Monthly Archives: August 2016

Day Fifty-Two: A Visit to Washington DC in search of Alan Garfinckel-The Release of “Love Triangles” August 19th, 2016

 

I am getting ready to release the second book of my trilogy, “Love Triangles” (“Firehouse 101” was released ten years ago and will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary on September 25th). Since a section of the book takes place in Washington DC and I had to run an errand in the nation’s capital, I decided to get some research in as well since I wanted to update that section of the book.

To put it bluntly, DC has changed tremendously since I started writing the book in 1989. When I first started to write “Love Triangles”, Washington DC was falling apart. I had just graduated from college and had visited DC several times since the eighth grade and decided to set the book at Garfinckel’s Department Store when I visited it in the summer my father took my brother and I down to DC for a business trip. Those were the days when you could let a 13 and 11 year old roam the city by themselves. We were staying at a hotel close to F Street and my dad trusted us while he was working.

I knew at a young age what I wanted to do when I grew up and since I has just been in Washington DC with my eighth grade class a few months before, my brother and I roamed downtown DC and spent the day roaming the department stores on F Street. This was the heyday before the shopping district went downhill. We roamed around the Willard Hotel, Hecht & Company, Woodward & Lothrop and finally spent the afternoon at Garfinckel’s shopping for gifts for our parents before hitting the Smithsonian .

I remember buying my father a bottle of ‘Grey Flannel’ for a thank you gift and getting my mother a decorative candle because we could not afford the silver salad server by a dollar when we were at Garfinckel’s. Looking back on customer service, it must have been unusual to see two teenage kids shopping by themselves in DC but the woman never blinked an eye and as friendly and professional as I remember her being, she wouldn’t give us a break on the salad server. So we settled on the candle. I still remember having a snack in the Greenbrier Room, the restaurant in the store and my dad had that bottle of ‘Grey Flannel’ until I moved back in with him in 2001 from Guam. I believe that I was the one that finished it up. It is funny how one afternoon can inspire a book considering the store closed over twenty five  years ago.

Once I finished some work I had to do in the city, I took a special trip and walked all over the downtown area that had inspired the book so long ago. The buildings for the most part are still there. Hecht & Company converted to Macy’s years ago and they had closed the old store on F Street back in the 90’s, Woodies closed in the 90’s too when merged with John Wanamaker from Philly and both stores which needed massive renovations fell under the weight of a bad economy and Garfinckel’s closed when it was spun off to Hooker Real Estate Company and all the stores owned by Hooker that included Altman’s and Bonwit Teller closed for lack of business. The early 90’s were dark days in retail as many old-line and carriage trade department stores that had survived the Depression and years of consolidations finally closed their doors for good. The closing of Garfinckel’s came about the same time I started to write “Love Triangles”.

To keep the updates on the book fresh, I walked down to F Street to see the old buildings. Hecht & Company was now another retailer but the building is still beautiful and a testament to when shopping wasn’t a chore but a leisure activity. Woodies still keeps its name plates and pictures of the old store in its heyday in the lobby which is still polished oak and marble. Occasionally an old timer like myself will walk the lobby and still look at the old pictures and have good memories of a store long forgotten by a newer generation of shoppers. My next part of the F Street tour was the old Garfinckel’s building which is now been renovated, reopened and renamed the Hamilton Square Building housing what was once Clyde’s of Tyson’s Corner and now the Hamilton Grill. You can still see the Julius Garfinckel nameplate above the doors of the building hidden behind the awning. That is all that is left of the store that I bought those gifts so many years ago. It’s still an elegant building.

After the department store tour, I made my way across the street to the Willard Hotel, still considered one of the Grand Dames of the city which has been now overshadowed by Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton Hotels plus a slew of others that have opened in the last thirty years. It’s still a beautiful old hotel but it could really use a spruce up when you look closely at it. The one nice added feature was the outdoor café that they put in the back of the hotel facing the Mall. That was packed to the gills with tourists looking for some shade.

I walked around the Mall and towards the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue and the security was out in full force. I have never seen so many policemen and security before but since people have jumped the fence and landed in the yard lately, it is better that way. The tourists acted like tourists in front of the building but I always felt that I was being watched.

I walked back around the downtown and walked down to Chinatown, which at this point has been reduced to one block and about a dozen restaurants in which some are still living on their reputations from years ago. I went to Chinatown Express (746 6th Street SW), a noodle and dumpling house that I had eaten at back in 2010 with my dad when we took a trip to DC to see the White House Christmas tree. Back then, the restaurant was introducing fresh dumplings and noodles made in front of you which not many places were doing in New York City yet. How New York has caught up and done better. The food went downhill in six years (See review on TripAdvisor).

The soup dumplings were dried out, the shrimp dumplings were under cooked and over pan-fried and the noodles were good but not great. The service was lackluster. Ever since they built the Verizon Center, they pretty much destroyed what was left of Chinatown. It is now down to about a block and most of the restaurants look like tired old relics of bygone era. The area has gentrified itself out of character.

I was able to walk back down E Street towards Ford Theater. The modern section of the building really showcases the times but the old building is a step back in time. The scary part is when you walk across the street to the doctor’s house where they took the body after the shooting. They still have the blood soaked pillow in the display case. The exhibition is a real eye opener and this should not be missed. It is one of the tours that is a must do when in DC (See review on TripAdvisor).

My last part of the tour was a walk around the Mall and a tour of the Natural History Museum off Constitutional Avenue NW. This is one of the museums I still remember from my eighth grade trip to DC. I still have a fascination with the Hope Diamond and it is something to see it. The whole Gem exhibition should not be missed as some of the most famous gems are located here as well as the stones in their raw state. The animal exhibitions are good but do not have the same effect as in the Museum of Natural History in New York.

By the end of the day, the humidity was a killer. I was exhausted from all the walking and the heat was no help. I walked back to Union Station and cooled down. They have fully renovated the station and it is much more than just a train station. It is a destination of shopping and restaurants and has the most impressive lobby to walk around. The station is the true hub of the city with both the trains and subways to take you to all parts of the city. Make sure to visit the McDonalds in the station. The service is excellent and for a McDonalds the food is really good (See review on TripAdvisor).

I don’t care what people say about travelling by train, it is the best way to go. If I drove this trip, it would have taken me four hours and we got down to DC in two and a half hours by Acela and it is the best way to travel. It is so relaxing and peaceful in the Quiet Car. You just relax and watch the cities and towns pass you by. Even Trenton looks pretty good from the train.

Be on the look out for the release of “Love Triangles” as an Ebook as well as read my first book, “Firehouse 101”, the first book in the trilogy. You will see how they tie in a moment in time and show New York City in a unique light. Enjoy the reading and take a train ride down to DC. With so many things to see and places to visit, it is well worth the trip.

Day Fifty-One: August 8,10 & 11, 2016: Walking in Harlem on the East & West Side 155th Street to 145th Street

I finally finished my two Brooklyn tours through school and was back up in Harlem today. It was a long day of walking as those city blocks across are long. I started at the subway stop at 168th Street and walked down to 155th Street (the subway was not running to 155th Street over the weekend). As usual when I have to walk down Broadway, I stopped at my new favorite bakery, Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway (check out the numerous reviews on TripAdvisor) for chicken pastilitos and cubanitos.

If you like hot snacks and sweet desserts, this will be your ‘go to’ place for a quick snack when walking up here. It is still one of the reasons why I don’t complain about getting off at 168th Street when the C subway is not in service. I like to stop at one of the pocket parks on Broadway to relax and eat. It was a long afternoon of walking.

Estrella Bakery.jpg

Don’t miss this excellent Dominican Bakery on Broadway

My walk over these three days took me from 155th Street to 145th Street from Riverside Drive to Lenox Avenue (there are still some side streets on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park that I have not finished yet). Don’t let these maps fool you, these are long blocks being walked in humid weather.

I started my walk today at the Hispanic Society of America Museum at 155th Street which is on the Boricua College-Manhattan Campus. It shares the campus with the American Academy of Arts & Letters, which closed down in June for the rest of the summer. The Hispanic Society of America is a free museum that is small enough that you can enjoy the visit for about an hour without being over-whelmed like you would at one of the bigger museums.

Hispanic Society of America.png

The Hispanic Society of America

It was a small but no less impressive collection of Spanish Art from different periods. The Hispanic Society of America was founded as a free museum and research library in 1904 by the American scholar and philanthropist Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955). Over the past century, the Hispanic Society had promoted the study of the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Spain and Portugal and their areas of influence in the Americas and throughout the world. The Museum and Library constitute the most extensive collection of Hispanic are and literature outside Spain and Latin America (Hispanic Society of America literature).

The museum  had a nice crowd that afternoon, (how these people found it I will never know. I never knew it existed) and the galleries were small but the work was impressive. Some of the pieces that stood out were Jouquin Sorallo y Bastida’s ‘Vision of Spain’ created between 1911-1919, with many traditional views of parts of Spain and ‘After the Bath’ done in 1908, which looked more like a contemporary beach scene. The one piece that stuck in my mind was a new piece to the collection, ‘The Four Fates of the Soul’, which showed Death, Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. The sculpture really proved it’s point and made me think that we really are being watched from above. Even the guard as I was leaving said it was a new piece to the collection but people really talked about it as they were leaving.

After the museum, I had about ten minutes to walk  around Trinity Cemetery, which is  a quiet but scenic place. The graves on this side of Broadway overlook the Hudson River and are so peaceful with beautiful views, it makes you think of where you want your final resting place to be located. To live eternity here says something. Even the views of New Jersey  are gorgeous. Be sure to get to the museum and the gravesite early as they do close at 4:00pm.

I began my zig-zag trip of this part of Harlem at 154 Street and from there until 145th Street, the areas between Riverside Drive and Edgecombe Avenue house some of the most beautiful and elegant brownstones that I have seen in the city. So many of the them are under scaffolding as the new population moving up here is putting a lot of money into the renovations of these properties. The results are amazing with wooden doors, elegant metal work cleaned up and lively planters all around the stairs and the windows.

Sugar Hill I.jpg

Sugar Hill Neighborhood

With the CUNY campus just south of this area, you can see that college population is spreading its wings all over the neighborhood as the students, even in the summer, are moving in or living in this neighborhood and invest in buying in the bodegas, restaurants and hanging around the parks. The more diverse population looks like it is really making an effort to work together for this neighborhood. The most beautiful of these blocks is concentrated between Amsterdam Avenue and Nicholas Street so take time to really look at these homes and see the love and care that is put into them.

Jackie Robinson Park I

Jackie Robinson Park where the students hang out.

Another stop I made was in the Hope Garden at 153rd Street that runs through 152nd Street. This was an empty lot between all the buildings that has now been cleaned up and the neighborhood held their Annual Open House & Barbecue for the neighborhood. It was not much of a turnout at that point of the afternoon but all the neighborhood seniors looked at me like ‘oh oh, another one is moving in’. You begin to pick up on these things when you walk through neighborhoods that have not seen me before.

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Hope Steven Garden

Everyone was really nice though and some of the ladies were explaining how the neighborhood banded together to clean and landscape the garden. The garden now contains peach trees, berry bushes and a grape arbor while supporting a cat colony that lives in the garden. Some of the neighbors were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs and older residents were chatting amongst themselves. No one made a fuss about me eating and since I was not hungry, I did not partake in the barbecue but it looked pretty good.

Most of the residents sat around and chatted with their neighbors or busy working in the garden. As I sat down to rest, two of the women who volunteer here, looked like they wanted to recruit me to do the same as they told me the story of how the city’s water aqueduct runs underneath the garden so they can never build here and how bad the neighborhood had become and how it was coming back to life. It takes a big person to show the immense pride in a neighborhood.

I stopped back in Convent Garden again to visit Ms. Davis, who was chatting the afternoon away while getting her exercise working in their garden. She was telling me that they will be having a jazz concert with food on Labor Day Weekend and invited me to join in. This I don’t want to miss as it is my two favorite things, jazz music and food. The volunteers were really working away at making this garden the well maintained and colorful place that the garden is to the neighborhood. Everything is in full bloom right now.

Convent Garden Manhattan.jpg

Convent Garden in full bloom

The Sugar Hill neighborhood is really impressive and you could see that this was not one of the places that went downhill as the rest of Harlem decayed in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. It was and still is an grand group of homes that their owners take a lot of pride in. Now that the rest of the city has caught up with it, it will be interesting to see what comes out of it the next few years.

Another small oasis exists on 149th Street, which is Maggie’s Garden. It was locked at the time but also another garden taken from an empty lot and brought back to life. Maggie Burnett, are Harlem resident, turned what was once a ‘rickety old house’ when torn down into an urban oasis starting in 1974. Fighting off drug dealers to build the garden, she got some help from New York Restoration Project and its founder, Bette Midler who assisted in 1999 helping clear the site and now it is a garden with trees, flowers, a full vegetable garden and a barbecue. You could not see all that from the locked gates. (Daily News article).

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Maggie’s Garden

I was able to start my walk on the other side of Bradhurst Avenue on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park. I will let you know that the college students from CUNY have discovered the park and were sunning themselves the afternoon I walked around the park. Bradhurst Avenue has a lot of new buildings on it and the businesses include a Starbucks so you know that neighborhood is going through a transition. To let you know though, this transition stops here and the further you get away from the park, the seedier the area gets. By the time you hit Lenox Avenue, gentrification has not hit this area of the neighborhood and you should watch yourself. The buildings are beautiful and there is a police station a block in but it still needs a lot of work on this side of West 145th Street.

The end of the walk that day was at 145th Street and lunch at Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings at 346 West 145th Street which is right next store to Victorio’s Pizza that is more of the rave. The pizza was just average and the sauce did not have much flavor to it. The funny part was to listen to Indian music while eating my pizza.  That was strange. My recommendation is go to Victorio’s Pizza and get it to go and eat it in Jackie Robinson Park. The middle of the park has benches to sit on and the park is really pretty with its slopping walkways and rock work and it’s large trees to sit under.

The entire walk between 155th Street and 145th Street with an extra afternoon walking down Convent Avenue took almost five hours. Again, don’t let these blocks fool you as they are long and you will want to stop in the  parks and gardens and walk around.

Places to Visit:

Jackie Robinson Park

Bradhurst to Edgecombe Avenues at 145th Street to Manhattan Avenue

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/jackie-robinson-park_manhattan

Convent Garden

Convent Avenue & St. Nichols Avenue

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/convent-garden/highlights/7737

Maggie’s Garden

564 West 169th Street

https://www.nyrp.org/green-spaces/garden-details/maggies-garden

Hope Steven Garden

505 West 142nd Street

https://www.manhattanlandtrust.org/contact-us/hope-steven-garden/

Sugar Hill Neighborhood

Between 135th Street to 162nd Street and Edgecombe Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue

http://www.sugarhillmap.com/about.asp

Hispanic Society of America

163 West 155th Street

New York, NY 10032

(212) 926-2234

https://hispanicsociety.org/museum/

Open: The museum is currently closed for renovations. Please check the website for the opening.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d110237-Reviews-Hispanic_Society_of_America-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/160

 

Places to Eat:

Victorio’s Pizza

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY 10039

(212) 283-2100

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-8:45pm

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

Estrella Bakery

3861 Broadway

New York, NY 10032

(212) 795-5000

Open: Sunday-Saturday 5:00am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4416394-Reviews-5_Estrella_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/407

Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(646) 455-0942

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10715273-Reviews-Harlem_Brothers_Pizza_Wings-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Day Fifty: Walking Tour of Greenpoint, Brooklyn with Trina Morris and F.I.T. July 23rd, 2016

My second “Talk & Tour” class with the Fashion Institute of Technology took me on a full day tour of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Many of my classmates had been on the Bushwick tour with me two weeks earlier plus a group of out-of-towners. How people down South find these obscure walking tours in New York City is beyond me. Even I had to get the FIT catalogue from school. What made this tour interesting was that my family lived here when they first came to this country at the turn of the last century and both my Grandmother and Grandfather on my father’s side lived here until the 1960’s.

Our Instructor for the day was Trina Morris, whom I have taken many walking tours with which covered DUMBO, Carroll Gardens, the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and finally Boerum Hill at a time when I was writing my first book, “Firehouse 101” (See IUniverse.com for details on the book), which was set primarily in Boerum Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods. I had used the walking tour to get a better feel for the neighborhood and after the tour was over that weekend back in 2002 came back to the neighborhood about 18 times over the course of writing the book to see the changes. Since writing my first novel, all of these areas have changed tremendously with gentrification  All of Brooklyn just keeps changing. Trina seemed thrilled that I had an autographed copy of the book ready for her on the subway ride over.

Getting to Greepoint is not the easiest trip. We had to take the C Train from school and then transfer to the L Train (recent college train) to the G Train to get to the heart of Greenpoint. Unlike Debbie’s tour a few weeks earlier, Trina’s tour deals with going to all the best stores and restaurants whereas Debbie’s tour concentrated more on art work and dealing with owners opening new businesses. Both tours showcased the neighborhoods beautifully but there were times I felt like quite the tourist. Especially when the locals looked at us like we were from Mars. I felt that way when we were in Bushwick as well as the local residents looked perplexed on why we would walk around their neighborhood.

Our tour started at the G stop on Manhattan Avenue and Greenpoint Avenue, the furthest point you can get into Greenpoint from Manhattan. From there we walked down Greenpoint Avenue and turned right two blocks away to Franklin Avenue. Franklin Avenue has been one of the shopping areas of Greenpoint for years but now newer residents are putting an upscale swing to it with boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and clothing stores giving the street a nice mix of old and new merchants.

When I did a tour of the neighborhood, I stopped at Old Polish Bakery at 926 Manhattan Avenue for a doughnut. The selection of baked products look really good but word of advice. They must do their baking early in the morning because the doughnut was dried out (see TripAdvisor review).

Our first stop on the tour was Zoe’s Beauty Products Salon & Spa at 119 Greenpoint Avenue. This beauty spa has a full line of men’s and woman’s products as well as get a full day pampering. Take time to look at all their products as they have a full line of merchandise for every need. A very nice shop with friendly service and a good selection.

Our second stop on the tour was at Budin Coffee Shop at 114 Greenpoint Avenue, a beautifully designed store with wooden shelves and an open bar. Budin is what TV would call a ‘hipster’ shop but the service was friendly and they did make a mean iced tea. They have a nice selection of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Check out their gift area as well. There is some unusual items. What was nice too was they let us use the bathroom and for that I give them a big thumbs up (see TripAdvisor Review).

Our next stop on the tour was a small clothing store named ‘In God We Trust’, which has a respectable line of casual wear. This biggest observation that I have found in clothing stores in these so called ‘hipster’ neighborhoods is that you can not find a size over 30 inches and a large for men.  It’s like shopping at Bloomingdale’s today. They don’t want to sell to anyone who is not 5:5 and a waist of 30 inches.  Even though the selection was interesting I’m not sure who they were buying for in the neighborhood.

A fun shop that we quickly went though was the East River Skate Shop at 86 Greenpoint Avenue. They had an interesting line of tee-shirts with unique prints and even though I am not into skateboarding, their line of skateboards would attract any adult interesting in trying the sport.

Walking to the end of Greenpoint Avenue facing the East River is the most beautiful view of Manhattan that had been hidden all these years behind factories. These factories today are becoming lofts, studios and restaurants with a bar called ‘Barge’ that was very active that afternoon. I was amazed on how busy the place was considering it was the middle of the afternoon. On the sunny clear day that is was it had the most spectacular views of Manhattan and a nice soundtrack going.

Also, at the end of Greenpoint Avenue is WNYC Transmitter Park, which shares the same views as ‘Barge’ and they show films there on Friday nights. They were setting up for the new ‘Star Wars’ film the night I was there and expecting a pretty big crowd. The park has beautiful views of Midtown around 34th Street. It has a nice smell of salt air as well. Frankly it could use a good weeding.

We turned the corner onto Franklin Avenue,  which is where most of the gentrification is taking place. I was able to tour the neighborhood about a week later to get a better feel for it and Greenpoint is still a neighborhood, not unlike Bushwick, that is still in transition. Many of the old residents still make their home here and you still see it on the upper reaches of Manhattan Avenue, where a sizable Hispanic population still lives for now and on the lower parts of street where a sizable Polish population still lives.

Franklin Avenue is where everyone is moving in. The block faces, along with West Street, the East River where the views of Manhattan are priceless. West Street is where all the former factories and warehouses are located which is quickly being replaced by studios, stores and small factories where the new residents live and work.

When visiting the American Playground between Nobile and Milton Streets, you can see the rapid change in the population with men in their 20’s playing basketball and young mothers with their small children having playdates. It was a mostly white crowd that differed from other parks that I visited in the neighborhood.

On the way up to lunch, we stopped at Word Bookstore at 126 Franklin Avenue that has a great selection of independent and commercial authors and they had several local book signings set up. Its a small store with a depth to their selection and the staff is very friendly.

We then toured You & Yours Vintage Shop at 77 Franklin Street and People of Tomorrow Consignment Shop at 66 Franklin Street both offering a nice selection of clothing and accessories for the person and the home. You really have to know what you are looking for when visiting these shops because the merchandise is rather unique. What’s nice is that I found the service both here and at other stores on Franklin to be very personal and welcoming.

Lunch that afternoon took us to Brooklyn Label at 180 Franklin Street. As the kids say, OMG, this restaurant was incredible. The food was French Bistro and the brunch menu had a good selection of both breakfast and lunch items at very reasonable prices and the portion sizes were huge.

I had a Croque Monsieur ($12.00) that was out of this world. The sandwich was huge and the gruyere cheese had a sharpness and twang to it. It was served with a kale salad that had a delicious dressing and the French Fries were cooked perfectly. The sandwich was filled with so much ham and cheese that I could barely finish it. The meal was so big I had no room for some of their delicious sounding desserts. The service was friendly and flawless. This is a definite on anyone’s list when dining in Greenpoint (see review on TripAdvisor. I gave them an Excellent).

The food and the company made the meal perfect. It was nice getting to know the people I toured with that afternoon. Some of them had such interesting backgrounds and personal stories from bankers to lawyers to nannies, all of them had a story to tell.

After lunch our shopping trip had us zig-zagging along Franklin Street. We stopped at Pas Mal and Pip Squeak Chapeau at 99 Franklin Street to look at their clothing lines, Porter James, a home furnishing store at 116 Franklin Street. It carries a lot of 1960’s furniture. We also visited Adaption at 109 Franklin Street to look at more vintage furniture.

We stopped at the seafood store Little Neck Outpost at 128 Franklin Street, which had food for sale and lots of gifts and snacks as well. They had also have a selection of hot foods to take home.

On my own part of the tour, I went further up on Franklin Street to Commercial Street where the warehouses are giving way to condos and views of Manhattan and Long Island City, which was once thought to be the next SoHo.

Greenpoint Park at 243 Franklin Street attracted the most diverse amount of children and had beautiful views of the skyline. In a few years, I predict this will be the ultimate Yuppie park as condos and renovations are taking place in the buildings surrounding the park. Manhattan Avery Park (Newton Barge Park) at 37 Commercial Street has some of the best views of Newton Creek’s boating and sailing docks and some unique art work along the fences. Newton Creek is currently being cleaned up so much more activity is going on this side of the neighborhood as well as new condos, restaurants and an ice cream shop have opened here.

This is the tip of the neighborhood and there is a lot of renovations going on in the old factories and warehouses. Give it less than three years and this whole area will be luxury lofts. With the views of the city and access to many small pocket parks, this will become a very desirable area to move to in the future. I walked across Commercial Street back down Manhattan Avenue on the upper part of the neighborhood and you are starting to see the transformation of the neighborhood from Hispanic to a younger white crowd with more restaurant and bars opening up on this part of the neighborhood. There are still many reasonable Spanish restaurants to give a try that look quite good.

I took a detour for a snack at Franklin Pizza at 109 Franklin Street on the way back down. This slices here are nice sized and at $2.50 are a little pricey in current New York terms but the pizza is full of flavor and their sauce is delicious (see review on TripAdvisor). It is the perfect blend of old and new neighborhood as everyone eats here and it is a good gathering place for neighborhood gossip as I found out.

Our last store in this part of the neighborhood was Flying Squirrel at 87 Oak Street, a  great little consignment store of clothes, toys and furniture for young children. The place was alive with activity as the kids seem to dominate in this store.  The owner, Kate Schmitz, was really nice and explained her concept of the store to me, mixing brand new and consignment goods to attract the young families moving into the neighborhood. She also has a nice line of books as well. It is a great rainy day store for families.

We then took a turn in the block and walked down Oak Street to Guernsey Street to Meserole Street to the main shopping area of the Polish side of the neighborhood on lower Manhattan Avenue. Here we got to try two of the most well-known businesses in the Polish neighborhood, Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop at 727 Manhattan Avenue and Polka Dot Café at 726 Manhattan Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor).

Peter Pan’s doughnuts are some of the best I have ever had. Who could make a choice? I ended up eating three doughnuts because they looked so good. I had their apple filled doughnut with a white icing, a crème filled doughnut and a glazed doughnut. It put a damper on my dinner plans but like the kids say OMG they were so good. This is one store you can not miss when visiting Greenpoint. I had heard about them for years but never realized how good the doughnuts were for munching.

The other store we visited was Polka Dot Café,  Polish gourmet shop, that has now reinvented itself into both a gourmet shop for Polish food and a small café where you can order food. Trina had arranged for us to try some blueberry dumplings that were cooked perfectly and were delicious. I was able to down a few of them on top of the doughnuts. I was so impressed by the food that I doubled back after the tour was over and on top of everything else I ate I had chicken meatballs and a type of pancake that was filled with meat with a flavored ice tea. That chicken meatball made me proud to be part Polish and the food and the service was just excellent. I think the ladies got a kick that I was so happy with the food.

We all said our goodbyes by the subway as most of the people in my tour went back to Manhattan via the subway at Nassau Street. It was nice meeting everyone and Trina is a good tour guide. I am hoping that she arranges a tour of Bed-Sty next.

My last stop of the day was Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish at 607 Humboldt Street, a Polish Catholic Church that my Great-Grandmother Rock had raised money to help build at the turn of the last century. What a beautifully detailed church that my Aunt Dee later said she had been baptized in along with several great aunts and uncles had been married there. I stayed for the 5:30pm mass and almost cried through the service knowing how important this church was to our family and what a big part it played in our lives. It was a nice service and the priest did a nice job with the mass but it really chocked me up to know that this was part of my past. I felt like my dad was there with me.

As for me, I was so stuffed with food from all over and it was such a nice night to walk, I walked back to Manhattan. I made the turn down Bedford Street and walked through Williamsburg through the ultimate part of the ‘hipster’ neighborhood. It was like walking through a college campus. God, did these kids make me feel old. It was funny how I never felt this way when I used to do the same thing on Rush Street in Chicago. I guess every generation goes through it.

I walked through Williamsburg and then over the Williamsburg Bridge into the Lower East Side and walked across lower Manhattan to Houston Street to see if there were any interesting movies at the Angelica. With nothing I wanted to see, I took the subway back to Port Authority Bus Terminal to go home. I felt so much better after that walk and worked off almost everything. The trip to Greenpoint was really interesting and who knew that my Great-Grandmother was so ‘hip’.

Even if you are not an FIT Alumnus, check out the walking tours that the campus offers. They are reasonable, engaging and you will have a great time.