Day Eighty-Eight: Walking the Border of Yorkville/Carnegie Hill: East 96th Street to East 84th Street and from Central Park West to FDR Drive August 25, 2017

I finally got out of Harlem and into the Upper East Side. This area is the border neighborhood between East Harlem and the Upper East Side (or as people used to say before gentrification of the Island of Manhattan, the Upper Upper East Side). Most people consider anything below 98th Street on the East Side of Manhattan and East of Central Park as the Upper East Side. However you call it, you are now out of Harlem.

The mood of the area is even different. It was like when I was crossing 155th Street from Washington Heights to Harlem months before. The mood of the area and its residents starts to change. It becomes the Woody Allen Upper East Side. Again just like Manhattan Valley on the West Side, there is still a very 70’s and 80’s feel to the neighborhood. Its got a more a middle class feel to it.

There are none of the expensive restaurants and boutiques that you see below 80th Street. The feel of the businesses is more local. Even the Isaacs Housing complex looks more upscale then the projects a few blocks up and their residents have their own security watch (the guy asked me what I was doing there and no one ever asked me anything when I walked through).

The walk along FDR Drive esplanade has some view.  The shore line of Queens is really changing. There is a lot of development around the East River and what a beautiful view of the river. The esplanade stops around 90th Street for renovation and then continues once you pass Gracie Mansion.

Carl Schurz Park where Gracie Mansion is located is a nice place to just relax and watch the boats pass by. You get the nicest views of Randalls-Ward Island and of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island (I never knew there was a lighthouse over here). The developers are creating a new ‘Gold Coast’ along the Queens-Brooklyn riverfront.

It was nice to just relax and watch the water. The kids are in full force at this park like many parks around the city and it looks like they are trying to enjoy their last days of freedom before the school years starts in two weeks. Kids were playing basketball, Frisbee, roller skating and just chasing one another. It was nice to see kids not using cellphones.

The homes along this part of Manhattan were a combination of brownstones and prewar apartments but all along the Avenues, you are seeing more and more new construction. All sorts of new apartment and office buildings are being built along 1st, 2nd and 3rd Avenues. The businesses are more local than chains,  giving you a peak at time before the late 90’s exploded with the chain stores all over Manhattan. It is funny that I remember a time everyone in the city complained that the chains would not even come to the city now in 2017 they complain that they are taking over the city.

The border of Yorkville, 84th Street, is lined with many brownstone type buildings and private homes along with a series of small restaurants and shops worth exploring. Many are businesses that have been open for years such as Dorrian’s Restaurant since 1960. It harks back to when the Upper East Side was the land of preppies.

When you reach 5th Avenue, the area between 84th Street and 96th Street is lined with museums giving name to ‘Museum Row’ starting with the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the corner of 84th Street passing the Jewish Museum, Guggenheim Museum and many others, which will be fun to explore. Many of the smaller museums of the city line this area as well so I passed names I had never heard of before.

At 91st and 5th Avenue along the wall of Central Park is a memorial to W.T. Stead, a journalist who died in the Titanic. He was a English journalist best known for being an investigative journalist, better known as a gossip columnist. The funny part of his going down in the Titanic is that he had written that he might die in a drowning and wrote two fictional articles before the tragedy about ships colliding at sea and another about a ship that sinks without enough life boats to save everyone. Maybe he just saw his fate. He was into spiritualism, which was fashionable at the time and maybe someone hinted to him.

Mr. Stead’s memorial is one of many that line Central Park that most people don’t even notice.  The park is loaded with statues and memorials that most New Yorkers just pass by without a moments notice. It makes one wonder why they would put this here.

There are glorious views of the reservoir at 90th Street and 5th Avenue that you should not miss. Just walking in the park to see the gardens is worth the trip inside Central Park. Most of the gardens are still in bloom and the park is loaded with tourists milling around the waterfront.

Walking up 5th Avenue along the park at 96th and 5th Avenue, there is a statue of Albert Bertel Thorvaldsen in a small enclosure on the edge of the park before you enter it. This bronze, life-sized sculpture is a self-portrait of the esteemed Danish sculptor and was dedicated in Central Park in 1894. It is the only statue of an artist displayed in the parks of New York City and honors a titan in his field who had broad influence in sustaining the classical tradition in art (NYC Parks Department-Central Park).

As I was walking across 96th Street to finish the upper part of the neighborhood, I had a sudden craving for a sandwich and walked up to Moe’s Grocery Inc. at 1968 3rd Avenue, which I had eaten in before (See review on TripAdvisor & my blog, ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’). They have the best special, a chopped cheese on a hoagie roll and a Coke for $3.00. Ever on the budget, their chopped cheese rivals Haiji’s (Blue Sky Deli) up on 110th Street.

I thought I had asked for lettuce and tomato on the sandwich so add another $1.50 to it but when I sat down to eat it at the park at 96th Street, they were not on it. I was a little pissed at paying for something I did not get but the sandwich was so good, I did not mind. It is worth the walk up a few extra blocks to 108th Street for the sandwich. You will also see the distinction of the neighborhoods just by crossing 98th Street (See the previous walk in East Harlem). The sandwich is so loaded with beef and gooey cheese that it makes the nicest meal during this long walk and nothing is better than a Coke on a hot day.

I ended this part of the walk by rounding East End Avenue and relaxing at Carl Schurz Park, which is a true delight. What a beautifully landscaped park with paths of picturesque gardens and statues and active playgrounds with screaming children. The nice part is the bathrooms here are decent and you have a working water fountain, with lots of cold water. It was fun to explore the paths going up and down the landscaped paths.

Security is heavy at the northern part of the park where Gracie Mansion is located, the Mayor’s residence. There are NYPD cars all over the place so try not to dwell too long in this area not to get the attention of the police officers. You can’t even see the mansion any more because of the fencing around the house. This was the former summer residence of Archibald Gracie, a well-known Scottish born, American merchant, who was partners with Alexander Hamilton.

He built the house in 1798 as a summer home and entertained the elite at that time in Manhattan, including John Quincy Adams. Gracie’s daughter Eliza Gracie-King was one of the great social leaders at the time until Mrs. Astor took the throne during the ‘Gilded Age’. The house was sold in 1823 to pay off debts owed by Mr. Gracie and it was bought by New York City in 1896 due to back taxes by the then owners. It has been used as a concession stand for the park as well as the first home of the Museum of the City of New York. In 1942, the house was renovated and became the residence of Florio LaGuardia, the Mayor of New York and thus became the residence of future New York City mayors NYC Parks Department).

I had taken a tour of the mansion years earlier with the Cornell and Harvard Clubs when we had a historical tea at the house. Mayor Bloomberg did not live in the house at the time so it was used primarily for entertaining. We had a wonderful afternoon tea at the at the house and then a formal tour of the public rooms and gardens. It has the most amazing views of ‘Hell Gate’, a bend in the river along the esplanade, that has some of the roughest waters in the East River. The house does get a nice breeze.

After a long rest on the benches outside the park, I walked over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to spend the rest of the evening. The Met, as its called, is open until 9:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays, so you get to listen to the music in ‘The Balcony’ restaurant or just tour the galleries. It gave me a chance to see the Greek Galleries again and walk around the Central American exhibitions. It is so nice to walk in the galleries when it is not busy. It was a nice way to end the evening.

 

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