As part of our Q&A series, Morningsider brings you exclusive interviews with neighborhood “Insiders.”  This week, we interview Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, Executive Director of Harlem Park to Park.

An accomplished businesswoman, entrepreneur and community leader, Nikoa Evans-Hendricks is a graduate of both Stanford University, where she earned a BA in Economics, and Northwestern University where she earned her MBA. Nikoa has worked as a corporate retail executive and business consultant for a number of national brands such as Nicole Miller, Iman Cosmetics and Anheuser-Busch and was also an owner of the successful Harlem shop, N Boutique. 

Extremely passionate about the Harlem community, Nikoa’s current focus is the Harlem merchants association Harlem Park to Park, where she serves as a founding member and executive director.

Q&A with Nikoa Evans-Hendricks: 

1. Tell us about Harlem Park to Park (HP2P)

Harlem Park to Park is the community improvement organization that represents the premiere commercial businesses located in Central Harlem. HP2P was founded in 2009 and is now 50+ members strong.  We develop marketing initiatives designed to promote the Harlem Park to Park neighborhood as the hub of NYC’s premiere dining, shopping, cultural and lifestyle venues north of 110th Street.

2. What inspired you to start Harlem Park to Park?

Sustainable economic development and commerce are critical to building a community that will thrive.  To create that sustainability, particularly in this new age, both progressive and traditional thinking are needed to ensure that Harlem advances at the pace of other destination cities and neighborhoods around the world and remains a top destination for tourism and for raising families. As a business owner in the neighborhood, I have a vested interest in being a part of a movement to expand the perception of Harlem and to promote the broad array of lifestyle and entertainment designation now available to residents in their own neighborhood as well as visitors to the neighborhood.

I wanted to be a part of shifting the paradigm in Harlem. Strategic collaboration among the businesses is essential to a neighborhood marketing strategy designed to brand and market the neighborhood as an entertainment destination; Harlem Park to Park was formed to be the platform for this type of collaboration.

 3. What exciting HP2P events can we look forward to in the coming months?

  • Harlem Restaurant and Retail Month

Harlem Park to Park will launch its 3rd annual Spring Harlem Restaurant and Retail Month on March 1st.  HP2P restaurants will offer a prix fixe menu of $20.12 for 3 course meals; HP2P retail stores/services will offer select items for $20.12. Visit www.facebook.com/harlemparktopark for list of prix fixe menus and retail items/services.

  •  Harlem Earth Day

HP2P will launch its first Harlem Earth Day initiative on April 22nd with a day of family friendly activities to promote the Earth Day mission to promote/increase awareness of environmental issues including Green Energy Use, Recycling, Clean Air, etc.  HP2P will develop a day of events that will highlight HP2P members and their efforts to integrate environmentally friendly initiatives within their businesses. These events will take place at multiple businesses and in the parks including planting, learning about recycling or composting, music education, movement, art, etc. All activities will be relevant to the Earth.  These neighborhood family friendly events will be designed to celebrate Earth Day and allow neighborhood residents/families to actively participate in environmentally friendly activities.  HP2P will work with the Parks Department to utilize the surrounding parks (Morningside Park, Marcus Garvey Park and Northern area of Central Park) and other outdoor spaces for these activities.  Participants will be encouraged to visit all the business and parks and receive stamps on their treasure map for each area they visit.  The event will culminate in one final location where the children will be able to create a collective earth art piece for display and families can enjoy art and music.

  •  HP2P and Grey Goose presents Harlem Battle of Bars -

HP2P and Grey Goose will partner for the launch of the brand’s newest flavored vodka.  A nightlife focused cocktail program will be developed for the launch and will include a brand sponsored “Battle of the Bars” competition among Harlem bars/restaurants for the best cocktail created using new flavored vodka.  The cocktail competition will take place during the last two weeks of April

  •  Sidewalk Café Crawl –                                                                      

Harlem Park to Park in partnership with Experience Harlem will produce the Harlem Restaurant Sidewalk Cafe Crawl.  Appetizer and entrée specials will be offered to patrons as they “crawl” from sidewalk cafe to sidewalk cafe along Lenox Avenue.  Proposed date for the event is Saturday May 5th to coincide with city wide Cinco de May celebrations.

  •  Harlem Harvest Festival will take place on October 6, 2012 -

The third annual Harlem Harvest Festival will be held on October 6, 2012.  The outdoor street  festival will include a Farmers’ Market with fresh produce and baked goods provided by local farmers; Wineries offering wine tasting samples; Breweries offering craft beer samples; a Fall menu tasting by HP2P restaurant members; products and services provided by HP2P retail members; and a live music, dance and fitness stage program hosted by Dj Stormin Norman of Sundae Sermon.  

4. Are there any specific projects you hope to tackle in the future?

We are very excited that Harlem Park to Park will be hosting the first Harlem Food and Wine Festival in partnership with the New York Wine & Grape Foundation in 2013. 

67 Orange - Credit - www.HarlemBespoke.com

5. What is your favorite Harlem hot spot?

So many places are great.  Really depends on my mood.  My favorites for casual dining are Native Restaurant, The Harlem Tavern and Sylvia’s. For upscale dining I love Melba’s, Red Rooster Harlem, Chocolat. For international cuisine I love Chez Lucienne, Ristorante Settepani and Lido Harlem. And the absolute best place for a cocktail in Harlem is 67 Orange Street.

6. How can other local Harlem business become involved in HP2P?

Contact us at info@harlemparktopark.org or www.facebook.com/harlemparktopark

7. Anything else you would like to add?

Harlem as a neighborhood has also experienced segmentation much like the rest of NYC in that neighborhoods within the neighborhood have developed.  The HP2P neighborhood which has become the “HIPSTER” neighborhood in Harlem.  Harlem is hot now, a scene, a place to be in NYC and should be considered an exciting destination for all of the same experiences one considers available in other parts of NYC. Harlem offers broader diversity of experiences than ever before.  We now have it all as well, but we have it with Harlem’s unique flavor.