The Langston Condominiums
68 Bradhurst Ave. @ 145th Street
New York Sun
New Housing and Harlem Renaissance
John P. Avlon
The New York Sun
June 7, 2005
Fifteen years ago, during the bad old days of New York, the neighborhood of central Harlem surrounding St. Nicholas Avenue was a war zone of drugs, gangs, and violence. Forty-one murders were committed there in 1990, the first year of David Dinkins's watch from City Hall. The last thing any reasonable person would have expected to see would be "Luxury Condos Available" signs dotting the neighborhood.
But take a walk down lower St. Nicholas Avenue today and see striking evidence of a new Harlem Renaissance taking shape. Buoyed by dramatically lower crime rates (there were a comparatively few eight murders in central Harlem last year) and an intelligently aggressive public-private housing development policy, perennially empty lots and burned-out abandoned buildings are being replaced at a rapid rate by architecturally attractive mixed-use buildings, combining commercial tenants with both market-rate and subsidized housing. Upscale clubs and coffeehouses are now neighborhood fixtures, and "luxury condos available" signs are unremarkable parts of the landscape.
Much of the credit belongs to an obscure public benefit corporation that funds affordable housing at no expense to taxpayers. If this sounds like an all-around good deal, it is.
The Housing Development Corporation was inaugurated under Mayor Lindsay and Governor Rockefeller. Alternately successful and controversial under subsequent administrations, investments in Harlem and other areas begun under Mayor Giuliani are now reaching fruition under the high-priority drive of Mayor Bloomberg. He tapped Wall Street veteran Emily Youssouf to head the agency. With HDC's help and the efforts of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, long-blighted neighborhoods are turning around block by block.
No longer is city government the infamous "landlord of last resort." The number of private buildings abandoned to government custody or seized for nonpayment of taxes has declined to less than 3,400 today from more than 100,000 in 1979.The days of New York's inner city looking like stretches of postwar Dresden are just a rumor to a younger generation of New Yorkers.
For fiscal conservatives and budget watchdogs, the best thing about HDC is that its AA bonds are not a debt of the state or city of New York. The necessary good government aim of increasing affordable housing is being financed through the markets. Its tax-exempt bonds are used to finance first mortgage loans to qualifying private developers. Moreover, HDC has no taxing power and does not receive any taxpayer funds. This has not affected HDC's effectiveness.
With only 125 employees, the HDC functions like a lean mortgage bank with a philanthropic mission, creating or preserving 8,000 units of lower- and middle-income housing over the last two years alone.
"We're trying to provide quality housing," Mrs. Youssouf explained in an interview. "You don't want to create all low income all the time. Dealing in some mix is a great thing to do, because it's an integrated city. Neighborhoods should be integrated. Buildings should be integrated ... The concept is to give people good, decent, and affordable housing to live in, and then they're able to save money and eventually go out and buy something. That's how it should work."
In an election year, Democratic candidates are prone to trotting out applause lines calling for more public housing. But their rhetoric often ignores reality. For example, the president of Manhattan, C. Virginia Fields, recently released one of the first detailed policy proposals of her campaign, pledging to create 10,000 new units of housing over 10 years. That sounds great, but it lags significantly behind the Bloomberg administration's current pace of housing development.
The 80/20 formula - which combines 80% of new units at market rate with 20% set aside for lower-income housing - has been used to anchor HDC-backed developments in neighborhoods ranging from Morrisania and Highbridge in the South Bronx to Court Street in downtown Brooklyn. And despite the fact there was no mandate for affordable housing in the post-September 11 Liberty Bond program, almost 2,000 new units have been allocated under that program. New housing for military families has come in the form of 228 new and rehabilitated townhouses on the Fort Hamilton base.
But perhaps the success that is underway is most striking in central Harlem. At corners on St. Nicholas Avenue where drug dealers once ruled, there is now a Rite Aid and a UPS store. The Moca Bar boasts Sohostyle decoration, and an organic food mart named the Karrot is getting ready to open, while a combined coffee and fresh pastry shop offers outdoor seating where patrons play chess. The new housing provides the anchor to this neighborhood renaissance. Let the civic textbooks of the future show that it was not local politicians' promises but crime reduction and market-driven public private partnerships that made such a turnaround possible.
The Langston Condominiums
68 Bradhurst Ave. @ 145th Street
Styvers Row was a huge residential restoration by Inez Dicken's Father, Llyod E Dickens in the 80's. The "Black Man" was ahead of his time, because to see a question about construction in Harlem in 2005, means there were "sleepers" not to know about that restoration project. It began the Renaissance in Harlem at 201 West 139th Street, 1983.
April 9, 2006
Streetscapes | West 128th Street
A Century Later, the Stoop Persists in a New Form
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
Both the 1890's brownstones and the modern row houses on 128th Street incorporate stoops, though their form and function have changed. Of the brownstone row pictured here, only No. 31, at the far left, survives. The modern stoops lead to two floor-through apartments.
THE decay and housing abandonment of Harlem beginning in the 1960's left broken-tooth gaps all over, like a London neighborhood hit by scattered bombs in a Luftwaffe raid. But most of the area has rebounded with new construction, including 128th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues.
Here, a handful of empty lots have been filled with what look like new high-stoop row houses. But they're different from the brownstones of the 19th century and it's not just the stone.
Construction on West 128th Street took off in the 1880's and 1890's, including the row of brick and brownstone houses built around 1891 at Nos. 25 through 35. Of these, Nos. 31, 33 and 35 remain.
The high-stoop solution for the row house achieved dominance in the 1850's, to accommodate an entrance to the kitchen and service areas a little below grade and another entrance to the entertaining rooms, well above street level. Deliveries and servants had the most direct path inside, whereas owners and guests had to climb a flight of stairs outside, but this counterintuitive architectural solution was not seriously questioned.
The persistence of the stoop in the 19th century is something of a mystery to historians. By the turn of the century, row-house builders had shifted to grade-level entrances, so why didn't householders demand that solution decades earlier?
The early residents of this block of West 128th were people like Joseph A. Britton, who lived at No. 6, an investigator who infiltrated gambling dens for Anthony Comstock's Society for the Suppression of Vice. At one point, he supervised a force of 14 undercover agents.
The houses on West 128th were not crowded: Mr. Britton lived there with only his wife.
The black migration that swept through Harlem after the turn of the century repopulated the houses with working-class families, and the 1930 census yields a revealing economic picture of the changes overtaking the street. One white family remained on the block, at No. 8, in a house valued at $10,000. The house at No. 35 was occupied by Alphonse Black, 35, an African-American auto mechanic, and his family of five they rented it for $80 a month.
Next door, No. 33 was divided among four black families 15 people in all, paying a total of $127 a month. More tenants meant more rent for the landlord.
As Harlem went into a downward slide, many buildings were demolished, wore out into empty shells or, worse, became havens for drug dealers and other criminals.
Although spring grass now sprouts where houses once stood at Nos. 25 through 29, there are few vacant lots left on West 128th Street. Eight have been filled with handsome new row houses, with high stoops, trim cornices, attractive variegated orange brick and projecting oriel windows on the main floor.
But actually there is no main floor each building is three apartments; those on the upper two floors are reached by an old-style exterior stoop. In fact, it's not even a row, at least in the old sense. Although the eight new buildings are essentially identical, they are sprinkled along both sides of the street, at Nos. 28, 28A, 30, 34, 58, 79, 81 and 83 West 128th. Call it a row for a deconstructed age.
David Danois, an architect, filed plans for the buildings in 1999 as part of a program sponsored by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the New York City Partnership, a civic group. Vacant lots were turned over to a single developer for construction of owner-occupied buildings that would help stabilize what were then iffy neighborhoods.
Mr. Danois says that each of the new row houses has an owner's duplex on the first two floors, plus two rental apartments on the upper floors, reached by the stoop.
Mr. Danois said he included stoops on all the buildings so that they would blend in with the rest of the neighborhood. But there are important differences between the 1890's and the 1990's: on the traditional row house, the ground-floor entrance was concealed right under the stoop.
But on the contemporary model, the ground-floor doorway is in the open, to one side of the stoop. This permits access by people with disabilities.
The stoop itself makes a 90-degree turn and fits completely within the building line the stoops on older row houses were permitted to project beyond the lot, a privilege since withdrawn.
The old row houses were 60 feet from front to back (or even deeper), leading to dark interiors, a particular hardship when gas was used for illumination. But in Mr. Danois's design the apartments are no more than 50 feet deep, with correspondingly more light.
Michael Cummings, a police officer, has owned 28A West 128th Street for four years. "I originally wanted a big yard and looked at the standard places where police officers go upstate, Long Island but I'd be traveling an hour or more to commute," he said. Living on West 128th, he said, "I can grab a cab after work, take my kids down to the natural history museum and be home by dinner."
Across the street, the owner of the 1890's house at 33 West 128th, who declined to be identified, said she thinks the new buildings enhance the block, although she misses the berry bushes that grew on the vacant land they now occupy. She said she doesn't really notice going up and down her stoop, although "it does give you exercise."
Across the street, a woman coming down the stoop at the new building at No. 28 West 128th said she also usually didn't notice the climb: "If I had to take my laundry out, it would be a real problem, and with groceries it is a bother," she said, asking to be identified only as Pam.
She said that she and her sisters have the apartments on the upper floors of the new building. She wound up on the top floor and has to climb three flights, one flight up the stoop and two inside. "After all," she said, "I'm the youngest."
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
This is one of the best if not the best new residential construction I've seen for Harlem...
Simple classic and understated design. Attention to detail, good proportions, and quality materials.
Groundlevel commercial space presented in a Madison Avenue fashion.
Rooftop plantings are a very nice touch.
I like everything about this building's presentation. I like that upper middle class black people are shown in renderings, instead of other “luxury” Harlem developments which turn there back on Harlem in an attempt to draw a white UES crowd.
Maybe it's because this isn't a luxury development, its just built like one.
Im not quite ready to move to Harlem but if they keep building developments like this I would move to Harlem in a heartbeat. That said if they keep building developments like this, not for very long will I be able to afford to choose to live there.
After doing a little bit of research it turns out that David E. Gross has designed a number of building in Harlem. Some excellent and along the lines of The Lenox. Some mediocre.
Gross' best development is Brownstone Lane. This is a new development!
These townhouses aren't as nice:
The condo development in front:
444 Manhattan Avenue Co-op Development (Bars in place of retail):
Triangle Court Complex. The problems I have with this one is once again bars in place of retail, and a PJ sounding name. Above the second floor this is a fine development, but its hard to overlook its shortcomings.
Obviously in the context of the West African community that has assembled in this area of Harlem. While I applaud the context I find the architecture somewhat overbearing. I’m not saying the approach is right or wrong, clearly though Gross’s best developments are Brownstone Lane and The Lenox.
"Kalahari" (which is in Kenya) is an interesting choice for a building "in the context of the West African community"...
This guy Gross does good stuff. Kalahari's especially interesting. Boldness returns to New York. Hope the NIMBYs don't kill it in the name of good taste.
Hmmm... I wonder where on 110 (or is it 119?) street will the The Kalahari go.
116th I think.
It looks very much like West African Batik, its a very interesting and I would assume not very costly concept.Originally Posted by ablarc
Anyone know what is going on at the southwest corner of Lenox Avenue and West 125th Street? Those buildings were recently razed and now there is an enormous vacant lot. DOB just has a permit for the demolition, nothing else yet... The lot is large enough a lot could be done with it.
I'd love to get some info, if anyone has it! Thanks!
Long-Vacant Harlem School Site Moves Toward Development
By ERIN DURKIN
Special to the Sun
July 12, 2007
Development plans are emerging for the site of a long-vacant Harlem school building, but the proposal is generating strong opposition among neighborhood groups who question whether more than 100 co-op apartments would be affordable to local residents.
The building that formerly housed P.S. 186 at 145th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, is owned by the M.L Wilson Boys and Girls Club, which bought it from the city in 1986 for $215,000. Though their agreement with the city called for development to be mostly completed within three years, the site has remained vacant more than twenty.
ARCTAC Development Partners, selected by the club to develop the site, presented a plan to the Community Board 9 in June that consists of two towers that would include a facility for the Boys and Girls Club, space for stores or nonprofit organizations, perhaps a post office, and 101 co-op units.
Twenty-five percent of the units would be market rate, and 75% would be affordable for families earning up to 175% of area median income. The Boys and Girls Club would serve as the landlord for the new development, and would likely generate millions.
"It stood up above all the rest," the chairwoman of the board of the Boys and Girls Club, Shirley Lewis, said of ARCTAC's plan, which was chosen from six that were submitted last year.
For the plan to go forward, the city would have to lift a restrictive deed that requires 85% of the site be dedicated to non-profit uses, and that requires approval by Mayor Bloomberg and the president of Manhattan, Scott Stringer.
The director of land use for Mr. Stringer, Anthony Borelli, said that if the plan could be refined to meet the needs of the community, the office would consider modifying the deed. A representative of the mayor's office dealing with the development did not return phone messages.
Some community groups say that though the apartments are touted as "affordable" housing, they would be out of reach for most Harlem residents.
The area median income which is calculated based on all of New York City and some of its suburbs is $70,900 for a family of four. That would mean that the "affordable" co-ops would be targeted at families making up to $124,075. The median income in Community District 9, where the site is located, is about $30,000.
"That's not affordable," said the executive director of Broadway Housing Communities, Ellen Baxter, "That's just rhetoric."
In an effort to prevent the proposal, another neighborhood group, Brotherhood/Sister Sol, has gathered 5,000 signatures on a petition demanding that the deed restriction be kept in place.
A member of the development team at ARCTAC, Tom Ciano, said the developer would try to bring the cost of the apartments down as much as is economically feasible.
"We're trying to reach as low as possible," he said, adding that he would like to see some of the units be affordable to families making about $56,000 to $70,000.
© 2007 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC