Monthly Archives: March 2016

Day Forty-One: Walking Dykman Street through Harlem River Drive & FDR Drive 207th Street to 155th Street March 23, 2016

The weather finally broke and it was a nice day to continue the walk. It has been a mild winter but it is hard to find time to do much with work and my volunteer activities plus the job search to keep me busy. Wednesday brought a sunny, warm day to New York City and I was going to take full advantage of it. After a busy morning at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, I took the A Train up to 207th Street and was about to complete the last leg of Washington Heights. I walked the entire stretch of Dyckman Street leading to Harlem River Drive to FDR Drive which covers the whole east side of the river. This part of my walk took from 1:45pm to 7:15pm. I walked fifty-two blocks both ways with stops in all parts of High Bridge Park.

First off, there are many changes going on all over Washington Heights since I started the walk in June. There is scaffolding all over the place and many businesses are starting to change hands. There have been more upscale looking restaurants opening up all over the neighborhood, more renovations in the parks and more white residents jogging in the parks and walking their dogs is telling me that the neighborhood is transitioning. So many apartment buildings and brownstones are being renovated that the whole look of the neighborhood is changing.

I started the walk on Dyckman Street walking by the very top of High Bridge Park by Fort George Hill right across from the Dyckman Houses. This part of the park could be quite pretty if it were not so full of trash. The beautiful rolling hills and trees are loaded down with garbage. It’s sad in that this part of the park is in such bad shape since it gives the impression of what Manhattan must have looked like when the Dutch arrived with rock formations and hanging trees. If cleaned up and properly landscaped, it could be breathtaking.

I walked down Harlem River Drive making stops inside High Bridge Park along the way. It is sad that most of the park is full of trash and not well maintained. All along the highway though interesting rock formations and flowering trees enhanced what you really saw by walking next to it.

By the time you get to 175th Street, you can’t walk any farther and you have to make your way into the park, which I had been through many months before the Fall. The parks system is working on the pathway from 175th Street to about 170th and then it stops again. You will have to walk down Amsterdam Avenue to about 166th Street where the park meets the local school parks and then take the path extension through High Bridge Park.

During the day, I would trust this path but I would not venture through it after twilight. As you wind down the paths, go off the beaten track around 170th Street and you will see all the natural cliffs that overlook the Bronx. This winding pathways can be rugged so make sure you have comfortable walking shoes when venturing off the paths. The natural rock formations are unusual and there are many places to view the surrounding area.

What was fascinating was the graffiti art work by the overpass at 175th Street. This form of tagging is all over Upper Manhattan and rather than a hindrance, the artists (or ‘taggers’) have an interesting display of faces and animals that would belong in any inventive gallery. The ‘x’ed out eyes on some of the cartoon like work hark back to the work of Keith Haring in the 80’s. Since these band of ‘gangs’ often paint over each other’s work, these pieces of art are in a constant state of flux and are ever changing.

The famous High Bridge Water Tower that is located in the park between West 173rd and 174th streets was built in 1866-72 to help meet the increasing demands on the city’s water system. The 200 foot octagonal tower was designed by John B. Jervis in a mixture of the Romanesque Revival and neo-Grec styles and was accompanied by a 7-arce reservoir. The High Bridge system reached its full capacity by 1875. With the opening of the Croton Aqueduct, the High Bridge system became less relied upon; during World War I it was completely shut down when sabotage was feared. In 1949, the tower was removed from service and a carillon was installed in 1958. The tower and the cupola were rehabilitated and restored in 1989-90 and the tower was designated a NYC landmark in 1967. Located behind the Highbridge Play Center, it is fenced off and you can only see it from a distance. (Wikipedia).

Water Tower High Bridge Park

The Water Tower in High Bridge Park

The Highbridge Play Center located at West 172nd and West 174th Streets was built between 1934-36 in the Art Moderne style. It was built on the site of the reservoir and features a very large swimming pool that has been closed since the Summer. It was designated a NYC Landmark in 2007. (Wikipedia).

These two landmarks are located once you exit the path off Harlem River Drive and take some time to walk around this part of the park. Another landmark you should not miss is the High Bridge, which is the oldest standing bridge in NYC. Built in 1848, it was built to carry the Old Croton Aqueduct over the Harlem River. (Wikipedia).

The bridge is fun to walk over and offers the most beautiful views of the river and the surrounding park. On a clear day, you can see for miles around and once the foliage comes back a nice view of the park.

The pathway brought me back to the Morris-Jumel Mansion park, which I had visited right after the holidays and to the end of the park at 155th Street. I exited the park at 158th Street and walked down the Historic Brush Staircase. Named after John T. Brush, the owner of the New York Giants baseball team that used to play in the Polo Grounds, the stairs were built in 1913 and were used to go from the ticket booth that was located on the top of Edgecombe Avenue to the stadium below. When the Giants moved out and the stadium was knocked down in 1967 to be replaced by a public housing project in 1968, the stairs were in a state of disrepair. (Google).

Brush Staircase

Brush Staircase

Renovated in 2014 and rededicated, the stairs takes you from the top of the park at 158th Street back down to Harlem River Drive. The stairs are a steep walk so remember to hold onto the rail on the way down. At the bottom of the stairs is a very scary vendor selling Spanish food that looks like it has not passed inspection so avoid it and maybe grab a coke like I did that afternoon. Make sure to look at the inscription on the stairs as it harks back to a time when this was a major sports area and a footnote in NYC sports.

I ended the afternoon by crossing 155th Street and walking down the stairs by the bridge into the lower part of 155th Street where the public housing was located. I have to say that I was pretty naïve to walk through this area with my ‘CIA’ hat on (Culinary Institute of America where I am an Alumni).

The Polo Ground Towers are a 15.5 acre parcel of land in which four 30 story towers were built on the site of the old stadium. It was a scary part of the walk as even the cops that were located by the Community Center would not get out of their car. It was funny though in that no one looked at me weird or even bothered my but I could see that the firemen on the fire truck exiting the projects and the police looked at me strange.

Polo Grounds Apartment

Polo Grounds Apartments

Everyone who lived there just went upon their business without even noticing me and I just walked around the projects down 155th Street and up and around Fredrick Douglas Drive and around Harlem River Drive West. There is a series of supermarkets, convenience stores and small restaurants. The area is isolated and pretty self-contained. I have to admit it is not the most pleasant place to live and looks plagued with problems.

The funny part is that when you cross the street onto 154th Street, you can see where the buildings are starting to renovate and it looks like new residents are moving into the area just one block away. I made my rounds down Fredrick Douglas Boulevard around the block and headed around the projects on my way back to Harlem River Drive and then crossed over to the overpass where the sidewalk started to go back up Harlem River Drive across from the end of the projects. That was another interesting part of the walk.

As you walk up the left side of the highway facing the river, you will realize the true beauty of Manhattan island by way of the river. Many pleasure boats, rowing teams and flocks of birds habitat this area. It has a whole culture just based on the river and from across the street you don’t see the faults of High Bridge Park. Just the visuals of the park and the rock formations jutting out.

As I finished the walk at Dyckman Street and crossed over Broadway, all the upscale outdoor cafes were open and loaded with customers signaling that the warm weather was back and winter might finally be over. Mother Nature has a way of toying with us but it looks like the cold days are behind us and we are looking forward to a warm Spring ahead.

Advertisements

Day Forty: Meeting ‘Lodi Larry at the Library’ First Day of Spring Event with the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library March 21, 2016

I took some time out from my walk to run an event for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library which is located in Lodi, NJ. I started to get involved in the Friends group last September and that has lead to many interesting visits from celebrities and athletes. Our latest guest helped us welcome in the first day of Spring (which ironically came after a snow storm the day before in which the heat melted all the snow before the event). His name was ‘Lodi Larry, the Rabbit’ and his home is the Bergen County Zoo.

The event was in response to our version of ‘Groundhog’s Day’, when we could not find a groundhog anywhere in Bergen County, NJ. Not one zoo or natural center had one. So when I approached a friend of mine who works at the zoo about one and she could not find one, she suggested the rabbit that they use for children’s events. With that in mind and not wanting to get caught in a snow storm for the event, we moved the event to the first day of Spring with the theme “Lodi Larry comes to the Library”.

FOLML Spring Event

I was supposed to have only 25 children and their parents but word got out and we ended up with almost 40 children and almost 50 parents and grandparents. This was the first of the three events that I ran for the library since I joined that was a complete sell-out and then some. It was nice to see kids of all ages out to hear the program and participate in the question and answer session.

The only big problem we had was one of the volunteers from the zoo. The program was called “Lodi Larry comes to the Library on the First Day of Spring”. She got up and said, “I don’t know about the rabbit being from Lodi, but this rabbit’s name is Roger, not Larry.” Then she proceeded on with the event. If ever there was a time that someone screwed up, it was then. I was lucky that no one really noticed and the kids and parents had such a good time for the two programs that it was forgotten. I pulled her aside later and explained everything in detail about the program.

FOLM Lodi Larry II

Outside that little mishap, the programs went off without a hitch. Our first event was a program called ‘Wild & Crafty Animal Tales’, where the kids listened to the story “Make room for the Bunny” and then did a bunny craft. After that the kids got in line to meet the rabbit. That was a big deal for all the small kids. The rabbit seemed very happy with the kids and did not make a fuss. All the kids seemed to enjoy petting the rabbit.

Then our second program “In My Backyard”, took place right after the first program. The theme was that the zoo is a great place to see exotic animals but children can see wild animals every day right in their own backyards. The program induced children to identifying and safely observing New Jersey’s wildlife. Here the kids got to see a real turtle, something that has become very rare in the wilds of New Jersey. I was amazed on how children were so excited on seeing a turtle.

After both programs were over, we had a question and answer time with the staff from the zoo. Some of the questions these kids had were so observant and interesting. So much for the theory that kids today are obsessed with their cellphones. Put a turtle or a rabbit in front of them and they are no different then we were in the 70’s and 80’s.

When the question and answers were over, we had a really nice reception that was catered by our local ShopRite supermarket. Everyone was really impressed with the food. We had a six foot Italian sub that was cut into pieces for us, five pounds of Italian cookies, five pounds of cut fruit, bags of salty snacks and assorted water and juices. I have never seen such a reaction to food before. The site of a colorful buffet of refreshments really brought out the excitement of people. They formed two lines and when I am saying there was not a crumb left of food, there was nothing left. The platters were stripped clean. I was happy that there were no leftovers.

FOLML Spring Event Refreshments

People left and they were all saying that they had a good time. The kids loved their little crafts and clean up was so easy because they brought everything home. Its nice to see a crowd of happy faces leaving the library and hopefully this starts a trend of very successful programming.

I wanted to send a big ‘thank you’ to Mayor Emil Carafa and the entire Lodi Borough Council for their support, Superintendent of School’s Frank Quatrone for all his help getting the word out to the schools, the Lodi Boys & Girls Club, the Lodi Senior Club, Library Director Siobhan Koch and her staff for the filming of the program, picture taking and for helping with the reservations. A big ‘thank you’ to the Lodi Memorial Library’s Library Board and a another big ‘thank you’ to Friends President Judy Schroeder, Treasurer Edith Witte and Board Member Marilyn De Molli for all of their assistance on the event plus all the support from the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library.

Now back to the ‘Walk in Manhattan’.

Enjoy this three part video of the event at the Lodi Memorial Library. It would have been one solid video but one the volunteers made a serious boo-boo during the event.

 

 

 

Articles on The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library:

https://www.northjersey.com/story/opinion/2017/01/10/letter-lodi-library-has-successful-year/96403338/

Day Thirty-Nine: Walking the New York Restaurant Show March 6, 2016

I am finding more and more that the professional shows are getting smaller and quicker to walk through. As part of my job as a college professor, I attend the shows to keep up with the latest trends in the industry. The New York Restaurant Show is one of the three shows I like to attend for professional reasons. The show is a showcase of all the new trends in the restaurant industry and all the new technology that is coming out. There has been a vast improvement in the purchasing, ordering and managing of a restaurant and the technology today is marrying all three systems from the waiter, to the cook, to the manager and purchasing director. Even with all this new technology and innovations in furniture and decorations, the show keeps getting smaller every year and like the Hotel Show later in the year is a fraction of the size it was pre-2008. The good news is that they are slowly introducing the food vendors back in the show and that has made a difference in the number of people that I saw in that part of the show.

Technology keeps changing in the field. Everything is going based on the ‘cloud’, which can be a little scary because what do you do if the power goes off and the lights go out. One company that really stood was a company named “Toast”, which is Restaurant POS & Management System.

Their technology is interesting that you can marry both the waiter’s ordering system through tablets set up to the main system as well as being to able to not just able to adjust inventory through the dining room ordering but through how much food is cooked and then it lets you know what to order from your supplier as well as it lets you know what your best sellers on the menu. This is the trend right now in restaurants. I remember when we had to know it by POS sheets and past history as well as we had to do it all by hand. (www.Toasttab.com).

Passing by all the furniture and hardware vendors I made my way towards the end of the show where the new suppliers booths were located. There were some new products that were worth noting.

Pure Genius Foodservice had an interesting tasting product for health conscious customers, brownies and blondies made with a secret ingredient, beans. These desserts are gluten-free and vegan, under 200 guilt free calories with no nuts, no soy and no GMO’s. There are also made in a kosher, allergen-free facility. These come fully baked and frozen. All you have to do is thaw and they are ready to cut and sell. They come in Deep Chocolate and Chocolate Chunk Blondie. They are a very tasty dessert. (sales@puregeniusprovisons.com).

Another product that stood out was Grown-Up Soda (Gus) that is made with real juice and natural extracts, cane sugar, no preservatives, are kosher, gluten-free, non-GMO and can be easily used for cocktail mixers. Some of the flavors that stood out were the Dry Valencia Orange, the Dry Meyer Lemon and the Dry Cranberry Lime. These beverages delightful flavor to them and a wonderful fizziness to them. They might be refreshing on a hot day. (info@drinkgus.com)

Another beverage that stood out at the show was Bruce Cost Ginger Ale. Bruce Cost is a well known Asian themed chef who opened Big Bowl and Wow Bao in Chicago and brought the recipe of the fresh ginger ale with him. In 2014, he opened his own factory in Bushwick, Brooklyn. (Twitter @BCostGingerAle)

Some of the stand out flavors were that I tasted were the Passion Fruit and the Pomegranate. I found them fruity and flavorful and have a nice fizziness to them as well. They would be nice paired with both Asian and spicy Mexican.

I was impressed with Natural Cabana drinks. These were truly refreshing and would be perfect to drink on a hot day. These are made with 100% natural fruit flavored juices and natural lemon juice. They are sweetened with a combination of pure cane sugar and the pure sweetness of the Stevia leaf. The Stevia plant is a herb that produces a natural sweetness without the calories or carbohydrates. The flavors I tried were the raspberry, blueberry and the mango. They even let me sneak out a blueberry to enjoy on the way home that did not last one block once leaving the show. (Pulse Beverage Corp. 720-382-5476).

One of the snacks that stood out were Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Crisps. These pure cheese little crisps had a sharpness and snap to them. They would be great on a salad or just munching out of the package. There is a distinct zing to them when you bite into these crisp little snacks. (KTB@KitchenTableBakers.com)

Desserts stood out at the show as well. Allie’s GF (Gluten Free) Goodies were delicious and it was interesting talking to Allie herself. She is a AllerTrain certified baker who whips up cakes, cookies, brownies and tarts. She can make soy-free, low glycemic and Fod-map options upon request. Her facility is nut free as well. Allison Luckman created the business due to her and some family members having health issues to lactose intolerance and allergies to eggs and gluten. These tasty desserts satisfy any sweet tooth. Some of her standouts included her chocolate chip and banana buddies. (www.Alliesgfg.com)

Jersey Cookie Girl is a tasty and whimsical product in which the cookies are beautifully decorated cookies in various shapes, sizes and colors. Her face cookies and animal shaped cookies will be a hit at any child’s or adult’s party as well. They are almost to good to eat as each one is its own piece of art.(www.jerseycookiegirl.com).

Another beautifully decorated dessert that stood out was 2 Chicks with Chocolate chocolates that looked to good to eat. These colorful chocolates each had a unique hand-painting on them and were not just candies but each bite was a piece of art. These would make a great gift to any artist at heart and the perfect host gift. (2chickswithchocolate.com).

The show was not a total loss as there were many standout innovators but the show has gotten so small in comparison to previous years that I am beginning to wonder if they should just merge it with the Hotel/Motel Show and show all the products at one show and bring back a bigger food presence to compliment the items being shown to run a proper hotel or restaurant. It is just a thought.

Places to Visit:

The New York Restaurant Show is every March