by John Ruocco
In 1999 when I told my friends that I was moving to Harlem, they looked at me like I was Louis or Clark and assured me that I would see them even less than when I lived in Brooklyn. Harlem was the frontier at the recent turn of the century, but 12 years later, it has become one of the most desired neighborhoods on our fair island. Perfectly removed and centrally located at the same time, South Harlem ( my particular neck of the woods) has become a destination spot and I am happy to say that all my fancy friends are now eating their words.
There are so many things to talk about in South Harlem that I'm not sure where to start. Obviously, Bohemia Realty Group has changed the real estate game uptown and made the apartment hunt SO much easier. When I was looking for apartments, my agents included a refugee, 2 models from Chicago, and a hooker — but that is a story for another time (remind me to tell it to you when we go to see apartments Between the restaurants, boutiques, and bars, not to mention the complete face lift of Frederick Douglass Boulevard, South Harlem really has it all. But without a doubt, Central Park is our crown jewel and the Northern end of the park is packed with historical sites and fun-filled activities for the whole family which often go undiscovered by the CP novice. Here are three insider secrets about the Park that will make your summer one to remember!
Start your day on 111th Street andAmsterdam Avenue at the CATHEDRAL OF SAINT
JOHN THE DIVINE. This incredible Gothic Cathedral is the largest in the country and boasts incredible exhibits and installations as well as concerts, lectures and children's programs that are sure to educate and entertain. It is also super calm and cool there — the perfect respite from the hot New York afternoons.
Hop across the street to the famous Hungarian Bakery for a muffin and a coffee, then head east two blocks to the north west entrance of Central Park. As you enter the park, check out the local site map and set your GPS to find THE BLOCK HOUSE, an incredible fort built in 1814 to defend against the British. Its location on the Great Hill is the highest point in the park and was the perfect locale to spot those pesky Redcoats invading from the Bronx. Take a few minutes to stretch out on one of the gigantic granite boulders and enjoy the sun before heading off to…..
THE LASKER SWIMMING POOL, located on 110th Street and 7th Avenue. This GIGANTIC public swimming pool is 100% free and open all summer long starting at 11am (lap swimming available in the early morning as well). The pool has a very European vibe — huge slabs of concrete surround an ice blue football field of coolness. Entry is a snap – all you need is a lock to secure your belongings and a bathing suit with a lining (no shorts or underwear please!) Don't bother taking your cell phone or snacks on the pool deck — a towel, book, sun screen and plastic bottle of water is all they'll allow. It gets busy in the afternoon, but for the first few hours, you will be shocked at how few people take advantage of this incredible resource.
Wind down your afternoon with a stroll through THE CONSERVATORY GARDENS — New York's most famous formal gardens championed by New York's first lady, Jackie O. This incredible spot has three formal styles: the English, the French, and the Italian. Each is distinct and magnificent in it's own way and the gardens are designed and timed for constant blooming from March through October.
For all intents and purposes, I treat the park like the high end resort that it is. This mammoth rectangle of green space is a wonder of human engineering but can be intimidating to the CP novice — but believe me when I say you are not a true New Yorker until you have been "lost" in the Park.
So GET LOST! Before you know it, you'll have your favorite spots too!
See you on the Great HIll — and come check out SOUTH HARLEM!