Saturday, September 27, 2008

Frederick Douglas Boulevard, Part 1

"I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong."
--Frederick Douglas

One morning, I was on the A train when the familiar, "Attention Ladies and Gentlemen..." plea began. Truth be told I've heard a lot of these stories, but am always a keen listener. This one proved to be truly revelatory. For the most part, I couldnt understand a thing he said, but every now and then, like I was watching Univision, I would pick up proper nouns. Fuck Malcolm X! yhhunnnh, uhnnnhhhyy. and...Marcus Garvey! more unincomprehensible rhythmic speech. Finally, he comes to my section of the train and exclaims, "Frederick Douglas! Yeah, Fredrick Douglas! He's the one...he's the one!!! Before anybody else, he's the one!!! It took a madman to say it, but I believe its true. Frederick Douglas is the man who gets the credit as the original glass-ceiling breaker. He was the Jay-Z, the Malcolm X and the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. of his day, all rolled into one. It is a fitting tribute to him, that the Avenue that bears his name would be the transition for change here in Harlem. The metaphor is very deep, not the least of which is the Columbia and Freemasonry connection, but suffice to say, he was the first to understand that Black and white success went hand-in-hand. In my earliest memories of Harlem, FDB was the street of numbers joints, crack spots and shooting galleries. Blocks and blocks of abandoned buildings were fertile ground for this illicit element. The rezoning of FDB in 2003 was the real ground breaker and created the foundation for this synergystic development. The change that has gone on is so pervasive, I will have to break this into 2 posts. Part 1 is from 110th to 116th St. Part 2 will be 116th to 125th with a special bonus section. Without further ado...Frederick Douglas Blvd., the gateway to Harlem!

The Thomas Hill Houses (111th)

Still a major drug corner (I also happen to vote here).

The Antler Apartments
Much new development on both sides of the street.

Zoma's in one of my favorite places in Harlem. Great service, great food and great ambiance. What I love about the scale of development here is its modesty. Franchises are given equal footing with small business. Nothing is too tall. And truth be told, in about 3 years, it will all be done. Remarkably, almost all vacant lots have been struck, and as long as this last round of financing holds together, will be completed by the end of 2011.

Residential real estate is doing great, but commercial rents remain low due to vacancy.
Cool pet store (African-American owned and operated).

The 5th Dunkin' Donuts in Harlem.

A venerable institution...

The Gateway project has its stop work order lifted!

And Life in Sips!

Let me also add that this block at night is one of the sketchiest. Im hoping that the Savannah opening there will push the drug trade away,

but until they renovate that housing on the south side of 114th, it will always be weird. Also on this block is the gorgeous Wadliegh School.
Moving north we have the Delany Lofts (if you are still interested in getting into Harlem real estate, this is a good place to start).

I really like this building on 115th. Completed in 2004.

And the Livmor! (Built on the site of a former reform Church.)

But the behind the scenes player will be the East African community of 116th St.

This will be another post, but not only are they gentrifiers, the changes they've effected along this corridor are profound.

This is the north-west corner of 116th and FDB. An amazing Dizney piece used to hang on the facade of this building. Now, it is a allegory of the current real-estate situation in Harlem.

What will the future hold?!?


SANKOFA said...

Great pictures !

Anonymous said...

Another great post -- looking forward to Part 2 and your views on the East African community in the 116th St area.

M said...

Just to correct... the community you mentioned is actually West African, mostly from Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Benin, Sierra Leone. On 116th Street, they are the pioneering gentrifiers of the past 20 years.