Lenox Avenue is the first of the Avenues that begin and end in Harlem. It has been renamed Malcolm X but the locals continue to call it by its old name. It runs from 11oth St to 147th St and unlike the avenues to the east which contain a large majority of Latinos, Lenox Ave is predominantly Black with a large and active contingent Muslim and African. The architecture is mainly tenement style buildings interspersed with a good many new and ugly apartments. Maybe Victorians thought Victorian buildings were ugly. It's hard to judge a street on a hot holiday weekend but Lenox Ave was still lively, almost bustling and fun.
Businesses, such as they are can be divided into 3 categories- stores selling baseball caps and African dresses, bodegas and supermarkets and beauty parlours/ barbershops with the latter category far outnumbering the former two combined. If all the beauty parlours/ barbershops were disappeared I think the resulting real estate vacuum would summon the feared double dip recession. The presence of so many beauty parlours appears to be quite beneficial to the community as the women there are consistently beautiful and well maintained.
Ogling aside, there's not much there except the fine Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. I was going to write about how the main exhibition there seemed to gloss over the last 400 years of Black American history before I learned that the exhibition was a retrospective highlighting 25 years of exhibitions. So that's why. The smaller exhibition in the basement was better. It dealt with inequalities in the NYC school system. Almost 100% of white 9th graders graduate within 4 years whilst less than 50% of black and hispanic students graduate within 4 years. I was going to write about how as a sunburnt Irishman looking for maps I notice that it's the blacks and latinos who check my ID to get into the place and the whites who work upstairs and tha
t for whatever reason, the system is failing, creating or maintaining a caste of gatekeepers and tradesmen but at the last minute, due to my ignorance I decided not to.
Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, known affectionately to the locals as 7th Ave is- I swear to God the mosquito I'm trying to kill has a fucking teleporter- is more of the same as Lenox I was admittedly tired and hot by that stage and should really go back. There are more bars on ACP Jr Blvd than there are on Lenox. I should have availed myself of one but I couldn't find a Chase ATM. The bugger got me. The phone ate my photos again so I've nothing to show you. Here is a nice picture of a dog instead.
How it all works.
I'm trolling New York City collecting maps from flyers, government reports, informational brochures and such with the notion that all these maps will all somehow join together to create a complete map of NYC. The maps have to exist in real life- no downloads and cannot be rescaled or cut to fit.
Friday, July 2, 2010
As part of my plan to the cover upper sides and Harlem in a methodical manner I did the above mentioned thing. Park Avenue one day, Madison Ave. the next and 5th Avenue the next all starting from 86th St. Park Avenue is a world of elegant, expensive and elderly apartment buildings manned by sterling, uniformed doormen who help elegant, expensive elderly residents in and out of taxis. All well and good but no maps and except for a few interesting churches and synagogues- the armory no reason to go there.
Until at 96th St when the train tracks from the Metro North emerge from under the street, the homes of the rich abruptly end. Instead of six lane divided road with flowers and greenery in the verge, the road becomes two narrow streets divided by a set of train tracks, stone bridges. The massive apartment buildings are replaced by funky Harlem brownstones, restaurants and public housing. There lies something called La Marqueta- a large market built under the Metro North yet only two vendors selling Botanica and Puerto Rico belt buckles.
Past the 125th St mess- redeemed only by the beautifully restored Metro North station- lie four blocks of gorgeous brownstones and churches before Park Avenue peters out in a swift burst of public housing, sanitation dept. parking and a pedestrian walkway.
Madison Avenue, Park Avenue's sister avenue to the west is a terrible, mean spirited thoroughfare and even beyond the 96th St class boundary continues to be so. Whilst both Park and Madison are stomping grounds of the super rich, Park Ave has a sense of humour, a mild humbleness that Madison absolutely lacks especially apparent to a random, sunburnt Irishman looking for maps. It has the feel of a snooty little seaside town. They could build an airport in Manhattan with the landing strip lying along the whole length of Madison Avenue and New York City would not lose a thing, the world equilibrium would not be damaged at all.
The only bright spot along the whole benighted road is the Mt. Sinai hospital, a formidable, fortress-like tower visible from miles around and even more brutal up close. The people there were very friendly and I recommend it highly if you're in the neighbourhood. Madison Avenue ends with the Madison Avenue bridge spanning the Harlem river like some glittering promise of a faraway better land.
Walking along 5th Avenue I come to understand Madison Ave's problem. Even though it is a massively attractive and wealthy street its opulence pales in comparison to the streets either side of it. It has a complex, the poor thing. 5th Ave with Central Park on one side and fantastic mansions and museums on the other is New York's finest street. The splendor doesn't end at 96th St either but continues, to a fashion all the way to 110th where Central Park ends. You don't come to a Kennedy Fried Chicken until 113th St!
5th Ave is interrupted by the great, dysfunctional Marcus Garvey Park and all around that place, all the way up almost to the end of 5th Ave are the finest brownstones in Harlem.