Monthly Archives: April 2018

Day One Hundred and Five: Walking the Avenues of the Upper West Side between Central Park West and Riverside Drive from West 84th to West 72nd Streets March 12-April 8th, 2018

I have found that walking the Avenues of the Upper West Side to be much easier than the Upper East Side. There are less blocks to walk and this side of the island is smaller in space than the middle of the Upper East Side which begins to jut out on that part of the island.

Each Avenue on the Upper West Side has it’s own uniqueness to it. Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues are more of a shopping districts with Amsterdam Avenue having most of the quirky restaurants and old time stores. Broadway is rapidly changing was the stores of the 80’s and 90’s are quickly loosing their leases and with the rents jacked up is home to more chains now more than ever. It seems that another new chain restaurant and store opens up every month. Even here, I have watched the chain stores loose their leases and go away.

West End Avenue is strictly residential and the blocks between it and Riverside Drive hold a treasure trove old stone townhouses, brownstones and marble mansions with the graceful cravings, ornate stairs and potted plants outside the homes. There is an immense pride in this part of the neighborhood and I swear probably not much as changed since the turn of the last century.

I was walking up from Soup Kitchen that afternoon and after a long day on the Bread Station holding off questions of why we do not have any pastry (none was donated) and the lack of raisin bagels (again none were donated) and why we no longer use butter for the bread (the peanut butter was donated), it was off for a long walk to the Upper West Side. Being closer to midtown, I have been walking more often than using the subway.

I have walked Central Park West, both sides many times and the biggest changes I have seen in the buildings here is that most of the them are being sandblasted back to life as new owners and residents have been rapidly converting the Upper West Side into the new Upper East Side. The new residents seem much richer, less liberal and a whole lot younger. I have never seen so many baby carriages and little dogs since walking the heart of the Upper East Side. At least here, the dogs seem less spoiled (with the multiple grooming places for dogs, the B & B for Dogs (upscale kennel) and places for doggies treats and clothes, dogs get better treated than the homeless).

As you walk up Central Park West, the first thing you see it the statue dedicated to the members of the U.S.S. Maine that was mysteriously bombed February 15th, 1898 which started the Spanish-American War. The War started in April 25th, 1898 and would last eight months. After a series of conflicts due to the War, the Philippines and Cuba gained their Independence and we got Guam and Puerto Rico as part of the deal.

The statue, designed by sculpture Attilio Piccirilli and Charles Keck, with the help of architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle and was dedicated in May 30th, 1913. The statue was dedicated to the 261 people lost when the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor in February of 1898. This started the Spanish-American War in April of 1898 (Wiki).

Really take time to look at this statue for its details, its plaques that line the base and the detail work. It unfortunately is now used as a bench for most people who attend the Christmas and Farmer’s Markets that now line the base of the statue. I don’t think most people today know what the Spanish-American War of 1898 was or its significance in our country’s history. If you say, “Remember the Maine” today, most people would go ‘huh’?

As I walked up Central Park West along the park side, you will see the landscape lined with trees, lawns, parks and massive rock formations which seem more prevalent ten blocks up. These formations are leftovers of the last Ice Age and it is amazing to know that these will dragged for hundreds of miles as the ice moved.  I have noticed more of these rock formations on the Upper Upper West Side and in Washington Heights and it is interesting to see our connections still to the last Ice Age.

Being the time of year that it is, the whole park was winter hibernation but people using the park on a 46 degree day brings life to almost everything. The kids dominated the playgrounds after school and tourist and locals alike were walking dogs and chatting along the paths. Even in the colder months, Central Park is always busy.

When I reached the border of the neighborhood at West 72nd Street, I passed the famous Dakota Apartment Building that dominated the corner of West 72nd Street and Central Park West. Really look up at the detail work of this building. Built between 1880-1884, the building was designed by the firm of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, the same firm that designed the Plaza Hotel. The name ‘The Dakota’ some feel came from the isolated location so far uptown at the time it was build in that the Dakota Territories were so isolated from the country at the time.

The building is currently under renovation but you can still peek into the side of the building to see the old courtyard where the carriages used to drop residents off and the apartments themselves were designed around the French layouts at the time with large ceilings and rooms that flowed into one another. The resident listing is a Who’s Who of the entertainment and arts industry and the filming of the movie ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was done in the front of the building as well as the death of musician, John Lennon in the early 80’s.

As you pass the beauty of The Dakota,  West 72nd Street has an array of architectural styles of brownstones and marble homes lining the street. The carving of the stone is work that you no longer see in design and so much of the neighborhood is under scaffolding as new owners are sandblasting these buildings back to their original beauty.

Continuing the walk up Central Park West, you continue to pass many beautiful and graceful stone apartment buildings with beautiful views of the park that are going through their own renovations.

At West 77nd Street, you are at the Museum Row of the Upper West Side with the New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West and the American Museum of Natural History located on Central Park West and West 79th Street.

If you reading this blog post in 2018, please remember to stop by the museum to see both the ‘Unseen Ocean’  and the ‘Senses’ exhibitions that just opened. The ‘Unseen Ocean’ explores the unknown deep of our oceans and the new species that we are discovering in the deep. It takes a look at the new development of equipment where we can explore deeper than before and the new discoveries that pop up with every trip. The ‘Senses’ exhibition explores how we react to the environment around us. These can be seen with the museum day pass.

As you round West 84th Street and down the block to Columbus Avenue, really look up around you and see the faces following you down the block to the next Avenue. The carvings of faces on the buildings stare out into the abyss or look to one another. You won’t really notice it until you really look at the detail work of each building. You will be doing a lot of stopping and staring between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.

Back in 1984 to 1987, during the first really big gentrification of the Upper West Side, Columbus Avenue was a big deal, Everything from 59th Street to about 86th Street was being sandblasted back to life and all sorts of new restaurants and shops were opening up left and right around the American Museum of Natural History. Stores like the DDL Food Show (Dino De Larentis’s Gourmet Shop), Penny Whistle Toys and the infamous Museum Café (where the Shake Shack is located now) were the topic of conversation when they opened. After the crash of 1987, most of these places had closed or where long gone and by the mid-90’s, the whole block  was changing again as all the expensive stores and restaurants started to leave.

Today Columbus Avenue between 72nd Street to 84th Street is starting to go through another change. Instead of all the expensive places kicking the reasonable places out, many store fronts have gone dark and sit empty. This is a plague that is going all not just all over the Upper West Side but all over the City. Many old line businesses from the 70’s , 80’s and even the 90’s that I have seen for years, like Isabella’s Restaurant, on the corner of Columbus Avenue and 78th Street, where my dad and I had many a meal for his birthday and for Father’s Day, shut it’s doors about a year ago and now sits empty.

Columbus Avenue is now in a state of flux with newer more expensive places opening up here and there. I don’t think it has dawned on these landlords that not everyone wants a $16.00 hamburger. In the lower 70’s of Columbus Avenue, it is more and more chain stores and even they seem like they are struggling. You can have only so many stores selling the same merchandise that is currently on sale at Macy’s while the restaurants have similar menu’s. The rents are forcing, from my opinion, the merchants away from their creativity to what is safe.

All along stretches of Columbus Avenue, especially closer to the American Museum of Natural History, the store fronts are mostly empty and looking at the current prices to buy an apartment in the neighborhood, you can see the reason why.  Apartments are going for what their East Side counterparts are going for (or maybe a little less depending on the street). The street is once again changing from more expensive fashion to I am not sure what but I can’t wait to see what happens next on Columbus Avenue between West 72nd Street and West 84th Street.

With these changes comes the changes at the museum’s as well. The American Museum of Natural History is ever renovating displays or launching new shows. “Unseen Ocean’s”, the story of the newly explored deep, is resulting in long lines at the museum. New ways to explore the bottom of the ocean with nautical looking machines that even Jules Vern could not have thought of are finding new species and showing the food network of the bottom of the sea. This museum has woken up in the last ten years.

The New York Historical Society is a far cry from what it was fifteen years ago when no one entered the musty halls of that relic. Today more and more innovative programs are opening and they even have an upscale coffee whose prices are ridiculous even for a museum.

Both museums have been sandblasted back to their original glory, have been renovated and are showing innovative programming that rivals anything of their East Side counterparts.

Amsterdam Avenue I have always felt feels like real New York with the funky stores, small independent restaurants and pocket parks that line interwoven parts of the neighborhood.

I had lunch this afternoon at Harriet’s Kitchen at 502 Amsterdam Avenue for one of their famous ‘Fried Chicken Sandwiches”. Trust me, it lived up to the hype I saw online. The sandwich was $9.95 with hand cut French Fries and a Coke made a total of $11.95 and it was worth every bite.

This sandwich was the perfect food item for my walk as I needed the protein. The sandwich was two large chicken breasts marinated in buttermilk and then dredged in a cornmeal crust and then fried golden crisp. It was crunchy and savory in every bite. It was one of the best chicken sandwiches I had ever eaten. The fries were good as well as they were cooked to a golden crisp as well. It was accompanied by a spicy remoulade sauce and sour pickles which added an extra kick to the sandwich. The service was really friendly and even though the place is a little dumpy, the food is no reflection of that. I have not eaten chicken this good since my tour of Harlem.

Right next to Harriet’s Kitchen is West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue, so I got a chance to tour the store again which was stocked to the gills with new toys. Across the street from Harriet’s Kitchen is the Urban Assembly Green Space Garden at 145 84th Street, that the students maintain on the corner of West 84th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. This garden is used by the students for the growing season and at the height of the season they sell their fruits and vegetables to the public. Take some time to walk around this urban oasis when it is in season.

Amsterdam Avenue is like Lexington Avenue in that it is a nice mix of stores and restaurants that are more affordable to the average New Yorker. This is beginning to change in the low 70’s but like most of the neighborhood is a state of flux. I am beginning to see the same amount of empty storefronts on this Avenue as well.

Broadway in this part of the island is designed as a French Boulevard with landscaping down an strip of island down the middle of the road with benches at each island stopover. As I had mentioned in my observation further uptown, this part of Broadway was designed for upscale living with grand apartment buildings.

The Ansonia Apartments at 2101-2119 Broadway was built in 1899 by architect Paul E.M. Duboy in the traditional Beaux Arts style in the Victorian Age was a residential hotel. The detail work on the outside is gorgeous with all sorts of statuary, carvings and iron work and topped with a mansard roof. The building has housed many famous people in the arts, music and politics. You can peek inside the courtyard to see where the carriages once let the residents off similar in design to The Dakota further west (Wiki).

The Apthrop Apartments at 2201-2219 Broadway was built between 1906-1908 by architects Clinton & Russell for William Waldorf Astor and takes up the whole block between Broadway and West End Avenue. The building was designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style and when you peek inside the building you can see the courtyard where carriages once a upon a time used to drop the residents off. Over-sized limestone sculptures representing the Four Seasons stand above the ventral barrel-vaulted entrance with wrought iron gates feature a pair of gazelle heads (Wiki).

The Astor Apartments at 235 West 75th Street tops Broadway with the grand apartment buildings and is currently going under a major renovation and restoration. The building is currently under scaffolding (as seems the whole neighborhood) so it hides the beauty of the building. The stores below are changing as well as even Barney’s has moved out of the neighborhood.

The building was developed in 1909 for William Waldorf Astor II by architects Clinton & Russell for the two eight story wings and the firm of Peabody, Wilson & Brown did the taller tower. The beauty in this building is in the simplicity of its elegance and the detail work along the roof.

When walking up Broadway, note that this area was built at a time when the wealthy were scaling down their lives at the turn of the last century and this form of luxury was becoming the norm. By the 60’s and 70’s, these grand apartment buildings like the rest of the neighborhood got rundown but currently all are on the process of renovation or their completion have lead the apartments to be reconnected back to their four to five room layout.

The stores along Broadway have given way to a commercial district of chain stores but still has lots of ‘gems’ lining Broadway. Rents have risen so much in the area that a lot of these stores and restaurants might face displacement in the future. Like the rest of the city, there is a cost of doing business in NYC.

Some of the most famous stores are the great purveyors of food the most well-known being Fairway at 2131 Broadway and Zabar’s at 2245 Broadway . These are more than just grocery stores, they are institutions in New York.

Fairway supermarket, which now has branches outside the city, is stocked from ceiling to floor with everything you need to fill a kitchen. When I walked through it, it seemed more like a traditional grocery store, fancy but functional loaded with every brand imaginable. It is fun to to walk around the tight aisles and look at the merchandise. They also have a nice prepared food section with everything you need for a picnic in the park.

Zabar’s though, is a true New York institution. I have been coming here since the 1970’s when my mother’s bible for food was both Gourmet and New York Magazines. Anytime we went into the city, Zabar’s was a place we visited especially if she saw it one of those two magazines.

Zabar’s is broken down into sections each with their own mouthwatering smells and like Fairway, lined from top to bottom with delicacies. Their cheese department has the most wonderful aroma when walking through it and the bakery section always smells of croissant and chocolate. The prepared foods section is still one of the best in the city. They have enough for a full meal that you might make at home but ‘don’t have the time’. Just walking around is an experience. They also have a small restaurant off to the side of the building complex and it has specials during lunch (See review on TripAdvisor).

Westsider Rare & Used Books at 2246 Broadway across from Zabar’s and a little further down by West 81st Street and Broadway is pilled high with used, antique and out of print books. This worn looking bookstore is what out-of-towners would say a New York bookstore should look like down to the literary looking woman who works there much like her counterpart at Westsider Records down at 233 West 72nd Street. The people the store has working there fit the stereotype of who would work there. These two stores are fun to wonder around in especially if you grew up in the late 60’s and the 70’s and early 80’s before the ‘Yuppie’ transformation of NYC. You never know what treasure you will find in the stacks of there stores.

Most of the rest of Upper Broadway is quite commercial but helpful in everyday needs of shopping and entertainment. The big AMC Theater attracts people from all over the neighborhood and this area is always busy.

During a break in the walking, I stopped by the West Side Cafe at 218 West 72nd Street for the noted Sausage, Egg and Cheese bagel ($3.95) that I ate in Riverside Park. I had seen someone eating it the other day and had to have it. It was well-worth the visit and the sandwich was big and warmed me up with every bite on this cool day.

West End Avenue like the areas uptown is lined with graceful apartment buildings and on the side streets elegant apartment buildings and brownstones. There are a lot of beautiful churches and schools in this area of the neighborhood.

When you walk down West 84th Street (named after Edgar Allen Poe), you walk into a residential area that time has not touched (except for the sandblasting of the buildings). Most of the apartment buildings are art themselves with all the stonework, carvings and ironwork decorating them. Really take time to look at the stonework of the apartments and the brownstones lining all the streets between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.

The Mickey Mantle Elementary School P.S. M811 sits at the corner of West End Avenue and West 81st Street at 466 West End Avenue which was named after the famous Yankee Baseball Player. The school specializes in teaching children with learning disabilities and is one of the best of its kind in the City. The school was renamed after the famous player June 4th, 2002 and its academic excellence would have made Mr. Mantle proud.

You can see the back of the Antony Apartments between West 79th and 78th Streets and still you see the grandeur of this apartment building from all sides including the courtyard. The West End Collegiate Church at 245 West 77th Street can be seen for the entire block and it picturesque in its appearance.

Built in 1892 by architect Robert W. Gibson, this church was designed in the Gothic Dutch-Flemish Revival Renaissance design and is a noted landmark as headquarter to the church and the Collegiate School, one of the best prep schools in the City. Walk around the church to see the brick details and the Coats of Arms of past patrons lining their walls (Wiki/Church Website). The look of the church is different from all sides.

There is a small plaque at 440 West End Avenue dedicated to Charles Evans Hughes, the Republican Governor and great State Reformer. He had championed the eight hour day, forty-eight hour week for workers (under 16) and set up a Trades Act to protect workers much of what we work with today. He also served as Secretary of State under President Harding among his many accomplishments.

I finished my walk at the Eleanor Roosevelt statue at the end of Riverside Park and walked around this side of the park which on a cool day was relaxing. I just sat by the benches and looked at all the interesting buildings.

Just to add more walking in, I walked to West Place Chinese Restaurant at 1288 Amsterdam Avenue for dinner that night. I had a craving for Chinese food and still had a lot of energy left in me from the sandwich earlier and it had started to clear up so I made the trek up Amsterdam Avenue to above the Columbia campus near West 110th Street.

I had a Chicken with Green Beans and pork fried rice combination platter dinner ($8.75) that was excellent and could have feed two people. The chicken was packed with flavor from the spicy garlic sauce and the fried rice had a decent amount of pork in it. The egg roll was pretty decent as well, filled with pork and shredded cabbage.

This local hole in the wall restaurant has now become a favorite not just of people living in the public and private housing complexes that line this part of the neighborhood above Columbia University but with the students as well. I have seen the place packed with Asian students on their lunch hour much to the surprise of everyone else.

After dinner, I walked from West 108th Street to West 42nd Street back to the Port Authority to go home. It had been a long day of walking but there is so much to see and if you really stop to look at everything closely in this neighborhood there is a lot of history packed into this part of the Upper West Side.

 

Places to visit:

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West & West 79th Street

New York, NY  10024

(212) 769-5100

http://www.amnh.org

New York Historical Society

170 Central Park West

New York, NY  10024

(212) 873-3400

http://www.nyhistory.org

Urban Assembly Garden

145 West 84th Street

New York, NY  10024

(212) 787-1189

http://www.uagreencareers.org/garden/

Stores to Visit:

West Side Kids

498 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY 10024

(212) 496-7282

http://www.westsidekids.com

Books of Wonder

217 West 84th Street

New York, NY  10024

(212) 989-1804

info@booksofwonder.com

Westsider Rare & Used Books

2246 Broadway (between West 81st Street & Broadway)

New York, NY 10024

(212) 362-0706

Open: Monday-Sunday: 10:00am-10:00pm

Westsider Records

233 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 874-1588

Open: Monday-Thursday 11:00am-7:00pm, Friday & Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm. Sunday: 12:00pm-6:00pm

Places to eat:

Harriet’s Kitchen

502 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10024

(212) 721-0045

http://www.harrietskitchen.com

West Place Chinese Restaurant

1288 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10027

(212) 932-9390/9376

Zabar’s

2245 Broadway

New York, NY  10024

(212) 787-2000

http://www.zabars.com

Fairway Supermarket

2131 Broadway

New York, NY 10023

(212) 595-1888

http://www.fairwaymarket.com

West Side Cafe

218 West 72nd Street

New York, NY 10023

(212) 769-9939/8815

 

Advertisements

Day One Hundred and Seven: The Creation of the extension of my blog, “MywalkinManhattan” with my newest blog, “LittleShoponMainStreet @WordPress. com.

As I have been walking all over the Upper East & West Sides of Manhattan plus in all the up and coming neighborhoods all over the City and out in the suburbs, I am discovering so many trendy and unique little stores, whose merchants are proving that you don’t have to flock to Amazon to find the latest fashion forward and eclectic merchandise. These tiny stores all over the metropolitan area are bucking the trend of online shopping and proving that the original ‘store keeper’ is a thing of the present.

I was inspired by stores such as Tiny Doll House (314 East 78th Street) and La Librairie des Enfants (163 East 92nd Street) on the Upper East Side and John Koch Antiques (201 West 84th Street) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with their unique and inspiring merchandise that screams “buy me” when you walk in the door.

Even in my own town of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, I visit Young Fashions (208 Boulevard) and The Religious Shoppe (220 Boulevard) for merchandise that you will no longer find in the department stores. These establishments stand out for their personalized service where you will work with the owners to merchandise you will find for that extra special gift.

Even some of the food stores and gourmet shops (that don’t fit into my DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com site) I have come across show that restaurants and gourmet food can display their goods in a beautiful way and still taste good but not be expensive such as Harbs on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. These stores get a local gathering of residents and tourists lucky enough to find them.

So as I do “MywalkinManhattan.com”, let’s go shopping on “LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com” and eat something along the way as I guide you past the department stores and the expensive boutiques to show how Merchandising Management is not dead and how the experience of personal service and friendly shop owners is alive and well in all parts of New York City and beyond.

Happy Shopping!

*Author’s Note: “LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com is an extension of my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com” along with “VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com” and “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com”  to complete your touring experience around the Metropolitan area and beyond.

Day One Hundred & Six: Walking the borders of the Upper West Side from West 84th Street to West 72nd Street to Central Park West to Riverside Drive March 10th-2018

It took a long time to finish the Upper East Side neighborhood above 72nd Street and I wanted to return to many of the historical spots to get more research in so it took longer than I thought.

After a long day in Soup Kitchen (I swear I should do these on separate days) in the Beverage Station, I left the Soup Kitchen exhausted again. I can not believe how demanding the homeless can be.

I took the Number One Subway up to 86th Street and walked down to West 84th Street and Central Park West to walk the ring of the neighborhood. Returning to West 84th Street was like visiting an old friend. I had not been on this side of town in months.

I have walked the length of Central Park West many times in this project from 110th Street past 59th Street back to the Port Authority many times on this project in various seasons and it is interesting to see the park at various times of the year. Still, not matter what season, Central Park is always busy. Whether it is people walking their dogs, people jogging on paths or kids playing in playgrounds, the park is always in use no matter what the weather is during the year.

As you walk Central Park West, take time out to really look at the architecture of the buildings and the beauty of the stone work and the carvings. You will not see this in modern buildings. From the sandblasted outsides of buildings to the redone gilded lobbies, you can see a change in the personality of the structure.  People are bringing grace back to the apartment buildings and much care.

As I walked past the ‘Museum Mile” of the Upper West Side in the New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West and the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West and 79th Street both displayed their upcoming shows. If you get a chance, go see the “Unseen Oceans” and “Senses” exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History. Both tell a different story and the new “Unseen Oceans” exhibition helps us discover what lurks a depths we have never been. There is a whole new world to discover here.

At Central Park West and 77th Street, check out the statue of Alexander Von Humboldt, the famous Prussian geographer, naturalist and explorer. Von Humboldt had explored South America to a great extent back in 1700’s as well as extensive exploration in Europe. The Humboldt Squid is named after him as well as he invented the safety lamp for exploration. The statue by noted artist, Gustaf Blaeser, was dedicated in 1869 and was moved to this location much later. It is being conserved by the Central Park Conservatory.

From West 84th Street on Central Park West to Columbus Avenue, it is always a treasure trove of interesting brownstones. To believe that only 25 years ago, this place was almost abandoned, you should see the transformation now with all this old buildings being sandblasted back to life. There is a lot of TLC (tender loving care) going on in the West Side of Manhattan.

Really look at the architecture on West 84th Street from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue and watch the faces watch you starting with 239 Central Park West laden with faces of men and women surrounding it. As you pass all the brownstones, really look at the carvings of the faces in all the archways and doorways. You never know who is watching from all angles.

Unlike the East Side, where every Avenue seems to being torn down for another apartment building or office tower, the West side of the island is keeping more of its charms. I just do not see the same changes going on in this part of the island as the zoning seems different. Here most of the streets are under scaffolding to sandblast these buildings back to their original glory with new owners. One thing is for sure, the ownership is changing. I have never seen so many kids running around after school.

Like the Upper East Side, this side of town has its share of schools and there are plenty of kids walking home in groups or with their parents. The conversations are very similar to the ones I heard cross town. Politics, relationships and problems with classmates. It is a amazing the conversations you hear in restaurants, bakeries and on the sidewalks.

The one thing that does not change on the streets of New York is how pampered their pets are. I have never seen so many well-groomed animals. Not to the extent of their East side counterparts (who have about six to eight upscale grooming places) but I can tell people love their dogs.

As I passed down West 84th Street, I visited many businesses I had been to so many months ago like West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue, John Koch Antiques at 201 West 84th Street and Books of Wonder at 217 West 84th Street all of which have become some of my favorite stores on the West Side.

Also, when you reach West End Avenue, pause to look at the lines of brownstones surrounding the block and the beautiful stonework and carvings on each brownstone. The block as well as most of the blocks between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive are classic and detailed in their architecture.

Riverside Drive changes from block to block. Some of the blocks are protected under the Historic districts that they are part of and other blocks are high rise apartments. The West End Historical District runs from about West 80th Street to West 79th Street. Here you will find an array of artistically designed mansions with their large windows and whimsical turrets. These homes are tucked into and around the surrounding apartment buildings.

The West End Collegiate Historic District encompasses even a bigger area of this part of the neighborhood covering from West 79th Street to West 70th Street from Riverside Drive to parts of Broadway. This historic district contains many famous and prominent apartment buildings, brownstones and churches including the Collegiate Church on West End Avenue, the Ansonia and Astor Apartments on Broadway and the Chatsworth Apartments (which are under current renovations) at West 72nd Street.

The pre-war architecture and Victorian style of these buildings are unique to NYC now and should be protected. This type of structure are in danger of being knocked down and replaced with larger more modern construction. Note this in my writing of the Upper East Side which is going through so many changes right now.

Walking along Riverside Drive starting at West 84th Street is a treat. There is that juxtaposed mix of buildings with Victorian mansions tucked next to pre-war apartments with a few modern buildings thrown in. All of this is facing Riverside Park, which for most of the time I was walking the neighborhood was still in winter dormancy.

At West 81st Street and Riverside Drive inside the entrance to the park is the River Run Playground, your first source of public bathrooms. The park was quiet on a winter afternoon but after a few visits to the neighborhood and the weather getting warmer, the kids came out in droves with their parents tagging along.

The beauty of River Run Playground is in the details of the park. The bathrooms have the most beautiful monkey designs molded into the gates so you have to look up for them. The park itself is oval in design filled with every whimsical play thing a child could want. What I liked about the park as it got warmer was the hill overlooking the park. The Riverside Park Conservatory and the local neighbors planted the hill with all sorts of Spring flowers which are now popping up. Crocuses, Tulips and Daffodils will line the hills overlooking the park and the river and already it is quite a site.

The beauty of Riverside Drive is that there are many parks within the park. At the entrance to the park at West 83rd Street is the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Park and Gardens. The 12,000 square foot plaza, enclosed by gardens planters, crabapple and locust trees and a polychromed granite wall, is part of the West Side Improvement. The massive Riverside Park expansion directed by Parks Commissioner, Robert Moses and designed by Gilmore D. Clarke and Clinton Loyd was completed in 1937. In 1990, the perimeter gardens were designed and planted by David T. Goldstick. In 2001, the plaza was renovated by Mayor Rudy Gouliani in partnership with the Riverside Park Fund (NYC Parks.org).

The plaza and gardens has served as a place of contemplation and remembrance of the victims of Nazi brutality. The plaza takes it name from the modest granite plaque at its center and was one of the first Holocaust monuments in the United States, the plaque and its surroundings were dedicated on October 19, 1947 by Mayor William O’Dwyer.  A crowd of 15,000 attended , including 100 survivors of the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps. Each year on April 19th, people gather here in memory of the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto, who rose up against their Nazi captors and the six million other Jews martyred during WWII. This plaza is a place a beauty and contemplation and is a nice place to just relax and think (NY Parks.org).

At Riverside Drive and 76th Street is the Neufeld Playground, a recently renovated park with two playground for kids of various ages. The best part of the playground is the public bathrooms and like John Jay Park on the East Side, they are open until 5:00pm so this is a great place to make a pit stop and relax on the benches.

When you exit the Neufeld Playground, you will nice an Robert Ray Hamilton fountain, an empty fountain with an eagle statue topping it. The ornate, baroque styled marble fountain is named for Robert Ray Hamilton, the great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton, the great statesman, who was a prominent businessman, landowner and politician in his own right. He bequeathed $9,000 to the city to create and install it. It is one of the finest and last surviving examples of the decorative horse troughs that once lined the city landscape. It was used for horses to drink in when they were making their way along Riverside Drive (NYC Parks.org).

At the corner of Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street, just inside the park is a statue dedicated to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Known for her many civic and charitable contributions to the government at the time one top of being a teacher, women’s rights activist and raising five children during the Presidency, she fought for the rights of people.

The statue was done by sculptor Penelope Jencks and Michael Middleton Dwyer and the architects on the project were Bruce Kelly and David Varnell. The monument lies at the threshold of the Riverside Park and is one of a sequence of civic monuments along Riverside Drive honoring people of historical significance (NYC Parks.org).  Its a nice place to just relax and watch the world go by. This is also the end of Riverside Park which ends at West 72nd Street.

One building that stands out right across the street from the beginning of Riverside Park is the Chadsworth Apartment Building at 344 West 72nd Street built in 1904 designed by architect John D. Scharsmith for owner George F. Johnson. It was designed to face the park in an English garden fashion. It was lavishly designed in detail to attract the wealthy patrons of Fifth Avenue, who had started to abandon their mansions after the turn of the 20th century (Wiki).

Done in a brick and limestone exterior, the detail work on the building is magnificent. Carved angels, faces and flowers line the building and the iron work of the lamps and banisters are just breathtaking. You really have to look beyond the scaffolding to see the true beauty of this building.  They just don’t build apartment buildings with this type of detail anymore.

Across the street from the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt sits an unusual twin mansion, one of the many you will see lining West 72nd Street until you hit Broadway. Most of these old homes are now office and shops but you can see the real beauty in them when at one time this part of the West Side by Riverside Park had been fashionable.

This ‘twin’ mansion was actually two homes with a courtyard created in between the two homes. The Beaux Arts home on West 72nd Street was owned by the Sutphen family and the right plainer mansion was owned by the Prentiss family both designed by mansion architect C.P.H. Gilbert. Both descended from old Colonial families, the Sutphen family were the first one to build their mansion and it was finished 1902 and the Prentiss Mansion was built in 1900. The architect built the courtyard to compliment both homes (Wiki).

West 72nd Street is a real hodge-podge of architecture and buildings as it looks like the shopping district is in a constant state of flux with stores and restaurants opening and closing at record speed due to the increases in rent. Still the street has a 70’s feel about it as there are still some holdouts stores from the ‘old days’.

One stand out restaurant/deli that fit the bill was the West Side Cafe & Pizza at 218 West 72nd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue (see Reviews on TripAdvisor and my blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). The place is clean, the food is reasonable and delicious and the prices are more than fair. Their selection of items is also extensive. This is why I ate there four times on my trip to the Upper West Side.

My first trip there, I just wanted a slice of pizza just to have a snack. A slice here ($2.50) is pretty large and was delicious. They know how to make a marinara sauce. Even though it was warmed over, the quality was excellent. While I was ordering my slice, I saw someone ordering a sausage, egg and cheese on a buttered bagel and it looked so good that when I was walking the streets of the same neighborhood, I had to go back and order it.

So I ordered it on a combination bagel ($4.99) and ate it in Riverside Park. I swear it was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I had ever eaten. The flavors combined beautifully. The sandwich was also huge!

Some of the merchants on West 72nd Street even had a 70’s feel to them. I stopped at Stationary & Toy World Store at 125 West 72nd Street. This is such a great store with floor to ceiling of toys, games, school supplies and anything a kid in the 70’s and 80’s would need for the beginning of the school year. I swear I felt I was in a time warp back thirty years. The best part about the store that it was busy with families so that was encouraging at a time.

Another great store with a 70’s feel is Westsider Records at 233 West 72nd Street, which is lined from top to bottom with records. Even the guy who works the front counter looks like he works at a record store. There were records that I have not seen in thirty years. It even looks a record store that should be on the Upper West Side.

In the middle of the neighborhood is the famous Verdi Park and Sherman Square, the former ‘Needle Park’ from the movie, “Panic in Needle Park”. This is no ‘Needle Park’ anymore with a Bloomingdale’s Outlet Store and a Haagen Dazs right on the park. Sherman Square is just south of the neighborhood but Verdi Square was just as bad.

Now Verdi Square is renovated and dedicated to opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi. The statue was designed by Pasquale Civietti in 1906 (NYC Parks.org). The park itself is surrounding by some of the most beautiful Victorian architecture especially around Broadway with the Ansonia Apartments and the Apple Savings Bank, the former Central Savings Bank. Now the park is nicely landscaped with flowers and plantings with a fancy coffee stand.

Another great place is Malachy’s Donegal Inn at 103 West 72nd Street. I visited the restaurant twice while visiting the neighborhood and it is a real experience to get to know the locals who like to eat there. If you want to meet neighborhood locals, this is the place to come.

The last part of the walk on the way back to Central Park West was passing The Dakota Apartments. One of the most prestigious addresses in New York City and named for its isolation placement in the city at the time. The apartments were built between 1880 and 1884 designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh. Built in the Renaissance and English Victorian design, you can see the detail work all over the building (Wiki).

Even though the building in currently under scaffolding, you can see the detail work in the iron work of the fencing around the building with the face of Neptune (I think) facing everyone who walks by. You can also peak into the courtyard to see where carriages once arrived. It is an amazing building.

The borders of the Upper West Side are steeped in history and loaded with some of the most beautiful buildings and statuary and facing two of the most magnificent landscaped parks in the city. The residents here are very lucky.

Places to Visit:

Alexander Von Humboldt Statue

Central Park West at West 78th Street

New York Historical Society

170 Central Park West

New York, NY 10024

nyhistory.org

(212) 873-3400

American Museum of National  History

Central Park West at West 79th Street

New York, NY 10024

amnh.org

(212) 769-5100

Verdi Square

West 72nd Street

Riverside Park

From West 84th Street to West 72nd Street

Neufeld Playground

Riverside Park at West 76th Street

Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Park & River Run Playground & Robert Hamilton Fountain

Riverside Park at West 81st Street

Eleanor Roosevelt Statue

Riverside Park at West 72nd Street

Places to Eat:

West Side Cafe

218 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 769-9939/8815

Malachy’s Donegal Inn

103 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 874-4268

malacysnyc.com

Places to Shop:

Stationary & Toy World

125 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

stationaryandtoy.com/shop

Westsider Records

233 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 874-1588

http://www.westsiderrecords.com