Tag Archives: Hope Stevens Garden

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

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

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

Estrella Bakery.jpg

Don’t miss this excellent Dominican Bakery on Broadway

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

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

Hispanic Society of America.png

The Hispanic Society of America

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

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

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

Trinity Cemetery photo

Trinity Church Cemetery plaque

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

Trinity Church Cemetery

Trinity Cemetery on 155th Street

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

Sugar Hill I.jpg

Sugar Hill Neighborhood

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

Jackie Robinson Park I

Jackie Robinson Park where the students hang out.

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

Hope Steven Garden II.jpg

Hope Steven Garden

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

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

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

Convent Garden Manhattan.jpg

Convent Garden in full bloom

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

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

Maggie's Garden.jpg

Maggie’s Garden

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

Jackie Robinson Park

Jackie Robinson Park

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

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

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

 

Places to Visit:

 

Jackie Robinson Park

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

New York, NY 10039

(212) 234-9607

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

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

 

Convent Garden

Convent Avenue & St. Nichols Avenue

New York, NY  10031

(212) 639-9675

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

 

Maggie’s Garden

564 West 169th Street

New York, NY  10031

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

 

Hope Steven Garden

505 West 142nd Street

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

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

 

Sugar Hill Neighborhood

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

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

 

Hispanic Society of America

163 West 155th Street

New York, NY 10032

(212) 926-2234

https://hispanicsociety.org/museum/

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Places to Eat:

Victorio’s Pizza

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY 10039

(212) 283-2100

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

https://www.victoriospizzaplusmenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

5 Star Estrella Bakery

3861 Broadway

New York, NY 10032

(212) 795-5000

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

 

Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(646) 455-0942

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

 

Day Forty-Four: Walking in Harlem on Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway from 155th to 125th Streets 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 at 770 Riverside Drive

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.

ed koch grave.jpg

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 at 505 West 142nd Street near Amsterdam Avenue

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)

One Stop Patty Shop

One Stop Patty Shop at 1708 Amsterdam Avenue

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 II 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.

Grullon Bakery

Grullon II at 3522 Broadway

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 253 West 125th Street

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 2600-2700 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard

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 at 144 West 125th Street

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.

CUNY

CUNY Campus

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.

Handpulled Noodles

Handpulled Noodle at 3600 Broadway

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

 

 

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 II 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