I love it when I can eat at a restaurant on its first week open and get to enjoy the excitement with the owner as they establish their dream. That is what myself and my best friend felt when we ate at AweSum Dim Sum the first time. The restaurant is on my Advantage Dining Program and was recommended. So I tried it for the first time and loved it and then I took her and she agreed.
Everything on the menu was excellent. All the Dim Sum on the menu is fresh and cooked to order. When it arrives, it is sizzling hot and busting with flavor. The tough part is knowing what to order because everything on the menu is so good.
This Halloween was very subdued but not entirely canceled this year.
New Jersey still allowed Trick or Treating even though I saw very few children outside on the one nice sunny day we had seen in over two weeks. Because of the recent hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast, we got the tail of the last two storms. It had been cloudy and gloomy for almost three weeks and Halloween day was the first nice day we had. I could see that people wanted to get out of the house.
In the era COVID, I could not see too many people going out Trick or Treating. It was an unusual Halloween for me as I was usually preparing for a long day of working at the Halloween Parade in Manhattan but because of COVID that parade was cancelled. This on top of pretty much any other Halloween related activity. Things were done on a smaller scale. I saw small children Trick or Treating in our downtown business district and some parents were weaving between businesses to talk to merchants.
Residents in our community really decorated their houses and in some cases overdid it. I felt like I was passing mini cemeteries and houses of horror. I can understand that parents wanted to bring some sense of normalcy to their families in this extremely rough time.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
I started the day at a drill with the fire department. We spent the morning using the Hurst tools and practicing cutting a van. The department was practicing rescuing people from a trapped vehicle. It was a good training session as we all got chances to cut parts of the van and then get a small lecture on our work. At the end of the day, we had a wrap up session and then a pizza lunch. It was nice to just relax after a busy morning.
Our new coach, Mel Tucker, lead Michigan State University to victory
When I got home I arrived in time to watch the forth quarter of the Michigan State versus University of Michigan game. After the disaster we had the week before with Rutgers, we needed this win badly. I would like to say it was a back and forth game but we dominated them for most of the game and pulled out the win 27-24. Watching the Michigan players leave the stadium with all the arrogance gone was enjoyable. This since their coach practically forced the Big Ten to play when COVID is raging all over the country.
Beating Michigan every year is a pleasure!
Don’t miss the highlights from the game. It was something!
After the game was over, my best friend, Kris and I had a long and very excited conversation about the game which is the bragging rights of Michigan and that is a big deal between both sets of Alumni.
I looked outside on the sunny day and saw absolutely no Trick or Treaters. The Halloween Parade Committee had sent out an email earlier in the week that the Spider Puppet would be ‘crawling out of’ Jefferson Market Library on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 10th Street plus there would be a slide show in Times Square. With no other plans and a beautiful night ahead of me, off I went into Manhattan.
My first stop was Times Square which is a hop, skip and jump from Port Authority. I swear the whole area was crowded with people in costume having a wonderful time. I was surprised with the COVID going on how many people especially young families with children were not wearing masks. They were wearing costumes with no face coverings including the children.
Since the parade was cancelled, people had their own makeshift parade and were laughing, yelling and having a good time talking to one another in the closed off portion of Times Square between West 42nd to West 45th Streets along Broadway. I could see people just wanted to don a costume and forget all their troubles. I never realized how much people enjoyed the parade and how much they missed it.
Times Square on Halloween Night 2020
Try as I might, I could not find that billboard with the pictures of the Halloween Parade on it and I could not remember if they posted a side street with the information so I walked about four blocks around the square looking for the billboard and admiring the costumes.
I decided to head to the Village to see the spider puppet emerge from the library. That was another busy neighborhood. All the side street around Sixth Avenue were jammed with people in restaurants and bars. Here they were wearing masks to a point. When they were seated in extremely crowded restaurants, it was mask off. I could tell though again people were having a good time. Everyone looked fatigued and just needed to let off a little steam.
Pumpkin Men greeted people at the Stonewall Inn on Halloween Night
I watched as the puppet did emerge and dance around the outside of the library, which is a beautiful Victorian structure. The spider crawled out of the tower and I could see the puppeteers from the balcony above directing the spider.
The spider emerges from the Jefferson Market Library on Sixth Avenue
The spider is the creation of artist Basil Twist, a professional puppeteer with a studio on Leroy Street in the Village who constructed the puppet in 1994. He created the puppet as an homage to one of the original puppets in the parade that was founded by Roger Lee in the 1970’s. The artist usually waits until the marchers in the Halloween Parade get to Eighth Street to release the puppet. (DNA Info Danielle Tcholakian).
Artist Basil Twist with his spider in the clock tower of the Jefferson Market Tower
Artist Basil Twist is an American born artist originally from San Francisco and now resides in New York City. He is a third generation puppeteer and is the only American to graduate from the Ecole Superieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionette in France. He is an artist, puppet designer, director and guest lecturer at many colleges.
A video on artist Basil Twist’s work
On quiet Sixth Avenue that only a year before on a 71 degree night where throngs of people walked uptown in the Halloween Parade, I watched the spider dangle from the library and dance down the side of the building. There were very few people to watch the show but the spider did its thing amusing all of us who watched it.
Just as I started to watch the slide show across the street from the library that was being shown of clips of the Halloween Parade, I ran across Grace, our fearless leader of the Parade who checks me in every year before I work the gate. I could barely recognize her under the mask. She and the creator of the Halloween Parade, Jeanne Fleming, were watching the spider too and running the slide show of past parades on the side of a apartment building across Sixth Avenue.
Jeanne Fleming, our fearless leader & Founder of the Halloween Parade
Grace and I talked for a bit while watching the spider crawl down from the balcony about how different a year makes. The Village was still busy with people walking on the streets with costumes and bars and restaurants packed with people enjoying the warm October night. It was definitely strange not to see thousands of people walk up Sixth Avenue after all these years but next year brings hopeful optimism.
The full Moon was in its magnificence that evening
I said my goodbyes to her and Jeanne and took one last stroll around the Village with its outdoor dining and costumed revelers and hoped things would work out. Then I noticed the beautiful full moon overhead. I had never seen one so bright on Halloween Night. No witches crossing the moon but a brightness to light the way into better years ahead.
Still I was also able to sneak up to Croton on the Hudson for the Annual “Pumpkin Blaze” that is sponsored by the Hudson River Historical Society. It was a much toned down event than last year and at 25% capacity was much easier to get through the displays. I had never seen so few people at the event but in the era of COVID it is smarter to have a smaller crowd and have the event than to have nothing. It is the Historical Society’s biggest fundraiser and people were having a good time.
The Van Cortlandt Manor ablaze with sights and sounds in its pumpkin cemetery
The Blaze was amazing with all the music, sites and sounds. I loved the MoMA version of the museum with pumpkin portraits and the Pumpkin Bridge, Ferris Wheel and Spider Webs. There was even a Croton on the Hudson fire truck and ambulance in dedication to all the hard work during COVID. Smaller yes but no less wonderful. I am glad that ran the event.
The Pumpkin Ferris Wheel at the Pumpkin Blaze at Croton on the Hudson
One of the Pumpkin Paintings based on “The Scream”
Van Cortlandt Manor in all its ghoulish delight the night of “The Blaze”
Justin Watrel (the blogger) at “The Pumpkin Blaze” during the Halloween holidays
I had the most amazing Chinese meal at New Happy Garden at 440 South Riverside Avenue #440 in the ShopRite Mall next to the Blaze and I highly recommend the restaurant. The Orange Chicken with Pork Fried and egg rolls.
A much more toned down Halloween than in the past but between the all events it made Halloween a more special time to get my mind off everything going on in the world.
Highlights from the Halloween Parade 2019
The First Annual Miniature Halloween Parade: The gift of the Halloween Parade Committee in 2020
Places to Visit:
Hasbrouck Heights Home Decorations
Drive around our Borough of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in Bergen County for Halloween and Christmas decoration every October and December
The Halloween Parade
The Parade steps off at 7:00pm on Halloween Night starting at Canal Street in Manhattan
The Jefferson Market Library (to see the Spider Puppet)
When I finally finished walking Sutton and Beekman Places, I finally decided to take the long walk down Broadway that I had planned for two years. As you can see by the blog, I like to take one neighborhood or section of the City at a time and concentrate on getting to know it. What is the history of the neighborhood? What is there now? Who are the shop keepers and the restaurant owners? What is the neighborhood association doing to improve the area? I like to become part of the neighborhood when I walk around it.
But recently I have noticed people on the Internet have been posting that they walked the entire length of Broadway and bragged about it like they were ‘performing brain surgery’. So I put aside my next walk and decided to see what the fuss was about walking up and down Broadway. I am…
Since my thirty two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan, I have stayed clear of New York City for the time being while things calm down a bit. Since my walk and even on Father’s Day weekend there have been a rash of shootings and thirteen people murdered in various neighborhoods. The papers said they have not seen anything like this since the late 90’s before Rudy Giuliani became Mayor and started to clean things up in New York City. What really spooked me is that I walked through parts of Harlem that were affected the day of the shootings especially between East 145th to East 118th Streets before I got on the riverfront walkway. I still can’t believe that people would act this way at a time like this.
Still between work and the fire department keeping me busy, it has been hard to get back into the City. Phase Three is slowly being introduced in but indoor seating has been put on hold. Outdoor dining has been cautious and the museum and parks have been slow to open. I just got a email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that they will be opening on August 25th and 26th for a ‘Members Private Night’. It will be interesting to see if that happens.
Upstate New York in Dutchess County is slowly opening up with precautions and we are now entering the ‘new normal’ that I would not have even thought about when I was running around the City and Upstate during the holiday season. I glad I made the visits I made when I did. You can’t do that now.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we have been pretty much limited on what we can do and needing exercise and to get out of the house, I have been walking to our downtown and around the blocks exploring my own town. The Hasbrouck Height Chamber of Commerce recently sponsored “A Stroll Downtown” for our residents for people to explore their downtown and visit the restaurants and stores that are open for limited business and outdoor dining. With the weather getting warmer, people are tired of getting cooped up in their homes and want to get outside and enjoy the weather (yes, we are all wearing masks when necessary).
So every evening, I walk the Boulevard, our business district in Hasbrouck Heights and over time I have really noticed a lot more of our downtown. There is an array of architecture that dates back to the late 1800’s and historical markers that I had never really noticed before.
I start my walk every evening with a turn around the corner from my home and I walk down Williams Avenue to the Boulevard which starts our small part of downtown on our side of town. What is interesting about Williams Avenue is that is was used as an escape route for George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War from the Battles in Hackensack and Paramus with the British.
The Battles in Hackensack and Paramus during the Revolutionary War
Our area of New Jersey has a very prominent place in Revolutionary War history with local battles with the British.
Washington’s forces retreated down Williams Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights after the Battle in Hackensack NJ
Before rounding Williams Avenue onto the busy Boulevard, which is a County of Bergen road, you will pass Corleone’s Pizza at 205 Williams Avenue, one of the newest pizzeria/restaurant’s in Hasbrouck Heights. Their pizza and sandwiches are really good anchored by their rich Marinara Sauce and well priced lunch specials. Outdoor dining here is rather unusual on such a busy road but makes it almost seem like you are in the City.
Walking to the downtown area is only a few blocks away passing many homes that have stood in town since the late 1800’s to the 1930’s. Hasbrouck Heights has a diversity of types of homes so it makes walking around interesting especially if you are into historic homes and architecture.
Back in the early 2000’s, our former Mayor Rose Heck, started a beautification of the downtown area by cutting down the old trees and opening the buildings to more sun and creating a whole new landscape by bricking the new sidewalks and adding flowering cherry trees that bloom an abundance of colors in the Spring.
On the new wrought iron lampposts we have pictures of the graduates of Hasbrouck Heights High School, who missed the last four months of school (but recently had their graduation socially distanced on the football field) and American flags that are placed for Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Forth of July. During Christmas time, wreaths and white lights adorn them.
I always start on the right side of the Boulevard as you approach downtown. The downtown starts with the historic Corpus Christi Church at 215 Kipp Avenue. The complex with the historic parish house, which had once been a well-known doctor’s home in the late 1890’s sits between Washington Place, home to many historic Victorian homes and Kipp Avenue, the start of the business district.
The original part of the Church that was built in 1896 was moved from across the street to its current location when the parish bought the Dunstan estate in 1914. The church has been added onto twice in 1934 and 1957.
The parish house is the historic Dunstan mansion on the original estate grounds.
The business district runs from Kipp Avenue in town to the circle at Passaic Avenue. Since there are numerous businesses, I wanted to point out the ones that I have enjoyed and been a patron of for years.
Our newest Chinese restaurant, China House at 250 Boulevard, opened (ironically on March 13th when everything was shutting down) just off Kipp Avenue. This small take out restaurant has a few small tables to dine in, which I did the first week it was open (now due to COVID-19 it is just take out). Their General Tso’s and Orange Chicken are really good. The family that runs the restaurant is really nice and has been offering opening discounts.
The nice thing about our downtown is the diversity of stores and restaurants. One of the most unique shops is the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard. One of the few stores in the State of New Jersey that specializes in Catholic gifts, it has an array of merchandise from crosses to crucifixes and at the holidays there is a selection of jewelry, books, figurines, statuary and selected gifts both religious and secular.
Next to the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard (the other side of the building) is Sophia’s Kitchen, a very popular Greek restaurant that opened several years ago and continues to grow in popularity. Their food and service are excellent and after many great reviews in both the local papers and on the internet has been a destination restaurant ever since. You need to wait for tables between Thursday and Saturday nights.
The Religious Shoppe and Sofia’s Mediterranean Grill during the Summer months
Their gyro sandwiches are delicious and they have this shrimp appetizer, the Shrimp Sanganaki, that is cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with cheese that is out of this world. Their Baklava is sweet and buttery and soaked in honey in all layers.
Crossing over Franklin Avenue to the next block, you will find a series of interesting shops with Young Fashions at 208 Boulevard, for beautiful children’s wear and Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard for custom made and vintage painted furniture.
Young Fashions at 206 Boulevard
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
Owner Addie Carrino greets all her customers personally
Young Fashions is a Lilliputian dream for the well-dressed child and a favorite for grandparents and aunts and uncles all over Bergen County. This delightful store still carries quality clothing for children from infant to age 12. Owner Addie Carrino still believes that there are children that still dress nicely and provides clothing from head to toe for them. She offers complimentary pressing of items when bought and free gift wrapping.
Not Too Shabby is run by Addie’s daughter, Liz Carrino, who brings to life her custom painted furniture and one of a kind pieces. She loves vintage furniture from the Depression era and all sorts of decorative pieces for the home and office. Take time to walk around the aisles of furniture and knick knacks.
Please watch the video on the creativity of the business:
Next to Not Too Shabby at 202 Boulevard, the new and much enlarged Dumpling Chinese Restaurant moved to from their old location at 220 Boulevard (now the home to China House). The restaurant is much bigger and brighter than their old restaurant and has lots of places to sit down (during the COVID-19 pandemic it is strictly pick-up and delivery). They made a wonderful Lemon Chicken and Moo Shu Pork and their dumplings are not bad too.
Walking further down the Boulevard I always pass the Masonic Temple at 200 Boulevard, one of the oldest buildings in Hasbrouck Heights. The Euclid Masonic Lodge has been in existence for 145 years and its stately building has been part of the downtown since anyone can remember.
As you walk to the next two blocks you will reach the Circle which is the home to many a Christmas Celebration with the annual Tree Lighting after Thanksgiving. One little unique local landmark we have is the old ‘Neil Parrot Dollhouse’ that sits on the Circle and is decorated for the holidays. In 2016 a group of concerned citizens got together to have the little dollhouse, which matched the home of the old Neil Parrot business office and home of Neil Parrot, a local realtor. He used the little house to amuse children while their parents did business with him.
The Circle at the corner of Boulevard and Passaic Avenue is the official end of the Business District and is where all holiday events take place with the Tree Lighting at the end of November and the Holiday Choir performing.
The pine trees at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights add to a festive mood at the holidays
On the other side of the Circle from the old Neil Parrot Dollhouse is the Firemen’s Memorial where every Memorial Day and 9/11 Day, we on the fire department have our special ceremonies and events. It really is a place of reflection and a nice place to sit and think. I like to take time and look at the names of fire fighters from the past.
I like to take a break here but move on I do very quickly and I start the walk on the other side of the Boulevard.
Another nice restaurant that I enjoy going to is Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard. The restaurant is now serving outdoor diners and has delivery and take out. Still the outdoor dining is really popular. When it is open, it is the local watering hole for customers all over Bergen County who enjoy a good mixed drink, their wonderful pub food and watching the games. Their pizza and burgers are really good and they have a nice assortment of appetizers.
Walking past the Heights Bar & Grill there is a bevy of small businesses and commercial banks housed in older and modern buildings. The architecture in our downtown is a combination of old and new and old becoming new again.
A new addition to our restaurant scene and adding a little ‘hipster’ to Hasbrouck Heights is the new KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard that just opened last year. It had been an old convenience store for years and the new owners stripped it down to the bearings where is looks like a combination of Williamsburg meets Beacon, NY. The food is reasonable and they have nice sandwiches and wraps. The nice part is when the place was open pre-COVID-19, they had entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. It was nice to hear saxophonists and guitar players rather than the usual garage bands. It gives the downtown a little diversity from all the pizzerias and Chinese take out places.
KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard now has outdoor dining
The next few blocks is studded with service businesses, hair salons and banks and then you have a series of restaurants some opening in recent years. On the corner of Hamilton Avenue and the Boulevard replacing the long service Carroll’s Fashion which had been that location for about thirty years. Bella Pizza opened at 193 Boulevard. The pizzeria has quickly established itself in town among the other six pizzerias we have and makes the most amazing calzones and Sicilian pies.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights, a branch of the popular Rutherford, NJ restaurant is at 203 Boulevard is one of the growing fine dining restaurants added to our downtown. It is always been busy at the holidays and in the COVID-19 era has a small outdoor dining area to sit and relax while you enjoy dishes like Shrimp Risotto and Veal Milanese.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights at 203 Boulevard
One of the nicest stores in Hasbrouck Heights especially at each of the holidays is Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard. Their window displays are some of the best in the downtown area and are especially nice at Christmas and Easter. I love their selection of gifts at the holidays and their owner always makes special arrangements for me when visiting the cemetery. The business is housed in an old home that has been in the downtown since the 1880’s and was renovated to its beauty by the owner.
Heights Flower Shoppe is always special at the Christmas holidays
The historic Lovey’s Pizzeria at 211 Boulevard and has been in town since the early 1960’s. There is a small dining room in the restaurant and I have been partial over the years to their fried calzones and their ravioli with red sauce. The current owner bought the pizzeria from her parents who had owned it all those years.
Lovey’s Pizzeria & Ristorante at 211 Boulevard with Summer dining
One of my favorite Chinese take out places in Hasbrouck Heights is Ho Mei Kitchen at 227 Boulevard. I enjoy many of the dishes here especially their Lemon Chicken, their House Fried Rice and they have the best egg rolls in town. Their lunch specials are really reasonable and you can order them until 4:00pm. They are like a dinner. The family who owns the place are really nice and have set up an interesting system of ordering in the COVID-19 era.
Crossing the street at Jefferson Avenue are three of the oldest businesses in town along with Lovey’s Pizzeria, Height Floral Shoppe and Young Fashions is Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and the Boulevard at 231 Boulevard has been opened since the 1960’s as well.
Like Heights Flower Shoppe, Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is always so nicely merchandised with the wonderful flower arrangements for a quick pickup, nice assortments of candy and stuffed animals and creative gift items for the home at the holidays. Their owners are really nice and accommodating. They also have a nice Open House at the opening of the holiday season.
The owners of Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts, John and Linda Kosakowski, at their Food Drive.
Fisher’s Cafe at 245 Boulevard is another restaurant that has been in town since the 1960’s and is a popular place for breakfast and lunch with a lot of the locals who make this their place to eat. Fisher’s is very popular for their breakfast dishes and platters and is a hang out after school for the junior high and high students for their burgers and grilled cheese.
Another long time merchant in Hasbrouck Heights is Spindler’s Bake Shop at 247 Boulevard, which had reopened after a few years of being closed by the family. The bakery has been a Hasbrouck Heights institution since the 1950’s by the current owners grandparents.
Ginny & Bob Spindler at their store as the next generation of bakers.
They are well-known for their butter cookies arrangements, their fresh rolls and their apple and lemon turnovers are melt in your mouth good! The staff is always friendly and the smells of the baked goods as you enter the store are sensational.
The baked goods are so good! Don’t miss their Lemon Turnovers!
Their Lemon Turnovers are excellent!
As you pass by Spindler’s Bake Shop, you will walk the next block over and pass Kipp Avenue again to the end of the official part of the Business District and start walking back to Williams Avenue past residential and commercial properties and Corpus Christi Church again until you reach our Municipal Building.
In a small strip of stores across from our new Town Hall that was built in 2004 are two very popular restaurants, Tom Young Koong, at 305 Boulevard and Heights Pizzeria at 313 Boulevard which have both adapted to the COVID-19 era of outdoor dining and take-out/delivery.
Tom Young Koong is a very well-known destination Thai restaurant that is very busy between Thursday and Saturday nights. Their assortment of appetizers that include Chicken Satay, Curry Puffs, Fried Dumplings and Shrimp Fried Noodle are excellent and they have the most delicious Pad Thai which is wonderful with Chicken and Shrimp. The food is cooked by the owner with recipes that came from his mother. The service is always friendly and the owners are really nice.
Hasbrouck Heights Pizza (Heights Pizza to locals) at 313 Boulevard has been popular since it opened its doors almost a decade ago. Their pizza is so popular that people order it from several towns away and even during the worst storms even Hurricane Sandy, it never closed and was as busy as ever. Everything here is delicious and it is known not just for its regular Cheese Pizza but their Grandma Pizza, their Pepperoni Calzones, Specialty pies and their entrees are excellent and restaurant quality. The place is always busy so the staff and drivers run in and out of the place. The outdoor dining is even popular from early Spring until it gets cold in October.
When arriving back at Williams Avenue, I cross the Boulevard again with Corleone’s Pizzeria in the distance and their well lit tables. Two other businesses have been in town a long time in this series of stores.
Danson Jewelers at 201 Williams Avenue has been in Hasbrouck Heights since the 1980’s and does a nice job on repairs of watches and jewelry and has a nice selection of watches. The service is very friendly and the family that owns it gets to know their regulars.
Another long service merchant who has been assisting residents for years is Heights Specialty Pharmacy (the former BeJay Drug Store) at 450 Boulevard. The staff has been here for years and is helpful to many of our senior residents. The owners wife runs a small gift shop both in the store and a few doors down has a separate shop.
The last merchant I pass on my way home is Jerry’s Barber Shop at 406 Boulevard, which has been here since the 1920’s when Jerry’s father ran the business. Jerry has been cutting my hair since 1988 and is one of the only people I trust to do it correctly. I even waited for trips home from Hawaii, Guam and California when I lived in those places to get my hair cut. A haircut here is still $14.00 and he does an excellent job. I highly recommend him.
Then I round the corner and am on my way home again. For such a small town, Hasbrouck Heights has the most interesting and historic downtown that few residents appreciate when you look at the history and longevity of our merchants. A few long time merchants have closed their doors as they have either retired or COVID-19 has affected the business.
As the State of the New Jersey slowly opens again, I can still walk my entire downtown in the evenings and appreciate the fact that sometimes small town living is not so bad and it is still only twenty minutes and twelve miles to Midtown Manhattan.
This is what walking is all about. Discovering things close to home.
Watch this video on our town and try to locate some of the older homes still standing.
I never thought I would see the day that Manhattan would look like Beirut.
Author Dominick Dunne wrote a book years ago entitled “Another City, Not My Own” about his return to Los Angeles after years of being away. It has been four months since the Membership Night at the Met Breuer and I swear it was almost surreal going back into New York City for the first time in over four months. I felt like I was in exile.
First barely anyone was on the bus into New York. I was one of about seven people on the bus that had to stop in Union City, NJ first before getting into Manhattan. It was strange to see everyone with masks on. It was a real eye opener. I felt like I was entering a different world and you could feel it when we arrived in Port Authority Bus Terminal. I had never seen the terminal so quiet in all my years coming into the City. Even late at night when I used to take the 12:20am or 1:20am buses out of Manhattan, there will still people all over the place at night.
When you get into Port Authority Terminal, there is not a lot of people hanging around anymore. All the stores and restaurants are closed except for a few fast food coffee places as not everything has opened up yet. Coming out of the terminal, there are no longer the crowds hanging out outside the terminal like there used to be. Everyone is on their way to where they have to go.
I started my walk up Eight Avenue past all the bodegas, fast food restaurants and many closed hotels. This stretch of Avenue was very quiet and because of the recent protesting and looting due to the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis, the Theater District was completely fenced off. You could not walk through that section of the neighborhood. There were a few fast food places open for take out and the popular Shake Shack, the upscale hamburger restaurant, was open for take out and going strong with the few tourists and business people in the area.
Some businesses were still closed and boarded up due to the nights of looting the first week of June during the protests. Plywood covered some of the smaller stores and hotels while most everything else was either starting to open up or opened. This was a very different scene from a week ago.
When I arrived at Columbus Circle, my end point for the project on the West Side, Columbus Circle Park has fencing and guard rails around it. They were trying to protect the statue of Christopher Columbus that stands tall atop a pedestal.
Columbus Circle in its better days
All over the county, people are vandalizing statues of what they conceive as ‘controversial’ historical figures and Christopher Columbus seems to now be a major target. The statue, created by artist Gaetano Russo, was donated by Americans of Italian decent and lead by publisher Carlo Barsotti, was dedicated in 1892 on the 400th Anniversary of Columbus arriving in the New World.
Now the statue, fountain and park are behind fencing to keep vandal from defacing the statue. It is a sad day in this Country when people try to ‘erase’ history because they do not agree with it. Trust me, the police were all over Columbus Circle.
The Christopher Columbus Statue at Columbus Circle
It was even stranger as I walked down 59th Street toward Fifth Avenue. All the hotels were boarded up on the lower levels, the apartment buildings had guards inside and out and to see plywood across the Plaza Hotel and the Park Lane Hotel it almost makes me wonder what Leona Hemsley, who once owned the hotel, would say? The guards and the doorman were standing tall in front of the hotels trying to direct people.
Turning the corner to Fifth Avenue was very calming. All over Fifth Avenue merchants were either taking down the plywood or had taken it down by Monday afternoon when I started my walk. Just six days earlier, businesses were scrambling to put the boards up and now they were taking them down. The guards were still there but there was security inside and out in stores up and down Fifth Avenue.
Bergdorf-Goodman with plyboards (has since come down)
The new Nordstrom Department Store that opened on Broadway was just taking the last of their plyboards down when I took a quick on Broadway to see the store. By the time I passed The Plaza Hotel, Bergdorf-Goodman and the Apple Store had either taken their boards down or were just finishing. Walking further down Fifth Avenue, the condition of the shopping area went block by block.
Fifth Avenue boarded up (still up at the time of this writing)
The exclusive stores on one side of St. Patrick’s Cathedral were still boarded up and Saks Fifth Avenue had taken all the plyboards down but still had guards all around the store. Even Rockefeller Center which just five and a half months ago was mobbed with people for the holidays was fenced off with guards and police all around it. You could only see the fountain in the distance.
Fifth Avenue north of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (still up at the time if this writing)
Saks Fifth Avenue had been really closed off with plywood on the doors and windows and barbed wire against the building. Armed guards with watch dogs monitored the store for several days. When I got there on Monday, the guards and dogs were still there but the boards were taken down but the store still looked eerie.
Saks Fifth Avenue boarded up (has since come down)
The guards did not look like anyone’s fools and I walked by quickly on my way down Fifth Avenue to East 44th Street. The Cornell Club which is where I work when I am in Manhattan working on the blog, was closed tight and would not be opening according to the sign until July 1st. Across the street from the club, the headquarters for Brooks Brothers Men’s store, which just declared bankruptcy, was still boarded up tight like that whole section of Madison Avenue. Madison Avenue also was just opening up the afternoon I was in Manhattan.
From East 44th Street, I walked down Fifth Avenue through the old shopping district below East 42nd Street and it was sad to see the old Lord & Taylor building being torn apart for an office building. A company that has been in business since 1826 declared bankruptcy and will be liquidated as soon as stores are allowed to fully open. This was a company that was once one of the best women’s stores in the world reduced to closing because of bad management.
Even Lord & Taylor could not get a break from all this
I rounded the corner at West 34th Street to see Macy’s Herald Square, where I had worked for four years back in the 1990’s when the neighborhood was not that great. The store had just taken the plywood off the store and the windows that were damaged on the night of the looting a week ago had been replaced. There was security and guards all around the store and strangely enough people were eating their lunch in the plaza by Herald Square like nothing had happened a few days earlier.
Macy’s Herald Square boarded up ( has since come down)
I could not believe what I saw on TV the night it was being looted and their were small fires outside the store. I had been working at the store during the Rodney King riots, the first attack on the World Trade Center and the problems in Crown Heights but I never thought I would see anything like this as the neighborhood is far better today then it was back then.
Macy’s the night of the looting a week ago
I never thought I would live to see this at a store I worked at for four years
As I walked by the store filled with colorful displays and ‘reopening soon’ signs you would have never known any of this had just happened a week earlier. People were just walking along the sidewalks like it was a regular day.
My walk continued down Seventh Avenue past the Fashion Institute of Technology, which was all boarded up since the campus is closed for classes and guards were all over the place. Here and there small restaurants and shops had now opened for curve side business and deliveries.
I crossed over to West 23rd Street to Ninth Avenue and again small take out places had reopened and drug stores were buzzing with people. There was a lot of people walking around in the neighborhood, taking to one another or walking their dogs. I walked past Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen which was gated at that time as service ended at 1:00pm and there was newsletters and posts on the fence that dated back to March 13th when the Soup Kitchen closed for business.
I walked up Ninth Avenue and crossed over again onto West 38th Street to where all the reasonable restaurants and take out places who cater to the Garment District are located. Most were closed for business but there were still a few Chinese places still open to the workers in the area.
I walked back into Times Square and took the subway to Chinatown. Now that was unusual. The platform had about four other people on it and it was spotless. There were no homeless people hanging around and the everything was very clean. I took the N Subway downtown and the car was spotless as well. I had never seen such a clean subway car. There was only two of us on the car and he was about ten feet away from me. We got to Chinatown the quickest I ever had in all the time I took the subway. Another eerie thing was all the posters on the walls of the subways were dated back from either February or March. By Chinatown, there is still a poster for a failed Christmas film.
Chinatown in lower Manhattan is usually a bustling neighborhood where you can barely walk the streets because there are so many people on the sidewalks. The sidewalks are usually lined on all sides by fruit and vegetable vendors and people selling prepared foods. I had not seen the neighborhood this quiet ever. Even when I visited Chinatown after 9/11 for my birthday dinner it was not this quiet. Almost all the businesses were still closed.
Mott Street which is the heart of Chinatown was deserted. Most of the popular restaurants and take out places were closed. Wonton Noodle Garden, my go to place for Cantonese Wonton Soup, was just doing take out and delivery. It is hard to believe the last time I had eaten there was March 9th and it was almost empty then.
Most of Mott Street and the side streets were closed for business.
It was strange to walk down a street of closed restaurants and stores. Unlike Little Italy located across Canal Street, they have never closed Mott Street down for outside dining. There were a few restaurants opened here and there and I was surprised that Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Bayard Street was open that afternoon and they looked busy.
I walked all over the neighborhood and one after one of my favorite spots to eat where either closed down or were in the process of opening up again. There were not too many choices to eat at in the late afternoon. Still I walked to Chrystie Street and my old standby, Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street A, for some fried pork and chive dumplings ($2.00). I swear that just cheered my up after everything I saw.
Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street
I sat in Sara Delano Roosevelt Park and just enjoyed the warm sunny day. The food at Chi Dumping House could put a smile on anyone’s face. These plump pork and chive dumplings are perfectly fried and crisp and crackle when you bite into them. With a little hot sauce, it was the perfect meal.
The dumplings here are so good
The people who were walking around seemed happy to be outside and that there was calm in the air. It was a beautiful sunny day and people were sitting and talking, jogging around the park and talking to their kids. There was some normalcy in the world that afternoon.
As I traveled back down Canal Street, I needed something sweet to finish off the meal and everyone one of my favorite bakeries was closed so I tried New Cameron Bakery at 242 Canal Street.
New Cameron Bakery at 242 Canal Street
The selection was pretty small that afternoon and I chose one of their Sweet Topped Buns ($1.35). A couple of bites of that and it really made the afternoon.
The sweet topped bun
Before I took the E Subway back up town to leave the Manhattan, I took a quick stroll through SoHo (South of Houston), which once upon a time when I was growing up was a manufacturing district and then was an artist enclave in the late 70’s and through the 80’s. By the 2000’s, it had become an extremely expensive and exclusive neighborhood. After a night of looting and stealing, the whole neighborhood boarded up.
SoHo boarded up
I had not seen the neighborhood look like this since the 1970’s and I can’t believe it looked the same when I was a kid. I have to admit the graffiti on the plywood was interesting but not something I really wanted to see here now.
This was truly pathetic
It is a sad day when you see human nature at its worst but I am still convinced that there are more good people in this world then bad and I still think we are winning!
I discovered New Li Yuan (Fu Xing) one day after passing it a million times on my way up Seventh Avenue. The restaurant caters mostly to the workers from the surrounding ( and what’s left of) the Garment District. It’s a restaurant that is Chinese for the Chinese workers. Over the last couple of months that I have been eating there, I have noticed that the customers have been diversifying. I see a lot of the young workers from the office buildings near by venturing in for take out and are in search of a reasonable meal.
The front counter is made up of a large steam table loaded with all sorts of entrée items with white rice and noodles available. It is diverse amount dishes including chopped pork…
This amazing little hole in the wall restaurant is a the perfect retreat when visiting the Upper East Side shopping district or fighting the crowds at Bloomingdale’s. Like most of the non-descript Chinese restaurants that line the streets and avenues of Manhattan, Asian 59 stands out for its very friendly service, reasonable prices and excellent food.
When I was finishing my blog on walking the Upper East Side for my other blog, “MywalkinManhattan”, I had passed this restaurant several times and saw that it was very busy at lunch time and thought that last day in the neighborhood I would try it. I was very happy with the whole experience.
The first time I ate at Asian 59 was for lunch. Their lunch specials are extremely reasonable…
East Garden Chinese Restaurant is worth the special trip up the Q subway train or if you are going to the Metropolitan Art Museum and want a quick lunch. Their food is wonderful, perfectly cooked and full of flavor. The best part is that they have lunch specials that start at $5.95 that come with fried rice or white rice (you can add for an extra $1.00 Wonton, Egg Drop or Hot & Sour Soup). Their combination plates run between $8.75-$9.25 and include pork fried rice and an egg roll.
My first trip to the restaurant (See TripAdvisor for my review), I…
When visiting Chinatown in New York City there are many places to get a reasonable snack. This traditional bakery has been around since the 1970’s and before and has been serving Chinese-American sweets to customers for years.
The family that owns the bakery I have found to be very friendly and engaging with their customers as I am sure that they are used to tourists coming in and out of the store. The bakery has seen a lot of competition over the years with a mass opening of Hong Kong style bakeries and bubble tea shops that litter the entire neighborhood with more opening every day selling pretty much the same food items.
What separates Lung Moon Bakery from the other bakeries is their quality and their prices. I have been…
Tao Hong Bakery is a tiny hole in the wall bakery across the street from Sara Delano Roosevelt Park and next to both Chi Dumpling House (79 Chrystie Street) and Wah Fung Number One Fast Food Restaurant (81 Chrystie Street), which makes a nice place for a progressive restaurant experience. You can go to the first two for your appetizer and main dish and then enter Tao Hong Bakery for your dessert. The best part of the experience is that all the desserts are fresh and I watch them bring them out a little at a time (See reviews on TripAdvisor).
The cases are stocked with all sorts of sweet and savory baked items including Hot Dog Buns ($1.00), Pineapple Buns ($1.00) and Raisin Buns ($1.00). All have a distinct sweetness…