Monthly Archives: October 2017

Day Ninety-Five: Walking Roosevelt Island from one end to another October 21, 2017

I took a walking tour of Roosevelt Island with the American Museum of Natural History today. The island is located right off the Upper East Side and is one of the many islands in the New York County area. Roosevelt Island has had its share of problems living there in the past.

Many articles had been written about the island in the 80’s with lack of good housing, lack of stores, the tram not working and not much to do on the island. This has changed like the rest of the city in the last 20 years. There has been so much development and new housing plus on top of the tram, you do have a subway stop in a renovated station. The nice part about the tram is that you can use your subway card to ride it and what a view!

I took the F Train over that morning to meet the rest of the group. I toured with the same tour guide who lead us through Inwood two years ago. Unfortunately his get up and go is not there much these days and he looked like he packed on about 25 pounds since the last tour. Still we took a geological tour of the island so I got to see the island in its developed stages as well as the modern stage.

Walking around Roosevelt Island only takes about an hour (or two if you want to just relax and take your time). We started our tour outside the Roosevelt Island Historical Society Center Kiosk on West Road. Here we meet the head of the Historical Society and were invited to visit later on after the tour.

The history of Roosevelt Island is interesting. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Island was originally called Minnahannock by the Native Americans and Varkins Island by the Dutch settlers. The island was acquired by the Blackwell family in the late 1600’s, who renamed the land Blackwell island. The Blackwells lived on and farmed it before selling it to the City of New York in 1828 for $30,000.

In the 19th century, the island was used by the City for institutional facilities, including the Workhouse Penitentiary, Lunatic Asylum, City Hospital and City Home and given the name Welfare Island in 1921. These institutions gradually being relocated to areas more easily accessible to public transportation.

In 1969, this two-mile island was lease to the State of New York for 99 years. Under New York State’s Urban Development Corporation, Welfare Island became a beacon for the affordable housing movement within the city. Construction of the island community was completed in 1975 with four housing developments. In 1973, the island was renamed Franklin Delano Roosevelt island.

Today, Roosevelt Island has a small town feel with approximately 20 buildings and 14,000 residents. The island is home to six landmarked structures and proudly houses Four Freedoms Park, one of the original visions for the island.

(Judith Berdy, President Roosevelt Island Visitor Center)

Our first part of the tour was visiting the new Cornell Tech campus on the southern part of the island. This new complex of four buildings is the wave of our university’s urban campus to soon be joined by a new hotel and another tech building. The area has been replanted and a new lawn and gardens has been built on a waste deposit site. Its hard to believe that it is built on a trash mound. The tour guide explained that this is all reclaimed land. The campus is beautifully set on the island and is located right near the tram and subway station. I got to tour the Bloomberg Building and walk through their new restaurant.

Cornell Tech.jpg

Cornell Tech Campus: Go Red!

Past the Cornell campus is South Point Park and the Small Pox Hospital, which is currently laying in ruins. The city is now refurbishing the building but it will never be reopened as a fire did damage to all of the building. It was behind scaffolding and was not much to look at except for the architecture itself.

The Smallpox Hospital is a Gothic Revival structure designed by American architect James Renwich Jr. and opened to the public on December 18, 1856. It was the first hospital in the country dedicated to treating smallpox, a highly contagious and deadly viral disease.

Small Pox Hospital.jpg

Small Pox Hospital

The original footprint of the Smallpox Hospital was the rectangle central bay, which measured roughly 100 feet by 40 feet and was three stories in height. The building was  constructed of granite quarried on the island and was built by prison labor. In 1875, the hospital was renamed Riverside Hospital and in 1886, the building was converted to a nursing school called the Home for the Nurses of the Maternity and Charity Hospital Training School. The northern and southern wings were completed in the early 1900’s in order to provide additional space for classrooms, laboratories and dormitories.

In the 1950’s, the nursing school closed and the building was abandoned. It was stripped of floors, windows and stairwells. The Gothic ruin has been empty ever since. What exists today is largely its shell.

(Roosevelt Island Historical Society at http://www.TheRuin.org)

After the picture taking at the hospital, it was on to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. It is amazing park located at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island with the most fantastic views of the City. On this clear sunny day, I could see all the way downtown. It was nice to just sit on the steps and just look out on this sunny day.

This is where the tour ended with our guide. I swear the guy looked exhausted and we had only walked the southern part of the island. Our group went on their way while I decided to see the rest of the park and walk the entire island. I started with walking the park.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Points Freedom Park is the first memorial dedicated to the president in his home state of New York. Located at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in New York City. It is the last work of Louis I. Kahn, an iconic architect of the 20th century. The memorial, which opened to the public in October 2012, celebrates the four freedoms, as pronounced in President Roosevelt’s famous January 6, 1941 State of the Union address: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

FDR Park.jpg

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Points Park

(Park’s Mission: As a steward of this civic space, Four Freedoms Park Conservancy advances President Roosevelt’s legacy and inspires, educates and engages the public in the ideals of the four freedoms. The Conservancy does this by:

*safeguarding the memorial as a space for inspired use.

*fostering community and understanding.

*igniting conversation about human rights and freedoms today.

The park is built on landfilling from on-island demolition and this extended the island on the southern part.

(New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Society).

From the park, I walked the path around the exterior of the entire island taking in the view of the coast of Queens. The shore line of Queens is slowly changing too. New apartment buildings are going up in Astoria and Long Island City not to mention the coastline of Brooklyn as well. Much of this is built around parks that line the East River. This is not our parent’s outer borough.

The pathway around the island had its twists and turns around the many parks and housing complexes. Some of these you could tell were built back in the 80’s and were the housing developments that were bitched about in New York Magazine so many years ago. Now these apartments have become desirable and have been spruced up. They are surrounded with newer, modern buildings that are attracting new younger residents.

The pathway with its breezy views attract the island joggers and fisherman. It turned out to be a 81 degree day and everyone was out enjoying the unseasonable warm weather. The leaves were just starting to change colors so there was a new view in the parks on the island and in the parks across the river.

The east part of the pathway on the island took me to Lighthouse Park on the northern tip of the island. This was the park I had seen a few weeks earlier when visiting Carl Schulz Park by Gracie Mansion. The lighthouse was built in 1872 by inmates from the penitentiary with stones from the island and it was designed by the architect who designed the Smallpox Hospital.

Lighthouse Park II

Lighthouse Park Roosevelt Island

The lighthouse was built to guide ships through the treacherous waters of the East River and Hellgate. Now decommissioned, the park is a perfect place for picture taking and for picnicking. It has the nicest views of the Upper East Side and Randalls-Wards island to the north.  It really is a nice place to take pictures or just relax, sit and enjoy the breezes. It was funny to now see the people from across the river. They seemed so much smaller.

The northern part of the island is dominated by the Coler Rehabilitation Center and many of the patients were out and about on the pathways with their families enjoying the warm weather.  Be careful when walking the western part of the island as you could be nipped by a passing wheelchair.

Passing the hospital is the Octagon Apartments. The front of the building is the original Octagon building that was part of the Lunatic Asylum was built in 1834. This is where Nellie Bly wrote “Ten Days in a Nuthouse”, a famous piece describing the conditions in the building. Now it is a luxury eco-friendly apartment building. The parks next door to it have the nicest playground and a fantastic view of the Upper East Side.

Other newer apartment buildings line this part of the island of which have views anyone would envy. If you are going to live in New York City and want a view, this is the place to go.

The nicest part of the walk was the water sculptures by American and Kansas born artist Tom Otterness entitled “The Management of Money & Real Estate”, which are two cute looking sculptures that depict the combination of money and real estate and how they affect one another. You could see this when each one of the sculptures were dunked in the water. You have to take time out and really look at these. It is really reflective of an island where mixed income seems to work.

Tom Otterness Artist

Tom Otterness, the Artist

Mr. Otterness came to New York City in 1970 to study in the Arts Student League and the Whitney Museum. He is considered one of the best public sculptors in the Art world (Artist Bio and Google.com)

Tom Otterness.jpg

Tom Otterness “The Management of Money & Real Estate”

As I rounded the Promenade, I had to stop for some lunch. There are not too many restaurants on the island but the ones who are there look pretty good. I ate at Piccolo Trattoria at 455 Main Street (See review on TripAdvisor) for a slice of pizza. This is the only place to get a slice of pizza on the island. The best part is the restaurant is really good. I had a slice of their Sicilian pizza ($2.50), which had just come out of the oven. It was really good. Their sauce is excellent and one slice is enough to fill you up. There service is friendly as well. I needed it as I was ready to walk the interior of the island.

After lunch, I walked in interior of the island and walked both side of the main street. There are some interesting restaurants, historical sites, a brand new school and the original Blackwell family house that was built in 1796 and sold in 1823. By the Motorgate building, there was a Farmer’s Market going on that afternoon.

It seems to be a great place to raise children. The public school PS/IS 217 looks like the type of school where the parents really support it. There are some interesting programs going on at the school and an active PTA. There is also an active theater down the road and a new library. There is a lot to do for a small neighborhood.

The tour of the island has a lot to do and see. There is a nice mix of historical buildings and brand new architecture that blends together. Everything mixes well and has created a very livable and vibrant neighborhood. There is a lot to do and I am not sure if the rest of Manhattan knows what they are missing.

I left the island on the Tram and the nice part is I did not need to use a special ticket. It was part of my subway card and all I needed to do is swipe the card and I was on my way.

Roosevelt Tram.jpg

Roosevelt Tram views

What a view! I do not care how touristy anything is the view from the Tram on a clear sunny day is the best. You can see all the way up the island and you really see the beauty of the island of Manhattan. To see all the buildings and parks and the river I think of the people who see this view in pictures and never get to experience this and I am right here seeing it. If anything, you have to take the  Tram once. Being crowded in is well worth it.

Dinner was at Dorrian’s Red Hand Restaurant on 1616 Second Avenue at 84th Street (See review on TripAdvisor),  which I had mentioned before when walking through Yorkville. It is old-fashioned bar founded in 1960 and is a true Upper East Side ‘preppie’ bar. Everyone was pretty dressed up and the games were on.

I ended up staying to watch the Michigan State versus Indiana game. I swear I had to calm down because it was a nail biter and I had to deal with rugby players constantly blocking the TV. That last minute touchdown really helped (that and the fact that Cornell beat Brown at Homecoming was nice). Michigan State won our Homecoming Game!

The food here is excellent. You have to try their UES Burger, which was a version of a ‘breakfast’ burger with bacon, artisan cheddar and a fried egg. The combination really worked and it had a salty savory flavor to it. The French Fries were perfectly cooked with lots of salt. Everything just worked. The place was packed with Syracuse fans watching their game so I was the only green and white in a sea of orange and blue. These games got close. I ended the win with a piece of warmed apple pie which hit the spot.

Back on the Q subway at 96th Street again to go home but on a warm night it was nice to walk around Second Avenue and look at everyone else eating outside and enjoying the warm evening. It was a great day in New York and my first trip to Roosevelt Island.

Go Green & Go Red!

 

Transportation to Roosevelt Island:

Take the tram (Cost of a subway ride with pass) between 59th and 60th Streets on Second Avenue in Manhattan or the F subway line.

Tram:

Monday-Friday (Rush Hours): 7:00am-10:00am; 3:00pm-8:00pm

Friday-Saturday: 6:00am-3:30am

Sunday-Thursday: 6:00am-2:00am

Hours do change so please call. The subway runs all day with hours changing depending on the time of day.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d548557-Reviews-The_Roosevelt_Island_Tramway-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Things to do and see on Roosevelt Island:

Artist Tom Otterness sculptures “The Management of Money & Real Estate”

http://www.tomostudio.com/

The Lighthouse in Lighthouse Park on the northern part of the Island

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1905

 

The Octagon (part of a housing complex now) in the middle part of the Island

The Chapel of the Good Shepard in the middle part of the Island

The Blackwell House in the middle part of the Island (under renovation)

The Strecker Laboratory on the southern part of the Island

The Smallpox Hospital on the southern part of the Island

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom Park on the southern part of the Island

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d3595273-Reviews-Franklin_D_Roosevelt_Four_Freedoms_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1724

 

Places to eat:

Piccolo Trattoria

455 Main Street

Roosevelt Island, NY  10044

Phone: (212) 753-2300

Fax: (212) 753-2330

http://www.picollotrattoria.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d15171396-Reviews-Piccolo_Trattoria-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

On the Manhattan side:

Dorrain’s Red Hand Restaurant

1616 Second Avenue at 84th Street

New York, NY 10028

Phone: (212) 772-6660

http://www.dorrians-nyc.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5021112-Reviews-Dorrians_Red_Hand_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

 

Day Ninety-Four: Walking the Avenues of The Upper Upper West Side from Columbus Avenue to West End Avenue from 96th Street to 84th Street October 18, 2017

I had another beautiful day in the city. I can’t believe this is fall with the 82 degree days. It is so funny to see so many people in outdoor cafes this late into the season. It reminded me of when I was walking Morningside Heights in February and it was 82 degrees then. The weather has been very wacky this year and everyone says there is no Global Warming. That’s hard to believe.

I finally managed to sneak into the city to walk the Avenues of the Upper Upper West Side. I had spent the morning in the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen again and they put me back to work in the kitchen. By the time I left chopping loads of chicken breasts up for the next day’s lunch, I was exhausted. With Thanksgiving around the corner, it is going to be busy in the prep kitchen. I had been in the prep kitchen during the holidays and it is a lot of work.

I started my walk this afternoon by relaxing with lunch at Zhong Hua Chinese Restaurant at 23 West 100th Street (See review on TripAdvisor), a tiny hole in the wall Chinese restaurant I passed when walking Manhattanville. This is right on the border at the official end of the Upper West Side meets the Douglas Housing Projects. I could tell most of the customers came from the housing projects by the customer base walking in. They must be very loyal because the staff knew who everyone was and said hello.

There are a couple of tables to sit at in the restaurant and it is not the fanciest place but the food is not bad. I had a Sweet & Sour Chicken lunch special. It was okay. Typical Chinese-American cooking. It tasted like fresh Chicken McNuggets with a standard red sweet sauce and served with white rice. The combination lunch special was $6.00 with a Coke and was not bad. Not the greatest but not bad. It filled me up for my long walk around the neighborhood.

Columbus Avenue was my first part of the walk. Columbus Avenue was the new trendy avenue when the city started to gentrify in the early 80’s through the crash of ’87 and now has settled into a more upper middle class street with a combination of upscale stores and chains. There are so many banks on the avenue that I do not understand how they survive. This was at one shining moment the center of the island with all the new innovative restaurants and shops opening up here starting with Museum Café opening right across the street from the American Museum of Natural History (it now houses a Shake Shack ten restaurants later). As someone noted in New York Magazine, it looks like a suburban mall with the parking (which is true for most of the island now).

In the upper 90’s, Columbus Avenue has turned into a series of large apartment buildings that must have been started in the late 90’s. It has changed the complexity of the neighborhood which was once all low-lining buildings. The border shared with Manhattanville gets even weirder with a Whole Foods and new luxury shopping one block from the Douglas Houses. It is a strange move but it seems that everyone is using the Whole Foods from all over the neighborhood so some marketing person was thinking.

Once you cross over to the 80’s blocks, the architecture turns back into the more traditional low-rise buildings of the turn of the last century which is what gives the neighborhood its charm. Like the rest of the city, there have been a rash of small business closings around the block as the twenty year leases that were signed in the 90’s when the neighborhood was still transitioning have come up and the complaints that the rents have tripled and quadrupled.  The mix is now around the museum bunch of extremely expensive restaurants and realtors . This is not the West Side I remember.

One store that does stand out as being different is the Wild Bird Feed at 565 Columbus Avenue that seems more a hospital than a retail store. It saves pigeons and doves and brings them back to health. The rest is a combination of chain stores and expensive decorating places.

Amsterdam Avenue is pretty much the same as the parts in the areas above 90th Street is new apartment buildings and stores. Most of the chains have moved up to this area with the new buildings. As you move to the lower 90’s, Amsterdam Avenue becomes a series of neighborhood stores and restaurants that are strictly local. There are many great ethnic restaurants as well as all the services from laundry places to shoe repairs and drycleaners. They have really kept Amsterdam Avenue for the neighborhood.

At the corner of 84th and Amsterdam Avenue again is the Urban Assembly garden that now is producing fall vegetables. It is amazing how everything changes in just two weeks. The kids were out cleaning up the beds when I visited again and the teachers are eager for you to see what the kids are doing. Try to stop by the stand and at least say ‘hello’ to the kids.

Urban Assembly Garden

Urban Assembly Garden on West 84th Street and Amsterdam Avenue

Across the street from the garden is West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue which was mobbed with families who were shopping after school. There are some small restaurants a few doors down that were loaded with families. I could tell the parents here like their East Side counterparts really look after their kids education and welfare.

 

West Side Kids.jpg

West Side Kids

Broadway from 96th Street to 84th Street is a series of chain stores and independents. This part of the avenue is quite nice because it has the island in the middle of the road with trees and flowers still holding on from the summer months. It is being lined with brand new apartment buildings that are sprouting up all along the avenue. I have never seen a block so in transition. This is Broadway from 110th Street straight down to Columbus Circle.

When you turn the corner onto West End Avenue, it is a whole other world. This is the land of prewar apartment buildings, old brownstones and single family homes. The side streets are unique brownstones where it looks like no two houses are the same. It is straight out of an exterior shot of ‘Sex and the City’.

If you are in the city for Halloween, there is a great holiday display outside the brownstone at West End Avenue and 90th Street. All sorts of movable ghouls and ghost are on display with a pumpkin demon flying up the side of the house. Some one is in the theater business here.

Halloween Upper West Side II.jpg

Halloween on the Upper West Side, the owner is very creative

There is a beautiful tutored mansion that is being renovated on the corner at 274 West End Avenue and 95th Street that you have to see. It looks like a traditional German home attached to a prewar apartment building.

274 West End Avenue

 

274 West End Avenue

There are pillared twin mansions on the opposite corners of West End Avenue between 91st and 90th Streets with matching brownstones in the middle of the two homes. Both are being fixed up and the owners are very lucky to own such a beautiful, graceful homes. They look well-maintained and a little out of place with all the apartment buildings on the block.

The Swan House at 95th and West End Avenue is a elegant old building with interesting landscaping around it. People do love their potted plants. The fortress like apartment building at 645 West End Avenue has the most interesting light features on the outside. They look like a giant is holding lanterns. It is straight out of the late 1890’s. I have never seen a light feature like this one.

At West End Avenue and 84th Street, there is a plaque to composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, who lived in the building from 1926 to 1943. He did some of his most famous work when living in this building. Word of advice, don’t linger too long reading the plaque. The doorman will give you funny looks.

sergei rachmaninoff.jpg

Sergei Rachmaninoff

There is another gorgeous mansion on the corner at  272 West End Avenue and 91st Street that has been fixed up and again harks back to the time this was an exclusive neighborhood (more so than then now) and lined with private homes.

272 West End Avenue

272 West End Avenue

This whole area between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive from 66th Street straight up the west side of the island is lined with interesting apartment buildings. Each one is more unique than the other. It is a real change in these two blocks both in the architecture of the buildings and the feel of the neighborhood. It seems more quiet and reserved and the people walking along the streets seem more serious than their neighbors one block away. I just got that impression on the people living there by walking around at all hours of the day.

Dinner that night was at Cheesy Pizza at 2640 Broadway on the corner of 100th Street (See the review on TripAdvisor & my blog DiningonaShoeStringinNYC). The pizza is excellent made excellent by their delicious tomato sauce. I get so disappointed by many of these pizzeria’s in these neighborhoods that I pass. They look so good and end up having tasteless food (see review on Arturo’s on the East Side. Great portion sizes at a great price but no flavor to the food).

Cheesy Pizza

Cheesey Pizza

Not at Cheesy Pizza. The pizza is full of flavor and loaded with their delicious sauce and loads of cheese. They have some excellent deals with eight specials available all day long for $5.00, which is a steal in this economy.  I had the personal pizza with a Coke and you got four nice slices of pizza that is freshly made for you. I was not only impressed with the quality but with the friendly service as the guys behind the counter seemed happy to see me.  I guess its the cop thing again. This place warrants a few more visits.

Before I headed downtown, I made a special trip to Silver Moon Bakery at 2740 Broadway and 105th Street for dessert (See review on TripAdvisor & my blog DiningonaShoeStringinNYC). The pastries here are excellent and rival their counterparts in other parts of the island. The nice part is they are very reasonable. Nothing is over $5.00. The quality is excellent and the staff is not snotty like some of the bakeries on the East Side where they want to charge you $20.00 for a cake that costs about $3.00 in materials. I know rents are high but come on.

Silver Moon Bakery

Silver Moon Bakery

Silver Moon Bakery is the home of the Crumuffin, which I have talked about before. I got a little boring and got a Linzer Tart. It was excellent. The cookie itself was so buttery and tasted like it had just come out of the oven. The raspberry jelly was tart and sweet and the cookie broken apart in my mouth when I ate it. Like a piece of heaven.

That is the one thing about Silver Moon Bakery unlike their uptown competition. The product has not been sitting out all day long. The items are obviously bake in small batches throughout the day. Make the trip on the Number One Subway to 103rd Street to visit the bakery. Its worth the travel time.

Overall, I covered a lot of the Upper West Side, revisited a few haunts that I wanted to see again and got to relax and explore Riverside Park. The Upper West Side has so much to offer and I will see more when I walk the streets in the neighborhood.

Places to Eat :

Silver Moon Bakery

2470 Broadway

New York, NY  10025

(212) 866-4717

https://silvermoonbakery.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 7:30am-8:00pm/Saturday &  Sunday 8:00am-7:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d1027122-Reviews-Silver_Moon_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/433

 

Cheesy Pizza

2640 Broadway

New York, NY 10025

(212) 662-5223/6312/0028

https://www.cheesypizzabroadway.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d7079166-Reviews-Cheesy_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/521

 

Zhong Hua Chinese Restaurant

23 West 100th Street

New York, NY  10025

(212) 932-3377

Open: Sunday-Saturday 9:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d423760-Reviews-Zhong_Hua_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to  Visit:

 

Wild Bird Fund

565 Columbus Avenue

New York, NY  10024

(646) 306-2862

Home

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-8:00pm

 

West Side Kids

498 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10024

(212) 496-7282

https://www.westsidekidsnyc.com/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-7:00pm/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-7:00pm

 

Urban Assembly Garden

145 West 84th Street

New York, NY  10024

(212) 787-1189

http://uagreencareers.org/garden

http://uagreencareers.org/

https://urbanassembly.org/

 

Day Ninety-Three: Walking the borders of the Upper Upper West Side from 96th Street to 84th Street from Riverside Drive to Fifth Avenue October 11, 2017

Happy Birthday to me!!

I always try to spend part of my birthday doing some form of community service. So I spent the morning of my birthday cutting vegetables for the next few days meals at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

I spent the morning cutting three big bags of potatoes, a crate of sweet potatoes and several heads of lettuce for salads plus cleaning up the kitchen after everyone. We need to prepare prep for several dishes in advance and several cases of fresh vegetables were coming in so the old ones had to be used first. Needless to say, I was exhausted as usual when I left for the afternoon.

My afternoon was spent walking the ring of the neighborhood, the Upper part of the Upper West Side. Since this area runs from 96th Street to 59th Street, I will be breaking it up into two parts. Years ago, one did not dare venture over 86th Street on the West Side. Then it became 96th Street in the 90’s. Today though, the whole Upper West Side from 59th is really nice all the way to the tip of Inwood. There are some patches above 145th Street as I have mentioned in the blog that are still a little on the rough side but every month seem to get better.

Now that I have finished walking around Yorkville/Carnegie Hill and Manhattanville/Bloomingdale neighborhoods, it now time to tackle the Upper West and East Sides. This stretches from 96th to 59th Streets on both sides of Central Park and line both the East and Hudson Rivers. It will be a lot of walking.

My day starting by taking the subway back up to Morningside Heights for lunch. I had passed several restaurants along the way on Broadway on my days walking this neighborhood and there were still a few I had wanted to try. My choice was Bettolona at 3143 Broadway between LaSalle & Tiemann Streets (See review on TripAdvisor). The food is wonderful and very reasonably priced.

The beauty of Bettolona is the exposed walls and the open air windows that face a quiet side of Broadway to cars but noisy once the Number One subway passes. It was one of the warm, sunny October afternoons at 82 degrees so it was nice to sit by the windows and enjoy lunch. What impresses me about the restaurant is the unusual art up on the walls by the local artists, the calm jazz music and the laid back service. Everyone was so nice without knowing it was my birthday.

Bettalona.jpg

Bettalona Restaurant

I had the Linguine Bolognese, which was excellent. Fresh pasta with a generous portion of a veal ragu on top. The sauce, the owner explained, was made with fresh tomatoes and spices. It had such a nice rich flavor to it. You could taste the red wine in the sauce.

For dessert, I had the  Crepelle with nutella and banana, which I highly recommend. The dessert was two freshly made crepes filled with nutella hazelnut spread and freshly sliced bananas. A sweet light treat and the perfect way to end the lunch. I enjoyed it while watching students and members of the Columbia community walk by. I highly recommend the restaurant if you are in the area.

After lunch, I wanted to walk off my fullness and turned the corner onto the extension of 125th Street to the St. Clair turn into Riverside Park to the West Harlem Piers Park to look over the Hudson River and enjoy the beautiful sunny day. The West Harlem Piers is a small park inside Riverside Park that faces New Jersey and offers the most spectacular views of the Hudson River and the Cliffs of Englewood Cliffs and Alpine on the New Jersey side. It is a nice place to just sit, relax and think. I do some of my best writing here.

After I rested and digested, it was off to walk the fringe of the Upper Upper West Side. This encompassed 5th Avenue along Central Park to Riverside Drive facing Riverside Park from 96th Street to 84th Street. It was a large area but packed with interesting pre-war apartments, two large popular parks, loads of small local businesses and a few pocket parks along the way. This area unlike Manhattanville to the north of 96th, is starting to get a little more upscale as people with money are beginning to move above 86th Street, the traditional border of the Upper West Side. The area like the rest of Manhattan just keeps morphing quickly. You will never know when you turn the corner when another business will close and one replace it.

On the way down Broadway, I passed on the Columbia Campus a memorial plaque dedicated to General Garret Hopper Sticker, who lead the New York City defense during the War of 1812. This was the location of the McGowan Pass in Manhattanville, which was a major travel artery on the Post Road to the Northern parts of New York and New England. Fearing invasion by the British, the city rebuilt old Revolutionary forts and this area was home to the Barrier Wall to protect the travel route. It saw no action during the War of 1812 but this important piece of history is noted on the Columbia campus as the McGowan Pass still sits at the northern end of Central Park.

The one thing that I can note about both Central Park and Riverside Park that day is that all the leaves were still green. The vestiges of the fall had not turned color yet and with the unseasonable warm weather still felt like summer. Central Park was crowded that day with people playing Frisbee and walking their dogs. Many tourists were still in the city wondering around the park. It leads me to ask, are any of us still working full time? I wonder.

I had already walked all of 96th Street already, passing the artist Joy Brown statues on Broadway at the subway stop  (which run from West 117th Street to West 72nd Street until February 17, 2018) and the now familiar McDonald’s that has been my haunt for snacks and drinks when walking up here. I proceeded to walk down Riverside Drive through Riverside Park to enjoy the foliage and walk through a park still locked in the summer. It was so nice to pass couples walking their dogs or biking through the park. There is so much life going on here and people just enjoying nature.

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Joy Brown’s work “The Kneeler”

The homes and apartment buildings that line Riverside Park are from sign from the turn of the last century. There are still some mansions that line the park in the lower 90’s that are currently being refurbished. These you really have to look over for the 1880’s architecture. The loop around 84th Street will either take you to 83rd or 85th Street so opt for the lower one. Take your time and really walk through Riverside Park and see the foliage and the view of the Hudson River.

Between 90th and 89th Streets, take time to explore the Soldier’s & Sailors Monument on Riverside Drive and look over the monument. It was built to honor the Union Army & Navy during the Civil War. The monument was designed by the firm of Stoughton & Stoughton for the City in 1900. It was dedicated on Memorial Day of 1902 with President Theodore Roosevelt overseeing the event. The monument has seen better days and like Grant’s Tomb, could use a refurbishing.  Check out the detail work and the statues. It was well-designed and detailed.

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Soldiers & Sailor’s Monument

Rounding 84th Street leads you into the former edge of the Upper West Side. Back in the 90’s, one did not venture higher than 86th Street and then it became 96th Street. Now it is all the way up the west side of the island to the very tip. This whole area is being polished up and new chain stores are being opened along the Broadway corridor.

On the corner of 84th and Amsterdam Avenue this is a patch of green in the way of the Urban Green Space Garden run by The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers. The students run this urban garden where tomatoes, cucumbers and root vegetables are grown next to one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city. The kids take a lot of pride in this stand so try to stop in and look over their produce. They are a welcoming bunch and the teachers are very encouraging as well.

I walked the remaining parts of the border of the neighborhood along Fifth Avenue and then crossed over the park to the East Side where I ended up at the 96th Street exit. I ended my walk at the El Museo del Barrio a, a Latino themed museum at the edge of the Museum Mile at 1220 Fifth Avenue to see visit the museum for the first time (See reviews on TripAdvisor & my blog VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com).

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El Museo del Barrio

What an interesting museum. I visited all the exhibitions as the museum is rather small and the displays are very intimate. The Nkame exhibition was very interesting dealing with a local religion on the island that it pays great respect. It is interesting in the use of black and white used in the art. Another exhibition that really hit the economic attitude of the island was the ‘Debtfair” exhibition that explained how the island got into its financial straits and how it can be worked out. They also have a nice restaurant and gift shop that you should visit.

I took a quick tour around the Central Park Conservatory at 1230 Fifth Avenue (See TripAdvisor review & my blog ‘VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com). The garden was still in bloom with early fall flowers and green trees. Even at this time of night the conservatory was still busy. I really like the formal gardens to the south of the garden and the fountain.

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Central Park Conservatory

My evening ended with a lecture on ‘Rising Waters around NYC’, a discussion of how the raising sea levels affected the city during Hurricane Sandy and in the future. This discussion was at the Museum of the City of New York at Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street across the street from the Central Park Conservatory  at 1220 Fifth Avenue & 103rd Street (See review on TripAdvisor). Don’t miss their ongoing exhibition on ‘Core New York’ on the history of the city through the ages. It is really interesting and needs several trips to really see the exhibition in full.

Overall a very nice day and a great way to spend my 52nd Birthday.

Happy Birthday to me!!

Places to Eat:

Bettolona

3143 Broadway

New York, NY  10027

(212) 749-1125

http://www.bettolonanyc.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3140758-Reviews-Bettolona-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Visit:

Sailors & Soldiers Monument

Riverside Park@ 90th Street

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riversidepark/highlights/12871

 

Joy Brown Statues (now closed)

From West 117th to 72nd Streets

Until February 17th, 2018

All Along Broadway

http://joybrownstudio.com/

 

Central Park Conservatory

402 5th Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 310-6600

http://www.centralpark.com

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

 

El Museo del Barrio

1230 5th Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 831-7272

http://www.elmuseo.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d116228-Reviews-El_Museo_del_Barrio-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1600

 

Museum of the City of New York

5th Avenue & 103rd Street

New York, NY  10029

(212) 534-1672

http://www.mcny.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d116229-Reviews-Museum_of_the_City_of_New_York-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Urban Green Space Gardens

All over the neighborhood

 

West Harlem Piers Park

By West 132nd Street

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/west-harlem-piers

 

 

Day Ninety-Two: A Trip up to New Haven, CT for the Cornell vs Yale Game September 30, 2017 (Revisited on September 28, 2019)

 

I took time from my walk to be a supportive Alumni and go up to New Haven, Connecticut for the Cornell versus Yale game on September 30, 2017. I also watched us get our butts kicked with the score 49-24. I swear, every time I thought we would catch up, we fell behind. We kept going through quarterbacks throughout the game.

It was even worse for the September 2019 game. We were tie with Yale, who does not look that good either, at 3-3 at half (I thought that was bad enough) but in the third quarter were lead 10-3 with an 85 yard run touchdown and looked really good. Then our quarterback through an interception that lead to a Yale touchdown and at 10-10 he was so rattled by that, the game was never the same. He threw three more interceptions and we botched an onside kick (Cornell is not good at these, trust me!) and resulted in three more touchdowns for Yale.

We ended up losing 27-16 and it was not fun leaving that stadium. It was no big deal though because the students at Yale DO NOT support their football team and there was more people from Cornell at the stadium than Yalies and the Yale Bowl (their stadium), which is a relic of the 1920’s with uncomfortable wooden seats, was 80% empty.

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The Yale Bowl (which only fills up for the Harvard Game)

A lot has changed in New Haven since I lived there in the late Eighties. I lived in New Haven from 1988-1990 at a time the city was being revitalized during the boom of the early 80’s. I also saw what the Crash of 1987 would do to the city when the effects of the financial meltdown started to do to the economy. I lived on College Street at the time working at R.H. Macy on Church Street (where a college stands now).

Our little area was really nice around the Shubert Theater with lots of shops and restaurants but even those were affected by the economy as well as the store was in the end and it closed after I got promoted in 1990. The store closed with almost thirty years in service in 1994. Even though I moved from the city twenty-seven years ago, I still consider it in my own way ‘home’. There is always a piece of me in all the places I have lived in the past. There still is a part of me in the city. Going up for the Cornell-Yale game has given me an excuse to visit New Haven in the last four years.

I was lucky to make the 9:02am train out of Grand Central and arrived in New Haven at 11:20am. Walking through the train station brought back a lot of memories for me as I used to head home every Sunday for dinner with my family the first year I lived there. I watched the station get renovated in 1989 and morph to what it is now with the vaulted ceilings and the specialty shops. It is the weirdest thing about the city. They have the most beautiful train station and then the city builds public housing right across the street from it.

For me, stepping out of the station brings back a flood of memories for me. As I walked from the station to downtown a few blocks away it reminded me of the first time I truly became independent as an adult with my first real job and my first apartment alone.

New Haven Train Station

New Haven Train Station

In 2019, driving up I-95 was the worst experience. I teach college now on Saturdays and we finished class a little earlier today so I got on the road in plenty of time for the game but a few trucks not doing the speed limit backed traffic up for almost a half hour. I took the Merritt Parkway back and it was a much more pleasant experience. It is a much nicer highway to drive down with less traffic. Plus it is tree lined.

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The beauty of the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut

I walked to Church, Chapel and College Streets now and it is so much different. New Haven has become a restaurant and shopping destination. So many independent restaurants have opened to much acclaim and many small creative shops have opened up along the Chapel Street corridor. I was able to pop in here and there before the game.

I was able to walk around the ‘Nine Block’ of downtown New Haven, which is where the city was founded around the famous ‘Green’. When I lived there, this was an area of cut rate stores and empty historical buildings. To have the hindsight thirty years later but being the home to Yale University, I figured eventually in time this area would gentrify strong.

It is now home to many top-rated restaurants, shops and the most beautiful lofts. The buildings have been sandblasted back to their original beauty and its just fun to walk around and look at the architecture from the 1800’s. The city and the buildings owners have done a wonderful job bringing this area back to life. It is worth the afternoon to just look around the lower downtown.

I walked all around the ‘Green’  and not too much has changed over the years as way of the park. It has been fixed up and reseeded but still picturesque. The office buildings still add to the backdrop of the park. What has changed is the quality of the stores and restaurants over the years that line Chapel Street next to the Yale campus. They have gotten a lot more fancy and expensive, much more than when I was there.

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New Haven Green

Chapel Street seems to have become the new ‘Columbus Avenue’ of New Haven (terminology is based on Columbus Avenue in Manhattan when it went upscale in the 1980’s and 1990’s). From Church Street downtown to the edge of the Yale campus on Dwight Avenue is lined with new restaurants, shops, art galleries and upscale boutique hotels. Even the area between campus and the stadium, which has seen better days has changed. The extension of the hospital has turned everything from Orchard Street to Yale Avenue by the Yale Bowl into “Upper Chapel Street”.

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Chapel Street by the Yale Campus

You can see this is an up and coming neighborhood, lined with Victorian homes that are now being snatched up and renovated. It must have been some neighborhood back between the 1880’s to the 1920’s. It is still pretty run down but here and there especially around the new hospital extension things are changing. Homes along Edgewood Park on and off Chapel Street are starting to get spruced up and landscaped. You can tell this is the time to buy in that neighborhood.

I passed old haunts of mine from back in the 80’s that are still in business. Willoughby’s Coffee and Tea was still there at 258 Church Street, where I went for late night snacks. I thought it was in another location but still here. The Owl Shop at 268 College Street was still there as well but is now a dining place as well as a smoke shop. Claire’s Corner Copia at 1000 Chapel Street still stood on the corner of College Street and Chapel Street, where I used to go for my morning sugar fix. Claire herself still mans the counter after all these years. Further up Chapel Street is Union League Café at 1032 Chapel Street, where I took many special employees from Macy’s for a meal when they did something special.

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Downtown Chapel Street by Claire’s

Where I stopped for lunch before the game was one of the most famous restaurants in New Haven and was right around the corner from me, Louis Lunch at 261 Crown Street (See review on TripAdvisor). It was a block from where I lived at the Taft Apartments and in the two years I lived there, I never ate there. The food was excellent.

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Louis Lunch at 261 Crown Street

Their hamburgers are legendary in the food world and Louis Lunch has been written up in countless reviews, blogs and articles on the best hamburgers in the country. I got their at opening at 12:00pm and there was already fifteen people in line. It does go quick though and my suggestion is to order the burger medium well and then it comes out perfect.

They are right about one thing, the burgers do not need ketchup. One slice of fresh tomato adds to the complexity of the flavor. It has a crisp, caramelized salty flavor to the outside and a juicy meaty center. This is not your typical burger and is worth the $8.00 and change I paid for it and the Pepsi. The restaurant is an institution in New Haven and should be tried at least once when visiting the city.

Louis Lunch III.jpg

 

Louis Lunch for Hamburgers!

I then continued up Chapel Street to the stadium. The upper parts of Chapel Street start to give way from the college campus to residential homes, more like Victorian mansions and you can see the wealth that once dominated the northern part of the Yale campus.

Yale Bowl Stadium is unusual for such a wealthy endowed school. It looks more like a prep-school, high school field. For a team with such an hollowed reputation and the team doing so well the last few years, I think the stadium, even after the renovation, is falling apart. It has the most uncomfortable wooden seating and I am still afraid of getting splinters from the place.

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The Yale Bowl

That did not stop the team from running all over Cornell. I have to admit for every play we had up our sleeves, they had two to counter act it. They really are a good team. Even though we tried to put up a good fight, we made too many mistakes and the second half of the game, we were done. We lost the game 49-24. We really need to work on our offensive. At least the Yalies were good sports about it.

The Game Highlights

In 2019, they ran over us again only because we kept THROWING THEM THE BALL! I know that the quarterback was rattled by the first interception but recover from it! It is just a play! The fourth quarter in 2019 was painful. At least the $4.00 hot dog and $2.00 bag of chips for lunch tasted good. Because of the ride up there was no time to eat anywhere else and make the game. Their concession stand (and parking $10.00 for a spot by the Field Hockey stadium) was pricey but no different from other stadiums.

The one thing about Yale that I have found with most of the Ivy league games I go to is that none of the students seem to want to go to the game. We always sit in empty stadiums. When I visit the Penn Stadium, Cornell dominates the stadium both with the band and the Alumni. Columbia the same way. Cornell seems to be getting a more loyal following (in hopes of a winning season). The Yale game was no different. I think there were more of us then there were of them and they were home. Most of the people in the stadium looked like the parents of the players than the students.

After the very disappointing result (both times), I walked back into the downtown, taking peeks at the side streets to look at the graceful homes. For all of you home flippers reading this, buy in this area NOW! It will be hot, hot, hot in the next two years as it is already starting. I really do believe that people are moving back into New Haven.

I turned around ‘the Green’ and looked at the downtown one more time. For the most part, it had not really changed in twenty years. By walking the city streets, I could tell it was a lot more vibrant than it was when I lived there and for the better. I am proud of the city I once called home for working so hard to improve it.

My last stop of the day was at Frank Pepe Pizzeria at 157 Wooster Street (See review in TripAdvisor both in 2017 and 2019) in the heart of the city’s ‘Little Italy’. I had not eaten here in twenty seven years. My first and last time dining there until today was my last night living there. My buddy manager at Macy’s, Rose, had taken me here for dinner with her fiance, Kenny. The Pepe’s vs Sally’s conversation is one that I have had with many a Yale Alumni.

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Frank Pepe Pizzeria

The restaurant has morphed into a small chain over the years of about eight restaurants but the original is still iconic. I had the 12 inch Clam Pizza with a Coke and it is the best $20.00 (with tip) that I had spent in a long time. The clams are so sweet and fresh tasting on that pizza that it was worth the wait in line for it. People were so happy to be eating there and wait staff is extremely friendly. It is worth the trip to Wooster Street.

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Frank Pepe’s Clam pizza is the best!

I had dessert at Libby’s next door at 139 Wooster Street (see review on TripAdvisor) and is worth bypassing. The $4.00 soggy cannoli was just not worth it and you can not even buy individual cookies. The place needs a renovation as well.

Wooster Street and the area that surrounds it has improved over the years like the rest of the city. Many of the homes and businesses have been fixed up and the factory when you cross the bridge to this area of the city has been turned into lofts. You know where this neighborhood is heading. You could see it in the cars in the parking lot.

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Wooster Street New Haven’s ‘Little Italy’

I left Wooster Street to head back to downtown and to the train station to my way back to New York City. The streets were quiet except for a few diners leaving restaurants and the walk back to railroad station didn’t seem as dangerous as everyone says. No one was walking around at 8:00pm at night.

In 2019, I took a drive up Chapel Street and parked by the Green. I walked all over downtown watching it come to life. A lot more people from the suburbs are coming into New Haven to dine and shop than ever before. With all the housing going up in the downtown area, more people will be milling around.

It was a real treat to take a step back in time and see part of my past. I really loved living in New Haven, CT over twenty years ago and it still holds a special place in my heart being the beginning of my professional career. Okay things were not always perfect but it was first real sense of adulthood in the ‘real world’.

Who knew a Yale/Cornell Game could bring this flood of memories back?

As for the next football game, GO BIG RED!

The disaster of the 2019 game/we just handed them of the game.

 

Places to Eat:

 

Louis Lunch

261 Crown Street

New Haven, CT 06511

http://www.louislunch.com

(203) 562-5507

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g33851-d651174-Reviews-Louis_Lunch-New_Haven_Connecticut.html?m=19905

 

Frank Pepe Pizzeria

157 Wooster Street

New Haven, CT  06511

http://www.pepepizzeria.com

(203) 865-5762

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g33851-d414475-Reviews-Frank_Pepe_Pizzeria_Napoletana-New_Haven_Connecticut.html?m=19905

 

Libby’s Italian Pastry Shop

139 Wooster Street

New Haven, CT  06511

(203) 772-0380

http://www.libbyscookies.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g33851-d837051-Reviews-Libby_s_Italian_Pastry_Shop-New_Haven_Connecticut.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

Yale Bowl Stadium

81 Central Avenue

New Haven, CT  06515

(203) 432-4747

 

Nine Block Square/Chapel Street Shopping District

Located in the heart of Downtown New Haven: Various Stores and Restaurants off Chapel Street

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g33851-d270017-Reviews-Chapel_Street-New_Haven_Connecticut.html?m=19905

 

The New Haven Green

Located in Downtown New Haven on Chapel Street

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g33851-d270018-Reviews-New_Haven_Green-New_Haven_Connecticut.html?m=19905

 

 

 

Day Ninety: Walking the streets in the Yorkville/Carnegie Hill neighborhood from 95th Street to 84th Street between Fifth Avenue and East End Avenue September 13th-28th, 2017

I finally finished the Avenues of the neighborhood and started walking the streets. It can be a tiring process since it is a nine block walk in the lower parts of the neighborhood. My first day in the Yorkville/Carnegie Hill section I covered everything from 96th Street to 90th Street. It also rained part of the afternoon which is no fun.

As much as it was a gloomy day, watching the kids let out of school that day boosted my energy. I forgot what it is like when a long day of school is over. These kids come out of the building with so much pent-up energy. All the laughing and yelling brought back a lot of good memories.

I took the Q back up to 96th Street and made a round about down FDR Drive to 92nd Street to start the walk. I knew I would not have time to do the whole neighborhood and wanted to break it up into two parts doing the neighborhood above 90th Street first.

As I turned the corner, I could feel the energy from the students who were leaving MS114 on 92nd Street for the afternoon. There was so much noise and excitement after a long day at school. It seems that this neighborhood is loaded with excellent schools both for high school and the lower grades as well.

Yorkville is home to many public and private schools. While walking around between 90th and 92nd Streets, the neighborhood is home to some of the best schools in the city. Hunter High School, The Dalton School, Nightingale-Bramford, Spence School and Chapin School are all located closer to Central Park. All of these schools have had excellent reputations since I was in high school in the eighties. Even the public schools in the neighborhood such as MS-114 have some of the best reputations in the New York City.

No matter the kids, they are still excited and noisy when they leave school and all have their cliques. They fill the smaller neighborhood restaurants and bodegas after school and yell at each other when crossing the street. It is a very lively neighborhood after 2:00pm in the afternoon between the students and the parents picking some of them up. It is nice to see parents who still give that independence to their kids to walk alone in the neighborhood with their friends. They travel in packs anyway. Ten to one these kids know how to handle themselves.

There is a nice pocket park at 92nd Street and Second Avenue to sit and relax. Located between the buildings on 92nd Street, it still has traces of the summer left with flowers blooming and the trees are still green. Its a nice place to take a breather and watch the neighborhood go by.

This is a neighborhood with a real family feel to it. Something I did not experience in the neighborhood before school started, when the streets were quiet as people were still on vacation but now that school is back in session, it has really changed. I can see by the amount of parents, both men and women, talking time out to pick up their children from school and talk with them on the way home that they are very involved in their children’s lives. Some of the conversations I overheard were a little mature for kids that age but I have always found the city kids to be a little more ‘hip’ to things than their suburban counterparts.

There are some great children’s stores in the area and loads of family friendly restaurants in the neighborhood. One store that I stopped at was La Librarie Des Enfants at 163 92nd Street. This quirky little bookstore sells the most unique French language children’s picture books with a small selection of American books. It reminded me of ‘Shop Around the Corner’ in the movie, “You got Mail”.

La Librarie des Enfants

La Librarie Des Enfants

Beautifully decorated with pretty displays and set up for the avid reader. The French salesman was very talkative to me and knows his merchandise. This is the perfect spot for local children and tourists looking for that unusual gift.

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La Librarie Des Enfants inside play area

Another store that is a neighborhood staple is Children’s General Store at 168 East 91st Street near Second Avenue. This whimsical store is a hark back to when kids actually had an imagination and did not look at a cell phone all day. This is for the creative child who likes board games and arts & crafts, make believe castles and all the great little items that we as adults would call ‘stocking stuffers’. If I was a kid again, this is the first place I would visit. It has a great selection of toys for the young at heart.

As you walk the side streets of the neighborhood, you can see that on the Avenues of the neighborhood, brownstones are giving way to large newer apartment buildings but on the streets in between them are still elegant graceful brownstones lining the streets of the upper 90’s some of the most beautiful between Lexington and Park Avenues.

There are some beautiful wooden homes lining the streets between Lexington and Park Avenue on 92nd and 91st Streets from a day long ago. To see these buildings still standing and in perfect shape is a testament of the care they receive and how well they were built in the early 1800’s. All four of these homes have special plaques on them and you should take the time to admire the work on them. Their owners have kept them in excellent shape.

As I walked around the high 90’s by 1st, 2nd and FDR Drive around the Isaacs Housing, the area is being knocked down and rebuilt with more luxurious apartment buildings and stores to match. Here and there, there is still a sprinkling of stores and restaurants that cater to people in the housing projects but this area around the housing projects just keeps changing and getting more expensive. Like the rest of uptown that I walked, many people don’t seem to have a problem living across the street from the projects.

What the neighborhood has that caters to everyone is the amount of parks in the neighborhood. You have Central Park to the west, Carl Schurz Park to the East,  Asphalt Green playground by York Avenue past 92nd Street as well as the Isaacs and the Seaburg playgrounds on 96th Street as well as a few pocket parks in the 90’s. There is plenty of places for kids to play sports or just hang out and enjoy the playgrounds. The public bathrooms do still need to be worked on in these parks.

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Isaacs Houses

Stanley Myer Isaacs was one of New York City’s  great lawyer’s and civic leaders and was Borough President of Manhattan. He helped Robert Moses, the great Parks Director build East River Drive (now FDR Drive). Judge Seabury was decended from one of the original settlers of New York and the first Bishop of New York,  Dr. Samuel Seabury III. As a public servant to the City, he helped fight corruption within Tammany Hall and lead many reforms in New York City (NYCParks.org).

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Stanley M. Isaacs

The evening of the first night walking the streets of Yorkville, I ate at Timmy’s Restaurant on 91st and York (See review on TripAdvisor). It is a wonderful little neighborhood restaurant with outdoor seating and an extensive American menu across the street from Asphalt Green playground. I could hear the kids across the street playing soccer and screaming as they played.

The weather had finally cleared and it was a nice warm night out, perfect for sitting outside and enjoying the breeze. What had caught my eye on the menu was the fresh soft-shell sandwich that the restaurant was running as a special. It was excellent. A lightly breaded and fried soft shell crab on a soft brioche roll with lettuce and tomato and fresh French fries and onion rings on the side made the perfect meal.

The crab was sweet with the crunchiness of the perfect sauté. The service is friendly and very welcoming and I highly recommend the restaurant while it is still warm out. It is nice to just sit outside and watch the world go by.

I started my second day in the neighborhood by walking the streets between 90th and 84th Streets. The weather during these two weeks really changed. One day it was boiling hot at 90 degrees and the last day in the neighborhood, it went down into the 60’s as September moved into October. I have never seen such a drastic change in a week and a half.

After another day of working the Bread station at the Soup Kitchen, it was off to the lower section of Yorkville/Carnegie Hill. I walked the top part of 84th Street between Fifth Avenue and East End Avenue, admiring the brownstones and small parks along the way. It got to be that time of the day and school let out. I have never seen such a swarm of children before.

Walking this part of the neighborhood, I noticed more that there is a large concentration not just of private, public and religious schools but all of the seem to be the best of their categories.  These are not just the best in their categories in the city but in the state and country as well. The neighborhood that stretches from 96th to 84th Streets has such a great variety of schools that would make the rest of the country envious.

As I have said on previous walks, the conversations between parents and kids are always interesting to hear. These school kids sound so much more mature than their age. These kids talk politics, sports and current events just as good as any adult.

The lower parts of the streets from about 85th to 87th Streets really show old New York at its best with rows and rows of majestic brownstones and old apartment houses. Some of these are starting to get decorated for the Fall holidays noting the change in weather and October approaching. Pumpkins and haystacks are starting to replace the summer wreaths and pots of flowers.

I started my tour of the neighborhood with a nice lunch at Arturo’s Pizza on the corner of York Avenue and 85th Street, 1610 York Avenue (See Review on TripAdvisor) for their lunch special. They have three really reasonable lunch specials until 3:30pm, one a meatball sub, another a sausage sub and the last being two slices with a Coke for $5.00. It was quite a deal.

Arturo's Pizza

Arturo’s Pizza for great lunch specials

The food is good but could be better. Yet they give you a nice size sub for $5.00. The meatball sub was loaded with fresh cut meatballs which were a nice size with tomato sauce on excellent fresh chewy bread. As big as it was it just did not have enough flavor. The sauce needed more spice and the meatballs more salt and cheese. It just did not taste like anything. It was  the same two days later when finishing the walk of the neighborhood after a disastrous Chinese meal.

I had the two slice special and found the pizza to have no flavor because there was no zing to the sauce. It was also oily and should have been heated up more. The food here should be better since they seem to take pride in it. It warrants a third trip as the portion is worth the money when you are hungry. They do need to concentrate on their tomato sauce though and add some spice to it.

There are more great stores for kids in the lower part of the neighborhood as well. I passed Baby Bubble at 240 88th Street, which specializes in cleaning anything kid from strollers to clothes. I was impressed by the one stop shopping. Another great little store for young women is Let’s Dress Up at 345 East 85th Street #1. This is a place where you can princess for day and be treated like royalty at your own catered birthday party. Another clear idea for the creative child within.

When walking through the side streets between 85th to 87th Streets between York and Third Avenue, you really see ‘old New York’. Rows and rows of beautiful graceful brownstones line the street with their small outside gardens and potted plants. It is a step back in time to another era until you hit the Avenues and see the large modern apartment building.

I passed several fire stations along the way in the neighborhood. Engine 22; Ladder 13, Battalion 10 is located on 159 East 85th Street. The plaque on their fire station said that they had lost nine members on 9/11. These brave men sacrificed so much for us and still do every day making their neighborhood safe. Another old fashioned non-functioning firehouse is Hook & Ladder 13 at 159 East 87th Street. Founded in 1865 as a ‘suburban’ firehouse, this is not longer the firehouse for the company which has been moved. The company’s fame comes from being involved in the deadly explosion on Park Place in 1891. Kudos to these brave members of the FDNY.

Hook and Ladder 13

Hook & Ladder 13 in Yorkville

As you continue down 87th Street, there is a creepy set of brownstones between 337-339 East 87th Street. The motifs on the outside of the building look like devils or ghouls and do give you the chills. It looks like a place where ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ lived when it grew up. I would love to pass these building on Friday the 13th or Halloween night. This creepy looking brownstone was built between 1886-1887 by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh for the Rhinelander estate and what is interesting about the story is that the 329-335 were knocked down for the apartment building next store and the motif of this devil looking motif is carved out of 337 East 87th Street (Starts and Fits). Very interesting.

339 East 87th Street

337-339 East 87th Street

Don’t miss the ghoul like carving at 439 East 87th Street. I don’t think that one is as old. This menacing face adorns that archway of the brownstone of this two unit home that was built in 1901.

I had to stop at Milano Market at 1582 Third Avenue on the corner of 87th Street and 3rd Avenue to cool down. The place is so beautifully set up and the prepared food section is picturesque. It is a nice place to just stand and take a breath. The place is heavily air conditioned and on a humid day, it is a great place to just walk around. The online reviews are not too pleasant for as good as their food is most of the reviews talk about rude service. I will have to go back and try it out to be fair on them.

Another place to chill out and relax on a hot day is the Church of the Holy Trinity garden at 316 East 88th Street near Second Avenue.  This beautifully landscaped garden surrounded by shade trees is the perfect place to relax on a long day. It really does offer solitude from the city and is an escape from the rest of the landscape. It was still warm so the flowers were out and the trees offered a lot of shade.

Ruppert Park is the same located at Second Avenue between 90th and 91st Street. Named after the famous German Brewer Jacob Ruppert, the park is part of the tower complex that surrounds it. Mr. Ruppert was one of the first co-owners of the Yankees and co-owned Yankee Stadium.

Ruppert Park

Ruppert Park

This is a wonderful park to watch the dog walkers pass by and converse with one another. This is a true neighborhood park where neighbors talk and swap stories and debate politic, seniors come to relax and watch the neighbors go by and the dogs engage with one another. It is a great park for the dog walking set. I have never seen so many small pampered dogs walking around one neighborhood.

Another great place to visit is Henderson Place at East End Avenue across from Carl Schurz Park and between 86th and 87th Streets. This is part of the Henderson Place Historical District located facing the park is what is left of the original 32 houses (24 survive today) that were built between 1881-82. They were built for people of ‘moderate means’ meanwhile now these rare little townhouses with their arched hallways and small gardens and rare parking lots are now worth about $4.6 million when one went on sale recently. They were built in the Queen Ann style of architecture and look so elegant at night when walking on the park side of the street.

Henderson Historical District.png

Henderson Place Historic District

I stopped at Glaser’s Bakery at 1670 First Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC-now closed) and all I have to say is YUM! I love discovering new bakeries around the city especially one that has been around since 1902. Everything here is delicious and very reasonable. In this hyper-gentrifying city it is nice to see a piece of ‘old New York’ alive and well. Both afternoons I came here the place was mobbed.

Glazer's Bake Shop

Glaser’s Bake Shop (now closed)

The pastries are mind blowingly good! The first time I went I had to get one of their black and white cookies ($2.25) are the rage of the internet. Everyone was not kidding. They are excellent. Not the usual fondant icing but more of a butter cream frosting they literally melt in your mouth. They have this Danish called a Crumb Cookie ($3.25) that is loaded on top with sweet cinnamon crumbs and lots of icing on top. It is so big I had to bring the rest home. Their doughnuts ($1.50) are worth the trip alone. The jelly doughnuts are filled with a sweet currant type jelly and their sugar doughnuts are loaded with a layer of cinnamon sugar. Do not miss this bakery when visiting New York City.

On the opposite note, I ate dinner that day at Five Luck Chinese restaurant on 1834 Second Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) right near the new Q subway line. It was the worst Chinese meal I had ever eaten! I had no idea that food cooked by Chinese could be this bad. First the place is old and depressing to eat in and I have eaten at loads of these little hole in the wall restaurants all over the city. If anyone from China ate here, they would laugh and then cry it is that bad.

I ordered a Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce with fried rice with a pork Egg Roll. Now when I think of Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce, I think of sliced pork loin sautéed with brown Hunan Sauce with garlic and ginger. I got this gloppy roast pork with a pile of uncooked vegetables with a side of yellow rice with a ton of bean sprouts in them. I had no clue what I was eating. I ate the egg roll and it was barely passable as a frozen egg roll.

The dish was worse than any middle school cafeteria version of Chinese food. I ate three bites on it and handed it back to them and said to the owner that it was inedible. Rather than fight over a dish that cost $4.85 or ask for anything else, I walked out and never looked back. Avoid this place like the plague. I went back to Arturo’s for their pizza.

I finished my last day of my three day trip relaxing in Carl Schurz Park. Carl Schurz was a very interesting man who did a lot for his country. Born in Prussia, he fought during the Revolution and escaped the country to immigrate to Paris when he was on the losing side. He and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1852. Here he served as a Brigadier General in the Civil War, after the War he served as a U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Interior under President Hayes working to fight corruption in the Office of Indian Affairs and after his stint in the government, went back to his newspaper work (Wiki).Carl Schurz

Carl Schurz

Mayor de Blasio must have been having a party because everyone in the park could hear the band. On this warm night every dog walker and child with a parent must have been in the park. Even at twilight, the place was mobbed as well as the river walk with people admiring the river views. It is still summer and I got a nice taste of it today. What a beautiful neighborhood to live in. This is a family’s dream.

Carl Schurz Park III.jpg

Carl Schurz Park

 

Access to the neighborhood: The 6 & Q subways. Stop at 96th Street

 

Places to Visit:

 

La Librarie Des Enfants

163 92nd Street

New York, NY  10128

(646) 590-2797

Open: Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Friday 10:00am-6:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-7:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

 

Children’s General Store

168 East 91st Street (between Lexington and Third Avenues)

New York, NY  10128

(212) 426-4479

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d210163-Reviews-The_Children_s_General_Store-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Carl Schurz Park

East 84th Street to East 90th Street

East End Avenue to the East River

New York City, NY  10128

https://www.carlschurzparknyc.org/

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2714

 

Ruppert’s Park

1741 Second Avenue

New York, NY  10128

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-9:00pm

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

 

Issacs Playground

East 95th Street to East 97th Street

New York, NY  10128

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

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-9:00pm

 

 

Places to Eat:

 

Timmy’s Restaurant (now closed)

1737 York Avenue

New York, NY  10128

(212) 860-9191

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d1160556-Reviews-Timmy_s-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Arturo’s Pizza

1610 York Avenue Front #2

New York, NY  10028

(212) 288-2430

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d479377-Reviews-Arturo_s_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Milano Market

1582 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10128

(212) 996-6681

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5084566-Reviews-Milano_Market-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Glaser’s Bakery (Closed)

1670 First Avenue

New York, NY  10128

(212) 289-2562

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d930552-Reviews-Glaser_s_Bake_Shop-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/409