Evicted Harlem imam finds new holy house in El Barrio after months long search

Imam Souleimane Konate has found a new holy house in El Barrio on 115th St. near Madison Ave.

Imam Souleimane Konate has found a new holy house in El Barrio on 115th St. near Madison Ave.

After seven long months without a holy house, a Harlem imam and his 1,500 followers have found a new home in El Barrio. Imam Souleimane Konate of Masjid Aqsa Mosque and his congregants were booted out of their house of prayer on Frederick Douglass Blvd. and W. 116th St. in October.

Their prayers have been answered.

After seven long months without a holy house, a Harlem Imam and his 1,500 followers have found a new home in El Barrio.

“I was always confident and positive that this day would come that we could have a new house in Harlem for the congregation to worship,” said Imam Souleimane Konate of Masjid Aqsa Mosque.

He and his congregants were booted out of the house of prayer on Frederick Douglass Blvd. near W 116th St. — their home for more than 15 years — last October after a rent dispute with the building’s landlord.

The staunch man of the cloth dished out $14,000 Thursday to rent two floors in the three-story Cafe Teatro Julia de Burgos building, on E. 115th St. near Madison Ave.

Longtime member Fanta Sylla was so thrilled by the news that she danced.

“I was so happy,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for this for almost eight months.”

Konate’s previous landlord, Joseph Rabizadeh, has said he wants to put up a residential complex where the former mosque and five other shuttered businesses were located. It would be a familiar sight along Frederick Douglass Blvd., which is home to rows of newly built high-rent apartments.

Konate said he was turned down by other Harlem landlords who preferred renting to a restauranteur or housing fancy condos to a mosque.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/harlem-imam-blessed-new-prayer-space-eviction-article-1.1810447#ixzz33LdlIDQz


Harlem’s Restaurant Row to offer food trucks and vendors starting May 10

Food trucks like Luke’s Lobster and Mr. Nice Guy will be setting up shop on Frederick Douglass Blvd. when Harlem Eats returns on May 10. The food fest will take place every Saturday until Nov. 1.

Harlem’s bustling Restaurant Row will have a fleet of new four-wheeled competitors beginning next month.

The Harlem Food Truck Rally, which included Mr. Nice Guy and Luke’s Lobster, was such a success on April 5 that food trucks and street vendors will be returning every Saturday starting May 10.

The Harlem Food Truck Rally, which included Mr. Nice Guy and Luke’s Lobster, was such a success on April 5 that food trucks and street vendors will be returning every Saturday starting May 10.

A week after a successful dry run, food trucks and vendors — including some from the community — will be a recurring fixture each Saturday on Frederick Douglass Blvd. when Harlem Eats returns May 10, organizers told The News.

“It’s going to be an eclectic mix of food trucks and gourmet street food vendors,” said Jessica Chornesky, founder of Harlem Eats, which originally launched under the name Harlem Food Truck Rally on April 5.

The first-ever Harlem Food Truck Rally, which drew popular cheeseteak purveyor Shorty’s and sliders from Mr. Nice Guy, descended on a vacant Frederick Douglass Blvd. lot — also known as Restaurant Row — between W. 117th and 118th Sts.

For many Harlemites, the sight of a fleet of food trucks — usually more common south of 125th St. — was a promising development in the rapidly changing neighborhood.

You don’t see food trucks in Harlem,” said Chornesky, a 12-year Harlem resident and former soup vendor. “You don’t have the opportunity unless you go downtown.”

The Gorilla Cheese truck also participated in the Harlem Food Truck Rally.

The Gorilla Cheese truck also participated in the Harlem Food Truck Rally.

Chornesky hopes the event will also give a boost to up-and-coming local vendors, like Jamaican spot Jerk Shack, and give families looking to eat out an affordable option.

“You can eat a la carte, and you can eat really good food at half of the price of a restaurant,” said Chornesky, who noted that the Saturday fest will run through Nov. 1.

Monday, April 14, 2014, 7:18 PM

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/food-fest-bringing-food-trucks-harlem-article-1.1756226#ixzz2yuuQf2Y3

Harlem’s Frederick Douglass Blvd. is home to a restaurant renaissance

Exciting new food scene represented by eateries such as The Park 112, Vinateria, Harlem Food Bar, Lido and Harlem Tavern

The jerk prawns with cheese grits at Park 112 in Harlem

The jerk prawns with cheese grits at Park 112 in Harlem

Harlem has emerged as one of the city’s hottest dining scenes in recent years. Now, a new crop of restaurants is upping the game again.

The center of activity is Frederick Douglass Blvd. — Eighth Ave. north of 110th St. — known as Harlem’s Restaurant Row.

Pioneers like 5 and Diamond, Zoma, and Chocolat lead the charge there. But a new wave of hot spots are building on the boom they started — from the wine-focused The Park 112 to Italian restaurant Vinateria to the hip Harlem Food Bar.

Pouring the El De Ruben cocktail from Vinateria in Harlem

Pouring the El De Ruben cocktail from Vinateria in Harlem

The boulevard’s transformation started a decade ago, when New York City rezoned 44 blocks in south-central Harlem. At the time, 40% of the boulevard’s 226 storefronts were vacant.

The resulting condo boom fueled a rush of restaurants as entrepreneurs jumped in to serve a growing population. And the latest eateries on FDB may be the most exciting yet, with a gamut of cuisines and moods to rival any downtown neighborhood.

The burger from Vinateria in Harlem

The burger from Vinateria in Harlem

Here are five of the street’s most happening newcomers, from a hyper-hip wine bar to a sexy trattoria to a one-time gas station that’s become the hood’s coolest watering hole.

The new kid on the block, The Park 112 opened last month with a sumptuous, supper-club interior and an accent on wine. But even with glittering chandeliers and tufted-leather banquettes, there’s a friendly vibe that makes this sophisticated spot cheerful.

Owner Yvette Leeper-Bueno (l.) and executive chef Gustavo Lopez at Vinateria

Owner Yvette Leeper-Bueno (l.) and executive chef Gustavo Lopez at Vinateria

“With an average of 25 people moving to Harlem every day, people are looking for a dining experience they get downtown but with a touch of uptown soul,” says owner Lew Tucker.

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Artimus Construction to Build Housing on 110th Street near Central Park

HARLEM — Artimus Construction was chosen by the Economic Development Corporation to build a 50-unit apartment building with space for a local dance group on 110th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

110th Street Gas Station Redeveloped

110th Street Gas Station Redeveloped

The 13,500-square-foot lot on the northwest corner of Central Park North at 2040 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, which contained a gas station and was described by the city as the last underutilized piece of property on Central Park, was bought by Artimus for $25 million.

The company, which has built several projects in Harlem, plans a development that is 80-percent market-rate and 20-percent affordable.

The building could be 12 stories tall without requiring any zoning changes. The ground floor will also contain a retail space.

Millennium Dance Company, currently located in a 3,000 square foot space on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 135th and 136th streets will occupy 8,000 square feet of space on the first floor. The dance company provides classes for children and adults with a pre-professional track for youth.

“This planned mixed use space has a really nice balance of market rate and affordable housing, cultural space and community space,” said a NYCEDC spokeswoman.

The former BP gas station, one of the few in the area, closed down recently. It was believed to be the only gas station along Central Park.

The former owner of the space Carmie Elmore Jr., vice president of 110th Street Service Station, Inc., owned the space but the city maintained the right to reacquire the property as part of the 1996 deed of sale.

Elmore had filed suit against the city but came to a settlement, said city officials who declined to disclose the amount. Calls to Artimus were not immediately returned.

Workers were seen dismantling the gas station Wednesday.

NYCEDC issued a request for expressions of interest for the chance to redevelop the 13,500 square foot space on the northwest corner of Central Park North at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 110th Street in June of 2012 and received “robust” interest in the project from developers. They then issued a request for proposals.

Area groups such as the Friends of Frederick Douglass Circle say they want whatever is built there to fit in with the recently renovated circle.

The circle is at the entrance to a revived Frederick Douglass Boulevard which has seen an explosion in the last several years of restaurants, bars, lounges, co-ops, condos and newly renovated apartment buildings.

By Jeff Mays on December 19, 2013 8:54am


Evicted mosque’s Iman is having a hard time finding new home in evolving Harlem neighborhood

Masjid Aqsa Mosque, with a 1,500-member congregation, has been shunned by  landlords who would rather build luxury apartments.

Imam Souleimane Konate and congregants of the Masjid Aqsa Mosque in Harlem are now without a place of worship after they were evicted more than a week ago. The owner wants to build apartments.

Imam Souleimane Konate and congregants of the Masjid Aqsa Mosque in Harlem are now without a place of worship after they were evicted more than a week ago. The owner wants to build apartments.

A Harlem Imam and his 1,500-member congregation were evicted from their  longtime house of worship — and so far finding a new home in one of Manhattan’s  most quickly evolving neighborhoods has proven quite a challenge .

The man of Allah says he’s been shunned by Harlem landlords, who would  rather develop luxury apartments. “It’s very difficult to get a place in  Harlem now,” said Imam Souleimane Konate, of Masjid Aqsa Mosque, which operated  on Frederick Douglass Blvd. near W. 116th St. for about 15 years. “Not only is  the rent high, but it is difficult for people to accept the mosque.”

Konate says he has identified viable locations nearby, but so far their  owners have declined to tender him a lease.

Condominiums are sprouting up along Frederick Douglass Blvd. The posh Limore Condominiums are across the street from the shuttered mosque.

Condominiums are sprouting up along Frederick Douglass Blvd. The posh Limore Condominiums are across the street from the shuttered mosque.

The saga began two weeks ago, when city marshals evicted Konate after an  ongoing rent dispute with the building owner, Joseph Rabizadeh. The enterprising  owner would not comment on the dispute, but told the Daily News he plans to  begin construction on a residential complex at the former site of the mosque and  a row of five shuttered businesses.

I’m going to to develop the property,” Rabizadeh said, adding only that “they knew for two years” that this day would come.

It’s becoming a common dynamic along Frederick Douglass Blvd., where a chain  of posh residences have sprouted up in succession .

 The roughly 15-year-old mosque has been the heart of Harlem’s Little Africa  and served as a local community hub, providing educational, employment and other  services to African immigrants.

“The mosque was the umbrella, the house of the community,” said Fuad Meygag,  51. “If you were looking for a job, shelter or food . . . people new to the  country and needed help integrating (came here).”

There are other mosques nearby, but Konate said his center was also the only  one that provided religious services in French and Arabic, as well as  English.

Konate, whose lease expired last fall, said he knew his time on Frederick  Douglass Blvd. was limited. Rabizadeh charged in housing court that Konate owed  him $18,423 in back rent.

Konate argued he kept up with rent payments which had jumped from $4,000 to  $10,000 a month in recent years. The matter will be settled in court.

It looks like a long road for Konate and his congregants, who may find it  increasingly difficult to land a new home.

Frederick Douglass Blvd. was once a seedy strip, but its revitalization has  posed a threat to houses of worship

“Religious institutions that do not own their real estate are subject to the  whims of change of this real estate market,” said Curtis Archer, president of  the Harlem Development Corp., adding that ownership “ensures longevity.”

That, unfortunately, was not the reality for Konate and his congregants, who  now find themselves displaced .

“Everyone is calling me and saying ‘Imam, what are you going to do? Do you  have a plan for us?’ ” Konate said. “I have to get a place for them.”


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/evicted-mosque-find-new-home-harlem-article-1.1511483#ixzz2kGbn8zbJ

New Harlem tea shop heals the community, customers say

Serengeti Teas and Spices offers hundreds of leafy blends, many from Africa.

Caranda Martin is happy to help customers with his soothing African teas at his new shop, Serengeti Teas and Spices.

Caranda Martin is happy to help customers with his soothing African teas at his new shop, Serengeti Teas and Spices.

Harlemites wouldn’t give up their new favorite shop for all the tea in Africa.

Serengeti Teas and Spices, which opened two weeks ago on Frederick Douglass  Blvd. near W. 123rd St., has not only become instantly popular — it’s also being  credited with curing the sick.

“This shop is great,” said Henry Mattox, 51, who claims a bubbling mix of  hibiscus and rooibos, a South African red leaf, reduced his 4-year-old son’s  103-degree fever in hours.

“It broke his fever,” Mattox said. “I know it was because of the tea. I’m a  believer in it.”

Harlem resident Henry Mattox says the tea cured his sick 4-year-old son, Jamel.

Harlem resident Henry Mattox says the tea cured his sick 4-year-old son, Jamel.

Shop owner Caranda Martin, a Liberian native, opened Serengeti Teas to offer  hundreds of blends, many from Africa, just to name a few.

Martin, whose grandmother was a botanist, credited the antioxidents in the  tea he sold Mattox for his son’s quick recovery.

“Herbs are good for your body,” said Martin, who formerly worked for Red  Rooster owner Marcus Samuelsson. “The teas have a nutritious factor. That is our  objective here.”

The shop is cozy with chairs, comfy ottomans and a long wooden table for  laptop tappers, a common laborer in many Manhattan neighborhoods.

Harlem native Christopher Pearson stopped by Sunday to enjoy an iced blood  orange tea, which comes from Sri Lanka.

“It’s never been nothing like this in Harlem,” he said. “It adds to what’s  going on in Harlem now. I like it.”

Serengeti Teas and Spices, 2292 Frederick Douglass Blvd. near W. 123rd  St., (212) 866-7100. For info, visit http://www.serengetiteasandspices.com.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/tea-africa-article-1.1472129#ixzz2goMhKjgb

Vegan soul food restaurant set to open on Frederick Douglass Blvd. in Harlem

Harlem’s first full-service, vegan soul food restaurant is about to work its magic with yams that taste like crawfish, lotus roots that pass for barbecued riblets and a medley of soy and seitan with the zest of smothered Southern chicken.

Chef Brenda Beener and her son Aaron will be opening Seasoned Vegan in Harlem in August. First, they're trying to raise $20,000 to help pay their start-up costs.  Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/meatless-nondairy-soul-food-style-restaurant-set-open-frederick-douglass-blvd-harlem-article-1.1091805#ixzz1xLQIO1fH

Chef Brenda Beener and her son Aaron will be opening Seasoned Vegan in Harlem in August. First, they’re trying to raise $20,000 to help pay their start-up costs.

In an area long plagued by frightening rates of obesity and diabetes, Seasoned Vegan will offer meatless and nondairy feasts with no gluten or animal fat — and it will apply for kosher certification to dramatically broaden its appeal.

“One of our goals quite simply is to increase longevity and improve the health of the neighborhood we love,” says Brenda Beener, 57, the chef, founder and co-owner.

“And we will satisfy even the most skeptical of carnivores at the same time,” vows her partner and son Aaron, 27.

The budding mother-and-son entrepreneurs plan to open in August on a booming stretch of Frederick Douglass Blvd. near 116th St. that has emerged in recent years as Harlem’s Restaurant Row.

Employing 15 people, Seasoned Vegan will occupy 1,800 square-feet on two levels with an upscale, 30-seat restaurant above a ground-floor lounge offering smoothies and “vegan-style alcohol.”

Soulful entrees created with “mock” meat and fish — and a savory mac and cheese sampled by the Daily News that doesn’t really use any cheese — will be priced between $13 and $18.

“Our neighborhood has sometimes been called a food desert because we just don’t have enough healthy choices,” said Thomas Lunke, director of planning at the Harlem Community Development Corp.

“Brenda is creating a home-grown business using fat-free ingredients that will help to change all that.”

But there’s still one obstacle: money.

The Beeners expect to spend $250,000 to acquire and outfit the restaurant space and cover rent and operating expenses for a year. They’re seeking a bank loan that would require a 20% downpayment, or $50,000.

To help them reach that sum, they’ve launched a campaign on Kickstarter.com, which provides funding for creative projects online by asking friends, vegans and supporters to kick in another $20,000.

With 22 days left in the 30-day campaign, they’ve lined up 48 backers who’ve pledged $2,397 so far.

Would-be contributors can view the Beeners’ pitch at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1518430027/seasoned-vegan-a-full-service-vegan-restaurant-in


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/meatless-nondairy-soul-food-style-restaurant-set-open-frederick-douglass-blvd-harlem-article-1.1091805#ixzz1xLQ8RYVp

Harlem Merchants Band together to put Frederick Douglass Blvd. on Business Guide Map

Frederick Douglass Blvd., has become a prime culinary destination and … winner of the Best Neighborhood Award … in 2011.
Harlem’s trendy Frederick Douglass Blvd. is now on the map. Literally.

Merchants and community leaders from uptown’s new “it” neighborhood have created a colorful guide to market services and stores from W. 110th St., to W. 124th St., hoping to lure shoppers and tourists to “The Gateway to Harlem.”

Lia SanFilippo (left) and Selene Martinez (right), are the owners of 5 & Diamond restaurant, located at 2072 Frederick Douglass Blvd. in Harlem

“There are so many reasons to come to the neighborhood now,” said Lia San Filippo, co-owner of the hip new “5 and Diamond” restaurant and co-president of the recently formed Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance (FDBA).

“And that’s why the map is so important,” she said. “It helps people know that we are here and helps them find us easily.

The other night, we had customers who came from 110th St. and one woman said, ‘Oh my God, I have been living here 20 years and never walked in this direction.’ ”

The FDBA represents 45 of the businesses on the street, including Harlem Vintage, the first upscale wine store, hip new butcher shop Harlem Shambles and the first supermarket, Best Yet. There’s also Land Yoga, Harlem Children’s Zone, two beer gardens and the classic old gas stations and beauty salons that line the boulevard.

“The most important thing about the map is that there is something to put on it,” said Hans Futterman, who designed the upscale condo 2280 FDB and three more condos on nearby Harlem streets.

“For decades,” he said, “you could drive up and down FDB and there was little to attract your attention of any positive nature – just a lot of vacant, burned out blocks, drug dealers – things that made people feel they wanted to hurry through the neighborhood.”

The dramatic transformation was spurred by a 2004 rezoning of the boulevard which the paved the way for more high-rise residential construction and ground-level retail space at a time when 40% of the street’s 226 storefronts were vacant.

Today, Frederick Douglass Blvd. has become a prime culinary destination and was the winner of the Best Neighborhood Award given by the Curbed NY blog in 2011.

The Alliance plans to mail the map to 1,200 households and have it posted on Columbia University’s student and faculty websites.

Merchants say they are there to stay, and have been able to rejuvenate the historic boulevard with the joint help of the Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center, the Harlem Community Development Corp., Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Office.

Marcelo Orve, owner of MB Dry Cleaners, was one of the first new businesses to open on the street 11 years ago, when crime and empty lots were the norm.

“When we first came in 2001 we had the doors locked all the time,” said Orve, relaxing behind the counter of his store last Tuesday night. “Little by little, more developers came. Now, everyone wants to be here.”


Calling it a night?: Harlem Bars Slam Community Board Proposal

Barkeeps say 2am close would kill business 

HARLEM BAR AND RESTAURANT owners fear that a new proposal requiring local establishments to stop serving liquor at 2 a.m. could close the tab on their late night business.

The proposal, initiated last week by Community Board 10’s Economic Development Committee, would require new businesses seeking a liquor license recommendation from CB 10 to agree to stop serving two hours earlier than the 4 a.m. norm in the rest of the city.

“The entire city is open until 4 a.m. so if Harlem bars were to close at 2, it would put us at an extreme disadvantage,” said Sherri Wilson-Daly, one of the owners of the popular Harlem Tavern on W. 116th St.

“For them to put our businesses at a disadvantage like that is doing a real disservice to the community.”

Although CB 10 cannot change the hours of operations for existing businesses, the board can omit their liquor license recommendation for new businesses seeking approval from the New York State Liquor Authority.

CB 10 is still in the early stage of the proposal process and will further examine the effects of the plan before moving forward, said CB 10 Chair Henrietta Lyle.

“There’s still a lot of work being done looking at the economic effect and police reports by the community board,” said Lyle. “It is still in the early stages.”

As more bars and restaurants continue to pop up in bustling Central Harlem, CB 10 aims to limit the late night crowds that have appeared in other bar-ridden areas of Manhattan, like Murray Hill and the Meatpacking District.

“They’re nervous that Harlem will become like the Lower East Side or Meatpacking District with lots of people in the streets, but we are still very far away from that,” said

Susannah Koteen, the proprietor of the Italian restaurant Lido on Frederick Douglass Blvd. and W.117th th.

“We’re keeping people in the community, hiring people from the community and bringing money into the community, so it seems strange that would want to hinder business,” she added.

In August, CB 6 approved a similar proposal forcing bars and restaurants in the Murray Hill area to meet with the New York State Liquor Authority if they wanted to keep serving later than 2 a.m.

“It’s hard to do business in Manhattan,” said Koteen. “If businesses want to stay open a little later and make a few extra bucks, why not?”

BY Joseph Tepper

A Harlem Block Comes Together Over Crime

Long time residents and newcomers of 114th St. come together

Roberta Coleman has seen it all on her beloved Harlem block.

For the nearly 40 years she has lived on W. 114th St. between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvds., there’s been a turf war between the mothers and grandmothers on the tree-lined street and the never-ending stream of drug dealers.

Profile of W. 114th - between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvds. has been a haven for drug dealers for decades. Now with new condos being built, young urban professionals are joining forces with long time public housing residents to rid their storied block of crime.

But now there is hope that power may finally be shifting for good to the long-suffering, law-abiding citizens of the storied block.

With gentrification moving at a blazing pace in Harlem, Coleman, still going strong at 67 as president of the public housing tenant’s association, has a new partner in fighting crime: the young urban professionals who have moved into two luxury condos on the corner.

After two murders on the block this summer – not involving people who lived there – newcomers and oldtimers have joined forces to drive out the dealers.

“Whatever help we can get to make it a better block and get rid of the crackheads, we are happy about it,” said Coleman, noting that most of the 300 people who remain are senior citizens, many of whom are afraid to go out at night.

Coleman said she was initially angry the condo owners did not reach out to her and her neighbors, but were able to get the prompt attention of local officials and police with their calls and letters.

“Without getting to know the residents, they lumped us together as if were were all animals and drug dealers,” she said.

It’s a sociological and economic earthquake on the street, where long-time residents of NYCHA’s Philip Randolph Houses never expected to see $500,000 to $1 million dollar apartments replace vacant lots. Or restaurants that charge $26 for shrimp and grits.

Young professionals have been moving in, drawn to new, roomier apartments that cost less than other parts of Manhattan. They are also drawn to Harlem for its rich history and friendly feel, where long time residents, many of whom moved to New York from the South in the 60s and 70s, still greet each other with a warm hello on the street.

“It seems like everyone wants the same thing-a safe environment,” said condo president Ron Peterson, who moved in with his wife last year after working abroad.

“The hardest part for us was coming home on a Saturday night and have police escort you around crime tape. That was very strange, especially for people with kids.”

Peterson and Coleman are now the dynamic duo of W. 114th St. They have planned a Christmas tree lighting at 5pm Sunday on the block, with condo owners and residents baking cookies and making hot chocolate.

Local officials and police will be on hand as well, including State Senator Bill Perkins, who has an office on the block and recently held a community forum on the quality of issues life facing the block and the area.

“The good news is the coming together of those who have been here and those who just arrived to move the community forward,” said Perkins. “Unfortunately, the common ground is as a result of drug dealing and guns. But you have to give credit to the leadership on W. 114th Street for having persevered and having kept the faith.”

There was a time some 30 years ago when more than 600 children gave the block life, playing jump rope and riding bicycles while grownups looked on from their stoops.

The drug of choice was heroin then, users keeping to themselves, said Coleman. Now it’s crack with “younger players who have no respect for themselves or the community.”

Coleman, who moved in as a young mother from Alabama in 1975, said she welcomes her new -and mostly white-neighbors.

“It looks like we are all on the same page now,” she said.

“No one really wants to move because we love our street. We are here to stay.”

BY Heidi Evans