It was a surprisingly sunny and warm (41 degrees F) today and it felt warmer than the temperature let on. It was a beautiful, clear sunny day and I decided to continue my walk on the Upper East Side, venturing from East 84th Street to East 72nd Street. Even though I have been visiting this area for years by way of the museums, I had never ventured this far to the East River.
My day started with a walking tour of the Asian Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the new “Chinese Scrolls Exhibition”. The Asian Galleries have been updated over the years and the new exhibition was displaying recent acquisitions of the collection plus newer pieces based on the Master’s in the collection. It was eye-opening to me the perspective of nature that they had in ancient times versus the growth and building of today. It was interesting to hear the difference between how the artists used ancient art as an inspiration for their perspective on the how the location in nature should look. These tours attract lots of people who are not from the cellphone set.
I started the walk as I exited the museum. It was such a beautiful day that I thought it would be fun to walk around the neighborhood and really explore the Upper East Side. It really has changed over the last ten to fifteen years. It has always been a very expensive area but it looks more expensive now. Not only have the apartment buildings changed but the stores and parks as well.
I have noticed over the duration of this walk that the area keeps getting knocked down for bigger and more glossier buildings. The older brownstone covered streets are giving way to large box-like apartment buildings whose character is not the same and changes the complexity and look of the grid pattern. It’s hard to believe it is getting generic.
Another thing I have noticed on these walks especially as I have gotten below 96th Street is the amount of empty store fronts. I know as I revisit the old neighborhoods I have already walked that this is happening, it is becoming an epidemic in the expensive areas as well. I noticed that in areas of Fifth and Madison Avenue, there are a lot more empty store fronts and then the expensive stores are being pushed to Lexington and Third Avenues, pushing the moderate restaurants and shops out of the neighborhood. I hate to clue these landlords in on this but not everyone needs $300.00 shoes or a $16.00 hamburger and this is happening in places like Harlem as well.
Where this character has not changed is as you exit the museum and walk down Fifth Avenue, which has not changed too much over the years in on 79th Street just off Fifth Avenue where a line of ‘Gilded Age’ mansions still exist. I bet most people don’t see this row of grand old mansions that are now being used as stores and embassies. I am sure that a few are still private but these homes were expensive to maintain back then and went out of vogue after Income Tax was established.
Really take time to walk down 79th Street on the north side between Fifth and Madison Avenues to get a good look at the detail of these stone masterpieces. They don’t build homes like this anymore and I don’t think we have the stone masons around to do them again. It is hard to believe for most of these residents this was one of four homes.
I took a quick swing into Central Park to see Cleopatra’s Needle, which is located behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art located by East 81st Street. This obelisk was erected February 22nd, 1881. It was secured in May 1877 by Judge Elbert E. Farnam, the then-United State Consul General at Cairo as a gift the Khedive for the United States for remaining friendly neutral as the European powers, France and Britain, maneuvered to secure political control of the Egyptian Government (Wikipedia). The twin was given to the British and resides London.
Although this is a genuine ancient Egyptian obelisk, it has no connection to Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. It was already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. The obelisk, which originally stood in the ancient city of Alexandria were made during the reign of Thutmose III in the 18th Dynasty (Wikipedia). Since their arrival in New York City, there has been a lot of wear and tear on this statue and the elements have worn down a lot of the carving. Still this is something that you should not miss when visiting the neighborhood.
After I turned the corner onto East 72nd Street, I walked the length of the street until I hit FDR Drive and took a walk around the busy through-way. Walking along FDR Drive is always interesting because there is no clear path down the road. As I have said in previous walks, it is not the most scenic route and cars just love to honk at you.
As you make the turn around to head north, I discovered John Jay Park, located between East 76th and East 78th Streets. This park is very nicely situated by the East River and offers great views of the ever changing Queens waterfront. I swear, they must be knocking everything down on that side of the river to build new apartment buildings. They must have great views of the skyline.
John Jay was a prominent statesman and was elected the President of the First Continental Congress in 1778. He served as Minister to Spain, drafted New York’s first constitution in 1777, served as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1789-1795) and lastly served two consecutive terms as the Governor of New York (1795-1801). Imagine in today’s turmoil in the government trying to do all that. A very impressive man with a very impressive park named after him (NYC Parks History).
Another unique feature to the park is the sculptures installed on the west side of the park in 1979 by artist Douglas Abdell. These are made of welded steel, painted black and are meant to frame space and define irregular areas. He has been quoted as saying, “that each sculpture as a building block of something potentially more complex as the alphabet is the basis of the written language” and calls the works “The Aebyad Series” (NYC Parks History). This two structures are located just south of the entrance of the park and are very geometric looking, done in twisted black steel. They are in the pathway between East 75th and 76th Streets. Take time to really look at them. The work is unique.
Outside the views of the park and the art work, they also house much needed public bathrooms so plan your trip accordingly as there are no public bathrooms until you hit Carl Schurz Park up on East 84th Street.
Across the street from the park is a very unusual apartment building, 516 & 517 Cherokee Place, with the most beautiful wrought iron features along all the windows. It looks like something built for New Orleans. The green color of the metal accents the building perfectly and meshes well with the greens of the park. This historic building lines the park and when you look in has a courtyard. It really does add something to the park and P.S. 158 next door. That extra character that makes the neighborhood.
I did the whole walk around John Jay Park along Cherokee Place and watched as some city workers were cleaning and sweeping the outside of the park. God, did they give me a funny look when I watched them. They actually looked guilty (they could have done a better job of cleaning up the leaves and garbage).
I took an unusual path as I walked up the elevated extension of FDR Drive, which offers great views of the river along the waterfront to Carl Schurz Park and then I doubled back and walked up and down East End Avenue, which only goes from East 79th Street to East 90th Street. I swear that most of East End Avenue is being knocked down for newer big apartment buildings. This is what I mean by the character of the neighborhood changing. The whole block felt like it was under scaffolding. I walked up and down both sides of the block to see the work being done.
I doubled back and walked up and down York Avenue as well. It is also under the same transition but only on the Avenue sides. There are some nice businesses and restaurants along York Avenue you can stop at along the way. I stopped back at Carl Schurz Park at East 84th Street for a breather and to just look at the view. It really has the most spectacular view of Randalls-Ward Island and Roosevelt Island and the East River and on a sunny warm day, it is a nice place for break.
I could hear all the noise and commotion from the kids at P.S. 158 at 78th and York Avenue, who were either playing outside in the cool weather or singing in one of the classes. I swear not much has changed since I went to elementary school. The school is a beautiful old building that was built in the late 1800’s and just went through a full renovation to bring it back to its elegant beauty. This was built at a time when education was truly valued. I could not believe all the parents waiting outside talking amongst themselves in the cold.
I continued walking east across East 84th Street, the border of Yorkville with the Upper East Side and took a lunch break at 83 Asian at 1605 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com) and a much needed sit. The food is excellent here and over two trips to it made the cut for my own blog site.
For lunch, I ordered a Beef with String Beans that was freshly cooked in front of me and came out on a timely basis steaming hot. The beef was so tender and was cooked in a combination of what seemed like soy and Hunan sauce with perfectly cooked string beans. The portion size for lunch was large and was my lunch and dinner. Their eggrolls are really good as well full of pork and vegetables. The service is really good as well as the cooks are friendly and very welcoming. Lunch cost only $10.10!
I walked the rest of East 84th Street until I hit Central Park again and then walked down the opposite side of Fifth Avenue near the museum and started in the other direction. On the north side of East 72nd Street, there is a graceful and elegant building that was once the Henry T. Sloane Mansion that is located at 9 East 72nd Street.
The confectionery of a building was designed Carrere & Hastings in the late French Renaissance style in 1894 and built for Henry T. Sloane, the son of the founders of the carpet firm W & J Sloane. It housed a private school until recently and is now once again a private home. Look up at all the beautiful detail work in the stone and the accents along the roof of the house. The masonry is superb and the house has been been so nicely restored.
Having walked both sides of FDR Drive (to what you can), East End Avenue and York Avenue, I re-walked York Avenue again to look at the Henderson Place homes by Carl Schurz Park and East 86th Street one more time. These homes are such a special and unique part of the neighborhood and if the builders had known how expensive they would become 100 years later would have probably built more of them.
Having walked both sides of Fifth Avenue and all of East 84th I took a pit stop at Glaser’s Bakery at 1670 1st Avenue (see my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for some dessert. I swear that I think I am walking the Upper East Side first just so that I can go there before I take the subway back downtown. I love this place!
The ladies recommended a sugar cake doughnut ($1.25) and the apple turnover ($2.50) and since I could not decide between the two, I bought both and God, were they good. The apple turnover alone had the sweetest and tartest apples and a thick layer of icing that made the twelve block by nine block walk well worth it. I figured I could just walk them off again. I highly recommend the cake doughnuts as well.
I was finished doing the perimeter of the neighborhood just as it was getting dark so I will be doing all the Avenues and Streets for another day. There is a lot more to see and do on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Things to see:
Located behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art @ East 81st Street
John Jay Park
Between East 76th and 78th Street off Cherokee Place
Carl Schurz Park
Between East 84th Street and East 90th Street off East End Avenue
Henry T. Sloane House
9 East 72nd Street
East End Avenue between East 86th and East 88th Streets across from Carl Schurz Park
The Abdell Statues
Between East 75th and 76th Streets in John Jay Park
1670 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10128
83 Asian Chinese Cuisine
1605 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10028
Phone: (212) 288-0622 & 0633
Fax: (212) 288-0699