It took a long time to finish the Upper West Side with classes and work going on and the beginning of the holiday season. I started walking the streets between West 59th Street in early October when the weather was still warm and the trees were still green then somehow along the way the leaves turned a golden brown and I started to see cobwebs and pumpkins all over the place. By the time I was finished, these would be replaced by garland, holly, wreathes and pine trees. I had never seen a neighborhood transform so fast or was it just me revisiting so many times over the period of three months. The holidays just creeped up on me and then overwhelmed me.
The lower part of the Upper West Side is much different from the rest of this side of town. As noted in earlier blogs of the neighborhood, pretty much everything below West 69th Street was leveled to make way for the Lincoln Center complex and only buildings around Central Park West, historic churches and some pre-war ‘gems’ survived the wrecking ball. Everything east of Broadway seemed to survive the wrecking ball but that has continued to change.
This ‘clearance’ made way for the performing arts center, many branches of college campuses, a hospital, new residential housing and new schools. There are very few traces of the old neighborhood once you cross West 70th Street until you get to about West 58th Street where some of the older buildings survived. If it did not have historic value or a certain charm, it got knocked down in the way of progress.
The Lincoln Center clearance project that transformed this part of the City
Lincoln Square’s grand finale: From slum clearance to a new master plan
The charm of the neighborhood continued from West 72nd Street to West 70th Street. These was the edges of the old Upper West Side that had survived the 60’s wrecking ball. West 72nd Street to me still represents the old New York with stores catering to the neighborhood residents and not to tourists. They are stores and restaurants for New Yorkers not New York places for tourists looking for a New York experience like walking around Times Square.
I started walking the streets of the Upper West Side from West 72nd Street to West 59th Street in early October and finishing a section here and a section there finishing closer to Thanksgiving. It was so weird to start this part of the walk when the trees still had green leaves on them to seeing Christmas decorations on the brownstone homes. Between work and the beginnings of the holidays and my hectic schedule it took a long time to see all the streets in the detail I wanted.
In the few months that I had been walking around, West 72nd Street has really started to change. I starting seeing a lot more scaffolding on the street and more restaurants opening and closing. I could not keep up the pace of the changes. Many older businesses started to close up shop due to the rent increases. All over the City rents that must have been negotiated in the mid to late 90’s were now coming due and business owners just can’t pay some of these rents. I am seeing more and more empty store fronts or restaurants replacing them with $20.00 hamburgers and $25.00 pasta dishes which are over-priced to the average person.
West 72nd Street is still worth the visit as they are many shops and restaurants that reasonably priced and are patronized by the neighborhood residents. There are many places that I like to revisit whenever I am in the neighborhood. As you round the corner onto West 72nd Street from Central Park West, you are greeted by the anchor of the neighborhood, the Dakota Apartments at 1 West 72nd Street, the famous home of John Lennon. These beautiful apartments were built between 1880-84 by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh for Edward Cabot Clark, the head of the Singer Manufacturing Company (Wiki).
During my time on the walk, there had been a memorial in the park on the date of his passing and many people were trying to take pictures there but the doorman are shooing people away. This is the private home to many people.
The Dakota Apartments at 1 West 72nd Street
Walking down West 72nd is an array of well maintained apartment buildings and Coops but here and there on the street, there are still some pockets where you will find a brownstone here or there tucked into some corner of the street or look at the stone work on a apartment building.
Walking down West 72nd Street is a treasure trove of wonderful restaurants, interesting shops and historical architecture. It’s not just the Dakota and Olcott Apartments that are interesting. When looking up you notice so much. As you walk past the famous apartment buildings of Central Park West past Columbus Avenue, you pass an avenue of ever changing bars, restaurants and shops that continue to surprise residents and tourists alike.
The Olcott Apartments at 27 West 72nd Street were built in 1925
One restaurant/bar I enjoy visiting is Malachy’s Donegal Inn at 103 West 72nd Street (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and Diningonashoestringinnyc@Wordpress.com) just past Columbus Avenue. The bar has been there for years and a neighborhood staple for locals in the neighborhood. I had eaten here many times and I always felt like I was being watched, like people at the bar were trying to figure out whether I lived there or not.
The food is really good. Their burgers, chicken fingers and hot turkey sandwiches ($8.95 each) are generous in size and their prices for food and drinks is very reasonable.It is a great place to sit back and talk to strangers about just about anything.
Malachy’s Donegal Inn 103 West 72nd Street
Just past Malachy’s is an unassuming store, Stationary & Toy World at 125 West 72nd Street (See my blog ‘LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) for a great selection of office supplies and toys for all ages.
Stationary & Toy World at 125 West 72nd Street
The aisles are stacked top to bottom with popular games, crafts and building blocks while others with hard to find office supplies. Why order on Amazon when you can walk out your door and talk to people in the store who know their merchandise? It’s a throwback to a store in the 70’s that had it all. The people who work there are really nice and will help you find anything.
Verdi Square, part of the once infamous ‘Needle Park’ of the 70’s when this area got very run down has become a cornerstone of the this part of the neighborhood.
Verdi Square at West 72nd Street
There is no ‘Needle Park’ here anymore with fancy coffee vendors and musicians playing the park on a warm day. The park has been landscaped with flowers blooming each season and is a nice place to just relax and talk before taking the busy subway up or downtown.
What the neighborhood used to look like in the early 70’s
Just to tell you how much the neighborhood has changed there is a very popular Bloomingdale’s Outlet Store at 2085 Broadway with loads of merchandise from the popular chain and a 40 Carrots yogurt shop upstairs. You can get lost in the racks of clothing.
Just past Bloomingdale’s at 233 West 72nd Street is Westsider Records, another 70’s looking store for vinyl records and used books. If you are looking for the hard to find classics or for book or record that your mother threw out years ago, this is the store to start in. There is a wide variety of records here including original cast albums from musicals that I have not seen in years.
Westsider Records at 233 West 72nd Street
As you head down West 72nd Street, take a stop before arriving at West End Avenue and admire what is left of the old mansions that still peak out here and there on the street especially towards the very bottom of Riverside Park, when the neighborhood was an exclusive address. At the end of the block is Riverside Drive and the bottom of Riverside Park.
Across the street under all that scaffolding is The Chadsworth Apartment House that was designed in the late 1800’s (See Day One Hundred & Eight of MywalkinManhattan.com for full history of the apartment houses on West 72nd Street). Under all that piping if you look close, you can see the beauty and the detail work of the stone carvers. It will be something when the renovation is finished.
The beauty of The Chadsworth with the lower part of Riverside Park
Before crossing back, take a look at the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument at the corner of Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street. The statue is dedicated to the former First Lady and is a nice place to sit and relax on a warm day. American artist Penelope Jencks designed the statue and is a graduate of Boston College with a BFA. This is one of her best known works.
I have seen this part of the park in all seasons since starting to walk this part of the neighborhood and the Spring is best when the first set of flowers starts to peek out.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Statue at the end of West 72nd Street by artist Penelope Jencks
Artist Penelope Jencks
Walking back down West 72nd Street on the other side of the road is West Side Cafe at 218 West 72nd Street (closed as of February 2020), my go to place in the neighborhood for reasonable meals and snacks (See my TripAdvisor reviews and review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). How I found this restaurant/deli was the sign that they had on the street with the prices of their meals and went in immediately for their pizza lunch special ($5.00). The pizza there is amazing as is all of their food and seems to be the place all the cabbies and doormen eat at as well. Large portions of well made food at a reasonable price.
West Side Cafe and Pizza at 218 West 72nd Street (now closed in 2020)
If you are still hungry from all the walking, another place I like to stop for a snack is Gray’s Papaya at 2090 Broadway right across from the subway station. Their hot dogs are the best and since they are grilled, they snap when you bit into them (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
The one thing I like about West 72nd Street on the West Side is that there is something for everyone from the fancy dining establishments heading toward Central Park West to the more reasonable hole in the wall restaurants that dot the street and those hidden stores stacked high with merchandise, this street was created for the New York customer and has not given into the tourists yet.
Rounding the corner of Central Park West, this trip around the neighborhood took so much time that I saw the four seasons occur in the park. Fall is most distinct with the colorful leaves with a touch of still warm weather. Morning or night, the park is always busy.
West 71st Street has a more residential feel to it and between the park and Broadway is lined with impressive brownstones and apartment buildings. Facing Central Park is the Majestic Apartments at 115 Central Park West, which opened right before the stock market crash of 1929. The apartment building is an interesting example of Modern American Art Deco architecture and was considered quite innovative when it opened. The building was built by the firm of Chanin Construction Company by Irwin Chanin (StreetEasy 2019).
Take time to look at the buildings design from the other side of Central Park West. Its elegant design is in contrast to the more Victorian look of the Dakota right across the street. Just don’t stare too long or the building doormen will give you a funny look.
The Majestic Apartments at 115 Central Park West
The beautiful row of brownstones and small apartment buildings on West 71st Street were decorated at all times of the holiday season. When I started the walk in early October with the leaves still green on the trees, people were preparing for the Halloween and the coming of the Fall. As I finished the walk, many people were putting up trees, garland and lights. With the care of these brownstones and their decorations, especially at night, made it look like a true neighborhood.
Further down West 71st Street is the Church of the Blessed Sacrament at 152 West 71st Street which was built in 1917. The first church was built in 1887 near West 72nd Street and the second church was built in 1900 on the site of the current church. This church was built by architect Gustav Steinbach, a Columbia graduate, who modeled it after a much smaller 14th century French Gothic Sainte Chapelle in Parish (Church History).
The Church of the Blessed Sacrament at 152 West 71st Street
The church has a very engaging sermon and mass and if you are in the area during that time, take the time out to stay and enjoy it. It was a small crowd that afternoon that I was there but I only stayed for a short period of time. It would be nice to hear the whole mass sometime.
Once you reach Sherman Square, you will see the artist Kathy Ruttenberg’s statue, ‘In Sync’ which is part of her open air exhibition with the NYC Arts, ‘In Dreams Awake: Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway exhibition (one of her other statues, ‘All the World’s a Stage’ is located in the neighborhood on West 64th near Lincoln Center). Take time to look at this interesting twist of nature by the Woodstock, NY based artist. She has four other statues up and down Broadway which means revisited the Upper West Side above West 84th Street.
‘In Sync’ By Kathy Ruttenberg
“All the World’s a Stage” by Kathy Ruttenberg
I have to say one thing is that she is very creative and looks at nature and art in an extremely unusual fashion. Her work takes on a different meaning showing nature in human form. The funny part is that the whole time I was looking over the statue everyone else just bumped into me passing it. No one stopped to look at the deer-man and tree walking in tandem like it was something you saw every day in New York City.
Kathy Ruttenberg artist
Two of my favorite and reasonable places to eat in this part of the Upper West Side are located right across the street on Broadway. The McDonald’s at 2049 Broadway and Little Italy Pizza at 2047 Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
The McDonald’s is one of the better ones in the City for food quality and cleanliness. I have many lunches and dinners here and it is fun to order a Sausage McMuffin and Egg and a cheeseburger at 9:00pm. When the weather was really hot at the beginning walk of this neighborhood I came here for one of their frozen lemonades.
Little Italy Pizza is one of the best places for slices in the City as their pizza actually has some flavor to it. When you have a slice ($2.95) here it is a decent sized piece of pizza and the sauce is nicely spiced. Their calzones are excellent ($6.50). They are almost the size of a small pizza and are loaded with ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Their marinara sauce is delicious and well spiced. If you have one for lunch, you will need no dinner. The service here is quick and the pizza makers are in a rush all the time so take your order and wait to be called.
Little Italy Pizza at 2047 Broadway
As you continue down West 71st Street towards West End Avenue, there is a little slice of oasis in Septuagesimo Uno Park between Broadway and West End Avenue. The park was created in 1969 as part of Mayor Wagner’s ‘Vest Park Program’ to take vacant lots in neighborhoods at the time and turn them into a ‘small oasis’ for the neighborhood.
Septuagesimo Uno Park at West 71st Street
The park was part of an effort between the Mayor, the NYC Parks and neighborhood groups who wanted to beautify the neighborhood. It is beautifully landscaped and in season you can see the flowers and scrubs in full bloom. The only problem that I found with visiting the park is that the gate is always locked. Every time I wanted to visit, there was no one there.
The inside of the park in the Spring
As you walk to the end of the block, you will see the transition in the street from where it used to stop at the back of the Chadsworth Apartments and the new Heritage at Trump Place Apartment Building. This leads back to the extension of West 72nd Street and the new Riverside Boulevard. This is where you see old and new mix in both architecture and parks. When you reach Riverside Boulevard you will see all the new buildings that I described when walking the Avenues. It shows the ingenuity of the city planners of reclaiming land and redesigning the City into the 21st Century.
As you head back down West 71st Street, really look up and admire some of the architecture and details on the buildings along the street. Once you pass West End Avenue, look at the details of 260-266 West 71st Street with their large staircases and the elegance of the clean lines on these brownstones. These brownstones were built in 1899 and were to have a look ‘different from one another’ (NY Times Real Estate).
269 West 71st Street
Lots of care has been taken to restore them to their glory and when the weather was warmer, were decorated outside with potted plants.
Move on to the brownstones from 248-250 West 71st Street that are across the street to see their details. These were build in 1892 and look up to see the weird faces staring back at you. Further down the street, sitting like a Grand Dame of the neighborhood and not part of the Moses chopping block is The Dorilton Apartments at 171 West 71st Street that were built in 1902. These were built at a time architects were trying to lure people off Fifth Avenue and onto Broadway which was modeled after a French Boulevard.
The Dorilton Apartments at 171 West 71 Street
Heading back to Central Park West is the brownstones of 35-39 West 71st Street with their elegant staircases, curved windows and their lion keystones staring back at you. These brownstones were built in 1900 and show a grace and elegance of ‘Old New York’.
35-39 West 71st Street
I found West 71st Street offers a lot in beautiful small parks, gorgeous architecture, wonderful restaurants and interesting shops. The people here must really love it.
I rounded Central Park West again looking at the Central Park as it transitioned seasons during the walk and walked onto West 70th Street. This is where the neighborhood starts to change. Up to Columbus Avenue, you see the older part of the neighborhood that survived the wrecking ball and past Broadway is all new construction.
I traveled down West 70th Street to Riverside Boulevard and it is amazing how in just one block a neighborhood can change. You see how ‘urban renewal’ can change the character of a neighborhood.
Still there is a beauty to many buildings on the block. It may not have all the charismatic brownstones as West 71st Street but still here and there are buildings that stand out and you take notice of when walking around. At 135 West 70th Street there is a building that has an Egyptian style motif that decorates the entire frontage.
The Pythian was designed by architect Thomas Lamb and was built in 1926 for the Knights of the Pythians, who were a fraternal order founded in 1864. The building was constructed of buff brick and terra cotta. The outside decorations of the building are designed in ‘Egyptian Revival Art Deco’ and are some of the best examples of the use of polycrome terra cotta in the City. The building was converted to condos in 1983. Really look up and admire the details of ancient Gods and Goddesses, mythical animals and artwork that looks like the outside of an ancient temple. Admire the orb that sits atop the entrance with the Goddess Isis stand guard (StreetScapes & Wiki).
The Pythian at 135 West 70th Street
I stopped by P.S. 199 as they were letting out of school and it was sea of children and parents for the next hour. Next to the school is Matthew P. Sapolin Park, which is a great place to visit on a hot day. There are really nice public bathrooms that come in handy after a long walk and benches under shade trees to relax on. The parents are so busy watching their kids and the other parents no one noticed me walk in the many times I visited here. This was my go to place for the bathroom and to relax when walking this section of the neighborhood and they keep the park up really nicely.
The former Playground 70 was renamed in 2011 to Matthew P. Sapolin Park after the former Commission of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, who died of cancer in 2011. The park is fitted for children with disabilities with a children’s garden, a basketball court with backstops for children in wheel chairs and picnic table seating low enough to allow for disability access (NYCParks.com).
Matthew P. Sapolin has a very interesting life before dying at age 41. He had been mainstreamed in school on Long Island, was a drummer in a band he formed and the Co-Captain of his wrestling team at NYU. Many people had commented that he was an inspiration for many people who never let a disability define them and it is fitting that such a park available to so many be named after him (NY Obituary).
Matthew Sapolin Commissioner
Walking back from a relaxing break at the park, I walked back to towards Central Park West. Tucked away near Columbus Avenue is an interesting little antique jewelry store called Icon Style by Lara Kornbluh at 104 West 70th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). Do not miss this interesting little shop refitted in a turn of the last century pharmacy, if you like vintage and antique fine and costume jewelry.
It has some of the most unusual pieces in the shapes of animals and sunburst. I got to meet the owner, artist Lara Kornbluh, whose work had been shown in galleries in the 90’s. She had gotten interested in jewelry as a side business while working as an artist to make extra money. Her creativity as an artist shows in the one of kind selections she has bought for the store. No two pieces look alike. For jewelry lovers, it should not be missed.
Icon by Lara Kronbluh 104 West 70th Street
After a long day in Soup Kitchen and walking all of West 72nd to West 70th Streets and rounding onto West 69th Street, I had had it. I wanted to relax and decided to end this part of the evening at the New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West. I had not visited the museum in a long time and wanted to look around some of the exhibitions. What is nice about the museum is that on a Friday night it is ‘pay what you want’ and since I was broke, I just paid $5.00.
The New York Historical Society & Museum at 170 Central Park West
It was an busy evening for the museum with the ‘Harry Potter’ exhibition going on. I bypassed that and went upstairs to see the ‘Billy Jean King’ exhibition on her career as a tennis player, philanthropist and activist. I also got to see the permanent collection of objects in the collection. What was nice about that was I had the galleries pretty much to myself. I stayed until the museum closed at 8:00pm. I stopped for a quick snack on Broadway and then headed home. There would be more to see for another day.
My next trip to the neighborhood started at the Soup Kitchen again. Why I exhaust myself and walk the rest of the afternoon amazes even me. I have no idea where I get my energy from. I worked the busy bread station and after my four hour shift was over, I walked from 28th and Ninth Avenue to Harriet’s Kitchen (see review on TripAdvisor) at 502 Amsterdam Avenue, a small southern hole in the wall restaurant for lunch.
I had visited Harriet’s before and wanted to try more entrees on their menu. I had a chicken pot pie with mashed potatoes for lunch ($12.95 plus $4.95 for the potatoes and gravy) which was the perfect lunch on a cool day and the calories would support an afternoon of walking around the neighborhood. Don’t miss this rich gravy loaded pie loaded with fresh white chicken.
Harriet’s Kitchen on 502 Amsterdam Avenue (now closed)
After a full lunch, I walked down Central Park West tracing the park side. I really looked at the park as the joggers and walkers entered and wondered when I missed the leaves changing colors. It was the middle of October and the pumpkin decorations and mums started to appear on steps and porches of the brownstone blocks of the Upper West Side.
As I walked onto West 69th Street, I was greeted by a juxtaposed of brownstone and small apartment house styles between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. The shopping area around Columbus Avenue has not changed much over the years but the stores are constantly in transition. In the three months that I visited and walked the neighborhood I had never seen so many restaurants change hands and even watched a few open and close while I was there. The rents must be skyrocketing in the neighborhood as the twenty and ten year leases that were negotiated after the last recession have given way to market rates. Again, I don’t think the Upper West Side needs another restaurant that serves a $20.00 hamburger.
One of the most beautiful and quintessential blocks of the neighborhood is West 69th Street from Columbus to Amsterdam Avenues. This row of brownstones on both sides is met in the middle by Christ & St. Stephens Church at 120 West 69th Street. This cute little church has a garden just a few steps up from the side walk with benches to relax on.
Christ & Stevens Church at 120 West 69th Street. This block is amazing to walk in!
When I was visited earlier in the month, I just saw the last of the flowers in bloom and the leaves change colors. The brownstones across the street were decorated with colorful pumpkins and potted plants and the whole effect was out of a movie. It is what you would think all of New York City should look like or probably did at one time.
129-135 West 69th Street
Take time to admire the brownstones from at 129-135 West 69th Street with the unique carvings, beautiful details and their curving stairs. Decorated for both Halloween and Christmas when I walked the neighborhood, this is truly picturesque.
Once you cross Broadway, you see where the changes of the 60’s come in and the neighborhood has given way to modern construction. Between Amsterdam and Broadway you will begin to see the final buildings as part of the Lincoln Center complex of buildings of schools, theaters and offices which leads to the modern apartment complex of Lincoln Towers that continues from West 69th Street to West 66th Street. They are not so keen about letting people walk around the grounds so I snuck in carefully and did not walk around where I wasn’t supposed.
Along West End Avenue to Freedom Place is the same. Lincoln Towers, a modern apartment complex stretches from West 70th Street to West 66th and there are guards all over the place at each entrance to the complex. It is mostly paths leading the the apartments. Between Freedom Place and Riverside Boulevard are all the sparkling new apartment buildings that line the extension of Riverside Park. This new modern look to the city stretches on the West Side from West 70th Street to West 59th where some new buildings are behind fencing waiting to appear this Summer.
So to complete this part of the walk and it was such a nice day when I did it, I made a right turn up Amsterdam Avenue from West 69th Street and walked up to West 70th Street and walked the entire length around the Lincoln Towers Complex to West 66th Street and then back to see some of the garden and paths of the complex that I could see with the guards looking me over and then back around.
When I finished that, I made the turn once I returned to West 66th Street and West End Avenue and walked to Riverside Boulevard and re-walked all the side streets between West 66th to West 70th Streets between the park and Freedom Place and looked at all the new construction again. This part of the neighborhood is dissected from the rest of the Upper West Side and is almost its own self-contained neighborhood similar to Battery Park City. It has its own shops, stores and schools. It faces a beautiful sparkling new park where the sod had just been laid that Summer and it was in full use when I was there (See Days One Hundred and Twenty One and Two).
Freedom Place marker
I crossed back over the street at West 70th and continued to walk down past this extensive neighborhood and in the corner of Freedom Place and West 70th Street saw the Freedom Place marker from the Freedom Summer of June 21, 1964 when volunteers went to Mississippi to register Black voters. The plaque was dedicated to the three volunteers who were killed, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney. They had been ambushed and killed that evening. A very somber plaque for such an interesting block of luxury housing.
I made the turn again and back down the other side of West 69th I went. Once you past Broadway, you pass from new to old again and it is the other side of the brownstone row until you get to Central Park West. When you turn the corner again at West 68th Street, you are pretty much looking at what is left of the old Upper West Side between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. After that the rest of the neighborhood is new construction especially around the boundaries of Broadway which is loaded with chain businesses.
West 67th Street is almost the same as the area contains many new buildings between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Here you start to see more of the buildings that are part of Lincoln Center just to the south or are part of the commercial district that has developed over the last twenty five years. When you turn the corner again from Central Park West to West 66th Street, you see the neighborhood streetscape change again with differences in the buildings from Central Park to Riverside Park.
West 66th Street takes you right back over to Riverside Park and then back to Central Park as I stopped in the park to relax. It has a wonderful view of New Jersey of the cliffs facing the Hudson River. On a warm Summer day you have a choice of things to do in the park, admiring the artwork, walking, jogging or just lying by the grass.
A tiny triangle of grass greets you right across the street from Lincoln Center in the former Empire North Park now dubbed “Richard Tucker Park”. This little park like its counterpart Verdi Square further uptown not only serves as a subway entrance but in the warmer months has a very popular Farmers Market, waffle stand and bookseller. Its a pleasant park to sit in the Summer and watch the world go by.
Richard Tucker Park
Richard Tucker had started off as a Cantor who in 1945 made his operatic debut with the Metropolitan Opera, where he stayed on with the company until his passing in 1975. The bust of him by artist Milton Hebald that graces the park was donated to the park system by his wife, Sarah, in 1975.
Richard Tucker, the Opera Singer
West 65th Street brings you to the heart of Lincoln Center. This is also where the neighborhood has its extremes. On one side of Amsterdam Avenue is Lincoln Center and on the other is the Amsterdam Houses. Still the neighborhood houses some of the best schools in the country. Julliard is housed between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue as well as the Fiorella H. Laguardia School of the Performing Arts, two of the nation’s finest performing arts schools in the US.
Making the rounds back to Central Park and back in to the heart of the neighborhood, you will walk through Lincoln Center with all it’s beauty and glory. It really is a stellar site with its fountains and walkways and art. In the evening after a performance, I have always enjoyed just sitting by the fountain in the middle of the theaters and just watched people walk by either afternoons or evenings. It brings back many memories of performances past.
The Lincoln Center complex stretches from West 65th to West 62nd Streets from Columbus to Amsterdam Avenue so it takes some time to walk the whole complex and admire the gardens and statuary.
Lincoln Center at night is dazzling
I had an interesting walk behind Lincoln Center once I crossed Amsterdam Avenue into the Amsterdam Houses, which are currently under scaffolding and being renovated. The Amsterdam Houses stretch from West 64th to West 61st from Amsterdam to West End Avenues. It is an interesting set of paths to walk through all the scaffolding. With my progressive glasses and dark jacket, I made most of the construction guys and residents a little nervous. I had a glass thrown from a third floor window at me, security guards look the other direction when I walked by and watched a few construction guys get nervous. It just seems out of the place with the rest of the neighborhood.
The Amsterdam Houses on Amsterdam Avenue
One bright spot of the complex is the Samuel N. Bennerson 2nd Playground located toward the back of the complex which has recently been renovated. It has new swings and a plastic climbing complex. The few afternoons that I entered the park, the kids seemed well-behaved but there were a lot of adults there talking.
Samuel N. Bennerson 2nd was a local resident and activist, who was a third generation member of the ‘San Juan Hill’ community who served as a mentor to children in the neighborhood and a sports coach.
I continued by walk down West 64th Street and walk all around the Amsterdam Housing Complex which made me very popular with the construction crew who seemed to step of the pace every time they saw me walking through taking notes. I walked down and around West 61st Street and covered all the area from West 59th Street to West 64th Street from Riverside Boulevard to Amsterdam Avenue. Amsterdam Houses are really an island on to themselves with the Lincoln Center complex to the east and the luxury apartments by Riverside Park South to the west.
As you head around West 59th and 60th Streets past Amsterdam Avenue you will see the John Jay College and Fordham College campuses just south of Lincoln Center. These and Mt. Sinai Hospital pretty dominate the very bottom of the Upper West Side.
There are two stand out buildings that you should not miss admiring on West 59th Street, the IRT Powerhouse between West End Avenue and the Henry Hudson Parkway and West 59th and 58th Streets. This historic building was built in 1904 by architect Stanford White for the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and is designed in ‘Renaissance Revival’ and was part of the City Beautiful Movement (Wiki). Note all the beautiful carvings and decor at the sides of the building.
IRT Building on West 59th Street
The other building not to miss is the Williams J. Syms Operating Theater at 338 West 59th Street right behind the Time-Warner Complex. It was built in 1892 as a medical hospital and is the last remaining piece of the old Roosevelt Hospital. Made with marble and mosaic floors as not to harbor bacteria, it was considered state of the art when it opened. It is now being renovated for a school.
William J. Syms Medical Theater
From West 59th Street, I walked around the back of the Columbus Circle complex and walked up Columbus Avenue back to West 64th Street and continued the walk back to Central Park West. Here you see the sparkling new Time-Warner complex with its luxury stores, hotels and restaurants. This has set the tone for the transformation of the Upper West Side.
Time Warner Complex on West 59th Street
Making the walk back onto West 63rd Street, I walked again through the Lincoln Center Complex again and then through the Amsterdam Houses again just to rile the builders who by this point just ignored me. Towards the end of the block between West 63rd and 64th Streets and West End Avenue and Freedom Place there is another really nice park to relax in that does not have a formal name by the Parks system. It has a nice playground in the front and paths with benches to the back which is the perfect place to relax on a hot day. This park is always busy with kids.
Walking back to the commercial district of Columbus Avenue and right across from Lincoln Center is Dante Park, which in the summer is busy with vendors and book sellers and at the holidays has the most beautiful Christmas tree with an even nicer holiday event. Dante Park was originally part of Empire Park to the north but was renamed in 1921 for the Italian poet Dante Alighieri.
Ettore Ximemes artist
There is a statue of him facing the park by artist Ettore Ximemes (Wiki). Mr. Ximemes was born in Italy and had studied at the Palermo Academy of Fine Arts and then at the Naples Academy under artist Domenico Morelli
Dante Park at Christmas
When walking back to West 63rd to Central Park and then back to Columbus Avenue the areas between West 62nd, 61st and 60th Streets are lined with commercial buildings, hotels and apartment buildings. The Empire Hotel which faces Dante Park and is always busy on theater night in its restaurants was built in 1923 by owner Herbert DePuy.
The Empire Hotel at 44 West 63rd Street
The last part of my walk that evening was exploring the artwork at Lincoln Center. As I looked over the signs for upcoming shows and watched the holiday decorations being placed on the inside of the opera house, I admired pieces of art tucked here and there in the complex. There was artist Henry Moore’s ‘Working Model for Reclining Figure’ in one part and Alexander Calder’s “Le Guichet” that stand out. In all my times at the theater, I never noticed these two pieces of outdoor art. Taking time to walk around and needing to sit down you do notice them.
Henry Moore’s “Working Model for Reclining Figure” at Lincoln Center
Henry Moore artist
Henry Moore was a English artist who had graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and Leeds School of Art. He was known for his semi-abstract figures and his work in bronze. This work, “Working for Reclining Figure” was installed in 1965 and has been thought to be human figure in a reclining state. One piece represents that head and the torso and the other the figures legs. You really have to walk around the piece to figure it out (Wiki).
Alexander Calder’s “Le Guichet”
Alexander Calder artist
Alexander Calder is an American artist who graduated from the Stephens Institute of Technology. He was known for his abstract mobiles with some known of the themes of the cosmos and nature (Wiki). The work, “Le Guichet” (the ticket window) was installed in Lincoln Center in 1963. Some say it represents a irregularly shaped hand reaching through a window.
My last night walking the streets of the Upper West Side was also the beginning of the holiday season. It had been a long day at the Soup Kitchen working the Social Services area and I just wanted to get out of there.
I walked back up Columbus Avenue to look at the store windows and took a short cut through West 69th Street between Columbus and Broadway again to look at all the lights along the brownstones again. People really decorated their homes with lights, garlands and trees. At nightfall, this is what New York is all about. The simple decorations that make the City so special.
I ended my evening with dinner at the West Side Cafe again at 218 West 72nd Street (now closed as of February 2020). I just needed a couple of slices of pizza and remembered how much I enjoyed it. I am beginning to feel like a regular here.
West Side Cafe at 218 West 72nd Street (now closed in 2020)
So here on the Upper West Side is a wonderful mixture of architecture, unusual art by interesting artists, great hole in the wall restaurants and a great mix of retail. Here and there a real ‘gem’ pops out but at the end of the day it is a great neighborhood to take a long walk in.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Please read my other blogs on the Lower Part of the Upper West Side:
Day One Hundred and Twenty-One: Walking the Borders of the Lower Part of the Upper West Side:
Day One Hundred-: Walking the Avenues of the Lower Part of the Upper West Side:
Day One Hundred-: Walking the Streets of the Lower Part of the Upper West Side:
Places to Visit:
The Dakota Apartments
1 West 72nd Street
New York, NY 10023
Church of the Blessed Sacrament
152 West 71st Street
New York, NY 10023
Places to Eat:
Malachy’s Donegal Inn
103 West 72nd Street
New York, NY 10023
Open: Sunday-Saturday 12:00pm-4:00am
New York, NY 10023
Open: 24 hours
Review on TripAdvisor:
Little Italy Pizza
New York, NY 10023
Open: Sunday-Tuesday 10:00am-12:00am/Wednesday 10:00am-2:00am/Thursday 10:00am-2:00am/Friday & Saturday 10:00am-4:00am
Review on TripAdvisor:
New York, NY 10023
Open: Sunday-Saturday 24 hours
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com
West Side Cafe (now closed in 2020)
218 West 72nd Street
New York, NY 10023
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
Harriet’s Kitchen (now closed as of 2019)
502 Amsterdam Avenue
My review on TripAdvisor:
Places to Shop:
Bloomingdale’s Outlet Store
New York, NY 10023
Open: Check their website
Stationery & Toy World
125 West 72nd Street
Open: Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Saturday 10:00am-7:00pm
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
233 West 72nd Street
New York, NY 10023
Open: Sunday 12:00pm-6:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-7:00pm/Friday & Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm.
Icon Style by Lara Kornbluh
104 West 70th Street
New York, NY 10023
Open: Wednesday-Friday-11:00am-8:00pm/Saturday-11:00am-7:00pm/Closed Monday & Tuesday
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com: