I am a free-lance writer and Blogger. I am the author of the book "Firehouse 101" (IUniverse.com 2005) part of trilogy of books centered in New York City. My next book "Love Triangles" is finished being edited and should be ready for release in the Fall. My latest book, "Dinner at Midnight", a thriller is on its last chapter. My long awaited book explains the loss of the 2004 Yankee game to Boston.
I work as a Consultant, Adjunct College Professor, Volunteer Fireman and Ambulance member and Blogger. I have a blog site for caregivers called 'bergencountycaregiver', a step by step survival guide to all you wonderful folks taking care of your loved ones, a walking project to walk every block, both sides, of the island of Manhattan "MywalkinManhattan" and discuss what I see and find on the streets of New York and three sites to accompany it. One is an arts site called "Visiting a Museum", where I showcase small museums, historical sites and parks that are off the beaten track both in Manhattan and outside the city to cross reference with "MywalkinManhattan" blog site. Another is "DiningonaShoeStringNYC", featuring small restaurants I have found on my travels in this project, that offer wonderful meals for $10.00 and under. So be on the lookout for updates on all three sites and enjoy 'MywalkinManhattan'. The third is my latest site, "LittleShoponMainStreet", which showcases all the unique and independent shops that I have found on my travels throughout and around Manhattan.
I have started two new blog sites for the fire department, one "EngineOneHasbrouck HeightsFireDepartmentnj" for the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department to discuss what our Engine Company is doing and the other is "BergenCountyFireman'sHomeAssociation" for the Bergen County Fireman's Association, which fire fighters from Bergen County, NJ, go to the Fireman's Home in Boonton, NJ to bring entertainment and cheer to our fellow brother fire fighters quarterly.
View all posts by jwatrel →
The Flower District is alive and well in the Chelsea neighborhood although it has gotten a lot smaller in the last twenty years. Rezoned for residential and commercial in a new way, most of the lower part of Sixth Avenue from West 34th to West 23rd Streets has changed dramatically with new residential high rises being built along the avenue. Still on the side streets, small ‘Mom & Pop” businesses still thrive making this area a haven for fresh cut flowers, potted plants, garden equipment & accessories and many floral gifts and arrangements.
Foliage Paradise at 113-115 West 28th Street in the heart of the “Flower District”
I came across this wonderful little dumpling and lo mein shop when I was walking around Kips Bay for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”. I had not had the chance to try the restaurant on those trips to the neighborhood but tried it recently and was thrilled by the food and service of this family owned shop. The food and the service were both excellent.
The Combination Platters are a great deal for lunch
The pot stickers and lo mien combination is so reasonable and the portion sizes are very generous. The pot stickers were pan-fried and crisp on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside.
The dumplings and pot stickers that I tried on my first two trips were filled with…
Sometimes you just stumble across a restaurant when you are walking down a street that catches your attention. That is how I felt when I was staying in Manhattan for Spring Break from school and was staying at the Sheraton Four Points a few doors down from Milanes Restaurant.
I saw how reasonable the restaurant was and the nice selection of dishes for breakfast and lunch. This Spanish restaurant has a Dominican influence in its cooking from it owners and chefs.
I stopped in for breakfast after seeing the menu and had never had a Dominican Breakfast before. My selection though ended up being very American with me ordering two breakfasts. I had an order of French Toast which was two very thick slices of bread dipped…
There are some stores in New York City that just stand out for their uniqueness because of the product they sell or their history with the City or both. Little Pie Company is one of those stores.
I had heard of the store since its opening years ago and had never visited it. When I was walking the Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton neighborhood for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”, I finally came across this friendly little pie shop just off the Theater District. Since I remembered that the founder was a actor who was trying to earn money while he was in between jobs I thought it was fitting for its location.
Since COVID, the pies are now individually wrapped for purchase and did not come just out…
It has been a tough summer. I pulled a muscle and it has been hard to do long walks around Manhattan so I kept it to short walks around my neighborhood. As I have improved, I have been able to get more done and have started to drive again. I was able to make the trip to Boonton, NJ for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Barbecue.
So off I went adjusting the car seat higher with a pillow and an ice pack. It was a short trip with no traffic and the pain has now subsided with more walking. When I arrived at the home for the barbecue, I had to walk around the property to loosen up a bit.
Still it was a marvelous day and the most beautiful weather sunny and clear and 72 degrees. The residents loved being outside to enjoy the fresh air, music and food and the members liked that we still could socially distance and converse with the residents outside as long as there were not too many gathering (we want to keep our retired firefighting brothers safe too). Please check out my blog on the August BCFHA Barbecue:
The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association August Barbecue at the NJ Firemen’s Home August 15th, 2021:
After the barbecue was over, I decided to head back to Downtown Boonton to explore the downtown on a weekend and get some stretching for my legs and back in before the long ride home. Downtown Boonton, which has been discovered by the artists and hipsters is going through a major change as we speak. There is so much to see and do.
Downtown Boonton, New Jersey is showing a new rebirth from the local shops of the past to new restaurants, galleries and shops popping up all over the downtown. Known for the local ironworks that once made this a company town, somehow this small hamlet was discovered by artists and galleries have been popping up on the main street.
What I like about Boonton’s downtown is the diversity of old and new mixed together and that the main street is a sloped and curving so that you can see the remains of the iron works and the park below. The views of the mountains and trees lined valley’s are spectacular in the summer with swaths of green trees all over.
I discovered Downtown Boonton by accident when I decided to drive around when I had time to spare before an event last year. I had read something about the Boonton Historical Society in a magazine (See my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). So I visited the Historical Society after our April meeting last year and attending their 2019 Open House for Christmas. That was a nice event with docent tours, light refreshments and musical performances. Since then I have been back a few more times to explore the shopping district.
I have started many trips at the Boonton Historical Society located at 210 Main Street. This interesting little museum is a treasure trove of local history with displays on the history of the local Iron Works, the Trolley Car industry and its role in the development of transportation in the area and displays on the history of the local police, fire and local schools. There are also some interesting pictures of the changes in the downtown area. They also run great walking tours.
I have visited the museum during the 2019 Christmas Open House which was an interesting afternoon of Docent tours of the museum’s Trolley and Railroad exhibition memorabilia and then a wonderful concert from a local musician with refreshments following.
In the Summer of 2021, I took a walking tour of the old Iron Works factory with a local historian. We toured all the spots in Grace Lord Park that had been built up to support the factory along with ruins of the old structures of the complex. It was sad that these will be knocked down for a new condo complex (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
On my last three trips exploring the downtown, I have been admiring the statues of dogs and cats that line the street and flank all the buildings. The Boonton Arts Creative Placemaking Initiative organization in partnership with Boonton Main Street Inc. has been showcasing artists who have created these works.
The Dog Days of Summer & Some Cool Cats’ is a public art exhibition showcasing artist’s customer designs on life sized statues displayed on the main street. Artists are sponsored by the public. Once the artist received a sponsor, they get the opportunity to bring their design to life. For the duration of the summer, the sculptures will be available for adoption on the Boonton Arts Etsy page. The project has now raised $70,000 for local animal shelters and over $6,000 for local schools (Boonton Arts).
“Dog Days of Summer & Some Cool Cats” outside the Boonton Post Office
Across the street from the Historical Society at 309 Main Street is Eric’s Jamaican Cuisine which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It specializes in roasts, stews, fish dishes and the patties look amazing. The smells of food cooking and spices from the background grill will make your mouth water.
I stopped in on a recent visit and had a Beef and Cheese Jamaican patty ($2.50) and it was delicious. The crust was so light and flaky and had a nice portion of filling inside. The Chicken and Jerk Chicken patties were sold out so I tried one of the Fried Dumplings ($1.00). It was a round deep fried crisp dough that was perfect with a little jam.
The service could not have been nicer and the woman working the counter went over the menu with me. I love the smell of the spices when you enter the restaurant.
The downtown shopping district has an eclectic mix of the restaurants and shops. One of the first places I ate lunch at when I was touring the downtown on my first trip was Pasquale’s Pizza at 307 Main Street #1. I stopped in for a slice of pizza and a Coke and the pizza here is really good. The slice was full of flavor with a nice gooey consistency. The service was very pleasant and on a cool Sunday afternoon was one of the few places that was open. The service is very friendly.
Walking up the hill from the train tracks, you will look up at the winding main street at an interesting mix of historical buildings that are in the process of renovation or have been brought back to their original beauty.
For lunch one afternoon, I ate at Wah Yan Kitchen at 601 Main Street. This little hole in the wall take out restaurant services delicious Cantonese food at very reasonable prices for lunch. The afternoon I was there I had a Shrimp Lo Mein with a side of Pork Fried Rice and an egg roll. The one this that differed Wah Yan Kitchen from many of the take out places I have eaten at is the portion size was very large and the dish did not skip on the ingredients. There was lots of chopped roast pork in both the fried rice and in the egg roll. Everything was delicious. The family who runs the restaurant could not have been nicer to me.
On a recent trip to Boonton, I stopped at Egg City at 605 Main Street for a late breakfast. It was a beautiful sunny day and I sat by the widows watching the world go by. I ordered the Eggs with Chorizo which came with a side of potatoes and wheat toast. The scrambled eggs came in a hard scramble with plenty of spicy Chorizo sausage chopped inside the eggs. Adding some of the hot sauce provided on the table, it added an extra zing to the dish.
The Scrambled eggs with Chorizo Sausage makes a nice combination
Boonton at one time must have been a very cultural center for the arts in the region having a theater, opera house and a well established library all located within the downtown area. With the Morris Canal cutting through the town and the Ironworks at the bottom of the hill, the traffic in the downtown at the turn of the last century was extremely busy being a place of trade and shipping.
The Darress Theater at 615 Main Street has been closed during the COVID pandemic but was still open in late 2019 when it was showing some classic films. It was closed when I visited the town over the last year and a half though.
The theater was opened in 1919 as a vaudeville house with many famous names on the circuit visiting the town like Burns & Allen and Abbott & Costello. After WWII, the theater became a movie house showing first run movies until the local malls took that business away in the 1980’s. Before it closed due to COVID, it had been showing classic films and live shows (NJ Daily Record).
As you make your way up the hill, you will pass the picturesque Boonton Library at 621 Main Street. The library opened in this building in 1894 in a small section of the structure. The property was bought from the Iron Company in 1849 by Eliza Scott and was used for stores. Then the building was bought by local resident James Holmes in 1856 and in 1870 and was converted into the family homes. Upon his death in 1893, he willed the building and a sum of money so that the building could be used as a town library (Best Public Libraries/History of Boonton Library).
The impressive old building holds a periodical area, a Children’s and Teen Library and a sitting area for patrons. You can still see from of the impressive details of the old building when walking around the library.
Another wonderful restaurant that I tried one afternoon after a long walking tour of Grace Lord Park was Roma Pizzeria & Restaurant at 709 Main Street. They have the most delicious cheese pizza and their garlic knots are really good. The pizza has the most amazing sauce that tastes of fresh tomatoes, garlic, a bit of hot pepper and olive oil. It really gave each bit a rich flavor. The family that runs the pizzeria is really nice too and I was able to eat at one of the outdoor tables and admire the view of the area.
Right down the road is the old Engine/Hose Company One firehouse at 713 Main Street. This original firehouse of the Boonton Fire Department was built in the 1890’s. It was renovated in 2012 and was formerly Maxfield’s Restaurant. The building is currently empty but you can still admire the stonework of the old building and the details that showed its once fire fighting past (LoopNet.com).
The old Engine/Hose Company One at 713 Main Street
Next to the fire house is another reminder of Boonton’s cultural past is the Boonton Opera House at 715 Main Street. This architectural gem was build in 1850 as Independence Hall which was used for various functions. Then in 1890, the owner added a third floor and christened it “Mrs. Green’s Opera House”. The building was fully renovated in 2016 by business owners in the area and now houses offices and retail space (Daily Record). Check out the buildings details on the other side of the street.
The Boonton Opera House at 715 Main Street
After my walking tour of the Iron Works Company with the Historical Society and a nice lunch at Roma Pizzeria & Restaurant, I sampled Scoop House at 813 Main Street. Scoop House is an old fashioned ice cream parlor with homemade ice cream and unusual flavors. The menu includes all sorts of sundaes, shakes, ice cream sandwiches and waffle & ice cream combos.
I had an unusual flavor called “Cookie Monster”, which was a purple ice cream with cookie dough batter in it and crushed chocolate chip cookies. Talk about different and delicious! The prices are also very fair at a time when other ice cream shops are charging premium prices.
I passed other businesses that were closed on most weekends and made my way to Grace Lord Park which is located at the top part of Downtown Boonton. From the sidewalks you can see the river path through the park and as you get closer to the bend, the waterfall near the bridge. This relaxing little park was once part of the Iron Works Company and where we started our walking tour of the area with the Boonton Historical Society.
The front part of the park as you enter from the downtown is lined with paths, a children’s playground, a wooded area, historical signs of the site, the gazebo where concerts take place and our meeting ground for the tours and the falls.
The Falls of Grace Lord Park in Boonton, NJ
On a perfect sunny day, a group of us joined the Historical Society of Boonton, NJ on a tour of the former Iron Works Company and of a section of the Morris Canal that ran through the town during the turn of the last century.
On my more recent trips to the park, I just enjoy walking around the Falls area and taking a short hike down the paths into the woods and admire the river. On a nice day, there are plenty of families running around the park. In the summer, there are all sorts of concerts in the park and on the weekends there is the Farmer’s Market.
I visited the Farmers Market on the Saturday on Labor Day weekend but the town cancelled the market at the last minute. Still there were a few vendors that had set up and I was able to sample their wares. The Schieferstein Farm from Clark, NJ had all of their fruits and vegetable lined up in bins and they had the most flavorful white peaches for a dollar. It was juicy and sweet and there is nothing like a Jersey Peach when it is in season.
Don’t miss the Schieferstein Farm stand for the sweetest Jersey Peaches
I returned the next week and there were many more vendors selling all sorts of wares at the Farmers Market. I visited Gizmo’s Pet Products for gourmet pet treats, Race Farms out of Blairstown, NJ for another sweet juicy yellow Jersey Peach ($1.00) and Urban Gypsy Arts by artist Vicki Stafford who sells handmade knit and crocheted hats and scarves, handmade earrings and pins.
A Crocheted Voodoo doll by artist Vicki Stafford, the perfect gift for Halloween
Along the way there were other vendors selling Empanadas, Italian dinners, gourmet cheese, homemade pickles and freshly baked breads and pastries. There really is something for everyone at this Farmer’s Market. There was guitar band performing that morning for the patrons with original songs and a small play area with a Cornhole set up for the kids. The Boonton Farmers Market is a nice way to spend an early Saturday morning.
On my way back down the hill through the downtown area, there are several bakery and gift shops to explore and have a quick dessert before you leave town.
Heavenly Temptations at 712 Main Street is a perfect place to duck into when it rains as it did on two afternoons when visiting Boonton. It has a extensive bakery section with cupcakes, muffins, scones, cookies and croissants. The shop also has an extensive collection of gift baskets, books, local art products and other assorted gifts. It is also a big meeting place for locals (Heavenly Temptations website).
Creations by Sabrina is like walking into a bakery that treats their bakes goods like displayed jewels in a the case with beautiful and elegant looking cupcakes and cookies for sale. Each cupcake has its own unique look and flavor.
Another establishment to enjoy pastries with a Spanish flair is Pergamino’s Bakery & Café at720 Main Street. I had ducked into Pergaminos during a rainy afternoon when they were closing down for the afternoon and the people working there no only let me walk through while they were cleaning up but I could buy what I liked and they would not rush me out.
What attracted me to Pergamino’s was the Columbian pastries and hot foods that the bakery restaurant carried. On my first trip, I tried a Guava Plate, which was a flaky pastry split into two and filled with cream cheese and guava jelly. It was flaky and sweet but I was not crazy about the cream cheese in the dessert.
I was also able to try their Beef and Cheese Empanadas, which I ended up taking home with me. They warmed up in the oven perfectly and I liked the spiciness of the beef which was accented by the home made hot sauce they gave me.
On the second trip, I tried one of their Apple Turnovers, which from what the staff said were really popular and I could see why. Surrounded by a sugary puff pastry, these sweet apples are rolled in cinnamon sugar and butter and baked until a golden brown.
When you reach the middle of the downtown area, you can see the remnants of the old Morris Canal that used to run through town. When I was taking my tour of the Boonton Iron Works (see above), this section of the canal was filled in years ago but at the turn of the last century, the canal was busy taking iron and other raw materials from the area to market. This is what made Boonton Boonton.
This section of the canal was called Morris Canal Inclined Plane 7 East for the machine that allowed the boats to navigate the canal to overcome changes in the elevation (Boonton Historical Marker).
Morris Canal Inclined Plane 7 East that parallels the downtown
As I made my way down the hill, back to the car, I passed the popular Don’s Sandwich Shop and music store. I stopped in one morning after visiting the Farmer’s Market and had a Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich on a soft chewy roll. It was the perfect breakfast on a cool morning.
They made the sandwich with provolone cheese instead of the the traditional American cheese and with a little mayo added the perfect zing to the sandwich. The couple that runs the shop could not have been nicer to me.
There is even a music shop within the store, Drummer’s Corner, which is located in the corner of the sandwich shop.
Adding to the many historical sites in Downtown Boonton is the Boonton Civil War monument located in the middle of the shopping district. This interesting piece of town history was erected in 1876 and was “In grateful remembrance of their fellow citizens who volunteered in defense of The Union of the War of 1861-1865 Honor to the Brave 1876” (Monument). This touching monument is a tribute for those who were lost in the Battle of the States.
As I walked back to my car, I took time to glance at the scenic views from the main street of the foliage and mountains that make the backdrop of the downtown area. I can see why the artists are starting to move into town and the amount of art galleries that are starting to open (most were closed on the weekends on my last two visits).
Take time to walk east of the downtown to visit the historic homes of former factory workers of the Iron Works which are now being snatched up and renovated. When I drove through the downtown one last time and made my way up the hill, I drove past Grace Lord Park. Up the hill through the Essex Street neighborhood above downtown were blocks of old Victorian homes and mansions line the streets overlooking the park.
There is so much to see and visit when walking Downtown Boonton and with the influx of new residents and the energy of the present ones, it is making Boonton, NJ a vibrant and interesting town to visit.
On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I stayed to watch the Boonton Fire Department Labor Day Parade and that was a lot of fun. The Department marched in the parade and fire departments from all over the County joined in with their fire apparatus. It was a beautiful day for the parade.
The Boonton Fire Department had their classic apparatus in the parade
I have been to the South Street Seaport dozens of times over the years and can’t believe that I never noticed this memorial dedicated to those lost in the Titanic disaster. I was visiting the Seaport recently after finishing another walk down the length of Broadway for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com” and was walking past the Seaport on my way to Chinatown. Something about it this time caught my attention and I stopped to look at the dedication of this small lighthouse.
It was really touching to see that the people from the 1912 disaster were not forgotten in New York City, its ultimate destination. This was the work of Molly Brown, the ‘Unsinkable Molly Brown’ from the movie. She wanted to be…
I started walking the most eastern part of Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen on the hottest day of the year with the humidity bearing down on me. I only got through between West 43rd to West 48th Streets on the first day. The weather was unbearable for walking. I was able to to relax at Hell’s Kitchen Park on the corner of West 48th Street and 10th Avenue under the shade trees to catch my breathe. It was a difficult walk that afternoon.
What I found was that as you get closer to 12th Avenue, it is mostly parking lots and warehouses with a few residences and restaurants scattered about below West 50th Street. There is not much in the way of creative architecture or interesting shops. The one thing I did notice was the amount of tagging on all the buildings. I have not seen this much graffiti since the early 1980’s around the City but am glad that it has not hit the subway cars yet. It seems to be not just on the empty buildings but the ones with lots of full wall space.
On the weekends, this area of the City is really empty and quiet as tourist spots like the Intrepid and the Circle Line start to reopen. Riverside Park is getting busier as residents are getting out now more with COVID lifts and mask requirements softening. It makes it a lot easier to be outside in this heat. The humidity over the last few days was a killer and that is why I only lasted a few blocks on my first day back in the neighborhood.
I started my walk on West 43rd Street crossing over from West 42nd by the Hudson River. The lower part of the edge of Hell’s Kitchen has changed dramatically since the 1990’s when I used to walk around the neighborhood. There has been a lot of new construction with many new automotive dealers opening showrooms in the neighborhood and then the extension of Riverside Park.
Even though it is mostly larger buildings, here and there on each block are historical spots, small businesses and pocket parks and gardens that should not be missed. Take your time to walk the streets as you will not see too many people until you reach 10th Avenue.
Tucked in between all the commercial buildings on West 43rd Street is the FDNY Rescue One Building, who I see all over the City. It is one of the five specialized Rescue companies with the FDNY that require specialized equipment and training. The Company was organized in 1915 . In 2005, the section of West 43rd Street was named Terence S. Hatton Way (Wiki).
Terence S. Hatton was the Captain of the FDNY Rescue Company One and one of the most decorated and dedicated fire fighters in the FDNY. He died when the North Tower collapsed on September 11th, 2001 (911 Memorial).
As I walked back down West 43rd Street rather quickly on my way around the corner to West 44th Street. Similar to West 43rd Street, the street was mostly larger commercial buildings with the exception of a new residential building at 604 West 44th Street. This unique building stood out amongst the cookie cutter buildings on the rest of the block.
The building has a contemporary look to it that takes up most of the corner at 11th Avenue with its unusual windows and dark appearance.
West 45th Street was filled with parking lots and warehouse buildings and there was not much to look at except some interesting ‘tagging’ on the building that seemed to line the buildings in the lower part of the neighborhood from 11th to 12th Avenues.
When I reached West 46th Street, I passed the Landmark Tavern again at 626 11th Avenue that was empty outside due to the heat. It was opened by Patrick Henry Carly in 1868 and has been a staple since. It is one of the oldest continuing restaurants in New York City (Landmark Tavern History). What is so fascinating about the bar is that at one time it stood on the water’s edge of the Hudson River. It shows how Manhattan has reclaimed land around the island. The restaurant has an interesting bar menu.
Rounding the corner again at West 47th Street, one building did stand out amongst the rest of the commercial buildings on these two blocks and that was the McGlynn Hayes & Company building at 605 West 47th Street. The company was established in 1900 and specializes in all aspects of the Elevator industry (mostly hydraulic elevators) (McGlynn Hayes & Company website).
McGlynn Hayes & Company Building at 605 West 47th Street
The company was founded in 1900 by partners Thomas P. McGlynn and Henderson B. Hayes. The business had previously had been located at 62 Grand Street in lower Manhattan thus the 62 on their sign outside (14to42.net).
Reaching West 48th Street, was drenched in sweat by the time I finished walking the two blocks and there was not much to see with the exception of more warehouses and parking lots. I made it to Hell’s Kitchen Park on the corner of West 48th Street and 10th Avenue in time to collapse under the shade trees of the park and just relaxed. I had to catch my breath and have some bottled water before I took the subway downtown to meet my brother, who was visiting town for dinner in Chinatown. Trust me, the cool subway car relaxed me on the way downtown.
Hell’s Kitchen Playground has been my resting place on this walk at West 48th Street and 10th Avenue
That evening I joined my brother for dinner and a tour of Chinatown, which seems to slowly be going the way of Little Italy. Disappearing at the edges and smothered in the middle with new residents and businesses. I have never seen so many art galleries and shops opening up. I have began to call it ‘NoLoChi’ (No Longer Chinatown).
One of the restaurants that never closed during the pandemic and now has nice outdoor seating (for those of you who still don’t want to eat indoors in nice weather-I don’t blame you), Dim Sum Go Go at 5 East Broadway is wonderful. I love their assortment of Dim Sum and everything is always so fresh.
It was still so hot out so we choose to eat inside which was a much better choice that evening. I highly recommend the Pork Soup Dumplings and the pan-fried Pot Stickers. Everything on the menu is excellent and the service could not have been nicer that evening. It is getting tougher to find restaurants in Chinatown that stay open after 8:00pm. Slowly it is changing but Mott Street is going dark by 9:30pm and it never did that in the past.
I started my walk of Hell’s Kitchen again a few days later and it was just as hot but the humidity was not so bad. The one advantage I had as I continued walking the streets of the upper part of the neighborhood was the sun was at a particular point that afternoon and I was walking in the shade of the buildings most of the time.
I started my walk on the upper part of West 48th Street, revisiting the warehouses and parking lots I had already seen and then turned the corner and walked down West 49th Street where you will see more ‘street art’ closer to the rail tracks. What stood out was on the side of the building of Red Cross Building at 520 West 49th Street was the two detailed murals that were painted on the parking lot side of the building. I liked the universal message of the paintings.
You really have to peer over the fence to see these murals on the wall of 520 West 48th Street
At the end of the block, I had to stop for something to eat and came across Sal’s Pizzeria at 696 10th Avenue and had a slice of pizza. I have to say that it was excellent pizza and for $3.00 a slice the price was more than fair for this oversized slice. The sauce has an amazing flavor and is so well spiced and since the pie tasted like it just came out of the oven, the cheese was super gooey. I just took the plate outside and ate it as I walked to the envy of the people walking around me. I think they could tell I was enjoying my lunch.
I crossed over into the West 50’s after lunch and each block offered many surprises when you really looked. This is the best part of walking each side of the block as you might miss something on the other side which I had done in many blocks (That why I revisit so many neighborhoods and am constantly revising these blogs).
On the corner of West 50th Street and Twelve Avenue, there are interesting paintings all along the upper walls of 680 12th Avenue. They seem to have an unusual theme to them. This is also the case at West Park High School at 525 West 50th Street with a series of beautiful mosaics lining the entrances to the high school.
The colorful mosaics at 525 West 50th Street make a bold statement
Rounding the corner at West 51st Street, I saw the beauty again of the St. Mary’s Building at 87 West 11th Avenue with the Juan Alonso Community gardens flanking the entrance to the building. You can see the traces of the old neighborhood mixing with the new. The Juan Alonso Community Gardens on the corner of Eleventh Avenue and West 51st Street.
The St. Mary’s Building at 87 West 11th Avenue
Juan Alonso Community Gardens on the corner of West 51st Street and Eleventh Avenue
The Community Garden was named after a local resident and community activist , Juan Alonso, who tired of seeing an empty lot and drug dealers in the area. The vacant lot is now a network of small gardens throughout the neighborhood run by the Clinton Housing Development Company (CHDC).
Another hold out of the neighborhood is the Landmark Tavern at 626 Eleventh Avenue. It was opened by Patrick Henry Carly in 1868 and has been a staple since. It is one of the oldest continuing restaurants in New York City (Landmark Tavern History). What is so fascinating about the bar is that at one time it stood on the water’s edge of the Hudson River. It shows how Manhattan has reclaimed land around the island. The restaurant has an interesting bar menu.
As I made my way down West 52nd Street, I passed the Joe Horvath Way Plaza, which stretches from 10th to 11th Avenues and was dedicated to Joseph Horvath, who located the Police Athletic League William J. Duncan Center on the block from its original location. The Duncan Center was named after a police officer who was shot in 1930 (Wiki).
The plaque outside the Police Athletic League Building
The William J. Duncan Center at 552 West 52nd Street is the home of the Police Athletic League and is a very active building when programs are in session.
When walking back down West 52nd Street, I noticed the plantings and beautiful flowers of the Oasis Community Garden at 505 West 52nd Street. The garden was locked to the public at the time but you could still admire the beauty and the work that was being done by the volunteers for over 30 years. Even during the pandemic, these dedicated volunteers have done a magnificent job maintaining the garden(Garden Blog site).
The Oasis Community Garden is at 505 West 52nd Street
When I reached West 53rd Street, the heat and the walking was beginning to get to me so I stopped at Dewitt Clinton Park which stretches between 11th and 12th Avenues which stretches from West 52nd to West 54th Streets and is the biggest patch of green on this part of the neighborhood.
Dewitt Clinton Park at the Eleventh Avenue and West 52nd Street entrance
The park is a haven for joggers and sports enthusiasts and the Erie Canal Playground is really big with the kids. On my second trip to the park and subsequent trips after, I discovered what a popular place the park was with local families and as the summer wore on with the local summer camps. There was so much activity in the park that afternoon.
As I walked around the park, I saw from when I was walking around Twelfth Avenue that the back part of the park is being reconstructed and renovated with what looks like new lighting , sidewalks and stairs to be followed by new landscaping. One great attribute is that there are open clean bathrooms open later in the evening and working water fountains to refill your water bottle with cool New York City water.
The front part of the park is very welcoming with flower beds, nice signage, comfortable benches to relax under the trees and nice paths. When you enter the park, you are greeted by the statue of a Doughboy from WWI.
The Doughboy State greets you at Dewitt Clinton Park (Clinton War Memorial)
The statue was designed by artist Burt W. Johnson. Mr. Johnson is an American born artist who studied under noted sculptors James Earle Fraser and Augustus Saint Gaudens. The artist died shortly after the statue had been modeled (NYCParks.org). He studied at Pomona College and the Art Students League of New York (Wiki).
The park was name after politician and philanthropist Dewitt Clinton from the prominent Dewitt and Clinton families. Mr. Clinton was the former Mayor of New York, Governor and Senator of New York State. He ran for President in 1812 losing to James Madison and was influential in the building the Erie Canal (Wiki).
What I really like about this park is the not just the family feel but it is one of the few open green spaces in the neighborhood so you see a hodge podge of people from business people reading and eating their lunches to neighbors enjoying each others company. It is such a nice place to relax and enjoy time under a shade tree.
One business that did stand out to me was the Clinton Park Stables at 618 West 52nd Street with horse drawn carriages being maintained and leaving the building at different times of the afternoon.
The building was built in the 1880’s to house the horses for the Sanitation and Streets Department and then was fully renovated in 2003 to house the horses on the second and third floors and do all the repairs on the carriages on the main floor (Clinton Park Stables-CarriageOn).
After relaxing in the park for a half hour under a shade tree by the statue, I continued the walk around the park and down West 55th Street which was mostly non descript buildings and then down West 56th Street which houses the a branch of the New York Sanitation Department. You really have to watch here as trucks and cars are coming out at all times and there is not much a space to walk on the sidewalks.
When I reached West 57th Street, there was much more newer residential building in this part of the neighborhood. I stopped again to admire the Via 57th on the corner of West 57th and Twelfth Avenue. This glimmering pyramid of glass stands out amongst the box structures in the neighborhood with it triangular shape and reflections of the sun and the river. It brings an elegance to the newly planted park and changes the makeup of the buildings by the river giving it futuristic look to the Hudson River.
Via 57th along the new Hudson River Park at 625 West 57th Street (Via 57)
This residential building is in the shape of a pyramid or “tetrahedron” looking ‘almost like a sailing vessel going across the river’. The tiered gardens and slopped space integrates with the surrounding park and river. The building was designed by Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group and by its founding architect Bjarke Ingels (Wiki).
Next to the Via is the Helena 57West at 601West 57th Street. On the side of this interesting building is an interesting piece of outdoor at entitled “Flows Two Ways” by artist Stephen Glassman from the Stephen Glassman Studio. This fascinating piece of art was installed in 2016 and reflects the location of the building by the Hudson River.
The piece represents the fact that the Hudson River is both a river and tidal estuary and flows in both directions at different times of the day. It refers to forces that are separate yet connected, a duality that generate abundant life force and a conversation between people, buildings, river earth and sky (Stephen Glassman Studio).
Mr. Glassman is an American born California based artist who holds a BFA from SUNY Purchase. His works are influenced by the California landscape. He has won numerous national awards for his work.
After walking all around the Via 57, admiring the sculpture and beauty of the building itself, I finished my walk of West 57th Street with a slice of pizza at Casabianca Family Italian Ristorante and Pizzeria at 503 West 57th Street. The pizza here is amazing and reasonable at $3.00 for a giant slice.
Casabianca Family Italian Ristorante and Pizzeria at 503 West 57th Street
I had an embarrassing situation at the restaurant that one of the cooks helped me out with when I ordered. I did not have enough cash on me and had only two dollars for the three dollar slice. I did not want to be one of ‘those people’ and explained the situation to the cook that I was a dollar short. I could not believe it when he said to me “Don’t worry about it. You can have it for $2.00. After you try it, I know you will be back.” That simple act of kindness gave me faith that everyone and everything in New York City is NOT going to pot as many naysayers are announcing on the news. There are still lots of New Yorkers who have faith in people.
He was right though. The pizza sauce was rich with flavor (see my review on TripAdvisor) and the each bite had a gooey consistency. Plus the size of the slice was much larger than many slices I have eaten on this voyage around Manhattan. They also have some nice specials at $7.00 that I want to try in the future.
The pizza here is excellent
After I left the restaurant content with a really nice feeling about the afternoon, I finished my walk around the block admiring the river ahead and the nice breezes coming off it. That felt good after a day like this. The humidity in the City has been off and on since walking in Hell’s Kitchen.
I reached West 58th Street by the late afternoon revisiting buildings that I had admired on past walks in the neighborhood. The first was the IRT Powerhouse Building at 840 12th Avenue and the John Jay College Haaren Hall Building at 899 10th Avenue on the corner of 10th and West 58th Street.
Turning the corner on West 58th Street at Tenth Avenue, you will face the beauty of the John Jay College of Criminology Haaren Building at 899 Tenth Avenue. The building is home to many classrooms and the library for the college. The building was designed by Charles B.J. Snyder and was completed in 1903 (Wiki and John Jay College). The building was originally the Dewitt Clinton High School.
John Jay College Haaren Building at 899 Tenth Avenue
Across the street from the park is the former IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) Powerhouse at 840 12th Avenue. This ornate building was built in 1904 and takes up the entire area from West 59th to West 58th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. Designed by architect Stamford White, the building is used by Con Ed of New York to supply the New York Steam system. It is designed in the ‘Renaissance Revival’ and really walk around the building you can see the beautiful details of the building especially around the building . It was recently declared a Landmark Building in New York (Wiki).
While revisiting the neighborhood, I came across another sculpture that captured my attention “Swinging Jenny” by artist Jay Lagemann at the back side of 610 West 57th Street at Via 57.
“Swinging Jenny” by artist Jay Lagemann
Mr. Lagemann is an American born artist who currently lives on Martha’s Vineyard. He holds degrees in Mathematics from Princeton and a PhD from MIT. His works are influenced from his travels abroad(Artist bio).
I finished my walk by relaxing at the park at One Waterline Square, which was behind fencing the last time I visited the neighborhood over a year ago. The finished complex was simmering in the sunlight and in the middle of the complex is the energetic Waterline Square Park loaded with families and kids.
The tiers of the park were very interesting as stairways lead to different levels of the park with fountains and trees and water features that shot up every few minutes with loads of kids and their parents screaming at each plug of water. This is when it is fun to be a kid.
The park was designed by the New York architect group, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. This creative women-owned firm who uses a cumulative and holistic image for each project using designs that are insightful and artful as well as performative (MNLA Mission Statement)
Waterline Square Park is one of the most unusual parks that I have seen in the City since walking Battery Park City. The park has almost a Dr. Seuss effect to it with its interesting plantings, bridges and water features in all directions. It also has plenty of seating to relax and enjoy the cool breezes. All this packed in between three elegant buildings. It was fun just watching everyone have a good time.
It was nice to sit under a tree and relax to cool off. I could believe how this whole area of the City had transformed itself from just a year ago but that is the magic of New York City. From behind the fencing came this magical city of glass and green space appears and shows that Manhattan is in a ever state of change.
I finished my walk of Hell’s Kitchen at 4:00pm that afternoon and just watched the people in the park having a good time. Walking in Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton/Midtown West (whatever you want to call it) and it shows how a City can keep reinventing itself and change for the betterment of the people it serves.
Even with everything going on with the pandemic facing new challenges, as I have walked the streets of this neighborhood I faced a neighborhood like many I have visited since the City reopened summer that has not given up but faced the challenges and put their dedication in making their neighborhood a better place. It has come a LONG way since I worked in Manhattan in the late 1980’s.
I dedicate this blog to all the neighborhood organizations, non-profits and merchants for the work you have done to make this neighborhood what it is today.
Please Read my other blogs on Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton/Midtown West:
Walking the Border and Avenues of Hell’s Kitchen Day One Hundred and Ninety Four:
I swear that Chelsea Papaya has been part of this neighborhood since the 1970’s. I have passed this place a million times and never stopped in to eat. Recently when I was walking around the rim of Manhattan for ‘The Great Saunter” walk, I needed an early start and this place opens at 5:00am (please check their website for the changing hours).
Chelsea Papaya at 171 West 23rd Street
For breakfast that morning I knew I would need to load up on carbohydrates so I ordered a Breakfast platter. I had two very large pancakes with a side of bacon and two scrambled eggs ($7.95) with a medium Papaya drink. It was the best breakfast on this rare cool summer morning.
There are just some restaurants and shops that are institutions in their neighborhoods and the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is one of them. I have been coming to the store since the 1990’s when I fell in love with their Lychee and Fortune Cookie Ice Creams. What I have loved about the flavors here is that they follow a Chinese-American theme with flavors based on fruits and desserts popular here in the states.
The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory logo
Since the first time I ate there, I have tried their Almond Cookie, Banana, Mango and Passion Fruit flavors over the years along with some of their seasonal flavors like Pineapple and Strawberry. Since then they have added flavors like Durian, Black Sesame, Green…
I came across this interesting little historical museum when I was touring Elfreth’s Alley in Old Town, Philadelphia. What an interesting look back at the merchant trade class of the 18th century. It really showed how the average worker used both their home as a business and as a home. The home had been former business of a pair of dressmakers who used the front parlor as their store and showroom, the side room used as the kitchen, the upstairs room was the living quarters for a very large family (I believe that the family had eight children according to the tour guide) and a nice sized garden in the back of the home.