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The UWS has restaurant rows on Broadway, Amsterdam, and Columbus.

The UWS has restaurant rows on Broadway, Amsterdam, and Columbus.

The food desert that characterized the Upper West Side restaurant scene for much of its history has been replanted over the last few years with with an amazing array of options. These days you can find most any cuisine and at almost any price level. One result is that restaurants are often packed—on a beautiful evening it’s possible to walk the length of Amsterdam Avenue, for example, coming back up Broadway or Columbus Avenue while spotting nary a single empty table.

We lay out a few of our favorites here, even as we mourn the many that have closed since the last time we did this, with our guide to Eating Well on the Upper West Side of Manhattan: 10 Moderately Priced Restaurants. But know that there are many more. If you get turned away from one, just head next door. We start at the northern fringe at Manhattanville, head through Morningside Heights and down to Columbus Circle, taking an expansive definition of the Upper West Side.

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The Strivers Row townhomes designed by architects Price & Luce

The Striverss Row townhomes designed by architects Price & Luce

If you’ve ever walked the area on 138th and 139th streets between Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Frederick Douglass Boulevards, you might have noticed three rows of beautiful townhouses. Perhaps you’ve seen the odd marker, “Private Road, Walk Your Horses,” painted onto the concrete columns that support intricate curled rod-iron gates leading into private parking for said townhouses. 

Strivers’ Row got its name from the notable Harlemites who called these stately buildings home. Names like Vertner Tandy, W. C. Handy, Fletcher Henderson, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Eubie BlakeAdam Clayton Powell Jr. and a host of successful African-American doctors, lawyers and other professionals. They were considered to be the up-and-coming in the African-American community–the Strivers.

On Sunday, October 5th, you’ll have a chance to see the inside and outside of the homes on Strivers Row during their second annual House Tour, “Strivers’ Row and Beyond”.  There are several ways to do the tour from self-guided to a walking tour with Harlem author and historian, Michael Henry Adams.

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Currently abandoned interior of the "Rennie" Source:  AbandonedNYC

Currently abandoned interior of the Ballroom inside the  “Rennie”
Source: AbandonedNYC

If you were to transport yourself back in time to Harlem in the 1920s, and in particular, to the corner of Seventh Avenue between 137th and 138th Streets, you would find yourself in front of the The Renaissance Theater and Casino.  The popularity of jazz joints made Harlem a destination during the 1920′s.  Leading the way were the big three–The Cotton Club, located on the corner of 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue, the stunning Savoy Ballroom, which covered an entire city block on Lenox Avenue between 140th-141st Streets, and Connie’s Inn located on Seventh Avenue at 131st Street.  But the only club open to African-Americans was The Renaissance Theater and Casino.

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Completed in 1189, the exterior of this landmark Romanesque Revival-style firehouse remains intact

Completed in 1889, the exterior of this landmark Romanesque Revival-style firehouse remains intact

We have often wondered about the status of the abandoned firehouse located at 120 East 125th Street in East Harlem and today we got our answer. Due to the tireless efforts of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, this firehouse is one of five that was saved from the auction block, and will be converted into a cultural institution.

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Abandoned Harlem PS 186-145th Street-NYC-3

Editor Note: With the news that Harlem’s long abandoned PS is finally going to be converted into a Boys and Girls Club and apartment rentals, we turned to our resident Abandoned NYC columnist here at Untapped Cities to share with us images of his exploration into the space. 

School’s out forever; at least at P.S. 186.  This aging beauty has loomed over West Harlem’s 145th Street for 111 years—but it’s been vacant exactly a third of that time.  The Italian Renaissance structure was considered dilapidated when it shuttered 39 years ago, and today its interiors feel more sepulchral than scholastic.

Windows gape on four of its five stories, exposing classrooms to a barrage of elements.  Spongy wood flooring, wafer-thin in spots, supports a profusion of weeds.  Adolescent saplings reach upward through skylights and arch through windows. Infused with an odor not unlike an antiquarian book collection, upper floors harbor a population of hundreds of mummified pigeon carcasses—the overall effect is grim.  You’d never guess this building had an owner, but sure enough…

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Take a trip back to the ye old days of A.D. Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Three (1993). Harlem still had its true grit, 8mm was king of art house film, and the Queen was Latifah–at the Apollo Theater, at least. Photographer and blogger Gregoire Alessandrini gives us a rare peak into this quintessential New York neighborhood’s past through a 4 minute film of a ride he took on the M101 bus along Amsterdam and Lexington Avenues by way of 125th Street. The grainy black & white film is not the only thing about the video that has high contrast. It is remarkable to see the differences between the New York of today and the New York of just two decades ago.

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