Walks in New York and elsewhere

My comments on buildings, shops, restaurants that catch my eye as I wander around New York City and other places.

My Photo
Location: New York, New York, United States

Saturday, July 22, 2006

125th Street, 3

The block between Fifth Avenue and Lenox (6th Avenue) is very lively and busy with shoppers and strollers. On one corner is a Body Shop, commonplace in most shopping districts and malls, but evidence here of economic revival.

This is central Harlem. Many of the stores reflect the heritage of the current population of the neighborhood. On another corner is a boutique selling African wedding clothes.
IMG_1972 (Small)

The late 19th-century red brick building named "Bertha"
IMG_1974 (Small)
houses a shop for African goods.

Contrasts abound. A lovely new store at 24-26 West 125th, "Carol's Daughter," that sells its own fragrant soaps and cosmetics
IMG_1978 (Small)
shares the ground floor with a not-so-lovely pawnshop.
IMG_1979 (Small)

On the street itself there are vendors galore, many of them selling the same items. Tubs of shea butter are very popular. IMG_1977 (Small)

There is still plenty of opportunity for development.

The Abyssinian Development Corporation, an organization dedicated to the social, economic and physical improvement of Central Harlem, is located on this block.

The next block (between Lenox and Adam Clayton Powell (7th) has even more mall-type stores, including Cohen's Fashion Optical in a red brick building with some rather elaborate ornament.
IMG_1984 (Small)

This lavish building (132-140 W. 125th) was Harlem's main department store (Koch & Company) for 30 years after it moved here from lower Sixth Avenue in 1893. William H.Hume & Son designed the original building, since altered. IMG_1996 (Small)

The Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, (Ifill Johnson Hanchard, 1973) housing Bill Clinton's office, is here
IMG_1989 (Small)
complete with a striding Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. on its plaza. The bronze sculpture was created by Branly Cadet and cast in Brooklyn. (2005)
IMG_1993 (Small)
Powell was a charismatic and controversial politician who represented Harlem in Congress.

At the edge of the plaza is a mural featuring Harlem themes.
IMG_1997 (Small)

On the other side of the street is The Studio Museum in Harlem (major alteration by Rogers Marvel,2005)
IMG_1998 (Small)The museum exhibits work by artists of African descent.

And on the southwest corner of Adam Clayton Powell is the former Hotel Theresa, (George and Edward Blum, 1912-13. Fidel Castro stayed here in 1960. It is a designated NYC landmark. IMG_1995 (Small)

The monogram "HT" is still prominent on the 3rd story window surrounds. IMG_2255 (Small)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

125th Street, 2

Just west of Park Avenue are the some visible signs of gentrification, like the scaffolding on "The New Corn Exchange Building" indicating that an extensive renovation is in progress that will incorporate the historic facade.
IMG_1952 (Small)
and a sign across the street announcing a new Marriott Hotel.
IMG_1954 (Small) On the day the photo was taken (June 10, 2006) however, there were only puddles behind the construction fence and an impromptu sidewalk flea market in front of it. IMG_1953 (Small)

On the corner of Madison Avenue is A Taste of Seafood, a takeout restaurant that must be good, if the length of the line at 4:30 in the afternoon is any indication. IMG_1958 (Small)

On the northwest corner of Madison Avenue is the Promise Academy, a charter school operated by Harlem Children's Zone, housed in a new building. IMG_1961 (Small) The school opened in 2004, with the goal of providing a full range of preventive, educational and recreational services to Harlem children and families.

Just to the south on Madison, are a West Indian Restaurant and a church (not to be confused with a synagogue, despite the name) housed in an old Pythian Hall, a reminder that this area was once the second-largest Jewish neighborhood in New York, the largest at the time being the Lower East Side. IMG_1962 (Small)

An interesting building now housing a church was originally a medical office, as evidenced by the iconography. IMG_1966 (Small)

There are nice rows of houses south of 125th. (North, too, but that's a different area.) IMG_1969 (Small) IMG_1970 (Small) We are very close to the edge of the Mount Morris Park Historic District, one of the very earliest districts to be designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and one that needs to be expanded. The LPC in the early days, was very cautious about the boundaries of historic districts because the consequences of designation were still unknown. Preservationists were glad to see that a study by NYC's Independent Budget Office shows that designation is good for property values of the buildings as they exist, assuming that zoning in the area does not allow for a taller building than is already on the site. In that instance, all too common in New York, since the zoning laws pre-dated the landmark laws by many years and do not always reflect what has already been built, a rapacious developer can attempt to do a great deal of damage, unless the LPC succeeds in reining him in, or, wins in court.