David Richard Gallery

If you’re curious about art and interested in visiting a consistently good gallery, head over to the David Richard Gallery at 211 E 121st St, New York, NY 10035 (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues).

The gallery leans to hard-edge abstraction painting but never ceases to surprise.

https://davidrichardgallery.com/

And, while they currently occupy 2 floors, plans are afoot to open the basement as exhibition space as well. Check their hours and make sure to take in their ~6 week rotating exhibits.

Chaiwali Closing

Very sad news. The innovative Indian restaurant Chaiwali on Lenox/124 is closing.

Chef Anita Trehan writes:

I Love Chaiwali, 

And to love is to hold on.  

Truly I have done everything that I could do to keep it going but I am writing with the sad news that we are no longer able to stay open since I find that for several weeks now, we are not meeting our expenses. 

To set up this restaurant it took substantial personal investment, sweat and tears, today it is recognized as a jewel. Many of you know that I am the sole investor, owner, and Chef of Chaiwali, a hard job but one that gave me great joy, from innovating “My Indian” food and drinks, creating a beautiful setting, working to create a harmonious team and genuinely nourishing customers with loving food and caring about their health and well-being. 

This has not been enough.  

I am not sure what the reason for reduced customer traffic is; we keep hoping that every week it will be better, but it’s not. I have been told that we are still in a Covid related lag or that there are not enough businesses in the area to support my kind of cuisine, or other reasons?  

It’s hard to put these words in writing. I am hoping that Chaiwali is not gone forever and that this is a hard RESET, but in all honesty, it is too early to focus on next steps. I am grateful for your support and your love, and I hope our friendship and respect for each other will continue in a new journey. Finally, I do not have enough words for the strong foundation and rock that Natalie and my team has been for me, without her and them I would not have gotten this far. Our last day will be December 12th, and if you are in the neighborhood stop by before that and be on the lookout for a later date to be posted for our “yard sale” as we clear out our inventory closets. 

In peace and love and gratitude. 

Anita, Chef/Owner 

Chaiwali 

Harlem 

Harlem Restaurants

So many New Yorkers, and out-of-town guests, for that matter, come to Harlem for the food. Eater recently put out their list of To-Try restaurants but one wonders how recent the intelligence is given that Mountain Bird (highlighted here) is listed while no longer in business.

Another quibble is that Chaiwali isn’t included, but I suppose it’s someone’s list, not mine.

https://ny.eater.com/maps/best-restaurants-harlem

$100,000 for First Time Homebuyers

NEW YORK—The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) today announced that the HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program will offer up to $100,000 to support qualified first-time homebuyers purchasing a home in New York City. The expansion more than doubles the amount of financial assistance available for first-time homebuyers and achieves a key goal of City’s Where We Live NYC fair housing plan to empower low-income New Yorkers with more housing opportunities in well-resourced neighborhoods.

Under the enhanced program, which takes effect today, the City aims to grow the number of homes affordable to low-income, first-time homebuyers, particularly in neighborhoods where housing prices place ownership out of the reach of low-income families.

“For too long, there’s been unequal access to homeownership, the largest wealth creator in this country,” said Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development. “This critical expansion of “HomeFirst” will serve to make New Yorkers more economically secure, our neighborhoods more stable, and a recovery for all of us more certain.”

“This major expansion of down-payment support is a big win for equity and diversity as it tackles one of the biggest barriers to homeownership for low-income families and families of color,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll. “Positioning more families to own a home, build wealth for their kids, and take ownership of their communities is a key strategy for achieving our vision of a more equitable New York City.”

“In minority communities, one of the only ways to build and transfer wealth is through the accumulation of equity in properties,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy. “As Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee, I am delighted at this new source of funding. We can come up with creative ways to support new homeowners, so HPD deserves praise for this new resource.”

HomeFirst offers financial assistance towards the down payment or closing costs of a home for first-time homebuyers of one-to-four-family homes in the five boroughs. Eligible applicants can earn up to 80 percent of the Area Median Income, or $86,000 for a family of three. HomeFirst participants must complete a homebuyer education course, contribute savings to the purchase, and live in their home for up to 15 years to receive the full benefits of loan forgiveness through the program. The Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City (NHS) administers the program on the City’s behalf, and it is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Pool Tournatment

Coal

In the 19th and early 20th century coal usurped wood as the most common heat source in New York City. The environmental and health costs of millions of homes heating with coal were enormous, and an army of coal merchants and their employees had to get coal to homes come rain, shine, or snow.

To store coal for heating and for cooking, most buildings in Harlem and New York City in general, were outfitted with a coal storage area, underground, typically extending to the property line – even if the building was setback to allow the stairs or stoop to reach the elevated 1st floor. To access this coal storage area, builders created an 18 to 22 inch hole that reached the sidewalk or front patio, that was then covered with a heavy cast iron, circular coal chute cover. Coal companies looked at these coal cute covers as marketing opportunities, and frequently embellished them with their company name, address, and logo.

Here are a few of the coal covers that remain in our neighborhood, as discovered on meandering walks.

The coal chute (above) has lost its cast iron cover, and is simply cemented over.

The one below is cracked and now inaccessible because of a modern metal fence.

Ray DeCarava, the black and white mid-century photographer of Harlem and the 1950’s jazz scene, took this photo of a child on a sidewalk with a coal chute cover in the foreground.

This coal chute cover, today is shown below. Note how much more worn the stars are after an extra 70 years of foot traffic.

Chaiwali’s Founder and Executive Chef, Anita Trehan

Thrillist has a list out of women-owned restaurants with innovative and exceptional cuisine. Chaiwali’s very own Anita Trehan is profiled:

Chaiwali (@chaiwalinyc)

For self-taught chef and owner of Harlem-based eatery, Chaiwali, it was Anita Trehan’s natural talent in melding flavors—not family recipes or maternal influences—that led to opening her popular plant-based Indian restaurant. 

“I’ve never been to culinary school, or to a restaurant school. I’ve never taken a single cooking class in my life, never followed a recipe book. Just like when you write something you know what you want to express—I know what I want my food to taste like,” says Trehan. 

Even naming her restaurant was an intuitive blend: Merging the word chai (the centering start to her day) with wali (the feminine version of the term, signifying “someone who does”) was the perfect alliance—recognizing it is women who are the true nurturers and center of any home or space. 

Tenant Legal Rights Workshop – March 16

HNBA Meeting Tonight!

Our November HNBA meeting will be tonight at 7pm. If you want to join, fill this out to get the Zoom link: https://hnba.nyc/join-hnba/

We’ll learn more about strategies for buying a home, refinancing, and more ways to build generational wealth in these complex times. We will also have a candidate for Manhattan DA – Tali Farhadian Weinstein – join us to talk about how she wants to reform the DA’s office.

Lastly, we’ll have the new Parks Department administrator for Marcus Garvey Park stop by to introduce herself and her plans for MGP.

Chaiwali

Chaiwali, a local dining gem, was mentioned at the top of a list of Eater’s choices for the best heated outdoor dining:

https://ny.eater.com/maps/best-heated-outdoor-dining-restaurants-nyc

How Extell Plans to Fill a New East Harlem Office Complex Amid COVID

Harlem Headquarters includes more than 440,000 square feet of Class A space

This is from the Commercial Observer on the Pathmark site:

BY TOM ACITELLI NOVEMBER 2, 2020 7:35 AM
Rendering of a woman at a desk in an office with large windows.

NEW VIEW: THE NINE-STORY HARLEM HEADQUARTERS COMPLEX FEATURES LARGE FLOOR PLATES AS WELL AS A LOCATION BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL HUBS OF CLASS A OFFICE SPACE IN MANHATTAN. EXTELL IS COUNTING ON THAT NOVELTY TO HELP MARKET THE BUILDING. GENSLER

One of New York’s most prolific developers over the past 20 years is looking to make East Harlem the city’s next hot office market. It’s picking one of the most historic downturns in commercial real estate to do so.

Extell Development Company’s Harlem Headquarters, or HHQ, at 180 East 125th Street in East Harlem includes some 441,600 square feet of Class A office space. The developer launched its leasing effort for the project in mid-October. No office or retail space at HHQ had been taken as of the end of the month.

Still, Extell executives and the Cushman & Wakefield team that the company hired to market the office portion said they are confident that there is demand for such a modern addition to the office market beyond more conventional hubs, such as Midtown, Midtown South and Lower Manhattan, never mind Downtown Brooklyn or Long Island City.

They said the office space would be ideal for a wide variety of tenants, including government and public sector entities, nonprofits, and private companies from the almighty technology sector animating so much of the Manhattan office market these days. (Behold Facebook’s lease of 730,000 square feet at the Farley Post Office site in Midtown South, the largest New York City office deal of the pandemic so far.)

“Basically, the whole model for us and why we think the building will be a success is that it’s Class A office in a great location; great, large, efficient floor plates that tenants really want; and a number of valuable incentives,” Ari Goldstein, Extell’s senior vice president for development, said.

The incentives include the availability of business income tax credits from the city’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program, which incentivizes companies to relocate jobs to New York or from below 96th Street northward. Such sweeteners bring down HHQ’s asking rents by about $25 a square foot, Goldstein said. He declined to elaborate on what the asking rents are.

Extell’s journey to the October leasing milestone began in April 2014. It was then that the company that Chairman Gary Barnett founded began closing on parcels along East 125th Street with only general plans to develop and redevelop sites that included empty lots, a former post office and a Pathmark supermarket. The company spent about $70 million assembling the eventual site.

Meanwhile, Extell made its biggest splash of the decade several dozen blocks south. There, along a stretch of street just below Central Park, the developer spearheaded the forest of super-tall towers that became known as Billionaires’ Row with such projects as the Central Park Tower and One57.

That move, though, teased Barnett and company’s willingness to take the sort of risks that would come to include a major, new office property in the middle of a steep downturn in the office market. One57, in particular, started construction at the tail end of the last financial crisis and in the years after asked unheard-of sums for its units — and, by and large, got them.

In the meantime, once acquired, Extell’s East 125th Street site would flit in and out of the news. At one point, it looked like the new developer might develop hundreds of apartments, including ones designated as affordable. Through it all, the shuttered Pathmark loomed empty. Then, in early summer, Extell unveiled the plans for the office project, which will also include around 50,000 square feet of retail, with more than 300 feet of frontage along East 125th Street and Third Avenue.

It was an audacious move. The advent of the pandemic earlier in the year had sent hundreds of thousands of city workers home from their offices for what has turned out to be several consecutive months of remote work.

The trend is likely to continue for most Manhattan firms well into 2021. Some analyses from the fall estimate that only about 12 to 15 percent of office workers in the borough have returned to their workplaces. Plus, more than 26 percent of Manhattan’s available office space by October was sublease space, a near-record share, according to brokerage Savills — and one that is putting downward pressure on rents.

Then, there’s brick-and-mortar retail. It was struggling pre-pandemic. A 2019 report from the city comptroller showed a sharp rise in the number of vacant city storefronts in the past several years. The pandemic has led to spikes in retail bankruptcies, delinquencies on financing, and even more empty storefronts unlikely to be majority-filled until the pandemic passes. An August count from the Manhattan borough president found 335 street-level vacancies along Broadway alone.

Extell is handling the marketing of HHQ’s retail in-house. Goldstein said potential tenants include drug stores, pharmacies, restaurants and grocers. And he said the development would benefit from other recent projects in the vicinity, as far as foot traffic, including the 163-unit Smile apartment building at 158 East 126th Street and the state’s first proton therapy center, which opened in 2019 at 225 East 126th Street.

As for the much larger office portion, HHQ does have features that increasingly appeal to tenants in a COVID-19 world. The complex will have two private lobby entrances to reduce the potential for crowding. It’s also relatively low-rise at 120 feet and nine stories. Low-rise buildings, with their potentially walkable ascents and much shorter elevator rides, appeal to tenants more now than skyscrapers, analysts say.

Extell also plans to have top-shelf air filtration in HHQ, including filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value of 14 (MERV 14), and a 7,500-square-foot rooftop terrace for tenants. Access to fresh air — and to better-filtered air in general — has become a premium amid the airborne respiratory virus pandemic.

The typical floor plate in the building — which architecture firm Gensler is designing — is due to be 56,000 square feet, with 12-foot ceilings and wide column spacings. This is the sort of layout that would allow for companies to better space
employees and ebb the flow of possible pathogens.

Still, perhaps the biggest thing Extell’s HHQ has going for it is time. The developer said it expects to wrap construction on the building by late 2022. By that point, the pandemic will likely be in the city’s rearview and companies will be much better able to assess their need for office space. 

“This is a building that’s not going to be ready for 24 to 30 months, so we don’t see the pandemic as being a challenge,” Myles Fennon, a managing director with Cushman & Wakefield’s agency consulting group, said. He’s leading the team behind the leasing for HHQ’s office space. “If anything, it provides some additional runway.”

Fennon said that interest is already percolating, in no small part, due to the novelty of it all: fresh, Class A office space in an East Harlem not used to such new development. He compared the neighborhood’s potential as a major office-user draw to what happened with parts of the Brooklyn waterfront and Queens’ Long Island City. Those areas were once passed-over afterthoughts, and now host clusters of office buildings and mixed-use projects. Plus, Cushman & Wakefield and Extell are also touting HHQ’s proximity to major Metro-North and subway arteries.

“We have had a wider variety of tenants reach out than we would otherwise have expected, given the time that we’re in,” Fennon said.

Extell said it is counting on that post-COVID-19 demand. So, it has no plans to repurpose the building’s parts as so many other owners and developers are doing, including conversions into distribution hubs for e-commerce companies, which are doing so well during the pandemic.

“It’s not really what we have in mind for this site,” Goldstein said. “I think those distribution facilities tend to go into more industrial locations. We think we’ll be able to do a great, Class A office building.”