Monthly Archives: January 2018

Day Ninety-Nine: This is Christmas!, Part One November 24th-December 3rd, 2017

This Christmas holiday season was one of the best I have had in years. It was also one of the busiest. It is never easy when you are working three jobs, have a book to edit as well as writing one and have six blog sites to maintain, all while looking for full time work. Squeezing the holidays is interesting when you have a full plate.

After Halloween was behind me, I put ‘MywalkinManhattan’ on hold to concentrate on the holiday season. Halloween kept me really busy with my jobs, volunteer work and community service that I like to perform. I swear that my feet did not touch the ground until January 2nd of the New Year.

Work is my always my first priority and my students dazzled me in class with their final group project presentation, ‘Buscomonzefi.com’, a simulated tech start-up company (See Day- Ninety-Eight-‘MywalkinManhattan’). Working with my students on the project took a lot of my time up as well as my job consulting for the Department of Disability Services and working on my blog, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver’. I am very proud to say we welcomed our 3000th visitor to the site. There were lots of activities and charitable functions that I did supplemented my free time.

First, we had set up for the Annual Christmas Tree Sale for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association right before Thanksgiving. Our set up clashed with the Cornell/Penn football game. Being the dedicated Alumni, I ran down to Philly for the Cornell-Penn Game (and watched us lose in the final second when the ball was intercepted in the end zone, which would have tied the game). It was a heart breaker but was my excuse of not being there for day of set-up.

So I decided to rake the whole site the Friday before I left for the game. There were not too many leaves on the site and I spent about an hour and a half raking the site and piling leaves. The rest of the guys met and took care of the set-up for the site. The Saturday after Thanksgiving was tree delivery day. With all the members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association present, we unloaded 315 Christmas trees (up from 285 the year before.

Our Christmas tree sale is the main fundraiser for  the Association and last year we gave out ten $650.00 scholarships. We were hoping to sell more this year to give out more this year. I am very proud to say that as a group we sold all 315 trees by December 19th and were able to donate a few to ex-members families and our local church. We even donated a free tree to a local senior resident where we set it up and took it down. This is my 18th year on the organization and I have never seen trees sell so fast (See my commercial on YouTube under ‘Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association and see the picture above).

Thanksgiving this year had some sad twists to it. My uncle had been very sick and my family had no formal plans for the holidays. Not to burden anyone with me, I went to visit my friend, Lillian (See ‘Day Seventy-Six-MywalkinManhattan’) out on Long Island for the holiday. I knew she would be alone and I thought this might cheer her up. I can’t think of a more magical Thanksgiving I have had in the last several years.

Lillian and I have been friends for 24 years and she has seen me through a lot. She was there for me during job changes and college comings and goings and a shoulder to cry on when my father passed away. Now at 99 and having outlived most of her immediate family, I wanted to be there for her.

Thanksgiving could not have been nicer. I was able to get to the assisted living facility in an hour and twenty minutes so we were able to spend more time together. The facility had a lovely dinner for us in the formal dining room in the building that is used (I guess) for special occasions. We sat with all the other families and had a nice dinner of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and string bean casserole. For dessert, we had a slice of pumpkin and apple pie.

After the dinner was over, we joined the other family members in the other dining room for entertainment. It was nice because I was able to relax and digest before the long ride home. The singer performed songs from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and I could tell by the humming along most of the residents appreciated something more contemporary.

What I liked was how happy it made Lillian, who liked the afternoon out in her own home. We had a long talk about her life in the facility, her family and friends and at 99,  I could not believe how sharp she was about life and everything around her. It just goes to show that people are more observant than they let on and people at nursing homes know exactly what is going on. I would see Lillian later on in the holiday season (See Part Two-This is Christmas).

After Thanksgiving, it was the Christmas Parade in Hasbrouck Heights with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. This annual tradition has been going on in my town for years and the fire department is usually at the end of the parade with Santa following. There is always a lot of last minute running around at the firehouse before we leave for the parade, including wiping down the truck. My biggest contribution is the double batch of milk chocolate brownies that the guys want me to make every year.

The crowds of people really seem to enjoy the parade although I have to say that the crowds at the Woodstock parade on Christmas Eve when I visit Woodstock, NY have been bigger. The whole downtown is ablaze with lights and at the end of the downtown on the circle in Hasbrouck Heights, we have the annual Christmas Tree lighting at the end of the parade. The funny part is once that tree is lit, everyone scatters and the event is over. Within twenty minutes, you would never know that there was a parade.

After the parade was over, the next morning was Christmas tree delivery for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. 315 trees were delivered that morning and with a crowd of thirty men and their sons, we got the trees unloaded and tagged for sale for that afternoon. I was surprised we sold a few trees after they had been tagged. Three trees went off the lot within fifteen minutes after we finished the tagging. People really like to make a head start on their holiday decorating.

As the week went on their were other preparations for the holidays, including me hand-writing 90 Christmas cards for members of the fire fighting community (not only am I the Engine One Company Secretary but I am also the Department Secretary as well for a decade and five years respectively). That on top of the ones I have to do for family and friends.

I packed everything up and headed down to Rehoboth Beach, DE that Wednesday for my mother’s 81st birthday. I swear, I don’t think my mom has aged that much since she was in her sixties. She looks terrific and keeps herself super active. I was surprised that she had time on her birthday to see me! It is always nice spending time with her.

My mom and my siblings and I have a favorite meal my mother calls ‘the dinner’ that she makes for us when we are in town. ‘The Dinner’ is breaded veal cutlets, spaghetti with marinara sauce and a salad with lots of oil and vinegar. That is the meal we had on my first night there. We just caught up and laughed. We always have a nice time when I come down to her house.

For her birthday, I took her and her partner to the Blue Moon Restaurant at 35 Baltimore Avenue in downtown Rehoboth Beach (See review on TripAdvisor). The food here is always wonderful and the service is excellent. The best part was that even though it was the 30th of November, the whole place was decorated for Christmas. I had the most wonderful beef stroganoff  with sauted broccoli and a wonderful tart for dessert. The food and the service here are just excellent and I can tell that the two of them enjoyed themselves as well.

The best part of the two days that I was here was that I got two great nights of sleep and that really helped with the second part of the weekend. I had to leave right after breakfast and drive four hours home to check my emails and change my clothes as I was heading up another two hours to Rhinebeck, NY for the Annual Mills Mansion Christmas fundraising cocktail party and the Sinterklaas Parade on Saturday. After that I had to head home for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Christmas Party at the Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ. I swear I ran all over the place this weekend.

After I arrived home, I quickly went through all of my mail and emails and bills and got everything sent out. I changed my clothes and got in the car for the weekends volunteer events.

I got up to Rhinebeck with an hour to spare before the cocktail party and fundraiser for the Friends of the Mills Mansion. The Mills Mansion in Staatsburgh, right below Rhinebeck was the home of Ruth (nee Livingston) and Ogden Mills until Mrs. Mills death in the 20’s. I remember visiting the house in the early 2000’s for research on my book and it was falling apart then.

Now there has been a whole series of successful fundraising to continue the restoration of the house and its contents. The Annual Christmas fundraiser is a lot of fun and a way to give back to the house. From 6:00pm to 8:00pm, we had cocktails and hors oeuvres in the main dining room that the Mill’s used to entertain. The food was catered by the Culinary Institute of America and  was excellent.  Many of the members kids help pass out the food and it was a nice way to get them involved.

There must have been about 150 people at the event and it is always so nice to see people dressed up for an event. Everyone was in either suits or dresses and it fit the mood of an elegant get-together the way the Mills would have had it. The dining room and tables were all decorated for the holidays as was the rest of the house. There were trees and garland all over the house as well as decorations in all the rooms.

I am not sure how often they used the house for the Christmas holidays but there are records of gift giving at the house by the family. We had the house to ourselves to walk around and see the decorations so we felt like invited honored guests. The best was when they put the desserts out. They served the most delicious mini eclairs and chocolate mousse in chocolate shells.

I still think the most beautiful room in the house was the library that was decked out with its own tree and presents around it. The room always seemed so homey to me and a nice place to just relax and look at the view. I highly recommend this fundraiser as now only are you raising money for much needed repairs at an interesting site but it is a night of good food and drink in an elegantly decorated private home. How many people get to be the invited guests of the Mills family at Christmas?

I don’t know if it was the two cocktails I had that evening or just the six hours worth of driving I had to do between mom’s house and the fundraiser but I went back to my hotel and completely conked out. I hit the pillow to just ‘relax’ at 9:00pm and woke up at 1:30am in the morning and then went back to bed and did not wake up until 8:00am and I had to be at the Starr Library by 10:00am for the set up for the Sinterklaas Parade the next morning.

I love participating in the Sinterklaas Parade every Christmas in Rhinebeck, NY. It is so much fun and Rhinebeck, New York is one of the most beautiful places to spend the holidays. The town is straight out of a Currier & Ives wood carving. The town is dominated by buildings are from the late 1800’s and all the stores are so beautifully decorated for the holidays accented all by the white lights on the trees and on the buildings.

When I got there in the morning, we lucked out as the weather was a brisk 48 degrees F and sunny. We unloaded all the puppets and floats from the truck and a group of about twenty of us started to assemble the items. I must be becoming an old-timer because I know at this point how to put everything together. There are some great puppets in the parade and this year’s honorary animal was the Elephant. They had a great surreal, wire-like elephant puppet that someone walked around in at the fundraiser at the Beekman Arms a few weeks earlier.

Previous puppets were put together first such as the bee and penguin puppets on a stick, the hummingbirds and the knights and dragons. We also had the traditional floats such as the dancing ballerina, the four seasons, the nature gods and my float, Mother Nature or as everyone calls her “Big Mama”. New puppets are created every year but like the Macy’s parade, everyone has their traditional favorites.

We zipped right through most of the items because having worked on the parade for the last three years (I have volunteered for the parade for 2010, 2015-2017) and at this point have worked out the kinks to them. We were done by 10:00am and were able to join everyone else at the Beekman Arms Restaurant for the Opening Ceremonies.

The Opening Ceremonies at the Beekman Arms introduces all the mascots of the day’s festivities including Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee, the Pocket Lady, the Wish Lady, the Elephant Lady with her sidekick the Mouse, the Royal Court and the Dancing Bear. This is a big family event and there were people all over the main banquet room of the Beekman Arms to greet everyone. Johnathan Kruk, the famous story teller, was on hand at the end of the ceremony to tell the story of Sinterklaas.

All over the town for the rest of the day there were all sorts of activities. At the churches, there were all sorts of performers from choirs to band combos and singing groups. All the churches had their own activities as well as food for sale. My favorite is at the Third Evangelical Lutheran Church when they sell their hot dogs and drinks. As part of the meal, many of their members bake homemade Christmas cookies and its worth the price of the meal.

In Rhinebeck, the whole downtown is awash with Christmas decorations and groups selling baked goods and other foods to raise money for their charities. You can get the most amazing cookies and other treats as these groups really know how to bake.

All over there are craft workshops, dancers, storytellers bands, children’s performances and shows such as “Into the Light” at the Church of the Messiah, which is sold out every year. The Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers perform and dance all over the place as well as the Dancing Polar Bear dances along with a song (the guy that wears that costume is exhausted by the end of the day every year).

I had to get back to the library by 4:00pm for set up and the get my assignment. I decided to give our coordinator a break and I walked with the ‘Mother Earth’ float. I had a nice time as all we had to do is push her down the hill and move her arms around (see YouTube video of the event under ‘Sinterklaas in Rhinebeck NY 2017).

I only get to see it from a distance but from parades past that I have viewed and to see it all on YouTube, it is quite a site when the parade guides down the hill from the Starr Library to Downtown Rhinebeck awash with colors and music. It is such an exciting and festive mood when you see the white lights and puppets all over the place with marching bands performing Christmas songs. The parade is full of lit stars which are one of the symbols of Sinterklaas.

I can’t believe how the crowds have grown over the years. There must have been about three thousand people lining the street this year. We have lucked out with the weather being so mild and people were all over the place. Everyone was excited and laughed and singed along with the parade.

At the end of the parade after pushing ‘Mother Nature’ several blocks we ended up at the Grand Finale Pageant in the municipal parking lot where Sinterklaas and his court welcome everyone to the end of the parade. All the floats pass by the stage and are given their sendoff. The parking is getting more mobbed each year.

We dropped ‘Big Mama’ at the truck to be packed up and put away for next year. I left and went to the Reformed Church for the end of their Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser. I swear, these church groups know how to cook. They gave the small group of us who showed up after the parade (I could not believe that they closed it at 8:00pm when that was the end of the parade) a large portion of Spaghetti and homemade meatballs (the three meatballs were huge) along with salad and garlic bread. It hit the spot after a long day of events and the parade.

The whole downtown was quiet after the parade was over. I swear everyone went home and the first wave of people who had gone out to eat had already finished and most of the restaurants started to close after a busy day. It was the opposite of the rest of the day. It is nice to see the town lit up with white lights, quiet and peaceful finally. You could just enjoy the beauty of it.

I was in bed early that night as I had to leave Rhinebeck early to get to Boonton, NJ for the Annual Bergen County Firemen’s Home Christmas Party. I have to tell you I was exhausted having to drive back down to New Jersey and put on the happy face. It was well worth it though.

We have a band perform on a quarterly basis for the residents, sponsor a barbecue every summer and the holiday party is the last event of the year. I was exhausted so I was falling asleep on the couch in the main meeting room. All that driving was getting to me but it was well worth it. The look on the residents faces when we handed out the gifts on the break from the band was performing. Our organization bought all the guys a new shirt with the Bergen County Firemen’s Home logo on it. I could tell that many of them were touched.

As I handed out refreshments at the break, many of the residents said how much they felt appreciated at the holidays. Some never get to see their families. I am glad that the organization could bring a little holiday cheer to the guys.

After the event was over, we all went out for a late lunch at the Columbia Inn in Montville, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor), as a group which was a nice way to end the weekend.

And to think, this is just ONE weekend at the holidays where I volunteer! This is unusual and a very long and productive holiday weekend. I would not have had it any other way!

I dedicate this blog to my uncle, Donald Snyder, who passed away the Monday night that I came home from Rhinebeck. This is sent with much love and respect to my family who had a lot to deal with during the beginning of the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!!

Events to join in on in the future:

-The Hasbrouck Heights Christmas Parade is the Friday night after Thanksgiving every year.

-The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association opens its Annual Christmas Tree sale every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We are located on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. (See my commercial on YouTube under the ‘Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association).

The Friends of the Mills Mansion hold their Annual Christmas Fundraiser at the mansion on the first Friday night of December.

-The Sinterklaas Parade is every year the first Saturday of December in downtown Rhinebeck, NY.

Places featured are:

The Staatsburgh State Historic Site

75 Mills Mansion 1 Road

Staatsburgh, NY  12580

(845) 889-8851

http://www.millsmansion.org

Restaurants featured are:

*The Blue Moon

35 Baltimore Avenue

Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971

(302) 227-6515

*Columbia Inn

29 Main Avenue

Montville, NJ 07045

(973) 263-1300

http://www.columbiainn.com

*Call the restaurants for their hours

My Christmas Tree Video in Hasbrouck Heights

 

 

The Video of me in the Sinterklass Parade in Rhinebeck

 

 

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Day Ninety-Eight: Presenting Buscomonzefi.com, our Tech Start-up to the World December 4th, 2017

I worked this semester at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey, so after Halloween, I had to put the walk on hold for work purposes and the holiday season. One of the things I enjoy about being a college professor and teaching in the Business/Hotel Management School at Bergen Community College is watching the creativity of my students unfold.  This is my third semester at the college and this particular class just stood out.  They went from what I saw as a somewhat shy group of students to a founding start-up group of ‘Techies”, when we presented our group project for our simulated start-up company, “Buscomonzefi.com” (Acronym for Business Communications 105). I was just trying to get the students to communicate with one another and boy did they! It was the first class I ever taught where everyone got an ‘A’ and truly deserved it!

I have to admit that I am not the easiest grader and after twelve years of college myself (Michigan State University, The Fashion Institute of Technology, The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University), I have seen my share of group projects but nothing like this. All I have to say is that if we as students had the technology at our finger tips that the kids do today, there is no telling what we could have accomplished.

I came up with the idea for a group project for the second half of our class and have to admit group projects at any grade is like gym class, you hate the idea of finding partners and then depending on them to do the work. The biggest problem with group projects is that there are some people that do all the work and others who just goof off and then get a grade. I wanted to prevent that this time.

I came up with the idea for Buscomonzefi.com when I was reading the trade journals on new companies and was annoyed that there were no CEO’s of new tech companies that were my age. I hate to tell all you young ‘techies’  this but Cisco, KLA Tencor, Microsoft, Oracle and the mother of them all, Google, were founded by people my age and older.

So I created a product that everyone would need, the Widget. Okay, you’re thinking “How to Succeed in Business without even Trying”, but I thought if Robert Morse could do it so could I. I also knew I wanted to something that would have the whole class engaged so I created my first tech company (hopefully not the last).

I made myself the CEO/Founder of Buscomonzefi.com and picked my executive team. I have to admit I did ‘pull some names out of a hat’ but I also wanted to challenge all of the students who I knew by their resumes and their class performance had a lot of talent but kept so quiet in class. I wanted to create open dialogue for the students plus I wanted to get students working with other students who they might not have chosen. I never saw a group of people blossom together so well. I was amazed that what I created was not a group project but a group of up and coming executives, who took control of a project and challenged themselves to their highest level.

We had only four weeks until the project was going to be presented and I knew the class was up for the challenge. All I gave them was the product itself and the fact that we had to present to the backers on the second to last day of class before the final exam.

I created an executive team, picked my President, Senior Vice-President and Vice-Presidents, Team Leaders and Team Members. I also picked my teams where I knew some of the people needed a boost because I saw in them what I didn’t think they saw in themselves. Some I just mixed the personalities. They as a class exceeded my expectations!

I also added that they would be grading one another, keeping journals, be graded on dress code and work performance. The final word was that if as their CEO I heard from the Executive Team that someone was not performing, I would get the team together for a discussion and the person could be ‘fired’ (meaning that they would fail the second part of the class). They all seemed to understand the grading system.

For the next four weeks, the class met on their own and created their divisions from the information that I gave them. I also told them if they took a one dimensional project and made it three dimensional, I would give them extra credit.  As a class, they far exceeded it.

They renamed the product “Bwidge”, very creative and then developed how the product would look and then worked in their divisions to fulfill their departments structure. Each of the teams took their departments and created them form scratch. They were broken down into Sales & Marketing, Tech Talent & Customer Service/Legal, Product Development and Corporate Security. Each division had its Vice-President with a Manager/Team Leader with them with the team under them. I set the hierarchy up and made sure that the President and Senior Vice-President took control over their ‘teams’.

In class, we would have ’round table’ discussions that I had seen online with smaller tech firms and we asked the questions of each other of where we were out, who was doing what and how the teams were working with one another. I made the President and Senior Vice-President also find our new Corporate Headquarters with the stipulation that it must be near ‘Silicon Alley’ in lower Manhattan.

On December 18th, they made the presentation on Google Slides and the class ‘blew my mind’ with their excellence. I brought in the Corporate Benefits Head of Bayer Aspirin America, who I work with on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association to be my question and answer person. Even he was ‘blown away’ with the thoroughness that the students researched.

The Tech Talent Division even established a Website, (Google “Buscomonzefi.com” to see their work), and Instagram site and a Facebook page. which by the time of the presentation already had four followers (how did they find this?). They had complete handbooks created, policies made and even had the Employee Bill of Rights established.

The Product Development team created, priced out and even had the prototype made of the product “Bwidge”, a computer product that organized all your online files on your computer, both on a MAC and a PC, a product that did not even exist (only for either one or the other but not for both). They used the above logo and produced the final product for presentation, plus all the cost and patent information.

The Sales & Marketing team really dazzled me with their ideas for a launch party on New Year’s Eve, ad campaign in Times Square and Silicon Valley and Wall Street, their commercial (which they actually filmed for YouTube!) and their cost structure (totally unrealistic but I only had a million dollars of capital to work with). They even sent an invitation to the Mayor of NYC!

The presentation night everyone was dressed for a formal ‘tech’ presentation to ‘WASP’ bankers. I have to admit I have to work with the gentlemen on the concept of ties but overall everyone was dressed so professionally.

Let me put it this way, I have never been prouder of a group of students than this semester and it is my pleasure to put this online for all their hard work. Like I said, this is the first time I ever created a ‘tech’ company from scratch and it will not be my last.

To all my students who might be reading this, you all deserved those ‘A’s and good luck in the future. So much for people who say that Millennia’s don’t know how to communicate. This group took Business Communications to new heights. All you have to do is get them away from the cell phones.

Disclaimer: Please Google “Buscomonzefi.com” for the class presentation and work. It is very detailed orientated and showcases these students talent as future Executives.

Sincerely,

Professor Justin Watrel, Founder & CEO

Buscomonzefi.com: Home of the ‘Bwidge’

Day Ninety Seven: Walking the Streets of the Upper Upper West Side from West 110th-West 94th Streets October 21st-November 25th, 2017

It is amazing the changes that happen in just a month! The weather changed but not the way you would think. It went from being in the 80’s in the beginning of October to the 40’s and 50’s in November. Now you might say that is normal for this time of year but the temperatures have been all over the place.

People were dining outside as late as the day after Thanksgiving. It was 52F on the 25th of November. Nippy yes but eating outside? In the sun, it really was warm. As I walked the streets of the Upper Upper West Side, it was a pleasant and warm day.

The nice part is that it has been so warm outside lately that the leaves did not change as fast as they normally do this time of the year. The leaves did not start to change in the New York City area until about five days before Halloween. Everything was greener than it normally has been in the past. As of my last day on this part of the West Side, the trees still have changing foliage in Riverside Park, so when the sun hit some of the trees they still cast a glow of golds and reds.

I have seen a distinct change in the make up in the city as you cross over the 100th Street on the West Side. Once you pass the Douglass Houses, the residential area starts to change along with the stores and restaurants around it.  The bodegas and cheaper restaurants  start to disappear. The rents have been going up in this area and there is a lot of empty retail space in the Upper Upper West Side. What there is a lot of restaurants where the price of a burger will run you around $16.00. The Upper West Side is becoming a lot more like the Upper East Side.

What I have also have found is many beautiful pocket parks, unusual architecture with creative details and some wonderful restaurants and shops that show that the chain stores do not dominate a city. I never realized that it would take so long to finish the area. A little thing called Halloween came into play and then the weather got colder (See all the activities you can get involved with for the Halloween holidays for next year on this blog).

I started my first day at surprising enough 127th Street. I got on the C subway train by mistake ( I should have gotten on the A Train) but it gave me a chance to see what changes have come about in Morningside Heights. I swear as the new buildings at Columbia University are ready to open soon between 125th-134th Streets, the area is quickly changing around it. All over the area surrounding the 125th subway stop on the A subway line is being ripped apart and being rebuilt.

All the buildings around 125th Street are being sandblasted and gutted back to life or are being knocked down and rebuilt. This will just be an extension of Morningside Heights within the next five years. It will be more college campus than Harlem or the traditional Harlem that people know.

I had lunch that afternoon at West Place Chinese Restaurant at 1288 Amsterdam Avenue, a small hole in the wall Chinese restaurant that I passed several times (See review on TripAdvisor) and had wanted to try for a long time. The food was wonderful and the portion sizes were plentiful. I had an order of General Tso’s chicken with rice and Wonton Soup with a Coke for $8.00. It could have fed two people easily. The food was as good as anything in Chinatown and the quality was great.

West Place Chinese restaurant

After lunch, I walked down Broadway to 96th Street, passing through the campus that I had walked months earlier. The Columbia Campus is another part of the city that just keeps changing with new buildings being built on old ones or old buildings being sandblasted back to their original beauty. This area is becoming more desirable to live in again and as Morningside Park keeps improving, everything that surrounds it does as well. Even the parks surrounding the campus keep improving with Morningside Park receiving new plantings and Riverside Park getting a spruce up. I got to my destination, West 96th Street and Central Park West by the early afternoon.

I started my day on West 96th Street on the corner of West 96th and Central Park West where some of the trees were still green even this late into the season. I swear Central Park is never not busy. Families were playing in the playgrounds and tourists still walking through the park getting a taste of the real New York. The weather has been so unusually warm this year that it is a pleasure to just walk around.

For the most part, the blocks closer to the both parks, Central Park and Riverside Park, the streets are lined with beautiful brownstones. Most of the side streets between Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue are lined with some of the most elegant architecture from the turn of the last century. It is hard to believe that up to twenty years ago, parts of this area had been bombed out.

I was able to see the last of the Halloween decorations give way to fall themes decorating the brownstones. Like their suburban counterparts, people like to decorate their buildings. Pumpkins and haystacks lined the elegant brownstones and occasionally there was a ghost or witch motif decorating the front.

halloween in Washington Heights

Brownstones decorated for the holiday

Some of the most beautiful buildings outside of the Central Park district were the homes between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive right next to Riverside Park. Old elegant mansions and gracefully carved apartment buildings line the streets between both Avenues. Look up at the craved stone sculptures that line the building. Graceful animals, fierce gargoyles and lattice work line the tops of these buildings. It is time to put down those silly cellphones and really notice how beautifully built these homes were and the care put into them.

Their is a lot of artwork on the Riverside Drive especially around this section of the Upper West Side. The Joan of Arc statue on 95th Street and Riverside Drive gives a description of her life and who she really was in the time of war. I didn’t realize how threatened they were by her that they had to accuse her of being a witch to get rid of her power of persuasion. The statute which was created in 1915 is in a small park within a park, “Joan of Arc Park”, that stands above Riverside Park above the paths. If you want to know more about her life, stop here and read the plaques.

Joan of Arc Park

Joan of Arc Statue in the small park

What stands out between 95th to 94th Streets off West End Avenue is the ‘Pomander Walk’, a small alley behind a large apartment building which contains a series of eight two story Tudor homes with gardens in front. This is hidden behind a gate off 94th Street.

This whimsical little treasure was build between 1920-1922 by nightclub owner, Thomas Healy. He was creating income for a large hotel that he wanted to build on the property. He died in 1927 before he could find funding for the hotel and that’s why it exists today. I have read that today it is hard to find a home in this little strip and a recent two bedroom apartment building sold for $700,000. Pretty good for a dolls house.

Pomander Walk II.jpg

Pomander Walk

The outside of the homes can be seen in on 95th Street and look like a Swiss or German Chalet in the Alps. The detail work was under scaffolding when I first passed it and I wondered if it was a restaurant being fixed up. When you discover the gate entrance, it almost looks like a hidden ‘Land of Oz’. I could see the flowers and plants from the street. It reminded me of some of the small developments in Harlem where a small set of row homes creates its own neighborhood. You have to really look for it or you will miss it.

I was able to walk Riverside Park and enjoy that late foliage. The view of the Hudson River is just spectacular especially from the buffs of the neighborhood. I don’t think too many tourists appreciate this park with it beautiful vistas of the river and its great parks for kids. The trees were a combination of golds and oranges when the sun hit them.

The Upper Upper West is a combination apartment buildings built in the 1970’s and 80’s with more newer buildings being developed along Broadway but here in there in the commercial district some things do pop out at you. This is true of the former ‘Little Plantation Restaurant’ that recently closed on the corner of 93rd Street and Columbus Avenue. Attached to an apartment building, this space looks like a Southern plantation mansion fitted even with a porch swing. I am not sure how long this will last without being a restaurant but make a special trip to the building just see the detail work.

As I rounded the corners back to Central Park West, I stopped at the Sol Bloom Playground on 92nd Street near the local school to look for a bathroom. This whimsical park on a nice day attracts kids from all over the place and their parents running all over and playing on a the equipment. The park was named after Sol Bloom, a self-made millionaire. He had made his money in his music and real estate businesses. He had built several apartment buildings and both the Apollo and Music Box theaters.

I ended the day at the 86th Station totally exhausted having walk the area between 96th Street to 90th Street. The one thing that differs the Upper Upper West Side from Manhattan Valley/Bloomingdale to the north is how much newer it has gotten at the core. So many more newer apartment buildings in this area and more businesses catering to a higher end client. It just seems more like the old Upper West Side above 96th Street.

My second day walking the neighborhood I started after a long day at the Soup Kitchen. Working the Bread station all afternoon with the homeless asking you for pastries all morning long can be wearing. I got through it all. I started this part of the walk with lunch in Yorkville, wanting to try East Garden Chinese Restaurant at 1685 First Avenue again to see if it made the cut for my blog, ‘Dining on a Shoe String in NYC’. It did!

East Garden Chinese Restaurant really blows my mind on how good this place is for lunch. Their lunch specials run $5.95 and you get a very large entrée with a side of rice. Add in a Coke for an extra dollar and you have lunch and dinner. The place is really clean too.

East Garden Chinese Restaurant.jpg

East Garden Chinese Restaurant is excellent!

I had the Chicken with Broccoli with white rice and it was a very large portion. Both the chicken and the broccoli were perfectly and they do give you a nice amount of chicken. The sauce is flavorful and delicious (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.wordpress.com as well). It was both lunch and dinner for me.

After lunch, it was across the street to Glaser’s Bakery at 1670 1st Avenue for dessert (See reviews on both TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC-NOW CLOSED). They make a peach Danish that is out of this world ! ($3.00). I swear this is one of the best bakeries in the city! So much for the places with the $10.00 cookies, Glaser’s is the real thing. Every bite of that Danish was like heaven!

I decided to walk across the park this afternoon to get some real exercise and work off that lunch. The park in the late fall is glorious with the gold and yellow leaves and the cool but still warm breezes. I walked along the reservoir and watched the joggers pass me by. I had more than a few tourists ask to take pictures for them but it is so much fun to see the park so alive with people and happy to be there. The park is so graceful in its own way and the fact that so much of it is being renovated by the Conservatory shows that people believe in it.

I love the winding paths and the quietness of the park. Even though these paths have been traveled many times, I felt as if I had seen them for the first time. I had never been to this part of the park before and walking these paths felt like a new adventure. It amazes me that I have been in this park a million times since I was a kid but I still wonder at the parts of it that I have never seen. I walked along the back paths of the lake by the low 80’s and ended up walking to West 82nd Street and Central Park West in the mid-afternoon. The trees were still brilliant with colorful leaves as November was still gripping. We had had such a warm fall that many of the trees turned late much to the benefit of those who like to walk around the neighborhood.

I walked up to 84th Street and Central Park West to resume my walk of the neighborhood. I really like the stores in this neighborhood. They have character. I walked into West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue and West 84th Street, to look at the toys and games. It is one of the classic stores of the city and still holds on to the tradition that kids are not all glued to their cellphones. It has a nice array of games and stuffed animals and assorted pocket knick knacks. It is a place I would have liked to shop at when I was a kid.

John Koch Antiques at 201 84th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) has unique window displays and in the short visit I had there had many wonderful pieces to decorate the office or your home. I liked the sailboats in the window. There was a turn of the last century feel about the place.

John Koch Antiques

John Koch Antiques

Books of Wonder at 217 West 84th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) was enjoyable except they were going through a floor move when I was there and I only got to see the front of the store. It has an excellent selection of classic and contemporary children’s books.

Books of Wonder.jpg

Books of Wonder Book Store

As you turn the corner onto West 85th Street, take time to admire 101 West 85th Street. The building has the most beautiful architecture and beautiful details and built in the 1880’s. The Red House Apartment building at West 85th Street and West End Avenue near Riverside Drive has unique details to it as well. You really have to stop and look up to admire the design of the building. I rounded West 85th Street around West 86th Street and then to West 87th Street.

101 85th Street

101 West 85th Street; look at the details of the building

When walking up the block and turning onto West 87th Street, take time to admire the foliage at Central Park West. The park is truly beautiful on this part of block. The trees are really ablaze with color.

When I arrived at P.S. 166 on 132 West 89th Street, the Richard Rodgers School, is the Manhattan School of Art & Technology. I read the plaque that was dedicated in 2003 to the famous composer. The school was built in 1897 and is one of the few terra cotta gothic designs in the New York Public School system. It is such an honor to a famous composer of musicals such as ‘The Flower Drum Song’ and ‘The King and I’.

The Playground 89 next to P.S. 166 adds a little life to the quiet neighborhood. Even on a slightly warm November day, there were loads of kids running around while their parents relaxed and chatted on the benches surrounding the park. It was nice to see so many families out that afternoon.

As you round the neighborhood on West 89th Street, I walked into the West Side Community Garden at 123 West 89th and Columbus Avenue. This little gem of a park is located behind an office building and is across from P.S. 166. Though not in the full bloom that I saw from the pictures posted in the park from the Summer Opera Program, the trees still held on to their golden hue and some of the plants had some greenery to them. It looks like the community really backs and maintains the park. In warmer months, there is a lot of special events here.

West Side Community Garden.jpg

West Side Community Garden in the Summer

Down the street from the school and the parks is Ballet Hispanico at the corner of 167 West 89th and Amsterdam Avenue. Some of the holiday shows had been posted and looked rather interesting. The building was closed the day I was there.

The last part of my journey of the streets of the neighborhood was crossing West 90th Street for a second time and exploring the avenues. I stopped at the St. Gregory’s Playground near the corner of West 90th Street and Columbus Avenue. this little pocket park on the other side of the West Side Community Garden is in dire need of a face lift. I can see this is something the neighborhood needs as a parent yelled out to me if I was from the NYC Parks Department (I have no clue why I look so important to people when walking around the city. Either I look like a policeman or a city official).

There is another small park behind the Wise Houses, a small public housing project, in this very quickly gentrifying and updated neighborhood.  As I had read online and seen by walking though it (more stares from the residents), the small park has some unique fixtures yet is falling apart when you really look at it. The benches and some of the equipment is in need of repair but I could tell is well used by the residents by the kids running around. Like the St. Gregory playground, it could use a facelift.

The last part of the walk took me back to West End Avenue on West 90th Street and the most elegant row of brownstone homes that lined the avenue. I have noticed on my walk of this neighborhood that the individual homes along the streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue and Riverside Drive and West End Avenue have some of the most unique architecture in the neighborhood.

It must have been something when the whole neighborhood must have looked like this but that is progress. In the middle of the neighborhood, the area keeps updating, modernizing and changing. It seems that the neighborhood is morphing into something a little more upscale like its southern neighbors and less like Manhattan Valley to the north. For now, not quite the traditional Upper West Side but still homey and welcoming to people moving in. I enjoyed my afternoons here.

Take the A or C or 1 subway trains to the Upper Upper West Side. The A train will be express from 59th Street to 125th Street.

Places to eat:

West Place Chinese Restaurant

1288 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10027

(212) 932-9390/9376

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5065901-Reviews-West_Place-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

DiningonShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/591

 

East Garden Chinese Restaurant

1685 First Avenue

New York, NY

(212) 831-5900

http://www.eastgardenchinese.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12860202-Reviews-East_Garden_Chinese_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/489

Glaser’s Bake Shop (now closed)

1670 1st Avenue

New York, NY 10128

(212) 289-2562

http://www.glasersbakeshop.com

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

 

Places to Shop:

West Side Kids

498 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10024

(212) 496-7282

http://www.westsideskidsnyc.com

 

John Koch Antiques

201 West 84th Street

New York, NY  10024

(212) 799-2167

http://www.kochantiques.com

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/20

 

Books of Wonder

217 West 84th Street

New York, NY

(800) 207-6968

http://www.booksofwonder.com

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/42

 

Places to Visit:

West Side Community Garden

123 West 89th Street

(212) 316-5490

http://www.westsidecommunitygarden.org

Ballet Hispanico

167 West 89th Street

(212) 362-6710

http://www.ballethispanico.org

Playground 89 West 89th Street

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/playground/eighty-nine

Joan of Arc Park

Riverside Drive Between West 96th-West 91st Streets

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/joan-of-arc-park