Take off those below-14th Street blinders and head uptown—far uptown—to some of New York’s most intriguing and storied neighborhoods.
THE POINT • 940 Garrison Avenue, Bronx, 718-542-4139, thepoint.org A dynamic community of artists thrives in the region of the South Bronx known as Hunts Point, invigorating the gritty industrial surroundings with a fresh infusion of creativity and life. The centerpiece of this artistic resurgence is the Point, a magnificent, sprawling arts complex open to the public. Among its offerings are two visual-arts spaces with rotating exhibitions, a photography gallery and center, a 178-seat black-box theater, and a sculpture garden.
FROM MAMBO TO HIP-HOP: SOUTH BRONX TOURS • 718-542-4139 Visit notable East Harlem and South Bronx sites instrumental to the history of mambo and hip-hop with knowledgeable, charismatic guide Angel Rodriguez (on Saturdays in warm weather, by appointment; call 718-542-4139 to schedule). You can have your tour customized based on your interests—stops might include Casa Amadeo, the oldest surviving Latin-music store in New York City, and the Hunts Point Palace, a crucial performance spot for everyone from mambo king Tito Puente to the first hip-hop crews in the ’70s and ’80s.
TATS CRU GRAFFITI HALL OF FAME • 940 Garrison Avenue, Bronx, 718-542-6146 South Bronx graffiti legends Tats Cru have crafted some of New York City’s most jaw-droppingly gorgeous street murals, done completely with aerosols, including several memorials for fallen friends and heroes.
ARTHUR AVENUE RETAIL MARKET • 2344 Arthur Avenue, Bronx The old-school Italian stronghold of Belmont is being increasingly enlivened and diversified with immigrants from other countries, particularly Albania and Mexico, with intriguing results. These days on Arthur Avenue, you can get bureks along with your pizza, and salsa right next to the red-sauce joint. The sprawling indoor market, started by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1940 to get pushcarts off the street, is still Italian American to the max, with peddlers selling everything from basil plants to fresh mozzarella to massive slabs of mortadella.
STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM • 144 West 125th Street, 212-864-4500, studiomuseum.org
STRICTLY ROOTS • 2058 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, 212-864-8699 Forge ahead a little further north, past all the usual museum suspects and horrifying squads of tourists, to this striking modern space of contemporary art and African American history and culture. At only $3 with a student ID or $7 without, it’s a bargain compared to some other museums we could name. Then walk a few blocks over for some good eats at Strictly Roots. Vegan Caribbean and soul food might seem to be a contradiction in terms, but this legendary spot, proudly proclaiming to serve “nothing that crawls, walks, swims, or flies,” shows it’s a winning combination.
HAMILTON HEIGHTS/SUGAR HILL HISTORIC DISTRICT • Rows of elegant pre-war brownstones fill the beautiful tree-lined streets of Harlem’s Hamilton Heights district (nicknamed “Sugar Hill”), once home to Harlem luminaries such as W.E.B. Dubois, Thurgood Marshall, and Duke Ellington. Situated on a hill from 145th to 155th Street between Edgecombe and Convent avenues, it’s one of Manhattan’s best-kept secrets. Take a stroll by Convent Avenue’s stately churches, grand old trees, and rosebushes, and feel transported to a different time and place in New York history. While you’re there, tuck into a classy Saturday brunch (with gospel music) at the Sugar Hill Bistro and jazz club (458 West 145th Street, 212-491-5505, sugarhillbistro.com).
SCHOMBURG CENTER FOR RESEARCH IN BLACK CULTURE • 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, 212-491-2200, nypl.org/research/sc/sc.html The Schomburg Center, one of the most fascinating and extensive research institutions of the New York Public Library, is a clearinghouse for a staggering amount of information on African and African American culture, with over 5 million items in stock. Of particular interest are important paintings of the Harlem renaissance and rare artifacts from Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and other African nations.
EL MUSEO DEL BARRIO • 1230 Fifth Avenue, 212-831-7272 Founded in 1969 by a group of activists and artists, East Harlem’s El Museo del Barrio is New York’s leading Latino cultural institution. The current exhibition, “Voces y Visiones: Highlights from El Museo del Barrio’s Permanent Collection,” celebrates the museum’s 35th anniversary and is on view until February 8.