NFT New York Manhattanville / Hamilton Heights

Manhattanville / Hamilton Heights

Hamilton Heights doesn't quite feel like Manhattan. Wedged between the Hudson River to the west and St. Nicholas Park to the east, this neighborhood of hilly parks, museums and beautiful old brownstones offers a pleasant respite from the concrete and steel of the rest of the island. Columbia University's continuing expansion threatens to throw gentrification into double-time, but even in the face of rising rents, Alexander Hamilton's former country estate retains almost a bucolic feel.

Counting landmark buildings in Hamilton Heights is like keeping track of nuns in Rome. The number is staggering, but none are as striking as City College's white and brick Neo-Gothic buildings; turrets, towers, and gargoyles practically litter the historic campus. For classic New York, mosey up to the Hamilton Heights Historic DistrictSee more.

>, just north of City College, where stunning homes line the streets where Alexander Hamilton's original home sat; Hamilton Grange National Memorial has since been moved to nearby St. Nicholas Park. The Bailey House, the home of P.T. Barnum's partner James Bailey, is one of the coolest residences in all of Manhattan, and probably the only one built on a circus fortune. For crazy concrete church design, nothing beats the Church of the Crucifixion.

Sure, the authorities built Riverbank State Park to appease residents after the city dumped a sewage plant along the river, but it's a great neighborhood resource and includes a roller skating rink, running track, and a soccer field. Skip the gym fees, and swim laps at the nice indoor pool. The Trinity Cemetery Graveyard of Heroes feels almost otherworldly, with lovely rolling paths that feel out of place in Upper Manhattan. Several Astors, Charles Dickens' son and John James Audubon are all buried here, as is three-term mayor Ed Koch. St. Nicholas Park is worth a visit just for its spacious lawns, but don't miss Hamilton Grange. The National Park Service restored the building after moving it to the park in 2009.

In a city where museums charge in excess of $20 just to elbow strangers for a glimpse of a Botticelli, the Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library is miraculous. Admission is free to the museum and reference library, which showcases the arts and cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. Browse the society's prints, paintings and artifacts, but linger in Audubon Terrace. The square-city block plot was named for the famous naturalist, John James Audubon, who once farmed in Washington Heights. The land became a cultural center in 1904 and also houses the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Years of neglect left the terrace looking drab, but a a recent glass structure addition linking the Academy of Arts and Letters and the Hispanic Society signals a welcome rejuvenation.

Harlem Public serves up good food and great drinks and is a welcome addition to a somewhat sparse nightlife scene.

Meander up Broadway for your pick of taquerias and Dominican eats. Picante boasts some of the nabe's best sit-down Mexican. Cheap Middle Eastern can be found at Queen Sheeba. Trufa provides a bistro option.

Check out B-Jays USA for every sneaker under the sun, Felix Supply Hardware for stocking up on basics, and V.I.M. for duds and kicks; when someone says they're the best jeans and sneaker store in America, you should probably pay attention


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Layne Mosler
Photo:  Layne Mosler

This 8-table coffeehouse may be tiny, but owner/artist/cook/baker Georgia Scott manages to squeeze the spirit of seven continents into the space. If the exposed brick and street-facing windows don't woo you, Scott's carefully selected collection of books from around the world, her house-made desserts (including a righteous berry cheesecake), and her loose leaf teas (especially Persian pomegranate) will. A former New York Times Art Director, Scott claims to have perfected the sugar cookie, and she keeps goodies around for anyone who wants to come in and decorate a few. Scott also spent several years traveling to 53 countries to photograph female head dresses. Lucky for Harlem, she's decided to put down roots and channel her creative energy into what may be the most charming cafe in the neighborhood.

Posted By:  Ryan Joe
Photo:  Ryan Joe

City College
The problem with most contact sports is that they’re almost exclusively played by men. This always seemed counter-intuitive to me because in high school, the girlfights were the nastiest. The boys would use fists but the girls would use fists and hair (Porphyria’s Lover-style) and fishhooks and ankle locks and heel hooks. Those are illegal in roller derby, but each game does feature some world-class pounding. The Gotham Girls Roller Derby is broken into four competing squads: the Bronx Gridlock, the Queens of Pain, the Manhattan Mayhem, and the Brooklyn Bombshells. Staten Island is conspicuously missing. And these girls, with names like Beatrix Slaughter and Donna Matrix, play hard. The November 17 champion should require at least a dozen mops for cleanup. And even for those spectators who are just coming into the sport (as I am), you can always pick out an individual player to root for. My favorite is Beyonslay, who looks like Frank Gore.

Doors 6:30PM, Whistle 8:30 PM GA - $19.75 in advance, $23 at door VIP - $29.75 advance only

Posted By:  Joshua Cochran
Photo:  Joshua Cochran

St Nick's Pub
Somebody told me the other day that jazz is dying. Well, I looked this fool right in the eye and said, “It ain’t jazz that’s dying, my man, it’s you.” I said this because jazz is more than alive and well, it’s still kicking out teeth. It’s definitely not sitting on some old porch in a rocking chair, not yet, no way. Some of the truest jazz in the City can be heard at St. Nick’s Pub, in Harlem. Monday night jam sessions turn to gold, and Friday and Saturday nights are often standing-room only. Music starts as early as 6pm, but don’t look for things to get sweaty until at least 10pm. The service is down-home and true Harlem charm, and there’s never a cover. There’s also a patio for spillover and for all the smokers. Drinks are a bit pricey in order to cover the costs, but it’s more than worth it. Why pay $20 cover to hear canned jazz when you can come to where jazz—one of America’s greatest contributions to art—sprung from the soils? Don’t be a damn fool and get over to St. Nick’s.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

St Nick's Pub
Highly, highly recommended. A brilliant band shows up every Saturday night to play African music from about 10:30 pm to 4 am. They really get going around the second set, usually from 12:30 to 2 am. Several of them are true hotshots when it comes to instrumentation—including the bass player and the guitarist, as well as the rotating set of four djembe players. The drummers sit up front—as well they should, since even the cheesiest African pop that the band sometimes dredges up is always mitigated by their rhythms. The players and their music are from several different African countries (Mali, Niger, and Cameroon, to name a few) and at least half a dozen of the musicians sing as well. With no cover and $5 beers, you can hang out for several hours and it will cost you no more than $20 all night. Go before it’s not happening any more! You can take the A train to 145th St and St. Nicholas. photo: Rob Tallia

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Restaurants (16)
Nightlife (2)
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