Friday, October 31, 2008

Highbridge Part 2

I dug out some old Highbridge pix from earlier this year. The reason? These are the only extant pix of the inside of the Highbridge aqueduct/water tunnel and will remain so as the entrance to it is now completely welded shut.
Out over the Harlem River!

Enter the 36th Chamber!

Evidence of the Mole people...

seems they have an aquatic strain.

PS it was pitch black in here, so sorry for the noise.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Secret Societies trying to keep they eye on me

I have long been fascinated by Secret Societies such as the Freemasons. Their unwavering connection to the founders of our country, as well as current heads of political and economic power have garnered my attention since College. Upon moving to Harlem in 1995, a new wrinkle to these shadowy figures was added with my discovery of the Black Freemasons--also known as the Prince Hall Masons. As far as I can discern, Harlem hosts at least two Masonic Halls...the W.M. Hiram Grand Lodge on 124th (which is not a Prince Hall, rather its a Free and Accepted Masonic Hall).

and the Boyer Grand Lodge on 155th, which is.
Some more Masonic imagery from the African American Day Parade...

Here's a link to some famous Black Freemasons. Quite an interesting list here...Scottie Pippen, WTF!?!
Coincidentally, the Thurgood Marshall Academy is just up the street on 135th, further demonstrating the interwoven nature of the Black Elite. Some other notably African-Americans that may or may not be Masons...
Barak Obama, current NYS governor David Paterson, Jay-Z, Nas and Kanye West.

In addition to outright Masonic Orders, the Shriners are also very active in Harlem. Here's some pix from their initiation ceremony on 125th!

Monday, October 27, 2008


With the opening of the new Harlem Piers just west of 12th Ave., Manhattanville is receiving lots of attention these days. Be it Fairway, Dinosaur BBQ, Talay or the Hudson River Cafe, it is now clear that this area is becoming a go-to destination Uptown. In this post, I'll peel back some of the layers regarding the development there, both in terms of what's currently happening as well as the future of this controversial yet vital area.
Beneath the Aquaduct, from the south end looking north.

Here's a shot of the North end space now occupied by Talay and Body circa 2003,

As it is today.

For a long time this area has slid further and further into decrepitude...

but since the announcement of Columbia's expansionist agenda,
the landgrab has commenced. Long time small business owners have been bought out and those that resist will most likely be forced out. Neighborhood institutions such as Fairway,

and the relocated Cotton Club, stand to gain as they are just outside of the area of Columbia's two stage annexation.

As a way of bolstering their claim of Community improvement, Columbia is engaging in a huge environmental assessment and remediation effort. Everything from ground water to air quality will be sampled, analyzed and hopefully corrected.

Needless to say that after almost 6 decades of industrial use, the land underneath this area has major oil, gasoline, benzene and other contamination (such as lead from paint and leaded gasoline).

One of the worst contributors is the Manhattanville Bus Depot (sorry City, you also are getting forced out in Phase 2).

Here's a shot of the Doll House Factory--one of the more controversial losers in this plan.

And the Eritrean Society, Floridita,

and one of the few gas stations in the hood.

Clearly this is still a hugely controversial issue. But I like the changes I see so far. The remaining top 5 concern include:
1) Environmental Remediation of the current site
2) Compensation and fair treatment of existing small businesses
3) Disaster management for the new Science labs
4) Holding Columbia to their pledge of 1000 afforable housing units
5) Ensuring that Community relations stay positive and mutually beneficial by conserving the history and relevant architectural elements of this area.

It is my hope that no one ends up marginalized by this process.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Green Harlem--The Highbridge Edition

Aside from the great people and architecture, another reason why I love Harlem is the abundance of under-utilized green space. Boasting at least 7 large Parks, Harlem forms an integral part of the Emerald Highway for migrating birds. Combined with the sparse use, these areas lend themselves to a complete "Natural Immersion" which I find necessary to balance out the otherwise frenetic and crowded feel of downtown. One of my favorite Parks which embodies these ideals is Highbridge Park, and on Sunday, I got a chance to go up in the iconic Watertower for the first time. (I did once get to crawl inside the watertunnel--will dig out those pix later). Without further ado, Highbridge Park!