Monday, February 26, 2007

Woodchip Workday at Dog Park Scheduled for March 3rd

We received more woodchips recently and they were piled up right outside our temporary entrance to the run. This makes for easier access to transfer the chip into the run. Unfortunately, our contractor will be starting soon on construction of the run's permanent entrance and we need to clear these piles asap!

Woodchip Workday at the St. Nick's Dog Run

Saturday, March 3rd

We will provide tools for transferring the chips into the run. We'll have some gloves for people, but if you have a pair of gloves please bring them. We'll also have coffee and water available.

Also, if you could leave your beloved pets in the comfort of their home. Some pets get worried when owners leave the run to help with the woodchips.

Thanks. If you have any questions please email

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Harlem Landmark in All but Name

This article was in the NY Times this weekend. It explains the history of the Renaissance Theatre and Casino, a property very near our beloved St. Nicholas Park.

Original Article Here

THE two-story Renaissance Theater and Casino on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard is architecturally unassuming but particularly significant, because unlike most of Harlem, it was built by blacks, not whites.

But last week, the Abyssinian Development Corporation — whose 10-year-old plans to build apartments and restore the casino structure recently took on new urgency — successfully defeated landmark designation, which would have created intolerable delays, it said.

Sheena Wright, the chief executive of the nonprofit development company, which is associated with the Abyssinian Baptist Church, contended that landmark designation would “basically kill the project.”

The blocklong Renaissance complex dates to 1920. That’s when William H. Roach, an immigrant from Montserrat who owned a housecleaning service, bought the northeast corner of 137th Street and Seventh Avenue, now known as Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard.

Property records are not explicit, but it appears that Mr. Roach, working chiefly in partnership with his countryman Joseph H. Sweeney and an Antiguan named Cleophus Charity, built the Renaissance Theater there in 1921.

Two years later, the partners added the Renaissance Casino, with a second-floor ballroom, at the 138th Street corner of the block.

The 900-seat theater first showed silent movies, apparently with stage acts, but was soon converted to talkies. The casino was used for public meetings, like a 1923 anti-lynching meeting held by the N.A.A.C.P., and it was also the home court of the Harlem Renaissance Big-Five, the black professional basketball team known as the Harlem Rens.

The architect for the complex, Harry Creighton Ingalls, designed a deceptively simple work in tile and brick, “inspired by the Islamic architecture of North Africa,” according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The casino, at the north end, is slightly higher, with a second floor of large windows and an attic level of openings alternating with patterned squares of colored tiles. It is a sophisticated but rather mild work.

There is no evidence that the Renaissance complex was meant to be anything but a simple business venture, but perhaps that was the point. According to Michael Henry Adams, the Harlem historian, articles in The New York Amsterdam News indicate that Mr. Roach and other principals were followers of Marcus Garvey, who promoted black self-sufficiency and business enterprise.

In his book “When Harlem Was in Vogue” (Oxford, 1989), David Levering Lewis describes the Renaissance as one of the places where “the cream of Harlem would unlimber with the Charleston and Black Bottom.”

The Renaissance closed in 1979, and the Abyssinian Development Corporation bought it in 1991.

Four years later, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, the pastor of the church, told The New York Times that he expected to start the restoration of the ballroom by the end of 1995. “People have got to have a place to laugh, sing and dance,” he said.

The Abyssinian Development Corporation’s plans did not come together until last year, but for them to go forward, it had to get the Landmarks Preservation Commission to retract a proposal, dating to 1991, to designate the Renaissance complex a landmark.

The development corporation’s plans involve replacing the Renaissance Theater with a 13-story apartment house but saving the exterior of the northern part of the complex. This would be incorporated into a larger performance, ballroom and community space reaching all the way back to the church, to the east on 138th Street. The old Y.W.C.A. building between the two would be replaced.

Abyssinian has secured important backers: David N. Dinkins, the former mayor; Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president; and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, one of the city’s major preservation organizations.

The conservancy has endorsed the demolition of only the theater portion, but it is rare to have a preservation organization speak against any landmark proposal.

For now, the Renaissance complex has the aspect of a romantic ruin. Perhaps half the tiles have fallen off, and the words “Chop Suey” are just visible on an old Chinese restaurant marquee projecting from the theater building.

The soft tapestry-brick facade is so wet that fields of moss are growing straight up, like spring grass on the prairie.

As the Renaissance project moves forward, no one has spoken up for the little Y.W.C.A. building on 138th Street, even though the shifting colors of its brick — orange, rust, yellow and purple — seem to warble like a bird’s song.

Built in 1931 and designed by Joannes & Marlow, it is a perfect little gem of side-street architecture, all the more so because there is little in Harlem like it.

The lower section, with its faceted bays weaving in and out, shows a clear awareness of German and Dutch Expressionist architecture. The parapet is a double row of bricks set in soldier courses, with the long side oriented up and down. The bricks are laid on intermittent, undulating mounds, and thus look like a marching column going up and down a hilly landscape.

This is the one building whose demolition was never in doubt.

Winter Fun in the Dog Run

The ice and snow made for some good times at the new St. Nick's Dog Park. The above photos were taken over the long President's Day weekend. Once the ground thaws a bit, we'll schedule another woodchip workday, since we have 4 huge piles of woodchips to move into our Dog park. More photos follow...and even a movie featuring Kyoko's Daddy sliding down the hill in the Dog Park.

Winter Slide Video

Other Photos

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Northern Manhattan Urban Hiking Trail Creation

Rebecca Scott of Partnership for Parks gave us the great news of a formation of a Northern Manhattan Urban Hiking trail. Below is the information on conceptualization for the hiking trails. Mark your calendars to help create this special experience.

Make the Road by Walking: Conceptualizing the CLIMB Trail.
Join us in a week of activities to inform the creation of an urban hiking trail in northern Manhattan.


Michel Cantal-Dupart, urbanist and architect, National Conservatory of Arts and Trades, Paris. Denys Candy and Terri Baltimore, community organizers, Find the Rivers!, Pittsburgh(

Guided hike of the North end of the trail
Sunday, February 18th 2007 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Meet @ exit of Dyckman/200 Street 1 train station, corner with Nagle Avenue

Walk on your own (small groups) any portion of the trail from 200th Street to 110th Street.
Monday, February 19th 2007

Concept Presentation by Michel Cantal-Dupart and Presentation on building coalition by Denys Candy and Terri Baltimore
Tuesday, February 20th 2007 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion 1150 St. Nicholas Ave (corner of 168th Street and St. Nicholas) Lobby Conference Room

Guided hike of the South end of the trail
Wednesday, February 21st 2007 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Meet @ exit of 110th Street C train station, corner with Central Park West

Thursday, February 08, 2007

More Woodchips for the Dog Run!

Today on my way to the dog run with Guffman, I was greeted by a few trucks and a woodchipper from the Central Park Conservancy. We had been trying to get the Department of Forestry to chip this wood debris since last December when the Dog Park was constructed. Unfortunately we were told that Forestry had only one chipper working and they were backed up. We waited and waited and even held a woodchip workday, since the Park Department did deliver a nice pile of chipped Christmas Trees from the Mulchfest (that has continued to freshen up the dog run aroma).

The chips produced from today's mulching will be lots for the dog park. we will schedule a another Woodchip Workday on a weekend day soon when the weather is a little warmer.

Here's to these guys (pictured above), who worked through the cold to make sure the wood was chipped and piled near our entrance to the run. Thanks Guys!

Let There Be Lights (in the Dog Run)!

After a few weeks of emails and effort on behalf of the Friends member Julia Granacki, the St. Nick's Dog Park has working lights. There were 3-4 light poles that were not working in the Dog Park that the DOT (Department of Transportation) and Parks eventually fixed (earlier this week) by tapping a working pole and extending the electricity from pole to pole via external wires. Of course, we hope this is a temporary fix since it does look like something you'd want to hang your clothes up on to dry.

The Friends of St. Nicholas Park is happy that the lights work at all, since during these winter months it can be pitch dark by the time Harlem residents come home to walk their dogs.

Hopefully soon the Park Department, Department of Transportation and the Friends of St. Nicholas Park will be able to develop a permanent fix to the poles so the Dog Park can be enjoyed in the evening hours.

A special thanks to Paul Evans, Park Manager, for his effort in helping get the lighting poles repaired.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Scott Joplin's Harlem Brownstone - NYTs article

Add another historic figure to the numerous cultural icons to have lived near St. Nicholas Park in Harlem. This Sunday's New York Times points out the brownstone at 163 West 131st street as the address Joplin lived in last as one of New York's most famous composer's.

Below is the article from the New York Times

Joplin, born in 1868, was living in Missouri in the 1890s while composing and touring as a musician. According to “King of Ragtime — Scott Joplin and His Era” (Oxford, 1994) by Edward A. Berlin, he copyrighted his “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899. It was famous enough for the John Wanamaker department store to include it in a 1904 ad for piano rolls in The New York Times.

Joplin arrived in New York in 1907 and is first listed in the city directory of 1910. He lived in an old brownstone converted to a rooming house at 128 West 29th Street, a building that is no longer standing. That address was in the heart of the music publishing district; the term Tin Pan Alley refers to the block of 28th Street from Broadway to the Avenue of the Americas.

In the 1910 census he gave “composer” and “musician” as his occupation, but most of his fellow tenants had service jobs, like houseman and porter.

According to the Berlin book, Joplin gained friends and some prominence in New York, and while here he wrote pieces like “Rose Leaf Rag” and “Fig Leaf Rag.”

But his real goal was to find a backer for “Treemonisha,” the opera that he envisioned as an elaborate stage production with some ragtime music. He was never successful, but Mr. Berlin says that the 29th Street house is the address used by Joplin when he applied for a copyright for “Treemonisha” in 1911.

Later directory listings are spotty, but from 1912 to 1915 Joplin lived in a small apartment house that still stands at 252 West 47th. It was at that address that he formed the Scott Joplin Music Publishing Company with Lottie Stokes, his common-law wife. In the same year he advertised in The Indianapolis Freeman, offering six piano pieces by mail for $1.

For much of his time in New York, Joplin lived in straitened circumstances. The 1916 directory shows him as “music teacher” at another small apartment house, also still standing, at 133 West 138th Street. The 1917 directory lists him at an old row house still standing at 160 West 133rd.

Mr. Berlin says this was probably Joplin’s studio, because he was actually living with Ms. Stokes in the boarding house she ran in the old brownstone at 163 West 131st Street. That was his address when he died of syphilis on April 1, 1917, at age 49.