Monthly Archives: May 2017

Day Seventy-Four: Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden April 29th, 2017

Sakura Matsuri: The Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival

April 29, 2017 at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

I took time out of ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’ to visit Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden at 990 Washington Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) for the annual ‘Sakura Matsuri’, the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival that the garden hosts every year at this time to welcome in the blossoming of the cherry trees in the main part of the garden.

Needless to say, the gardens were mobbed with people. This festival has grown every year since I have been a member. When I first joined the gardens back in 2003 it was a much smaller festival but after a few articles in the New York Times, it has become quite the event.

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Brooklyn Botanical Garden

The event features all sorts of activities such as traditional dance, music and fashion. There is even a traditional Japanese market with all sorts of products such as books, wraps of clothing, pillows and food. Chocolate sampling seemed to the most popular and those booths were practically fighting people off.

I got there so late since it is almost a two hour trip by public transportation. I arrived there by noon time and was able to cut in front of everyone through the Membership line. That saved about 45 minutes.

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Brooklyn Botanical Garden

I was able to walk through the trees, dodging people taking pictures an picnicking on the grass. There were all sorts of concerts and fashion shows going on while I was walking around. Most of the events and workshops did not interest me but one.

The J-Music Ensemble of Brooklyn preformed in the Osborne Garden by the entrance of the garden. They were playing traditional Japanese video game music themes. This left me lost as I have not followed these video games in years and have not looked at Pokémon since I left FAO Schwarz over twenty years ago. Nothing was lost in the translation as the concert was excellent and did not feel that this really catered to kids. After just two songs, most of the little kids and their parents walked out of the concert. The most interesting part of the concert is that they had us sitting in blown up chairs of one of the characters of the cartoons.

The group like the audience was very multi-cultural as some of the members were from Japan, some from Brooklyn and others from all over the US. It seemed by the introduction, they were all living in Brooklyn now. What ever the situation, the music was wonderful and we all enjoyed the concert.

The best part of the day was just walking through the extensive gardens and the cherry trees. When walking through the row of trees closer to the Japanese Garden, the wind blew and I was walking through a sea of cherry petals. That was just amazing. I haven’t felt a high like that since I had a school of angel fish part in front of me on a reef off the coast of Bora Bora.

The rest of the afternoon I explored the rest of the gardens, walking through the Water, Rock and the Japanese gardens, looking over the plantings. I was sorry that I missed seeing Daffodil Hill when it is in full bloom and the Tulip gardens were just peaking in bloom. That was still a dazzling display of colors.

I walked out of the back part of the gardens and explored Prospect Park and the Prospect Park Zoo. Even that was mobbed with people from the garden displays spilling into the zoo. I got there in time to see the seal feeding and that is always fun. The seals seem to like an audience.

In search of something to eat, I avoided the fast food restaurants at the back of the park and explored Flatbush Avenue into Prospect-Lefferts neighborhood. This area is in the midst of a major gentrification. The last time I walked down Flatbush Avenue, I could see the changes starting and that was in February.

Four months later, I have seen about ten businesses close their doors with ‘For Rent’ signs on the windows and some of these businesses were neighborhood staples. There are two more apartment buildings opening up in the neighborhood and that will change the complexity of the area even more.

With Midwood, Kensington, Borough Park and Dittmas Park to the south of the neighborhood, the area is surrounded by middle-class enclaves that keep expanding. This area in just four months is going through a very quick transition as new people move into the area.

I avoided the ‘hipster’ restaurants that are so over-priced anyway and went back to ‘Family Pizza’ at 720 Flatbush Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). The pizza is just amazing in this little hole in the wall pizzeria which has been family owned for years. The slices are huge and the sauce has some flavor to it. The guys are the counter are really nice too.

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Family Pizza on Flatbush Avenue

The rest of the afternoon I just explored the side streets and then made one last trip through the gardens. The cherry blossoms were not going to last past this weekend and I wanted to enjoy them one more time. It really is a beautiful park.

Places to Visit:

Sakura Matsuri (Every April)

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden

990 Washington Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11225

(718) 623-11225

https://www.bbg.org/

Open: Sunday & Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Friday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d103900-Reviews-Brooklyn_Botanic_Garden-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2785

 

Places to Eat:

Family Pizza

720 Flatbush Avenue

Brooklyn, NY

(718) 462-0639

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Family-Pizza/120324751313083

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d4966907-Reviews-Family_Pizza-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

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Day Seventy-Three: Walking the rim of lower Spanish Harlem from 110th-96th Streets from 5th Avenue to FDR Drive April 27th, 2017

The weather finally broke today and I got a chance to get some more walking time in. It has been gloomy for the better part of a week and it was nice to see the sun finally peaking out. It didn’t last all day but at least it was not that cold out.

After another day in the Soup Kitchen (they had me working the door today so you get to talk to all the characters outside and hear their stories), I took the 6 subway train to 110th Street and walked to find a place to eat lunch. I was going to go back for another ‘chopped cheese sandwich’ but I walked in the wrong direction and ended up at 5th Avenue.

Wanting to start my ring walk of the area (walking all of the outside streets of the neighborhood, I decided to find a place around here. I ate Empire Corner II at 1415 5th Avenue at 116th Street, a restaurant I had passed many times when walking this area (see review on TripAdvisor). It was good but not great. I had a sweet & sour chicken with a generous portion of roast pork rice that had no roast pork in it. Just some onions. For $6.00 with a Pepsi included it was not a bad lunch. They gave me a large amount of chicken so I could not complain. The takeout place is a dump but being across the street from the housing projects, I did not see anyone who came in for their orders complain. If you are in the area, it is a nice place to stop for a reasonable meal.

I started my walk down 5th Avenue past all the projects first, Taft Houses on one side and the Martin Luther King Jr. Houses to the other which gives way to 112th Street and the renovating of the brownstones and prewar apartment buildings that run from 112th Street to other parts of the neighborhood all around 110th and below as the Upper East Side is beginning to creep up into this area. Within a few years, you will see an extension of luxury high rises start to be built in this area due to the proximity of Central Park. You are seeing this at 116th Street up to Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park).

Once you pass the circle where The Heritage 5th Avenue a Schomberg Plaza Circle is currently undergoing a renovation to mixed housing, you walk past buildings that you would imagine belong on 5th Avenue with the traditional doormen apartments that face Central Park (for many who remember the ‘Central Park Jogger’ case back in the 80’s, these apartments are where the supposed ‘Central Park Eight’ came from and started their rampage. That seems like a million years ago now).

The walk down 5th Avenue took me past Central Park on one side and the start of the ‘Museum Mile’ on the other. What was nice is that the trees are in the beginning stages of budding and spring is here finally. Fifth Avenue along the park is quite a site especially when the tulips and daffodils are out in full bloom. What is unusual about Fifth Avenue residences is that one block from Fifth Avenue from 110th to 96th Streets leads into public housing complexes sometimes one or two blocks away. Almost everything below 96th Street on the East Side has been gentrified.

I passed the Q subway line on the way to FDR Drive (see previous discussion on the new Q line in an earlier blog) and will have to use this on future trips uptown. It is such a pleasure to travel on the Q line instead of the over-crowded 6 line.

My first part of the travels took me down Fifth Avenue to 96th Street and crossing 96th Street to FDR Drive. Watching the students leave school that afternoon was like a microcosm of the city. The closer you are to the park, you see all the preppie kids who go to the local private schools and are being picked up by the equally preppie nannies and moms. The closer you get to FDR Drive, you see the public schools and the kids who live above 100th Street closer to the housing complexes.

This part of Manhattan is very diverse but is ever changing. Kids are kids though and they all make a lot of noise as they run out of their schools to meet their friends, play in the local parks and run to the local pizzerias.

There is a very diverse crowd of kids at the Samuel Seabury Playground at Lexington and 96th Street, with kids, parents and babysitters running all over the place. I have never seen a park with so much energy. Kids were all over the place, chasing one another and on the play equipment. When I reached the end of 96th Street, another group of kids were playing at the Stanley Isaacs Playground at the corner of 96th and 1st Avenue. It was a slightly seedier bunch.

The Isaacs Playground though is a good place to stop to go to the bathroom as it is very clean and the tulips were up in full force both along the rim of the park, on the street leading into FDR Drive and at the entrance of the East River Esplanade on the corner of FDR Drive and 96th Street. Watch both ways when crossing the street as there is serious traffic here and the people drive like maniacs.

Walk along the corridor that is the Esplanade. Since I did not know this existed and that your could walk FDR Drive in this section of the island, I walked along the East River from 96th Street to 124th Street where is abruptly stops as they are renovating that whole park area. You will find that the first thing you are hit by is the smell of salt air. It smells like you are at the shore. It was such a rich salty smell and is a nice change from all the fumes of the cars.

Walking the Esplanade is such a beautiful walk on a sunny day but you will notice one thing, the further you get from 96th Street the less the Esplanade is taken care of by the city. Either a private group planted by 96th Street or there is a group of gardeners who took it amongst themselves to clean up the Isaacs Park, the Esplanade and that part of the pathway to about 100th Street. After that, the Esplanade is somewhat over-grown by weeds and the beds are not that well maintained.

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Stanley Isaacs Playground

 

The views are spectacular though. It is such an amazing walk on this side of the river. At around 102nd Street is the walkway to Wards Island off the coast of Manhattan with ball fields and recreation facilities. All sorts of kids were running over the walkway to go to lacrosse and soccer practice dragging their equipment with them. Ward-Randall’s Island Park stretches from about 101st Street all the way up to about 128th along the river so I got to see the island come into bloom.

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Ward-Randall Island

At about 116th Street exit, stop and admire the colorful totem pole someone created out of an old stone pillar. The faces painted on in colorful colors is quite amusing and very creative. I am not sure if it means anything but who ever painted it did a good job. It is an unusual piece of art.

The Esplanade ends abruptly at 124th Street as they are renovating the whole park area around the Wagner Houses. The area was fenced off and a very scary looking homeless guy was playing with his pants so I turned around and went back down the path.

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Esplanade in East Harlem

I crossed over the 120th Street walkway and doubled backed to the Pleasant Finest Deli at the corner of 120th and Pleasant Avenue. I love the owners. They always give me such a strange look. The best part of this deli is that the prices are so reasonable that it makes it a pleasure to stop for a snack.

From here I walked FDR Drive the rest of the way down from 121st Street to 96th Street. Not the most exciting walk and a little dangerous with people speedy by and racing to get off the various exits. Its not a place I recommend walking down.

I had to pass the East River Houses again, this time on the FDR Drive side where thank God they are building a park so the whole area is fenced off from the rest of the complex. When they finish, hopefully it will be a very active park and keep the problems away. Even when I was crossing the street at 102nd, I caught a glimpse of someone watching me hidden in one of the doorways of the complex. I just kept walking.

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East River Houses on East 105th Street (AVOID)

I finished the side streets between 1st Avenue and FDR Drive from 102nd to 96th. The whole area is dominated by the local schools and playgrounds and the kids were out in full force, playing basketball and gossiping with their friends. The Metropolitan Hospital is the border of the neighborhood from Spanish Harlem to the Upper East Side/Yorkville. This is the way it is by 5th Avenue with Mt. Sinai Hospital dominating the area between 5th Avenue and 103rd Street.

I ended the day relaxing in the Central Park Conservatory Garden, which was in full bloom ablaze with daffodils and tulips and the fountains going in full force. The lawns and trees were all green with the early spring budding in full form. Spring is here and the warm weather is coming. Don’t miss the Conservatory Garden now as its beautiful this time of year. It was just such a nice place to sit back and relax after along day.

Central Park Conservatory Garden II

Central Park Conservatory

Places to Visit:

Central Park Conservatory

1233 5th Avenue & 105th Street

New York, NY  10029

(212) 310-6600

http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/conservatory-garden.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d272517-Reviews-Conservatory_Garden-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/831

 

Ward-Randalls Island

Just off the Island of Manhattan in the East River

New York, NY

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/wards-island-park/history

 

The East River Esplanade

Along the Harlem Waterfront from 125th Street to 145th Street

 

Samuel Seabury Playground

Lexington Avenue & East 96th Street

New York, NY  10128

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/samuel-seabury-playground

Open: 6:00am-9:00pm

 

Stanley Isaacs Playground

East 95th to East 97th Streets

New York, NY  10128

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/stanley-isaacs-playground

Open:  7:00am-9:00pm

 

Places to Eat:

Empire Corner II

1415 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10029

(212) 410-5756

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4480058-Reviews-Empire_Corner_II-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Pleasant Finest Deli

375 Pleasant Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 348-6666

Open: 24 Hours

My Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12379766-Reviews-Pleasant_Finest_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905