ILUVNYC, I urge you to look up some actual crime statistics instead of relying upon these tired old stereotypes of what New York is like.
Last edited by Stern on Wed Oct 13; seriously.
Cover Story - March 2004
Once Blighted Neighborhood Now Home to Building Boom
by Natalie Keith
With retail development paving the way, the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem is home to numerous construction projects, including apartments and condominiums, a health care facility, auto mall and the first hotel the neighborhood has seen in a generation. And with available land becoming increasingly scarce for developers, the building boom has shown few signs of abating.
What a difference a decade makes.
If you walked through Harlem 10 years ago, you were more apt to find abandoned buildings than construction sites in this historic Manhattan neighborhood. But today, as New York City continues to become a safer and more economically vibrant city, Harlem is experiencing a building boom.
"Harlem is currently experiencing an economic reawakening that rivals its well-documented cultural, arts and entertainment renaissance of the 1920s, 30s and 40s," said Lloyd Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce.
When the neighborhood first began attracting the attention of developers during former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration, much of the new development was retail on the city's main thoroughfare, 125th Street. The Harlem Center Mall, Harlem USA, East River Plaza and 125th Street Pathmark projects - all of which are located on 125th Street - were initiated during the late 1990s.
But, in 2000, when former president Bill Clinton decided to locate his private offices on 125th Street instead of 57th Street, many saw the move as a psychological boost to the neighborhood. Many developers have followed Clinton's lead and decided to make Harlem the home for their next project.
Retail, along with other types of development, continues to thrive. Late last year, East Harlem Business Capital Corp. was designated to redevelop La Marqueta, a 50,000-sq.-ft. retail market and open-air plaza in the heart of El Barrio in East Harlem. Plans call for constructing three to four one-story buildings ranging in size from 10,000 to 15,000 sq. ft.
Potential tenants include businesses that sell fish, meat, poultry, fruit and other goods.
"The 'Marqueta International' will be a great asset to our city and a significant anchor in East Harlem's future development," said Elizabeth Colon, executive director of the East Harlem Business Capital Corp.
Other private development has followed the upsurge in retail. New housing, much of which is aimed at low- to middle-income homebuyers - is sprouting up with regularity.
Bradhurst Court, a 126-unit condominium project at West 145th Street and Bradhurst Avenue, is nearing completion. Construction recently started on Strivers Garden, a $67 million, 170-unit condominium project on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 134th and 135th streets. Prices start at $140,000 at Strivers Garden and $170,000 at Bradhurst Court.
The Washington Cooperatives project consists of the rehabilitation of 89 units in an existing building and construction of a new 15-unit building on West 148th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues.
Perhaps the most striking example of Harlem's recent attraction to developers is plans to build a 585,000-sq.-ft. mixed-use development called Harlem Park that will include Class A office and retail space and Harlem's first major hotel, a Marriott Courtyard. It is the first time Marriott has built a Courtyard hotel in the inner city and it is the first hotel the neighborhood has seen since 1966.
"The building of the first Marriott hotel in Upper Manhattan represents a decisive milestone in the evolution of Harlem," said Raymond P. Caldiero, a member of 1800 Park Ave LLC, developers of Harlem Park. "We believe that tourists from around the country and the world will want to sample the unparalleled energy of this historic neighborhood
The $190 million development at 125th Street and Park Avenue will include 250,000 sq. ft. of Class A office space, a 125,000-sq.-ft. hotel, 38,000 sq. ft. of catering space and 15,000 sq. ft. of space set aside for a jazz club.
The Marriott is not the only major company to "break new ground" in Harlem. General Motors Corp. and Potamkin Automotive recently started construction on the Harlem Auto Mall on the block bounded by East 127th and 128th streets and Second and Third avenues. It is the first new auto dealership built north of 60th Street in 40 years.
"When organizations of the caliber of General Motors and Potamkin choose East Harlem for a major investment, it's a sure sign that the neighborhood is maintaining its momentum toward becoming a major shopping destination as well as a place where people want to work and live," Bloomberg said, in a release announcing the project.
The private development is complemented by public improvements such as the streetscape plan for the stretch of Malcolm X Boulevard from 110th to 147th streets and plans to create a park along the Hudson River between 129th and 133rd streets. The landscape improvements will include lighting, benches and signs, and the park will include a recreational/fishing pier and a ferry/water taxi pier.
The neighborhood has also seen institutional development, such as the new 102,000-sq.-ft. Harlem Health Center at 125th Street and Morningside Drive. The landmark Apollo Theater is undergoing a $6 million refurbishment of its exterior, and the Museum for African Art is developing a plan to build a new 60,000-sq.-ft. museum at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue.
ILUVNYC, I urge you to look up some actual crime statistics instead of relying upon these tired old stereotypes of what New York is like.
Last edited by Stern on Wed Oct 13; seriously.
May 10, 2004
Once There Was a Market in East Harlem, and Maybe Again
By JOSEPH P. FRIED
The way it is: One of eight remaining vendors at the old market, Bernard Lifschultz has time to read. "It's very quiet," he said. "But I still get by."
The way it was: In January 1981, commerce was brisk in the food booths under the Park Avenue rail viaduct.
Elizabeth Colón and Bernard Lifschultz recall the glory days. She is determined to revive them. He doubts they can be revived.
They are talking about La Marqueta, once a widely known five-block market in the heart of East Harlem that was both a bustling commercial bazaar and a community meeting place for the overwhelmingly Puerto Rican population that came to dominate the area after World War II.
Today that vibrant market is a memory. Instead of five buildings crowded with shoppers and 200 or more vendors carrying a cornucopia of tropical foodstuffs and mainland merchandise, there are just Mr. Lifschultz and seven other merchants clustered in one area of the shabby, mostly vacant single building still in use. And they are largely trying just to survive as they cater to what is often a slow trickle of customers.
The five buildings used to stretch under the Park Avenue railroad viaduct from 111th to 116th Streets, but three of them are gone now and the fourth is shut tight. The one barely in use runs from 114th to 115th Streets.
Ms. Colón, who came to the city-owned market as a child with her mother in the 1950's, is executive director of the East Harlem Business Capital Corporation, a nonprofit group that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's administration has put in charge of redeveloping the market to its old five-block size.
The city gave her group until the end of the year to come up with the combination of government and bank financing needed to cover the expected $21 million cost, and to gather enough letters of intent from interested businesses to make the project viable.
Proposals to stem the market's decline have risen and fallen in recent years and renovations of the two remaining buildings were carried out in the 1990's with, obviously, no lasting effect, but Ms. Colón said recently that she was optimistic about her group's chances for success.
"We have had great encouragement from the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone," she said of a federal program that uses public funds and tax incentives as catalysts for private investment in revitalization projects, "and from the Empire State Development Corporation," a state agency. She called the encouragement heartening at a time of tight constraints on government budgets.
Many people in the area also support the project, she said. "It's a source of pain in the community that it's gotten to where it has," she said of the market's long slide into near nonexistence.
Mr. Lifschultz, who has sold food in the market for 55 of his 84 years - bacalao, or dried cod, is his main offering - said recently from behind his counter that he hoped to hang on in the market for "as long as I can at my age." As for the revival project coming to completion, "I have my doubts," he said.
"It's very quiet," he said of his business. "But I still get by. I have people who have been coming for years." They come, he said, because they prefer his bacalao to the packaged and more expensive product sold in supermarkets.
"You can grind it and make fish cakes out of it," he said. "You can use it in salads."
Mr. Lifschultz and Ms. Colón may differ in their view of the prospects for restoring the market, but they agree on what was lost.
"It was very busy," Mr. Lifschultz said of the years after he arrived a half-century ago, setting up shop in one of the other buildings. He recalled up to 200 food and clothing vendors in the five buildings during the market's heyday, which he said lasted into the 1960's. (The market opened in 1936.)
"There was a waiting list to get in," he said of merchants. As for customers, on the weekend it was so crowded that "you had to fight your way in."
"Now a lot of people have forgotten we're here," he said as another Metro-North train rumbled by on the tracks above the roof.
Ms. Colón, recalling her childhood visits to La Marqueta, spoke of "hearing the trains above" and of "the numbers of people, the smells." Though her family lived on the Lower East Side, her mother traveled to the market in Spanish Harlem, Ms. Colón said, "because it was where Puerto Rican families went to get their soul food."
Mr. Lifschultz said the market's decline began in the 1960's with incomplete renovations after fires and neglectful upkeep by the city. Ms. Colón said it started in the 70's, when a city fiscal crisis reduced municipal money for such upkeep.
There was also a "depopulation of East Harlem and other communities" in the city in that decade, she said, as housing abandonment spread. And she spoke of "an attitudinal change - people were looking more to supermarkets."
Supermarkets are even more numerous now, and there is a large Pathmark that opened five years ago at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue and draws many East Harlem shoppers. So why is she optimistic about reviving the market?
"The pendulum has swung," she said. "Now consumers are looking to farmers' markets, public markets, places that aren't sterile, cookie-cutter."
The two existing buildings will be demolished, Ms. Colón said, and the new market will take into account the food interests of new groups that have been arriving in the area in sizable numbers from Mexico, West Africa and the Caribbean. Future rents have not been determined, she said, but the goal is "to keep them as affordable as possible" while doing "the kinds of things that attract customers."
One vendor pays a rent of $600 a month, but the seven others' rents average $188 a month, said Janel Patterson, a spokeswoman for the city's Economic Development Corporation.
Jose Cintron, 55, who has run a butcher stall there since 1980 and started working in the market for other vendors in the 60's, pays the $600 rent. "I survive," he said, expressing hope for a revival.
At the stall called X-Square International Foods, whose offerings include dried cod, cassava meal and throat and nasal drops, the owner, who gave her name only as Grace, expressed optimism that the market would be born again.
Recalling that Mayor Bloomberg himself announced the redevelopment vision in October, she said: "I know this mayor. When he says he'll do it, he will do it."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Giving Harlem businesses a hand
Initiative offers expert advice, helps firms modernize
By Jon Kalish
Published on June 07, 2004
Things are looking up for the Harlem's Heaven boutique. In the past year, the hat shop on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 147th Street was profiled by Channel 7 News, installed a new computer, unveiled a new logo and created its first-ever customer database.
"We never strategized like we do now on how to get customers into the store," says Evetta Petty, who has co-owned the shop with her aunt Eva for 15 years.
While Ms. Petty says that the hat business is still a struggle, she is sure that it would be much harder without all the changes at the shop, and for those she thanks a 2-year-old program called the Harlem Small Business Initiative. An HSBI team of management consultants, M.B.A.'s and business students provided many hours of technical assistance to the store, including the design of the new logo.
Support from Clinton
Harlem's Heaven is one of 10 local businesses-four startups and six longtime enterprises--that were aided by HSBI. The program, which was launched in spring 2002 by the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Foundation, used the skills of 110 people. They included consultants from Booz Allen Hamilton, students from New York University's Stern School of Business and members of the National Black MBA Association and the National Association of Minorities in Communication.
They were formed into teams that spent nearly two years working closely with the 10 firms in the trial phase of the program. That stage ended in February; the program is now being expanded to other areas.
For consultants used to working with large, modern companies, the work brought some real surprises. "Believe it or not, none of the long-term businesses had income statements or balance sheets," says Reginald Van Lee, managing partner in the New York office of Booz Allen Hamilton and program leader of the initiative. "Most of them did not have computers."
By providing basic business tools, the HSBI teams in many cases were able to produce startling gains for their clients.
Katrina Parris Flowers, a 2-year-old firm originally housed in the owner's apartment, saw its revenues grow three times faster last year than Ms. Parris had anticipated. Profits, meanwhile, beat forecasts by an even wider margin. On the strength of those gains, Ms. Parris moved her business into a studio on West 112th Street in the fall.
By studying the market and how best to serve it, the HSBI team helped Ms. Parris and her husband figure out whether they should be a retail florist operation or do more corporate business. They opted for the latter.
"There's only so much you can do when you're trying to run a business, so that additional manpower was instrumental in figuring out there was opportunity in the corporate sector," says Ms. Parris.
The HSBI teams have even tried to tackle one of the thorniest problems faced by Harlem business owners--soaring rents in their neighborhood. Ms. Petty of Harlem's Heaven is in the process of negotiating a lease renewal with the help of a lawyer provided by the initiative."It's a huge help to have counsel," she says.
For some, however, a little advice is simply not enough. The owners of another HSBI client, Dee's Cards & Wedding Services, on Lenox Avenue and West 134th Street, assume their store will have to leave its longtime home when its lease is up in three years.
"We're hoping to relocate in Harlem, but everything is so high," says Karen Turner, one of the owners and the daughter-in-law of its founder.
For two other clients, the end has already come. Both were startups. In April, 5 Star Video, which occupied a large storefront on the corner of West 111th Street and Eighth Avenue, went out of business. On West 128th Street, the Ta-Life yoga studio is also gone.
Still, encouraged by the successes that they have had with the eight survivors, HSBI backers launched a second round in the winter involving three businesses. Soon, the initiative will be expanded to the Bronx and Brooklyn.
Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc
Harlem becomes hotelier haven
W likely to follow Marriott; building on area's goal, tourism's promise
By Lisa Fickenscher
June 18, 2004
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. is working hard to get approval to build a swanky W hotel at 233 W. 125th St., say sources close to the project. The W would rise just four blocks from a Marriott Courtyard Hotel that is expected to break ground this autumn at 1800 Park Ave.
The intended site for the W property is the former Loews Victoria Theater, which has been vacant for about a decade and is now owned by the state. The site is located next to the legendary Apollo Theater.
A number of community groups, including the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, support a proposal to develop the W hotel as part of a complex including two neighborhood cultural organizations that have been without a home since their inception several years ago. The National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem would be housed in the base of the complex, and the hotel would be built above them.
"We want it to be the W because it complements the upscale, hip nature that is Harlem," says Lloyd Williams, president of the chamber.
Community leaders have long wanted such a hotel in the area.
"It is closer now than it has ever been," says Voza Rivers, executive vice chairman of the hall of fame.
Starwood executives declined to comment, but sources say the firm's plans have been in the works for more than a year.
One potential stumbling block is the possibility that the state will issue a request for proposals in the next couple of months to develop 233 W. 125th St. But Starwood "does have an advantage right now," says Mr. Williams. "They have demonstrated their support for the destination concept, and they are very active in this community, which means an awful lot."
It's possible that given such strong local support for Starwood, the state will decide not to issue an RFP.
Regardless of what company takes over the site, there is a promising level of interest. Furthermore, Starwood isn't the only hotelier scoping out the Harlem market. Kevin Corbett, chief operating officer of the Empire State Development Corp., says other companies have inquired about sites throughout the neighborhood.
The attention bodes well for the Upper Manhattan area, which has been vying for tourists' dollars.
"It's a very positive reflection on Harlem when you have Marriott and Starwood knocking at your door," says Mr. Corbett.
The state and city have high expectations for the community's revitalization.
The Marriott property is half a year behind schedule because the city asked the developer to redesign the project, known as Harlem Park, to create an iconic structure. The developer, which is building retail and Class A office space as part of the project, completed the new plan in March. The revised design, by architect Enrique Norten, calls for 40 floors instead of 29, and it includes 80 to 100 residential units. When light hits the tower, unique curves in the design will make it appear that the building is moving.
"We lost some momentum, but we have a classier project," explains Michael Caridi, managing partner of Harlem Park.
Harlem is ripe for this development. Over the past couple of years, tourism has increased significantly.
Tourist numbers rising
The most popular attraction, the Apollo, drew some 400,000 visitors last year, compared with 100,000 just three years ago. The landmark theater's operating budget has increased to $9 million from $2.5 million over the same period.
"That means we have sold a lot more tickets," says David Rodriguez, executive director.
Gray Line's red double-decker buses, which allow people to hop on and off as they travel through Manhattan, will soon head uptown. The route, which will kick off in early July, will include the Apollo and the Harlem Market.
"Our buses will be coming up to Harlem every 20 minutes," says Michael Alvich, vice president of sales and marketing.
Last summer, Harlem was selected by NYC & Company, the city's tourism bureau, as a site for a visitor kiosk providing maps and advice on where to shop, eat and find entertainment. In August, 7,500 people visited the Harlem kiosk, compared with 30,000 each at the older kiosks in Times Square and outside of City Hall.
Harlem is well on its way to attracting more visitors, however. A few years ago, only a handful of its businesses were members of NYC & Company. Today, about 50 of the community's businesses belong to the bureau.
Among the newer members of the tourism group is a 2-year-old upscale bed-and-breakfast, Harlem Landmark Guest House. The owners of the family-run business sank $1 million into renovating and decorating the 112-year-old house.
"We've been part of the development of Harlem; now we want to be part of the transformation," says Khadia Duncan, a co-owner.
Ms. Duncan and her partners also own residential properties in Harlem, and they plan to acquire other buildings.
"We are interested in improving the quality of life in Harlem, to show that you can live in an urban area and live well," she says.
Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc
"Design development is underway for this exciting condominium project located between 115th Street and 116th Street and 5th Avenue and Lenox Avenue in Harlem. The project will include 250 condominium units and 60,000 square feet of retail. The units will range in prices to serve a mix of incomes. The project is being designed by a team of architects including GF55, Fred Schwartz Architects, and Studio JTA and developed through a joint venture with Full Spectrum on NY. Construction is expected to commence in March 2005 with a completion date at the end of 2006."
201 West 148th Street
Construction will begin in July 2004 on this 24 unit middle income apartment building, located on the corner of 148th Street and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. The project is being financed through HDC's NHOP program and will include a mix of incomes. This building will complete the revitalization of 148th Street by developing the last vacant parcel on the block.
Also, any news on the W in Harlem? Would be a huge boost, plus the 2 cultural sites. Would love to see a W in Brooklyn, too. If friggin' Hoboken can have one...
I can't decide if Frederic Schwartz Architects' version of the Kalahari looks innovative or just campy.
January 16, 2005
A Once-Dangerous Block Gets a Face-Lift and an Uplift
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
A HOTEL, a supermarket, a big retail building - recent and new projects on East 125th Street would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Change is coursing through one block, between Park and Lexington Avenues, once a dangerous and unpleasant corridor between the 125th Street railroad station and the Lexington Avenue subway.
The area around 125th and Park was settled no later than the 1840's, when the new railroad running up Park Avenue provided service across the Harlem River, with a station at 125th. With ferry connections at the Hudson and Harlem Rivers and, later, horse car service running east and west, 125th Street grew rapidly. The old structure at the southeast corner of 125th and Park, a hotel since early in the 20th century, is from the 1850's, and the sagging brownstone-front apartment house at 109 East 125th is from the 1860's.
In the 1880's, more prepossessing buildings arrived on the block, including the unusual four-story building at 111-113 East 125th, with two upper floors of brick and strangely flat terra cotta ornament, and the firehouse at 120 East 125th, designed in 1888 by Napoleon LeBrun.
LeBrun was the Fire Department's architect in the 1880's, and this firehouse epitomizes the model he developed. At the ground floor, the iron vehicle-door framing is layered with fish-scale ornament, with patches of flamelike cast-iron details above. The bulk of the firehouse is a pleasing mix of red brick and brownstone, with a plaque at the third floor that lists the architect and Fire Department officials, and the original iron dragon-head hoist at the top floor, which was used as a hayloft.
In the 1890's, the railroad raised its tracks to the present viaduct, which still dominates the landscape. The railroad even contemplated ending service at 125th Street, but a protest meeting called by local businessmen and residents, including the impresario Oscar Hammerstein and the importer Cyrus L. Sulzberger (the father of Arthur Hays Sulzberger, a former publisher of The New York Times), was successful, and the present brick station house was built in 1897. That the new station contained a gentlemen's smoking room, a telegraph office and a bicycle room is a document of the character of 125th Street at the time.
The little brick station was dwarfed in 1900, when the 12-story Hamilton Storage Warehouse went up at the northeast corner of 125th and Park. The warehouse originally had a voluptuously carved stone entranceway, but otherwise this humdrum structure gave no hint of its designer, Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert, whose more typical commissions were Gothic-style limestone mansions, like that now occupied by the Ukrainian Institute of America at 79th and Fifth.
The Hamilton building was still fresh in 1901 when President William McKinley died of an assassin's bullet in Buffalo. The Times reported that 125th Street was awash in black crepe and bunting, including black banners on the Hamilton building, stretching from sidewalk to roof.
The Harlem Savings Bank built its clunky neo-Classical bank at 124 East 125th in 1907. The architects Bannister & Schell were overreaching toward the City Beautiful style, and wound up with the City Chunky. (Around the corner, at 124th and Lexington, the little Provident Loan Society building from 1911 offers a more peaceful repose.)
In 1908, the members of Hook and Ladder 14 raced out of their firehouse, along with their six-year-old mascot, Spot - they had raised him from a puppy. An account in The Times said that Spot was excited, "whirling and circling like a sunset-mad swallow," as the company's three big horses crossed the sidewalk - and then the rig ran over and killed him.
After a pause, the firemen sped away, but afterward The Times interviewed the driver, John McManus, who said, "And this a damn cellar fire, damage 15 cents, and - and -." The reporter added, "Then he had to walk around some."
Next door, in a little commercial building at 122 East 125th in 1910, the police arrested John Qualey and Harvey Wiley Corbett. The two men had organized the Magnesia Asbestos Company, but the police said it was a shell corporation designed to fleece investors. Qualey and Corbett were taken to the jail on Centre Street - the Tombs - and later Corbett turned state's evidence against Qualey, who went to Sing Sing.
Corbett was soon to become famous as the visionary skyscraper architect who designed streamlined high-rises like the apartment building at One Fifth Avenue and as one of the architects who planned Rockefeller Center. Beginning in 1937, he must have had time to reconsider the events of 1910 - that was when he designed the present ziggurat-like Tombs on Centre Street.
By the 1960's, there was little left of the block's quondam prominence. In 1972, a psychiatrist, Selwyn Brody, was robbed and stabbed outside the Carousel Bar at 109 East 125th Street. The Times called the block "one of the city's more violent, drug-ridden streets."
But there is little left on the block from that troubled period, and it now bristles with building activity. The Hamilton Storage building, converted to offices long ago, is covered with black construction netting, an unintentional re-creation of the mourning dress for President McKinley of 1901.
The scene of Harvey Corbett's asbestos scam has been demolished, and a trim new two-story commercial building is almost finished there, a neat little burst of purple brick and red window frames, for which the architect is Jae Y. Ko.
The firehouse is vacant, but the bank building next door is little changed and still in use. On the other side of the firehouse, an old theater was replaced in the 1990's by the Northern Manhattan Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. Designed by Allen H. Feinberg Architects, this at first looks like a standard, boring box of beige brick. But several touches indicate that someone was awake during the design process. The bulk of the building's facade is interestingly varied, and the parapet at the roofline has a broken pediment - the line of brick is broken by a small circle - making it quite similar to that on a little two-story building to the west (at No. 108-110) from about 1920.
At Lexington Avenue, a gleaming new metal retail building has gone up at the northwest corner, diagonally opposite the giant new Pathmark retail complex. The 1860's brownstone at 109 East 125th has long been boarded up, but now renovation workers go in and out. Building records say it is being converted into a community center. Eugene Giscombe, a veteran 125th Street real estate investor, bought the old Hamilton Storage building in 1979, when, he says, "there weren't even any stores open" on the block and his building was 80 percent vacant. Now he is at work on a $3 million renovation, with new storefronts, a new lobby, an exterior restoration and floodlighting of the upper floors. His tenants include the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, for young people. He is charging annual rents of $25 a square foot and has 80 percent occupancy, he says.
He expects to be charging $35 a square foot in a year or so, he says. And that is hardly unlikely, considering the billboards on the long-vacant lot on the southwest corner of 125th and Park, diagonally opposite his building. They announce the imminent start of construction for the new Harlem Park office/hotel/retail/residential complex, 35 stories high.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
February 23, 2005
Real Estate Is Still Surging in Harlem, a Study Finds
By DENNIS HEVESI
he Harlem real estate renaissance rolls on - and the numbers show it.
Sales of condominiums and co-ops above West 116th Street and East 96th Street reached 5.5 percent of all sales in Manhattan last year, according to the Prudential Douglas Elliman Manhattan Market Report, compared with the 3.6 percent share it held in 2003.
By comparison, the downtown loft market was 9.4 percent of all sales in Manhattan, up from 8.1 percent the year before.
"They've both gone up," said Jonathan Miller, president of the Miller Samuel appraisal company, which prepared the Elliman report, "but the market that's gotten most of the attention, and was discovered first, was the loft market, which really came into being in the 90's. Now Harlem has become a significant segment that can't be overlooked."
It is impossible for Willie Katherine Suggs, president of the Harlem brokerage firm that bears her name, to overlook the change. "There are blocks in Harlem that bear no resemblance to what they looked like 10 years ago," Ms. Suggs said. "Right outside my door, it was like somebody bombed it out - vacant lots, vacant buildings. Now there are two nine-story luxury buildings, and they are doing a third one on the north side of 145th Street."
Seen over a 10-year period, Harlem's renewal is even more evident. The Elliman report tracked 8,653 co-op and condo sales for all of Manhattan last year, up 77.9 percent from 4,865 sales in 1995. In Harlem last year, there were 473 co-op and condo sales, a 164 percent jump from 179 sales in 1995. The report is based on closed transactions for all brokerage firms in Manhattan.
There has been, not surprisingly, a corresponding surge in prices. The average sales price for all of Manhattan in 2004 was $1,004,232, up 18.1 percent from $850,340 in 2003, and up 140.5 percent since 1995, the report said. In Harlem, the average price in 2004 was $358,657, up 36.9 percent from $261,951 in 2003, and up 333.7 percent from $82,693 in 1995.
The median price in Manhattan last year was $605,859, up 22.4 percent from $495,000 in 2003, and up 192 percent from $207,500 in 1995. In Harlem, the median price in 2004 was $305,490, rising by 32.8 percent over the median of $230,000 in 2003, and bounding up by 350 percent from $68,000 in 1995.
Ms. Suggs credits city housing policy for the boom. "You have city money involved," she said. "If you agreed to keep prices affordable, you got tax breaks and all kinds of incentives. And investors took advantage of them. Where else could you get a two-bedroom apartment for $190,000?"
Now, most of those subsidized, renovated apartments are gone, "and nonsubsidized apartments start at $450,000 and go up to over a million," Ms. Suggs continued. "It became the self-fulfilling prophecy."
Spurring the demand is the fact that Manhattan "has just gotten so expensive," said Dr. Chris Mayer, director of the Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia University. "And, certainly, the renaissance in Harlem, in Brooklyn and, frankly, across the bridges and tunnels to New Jersey, shows that close access to Midtown is worth the price."
At the same time, Harlem's character has changed in just a decade. "Large chain grocery stores are there; hotels opening up, the Body Shop, Starbucks," Dr. Mayer said. "And it has become harder for people on a limited income to live there."
"It's always an interesting question whether so-called gentrification is good or bad," he added.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
138 West 124th Street
138-140 West 124th Street
12 stories (4 story addition) 152 feet
Scarano & Associates Architects
Dev-Blesso Properties LLC
21 units 46,991 Sq. Ft.
Under Construction 2005-2006
Photos of the warehouse and a project description.
New York Construction News
Building News - April 2005
Vintage Townhouse Revived
"Several miles to the north, in Harlem, Blesso plans a different kind of residential makeover, converting a long-vacant eight-story building into a 21-unit condominium complex. Scarano is also architect for that $8 million project, which will add four stories to the building for a total of 52,000 sq. ft. Eight to 12 months of construction will begin shortly, said Blesso, who added that he had not yet selected a contractor. "
RiverOak Investment Corp. invests in Harlem building - Brief Article
Real Estate Weekly, April 30, 2003
Harlem's Renewal Spreads to the Boulevard
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in May, Harlem's Frederick Douglass Boulevard is happening. Hipsters and elegant West African couples sip ginger juice and eat couscous at Les Ambassades' outdoor cafe on 118th Street. Young businessmen with cell phones attached to their ears rush in and out of the UPS store up the block. Locals stand in line for the famous fried fish at Lovie's Fish & Chips. The Moca Lounge won't open until 5,but its elegant wooden facade looks beckoning - no ugly roll-down gates. And across the street at Harlem Vintage, wine lovers stream in for a tasting of roses. The slim, young Asian server pours wines made from esoteric grapes like Malbec, Lagrein, and Cinsault, and customers order cases to be shipped all over the city. The scene seems an unthinkably long way from the bad old days of the early 1980s, when the city government owned 70% of Harlem real estate and crime and drugs were rampant.
Welcome to the new Harlem, unquestionably one of the hottest neighborhoods in New York. The value of the average Harlem brownstone has increased 335% since 1995, in no small part due to cooperation between private developers and the city government, which worked together to make something of the whole blocks of derelict property the city foreclosed on in the 1970s. Today, the city has very little property left, "no more than 2,000 units," Housing Development Corporation President Emily Youssouf said. "Most of the city-owned sites have been sold to developers to build housing. At the same time, private developers have bought property, with no help from us, to put up market-rate condos."
Harlem brownstones now routinely sell for $1.5 million, and empty shells for $1 million. "1.5 is the new 1.2," said a prominent residential broker, Willie Kathryn Suggs. "Last year houses went for $1.2 million, and shells sold for $800,000."
However, the boom Ms. Suggs is talking about has largely taken place on Harlem's glorious, brownstone-lined side streets and the historic sections of Morris Park and Strivers Row. Many of the avenues, including Frederick Douglass Boulevard, which is often called the gateway to Harlem, languished. "Nobody in their right mind went there in the early '90s, much less bought a house there," said Ms. Suggs.
Crime was a huge deterrent to investment, but under the Giuliani administration, the tide began to turn. "A drug gang that controlled 116th Street and Manhattan Avenue roamed the area," said Ms. Suggs. "They had three or four murders a year attributed to them. The cops cleaned out the corner, threw them in prison."
So far this year, the 25th Precinct has had three murders, more than neighborhood residents would like and an indication that the neighborhood is not yet 100% safe, but still a far cry from the 37 murders recorded in 1993.
In 1995, the Giuliani administration started a program called HomeWorks, under which small, vacant, city-owned buildings were rehabilitated into one to four-family homes by experienced builders. The buildings were then sold in a lottery to individual home buyers at market prices. The city subsidized purchases by providing no-interest, no amortizing loans that were forgiven if the buyer kept the property for six years. Still, in those years buyers who put down their life savings for a home in Harlem or the Bronx were making a leap of faith, said Tracy Paurowski, director of Marketing for HDC, which financed the loans.
The crux of the Giuliani strategy, which has been continued under Mayor Bloomberg, is to encourage homeownership.
"Homeowners anchor neighborhoods in good economic times and in bad," said Carol Abrams, a spokes woman for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. "Homeowners who've invested a significant portion of their savings in their homes care about their property values, and care about good schools, safe streets, sanitation, and other neighborhood indicators. Home ownership has been the country's primary vehicle for wealth creation - the national rate is 71% - and we want it here, helping to make neighborhoods vibrant and stable."
The strategy worked, yet even as the brownstone-lined side streets came back, the avenues struggled. "From a planning perspective, Harlem's avenues are not where they need to be," says Ibo Balton, a neighborhood resident and director of Manhattan planning for the HPD. While the city government has been able to return 95% of its property in the neighborhood (almost 1,800 buildings and 26,000 units) to the private sector, it is only now reaping the fruits of its efforts on the avenues.
The Bloomberg administration's major initiative for bringing back the avenues is Cornerstone, a multifamily, middle-income and market-rate new construction program that has produced 3,000 units in Harlem, 750 of which are in the Frederick Douglass Boulevard corridor.
One lucky new co-op owner is Jeanne Oliver-Taylor, vice president for Brokerage Services and Education at the Real Estate Board of New York. She paid $132,000 in 2003 for a two-bedroom apartment in Harriet Tubman Gardens, an eight-story, 73-unit co-op Cornerstone development between 120th and 121st streets on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. "I was so fortunate to get this apartment," she said. "I am so thankful, so blessed, with neighbors that are caring and interested in one another."
She barely squeaked by Cornerstone's city-mandated income limits. Of the 73 units, 62 had to be sold to moderate-income households - those earning up to 165% of area median income or no more than $103,620 for a family of four. Another seven had to be sold to middle-income households earning up to 250% of area median income, or no more than $157,000 for a family of four. The developer was able to sell four penthouses at market rates, upward of $330,000. (There's also a minimum income requirement of around $45,000.)
Ms. Oliver-Taylor's apartment is pleasant and bright, overlooking a garden and a group of townhouses that were sold for $500,000. Her monthly maintenance is $636. "The townhouses were out of my price range," she said. "But they're awfully nice, and the top two floors are rental." Harriet Tubman's developer, Bluestone, retained the townhouses, and the ground-floor retail space rented by Harlem Vintage, a drycleaner, and a realty office. In other words, the development is helping put life back on the street through retail - and by providing customers.
"People always come first, then the restaurants and services and other good things," Ms. Suggs said. "The city is doing what it's supposed to be doing: setting an example. It's turning this property over to good developers who are going to build, then keep the buildings in fine repair, sweep the sidewalks, be a good neighbor. For the longest time the city didn't know how to be a good neighbor. It sold Harlem buildings for a dollar to people who didn't take care of them, just sat on them. What good did that do us?"
Every single site on Frederick Douglass Boulevard is "programmed," Mr. Barton said, that is, ready to be developed into moderate-, middle-, or market-rate housing.
Ms. Suggs does not doubt that the area is back. "Warburg on one corner, Corcoran on the other, Pru down the street, selling condos, going after the resales," she said, referring to offices opened up by other real estate firms.
For Mr. Balton the true measure of the success of the city's programs in the neighborhood is that development is now occurring outside them. "Go to 115th Street, where Harlem Horizon is going up - full market-rate. We had nothing to do with it. Not a penny is government."