If you have never visited the Brooklyn Botanical Garden when visiting New York City you are missing a lot. I have been a member of the garden since 2002 and fell in love with walking around the gardens when visiting the Brooklyn Museum next door. It is the most relaxing place to walk around and just think. It is also nice to grab a book, sit under a tree and just relax.
One of the benefits of membership are the private event nights that the Gardens have for its members. ‘Rose Night’ is one of my favorites. This is when the Crawford Rose Garden and the surrounding rose gardens to the main one are in full bloom and on display. Because the weather has been so hot lately most plants have been blooming about two weeks ahead of their normal schedule.
The Crawford Rose Garden was no exception as the recent hot weather and two rain storms put some strain on the rose bushes and some of them were going out of bloom the night of the party. Still the roses were ablaze with color and the fragrant smells of the garden were prevalent all over the garden. The event draws a very large crowd and people were all over the place picnicking and relaxing while listening to a jazz band that was performing inside the cherry trees.
The Crawford Rose Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens at 990 Washington Avenue in Brooklyn
I started my day working at the Soup Kitchen working in the prep kitchen for the morning. They kept me busy making a cucumber and tomato salad and cutting kale for a side dish they were making the next day. One thing I like about working at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen is that the work is never dull. They always keep me busy.
Since I had plenty of time before the event, I decided to take a trip down to Coney Island to explore any changes that were going on in the amusement center. I wanted to visit the New York Aquarium and see the new ‘Shark Tanks’ exhibition and revisit the Coney Island Museum. When I arrived at the beach about 45 minutes later it was beautiful, clear and sunny on Surf Avenue.
The afternoon started out at Nathan’s at 1310 Surf Avenue for lunch (see review on TripAdvisor). I swear that I eat at Nathan’s in the suburb malls and it never tastes as good as it does in the original restaurant on Coney Island. Be prepared to face the lines for the rest of the summer as beach season approaches.
Their hot dogs and French fries are the best but they do not come cheap. I think this restaurant is getting more and more geared to tourists wanting to visit Coney Island. The hot dog was $4.75 and the French fries were $3.75, which is a little ridiculous considering a pack of their hot dogs are $1.99 and a bag of their frozen French fries are $1.99 on sale at the supermarket.
Still their hot dogs were delicious. They have a nice garlicky snap to them and are nicely grilled and their French fries are cooked to perfection. It is nice to enjoy your lunch at their outside tables where you can breath in the fresh salt air. After finishing my lunch, I visited the New York Aquarium at 602 Surf Avenue.
The aquarium is finally updating itself as this is the first addition to the park in years. I got there in time before the last sea lion show and that was fun. The ‘Sea Lion Celebration’ as they call it takes place in the summer at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm and 5:30pm. The trainers look like they are having a good time with animals. These sea lions were born and raised at the aquarium so they are used to being around humans. The surprising part is that they act like humans with their responses. Unlike a zoo, these mammals get out and get their exercise. It is an interesting show as they are very talented and seem to enjoy working with the trainers.
I was able to walk through the ‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibition before the aquarium closed for the evening. I found it fascinating about the history of sharks and their place in ocean world and where they are on the feeding scale. They hardly care about eating humans and like one of the displays said that ‘Jaws’ gave them a bad wrap. They are bottom dwellers who eat all the things that are ‘left over’ and are a good cleanser for the sea.
The Shark Tanks
We as humans unfortunately over-fish them or with some of the Asian countries, they will cut off the fins of the sharks for meat and then throw them back into the sea where they drown, which I think it the cruelest thing you can do to an animal. Its like being buried alive and the aquarium showed the results of what happens to this fish when it happens.
The last large tank before you leave has several variety of sharks and fish which sets up an almost feeding ecosystem for them and it looks almost graceful watching the sea go by. They even have a small crawl tunnel where you can travel under the fish to see them up close. At the top of the exhibition, they have a new restaurant, ‘Oceanview Bites’.
The tunnel under the tanks
After the aquarium, I visited the Coney Island Museum at 1208 Surf Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This is the most underrated museum that covers the history of Coney Island from just being dunes that Walt Whitman read poetry on to the modern day amusement parks to current developments.
The museum covers this history of the three great amusement parks, Steeplechase, Luna and Dreamland Parks especially in their heyday. The amusement area of Coney Island still is considered one of the most innovative in history and most developments in amusement rides took place in Coney Island.
Each room covers a part of the history of Coney Island from its years as a luxury resort, to seaside travel to the island, development of the amusement industry, to modern times and what the new developments might bring to the area. I was lucky enough to meet the curator of the museum, Lisa Mangels-Schaefer, whose family has a rich history on the island as a manufacturer of amusement rides. Her grandfather had manufactured and maintained many of the amusement rides in the park.
As the only two at the museum at the time, she gave me a personal tour of the museum, explaining the many displays and artifacts of the museum. She also told me stories of how her family used to manufacture the amusement rides back at the turn of the last century.
Some of the manufactured items by Ms. Mangels-Schaefer’s family
There are a lot of interesting artifacts at the museum from illuminated post cards to old amusement rides to many nostalgic pictures of the area from various times of history. Each gallery covers another theme of the history of the area. Don’t miss the displays of the amusement rides and the hall of fun house mirrors. For a $5.00, this museum is a real treat.
After the museum, I walked on the boardwalk for awhile and then just put my feet in the ocean. After a long day of working in the kitchen, it started to catch up to me. It was nice to feel the cool water and breath in the salt air. Coney Island has its problems as I could see but still it is a place to relax and have fun. I just laid on the beach, relaxed and let the sun shine down on me. The view of the Rockaways in the distance is really nice and on a clear sunny day, the views were wonderful.
By 5:00pm, it was time to go back up to the Botanical Garden for the ‘Rose Night’ cocktail party and tours. I was smart taking the Q back as I got off by the back entrance and did not have to face the crowds of the main entrance by the Brooklyn Museum. I got there at the opening at 6:30pm and the place was already mobbed with people. The main part of the gardens by the cherry trees must have had about three hundred people sitting down having their picnic dinner.
While everyone else was conversing on the main lawn, I took the time to walk the gardens and see the Crawford Rose Gardens in bloom. It had been hot over the last two months and all the flowers were blooming two weeks earlier than usual so a lot of roses had already bloomed and had fallen off the branches due to two recent rain storms.
Still there were lot of species of roses and many were still at the height of blooming and made a very colorful and fragrant display while touring the paths. Many types of roses had the big blooms and smelled like perfume. Others lined the trellises and created a beautiful display overhead. You really have to take your time to admire the true beauty of the garden which only has about two weeks of blooming.
Crawford Rose Garden inside the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
After I left the Crawford Rose Garden, I walked the back fountain area which had large rose bushes that were all in bloom. The fountain had been cleaned and turned on for the event so it made quite an impression in color and design with the way the rose bushes were growing.
For the rest of the evening, I walked all the different garden concepts from the Rock Gardens to the Shakespeare Gardens to the new water recycling gardens that had just been completed. All the tulip, daffodil and magnolia gardens were long gone but still a good memory of visiting a couple of months earlier.
The only problem with the event is that it has gotten so big. When it was much smaller it was more intimate and concentrated in one part of the garden but now there are more members and it is the first official ‘picnic night’ in the garden so it has gotten crowded. Also they stopped making that wonderful ‘rose cocktail’ they used to make for the event and had canned and bottled beverages that were between $8.00 to $12.00 which I thought was a little ridiculous. I know you have to raise money but $8.00 for a non-alcoholic canned beverage? I waited to go to Family Pizza at 720 Flatbush Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) for some dinner.
Still it was nice to have the gardens for the members only night and the newly renovated Japanese Gardens had opened again so I spent the last part of the evening walked around the wooded paths and stopping at the pagoda to look at the man-made lake that now feed the entire Botanical Garden its water supply. You could still hear the jazz band on the main lawn from here and it was a nice place to just sit and relax and enjoy the sun setting.
It is a simple evening of walking paths and looking at flowers while listening to music but still isn’t that what a pleasant evening in a garden is supposed to be?
I dedicate this blog with much love to my father, Warren George Watrel, who inspired this blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”. I wanted to wish him a very ‘Happy Father’s Day’!
My dad was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and still considered himself a ‘Brooklynite’, even though he was raised and lived in New Jersey for most of his life. He spent years visiting the City to see relatives and he worked on Park Avenue for several years after that.
Every Father’s Day after I moved back to New Jersey from Guam, we always spent the day roaming around the City visiting some park that I had read about, movie that I saw reviewed or exhibition at a museum that was being featured. We would cap the afternoon off at a restaurant that I would read about in the Village Voice.
Since his passing, I have my own routine on Father’s Day. I pay my respects to him in the morning and then I spend my afternoon doing something we would have done together. Adding to the museums and galleries that I have visited over the time in my project, “MywalkinManhattan”, I decided to visit the American Academy of Arts and Letters at West 155th Street on Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets. I wanted to see the new works by their member artists. Then I treated myself to lunch.
My morning was spent cutting flowers from our flower beds, which my dad had a lot of pride in and I made an amazing arrangement to take with me. While I was paying my respects, I ran into other families doing the same thing I was doing. The cemetery was as busy as a shopping mall with cars all over the place and flower arrangement and prayers being said. It is interesting to see how people respect their family members who have passed.
I was talking with a women whose grandparents were interned near my father and whose younger brother was interned in another part of the cemetery. Since the death of her brother, his family cut off relations with the rest of her family members. It is sad that I hear this story so many times. She seemed relieved to have someone to talk to about it. We had a nice chat about our families for about a half hour and it’s nice to talk to a stranger who understands.
After I paid my respects, my afternoon was spent at the American Academy of Arts & Letters for one of my other blogs, “VisitingaMuseum.com”. I had been wanting to visit the gallery for two years now and it was the last day of their exhibition ‘Ceremonial Exhibition: Work by New Members and Recipients of Awards”. It is hard to visit since they are only open four months out of the year.
I got into the City late so I got to spend the last hour and a half walking the exhibition. I had just walked the entire length of Broadway for my blog on Friday (Day One Hundred and Thirty Six Walking the length of Broadway) and saw that it would be open this Sunday. It was an interesting exhibition.
Some of the pieces in the gallery were a little political and one sided. I took it that the Academy was more liberal leaning. Even so, it was nice to see what the artist had to say and their thoughts on current events.
American Academy of Arts & Letters
One artist who stood out was artist Judith Bernstein whose works ‘Gold Quattro’, ‘Money Shot-Blue Balls’ and ‘Trump Genie’ wanted to portray what she thinks of the corruption and money grabbing currently in Washington DC. You have to really look at the work closely to see the sexual organs and their use in the paintings.
Artist Judith Bernstein’s work
Another set of works that stood out was ‘She-wolf’ by artist Francesca Dimattio, with it’s many components and color displays. The funny part was that she had a hand poking out of the butt. I was not sure how you would interpret that.
‘She-wolf’ by Francesa Diamattio
After the museum closed for the afternoon, I walked over to the Morris-Jumel Mansion which had closed for the afternoon (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). Still it was nice to walk the gardens and look at the views of the river and beyond. I had toured the mansion several times and it is an interesting home with a fascinating past. The home was owned by Aaron Burr’s second wife, Madame Jumel, who herself had an interesting life.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion
The formal gardens on the property are relaxing to visit in but could use a good weeding.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion gardens
After a visit around the neighborhood to see how gentrification is changing the neighborhood, I stopped to get something to eat. The Sugar Hill Cafe which I had wanted to try was closed for the afternoon so I went to Victorio’s Pizza at 348 West 145th Street (see review on Tripadvisor) by the SUNY campus. Their pizza is always wonderful. The sauce is so well spiced and tastes of fresh tomatoes and the cheese is really gooey.
Victorio’s Pizza at 348 West 145th Street
After lunch, I just walked around this part of Harlem to see the changes and developments in the neighborhood. I had not visited this section of the City in about two years and it just keeps morphing. I walked from 145th Street to 125th Street and took the subway from there.
Every time I visit another part of New York City after a period of time, I am amazed how fast everything is moving from restaurants and shops closing to buildings either being torn down or renovated. The City never stops changing.
I enjoyed spending my Father’s Day doing something we both loved to do, exploring New York City and all the things it has to offer. I will never forget all the things that my father did for me and the support he offered me. I look back and realize the things I have done in my life because love and support and lack of judging me on it. I think it is important to let your kids make mistakes in life as it makes them stronger and more independent.
I was proud of my own father’s accomplishments even after he got sick and his determination to get better. He had progressed so well that I was able to take him to his 60th high school reunion in Florida and that was one of my proudest accomplishments. I was able to get him there and give him that moment in his life to see his old friends. That was all him and his hard work.
My dad spending the afternoon with his old classmates.
My father conversing with his classmates
I dedicate this blog with much love and respect to my father, Warren, whose determination and hard work showed me that anything is possible. You just have to believe that things will get better.
The bitter winter finally gave way to some warmer weather and I was finally able to continue walking the streets of Manhattan again. It had been almost three months since I finished the Upper West Side but the holidays were particularly busy and full of activities that had me running from the Hudson River Valley to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for Christmas plus a host of holiday activities, fundraisers, dinners at the house with my family, parties, selling Christmas trees and generally a lot of running around. On the first warm (at this point 48 degrees) and sunny day, off I went to continue my walk starting on the Upper East Side and revisiting East 59th Street.
After a long day at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen serving up breads and pastries to the guests, I walked up to the Upper East Side to start my walk of Sutton and Beekman Places by the East River, neighborhoods steeped in history and beautiful architecture. It was a beautiful warm day with the sun shining and that was a plus.
I started the afternoon with lunch at Flip, the restaurant inside the main Bloomingdale’s store on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor). I had been here a few times before when walking the lower part of the Upper East Side. It is located in the lower level of the store and has the most wonderful hamburgers and sandwiches. I had the Bavarian Burger ($18.00), which was delicious and the perfect pick me up after a long day serving other people.
The burger was made with a combination of ground meat and short ribs and was topped with caramelized onions, apple smoked bacon, Brooklyn lager cheese sauce and homemade bread and butter pickles on a pretzel roll served with a side a steak fries. It tasted as good as the description. I highly recommend a trip to Flip when visiting Bloomingdale’s main store. You will find it in the downstairs Men’s Department.
I started my walk at 24 Sycamores Park on East 60th Street. I needed to take a quick rest after that big lunch and it was such a nice day to just relax on the benches and watch the kids play with their nannies. It is such a great little pocket park with an interesting history. It was one of the parks developed for the Upper East Side residents who complained to Robert Moses that there was no greenery on their side of the City. Here I planned my walk around Sutton Place, Beekman Place and Sutton East (between First & Second Avenues), which some people consider part of the Turtle Bay neighborhood.
After relaxing in the park for a half hour and catching my breath from the Soup Kitchen and lunch, I started my walk along First Avenue. This is lined with elegant apartment buildings and a combination of old brownstones and mansions. It depends on what part of the Avenue you live on. The area around Sutton Place and Beekman Place is pretty much self-contained and off to itself. You really have to walk through the side streets and the parks to see the real beauty of the neighborhood and the little gems that make the neighborhood special.
The one thing I have noticed in this part of the neighborhood is that a lot of the stores on East 59th Street from Second to First Avenue have closed down and have joined the rest of the epidemic of empty store fronts in the City. Since I finished the walk of the Upper East Side in December, in just three months about a half dozen businesses have closed down. It will be interesting to see what replaces them.
I started the day walking down from East 59th Street and walked the perimeter of the neighborhood from FDR Drive to Second Avenue from East 48th Street where the United Nations is located to East 59th Street, the border of Sutton Place with the Upper East Side. Here and there lots of buildings and restaurants stand out.
I walked down Sutton Place from Sycamore Park down to the United Nations Building. This official border of Sutton Place is lined with pre-war apartment buildings, modern co-ops and a few brownstones and mansions tucked here and there.
Sutton Place is named after Effingham B. Sutton (1817-1891), a shipping magnate and entrepreneur, who made a fortune during the Gold Rush. He developed a series of brownstones between East 58th and 57th Streets in hopes of reestablishing the neighborhood for residential purposes from its then current state of small factories and commercial purposes. The Sutton Place Parks at the end of each street from East 59th through East 54th Street were established in 1938 when the FDR Drive was built taking away the access to the river. There are a series of five parks now along the East River at the end of each block (NYCParks.org).
At the corner of East 59th Street and Sutton Place starts the series of mansions that line this part of the street. In 1883, this little stretch of roadway had been renamed Sutton Place, a nod to Mr. Sutton, who had constructed that row of brownstone residences in 1875 (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The Vanderbilt and Morgan Mansions on Sutton Place
The beautiful old mansion at 2 Sutton Place was renovated by Anne Vanderbilt, the widow of William K. Vanderbilt. She sold the Vanderbilt mansion on Fifth Avenue that had been built by her husband’s family and bought the Effingham Sutton House. She hired architect Mott B. Schmidt to renovate the home into a 13 room Georgian mansion.
Anne Vanderbilt Mansion at 2 Sutton Place; next door is the Anne Morgan Mansion
Anne Tracy Morgan bought the 3 Sutton Place, the house on the corner of Sutton Place and East 57th Street and merged it with the home at 5 Sutton Place. Mott Schmidt filed revised plans for Anne Morgan’s house at 3 Sutton Place when she bought 5 Sutton Place and had the homes merged. The plans called for the rebuilding of the two structures into a four-story dwelling in American Colonial style with a roof garden and Morgan and Vanderbilt would share a common garden. To create the illusion of a vintage home, Mott reused the bricks from the old buildings on the site. The house was completed in 1922 (Daytonian Manhattan).
The entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion at 2 Sutton Place
As you walk the side streets between East 58th through East 48th Street, these dead-end blocks offer magnificent views of Roosevelt Island and the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront which is quickly changing from old warehouses to luxury high-rises and waterfront parks. Each has its own unique view of Roosevelt Island.
At the end of Sutton Place at the corner of East 53rd Street there is a small park, Sutton Place Park South, overlooking the tip of Roosevelt Island and FDR Park with its beautiful landscaping and stonework. It is a nice place to just relax and enjoy the cool breezes and hear the racket of FDR Drive zooming by.
Sutton Place Park South at the tip of Sutton Place
At 11 Sutton Place was once the home to architect I.M Pei and his wife, Eileen. They lived in the house for 45 years. The four-story residence is now on the market for eight million dollars. Mr. Pei was responsible for some of the most famous and innovative architecture in the twenty century.
11 Sutton Place was home to architect I. M. Pei and his family
This wonderful park should be visited by everyone who visits Manhattan. It has the most spectacular views of Roosevelt Island and the Queens/Brooklyn Waterfront and on a sunny warm day, it is one of the most relaxing parks I have visited since MywalkinManhattan.com started.
Sutton Place Park South
It is nice to sit amongst the cool breezes of the river by small gardens and shade trees. There were two dedications in the park that stood out to me. One was to Clara Coffey and the other was to Bronka Norak.
Clara Stimson Coffey was a landscape architect who in 1936 accepted the role of Chief of Tree Plantings for the NYCParks system and helped design several parks including the Clement Clark Moore Park in Chelsea which I recently visited on my Victorian Christmas Tour (Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight).
Bronka Norak was a long time Sutton Place resident and upon her death, her husband, the late Adam Norak, left an endowment for the maintenance of the flowers, trees and shrubs in the park.
On the west side of Sutton Place is lined with pre and post war apartment buildings each with a doorman that will look you over if you walk around the neighborhood too much as I did. You would think that they would have better things to do.
As I crossed back over East 59th Street, my next part of the walk took me to First Avenue which itself is going through a transition. Many of the old buildings and store fronts are giving way to new apartment buildings. As with the rest of Manhattan, this area is going through a makeover to upscale housing.
On my next trip to Sutton Place after another long day at the Soup Kitchen (the Bread Station is beginning to get to me. Every time we have desserts available, the guests’ pound on me), I walked from Ninth Avenue and West 28th Street to First Avenue and East 59th Streets. On top of all the exercise from running around the Soup Kitchen, I got even more walking in but on a sunny, warm day it does not make much a difference.
I stopped into Jimbo’s Hamburger Place at 991 First Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor) and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for lunch. This small hole in the wall diner has been there for years and is a favorite for many of the older neighborhood residents who seem to know the owners quite well. The food is here is wonderful and the whole menu is very reasonable for this neighborhood.
I had a cheeseburger with fries ($8.50) that tasted as if the meat had just been ground and cooked perfectly with a nice caramelization on the meat. The fries were cooked to order and the whole meal was delicious and hit the spot. What was nice was to talk to people who had lived in Sutton Place. The restaurant has a nice neighborhood feel to it and the patrons had obviously been eating here for years. One woman who sat next to me eats here every day. I guess as you get older and are single you don’t want to cook for yourself anymore.
Jimbo’s Cheeseburger and fries
After lunch, I continued the walk down First Avenue, I stopped at 931 First Avenue which had once been an old elementary school that had been built in 1892 in the Romanesque style. Instead of knocking the school down, the builder incorporated the school into the office tower above and around it. It gives the building a modern twist. As I was looking over the current renovation, I noticed a plaque on the corner wall.
The former P.S. 135 now the Beekman Regent Building
The school sat on the site of patriot James Beekman’s estate, Mount Pleasant, that had once been the British headquarters during the Revolutionary War. James Beekman (1732-1807) was a prominent New York City merchant and came from a family of merchants, lawyers and politicians. His ancestors had been Mayors of New York City and Albany and held positions as Governors of New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania. His grandfather, Gerardus Beekman, had been the acting Governor of New York under British rule (Wiki).
James Beekman whose name is given to Beekman Place
His estate and mansion, Mount Pleasant, had been used by the British as their headquarters during the war. The estate covering what is currently now both Sutton and Beekman Place. This was also the site for the trial of Patriot Nathan Hale.
Nathan Hale had volunteered to go behind enemy lines during the war and was recognized in a tavern by Major Robert Rangers of the Queen’s Rangers. Another story was he was turned in by his own cousin, Samuel Hale, who was a loyalist. Either way, Hale was questioned at the Beekman mansion by British General William Howe and was led to gallows on September 22nd, 1776 (See MywalkinManhattan.com on the Upper East Side. He was hung where there is a Pier One store at present).
Mount Pleasant, the home of James Beekman and his family
The house was moved once to a buff at First Avenue and East 50th Street when the street grid was put into effect and the house was torn down in 1874 at the start of the real estate boom after the Civil War (Untapped Cities).
I continued walking down First Avenue until I reached East 48th and 49th Streets where the road forks into First Avenue and United Nations Plaza. This area is filled with Embassies and offices for the United Nations and Trump World Tower is at end of the neighborhood at 845 United Nations Plaza, so traffic here is rough and the security all around the place is tight.
The Bridge leading to the East River Walk
When I reached the east side of First Avenue and at 51st Street, I took a turn down the road to the river and I went over the pedestrian bridge at the end of the block. This leads into the enclave of Beekman Place, the former estate of James Beekman. As you cross the bridge, you will enter Peter Detmold Park and its extension leading down FDR Drive, General Douglas MacArthur Park.
Peter Detmold (1923-1972) was once a tenant of the Turtle Bay Gardens. He was a veteran of World War II, serving under General George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge in France. Upon his return to civilian life, he was a Cornell graduate and when he moved to the City, became the one of the founders and President of the Turtle Bay Association and the founded the Turtle Bay Gazette. He along with other residents fought to keep the are residential and away from the commercial districts that were creeping into the area. On the night of January 6, 1972, after returning home from a meeting of the East Side Residential Association, he was murdered inside his building. The murder still has not been solved and the park was named after him later that year (NYCParks.com).
Activist, Veteran, Resident of Turtle Bay and fellow Cornell Alumnus Peter Detmold
Before I walked the bridge to the overpass, I walked down the steep stone steps down to the park area. It is a really hidden park. The area is surrounded by stone walls and apartment buildings above. To the left is a dog walk park that is extremely popular with residents and pooches alike. It is always busy.
To the right is a series of garden beds and benches to sit down and relax. There are tables where people were eating their lunches or playing with their dogs and being the beginning of spring, lots of flowers are in bloom. I walked around the area and watched as groups of residents talked and ate their meals or played games. The parks trees were just budding so the park had a canopy covering the top. When you walk through the gate at the end corner of the park, it leads to the General Douglas MacArthur Park and playground. Here you will find the much-needed public bathrooms and they are in good shape.
The General Douglas MacArthur Park and Playground was named for General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), who had a illustrious military career that spanned four wars and five decades. Having served in the Philippine Islands and Mexico, he served in France during WWI. He was called back into service for WWII serving as the Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific and developed the strategy of “island hopping” that turned the tide of the war. He also served in the Korean War as well. After serving as an unofficial advisor to two presidents before retiring in 1951. After that, he retired at the Waldorf Towers in NYC (NYCParks.com).
The park was originally built as part of the UN Plaza then was ceded to the City by Alcoa Associates and became part of the NYC Parks system in 1966. The small playground has a several swings, jungle gyms and tables to play chess along with bed of flowers and shade trees. It is right around the corner from some of the United Nations buildings so the outside can be busy with cars coming and going. The best part is the bathrooms are nice and open until 5:00pm (NYCParks.com)
After visiting both parks, I went back to Peter Detmold Park and went back up the narrow stone stairs and walked over the crosswalk to the riverfront promenade that lines the East River from East 51st to East 54th Streets offering breathtaking views of Governors Island and the Queens Riverfront. On a sunny day, the whole riverfront gleams.
View from the Riverfront Promenade
After walking the Promenade to East 54th Street and walking back, its hard to believe that changes in the riverfront areas in both Queens and Brooklyn in the last fifteen years. The whole coast is lined with luxury housing, boast slips and parks offering excellent views of the East Side of Manhattan.
Once you exit the park, you will notice a small tree lined street with brownstones and pre-war apartment buildings. You have just entered Beekman Place, a tiny enclave of older homes and an assortment of embassies.
I glanced down a small road lined with small brownstones, townhouses and pre-war apartment buildings and proceeded to detour down Beekman Place to tour the road and the side streets, each leading back out to First Avenue from East 51st Street to Mitchell Place.
As you walk down this quiet enclave of majestic architecture, there is a lot to admire in the surrounding buildings and the serene side streets of 50th Street and Mitchell Place. Each block is lined with unique buildings all decorated with plantings.
21 & 23 Beekman Place
Many famous people have lived in this neighborhood. At 23 Beekman Place, stage actress Katharine Cornell and her husband, Guthrie McClintic lived. Ms. Cornell was once considered one of the greatest American actresses on stage, best know for her roles in ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’ and her Tony award winning role in ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’. Her husband was a famous theater and film director whose production company produced all of his wife’s plays (Wiki).
At 21 Beekman Place, Ellen Biddle Shipman, one of the most famous and best regarded landscape architects in the United States known for her formal gardens with a lush planting style. A Radcliffe graduate, she is best known for her work on the Longue Vue Gardens in New Orleans and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University, considered her finest work (Wiki).
As you walk to the end of these streets facing the river, you get the most spectacular views of the Queens waterfront and Roosevelt Island. Along East 51st, East 50th and Mitchell Place you will find an assortment of embassies from countries I am not too sure people might know.
I exited down Mitchell Place at the edge of the neighborhood and passed the Beekman Tower at 31 Mitchell Place. Originally called ‘The Panhellenic’, the tower was built between 1927 and 1928 in the Art Deco style by architect John Mead Howells. It was opened as a residence for women of the Greek sororities who were entering the workforce in New York City but by 1934, the building had male residents. Today this graceful building is being used as a corporate apartment building.
The Art Deco Beekman Tower at 31 Mitchell Place & First Avenue
I walked back up First Avenue, I looked across the street and saw the most beautiful floral displays and flowers for sale outside of Zeze Flowers at 938 First Avenue (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This is more than a store it is more like a museum of flowers. Everything from the window displays with the ‘Man in Moon’ to the exotic flowers enticing you inside you will be taken by the beauty of store.
Once inside Zeze Flower Shop you will admire the beauty of the displays, statuary and the gorgeous orchids that line the shelves and tables. All the tables are lined with all sorts of decorative objects and the walls with vases to hold their carefully cut flowers. The store itself is a work of art and the bouquets and arrangements look like something out of a painting. There is a lot of care in this store and the staff is attentive and friendly.
The beautiful flowers and gift ideas of Zeze Flower Shop
On the way back up First Avenue, I passed the spot of the Beekman Mansion again at First and East 51st Street and admired the renovation of the building which was once a school. The building, The Beekman Regent at 351 East 51st Street, had been designed and built in 1892 by George W. Debevoise, who was the Superintendent of Board of Education at the time as P.S. 135. Later it had become the United Nations School. It now serves as a luxury apartment building that won the 2002 Mercedes Benz Property Award for the ‘finest new redevelopment in the world’ (Beekman Regent history).
The Beekman Regent building at 351 East 51st Street
I continued up First Avenue past a long line of restaurants. I have noticed just in the two weeks that I have been walking the Sutton Place neighborhood, two businesses have closed and the storefronts are empty.
Another restaurant I ate at when walking the Upper East Side at another time was Go Noodle at 1069 First Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). There combination platter at lunch are reasonable and I had a chicken with string beans and an egg roll ($8.50) that was delicious.
I made it back to East 59th Street in time to see the traffic building up on the Queensboro Bridge. The lights from the waterfront started to come on and when I walked back to 24 Sycamores Park, the place was still filled with families. I was exhausted and saved the rest of the walk for another day.
I came back to the neighborhood a week later on a beautiful sunny day after a long day working the Bread Station at Holy Apostles again. These guests love their bread and we were busy again, so it was another long walk up to Sutton Place. Here I started at East 59th and Second Avenue. Technically this area is known as Turtle Bay but some creative people in the real estate industry have called the area between First and Second Avenues between East 59th and 49th “Sutton East” as I saw on some of the buildings. So down Second Avenue I went to visit ‘Sutton East’.
Second Avenue between East 59th and East 48th Streets has become a real hodge-podge of buildings as the area closer to Midtown, between East 48th and 50th Streets have given way to larger office and apartment buildings. Once above East 51st Street, there still is a mixture of older brownstone and smaller apartment buildings that house the mom & pop stores and restaurants that keep the borders of Sutton Place and Turtle Bay unique.
I started my day with lunch at Mee’s Noodle Shop at 930 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) which I had passed a few times when walking back to Port Authority. The menu and the write ups on the restaurant had been very good and there is a lot of creativity to the selection. Since it was Good Friday when I visited, I stuck to all seafood dishes which was a nice choice. The restaurant’s specialty is dumplings and noodles that are made fresh on premise, and you can see them being made as you walk in.
Mee’s Noodle Shop at 930 Second Avenue (Closed in August 2022)
I ordered the steamed seafood dumplings ($6.50) which were a combination of crab, shrimp and scallop. They were really light and had a nice taste to them with the soy dipping sauce. For my main part of the meal, I ordered the Shrimp Lo Mein (Small $7.35/Large $9.20). This was especially good because all the noodles were being made in front of me and were fresh and cooked to perfection. The dish was studded with nice size shrimp and an array of vegetables including a very well cooked Bok choy. The service could not have been nicer especially during the lunch rush.
After lunch I walked the distance of Second Avenue, looking over all the menus on the restaurants that lined the Avenue. There is a lot to choose from. There are coffee shops, Italian restaurants, Continental, German, Thai and several very good pizzerias. What I like about Second Avenue in this stretch of the Avenue is the juxtaposed look of the buildings that give it character. The most action at night seems to be between East 50th and 51st Streets where a lot of the bars are located. This part of the neighborhood I read that the residents here worked hard to fight the city on new construction to keep the character of the neighborhood the way it has been.
A nice place to sit and relax is the Katherine Hepburn Place by Sterling Plaza at Second Avenue and East 49th Street. This little park named after the actress who lived and advocated for the neighborhood is a small area of trees and benches that is nice to rest for a bit. It is nice to people watch here especially the dog walkers who all seem to converge here.
As I walked back up to East 59th Street, I began to notice that again smaller businesses between that and East 57th were beginning to close. It seems that the fringes of the Upper East Side are beginning to blend into this neighborhood. When you reach the top of the block at East 59th Street, you are greeted with the traffic going into the Queensboro Bridge, the tram going back and forth to Roosevelt Island and the sheer movement of people.
On the way back down Second Avenue, I visited La Vera Pizza at 922 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) for a quick slice. The pizza is really good and they make a delicious Sicilian slice ($3.00). The slice was pillowy and crisp and their sauce has a lot of flavor to it.
There is a distinct difference when you cross East 48th Street from the neighborhood as all the brownstones disappear and you see more office and apartment buildings on that part of Second Avenue. From East 58th to East 49th Streets, you will see a transition and change block by block. Some blocks will be all brownstones and small mom & pop businesses and others it will be a new building with a combination of businesses at street level.
From here, I walked block by block and explored the side streets of the neighborhood and there are many hidden gems in way of restaurants, stores and historic architecture to explore.
Starting on East 59th Street a lot has changed since I walked the neighborhood since before the holidays. A lot of the stores that I had passed were gone and the stores were empty. Either to changing times or higher rents, these businesses disappeared right after the New Year so I turned the corner at Second Avenue and walked down East 58th Street and was surprised by the trove of stores and restaurants on the street. There are still a lot of antique stores and florists on the street as well many restaurants. You will also see the most amazing views of the Queensboro Bridge as it extends from Manhattan to the shores of Queens in the distance.
The Queensboro Bridge on East 59th Street
When you turn the corner and enter 58th Street towards the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge, you will see two small brownstones, 311 and 313 East 58 Street. They were built between 1856-57 by Hiram G. Disbrow for his own use. They were built in the Greek Revival-Italianate style with a porch with a picket fence (Streeteasy). 311 is now the home of Philip Colleck Ltd., an antique furniture store where they carry beautiful classic furniture for the home. 315 is still a private home right next to the ramp on the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge. These two interesting little brownstone homes stand out against the modern high rises that dot the rest of East 58th Street.
This pretty much dominates East 57th Street as well until you get to the Morgan and Vanderbilt Mansions at 2 & 3 Sutton Place with the amazing view of Roosevelt Island and the Queens Waterfront. There is a real beauty in the line of old mansions and brownstones between East 58th and 57th on Sutton Place.
The mansions on Sutton Place
East 56th Street is lined with an array of pre and post war buildings as well with more great views of the river at the end of street of the East River on Sutton Place. East 55th Street is about the same but there is a standout with A La Mode, an ice cream shop at 360 East 55th Street.
A La Mode at 360 East 55th Street
A La Mode (see my review on TripAdvisor) is a very cute and engaging ice cream shop that caters to the locals. The selection of homemade ice creams offers a few unusual flavors. I enjoyed a double scoop of Pink Sprinkle (Strawberry with colored sprinkles) and Partly Cloudy (Cotton Candy with baby marshmallows) both of which were colorful and delicious. They also carry an assortment of gifts and clothes for that lucky child. I must have enjoyed eating it because everyone smiled at me on my walk down to Sutton Place Park to enjoy it and the views.
As I rounded the corner onto East 54th Street, I stopped by both Sofia Pizza and Marinara Pizza many times when touring the neighborhood. Sofia Pizza Shoppe at 989 First Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) has been noted as being one of the best slices in the City by several magazines. I would bypass the traditional slice as it was okay ($3.25) but the Sicilian slice ($4.50) was delicious. It had a nice pillowy consistency, and the sauce is loaded with flavor of fresh tomatoes.
Marinara Pizza at 985 First Avenue and the corner of East 54th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor) is a beautiful open restaurant that allows you to look in at all the pizzas. I had a slice from a pizza that just came out of oven, and it was excellent. Their sauce is delicious and well spiced, and the cheese was nice and gooey. Between the slice of pizza here and the sundae at A La Mode while looking at the view at Sutton Place Park at East 54th Street it was the perfect afternoon. People were smiling back at me that I seemed so happy to indulge in my ice cream while walking down the street.
When you get to the end of East 54th by Sutton Place, there is a small set up stairs that will take you to the first part of Sutton Place Park, Sutton Place Park North, with benches that overlook the skyline of Queens and Roosevelt Island. On a nice day, it is the perfect place to soak up the sunshine and relax while looking at soaring skyline.
Walking down East 54th Street from the park you will find the Recreation Center 54 at 348 East 54th Street with the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater next door at 350 East 54th Street. The Neo-Classical building was built in 1911 as a recreation facility for the working classes and has many of the original details inside such as wrought iron staircases and marble baths. Originally called the 54th Street Baths and Gymnasium, the facility has now morphed into complete gaming experience with basketball, volleyball and swimming (NYCParks.org). Really look up to see the beauty of the building.
Recreation 54 Building on East 54th Street
On the outside of the Neighborhood Playhouse School next door, there is a plaque for Sanford Meisner, one of its most famous faculty. He developed the ‘Meisner Technique’, which is a self-investigation for the actor.
The Sanford Meisner Plaque at the Neighborhood Playhouse School
Mr. Meisner, who had wanted to be an actor since he was a child has studied under Lee Strasberg at the Theater Guild for Acting. In 1935, he joined the faculty of The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater which had been founded in 1928. He had served at the Director of the Acting Department until his retirement in 1990.
At the other end of East 54th Street by Second Avenue, there is an interesting and relaxing little public space that is part of the apartment complex, The Connaught Tower. This is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long walk with benches, small gardens and shade trees. In the front of this public space is the artwork by artist Alexander Liberman, ‘POPS209: Accord’, a large geometric sculpture
Mr. Liberman’s, Russian born immigrant as way of France, career as an artist covered many different forms of art including photography, painting, sculpture and retiring as an Editorial Director at Conde Nast. In his sculpture work, he was noted for his use of industrial objects like steel drums, and I beam and then painting them in uniform bright colors. POPS209: Accord is example of that, but you almost miss it as the trees are growing all around it.
After several breaks in this public space, it was off to explore East 53rd Street. As I made my way back to the river passing the southern part of Sutton Place Park and rounding Sutton Place South onto East 53rd. Be careful when walking in this area. You are blind to cars coming on street from Sutton Place South and they may not stop.
What stands here is this small red brownstone at 413 East 53rd Street that sits like a poor sole amongst the large apartment buildings that surround it.
This little building doesn’t look as good as this now on the outside, but it does have a colorful history in the transformation of this neighborhood several times. The property was once part of the Beekman estate in an area of summer homes and estates of wealthy downtown Manhattanites.
After the Civil War and the land boom that pretty much doomed the Beekman’s estate, this area was built up with tenement housing for the working class who worked in the nearby factories and this little house must have built somewhere in the late 1880’s. It has been lived in by several interesting characters.
The house was once lived in by corrupt politicians who were once slum lords in other parts of the neighborhood, then by a prostitute and her pimp and after that to an insurance company which dealt with cremations. After that it became a sheet metal shop and was fought over and sold by the slum lord’s estate (Daytonian in Manhattan).
By the time that Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Morgan built their homes up the road, the little brick building became a clock shop and then for the next several years was an antique reproduction store. Its last incarnation was as a dentist office and the upper two floors was renovated into a luxury home. Now it sits empty and boarded up waiting for the next stage of its history. So much history for such a small building.
As you pass the corner of East 53rd Street and First Avenue, take a peek inside the doorway to 400-402 East 53rd and look at the secret garden behind the locked door. If you glare to the back, you will see the garden that is hidden behind all the buildings on this part of First Avenue between East 53rd and 52nd Streets. If you could only sneak inside to take a peek.
The secret garden hides behind this entrance
Walking further down East 53rd Street, two small wooden homes that stood out among all the luxury buildings and commercial shops on the street. These two little wooden homes are two of the last remaining in Manhattan and are currently landmarked.
The homes were built in 1866 by Robert and James Cunningham, two returning Civil War veterans who returned to an ever-changing City. The area had once been the farm of David Devore and now contained slaughterhouses and factories and was considered ‘sketchy’. The brothers built the two twin wooden homes right before the City changed the building codes banning wooden homes due to fires destroying the City like the ‘Great Fire of 1835, which destroyed most of downtown (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The two homes are built in the French Second Empire Style and have mansard roofs and brick basements and a shared garden in the back of both homes. The brothers leased the homes out until 1870. In the 1920’s 312 East 53rd was leased to Lincoln Kitsten, who founded the New York City Ballet and then to Society Hostess Muriel Draper and her dancer son, John. The homes were landmarked in 1968 and 2000 respectively (Daytonian in Manhattan).
As you cross the street at Second Avenue and walk down the other side of the street heading back to the river, you will pass Éclair Bakery at 305 East 53rd Street (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), which I consider one the best independent bakeries I have tried on my walk since Estrella Bakery in Washington Heights and the now closed Glaser’s Bakery on the Upper East Side.
Éclair Bakery has some of the most delicious pastries, quiches and sandwiches at what I consider very reasonable prices for this part of the city. The Strawberry and Nutella mini doughnuts ($2.50) are pillowy and coated with sugar filled with fresh strawberry jelly and chocolaty Nutella and are three bite wonders.
The eclair’s ($5.75) come in various flavors and are arranged in the case like jewels. The Hazelnut was my favorite. The Quiche with ham and cheese ($5.75) when warmed up has a nice custard like texture and a sharpness due to the cheese. Everything here is delicious, and the service is really friendly.
Do not miss a visit to Éclair Bakery when visiting Sutton Place
East 52nd Street between the river and Second Avenue is filled with mostly pre- and post-war buildings and filled with many embassies and consulates. As you walk toward the United Nations, you will notice that a lot of the smaller apartment buildings and brownstones between East 52nd and East 48th Street have many foreign signs.
Turning the corner onto East 51st Street on Second Avenue, you will see a change in the neighborhood again. Second Avenue is the border between Turtle Bay and Sutton Place East neighborhoods, and you will notice as you get further down the avenue block by block you will see a change between new modern apartment buildings and the smaller brownstone buildings that house the locally owned restaurants. It still is a neighborhood in this section between East 51st and East 49th Streets.
Again, on the corner of East 51st Street and First Avenue, you will pass the site of the Beekman Mansion on the way back to the East River. At the end of street, you will return to Peter Detmold Park. On a beautiful sunny day, take another walk across the bridge to take in the views of the East River and Roosevelt Island or just sit on the benches in the park and watch people playing with their dogs.
There is one little standout building on the Street at 328 East 51st Street. This beautiful little yellow townhouse was built in 1861 and was the home of actress Katharine Cornell when she moved back to the City in 1965. The two tiny sculptures that sit above the doorway are of Julia and Comfort Tiffany, the twin daughters of Louis Comfort Tiffany who were born in 1887. Ms. Cornell commissioned sculpture to artist, Mary Lawrence Tonetti, who was a good friend of her’s and whose son-in-law, Eric Gugler and architect, had designed the actress’s homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Sneden’s Landing (New York Times). Really look at the stonework and grill work of this home.
328 East 51st Street has a beauty of something in the French Quarter
When you turn the corner again to East 50th Street, the area around Beekman Place closer to the East River by the park has more classic brownstones and prewar apartment buildings and the area between First Avenue and the river is its own little enclave. Here the brownstones on the side streets are filled with many consulates. As you walked down to Second Avenue, the streets are lined with pre and post war buildings. Take the time though to walk Beekman Place and Mitchell Place near the Beekman Tower. It is like its own neighborhood.
Walking back and forth down East 49th Street, you will notice this lower part of the neighborhood is changing to more modern buildings and businesses catering to the United Nations around the corner and the same with East 48th Street which is more modern buildings and parking garages for the UN. The classic brownstones give way to the modern buildings of Midtown.
Still, you have two great restaurants between East 49th and 50th Streets, Mee’s Noodles for those wonderful dumplings and noodles at 930 Second Avenue and La Vera Pizzeria on the corner of East 49th Street and Second Avenue at 922 Second Avenue (see reviews on TripAdvisor). My last trip into the neighborhood I made another trip to La Vera Pizzeria and the place was crowded with people getting off work from Midtown. Their pizza is very good, and the service is friendly.
You can see how this part of the City like all others is in a state of transition as the brownstone buildings with their independent businesses are giving way to the more modern structures of today changing it to an extension of Midtown. Still many parts of the blocks have a ‘neighborhood’ feel to it and the area is loaded with interesting buildings, wonderful restaurants, small pocket parks and amazing views of the East River and the outer boroughs changing skyline. It is a wonderful place to just walk around and enjoy!
Steve Tyrell and Neil Sedaka “Laughter in the Rain”. It cheered me up!
I don’t know why but I kept humming this the entire time I walked Sutton Place.