Tag Archives: Visiting Harlem

Astor Row Houses

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

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

Christmas in Harlem II

People had not yet taken their decorations down

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

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

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

Harlem River Park

The nicer side of Harlem River Park

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

Colonel Charles Young Playground

The Colonel Charles Young Playground could use some work

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

Colonial Charles Young

Colonel Charles Young, the third Black graduate of West Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

empanada stand II

The Beef Empanadas were delicious

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

Drew Hamilton Houses

The Drew Hamilton Houses

fredrick samuels houses harlem

The Fredrick Samuels Houses were just hit by a fire

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

St. Nicholas Houses

The Saint Nichols Houses were also just struck with fire

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

Savoy Park Apartments

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

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

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

Dorrance Brooks Square

Dorrance Brooks Square Park and the Historic District

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

Dorrance Brooks

Private First Class Dorrance Brooks WWI

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

Dorrance Brooks Square II

The homes around Dorrance Brooks Square Park

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

Strivers Row

‘Striver’s Row’

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

Strivers Row II

‘Striver’s Row’ in the East 130’s

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

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

Fred Samuels Park

Fred Samuel’s Playground has decent bathrooms

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

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

Harlem Hilton II

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

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

132nd Street Community Garden II

The West 132nd Street Garden in the summer months

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

132nd Street Community Garden

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

Harlem Grown

Harlem Grown in the summer months

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

Harlem Rose Garden

Harlem Rose Garden at 6 East 129th Street

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

Astor Row Houses

Astor Row Houses

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

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

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

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

Now on to Morningside Heights.

Places to Visit:

Harlem River Park

Harlem River Drive at 128th Street

New York, NY 10035

(212) 639-9675

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

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

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

Colonel Charles Young Playground

West 145 Street & Lenox Avenue

New York, NY  10037

(212) 639-9675

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

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

Open: 7:00am-6:00pm

Dorrance Brooks Square

6 Edgecombe Avenue

New York, NY 10030

(212) 639-9675

Open: No posted hours

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

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

Fred Samuels Playground

Lenox Avenue and East 140th Street

New York, NY  10030

(212) 639-9675

Open:  Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-6:00pm

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

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

The 132nd Street Block Association Garden

117 East 132nd Street

New York, NY  10027

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

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

Harlem Rose Garden

6 East 129th Street

New York, NY  10035

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

Harlem Grown

127 West 127th Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 870-0113

http://www.harlemgrown.org/

http://www.harlemgrown.org/about

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

Home

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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

Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jackie Robinson Park

Jackie Robinson Park at 145th Street

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

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

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

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

Robert Clinkscales Playground II

Robert Clinkscales Playground at 234 West 146th Street

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

Robert Clinkscales Playground

The Flower beds at Robert Clinkscales Playground

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial Charles Young Triangle

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

Colonial Charles Young

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

https://www.buffalosoldier.net/CharlesYoung.htm

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

Polo Grounds II

The Polo Ground Houses on 155th Street

https://affordablehousingonline.com/housing-search/New-York/New-York-City/Polo-Grounds-Towers/10067840

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

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

Charles Country Pan Fried chicken

Charles Country Pan-Fried Chicken (in a new location)

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

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

Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken II

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

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

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

It was quite a walk that afternoon.

Jackie Robinson Park I

The stairs and lawn where CUNY students now sun themselves

Places to Visit:

Jackie Robinson Park

Bradhurst Avenue & 151st Street

New York, NY 10039

(212) 369-9675

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

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d21085366-Reviews-Jackie_Robinson_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Robert Clinkscales Playground

234 West 146th Street

New York, NY  10039

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

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

Colonel Charles Young Triangle

Macombs Place & 153rd Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 639-9675

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

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

Garden of Love Community Garden

321 West 152nd Street

New York, NY  10027

Places to Eat:

Charles Country Pan-Fried Chicken

2461 Frederick Douglass Boulevard

New York, NY  10027

(212) 281-1800

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

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

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