised  and lived in New Jersey for most of his life. He spent years visiting the City to see relatives and he worked on Park Avenue for several years after that.

Every Father’s Day after I moved back to New Jersey from Guam, we always spent the day roaming around the City visiting some park that I had read about, movie that I saw reviewed or exhibition at a museum that was being featured. We would cap the afternoon off at a restaurant that I would read about in the Village Voice.

Since his passing, I have my own routine on Father’s Day. I pay my respects to him in the morning and then I spend my afternoon doing something we would have done together. Adding to the museums and galleries that I have visited over the time in my project, “MywalkinManhattan”, I decided to visit the American Academy of Arts and Letters at West 155th Street on Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets. I wanted to see the new works by their member artists. Then I treated myself to lunch.

My morning was spent cutting flowers from our flower beds, which my dad had a lot of pride in and I made an amazing arrangement to take with me. While I was paying my respects, I ran into other families doing the same thing I was doing. The cemetery was as busy as a shopping mall with cars all over the place and flower arrangement and prayers being said. It is interesting to see how people respect their family members who have passed.

I was talking with a women whose grandparents were interned near my father and whose younger brother was interned in another part of the cemetery. Since the death of her brother, his family cut off relations with the rest of her family members. It is sad that I hear this story so many times. She seemed relieved to have someone to talk to about it. We had a nice chat about our families for about a half hour and it’s nice to talk to a stranger who understands.

After I paid my respects, my afternoon was spent at the American Academy of Arts & Letters for one of my other blogs, “VisitingaMuseum.com”. I had been wanting to visit the gallery for two years now and it was the last day of their exhibition ‘Ceremonial Exhibition: Work by New Members and Recipients of Awards”. It is hard to visit since they are only open four months out of the year.

I got into the City late so I got to spend the last hour and a half walking the exhibition. I had just walked the entire length of Broadway for my blog on Friday (Day One Hundred and Thirty Six Walking the length of Broadway) and saw that it would be open this Sunday. It was an interesting exhibition.

Some of the pieces in the gallery were a little political and one sided. I took it that the Academy was more  liberal leaning. Even so, it was nice to see what the artist had to say and their thoughts on current events.

One artist who stood out was artist Judith Bernstein whose works ‘Gold Quattro’, ‘Money Shot-Blue Balls’ and ‘Trump Genie’ wanted to portray what she thinks of the corruption and money grabbing currently in Washington DC. You have to really look at the work closely to see the sexual organs and their use in the paintings.

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Artist Judith Bernstein’s work

Another set of works that stood out was ‘She-wolf’ by artist Francesca Dimattio, with it’s many components and color displays. The funny part was that she had a hand poking out of the butt. I was not sure how you would interpret that.

American Academy of Arts & Letters VI

‘She-wolf’ by Francesa Diamattio

After the museum closed for the afternoon, I walked over to the Morris-Jumel Mansion which had closed for the afternoon (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). Still it was nice to walk the gardens and look at the views of the river and beyond. I had toured the mansion several times and it is an interesting home with a fascinating past. The home was owned by Aaron Burr’s second wife, Madame Jumel, who herself had an interesting life.

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The Morris-Jumel Mansion

The formal gardens on the property are relaxing to visit in but could use a good weeding.

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The Morris-Jumel Mansion gardens

After a visit around the neighborhood to see how gentrification is changing the neighborhood, I stopped to get something to eat. The Sugar Hill Cafe which I had wanted to try was closed for the afternoon so I went to Victorio’s Pizza at 348 West 145th Street (see review on Tripadvisor) by the SUNY campus. Their pizza is always wonderful. The sauce is so well spiced and tastes of fresh tomatoes and the cheese is really gooey.

After lunch, I just walked around this part of Harlem to see the changes and developments in the neighborhood. I had not visited this section of the City in about two years and it just keeps morphing. I walked from 145th Street to 125th Street and took the subway from there.

Every time I visit another part of New York City after a period of time, I am amazed how fast everything is moving from restaurants and shops closing to buildings either being torn down or renovated. The City never stops changing.

I enjoyed spending my Father’s Day doing something we both loved to do, exploring New York City and all the things it has to offer. I will never forget all the things that my father did for me and the support he offered me. I look back and realize the things I have done in my life because love and support and lack of judging me on it. I think it is important to let your kids make mistakes in life as it makes them stronger and more independent.

I was proud of my own father’s accomplishments even after he got sick and his determination to get better. He had progressed so well that I was able to take him to his 60th high school reunion in Florida and that was one of my proudest accomplishments. I was able to get him there and give him that moment in his life to see his old friends. That was all him and his hard work.

Dad's Reunion IV

My dad spending the afternoon with his old classmates.

Dad's Reunion V

My father conversing with his classmates

I dedicate this blog with much love and respect to my father, Warren, whose determination and hard work showed me that anything is possible. You just have to believe that things will get better.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!!

 

Places to Visit Uptown:

 

American Academy of Arts and Letters

633 West 155th Street

New York, NY 10032

(212) 368-5900

https://artsandletters.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d548512-Reviews-American_Academy_of_Arts_and_Letters-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2165

 

Morris-Jumel Mansion

65 Jumel Terrace

New York, NY  10032

(212) 923-8008

https://www.morrisjumel.org/

Open: Closed Monday/Tuesday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d103500-Reviews-Morris_Jumel_Mansion-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/252

 

Places to Eat Uptown:

 

Victorio’s Pizzeria

348 East 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 283-2100

https://victoriospizzaplus.nyc/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-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

 

 

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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.

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.

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 travelled 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.

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 travelled 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). 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

120th to 124th Street by Madison Avenue

New York, NY

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

 

Thomas Jefferson Park

2180 First Avenue

New York, NY  10029

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

 

Charles A Dana Discovery Center

Central Park North

New York, NY  10029

(212) 860-1370

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

 

 

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:

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

 

El Chevere Cuchifritos

2000 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 427-3952

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

 

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

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) 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.

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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. 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 gravesite early as they do close at 4:00pm.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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. 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 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

Bradhurst to Edgecombe Avenues at 145th Street to Manhattan Avenue

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

Convent Garden

Convent Avenue & St. Nichols Avenue

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

Maggie’s Garden

564 West 169th Street

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/

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

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-Four: Walking in Harlem June 9, 2016

I finally crossed the border of Washington Heights into Harlem and I can tell you that border does make a difference in the neighborhoods. Not in a bad way it just seemed to me that there is a different personality to the neighborhood.

I started my walk at the 168th Street subway station and walked down to Amsterdam and 155th Street. In a period of barely a year (six months for that matter), I have seen a whole bunch of businesses close their doors, scaffolding all over buildings both in Washington Heights and Harlem and a rebirth to the area around the CUNY campus. I had even taken walking tours of Harlem as little as eight years ago and have seen a huge change in the area since Mayor Bloomberg rezoned the city. 125th Street is going through a big makeover as the chain stores seem to be taking over the street.

I started my walk in the Trinity Church Cemetery with a visit to my favorite New York Mayor, Ed Koch. He brought so much positive change to New York and was New York in the late 70’s and 80’s. Mayor Koch was still mayor when I came back to work in the city in the 80’s. New York was going through its first wave of gentrification at the time. I had even sent him a copy of my book, ‘Firehouse 101’ of which his office sent a nice not too generic form letter to me thanking me for the book. As far as I know I do not know if he ever read the copy I sent him.

Trinity Church Cemetery

Trinity Cemetery

Still there I was sitting on a bench on a small hill over-looking Amsterdam Avenue paying my respects. It was a quiet moment until school let and then there were kids yelling and screaming all over the place. I then decided to start the rest of the walk. I said my goodbyes to the Mayor, placed a rock on the tombstone and started out of the cemetery and down Amsterdam Avenue.

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Ed Koch grave site at Trinity Cemetery

My travels today took me down Amsterdam Avenue from 155th Street to 125th Street as my border and then I walked the entire length of 125th Street from the Hudson River to the East River. Then it was back up Amsterdam Avenue to 155th Street and then the walk down Broadway. Needless to say, the journey was long but full of surprises.

Amsterdam Avenue is a street in major transition. It also depends on what part you walk. As you get closer to the CUNY campus around 138th Street the are starts to get even better with small, trendy restaurants and pre-war buildings with sandblasted fronts and new windows. The crowd is certainly getting younger with a lot of students and their parents milling around the street.

One little gem to walk around if it is open is the Hope Stevens Garden at 505 West 142nd Street. The garden was in full bloom but unfortunately the gates were locked at the time.

In 1986, the Hope Steven Community Garden (then known as the West Harlem Group Assistance Garden) was selected to participate in Artists in the Gardens, a project of Green Thumb, the community gardening program sponsored by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. From a roster of artists chosen by a panel of art professionals, the gardeners selected Eva Cockcroft to paint a mural on the building facing their garden. In 1998, the garden was sold by the City of New York to the Trust for Public Land for eventual transfer to the newly formed Manhattan Land Trust, thus ensuring its preservation. (Harlem One Stop)

Hope Steven Garden

Hope Stevens Garden

If you get a chance to walk into the garden when it is open it looks like a real treat. The flowers are all in bloom and the bed showcases a colorful assortment of plants.

I stopped a little snack shop, The One Stop Patty Shop at 1708 Amsterdam Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). This delightful little shop has the best Jamaican meat patties. The spicy beef patty that I munched on as I walked down the road had just come out of the oven. It was flaky, filled with a generous portion of spicy beef and was a nice size patty. It more than filled me up for a quick lunch. The service was really friendly and the staff there takes a lot of pride in their food. The guy was encouraging me to buy more for my trip home. (see my review on TripAdvisor)

My trip took me past of the campus of CUNY where a very active student body was milling around the campus, in the park across the street and eating in the new outdoor cafes that are now dotting Amsterdam Avenue by the campus at 138th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. The campus was a buzz with students socializing and just enjoying a sunny day. There are some interesting restaurants to investigate in the future.

Before I continued down the street, I took a turn on 145th Street to Broadway to try my dining destination for the evening, Handpulled Noodles. It was further up the street but I discovered Grullon #1 Bakery at 3522 Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor). A nice selection of baked goods and traditional Dominican snacks like Pastilitos and croquets. Most of the items had been sitting most of the day. The vanilla iced doughnut I had looked really good but was hard and the hot snacks looked dried out. It was obvious that the store had not seen too much action that day. It warrants another try though as the service was attentive and friendly and the selection of baked goods looks good.

The lower part of Amsterdam Avenue was a collection of public housing and a warehouse district that was transformed into lofts, studios and a few art galleries. What was interesting was that in the middle of a housing project was that a developer was building a mixed use building with luxury apartments. That is going to be an interesting mix of people.

From Amsterdam Avenue, I walked the entire length of 125th Street, considered the heart of Harlem, that since the Bloomberg zoning changes is under the biggest transformation since Times Square was completely knocked down. By the time the transformation is complete, it will more chain stores, hotels, office buildings and the northern branch of Columbia University.

When I walked to the right down 125th Street, most of the former cheaper stores were in the process of closing down and being replaced by new businesses. The controversial new section of Columbia University is being built, replacing some old buildings with sleek new towers. Once done it will be a very impressive campus of glass, steel and new gardens. It will bring a whole new resident to this part of Harlem.

What I thought was progressive was that the campus was surrounding the famous Cotton Club nightclub that sat there in the middle of all this change. It looked totally out of place with a modern campus being built around it and a Dinosaur Barbecue restaurant catering to the college students a block down. Surreal was not the word for it as if anyone from the 20’s walked down this block now would not know where there were in Manhattan. The club was preparing for a show and I saw the performers passing by groups of college students on their way to Riverside Park and the surrounding restaurants.

The Cotton Club has a very interesting past as this is the third Cotton Club in the history of the club. It open in 1920 by Jack Jones, the heavyweight boxing champion as the Club Deluxe. In 1923, bootlegger, Owney Madden bought the club and renamed it the Cotton Club, with a ‘whites only’ policy that lasted until the club closed in 1936. The club has had two other locations and the current club in the present location opened in 1977 (Wiki).

Cotton Club

Cotton Club in Harlem

I passed the projects on the way back down 125th Street where a woman passed me and made a comment under her breathe with a few four letter words enough where she knew I could hear her on her thoughts about policemen. I guess more and more I am realizing that everyone in this part of Manhattan thinks I am a cop or DEA. I remember how fast the drug dealers in the Dykman House projects ran when they saw me coming.

I had taken a recent walking tour of Harlem with the Cornell Club and we covered the areas from 125th Street to 124th Street from 5th Avenue to 7th Avenue and how some of the residents did not appreciate being treated like a curiosity by tourists. Now there are so many white residents in the area and visiting tourists eating in the restaurants that you blend right in.

Be prepared thought more culture shocks as there is a Red Lobster and a Banana Republic on either side of the Apollo Theater and there is a mall like environment between Fredrick Douglas Boulevard and 5th Avenue that will one day be a suburban strip mall environment. It reminds me of the changes going on in downtown Brooklyn as everything is being replaced by chain stores. The local businesses that give it the character of the neighborhood are being pushed out.

The Apollo Theater was built in 1913-14 by architect George Keister in a neo-classical style and opened as Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater with a ‘white’s only’ policy which existed until the 1930’s when it reopened in 1934. It was then open to black patrons as well with a mixture of entertainment.

Apollo Theater

Apollo Theater

The Apollo Theater open in

I passed the famous Hotel Theresa which is now called Theresa Towers. When built in 1912-1913 by German-born stockbroker, Gustavus Sidenberg and it was ‘the’ hotel in Harlem and all the famous black celebrities stayed when they could not stay in the luxury hotels of midtown (Wiki).

Today it has been refitted as an office building with commercial businesses. The building has seen better days but is still impressive and maybe one day someone will get the good idea to convert it back into a hotel like the renovation and reopening of the Hotel Knickerbocker in Times Square. It is an ideal place for a good hotel in the midst of all this change. The building itself has seen better days but like the rest of Harlem it will be catching up to the rest of the city soon.

Hotel Theresa

Hotel Theresa in Harlem

As I walked towards the East River, most of 125th Street is in the process of being either knocked down and renovated. In not even two years, the whole makeup of this area will change as more chain stores and apartment buildings are added to the area. I still can’t believe how run down parts of this area are in comparison to the rest of the city.

The worst is that it is tough to find a public bathroom anywhere in the area. I stopped by a library on 125th Street and there was no public bathroom anywhere in the building. Even the libraries in Washington Heights had bathrooms. I had to hold it in until I found a McDonald’s closer to the Washington Heights border.

My last part of the walk took me back down 125th Street to the Studio Museum at 144 West 125th Street (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) in Harlem where my next walk in the area will include a tour of some of the exhibitions and tours of some of the smaller museums in the area. I passed so many galleries that I wanted to stop in as well.

The Studio Museum of Harlem opened in 1968 to showcase Black artists. The museum is currently closed for construction.

Studio Museum of Harlem.jpg

Studio Museum of Harlem

The CUNY campus had quieted down for the day as I walked back up and the students and their friends filled the parks and restaurants in the area enjoying the warm Spring night.

I got back up to 155th Street, turned the corner and proceeded down Broadway to my dinner destination Handpulled Noodles at 3600 Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor), which bills itself as Northwestern Chinese Soul Food which attracts not only the locals but students and tourists as well. It is considered by many in the Asian community as one of the best Chinese restaurants in New York City.

It is a small hole in the wall restaurant with limited seating in a very energetic environment. The place was loaded with CUNY students who knew the menu by hard. I had the Spicy Cumin Lamb with Lagman noodles (traditional thick cut noodles that are native to Northern China) and their jumbo pork and chive dumplings that melt in your mouth and are out of this world.

The lamb was very spicy and you could taste the cumin in every bite. This is not the traditional Cantonese restaurant so do not look for fried rice and egg rolls. It is more of a cross between Indian and Mongolian cooking. There menu is very unusual with more stew like dishes like the cumin lamb, ginger chicken and herbal beef. The service is friendly and very fast paced to keep up with the large dinner crowds in such a small space. (see my review on TripAdvisor)

I had a interesting talk with someone from the neighborhood who worked renovating brownstones in the area and talked about the local real estate market. He told me that if you had bought even five years ago, you could have made your money back quickly after a renovation. The whole area above 125th Street is in a major state of transformation that happens even month by month as I have seen in a six month period in Washington Heights as old family businesses and small restaurants give way to coffee bars and fancy shops and galleries. Even he said it is not the Harlem it was last year.

My walk concluded with a subway ride back down to 42nd Street with a game plan to cover the rest of the area above 125th Street as my border for this part of the project. There are so many pocket museums and parks to cover and explore.

Places to Visit:

Trinity Church Cemetery

770 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10032

(212) 368-1600

https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/cemetery-mausoleum

Hope Stevens Garden

505 West 142nd Street between Amsterdam and Hamilton Place

New York, NY  10031

https://www.harlemonestop.com/organization/1037/hope-stevens-garden

Studio Museum of Harlem

144 West 125th Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 864-4500

https://www.studiomuseum.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d116230-Reviews-The_Studio_Museum_in_Harlem-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1405

Apollo Theater

253 West 125th Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 531-5305

https://www.apollotheater.org/

Hotel Theresa

2070-2080 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard

New York, NY  10024

http://www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/db/bb_files/Hotel-Theresa–now-Theresa-Towers-.pdf

Cotton Club

656 West 125th Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 623-7980

http://cottonclub-newyork.com/

Places to eat:

The One Stop Patty Shop

1708 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10031

(212) 491-7466

https://www.facebook.com/pages/1-Stop-Patty-Shop/421985874602159

Handpulled Noodles

3600 Broadway

New York, NY  10031

(917) 262-0213

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d8054569-Reviews-The_Handpulled_Noodle_Harlem-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Grullon #1 Bakery

3522 Broadway

New York, NY 10031

(646) 329-5495

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10424741-Reviews-Grullon_1_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Day Seventeen: Walking the Harlem Border The West Side of Broadway 181st to 153rd Streets September 28th, 2015

I took a walk on Riverside Drive today, completing the west side of Broadway from 181st Street to 153rd Streets, on a beautiful sunny day. Being a little humid did not help but as the day wore on it got cooler and nicer to walk. Riverside Drive breaks into breaks into two sections around 161st Street with one section ending at Broadway and another part aligning the park. I decided to take the long route first and walk down to about 143rd Street, enjoying the views of the park and stopping  to look at the views of the palisades in New Jersey There are lots of scenic spots to view from.

I stopped for lunch at George’s Pizza at 726 West 181st Street, a well known pizzeria that has been around since 1960. They have a great lunch special of two giant slices and a can of soda for $5.00 and the pizza here is really good. The pizza maker makes a nice sauce and it has a rich flavor to it. The pizza was perfectly cooked and with the size of the slices, I did not need any dinner. It is a small hole in the wall place that is popular with the locals and was very busy that afternoon. You really need to check it out when in the neighborhood. The pizza cook is a really nice guy to boot.

I doubled back up Broadway to about 156th Street and started the walk up Riverside Drive from here. What’s nice about this section is the stone wall along the pocket park that lines this section of the drive. They make a nice bench for conversing with people as many residents seem to take advantage of during the day. There were lots of people socializing on this sunny afternoon.  What’s nice about the little park between the streets is the rock formations similar to the one you will see around 190th Street harking back to a time that this area was dominated by rocky hills not paved smooth by roads and housing developments. There is a natural beauty to this park.

The brownstones that line this area are surrounding by potted plants and window boxes, showing a colorful display of seasonable flowers and plants. They accent the buildings very well. I was able also to finish all the side streets between Riverside and Broadway noticing that a lot of these buildings are now under renovation. More and more of these buildings are going from rentals to condos and you can see the money that is going into upscaling them. You can see it from the lobbies that you can view from the street to the new windows and sandblasting that is going on in the front of many of these buildings. This part of the neighborhood is going through a major transition.

I doubled back down Broadway to look over the selection of restaurants that were closed the last time I walked this part of the street and took a long walk on 155th Street down to the bridge. It really is a funny thing about 155th Street, how much it changes from one side of Manhattan to another. For some reason, you really can feel the difference from one side of the street to the other. By Riverside Drive, it is all brownstones and pre-war housing that is being renovated. By the other side by the bridge, it is a large public housing complex.

On a break it was back to the lady who sells the shaved ice for a mango ice cup. I really look forward to those two scoops of mango ice. It must be all the years that I lived in the islands myself. I still am trying to find the elusive Guamanian treat of a combination of soft serve, shaved ice and lining it with fruit syrups. Now that was heaven on a hot day.

The last part of the day was spent walking up the east side of Broadway. Not knowing when I started on this side of the street, I walked from 155th Street to 207th Street. It didn’t take as long as I thought but my feet reminded me it was a distance. It was interesting to see all the restaurants I tried, all the stores I entered and all the bakeries I had to stop in, all delicious and very reasonable. There are many great business owners up here. I made it to 207th Street when it got dark.

The outdoor cafes of 207th Street were in full swing that evening with such a warm night and everyone was out eating dinner and just enjoying the first warms days of the Fall. New York really comes alive at night, especially in this area where people are still in Fort Tryon Park jogging, walking or just out playing dominoes. You see that side of people that  enjoy living in this neighborhood.

Places to Eat:

Georges Pizza

726 West 181 Street

New York, NY 10033

http://georgespizzanewyork.net/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d478960-Reviews-George_s_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html

http://www.georgespizzadinner.com/

Visit the shopping area of 207th Street