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South Harlem: An old city neighborhood developing a new style

This building at 152 W. 122nd St. features

This building at 152 W. 122nd St. features a sculpture of Mother Clara Hale. (Steven Sunshine) Credit: This building at 152 W. 122nd St. features a sculpture of Mother Clara Hale. (Steven Sunshine)

Forget SoHo and get used to saying SoHa. Otherwise known as South Harlem, the rapidly changing neighborhood is a spot on the map that more New Yorkers will soon get acquainted with as it continues to transform.

In recent years, South Harlem has seen an influx of new housing developments trailed by new businesses, all managing to quickly change the neighborhood into one of the city's newest hubs.

It's dotted with trendy establishments and a diverse population, but it still maintains classic Harlem charm.

Between 2004 and 2007, a real estate boom brought new condominium developments to the area between West 110th and West 125th streets along Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

The easily accessible neighborhood is now ripe with new condos and rental buildings juxtaposed with historic, pre-war structures as well as brownstones.

According to Ozie Farrell, a real estate agent at Douglas Elliman, many new buildings are quickly filled.

"New families, recent graduates and retirees looking for an affordable location that also offers many restaurants and trendy entertainment are quickly moving into the area," Farrell said.

Along Frederick Douglass Boulevard, a slew of new spots including lounges, restaurants and bars, a yoga center and an organic market nestle nicely into the nabe, thriving alongside traditional African marketplaces, old cafes and restaurants, a hardware store and delis.

"What's wonderful about South Harlem is it's surrounded by parks and greenery. You have Central Park to the south, Morningside Park to the west, Marcus Garvey Park to the east. It's well-situated," said Hervé Jean-Baptiste, a blogger on the popular blog, and a seven-year resident of the area. "It's family-friendly; it's really like a small town in the city."

Once predominantly populated by African Americans, the area now hosts a mix of ethnicities from Caucasian to West African.

"There's a real sense of community here," Farrell said. "It's not overcrowded and it's still affordable."

Amid the rapid change in development and demographics, the area hasn't lost touch with its cultural roots that attract so many to Harlem. SoHa retains a vibrant artistic community. The area boasts many local artists, artisans and art galleries, including The Studio Museum in Harlem and an organization called Art in FLUX Harlem, which has pop-up exhibitions a few times a year.

"No matter what, historic Harlem will still be preserved," said Jean-Baptiste. "It's gone through its transition relatively well; a lot of people will soon start thinking of it as a destination."


Find it
The Manhattan neighborhood runs from West 110th Street to West 138th Street and is bordered to the east by Fifth Avenue and to the west by Frederick Douglass Boulevard - or Riverside Drive, depending on who you talk to.

The Basics

With many new developments offering amenities in a prime, accessible area, South Harlem is quickly becoming the go-to spot for first-time buyers and renters. Also on the market are historic pre-war buildings, many with original European details.

-- 301 W. 114th St., Brand-new corner two-bedroom, one-bath flat, approximately 900 square feet, located on Frederick Douglass Boulevard at 114th Street. Large bedrooms with closet space, dishwasher and crown molding: $2,500 per month.
-- 123 W. 120th St., 1,100-square-foot recently renovated pre-war, two-bedroom brownstone. Features a large, open floor plan and hardwood floors throughout: $2,600 per month.
-- 2098 Frederick Douglass Blvd., Two-bedroom condo, features lots of sun and full-service doorman and elevator: $2,950.

-- 163 St. Nicholas Ave., three-bedroom, two-bath condo with a Juliet balcony and lots of sunlight; 1,255 square feet: $900,000.
-- 40 W. 116th St., two-bedroom, two-bath green condo; approximately 903 square feet: $775,000.
-- 352 W. 117th St., three-bedroom, two-bath pre-war condo located across from Morningside Park with high pre-war ceilings; 1,139 square feet: $825,000.

Looking to buy a home in South Harlem?
Bohemia Realty,
R. Kenyatta Punter & Associates,

Residents never need to worry about not being able to catch a train or a bus in South Harlem. There are myriad options to choose from.

Local B & C trains stop at 110th Street Cathedral Parkway, 116th Street at Frederick Douglass Boulevard, 125th Street and 135th Street. Express A & D trains stop at 125th Street. No. 2 and 3 trains stop at Central Park North 110th Street and 116th Street at Malcolm X Boulevard, as well as 125th and 135th streets. No. 1 train stops at 110th Street Cathedral Parkway.

M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M7, M10, M11, M100, M101, M102, M104, M116, M60 to LaGuardia Airport, Bx33, Bx15

Residents of South Harlem have a variety of options:
-- New York Public Library, 203 W. 115th St.
-- New York Public Library, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard at 135th St. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is also located here.
-- The New York Historical Society is also located nearby at 170 Central Park West.

-- P.S. 81, 212 W. 120th St.
-- P.S. 76, 220 W. 121st St.
-- Success Academy Charter School, Harlem 1, 34 W. 118th St.
-- Philip K. Randolph High School, 443 W. 135th St.
-- Frederick Douglass Academy, 2581 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.

The 28th Precinct covers the South Harlem neighborhood. According to the NYPD CompStat report, compared to 1990, murders in the area decreased by 87%, while robberies dropped by 80%.

In 1990, 1,050 robberies were reported in the precinct. In 2012 that number was 210.

365 W. 125th St. (between Morningside and St. Nicholas aves.)

South Harlem is rapidly becoming another hot spot for foodies. With a string of restaurants on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 110th and 125th streets (restaurant row) and the surrounding streets, visitors and residents can indulge in the many diverse food choices.

-- Cedric French Bistro, 185 St. Nicholas Ave. Recently opened in 2011, patrons can enjoy a tasty brunch, lunch or dinner as the sounds of classic jazz wafts through this open-air bistro. 212-866-7766

-- Harlem Tavern, 2153 Frederick Douglass Blvd. Spacious inside and outside, this bar, grill and beer garden is a hot spot for Harlemites and Manhattanites alike. There's live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays and on Saturdays and Sundays at brunch. 212-866-4500

-- Zoma, 2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd. This cozy spot offers dishes such as Yebeg Aticha (lamb marinated with ginger and rosemary spices), Atakilt Wett (sautéed carrots, potatoes, onions and cabbage) and Zoma Tibs (cubed filet mignon pieces marinated in green peppers and red onions). 212-662-0620

-- Frederick Café Bistro, 2104 Frederick Douglass Blvd. Another in the string of new eateries to find a footing in South Harlem, Frederick Café Bistro serves coffee, lattes and pastries while providing a brightly lit space to sit down and recharge. 212-222-0075

-- Lido Italian Restaurant, 2168 Frederick Douglass Blvd. The traditional Italian décor coupled with the brick wall normally seen in bars lends itself well to the overall ambience of this spot. A variety of Italian dishes are offered, and they also deliver.646-490-8575

-- Paris Blues, 2021 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. Looking for a neighborhood bar with character? Paris Blues will provide that fix. It's a place fit for stumbling upon with its charming shack-like façade, equipped with fairy lights, a brown picket fence, a bulletin board of sorts and a cozy outdoor seating area, all inviting you in. There is live music seven days a week. 212-222-9878

-- The L Lounge, 2131 Frederick Douglass Blvd. This new watering hole is a prime spot for the end-of-week partying ritual. It offers a cozy lounge area and features a brightly lit, colorful bar. You can also sway to live jazz on some nights. 212-961-1010

-- The Cove, 325 Lenox Ave. Chic. Charming. Intimate. Party it up or cuddle up in this trendy lounge with a list of drinks from the Lenox sidecar cocktail to the Harlem apple martini. And if you want to get your eat on too, just order some sliders, skewers or the lobster mac and cheese. Dress code is casual chic, no athletic wear. 212-665-3455

-- Swing In Harlem, 1960 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. This swanky boutique offers unique fashion finds for women, men, kids and the home. You can snag items from all around the world. Owner Helena Greene intended for the space to reflect her travel experiences. 212-222-5802

-- Best Yet Market, 2187 Frederick Douglass Blvd. This Brooklyn-born establishment now has a branch firmly rooted in South Harlem. Grab all of your organic groceries here; there's even a sushi bar upstairs aptly named SuHa. They also deliver. 212-377-2300

-- Carol's Daughter, 24 W. 125th St. One of the biggest names in beauty products right now has its flagship store in this neighborhood. Their natural hair and skincare products cater to many different hair and skin types. 212-828-6757

-- Bébénoir Boutique, 2164 Frederick Douglass Blvd. Get a greater glimpse of the stunning West African influence in this part of Harlem when you step into Bébénoir Boutique. Founded by Guinee native Ibrahima Doukoure, this chic space offers a stylish mix of traditional African wear with a modern twist, all for affordable prices. 212-828-5775

-- Harlem Underground Clothing, 20 E. 125th St, or 2217 Frederick Douglass Blvd. This all Harlem-themed urban boutique is the third establishment from entrepreneur Leon Ellis, who is also behind Moca Lounge and Chocolat Lounge in SoHa. Find a T-shirt that represents Harlem pride or handmade jewelry by local designers, among other giftable items. 212-987-9385

-- Land Yoga, 2116 Frederick Douglass Blvd. Specializing in Ashtanga-style yoga, there's a class for everyone from novice to expert. They also offer wellness services and classes for kids. 212-866-5263

-- The Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 W. 125th St. Known for promoting the works of African American artists, The Studio Museum is a prime place to learn more about Harlem's culture and pride. Currently on view: Fore and Harlem Postcards Tenth Anniversary, among others. 212-864-4500

The rich cultural history of Harlem is always on display and there is no better place to sap up info about this changing neighborhood than through a tour. offers a two-hour walking tour through the nabe every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. gives a Taste of Harlem walking tour on most Mondays and a Harlem Renaissance walking tour on Saturdays.


Q&A with Norman Malcolm Hunt
Norman Malcolm Hunt was born and raised in Harlem and is the owner of King of Garbage, a business that specializes in cleaning and emptying out buildings. The 50-year-old father has witnessed the rapid transformation of the South Harlem area and is excited about what the changes could bring for the neighborhood.

Q: How has the neighborhood changed in recent years?
A: It's definitely gone from bad to better. It's safer now and there are more jobs in the area.

Q: What is one good thing about living here?
A: The diversity of the neighborhood. You have different cultures and now there's younger people moving in who want to do better for themselves.

Q: What's your prediction for how this area will be in five to 10 years?
A: In five years, you're not even going to recognize Harlem. We have so many new businesses popping up and even actors are investing money into properties; it's going to look like another Midtown.


The Buzz
Although South Harlem has seen an influx of new establishments, many long-time mom-and-pop stores have been forced to close their doors in recent years.

Reputable establishments such as Hue-Man Book Store, Tribal Spears Gallery and Café, Society Coffee Lounge and Harlemade, have all had to cut their losses.

According to, the Harlem Business Alliance acknowledges that there is a problem with small businesses being able to stay afloat.

In February, the alliance obtained a three-year $700,000 grant from the Community Economic Development Program in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The alliance plans to open a small business support center at their Lenox Avenue location with the funds. The center will help small businesses with payroll, budgeting, marketing and strategic planning services.

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