Not For Tourists Guide to New York City - Not For Tourists (2016)
Map 21. 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 District, 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.
Manhattanville / Hamilton Heights
✵ American Academy of Arts & Letters ✵
633 W 155th St [Riverside Dr]
New glass structure links it to the Hispanic Society.
✵ Audubon Terrace ✵ Broadway & W 155th St
Pleasant, if lonely, Beaux Arts complex. What’s it doing here?
✵ Bailey House ✵ 10 St Nicholas Pl [W 150th St]
Romanesque revival mansion from PT Barnum’s partner James Bailey.
✵ City College ✵ 160 Convent Ave [W 130th St]
Peaceful gothic campus.
✵ The Episcopal Church Of The Crucifixion ✵ 459 W 149th St [Convent Ave]
Whacked-out concrete church by Costas Machlouzarides, circa 1967.
✵ Hamilton Grange National Memorial ✵
414 W 141st St [St Nicholas Ave]
Alexander Hamilton’s house, twice relocated and now facing the wrong way. Damn those Jeffersonians!
✵ Hamilton Heights Historic District ✵
W 140th & W 145th St b/n Amsterdam &
St Nicholas Ave
192 houses, apartments, and churches on the National Registry of Historic Places. Who knew?
✵ Hispanic Society Museum ✵
613 W 155th St [Broadway]
Free museum (Tues-Sat) with Spanish masterpieces.
✵ Trinity Church Cemetery Graveyard of Heroes ✵ 3699 Broadway [W 153rd St]
Hilly, almost countryish cemetery.
✵ Café One ✵ 1619 Amsterdam Ave [W 139th St]
Free wifi, quality pastries, and reliable java.
✵ The Chipped Cup ✵ 3610 Broadway [149th St]
Fair trade, third wave, and fancy pastries.
✵ Manhattanville Coffee ✵
142 Edgecombe Ave [142nd St]
Quality cups and small bites.
✵ Grass Roots Farmers Market ✵
Edgecombe Ave & W 145th St
Tues & Sat 9 am-4 pm, Jul-Nov
✵ The Grange ✵
1635 Amsterdam Ave [W 141st St]
Crafted cocktails, great beers, and young creative menu.
✵ Harlem Public ✵ 3612 Broadway [W 149th St]
Good food, good drinks, exciting addition to neighborhood.
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.
✵ Ecuatoriana Restaurant ✵
1685 Amsterdam Ave [W 143rd St]
212-491-4626 ✵ $$
Legit Ecuadorian fare, sans guinea pig.
✵ Famous Fish Market ✵
684 St Nicholas Ave [W 145th St]
212-491-8323 ✵ $
Deep fried and from the sea.
✵ Food Hut ✵ 1709 Amsterdam Ave [W 144th St]
212-491-4492 ✵ $
Jerk chicken with a smile.
✵ Jesus’ Taco ✵ 501 W 145th St [Amsterdam Ave]
212-234-3330 ✵ $
Tacos and burgers.
✵ Jimbo’s Hamburger Palace ✵
528 W 145th St [Amsterdam Ave]
212-926-0338 ✵ $
Cheap, fast, easy burgers.
✵ La Oaxaquena Restaurant ✵
1969 Amsterdam Ave [W 157th St]
212-283-7752 ✵ $
One of the best in a parade of taquerias.
✵ Olga’s Pizza ✵ 3409 Broadway [W 138th St]
212-234-7878 ✵ $
Bare-bones pies, whole or by the slice.
✵ Picante ✵ 3424 Broadway [W 139th St]
212-234-6479 ✵ $$
Arguably Manhattanville’s best Mexican, plus affordable margs.
✵ Queen Sheeba ✵
317 W 141st St [Frederick Douglass Blvd]
212-862-6149 ✵ $
Cafeteria-style Middle Eastern that’s friendly on the wallet.
✵ Subsconcious ✵
1625 Amsterdam Ave [W 140th St]
212-690-0080 ✵ $
Standard sandwiches and full blown salad bar.
✵ Trufa ✵ 3431 Broadway [W 140th St]
212-281-6165 ✵ $$
Bistro featuring pastas and New American entrees.
✵ B-Jays USA ✵ 540 W 143rd St [Hamilton Pl]
Every sneaker under the sun.
✵ Bronx Spirits Liquors ✵
3375 Broadway [W 137th St]
For wine, sometimes reliable is all you need.
✵ Foot Locker ✵ 3549 Broadway [W 146th St]
Get your sneakers from a fake referee.
✵ Junior Bicycle Shop ✵
1820 Amsterdam Ave [W 150th St]
✵ Sister’s Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center ✵ 1942 Amsterdam Ave [W 156th St]
Books and events celebrating black women, amazing staff.
✵ Unity Liquors ✵
708 St Nicholas Ave [W 146th St]
Right by the subway, where all liquor stores should be.
✵ V.I.M. ✵ 508 W 145th St [Amsterdam Ave]
Street wear—jeans, sneakers, tops—for all.