Not 129, But…

A great photo of Harlem from 1946. Note how few trees there are on the streetscape:

The text on the back claims it’s on 129th Street, but the distinctive porches on the right (south) side are unequivocally Astor Row (West 130th Street).

It’s interesting to compare the tree cover 75 years later:

However, the text on the back of the photo shows that housing has (for generations) been a significant concern in New York City. The photo is up for sale on Ebay:

Meet Al Taylor, Tonight

Tonight at 7pm, please join our 1-on-1 discussion with Assembly Member Al Taylor who is running for City Council in District 9. He is trying to unseat incumbent Kristin Jordan and compete with Inez Dickens. This is also an excellent chance to advocate for safety, sanitation, and economic development for our district to an elected official. 

Register for the zoom call here.

Al currently serves as an Assembly Member of district 71, Inwood, Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights. In this district, he has worked on youth gun violence issues in NYCHA housing. Interesting to note that Al is a minister and he has voted against access to abortion and against LGBQT rights.

View of Harlem from City College

Here are a pair of views of Harlem (looking eastward) from St. Nicholas Park (City College):

The photographer is Robert L. Bracklow and the images were taken on August 14, 1909 – 113 years ago today.

Note the gardening that is going on in St. Nicholas Park:

And the laundry out drying:

To see the originals and zoom in:

As Seen On Astor Row

Student Film Screening

The 4TH ANNUAL NYC PUBLIC SCHOOL FILM FESTIVAL featuring films by student filmmakers will be held this SATURDAY MAY 21 830PM at the 135th Street Plaza and the James Baldwin Lawn.

Bring your blankets & snacks for a beautiful evening with us – the weather looks amazing.  

Uncovering the History of Astor Row

(& Other Buildings Worth Preserving)

Take a stroll with Save Harlem Now! to learn about the history of Astor Row and additional Harlem structures that deserve individual landmark status.Our tour starts at Astor Row, with a cautionary tale of how the landmarking of an important building could not prevent its being torn down.SHN! board member Roberta Washington, the original architect for the Astor Row porch restoration projects and a previous NYC Landmarks Preservation Commissioner, will be our guide.Date: Sunday, May 22, 1-3 p.m.Details: Attendance will be capped at 15 participants in order to keep the group small and leave time for discussion. Because tours bring attendees in close proximity to each other, we ask that all attendees wear their mask regardless of vaccination status.
ABOUT ASTOR ROWIn 1981, twenty-eight paired brick townhouses with wooden porches on West 130th Street were designated as individual landmarks by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Built by William Backhouse Astor, Jr., between 1880-1883, most porches and some buildings were re­stored starting in 1992 with initial funds donated by Brooke Astor in an effort led by the Land­marks Conservancy in association with the Abyssinian Development Corporation.The Harlem community welcomed the repair and restoration of this group of unique individual landmarks — which is why the community which has also encouraged landmarking of more buildings in Harlem was shocked to wake up to the news that one of the Astor Row homes had been demol­ished. The demolition has raised questions including: What construction controls are there on sites which once contained an individual landmark? (Hint: fewer that you think.) Is there a way to prevent such tear-downs in the fu­ture?On this tour, see Astor Row and other buildings proposed by SHN! as individual landmarks.
Tickets are free, with optional donations accepted to support ongoing SHN! preservation work.

Astor Row Guide, Needed

The West Harlem Art Fund, and Jane’s Walk have three descriptions for three historic districts that will be a part of Jane’s Walk 2022. (A fourth one will be submitted shortly.)

It would be great to also include Astor Row. If you love that street and are willing to share that enthusiasm with the Harlem-curious, please consider signing up to lead a walk on Astor Row. 

The West Harlem Art Fund will help you organize and set it up. All you need to do is walk and talk about this neighborhood gem.

To learn more about how easy and much fun it would be, email Savona Bailey-McClain at:

[email protected]

Below are descriptions of 3 other Jane’s Walk tours happening in Harlem:

Mt. Morris Historic District

Mount Morris Park Historic District was designated a landmark in 1971, due to the unaltered streetscapes of its late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century townhouses and churches. French Neo-Grec, Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, and Classical Renaissance are the predominant styles of housing. One of the oldest parks in New York City is Mount Morris Park (today known as Marcus Garvey Park). City officials purchased the land in 1839. In the area lived White Protestant families, a Tammy Hall boss, wealthy Eastern European Jews, less wealthy Western European Jews, and later African Americans. 

During this walk, we will learn about the people who lived in Harlem and what events, such as the Summer of Love, which was filmed and won a recent Oscar, made Harlem so important. This Free Jane Walk will be led by Carolyn Johnson, owner of Welcome to Harlem. Register with the Municipal Art Society.

Central Harlem’s Little Known District

Friday, May 6, 2022 at 1pm

Meeting location: 130th Street & Lenox Ave (North Corner)

The Central Harlem Historic District is a fairly new designation. It spotlights little-known Black history. Several Black charities like the Clubman’s Beneficial League and the Utopia Neighborhood Club found homes in this district. Many Black entertainers like James Reese Europe, of WWI fame, lived here. The district shows that a tight-knit community once lived and still lives in Central Harlem. They supported each other and made sure they could enjoy a rich, quality of life. This FREE Jane’s Walk will be led by Savona Bailey-McClain, Executive Director of the West Harlem Art Fund. Register with the Municipal Art Society.

Who were the Strivers

Friday, May 6, 2022 at 3pm

Meeting location: 515 Malcolm X Blvd (135th Street)

Row houses were considered tract homes for the middle and upper-middle classes. New York counts over 200,000-row houses across the City. Once derided as too modern and artificial at the end of the 19th century, these homes are highly sought after now.

The St. Nicholas Historic District was originally known as the David H. King Model Homes or the King Model Houses. Four rows and three architectural styles — Italian Renaissance, Georgian and Yellow Brick facades with limestone. Built from 1891 to 1893, these homes remained empty until after World War I. Black families from the South and the Caribbean could finally purchase these homes after years of push back. Learn who lived here and how they became known as Strivers in this FREE Jane’s Walk. Understand how row houses transformed NYC forever. Register with the Municipal Art Society. This FREE Jane’s Walk will be led by Savona Bailey-McClain, Executive Director of the West Harlem Art Fund.

William Backhouse Astor Jr.

Harlem’s Astor Row Namesake

Willam Backhouse Astor Jr. lived from 1829 – 1892 and in our community, is best remembered as the person who developed Astor Row, AKA West 130th Street between 5th Avenue and Lenox.

The south side of this block was developed by Astor as speculative townhouses – built when there was little else around, but under the assumption that the expansion of New York would make homes in Harlem attractive to the middle and upper-middle class.

The row (really just the south side) was designed by Charles Buek who built the houses between 1880 and 1883. While John Jacob Astor had purchased in 1844 for $10,000. Astor’s grandson, William Backhouse Astor, Jr., was the driving force behind the development.


The design of the three-story brick, single-family houses is unusual for Harlem and Manhattan, in that they are set back from the street, and all have both front and side yards, as well as their distinctive wooden porches.

Closer to 5th Avenue, there are a series of freestanding brick townhouse pairs. After #24, the houses are all connected.

In the years around and immediately after WW1, Black entrepreneurs like Philip Payton began to bring Black tenants into the area centered around 5th Avenue and 133rd Street. Seeing this trend, J. Cruikshank bought 20 houses on Astor Row in 1920 — all previously owned by middle-class and upper-middle-class whites — and begins selling them to Black buyers, prompting The New York Times to predict that the row would soon be occupied entirely by African Americans.

In 1981, the Astor Row houses (on the south side) were designated New York City Landmarks.

Sistas, The Musical!

Tickets are now on sale for an April 2nd return:

After a matriarch’s death, the women in the family clean Grandma’s attic and find love and old memories packed away, and in the process, hit tunes that trace the history of Black women, from the trials of the 1930s through the girl groups of the 60s to the empowerment of the 90s. Featuring 40 Hit Songs by Black Legends Including Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Alicia Keys, and The Supremes.

Astor Row Building, Gone

Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) responded to concerns that a long abandoned building on Astor Row was about to collapse and knocked the building down.

Future owners will be forced by landmarking to restore the front facade. Sadly, now, it’s a gaping hole in the streetscape.

Untapped New York’s Secrets of Harlem

104 and 25,626

Only 104 votes separate Kristin Jordan from the incumbent, Bill Perkins. 104 ballots (out of 25,626 ballots cast in the City Council 9 race means that we’re headed for a manual recount.

We have not heard from the Board of Elections specifically that Bill Perkins’ wife – a patronage appointee to the NYC Board of Elections – has (or will) recuse herself from the process.

According to an article in The City:

This manual recount will take weeks to accomplish.

Sidewalk Mosaic on Astor Row

Do You Remember the 80’s?

The financial crisis of the 1970s, the ongoing effects of redlining, and the systemic racism in city agencies that prioritized some communities over others, led to an incredible deterioration in Harlem’s infrastructure. The ‘before/after’ images below are powerful reminders of the era:

And now:

Mask Up!

Spotted on Astor Row, a masked gargoyle.