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4 tales about staying in Harlem for 2 weeks

Updated: Apr 16, 2018

yellow cab nyc, queens taxi driver, harmen van der vaart
Driving through Queens in a yellow cab

"Are you sure this is your apartment?" // No 1.

Asked our concerned taxi driver when we arrived at our apartment on 126th Street in the infamous neighborhood Harlem (Manhattan). "Uhhh, yes." I replied and got a little nervous about our safety for the coming two weeks.

The hosts of our apartment soon came to meet us after we called and they kindly explained all the details about our lovely brownstone house from 1910. 'The neighborhood can get rough at times but during the daytime you should be fine.', they told us. This was reassuring enough for us, so okay, bring it on!

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, harlem, 125th St., harmen van der vaart
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building on the left

"Excuse me sir, did you hear a gunshot?" // No. 2

The policeman asked politely after I had shut the front door to go outside. "No, I just came out for a smoke." I answered. It was about 10 o'clock in the evening. A big part of the street was blocked by Police Line Do Not Cross barrier tape. It appeared there had just been a drive-by shooting aimed at a person sitting in a car only thirty feet away from my walk-up. Detectives were busy scamming the parameter for evidence while I was finishing my cigarette. Yes, it's true, at night things can get rough in Harlem.

brownstones harlem, 126th St., harmen van der vaart
Big movie production trucks in front of our apartment

"Can I see your ID?" // No. 3

The cashier asked at the local supermarket. I wanted to buy a couple of beers so she needed to verify my age. A bit surprised I said, "sure", and showed my passport. Every night on our way home we visited different shops in Harlem to do our groceries and this was the first time somebody asked about my age. We were staying in Harlem for two weeks and at the time we didn't have the budget to go out to diner every night so we often prepared a meal in our apartment. Going to grocery stores when you're on a journey is always very entertaining. 'It's the little differences' (VINCENT VEGA).

Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, harmen van der vaart
Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd

"This neighborhood isn't safe." // No. 4

Said the old lady behind her grocery filled walker. We were trying to get a yellow cab to JFK Airport on 7th Avenue near 125th Street. After spending two weeks in Harlem it was time to head home. We didn't regret staying in Harlem for one moment. Our apartment was huge, the services were great and it was a good starting point to explore the city. I looked at the nice old lady and told her: "No worries, were going home."

Broadway & W 125th St subway station, harmen van der vaart
Broadway & W 125th St subway station


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