Open House Harlem Pt 1: Manhattanville/W. Harlem

NOTE: Thanks to a particularly robust strain of influenza, Blather from Brooklyn was knocked out of the blogosphere for more than a week and a half. Publication is resuming where it left off when the flu bug raised its ugly head.

OpenHouseNewYork Weekend is here, a time when New York celebrates architecture and design. Sites around the city throw open doors that are usually closed to the public while designers, historians and enthusiasts eagerly lead packs of the curious on walking tours and explorations.

This afternoon, as part of the celebration, participants were treated to a tour that included elements of West Harlem’s past and future: highlights of the now mostly-vanished industrial neighborhood known as Manhattanville and a preview of a waterfront park scheduled to open next year.

Situated between St. Nicholas Terrace and the Hudson River, Manhattanville was once a quiet waterfront village eight miles north of New York City. The 1800s brought paved streets, Robert Fulton’s ferryboat and a flock of city residents who ventured north for the green fields, fresh country air and new opportunities.

In the closing years of the 19th century, when construction of an elevated railway made it possible to travel from Wall Street to Manhattanville in less than an hour, the population tripled. The area was rapidly transformed from a community of tenant farmers and factory workers to a bustling commercial and transportation hub.

Over the years, changing fortunes plunged Manhattanville into a decline. But today, those who know where to look can glimpse the area’s past glory. Some of the luxurious buildings that rose here in the early 1900s are relatively unchanged, their facades still clad in marble and terra-cotta. In certain spots beneath the elevated tracks, the asphalt has worn away, exposing the granite Belgian blocks and bronze insignias of the long-defunct 3rd Avenue line.

As for the future, you’ll view it by crossing the West Side Highway to the spot where 125th Street ends at Marginal Street. There, along the river, is a construction project that will reclaim a long-inaccessible section of waterfront. Known as West Harlem Waterfront Park, the project is transforming a grubby, weed-filled parking lot into a lively spot for recreation.

When it opens next year, the small but carefully-designed park will contain sculptures, fountains and benches. It will feature designated spaces for fishing, kayaking, playing, performing and relaxing in the sun. Most importantly, it will fill a missing link in the greenway and bike path that will eventually stretch along the entire length of Manhattan island.

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Under the elevated tracks

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Plaque and unused tracks of the 3rd Avenue line

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The view from Marginal Street

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The fence is opened for OHNY visitors

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This area will be filled with grass

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Trees and grass will grow here soon

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Design of the long, narrow park is based on intersecting triangles

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Benches and walkway under construction

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The future Water Taxi pier

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The proposed fishing pier

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The kayak launching area

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The park will end here but the bike path will continue

openhousenewyork weekend
West Harlem Waterfront Park
Eric K. Washington
Archipelago Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Community Board 9: West Side Harlem
DMJM Harris: West Harlem Waterfront Redevelopment Program
NYLCV: Work Finally Begins on West Harlem Waterfront Park

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6 Responses to Open House Harlem Pt 1: Manhattanville/W. Harlem

  1. moi says:

    Good to see you back 🙂 sounds like a very informative tour ……

    Like

  2. I love the photo of the plague next to the subway line.

    I didn’t know they were doing all that new constructions in Harlem. Good to see that. It is afterall, still MANHATTAN.

    Like

  3. photowannabe says:

    Welcome back, so sorry you were sick but glad you are better and can give us more of your fascinating glimpses of NY.
    Its exciting to hear about all the reconstruction and beautification going on. Good news.

    Like

  4. avanta7 says:

    Glad you’re feeling better! You’re not alone in succumbing to the flu. That nasty bug has gotten most of my office here on the West Coast.

    Spouse occasionally laments the fact that his Dutch ancestors, after buying Manhattan from the indigenous population, subsequently lost the island to the British…”If only…” he says, “we’d be sooo filthy rich now.”

    Like

  5. Yoda says:

    Thanks for coming by my blog! OMG — your flickr rocks. I’m new to NYC and could learn sooo much about it from your blog. Its awesome!

    Like

  6. Fantastic web site=D Hope to definitely visit again:)

    Like

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