Day Twelve: Washington Heights 177th Street & West of Broadway September 8th, 2015

I finished the remainder of the my walk of the lower part of Fort Tyron Park today. What a scorcher of a day at 95F and the humidity was not great either. The initial part of this walk started at the middle of the park at the 190 Street station. Take the elevator from the subway station to the top floor and exit through the park. You will be in front of the Margaret Corbin Circle, a beautifully landscaped cul-de -sac at the lower end of the park, where the buses drop everyone off. In season, the flowers are a colorful bouquet of different varieties with the green of the trees in the background.

I walked around the Stan Michels Promenade past the Heather Gardens. It is such a great place to stroll and look at the various plantings. I was floored when I saw crocuses blooming this time of year when they are a Spring flower. The Heather Gardens to the side of the promenade was in full bloom and I took the time out to see what was planted. All sorts of birds, butterflies and bees make this their home so be on the look out for things flying around.

I stopped for lunch at the New Leaf Café at 1 Margaret Corbin Drive. This pretty little restaurant is as you enter the park and a short walk from the subway terminal. I have to admit that the restaurant is just beautiful with a great location and the view from the patio is pretty spectacular but the food doesn’t match it. The cheeseburger I ordered nicely cooked with no flavor, the fries were standard and the dessert menu was pretty boring. It can be pricey on the lunch menu so stick to the sandwiches.

The service is friendly and attentive. The waiter I had, Sarah, was explaining to me how she was training in some new people and was a little distracted. I thought she was perfectly fine. I told her I loved the view and the restaurant but the meal did not match the atmosphere. She explained that they are still working on the dessert menu and new things are being added. It is a place to visit for the view alone. (Note to readers: You can see all my restaurant and attraction reviews on TripAdvisor)

I relaxed after lunch on the Linden Terrace, a stone terrace that has views of the park and in the distance, the Hudson River. It is a great place to relax in the shade on a hot day and read a book or the paper. I plotted my game plan of the neighborhood and took the elevator back down to Broadway and walked from 190th Street to 177th Street. It was a nice walk on a hot day.

Fort Tyron Park has an interesting history. The park is named after Sir William Tyron, the last British Governor of the Providence of New York. It was donated to the City by John D. Rockefeller Jr in 1935 after buying the old C. K. G. estate and employing the firm of the Olmstead Brothers, who created Central Park, to redesign it into a park. The Battle of Fort Washington was fought here during the Revolutionary War and the first women to fight in Battle here, Margaret Corbin (who the road is named after) was wounded here. The park had fallen in hard times in the 70’s and 80’s and has now received a full restoration (Wiki).

Fort Tryon Park I

Walking under the George Washington Bridge is something new for me. You never realize how busy that bridge is until you walk under it and around it. I was surprised by all the construction around the bridge. It seems that they are building retail space under the bridge. Who knew you could develop upscale shopping under the George Washington Bridge.

As I walked around 177th Street on the west side of Broadway the one thing I noticed was the classic housing stock around Cabrini and Haven Avenues. It is really beautiful with elegant entrances and pillared fronts. The buildings do need some work but this area has interesting housing stock.

I took an interesting detour around the playground and under the bridge off Haven Avenue. When you walk up the crumbling steps to the walk way around the entrance and exit to the George Washington Bridge, it takes you around a spiral path around the streets through mountains of household garbage that the homeless must discard, places where these people must sleep or gang members meet and the worst part is when you finish following the path, you must turn around and go back the way you came because the path is blocked off at the other end by a wooden door as the stairs on the other side is being repaired. This little side trip is not for the faint hearted as you do not have much room to walk around and to any passerby by car, they would have their own thoughts of why you are up there.

The street art around the playground at 177th Street is very interesting and if you decide to take the walk around the bridge area, check out the painting along the cement rail of the three faces. It really is a unique piece of art work. Walking up the hill on 181st Street, there are some great shops and restaurants and the view walking up the hill is quite a site. It looks like a street in San Francisco.

My path took me up Carbrini Avenue past the Castle Village Apartment complex, a series of buildings with a spectacular view of the Hudson River and nicely landscaped yards around the buildings. The details along the buildings really make the complex seem like a series of medieval buildings and from what I could see from the street level a very nice place to live. The path up the road lead me right back to Fort Tyron Park, fitting from what I saw on the way up the road.

castle hill apartments

Castle Hill Apartments and park

On my way back down the avenue, I criss-crossed the side streets at 190th, 187th, 181st, 180th and 179th, looking over the various restaurants and stores in the area. All around me I can see signs that the neighborhood is in the process of changing as the smaller low scale establishments are being replaced with more updated restaurants, shops and coffee bars. Some of the true neighborhood stores you can tell are keeping up by changing their signs and frontage displays to cater to the new comers. There is a real change going on in this part of the area and local merchants are starting to cash in on their new clientele while keeping the old ones happy. I stopped by a vendor selling shaved rainbow ice for $1.00. These little ice vendors are a pleasure on a hot day.

I double backed on Broadway and walked up Overlook Terrace and believe me, there is a reason why they call it that. You really have to walk up a hill and by time you reach the top by the hospital, you really have a nice view of the neighborhood. I took this to 190th Street right back up to Fort Tyron Park. You’ll find that all the roads on this side of Broadway lead back to the park. I walked the side streets back down and made the turn making Bennett Avenue my final part of the day.

Bennett Avenue  like the other streets in this part of Washington Heights is dominated by natural rock formations that line pockets of the streets. Bennett Avenue is no exception as there are beautiful formations of rocks and trees that line the sides of the road on the western part of the street. Half way up make sure to stop at the Bennett Rest, a pocket park near the rock formations  to take a rest. It was a long day of the walking and this little park is right near a Gothic looking Lutheran Church that was having a Farmers Market. A nice distraction from looking at all the apartment buildings.

This part of upper Bennett Avenue must cater to the families working and attending Yeshiva University on the other side of Broadway as many Jewish families were walking around the neighborhood after work and relaxing in the parks in the neighborhood. The street is filled with classic looking pre-war apartments, some with doorman and chandelier foyers.

I complete my walk today walking back down Bennett Avenue. Note the beautiful rock formation that faces you walk down 192nd Street from Broadway. It is quite the site and reminds you that not all of Manhattan was blasted away to build things. I criss-crossed all the side street from the edge of Bennett to the beginning of 181st Street, noting all the businesses that faced Broadway and the restaurants that started to fill up for the evening. Note to walkers, there are some interesting restaurants around the 187th Street between Cabrini and Fort Washington Avenues to check out as well as some nice stores.

By nightfall, I was walking up the west side of Broadway from 179th Street to the Dyckman Street A Train entrance passing Fort Tyron Park for one last time that day. People still walk in this park at night and I saw joggers exiting. It is obviously an active park at all hours of the day. Ann Loftus Playground was still going strong even in the dark with little kids running around at 8:30pm.

Note: Avoid the McDonalds on Broadway and 180th Street. The service is terrible and they mix up your order.

For all the things people say about Washington Heights, you have to see it to believe it. It really is a nice neighborhood.

Places to Visit:

Fort Tryon Park

On Dyckman Street & Broadway

Heather Gardens & Linden Terrace & Ann Loftus Playground

Fort Tryon Park

Places to Eat:

New Leaf Cafe (In Fort Tryon Park

One Margret Corbin Drive

New York, NY  10040

(212) 568-5323

http://www.newleafcafe.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d478282-Reviews-New_Leaf_Restaurant_Bar-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Avoid the McDonald’s in the neighborhood. The food and service are horrible.

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