Kristin Richardson Jordan Represents Harlem

Kristin Jordan replaces Bill Perkins as Harlem’s New City Council member.

New Building Coming to 120/Park

YIMBY reports that a new residential tower will be built on a vacant lot at the corner of 120/Park with 57 residences:

Affordable Elder Housing

A new development at Park/110th Street is currently being planned. The Carmen Villegas Apartments will be a new mixed-use affordable elder housing building and house hundreds of seniors.

The adjacent Casita Park Apartments built in 2003 have an unused parking lot at the corner of Park/110th which will now be repurposed for the Carmen Villegas Apartments.

The new building, designed by Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP) and Terrain, will create new affordable housing, commercial/retail space, and community facility space. The project will serve low-income residents over the age of 62 and will be affirming to the LGBTQ+ population. It will also meet stringent standards for energy efficiency, sustainability, and resiliency.

The Carmen Villegas Apartments will set a new standard for non-profit affordable housing in the neighborhood and the city. It will be a model of design excellence, green and resilient building, and resident- and community-centered development.  The Public Art Initiative (#ArtatAscendant) will commission public art for the Carmen Villegas Apartments project that will highlight and honor the eponymous Ms. Villegas’ contributions to the East Harlem community.

2021 > 2022

The Washington

Until the late 19th Century, New York’s middle class identified with the single-family home – a house that was only occupied by one family (servants were not considered in this calculation). Part of this strong class identification with the single-family home was a reaction against the crowded conditions in the tenements of the time. Multiple-family dwellings were seen as “lowly”, and in response, developers of the 19th century covered farmland in Manhattan, Harlem, and Brooklyn with row upon row upon row of brownstones – a row-house compromise between the developers’ desire for density and the middle-class owner (or renter’s) desire for singularity.

The promotion of “French Flats” – what we would simply call apartment buildings – was only possible once the elevator not only came into existance, but was mass produced enough to make it economically viable for inclusion in a 6 story (or taller) residential building. With the elevator, middle-class (and wealthy) New Yorkers could be tempted to imagine themselves living in an apartment building with other families. In addition to elevators, perks like security, laundry facilities, central (steam) heating, garbage removal, etc. were heavily promoted as class signifiers and as tempting amenities for the apartment curious.

The first true apartment building in Harlem still stands on the corner of 120th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. The Washington boasted a number of amenities that were meant to signal high-class, leisure, and labor-saving.

Well lighted, ventilated rooms, elegantly decorated, cabinet finished, elegant gas fixtures, mirrors and cornices, private halls, refrigerators, dumb waiters, electric bells, speaking tubes, sanitary open plumbing, steam heat, etc., were all promoted heavily on the advertising copy. The apartment, at the time, listed as ranging from $600 to $1,200 (per year).

(Note the use of the adjective ‘elegant’ which today has been replaced by ‘luxury’ in real estate marketing.)

East Harlem in a Video Game

East Harlem is featured as a location in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Edition. The look of the video game is inspired by the movie Spider-Man: No Way Home. In Marvel’s Spider-Man game, you play as Peter Parker as he tries to balance his normal life with saving New York City from Mister Negative, who wants to unleash a new virus called the Devil’s Breath, while also having to deal with some of his iconic villains.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place after the events of the original game, and follows Miles as he tries to learn how to be a hero himself, while defending East Harlem from both the Tinkerer and the Roxxon Power Corporation. Both games feature many suits that callback to various points in each characters’ comic book history, and a lot of Easter eggs from both Spider-Man and Marvel lore. Being able to get both games at once now will be great for anyone that’s a fan of either Peter or Miles’s version of Spider-Man.

The Ultimate Edition of Miles Morales is available now as a Playstation 5 exclusive. You can check out the trailer for the new edition below.

Up in the Clouds

It’s true that Harlem doesn’t have any supertalls gracing the top of Central Park, but we do have a new tallest residence – the old Victoria Theater building.

6 Square Feet are reporting that a lottery has begun for 102 mixed-income units that start from $755/month. at this building:

At 27 stories and 340 feet high, the new Victoria Towers redevelopment at 230 West 126th Street in central Harlem–the site of the former Victoria Theater–has the distinction of being the neighborhood’s tallest building. Leasing opened in July, and now 102 of its units are available for those earning 50, 60 or 130 percent of the area median income and range from studios at $755 /month to $3043/month two-bedrooms (market-rate studios start at $2,238/month). Designed by Aufgang Architects, the mixed-use building complex is also home to a Renaissance Marriott hotel and a cultural arts center.

Prices for the affordable apartments based on AMI levels range from:

  • $775/month studios to $971/month two-bedrooms for 50% AMI
  • $1,089/month studios to $1,398/month two-bedrooms for 60% AMI
  • $2,351/month studios to $3,043/month two-bedrooms for 130% AMI

All apartments have hardwood floors, open living areas and kitchens, plenty of closets, and central heating and air conditioning. Amenities for residents include a fitness center, laundry room, lounge with game area, on-site parking, and rooftop access.

The building has a separate entrance for residents. The entrance to the hotel and cultural center is located in a sleek glass tower that rises behind the historic theater’s restored facade. The hotel, the first to be built in Harlem in over 85 years, offers hotel guests a club lounge, meeting rooms, a fitness center, and restaurants. The cultural arts center will feature programming from the Apollo Theater and other local arts organizations.

Two percent of the building’s units are reserved for vision and hearing-impaired residents; five percent of units are reserved for mobility-impaired residents. Qualifying New Yorkers can apply for the affordable units until January 10, 2022.

Education Feeds The Mind – The Child Grows

Bx15 To Be Split

Say hello to the new M125 bus route.

Bx 15 will be split into a new M125 bus route
The M125 is a new route that will replace the southern portion of the Bx15 that runs along 125 Street in Manhattan and to the Hub via Willis Avenue. The new routing will preserve an important interborough connection and improve reliability for both routes created from the existing Bx15.
The M125—where it will replace Bx15 service—will largely serve the same stops as the existing Bx15. However, 14 percent (7 of 49) of these Bx15 stops will be removed, improving the average distance between stops along this segment from 728 feet to 853 feet. View the full stop list here.
As a new route replacing the M100 and Bx15 on 125 Street in Manhattan, the M125 will run 24 hours a day, with an all-day weekday frequency of 8 minutes or better. Due to the routing change, ridership will be closely monitored, and schedules will be adjusted accordingly. Learn more here.

Omega Oil

A wonderful old ad, painted on the side of a building.

Omega Oil for Sun Burn, for Weak Backs, For Atheletes, Trial Bottle 10 cents, for Joints.

Mass Transit – 1837

The New York and Harlem Railroad was the first public streetcar service – mass transit – in New York City. The first line of horse-drawn carriages traveled from Prince Street to the Harlem Bridge on 4th Avenue (Park Avenue), reaching Harlem in 1837.

Below is an image of the early depot that serviced the horse-drawn streetcars.

Among the company’s founders was John Mason, a wealthy banker and president of Chemical Bank who was among the largest landowners in New York City. They decided to build their railroad on the eastern side of Manhattan Island, convinced that it would never be able to compete with steamboat traffic on the Hudson River.

The New York and Harlem Railroad eventually became the New York Central Railroad and then the Metro North we know today.

A train at about 103rd Street, headed south and about to go into the Park Avenue tunnel. You can just make out Marcus Garvey Park in the haze, above the last cars of the train.

4th Avenue (Park Avenue) presented a challenge with the drop from Yorkville down to East Harlem, so initially a trestle was built of wood – eventually to be replaced by the masonry structure we know today (98th Street to 111th Street). Beyond that is an increasingly fragile iron and steel structure that extends to the Harlem River (Metro North) Bridge.

You can see the 1950 film, here:

that shows a train coming into New York City, crossing the Harlem River, then going through East Harlem, and eventually entering the Park Avenue Tunnel.

New York Health and Hospitals Wants Your Feedback

The Harlem Community Advisory Board’s 2022 Annual Public Meeting

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

5:00pm Live via Webex

All are welcome to join. For more information, please call (212) 939-1369

Subways and Rubble

With the 2nd Avenue Subway getting (theoretically) closer and closer to becoming a reality for East Harlem, it’s interesting to ask where does all the soil and rock that used to take up the space the tracks, tunnels and trains now occupy.

First of all, it’s important to note that Donald Trump held back funding for the East Harlem portion of the 2nd Avenue Subway for the entirety of his term. It was only when President Joe Biden and the Democrats passed President Biden’s infrastructure bill that New York finally had/has the funds to begin the East Harlem portion of the subway.

This is interesting given that Trump himself benefitted from the earlier Upper East Side section of the 2nd Avenue subway. First of all, a number of his properties on the East Side benefitted from the increase in accessibility and thus the value of the property itself. But, more interestingly, the Trump golf course that was built on the Bronx side of the Whitestone Bridge was made from some of the rubble from the Upper East Side portion of the 2nd Avenue Subway.

All those ‘features’ you see on the golf course – an attempt to mimic the windswept rolling landscape of coastal Scottland – were built by piling load after load of rock that was quarried below 2nd Avenue.

But what about other subways in our community? What happened to that subway rock that was removed so the trains could travel underground?

East Harlem’s other lines – stressed and desperately in need of the 2nd Avenue Subway – the 4/5/6 were constructed under Lexington and the rock and rubble from that construction went into New York Harbor to extend Governors’ Island to the south. The large (mostly) parkland area, furthest away from Manhattan, was built from 4/5/6 subway excavation material.

Rubble was not just used for golf courses and island expansion, the gorgeous Manhattan schist that gives the historic City College of New York’s buildings their black, sparkling look, was also material from subway construction. The digging of the 1/2/3 lines brought tons and tons of Manhattan schist to the surface and City College used this material to create some of the most impressive neogothic buildings in New York City.

Mulchfest!

Mulchfest 2022 will run from today through January 9. New Yorkers will be able to drop off holiday trees at one of 74 sites—35 are chipping sites—across the five boroughs, including parks and GreenThumb gardens. The trees are then chipped and recycled, and the mulch is used to nourish city trees and plants in every corner of the city.

During the chipping weekend—January 8 & 9—residents can bring their tree to a chipping site and watch their tree being chipped, and bring a bag of nutrient-rich mulch home with them. Weather-permitting, DSNY will also collect and compost clean trees left at curbs from Thursday, January 6, 2022, to Saturday, January 15, 2022.

Mulchfest, part of the New York City holiday tradition, encourages New Yorkers to make greening a family activity—turning holiday trees into mulch which can be used for gardening and to increase soil fertility.

Bring your tree to Marcus Garvey Park and give your tree a starring role in helping the community gardens of New York.

They’ll Come To Your Home

Flanking Cranes

The details you see on some Harlem buildings can often bring a smile to your face.

This pair of heads – male and female – flank the entrance to an otherwise nondescript apartment building:

But look at the panels below. On the left the crane or stork has a webbed frog in its grasp.

On the right, another crane or stork has caught a fish.

After-School Job Training and Pay for High School Students

  • Get paid up to $1000 for an after school training in construction management
  • Learn about how to bid for projects and manage projects using industry software

Training

6 months of classroom and field training for 2-3 hours twice a week

Internships

A 3 month paid internship with a real estate firm in NYC

  • Must be in 11th or 12th grade on Jan 2022 and have the right to work in the US
  • Must be able to travel to Manhattan for afterschool classes. Must have access to zoom
  • Preference will be given to motivated students from underserved communities
  • Proficient writing and math skills are needed to successfully complete the program
  • Apply via this link: https://youthconstruct.com/prospective-students

COVID-19 Testing Sites

Be Safe This Holiday Season

Testing Sites

Harlem River Houses

Because Harlem River Houses has been designated a historic site, the Historic Districts Council has weighed in on a renovation plan for the grounds of this NYCHA property.

What does the HDC do? Well…The Historic Districts Council (HDC) reviews every public proposal affecting New York City’s landmarks and historic districts and provides testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) whenever it is needed.

Below is their response to the Harlem River Houses project:

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS A housing project consisting of three groups of buildings and surrounding sites designed by Archibald Manning Brown and built in 1936-1937. Application is to modify landscape elements, install miscellaneous fixtures and signage, and replace doors and storefront infill. Architect: Curtis + Ginsberg Architects  The 1975 designation report for the Harlem River Houses emphasizes the importance of the site’s landscaping, which was designed under the supervision of Michael Rapuano. Today’s proposal ignores the historic significance of this landscaping, and displays a confused mixture of benches, tables, lighting, fencing, and signage. Not only are these elements at odds with the historic fabric of the Harlem River Houses, but they are also at odds with one another. They do not speak a consistent design language, and instead appear as a hodgepodge of items haphazardly selected from a catalogue and tossed into an otherwise thoughtfully considered, historically significant public space. The benches alone are a prime example. The Preva Urbana benches in today’s proposal appear anemic in scale, unlikely to withstand the demands of public use. Moreover, they lack the warmth and durability of Rapuano & Clarke’s original design. The Vera Solo Curved benches are even worse. In fact, the models in the reference image illustrate how unwelcoming, how unergonomic these curved benches are. The models’ backs are hunched, and their bodies contorted. They would likely be more comfortable sitting on the lawn. It is no coincidence that Rapuano & Clarke’s various benches continue to appear in parks throughout New York City: their design has yet to be beat. The seating throughout the Harlem River houses should be, if not an exact replica, at least inspired by the original design — something that would be insisted upon were this an historic park elsewhere in the city. The same can be said for the proposed streetlamps, the design of which is reminiscent of a three-legged spaceship in an H.G. Wells novel, hovering fifteen feet above the ground. Never mind that these fixtures are becoming the norm at other NYCHA properties, the residents of Harlem River Houses deserve better. The historic lamps are more human in scale. They provide warmth and intimacy, creating the feeling of home rather than that of an outdoor sporting arena. Like the original benches, the original lighting fixtures are ubiquitous throughout New York City, and should be restored. This pattern of specifications expedience also manifests in the proposed signage, which is comprised of backlit extruded lettering. The typeface in the proposed signage is Arial, which is a default font on Microsoft applications and was designed in 1982. This is a lazy design choice — even as a placeholder — say nothing of historically anachronistic. The signage system is oddly reminiscent of a 1990s suburban strip mall, and it has no place in a landmarked property. Instead, the signage should be inspired by the original. There is no shortage of lettering artists in New York who would be equal to the task of interpreting the original designs while meeting the needs of modern businesses. In short: do not revert to default solutions; hire a professional. Finally, the thoughtful design of the original fencing has been lost. The original Art Deco inspired design is replaced with six-foot tall utilitarian steel panels. These panels are unimaginative, inhumane, and lack historical precedent. The original fencing — with its hierarchical structure — should be restored.

Parked in Harlem