Monthly Archives: July 2016

Day Forty-Nine: Walking Riverside Drive from 86th Street to 155th Streets July 10, 2016

I went to the Museum of Natural History this morning for a walking tour called “The History of Sharks” that took us through several galleries as the tour guide explained the history of sharks from pre-historic times to present day. How we live with sharks, how their DNA developed over the years and a discussion on the famous attacks on the New Jersey shore in 1916 to the movie ‘Jaws’. The museum runs these special tours for members and it was nice to explore the museum as a small group. Their volunteers do a wonderful job explaining things and the museum, in anticipation of a major rainstorm that never happened, was packed to the gills. I never see it that busy.

After my visit to the museum, I decided to take a walk up Riverside Drive. It was such a beautiful day with no sign of rain coming, I walked the length of Riverside Drive from 86th Street to 155th Street, crossed over 155th Street to St. Nicholas Avenue and walked down the street to 145th Street to get a better look at the brownstones and mansions and then back up to 155th Street and back down the other side of Riverside Drive to 110th Street and across to the subway station the corner of Central Park. This part of the walk took me past many historical sites and statues, past pocket parks and mansions and the beauty of Riverside Park.

First there is nothing like walking around the west side of Manhattan along Riverside Park. It is a truly wonderful park with people jogging, biking, sunbathing and picnicking. Everyone was really enjoying this clear, sunny Summer afternoon. On a quiet Sunday, the park is mostly yours depending on where you are walking.

All along the way uptown, Riverside Park and Drive are lined with many memorials and statues. I was amazed on many were in the area of the drive. My first stop along the way was the Soldiers’ & Sailors’Monument at West 89th Street that was dedicated to the Union Army soldiers and sailors who contributed in the American Civil War. This structure was completed in 1902 and President Theodore Roosevelt presided over the opening. A very impressive structure that I can see most people miss.  Part of the structure is still in disrepair but you can still walk around the pillared structure and gaze at its beauty.

Soldier and Sailor Monument.png

Soldier’s & Sailors Monument

I took a turn and swung into Riverside Park to visit a small playground and a very lively birthday party. I dropped into Hippo Park at 91st Street, a lively little playground with tons of kids running around, climbing on playground structures and actually acting like kids. I see far too many children obsessed with the cell phones not paying attention to what is going on around them. The kids were obviously having fun while the parents handed out food and gossiped amongst themselves.

Hippo Park is part of the Riverside Park Conservatory and run by volunteers in the neighborhood that also provides entertainment during the summer with outdoor concerts and a newly renovated playhouse for parties. Check out their website for details.

Hippo Park

Hippo Park

The next monument that I passed was the Firemen’s Memorial at 100th Street and Riverside Drive. This is a very quiet and relaxing sculpture that is dedicated to the members of the Fire Department who have lost their lives in the line of duty. This sculpture was dedicated in 1913 and has been renovated a few times since. During the tragedy of 9/11 in 2001, this became a vigil site for those morning the loss of so many members of the FDNY. This stop is a must for all fire fighters.

Firemen's Memorial Riverside Park

Firemen’s Memorial

My next stop was at the Franz Sigel Statue at West 106th Street. The majestic statue of a Major General in the Union Army during the Civil War. He encouraged many then German-Americans to fight for the Union. After the war, he became a proud New Yorker. This small park faced Riverside Drive on the other side of the street.

Franz Sigel Statue

Franz Sigel Statue

As I continued the walk up further, the monuments continued with the statue of Samuel Tilden, a former Governor of New York located at West 112th Street. Tilden’s career was illustrious with fights  against the Tweed stronghold in NYC and some saying that he had the Presidential election stolen from him with the Electoral College by Rutherford Hayes. His large estate and book collection helped found the New York Public Library.

Samuel Tilden Statue.jpg

Samuel Tilden Statue

I finally made it to one of my goals for the day, Grant’s Tomb (see the reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com), the final resting place of our 18th President Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia. This monument has had a love-hate relationship with the city. The President died of throat cancer in 1885 and his wife recommended that his burial place be in New York City over West Point and Washington DC as President Grant and his wife made this their home for the last years of their life.

Grant's Tomb.png

Grant’s Tomb

The monument was finished in 1897 and the President’s remains were moved here before the dedication. His wife died in 1902 and was buried along side her husband.  In 1958, the National Park Service took the monument over and was given a small budget to oversee it.  In the 70’s and 80’s as the city had declined, this part of the park was a mess and the monument was vandalized to the hilt. It had gotten so bad at one point where the descendants of the family threatened to pull the bodies out of the tomb because of neglect. Since the 90’s, the monument and the park have been restored and it is open to the public for limited times during the week.

The park now is used for picnicking and parties as many were going on as I walked through the park. The tomb itself was closed for the day and was fenced off to the public. Not a good sign for the parks system for such an important piece of the city’s history.

Off to the side of the monument,  inside Riverside Park next to the path, is the Amiable Child Memorial (See review on VisitingaMuseum.com), the resting place to St. Clair Pollock. This touching little monument is dedicated to a child who died in 1797 in the fifth year of his life from a fall from the cliffs somewhere in the current park. It is one of the private graves located on public land. This small stone funeral urn is on a pedestal marking the grave. It is a very touching grave to a small child. I left a coin there as many have in the past.

Tomb of the Amiable Child

Tomb of the Amicable Child

I continued the walk up through the park until I hit Riverbank Park on 145th Street, one of the unique parks I have ever seen. The 28 acre park is built on the top of a water treatment plant that was inspired by parks built on roof tops in Japan. This park has everything. It has a pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, soccer field, baseball field, a cool off fountain and ice skating rink. It has it all and has the neighborhood embraced this park. The place was packed in all venues. It was a truly democratic park as all races play here.

I was most impressed by the number of families having parties and barbecues in the park. There must have been about a dozen birthday parties going on at once. The smells of barbecue meats and vegetables wafted in the air and the sounds of laughter and singing was all over the place. Even on a hot day, nothing stops people from having a good time.

I was most impressed by the Snack Bar located in the park’s main building. For $6.00, I got a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke and for a park snack bar they were really good. The portion size was generous and I can tell you for fact that the fries are excellent. Even if you don’t like sports make a special trip to snack bar and you won’t be disappointed. (See review on TripAdvisor)

After a 45 minute detour of this amazing park, I walked the rest of the way through Riverside Park until I hit Trinity Cemetery again and crossed 155th Street to St. Nichols Avenue again. I wanted to take a better look at the mansions at 150th Street in Sugar Hill. This section of Sugar Hill I did not have time to take a good look at the last time I was walking St. Nichols Avenue.

Sugar Hill.jpg

Sugar Hill Brownstones

The homes and brownstones in this area are just gorgeous and give you a totally different prospective of Harlem. Most of these buildings have been sandblasted and restored or in the process of being done. The mansions on the corner of 150th Street and Edgecomb Avenue hark back to a time when this was a very fashionable avenue and don’t miss the Bailey House that is fully restored.

I took a pit stop and stopped for a quick slice of pizza on 145th Street at Victorio’s Pizza Plus at 348 West 145th Street and one of the best slices of pizza I have ever had for $1.00. The pie had just come out of the oven and it was a thin crust made with fresh mozzarella and it was heavenly. Flavorful sauce and the right amount of cheese that was cooked perfectly at any price the pizza was delicious. This is a must for all the CUNY students. (See TripAdvisor review)

The walk took me back across 155th Street and back down Riverside Drive. The park, even at twilight is busy. There were so many bikers, joggers and walkers that you had to move a lot on the sidewalks. My last structure I saw as I walked down Riverside Drive was the Ralph Ellison art piece “Invisible Man” (the picture above) done by sculpture Elizabeth Catlett at 150th Street. It was dedicated to the novelist work on his book “The Invisible Man” about his experience as a Black man during the Civil Rights Movement in NYC. Ralph Ellison lived in the area before he died in 1994. It really is quite the statue.

Invisible Man

Invisible Man Sculpture Riverside Park

As I passed Grant’s Tomb, there were about three parties going on in the park. I don’t think the President even partied that much in one evening when he lived in the city. I could not believe that the park around the tomb would be this busy at eight at night. There were colorful lights all over the trees and a grill going.

I got to 110th Street around 8:30pm and as I rounded Riverside Drive to 110th Street the neighborhood which had been on the fringe for many years has completely changed. The area by Riverside Park had always been nice but as I walked further down the street this area has been sandblasted and rebuilt. Many parts of uptown that had been ignored for years look more like the Upper East Side.

I even saw people walking into Morningside Park which when I was working in the city in the 90’s was a death trap that you would not walk anywhere near but like the rest of the parks like Tompkins Square in the Lower East Side and Bryant Park behind the main library time has passed and they have been fixed up, cleaned up and the area around them now is priced higher.

Morningside Park

Morningside Park

My last stop of the evening was Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too at 366 West 110 Street. This neighborhood staple has been around for years and in a much gentrifying neighborhood that seems to be getting away from its Harlem roots. I hope owns the building. The food and service were just excellent. The biggest problem I had with the restaurant is that I over thought how hungry I was that night. After a big lunch at 5:00pm and a slice of pizza by the time the food came I was barely hungry.

Miss Mamie’s is not to be missed. They had a dinner special that was $19.99 for a salad that was one of the best restaurant salads I had had in years. It was crisp with fresh lettuce and tomatoes with a light dressing, for the entrée was freshly fried chicken that was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside and the chicken had so much flavor to it. I had it with mac and cheese and candied yams, not the most healthy choices but after a five mile walk I figured I had burned off a few calories. It was so much food that I had to take half of it home with me along with the Peach Cobbler dessert that was included in the meal (See the review on TripAdvisor).

Miss Mamie's Spoonbread

Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too

The service was friendly with out being overwhelming. I must give off certain vibes in this neighborhood because the waitress asked me if I was a lecturer for Columbia. I laughed at the one and asked why. She said I looked smart. I don’t know what looking smart is but I took it as a compliment. Usually above 110th Street every assumes that I am either a cop or DEA. Amazing what being tall is to people.

I ended the evening totally exhausted and took the subway from the 110th Street and Central Park West. Another sign of changes in the neighborhood is that I saw people jogging into the northern park of Central Park at 9:30pm. Things have really changed up here.

Places to Visit:

Hippo Park Conservatory

West 91st and Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10025

(212) 870-3070

https://riversideparknyc.org/groups/hippo-playground/

Riverbank Park

679 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10031

(212) 694-3600

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riverside-park

https://parks.ny.gov/parks/93/details.aspx

Reviews on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d565030-Reviews-Riverbank_State_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

General Grant’s National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb)

122nd Street & Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

https://www.nps.gov/gegr/index.htm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105812-Reviews-General_Grant_National_Memorial-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My Review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1354

Tomb of the Amicable Child

524 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riversidepark/monuments/1206

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/630

Various Statues along Riverside Drive

See Riverside Park Memorials NYCParks.com

 

Places to Eat:

Victorio’s Pizza Plus

348 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 283-2100

https://www.victoriospizzaplusmenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10539122-Reviews-Victorio_s_Pizza_Plus-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread

366 West 110th Street

New York, NY  10039

https://spoonbreadinc.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426019-Reviews-Miss_Mamie_s_Spoonbread_Too-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Riverbank Park Snack Bar

679 Riverside Drive

Riverbank Park at West 145th Street

New York, NY  10031

 

 

 

 

 

Day Forty-Seven: July 9, 2016 Walking Tour with Deborah Geiger and F.I.T. through Bushwick,Brooklyn

Bushwick Picture
Our tour group picture with Deborah Geiger, tour guide extraordinare.

As part of my exploration of the city, I took a break from my usual walk of Manhattan and went on a walking tour of one of the city’s most up and coming neighborhoods, Bushwick in northeastern Brooklyn. When I started working in the city in 1990, you would not be caught dead in Bushwick let alone be dead if you went there. It had the highest amount of crime, child mortality, AIDS, drug and gang problems in the whole city and sensible people stayed away. With Greenpoint and Williamsburg now gentrified and everyone pushing east and south, the northern parts of Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East Greenpoint and finally to Bushwick.

I took the tour through the Fashion Institute of Technology (I am an Alumnus Class of ’93) in their ‘Hot Topics’ Talks and Tours program and we had an excellent tour guide, Deborah Geiger who is the Director of Content for Envirosell, a consumer shopping behaviorist, who just happens to live in the neighborhood as well. This was her third time moving their since 2001 and she said she has seen the neighborhood quickly change.

I had been Bushwick once years ago when writing my novel, “Firehouse 101” (IUniverse.com 2005), when the protagonist’s neighbor goes there for a late night party and he thinks she is out of her mind.  While the neighborhood is still a little sketchy, like all places in New York City, it’s best to look over your shoulder every once in a while and still keep the eyes in the back of your head.

Our trip started at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I got there so early that I was able to tour the ‘Uniformity’ exhibition at the Fashion Institute Museum. This little museum is a true gem and my three years there as a student I never once went inside. The school did a nice job with displaying the history of the uniform and the role it played in corporate, government and school structure. I was most impressed with the airline uniforms for stewards and the original McDonald’s uniform. It is a small but very detailed exhibition and should not be missed if you are in the area (located in the Shirley Goodman Building on the FIT campus).

We took the A Train to the L Train when we transferred at Union Square. I swear to God when you travel on the L Train it is like being on a college campus. Everyone looks like they are in their 20’s or else trying too hard to be a ‘hipster’. I have been on the L train a few times and it is like they cloned the some guy  and kept manufacturing him. Everyone has the same beard and glasses. At least it is so hot outside that the knit hats are put away (or Thank God that trend is over). The herd seems to get on and off at Bedford Avenue, the heart of Williamsburg. As you go further west, it starts to change again and more diverse once you hit East Williamsburg and Bushwick.

We got off at the Bushwick Avenue and Montrose Stop just above Flushing Avenue which according to the New York Times Real Estate section is the border between East Williamsburg and Bushwick. I guess there is a debate on where Bushwick really starts. We started our tour walking up Bushwick Avenue to  Meserole Avenue to look at the street art and the new breweries and clubs opening up along the street. It is amazing what these entrepreneurs are doing with these old factory buildings.

Our first stop  the tour was the City of Saints Coffee Roasters at 297 Meresole Avenue. The City of Saints has three locations, here in Bushwick, one in the Village and the other in Hoboken, NJ. This is the main processing plant for the coffee. We were met by Jim Osborn, the head roaster and a partner in the business. He explained to us the whole procedure of how they find the beans in Central America and Africa, how they work with the exporters and then how they are received. We then discussed the process of how the beans are roasted, tested and blended to make the perfect coffee flavor. We then had a tasting of some of the blends and even though I am not much of a coffee drinker the way they mixed the beans in some of the coffees was very impressive.

What I like the most about the store was the artwork and the way the store was set up. The graffiti art was interesting and the open air café really welcomed in the community. You got to see how the whole process was done while enjoying the atmosphere of a coffee shop in Bushwick.

City of Saints Roasters

City of Saint Coffee Shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn

We toured around the neighborhood walking down Johnson Avenue to Varick Avenue then down Ingraham Avenue then back to Morgan Avenue on to Bogart Street to see street art that is on walls around the neighborhood. Some of the street art is interesting but most will be gone as it gets painted on top of by other artists.

Our next stop was the Odetta Gallery at 226 Cook Street. This small gallery faced outside walls filled with more art. It really fit into the neighborhood. The owner of the gallery was explaining how she opened the gallery in Bushwick  to be in the middle of the art explosion in this section of Brooklyn and the center of art innovation.

Odetta Gallery

Odetta Gallery

Her current exhibition was by artist Kurt Steger whose exhibition ‘Scribing the Void’ with original musical composition  by RSM was on display. The work was very original in that the piece on display was the outline of a rock in Central Park which I thought was a very original idea. What Mr. Steger did over a series of days (he had to work quickly in the park) was take an outline of a rock formation near the middle of the park and then recreate the outline in a pattern in a series of pieces put together in one form. The music came about based on the outline of the piece formation of the rock. The two interplay with each other in the exhibition.

Kurt Steger Scribing the Wall.jpg

Kurt Steger’s “Scribing the Wall” at the Odetta Gallery

Mr. Steger came to the gallery to talk to our group and that was a real treat as it is always nice to get the artists perspective on their work.  I had a nice conversation with him on where the idea for the project came from and some of the art he created. I thought  it was interesting when he told me that he created a 9/11 structure that was used as a healing tool by people affected by the tragedy.

He would do readings by the sculpture to help with the healing process. The piece was  eventually bought by a hospital to use for that purpose. His work really transcends the overall look to it. His outlook on his work and its meaning was insightful. He and the gallery owner were looking to sell this particular piece to one of the museums that faced Central Park. He was fascinating to talk to that afternoon.

Mr. Steger is originally from California and has lived in Brooklyn for years. He and his wife, Meg Hitchcock have recently moved their studios to the Hudson River Valley. His works are intended to heal our inner nature (Kurt Steger Bio).

Our next part of the tour took us around the industrial part of East Williamsburg to our next stop to the Brazilian bakery ‘My Sweet’, where the owner Paula Barbosa created her small candy and sweet shop at 630 Flushing Avenue. She is known for her delightful little treat, Brigedeiro, which is a type of Brazilian truffle made with condensed milk, cocoa and butter and slow cooked. These little treats are cooled, rolled into balls and then rolled in nuts or sprinkles. Each is made by hand with much care and each looks like a little jewel. She also has a line of flavored homemade popsicles and Brigedeiro bark made with a combination of the mix with cookies. The prices reflect the work going into them as each Brigedeiro is $2.00, the popsicles are $4.00 and the bark is $3.00 per bag.

My Sweet Bakery

My Sweet Bakery Bushwick

She got into the business when she was giving them away as gifts and people started asking for them. She then took them to a food fair and got a wonderful write-up from the New York Times and the business just took off. She said she was getting calls from people and could not fill the orders fast enough. Now in a three-man team she turns out these special treats to her customers. I wolfed down a bag of her ‘bark’ in about 15 minutes with the help of many of our touring group. A little expensive but well worth it to visit this quirky little shop in the middle of what looks like a happening area. Plus Paula is charming, welcoming and a pleasure to talk to about her product.

We double backed on Grattan Street to Bogart Street and passed the famous pizzeria Roberta’s. I have been wanting to try their pizza for a long time but good luck snagging a table.  The tour guide said it is tough to get into on a weekend. So our trip took us up the road to ‘Syndicated’, a unique restaurant concept at 40 Bogart Street. It is a bar, restaurant and movie theater rolled into one. The front of the building houses the restaurant and bar and the back section is a very nicely decorated theater concept.

Under the direction of Chef Bret Maeris and Managing Partner Tim Chung, they opened this year a very unique watering hole for the neighborhood. Wanting to keep with the tradition of a small independent theater in a neighborhood sorely lacking a movie theater, for $3.00 you can see a movie and order small plates too much on while watching the film. Dennis explained that they are trying to cater to the Millennium crowd while not alienating the older clientele in the area. They had a  Keanu Reeves retrospect recently that was very popular. Like Tim explained to us, the current audience were kids when these movies came out and are nostalgic for them. It is pricey with entrees starting  between $13-$18 but worth it to try for the experience.

Syndicated Theater Bushwick

Syndicated Theater

Tim explained to our group that they are trying to fill a need in the neighborhood. There has to be more entertainment in Bushwick besides bars, so they filled it by adding the theater. The goal is to expand the Bushwick Film Festival and have more places to show movies. Add in people’s love for solid American food and you have a very entertaining concept. The menu includes classics such as fried chicken, burgers, fish and chips and grilled cheese. Great comfort foods for an evening out.

We finally crossed over the border of Flushing Avenue to official Bushwick and turned onto Wyckoff Avenue into an area called ‘JeffTown’ by our tour guide named such because of the subway stop at Jefferson Street. This is where you start to see the more residential side of the neighborhood and the more trendy coffee shops, restaurants and stores. This is the Bushwick that I imagined.

We took a quick tour through the Brooklyn Pop-Up Market at 49 Wyckoff Avenue and explored where small business owners are opening their businesses for the first time to test the waters. It is a unique building of small stores, interesting concepts and people trying to create businesses for the first time. It is worth the trip just to see some of the new food concepts that are opening and interesting gift stores.

Brooklyn Pop Up Shop.jpg

Brooklyn Pop-Up Market

As we turned the corner on Troutman Street, we passed an artist who was commissioned to do a painting on the side of the building and he stopped and graciously stopped to explain the project to us. Debbie, our tour guide explained to us that some ‘street art’ just appears and then is painted over and over again and sometimes the owners commission it. How long this painting would last, who knows? In a neighborhood where ‘taggers’ rein you never know.

Our tour was supposed to end at Union Pizza Works at 423 Troutman Street, a neighborhood pizzeria but everyone had other plans that evening. We took the above group picture in front of a mural on Irving Street and then took a quick walk to the end of our tour at Maria Hernandez Park in the heart of Bushwick. This is where the neighborhood comes alive. We all said our goodbyes here with hugs and pictures.

After everyone left,  I have to be honest, I did not want to go back to some of the restaurants I passed with the $17 pizzas and $12 hamburgers. I wanted to see what the neighborhood was really all about and you see that in true Bushwick with the residents who have been here for years. I entered the yet to be gentrified east side of Bushwick where the Spanish population dominates and ate locally.

Amanda's Kitchen

Amanda’s Kitchen Bushwick

I grabbed some baked goods at Gaby’s Bakery at 238 Knickbocker Avenue on the other side of Maria Hernandez Park and then picked up empanadas’ at Amanda’s Kitchen at 264 Suydam Street and sat in the park and watched the world go by which is something that a $12 hamburger with people who are trying too hard to be hip can’t accomplish. Here was the true Bushwick with everyone intermingling and trying to figure it all out. Even Amanda herself seemed pretty proud when I ordered from her with my broken Spanish. She seemed impressed that I tried so hard.

Gaby's Bakery

Gaby’s Bakery Bushwick

After devouring the Mexican pastries and meat pies, I joined the neighborhood block party that was going on between Knickbocker Avenue and Irving Avenue on Suydam Street. I saw families going about life without a care in the world. Maybe things will change for them in a few years as the gentrification of the area continues and their buildings become more desirable being on the park. For now, they were having a good time just barbecuing, playing games and gossiping with their neighbors.

Isn’t that what life in Brooklyn is all about anyway?

This tour was taken through The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Hot Topics ‘Talks & Tours’ program and was conducted by Deborah Geiger, our tour guide, who is the Director of Content for Envirosell, a consumer shopping behaviorist.

Places to visit:

City of Saints Roasters

297 Meserole Street

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(929) 900-5282

https://www.cityofsaintscoffee.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 7:00am-6:00pm Saturday-Sunday 9:00am-6:00pm

Odetta Gallery

226 Cook Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11206

(203) 598-1517

http://www.odettagallery.com/

Open: Friday-Sunday 1:00pm-6:00pm/Closed the rest of the week

Syndicated

40 Bogart Street

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(718) 386-3399

https://syndicatedbk.com/

Open: Monday-Thursday 5:00pm-12:00am/Friday 5:00pm-2:00am/Saturday 3:00pm-2:00am/Sunday 3:00pm-12:00pm

Brooklyn Pop-Up Market

49 Wyckoff Avenue

Brooklym. NY  11327

(347) 560-6737

https://www.facebook.com/events/291975887940198/

 

Places to eat:

Gaby’s Bakery

238 Knickerbocker Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11237

(718) 418-8821

https://gabysbakery.com/

Amanda’s Kitchen

264 Suydam Street

Brooklyn, NY  11237

((347) 488-6297

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d5031796-Reviews-Amanda_Kitchen-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My Sweet Bakery

630 Flushing Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(347) 946-7460

info@mysweet.com

Open: Sunday Closed Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm/Saturday 12:00pm-3:00pm

Roberta’s Pizza

261 Moore Street

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(718) 447-1118

http://www.robertaspizza.com

 

Open: Monday-Friday 11:00am-12:00am/Saturday & Sunday 10:00am-12:00am

Union Pizza Works

423 Troutman Street

Brooklyn, NY  11237

(718) 628-1927

http://www.unionpizzaworks.com/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 12:00pm-11:30pm/Friday & Saturday 12:pm-12:00am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Forty-Eight: July, 12,2016 Manhattanhenge at the Museum of Natural History

Twice a year a phenomenon called ‘Manhattanhenge’ happens in Manhattan, a time of the year when the sun perfectly aligns with the grid pattern of the city.  Based on the theory of Stonehenge in England without the religious connotations, the sun sets between the buildings of Manhattan in perfect form. This is the third time I have seen this happen and you never get tired of seeing it but it does drain your eyes. It really is pretty amazing and makes me think that maybe two hundred years from now that someone might theorize that Manhattan might have been gridded for that reason when we all know that it is just a natural phenomenon.

Manhattanhenge, sometimes referred to as the Manhattan Solstice,  is an event during which the setting sun is aligned with the east-west streets of the main grid of Manhattan. This occurs twice a year on dates evenly spaced around the Summer Solstice. The first Manhattanhenge occurs around May 28th while the second occurs around July 12th.

The term “Manhattanhenge’ was popularized by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. It is reference to Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, England, which was constructed so that the rising sun, seen from the center of the monument at the time of the summer solstice, aligns with the outer ‘Heel Stone’.

In accordance with the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, the street grid for most of Manhattan is rotated 20 degrees clockwise from true east-west. Thus, when the azimuth for sunset aligns with the streets on that grid. A more impressive visual spectacle and the one commonly referred to as Manhattanhenge, when a pedestrian looking down the centerline of the street westwards towards New Jersey can see the full solar disk slightly above the horizon the time the last of the sum disappears below the horizon. The precise dates of Manhattanhenge depend on the date of the summer solstice, which varies from year to year but remains close to June 21st. (Wikipedia)

We started the program in the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History with an explanation of the event and how it hits the grid pattern. Then how it ties into the summer solstice. Then the staff got us out in time at 8:20pm to see the setting of the sun.

The museum had 79th Street closed off to us and it was nice to see it from the middle of the street on a hill overlooking New Jersey. It happens really fast so you have to be there in time. This was third time I had seen it so I knew what I was looking at but I have to say it is something you have to see once. It is pretty amazing how the sun falls right between the buildings from the street.

It has also grown in popularity as well. When I first went, they could only close off a small portion of 79th Street and we had to keep running in the middle of the street with cars buzzing by and it was just a small handful of people. Now the whole street was packed with people with their obnoxious cell phones taking pictures and shooting films. Someone kept playing the Beatles ‘Here comes the Sun’ while he was filming it.

It was quite the site watching the sun set. Last year the clouds rolled in at the last minute. This year, it was clear and the sun set perfectly between the buildings. Everyone seemed very impressed by it all.

This coupled with my walk of Hamilton Place for the second time up in Harlem made for a nice evening. This is when you discover all the little ‘gems’ of Manhattan that most visitors don’t see. As I was walking down Columbus Avenue, a couple asked me what everyone was doing on the street and I told them we were watching ‘Manhattanhenge’  and then explained it. I said “only crazy New Yorkers come to see this but it is really something to see” and they looked at each other and then said to me “We wished we had known”and the wife said they may have to come back next year.

Everyone you have to see this once. You have to experience it to know what I am talking about. It is one of those things you only see when walking the streets of Manhattan.

Places to Visit:

The American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street

New York, NY  10024

(212) 769-5100

https://www.amnh.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d210108-Reviews-American_Museum_of_Natural_History-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

 

 

Day Forty-Six: July 1,2016 Walking the Harlem Beat

Harlem Sugar Hill

I continued walking the Harlem neighborhood this afternoon after a very exhausting morning working in the Soup Kitchen. I am beginning to discover that I should not combine the two together as it gets to be too much to do in one day. I was a food runner by myself and we served 660 meals that morning. When you serve mac & cheese to the homeless, you had better wear comfortable shoes.

After I left, I took the Number One subway to 155th Street and ended up back at 168th Street again. I never win. I walked down to 155th Street to start the walk at my starting point at the cemetery. I walked around the local arts campus and around the cemetery again. It is a beautiful to just sit and think with a gorgeous view of the Hudson River. I walked through Audubon Place reminding myself to leave time for their museums in the future.

My walk today took me down Broadway and St. Nicolas Avenue and back. Like every other part of Manhattan that I walk, everything is in a state of flux. I have noticed one thing in the area, the closer you get to the CUNY campus, the more gentrified it becomes. It seems that the old students who may have in the past avoided the area that surrounded the college, the new students seem to embrace it and rather enjoy it.

Lets be fair in that the area is so much safer and cleaner than it was even ten years ago. I remember taking a walking tour with a professor from FIT and the area has changed so much since then. I remember her saying how fast the brownstones were changing hands and how the shell of a building was going for over a million dollars and us smirking at her. That same property is probably worth six times that now.

Most of Broadway is filled with interesting shops and restaurants catering to both students and residents or both. My first part of the walk started at Estrella Bakery, on the corner of Broadway and 161st Street. This amazing little bakery is so reasonable and the food is great. To add to the mac & cheese I indulged in at Soup Kitchen, I had the most delicious cinnamon Danish and a ‘papa’ a type of Dominican croquette that is filled with meat tucked into mashed potatoes and then deep-fried. (See my review on TripAdvisor) Everything I try there is good and fun to munch on while walking.

You start to see Broadway’s transition from a Dominican neighborhood to college town between 145th Street to about 138th. The commercial area is filled with bike shops, trendy little restaurants and clothing stores. Bars seem to be opening up all over the commercial area. Between 155th and 145th and further down, there are many a hole in the wall and good sit down Spanish restaurants offering reasonable prices on traditional meals.

On the trip back up Broadway, I walked the length back and forth of Hamilton Place, which is lined with some of the most beautiful brownstones and apartment buildings that I have seen in Harlem. So many of the stairs to these homes are lined with flowering potted plants and the whole area looks like ‘Old New York’, with their washed fronts and vine lining the home. This stretch of the neighborhood I predict will be the next ‘hot neighborhood’ with the college being so close by and two very popular subway lines.

There were some unusual and trendy little shops in the area that seemed out-of-place at this point in a neighborhood in transition. I just don’t think too many students or residents in the area is going to go for a $12.00 pie at Sweet Southern Style Bakery but that’s just me. Everything at the shop looks so good from the window. Next door is the trendy Hogshead restaurant with a delicious sounding pulled pork sandwich and sliders. I see more of these restaurants opening up in the small spaces that line the brownstones.

Hamilton Place also has its share of pocket parks. At the top of the street is Jonny Hartman Plaza originally know as Hamilton Park after the founding father’s whose home located here. Hartman was a musician who lived in the neighborhood back in the 1960’s. If this park is honoring someone it should be better weeded and taken care of by the community.

Further down the road is a very nice family park in the Alexander Hamilton Playground, a popular spot for young families trying to cool down in the hot weather. It is funny that some people say that they would never raise a child in the city but these kids looked pretty happy to me. At the end of the block that leads to Broadway is Montefiore Park, where it seems that the whole neighborhood meets. There are several food vendors here to check out, especially the lady who sells the flavored ices for a dollar.

By the number of people playing dominos and cards, it is popular meeting place for the retirees in the neighborhood. There is a lot of yelling and laughing going on most of the day. Walking back up to Amsterdam Avenue, you can walk the side streets to see the beautiful restoration of the brownstones in the area. There is so much care to this area. At 113rd Street, look down the road to see the amazing view of the Hudson River and then up the road to see the CUNY campus and you will now know why I think this is going to be a hot neighborhood. It offers parks, stunning housing close to a college campus, great views of the river and some great restaurants that cater to the whole community.

I was able to walk around the CUNY campus without the campus police bothering me and I have to say that it might be a small campus but it is a pretty one that is an oasis in a busy neighborhood. I was surprised that the neighborhood was not more tailored to the students but I could tell for a long time that the students must have felt very isolated being so far uptown. To the west of the campus is St. Nicholas Park, a very well used but overgrown park. The paths, basketball courts and bathrooms really need some capital improvement and the park needs a good weeding. The views of the neighborhood and beyond are quite spectacular. I could see why Alexander Hamilton had his home here. The Hamilton Grange as its called was closed for the day but in its day, it must have been an amazing estate. Hamilton was married into the Schuyler family and at that time they were the Gates and Buffets of their day.

After the walk up and own the commercial strip of Broadway, I walked across 155th Street again and walked down St. Nicholas Avenue. This part of the city has some of the most beautiful architecture in Upper Manhattan. This part of the walk took me down St. Nicholas Avenue from 155th to 125th and then back up. All along the way there are beautiful restored mansions, elegant brownstones, small well-landscaped pocket parks and delicious restaurants to try.

Some of the most beautiful restored mansions I saw line 150th Street off the avenue. The breathtaking mansion on the corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and 150th Street was once owned by the Bailey family of Barnum & Bailey fame. The mansion and the surrounding four mansions have been beautifully restored to their true glory. The owners have taken a lot of pride in the exterior and tha landscaping of these homes. There are about four or five mansions to walk around in the area to view their unique beauty.

This area is known as ‘Sugar Hill’ for the sweet life that it gave its residents. The area is bounded by West 155 Street to the north, West 145th Street to the south and Edgecombe Avenue to the east and Amsterdam Avenue to the west. Sugar Hill got its name in the 1920’s when the neighborhood became a popular place for wealthy African-Americans to live during the Harlem Renaissance and people like Clayton Powell Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway resided here. (Wikipedia)

The whole area is going through a massive gentrification with scaffolding all over the place. People are snatching up these buildings and revitalizing them. I call it the ‘new windows’ effect. When you see new windows in the building, it means that it has already changed hands. There are three historic districts in the area but view the row houses between 718-730 St. Nicholas Avenue and you will respect the true beauty of the area.

The area also has a series of pocket parks. One gathering place is the Donnellan Square Park named after Timothy Donnellan, Private First Class during WWI. This attractive little park is a place for some serious sports conversation as I found out when some guy asked me about all my Michigan State gear. The way he approached me I thought he was ready to say ‘Hi Officer’. This well landscaped little park is a nice to place to just to sit and relax.

Further up on 151st Street is the Convent Garden, which is a small pocket park Community Garden off West 151 Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. The park has a unique history.

In 1985, a gas station occupying the site was demolished and the remaining empty lot was an eyesore to the community until local activist Luana Robinson and a small group of female volunteers from the Coalition of Hamilton Heights Tenants Associations established the Convent Garden to Women. In 1989, Convent Garden was the pilot location for the new Greenstreets program, which was launched by the Parks and the Department of Transportation to transform traffic triangles and other paved areas into green spaces.

After the site was heavily disturbed by the removal of underground gas tanks in 1998, Juliette Davis and other local residents began to rebuild the garden. The gazebo, donated by the Marriott Corporation, was installed in November 1998 and in the spring of 1999, the Convent Garden Community Association added three wooden benches and a new lawn. (New York Park System online)

While I was walking by this time, the park was open and I was able to walk around. I was introduced to Ms. Davis, who was working in the park with her grandchild. She said she keeps healthy by doing some of the work around the garden with her neighbors and family helping with the hard stuff. “It did not even have grass when we first started. We had to dig the whole thing out,” she said with a lot of pride. When she won a grant from the city for all of her hard work, she put the lawn in. The park is such a tranquil place with several flower beds, benches to sit, a lush lawn and flowers all over the place. The volunteers do such a nice job keeping the park up and I had just missed on of the local choir groups perform in the park that day. Maybe next time. It was just fun watching Ms. Davis’s grandchildren run around the park ‘trying to help’ as most kids do. Her pride in the park I think is what makes it so special. It’s that care in the community.

On my way back to 155th Street, I stopped at Victorio’s Pizza at 348 West 145th, right across the street from Jackie Robinson Park. OMG. This is some of the best pizza that you can get for a dollar a slice. I was completely blown away by the quality of the fresh mozzarella and the sauce had so much flavor. The service was very friendly and the woman behind the counter seemed surprised when I walked back in and said how much I enjoyed the slice. (See TripAdvisor for the full review).

I took the train back down to Times Square from 155th Street and then it would be off and running for another day. I covered the whole area from 155th Street to 125th Street both Broadway and St.Nicholas Avenue’s. It was a long day but there was so much to see.