226 W 150th st.
45 W 139th St
40 Pinehurst Ave.
Photo By: Mathew Henry
by Jenny Taher
"Hello my name is Jen and I am a neighborhood traitor." There, I said it! I am a bona-fide neighborhood Benedict Arnold, or so I often feel like when I confess that I live in hipper than thou Williamsburg (where I have lived before it was hipper than thou for the past 8 years) to the prospective tenants I am showing apartments to in Harlem. As a newly minted agent at Bohemia Realty Group, I am lucky enough to traverse the wide boulevards, the hilly streets dotted with wise trees that have seen every kind of urban renaissance, and the incredible brownstones that make me think simultaneously of the Cosby Show and Edith Wharton (is any single style of home more comforting yet more sophisticated than that very American turn-of -the century home?) that make Harlem, Harlem. Every day, I hop the A train to comb the avenues of Washington Heights with its vibrant culture, its street-cut mango (which taste like you just bit into a vacation -- not bad for just $3!), its view of the grand George Washington Bridge, its parks and space.
Is it possible to fall in love with a city all over again after a decade of living there? I think that is what has happened to me. Walking around Harlem, where whole streets are landmarked, beauty from the past is preserved so that all of us in the present can enjoy it. Harlem is a history lesson and a love letter to New York City’s past, present, and future. In the architecture you can see the influence of the Europeans, those canny Dutch, escaping to the new world but not entirely ready to leave the old one behind. Everywhere there are parks, once again flourishing, as Harlem is itself - an urban renaissance in full bloom. It might sound silly but there is something similar to the Parisian quality of life up here -- no wonder the French always had a fascination with Harlem and its incredible legacy of African American artists. You can practically see Langston Hughes sitting on one of these stoops finishing a poem.
Williamsburg might have cornered the market on temporary hipness, but when it comes to lasting beauty and history, Harlem - and all of Upper Manhattan - has it beat by about a 100 years, which is why this Brooklynite might not be a Benedict Arnold for that much longer. It might just be time to stop living vicariously through my clients, snapping up gorgeous yet still affordable apartments, and to hook into a community that reminds me that the American experiment, all of us co-existing side-by-side, is still very much alive. There is a tremendous amount of beauty in Harlem . . . and it’s thriving right here and right now.
Stately Homes: then and now.
A great day in Harlem, Art Kane, 1958
Street Mango! (Nature’s candy, City made).