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…
With classes being over and having the Summer Break ahead of me, I thought it was time to start exploring more of the Hudson River Valley region and continue my walk around the City. Instead of heading deeper Downtown into the Flatiron District, I also decided start exploring more of the West Side and started in Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton (Days One Hundred and Ninety Ninety-Six and Ninety Seven).
In the middle of exploring the neighborhood, I had an opportunity to leave the City and head upstate to see the Lindsey Webster Band perform at the Bearsville Theater on Saturday, May 22nd. I have written about seeing the band perform at the Woodstock Christmas Parade years ago when I used to spend Christmas in Woodstock from 2014-2017. When I saw the band in concert in December of 2014, I had not realized how huge the second album was going to be and a number one hit would come from it. It was nice to see the band in the very beginning when it was getting well known.
The concert was at the Bearsville Theater at 291 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY, which again I had not been to since the concert in 2014 and that was a very low key but lively concert.
Somehow I got to Hyde Park where I was spending the night, which is my headquarters in the Hudson River Valley when I am visiting the area very quickly. I checked in and dropped my bags off at the hotel before I drove to Woodstock which is about a half hour away over the bridge.
Since I had time before the concert started, I decided to stop at The Little Bear at 295 Tinker Street B, a Chinese restaurant within the complex for some dinner (see review on TripAdvisor). I have been many times when I have been up for a visit during Christmas and the food has gotten more uneven over the years since my first time.
The Little Bear Chinese Restaurant at 295 Tinker Street
The window seats at The Little Bear are the best for views of the woods and stream
I started my meal with the Fried Dumplings and they were fried. They tasted as if someone had deep fried them. They were crisp! They still tasted good but they were really well-done. The Lemon Chicken had a nice sauce but again the chicken breasts were over cooked. The Lemon Sauce was delicious and tasted really good. The Mixed Fried rice was the best part of the meal. It was loaded with all sorts of meats, seafood and vegetables and they make it so good.
The Fried Dumplings at Little Bear
The biggest problem that I have with Little Bear as a restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor) is the service. The family who runs the restaurant always seem so overwhelmed. At Christmas time, it was one of two restaurants that were open in Woodstock and the surrounding areas so it was mobbed and the phone would not stop ringing with take out orders. It was chaos! The people that run the restaurant are really nice but it gets to be too much for them when it is busy.
The Fried Rice at The Little Bear was the best part of the meal
After dinner, put the leftover fried rice in the car and headed over to the concert. This is when the State of New York needs to get their protocols together. I had to take a COVID test to go inside the building because I did not have my vaccine card on me. So I had to spend another $15.00 to be tested (negative of course) again. Thank God I have had all my vaccine shots. The concert started late because a lot of people had to take the test. Still it was worth it as the concert was excellent and the best part was that no one had to wear a mask.
The concert was of course excellent! I had not seen the band play live since 2014 and a lot of good things have happened to them since including a number one song. This is not the concert from that night but the songs you can enjoy just the same.
The Concert has not yet made it to YouTube but this concert from Daryl’s House is close:
The Lindsey Webster Band
What made the concert so special to all of us was not just the excellent vocals and music but it was the first time everyone was allowed to the Bearsville Theater without masks. It was nice to see people dancing and just enjoying themselves. It had been such a long time for everyone. It makes you appreciate life more.
The drive from Woodstock to Hyde Park was not that long and I got one of the best nights sleep in a long time. The hotel was so relaxing after a long drive. What I love about staying up in the Hudson River Valley is the quiet of it all. That and people do not seem that much of a rush (unless you get those City visitors).
The next day I started to explore the surrounding area and visit the small towns that make up the character of the Hudson River Valley. There has been much talk about the “Brooklynization” of the Hudson River Valley and I wanted to see those changes. In retrospect of the towns I visited, it depends on a couple of things: how close is the town to a train station to the City, how closed it is to Route 9, the corridor on both sides of the Hudson and how close to a college is the town.
What I like about so many of these towns is that the classic turn of the last century architecture that makes up the character of these towns. Also how carefully the new owners go to renovating these buildings back to their former glory. Town by town a lot of work has been done to refit these buildings and bring life back to downtowns that may have been forgotten by tourism.
My first stop was Rhinebeck, NY just above Hyde Park about a half hour up Route 9 depending on how fast you drive. Rhinebeck has changed a lot from I went to the Culinary Institute of America in the late 1990’s. It has transformed from a town of local stores and restaurants to a high end town of more expensive stores and restaurants. A lot of the mom & pop stores I remembered and galleries in the first wave of development are now gone. Still it is a very vibrant town with lots of activities.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY is always fun to walk around in
I love to walk around the town and admire the stores. There is such a nice collection of businesses that cater to every taste. I still have my favorites that have been around for a long time and are staples in Downtown Rhinebeck. Many of these can be found on my websites:
The stores I love to visit are Pause Dog Boutique at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3 in the Montgomery Row Shopping Complex. This store formerly of Red Hook carries all sorts of pet products to pamper your pooch with from collars to snacks (see my review on LittleShopOnMainStreet@Wordpress.com). There is a unique merchandising approach to their items that showcases all the things that your dog could desire.
Pause Dog Boutique at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3
Another great store I love to visit is Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street, a wonderful little candy and dessert store (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). I love the way they merchandise the store with all sorts of colors and displays. When I was walking around the store, admiring the shelves of candies and sweets, I eyed a glazed doughnut under one of the glass domes ($2.00) and had to have one. God with was soft, chewy and had a nice sugary glaze. Talk about waking you up!
I walked the Farmer’s Market which is held in the municipal parking lot and I have to say that their wares are much more expensive than the surrounding towns. When a pastry is $5.00 or homemade soap or jelly is over $10.00 you are pricing yourself out of the local market. When I used to stop at the Farmer’s Market in Hyde Park, NY, the prices of everything were very fair. I guess post COVID people are trying to make their money back.
After finishing my walk around Rhinebeck, I drove further north to Red Hook, NY which is a quaint little downtown that I love. What I enjoy about the town of Red Hook is that it is not geared towards tourists as opposed it is a place that locals do their shopping. On a Sunday afternoon, it is really quiet as by the late afternoon a lot of things are closed.
Downtown Red Hook, NY
Check out my blog on Exploring Downtown Red Hook for more information on the town:
One store that was open and I was able to visit was Petals & Moss at 6 East Market Street. This wonderful little flower shop treats its plants and flowers with such respect and they are merchandised like a piece of art. I was talking with the owner and she said that even though she goes into the flower markets to buy things, when in season she will grow flowers in her own year for the store.
Another store I love to visit and it is such a whimsical and well decorated place is Little Pickles at 7505 North Broadway. This delightful little toy and clothing store has everything a child could desire from jars of candy and balloons to wooden toy and experiments to clothing and shoes all in a playhouse environment. It is what you would expect a toy store catering to the Lilliputian set to look like.
Some of my other favorites such as Equis Gallery and Village Pizza III were closed that day but I was able to have another snack at Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop at 7501 North Broadway (right next door to Little Pickles) and I had a jelly doughnut that said to me “buy me”! They know how to make a good doughnut. The jelly was so tangy and the doughnut was soft and fresh. The store has that classic bakery look almost like you are visiting an old General Store.
Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop at 7501 North Broadway
Since a lot of the stores and restaurants were closed that Sunday morning, I headed up Route 9 to Tivoli, NY. Tivoli has a very small but quaint downtown in the middle of an area with large farms. Since visiting a few years ago, more restaurants and shops have opened and there is a good arts representation with the Tivoli Artists Gallery at 60 Broadway.
In the last three years, I have seen a change in the quality of the restaurants and again they have gotten pricey. Creative but pricey. I ate lunch at a local restaurant, Tivoli Broadway Pizza at 49 Broadway. The pizza and the service were really good and it was nice to sit back and relax and read the local paper.
What I love about Tivoli is the charm of the village. It is such a nice little town to walk around and just admire the farms and the woods. You can walk the downtown quickly but it is fun to take your time and let it all soak in.
After leaving Tivoli, it was time to cross the river at the Kingston Bridge and explore the other side of the river. I have written about Kingston , NY many times over the years so it was time to explore other towns. I headed up Route 9 for my next destination, Catskill, NY.
Catskill, NY on the other side of the Hudson River. I had only driven through Catskill about seven years ago when I explored the towns surrounding Rhinebeck and it was the other side of the river that I visited. Downtown Catskill is pretty amazing when it comes to architecture and I can tell that other people think so as well as all the buildings seemed to being snatched up and renovated.
Downtown Catskill, NY
Most of the businesses in Downtown Catskills were closed on a sunday with the exception of a few gift stores and a couple of restaurants. Even walking around the downtown after crossing the bridge there were maybe a handful of people.
The downtown is absolutely beautiful and it was interesting that the urban renewal that hit so many of these towns in the late 60’s and early 70’s did not come to Catskill so all the 19th and early 20th century architecture still dominates the main street.
Weaving in and out of a lot of the stores and provision shops I was most impressed by Cat on the Corner, a tiny store dedicated to everything cats at 362 Main Street. I was impressed by the variety of merchandise starting with items for everyone’s favorite feline to gifts and decorative items for the home.
Among all the objects I found was a magnetic with a lot of dirty words on it that I had to get for my mom (who loves cats) and to spend the $10.00 credit card minimum, I also got her a cat cookie by a local baker from the area, which I thought was really cleaver. She ended up loving both. What I also like about the business is that the owner was helping a lot of small women owned cottage businesses with their wares and I found that good business.
These clever cookies are baked locally
Another business that stood out to me was a Left Bank Ciders at 150 Water Street. What made me walk into the Tap Room was the sign and location. It was down a alleyway and then tucked into an above ground basement area. The inside of the Tap Room was exposed walls and ceilings. The selection of ciders looked terrific as well.
Left Bank Ciders at 150 Water Street’s Tap Room here is so unique
After walking the entire downtown both sides and the local park plus the entire other side of the creek area, I just relaxed by the car. I can tell they are starting to renovate the other side of the creek as well as some of the homes. It will take time to bring life back to this part of the neighborhood.
My last stop was Saugerties, NY, a quirky little downtown right by the Hudson River and again another downtown with a lot of charm and interesting architecture. It had not changed much since I visited and had lunch here seven years ago. The prices of everything have gone up significantly though over the years.
Downtown Saugerties has a interesting vibe
I drove through the downtown last when I went up to Cooperstown, NY back in October for my birthday and saw that there had been changes in several of the buildings. After my trip to Catskill, I made this my final stop of the day.
Before I stopped in downtown to walk around, I made a detour to see the Saugerties Lighthouse at 168 Lighthouse Drive, which I had always seen signs for but never stopped to see. It is nice when you have the time on your hands to detour to all these special places.
I have to say it was a drive off the main road of Route 9 down several hills and winding roads. When you come to the small parking lot, there is not a lot of space to park on a busy day but it was the late afternoon when I got here so it was quiet.
The pathway to the lighthouse is surrounded by woods and flowers and a few streams so in the Spring and Summer months, it is very beautiful to walk down the path. Many flowers were in bloom and it was very colorful. You have to stay on the path though as there is water everywhere.
The lighthouse sits on the end of the path with a small dock on one side and a small beach at low tide. I did not realize that it is being used as a B & B and you should check out the Friends website for details if you want to stay there. The lighthouse was built in 1869 and was decommissioned in 1954. It is an elegant old building with the Hudson River in the backdrop which makes it very impressive. (There are tours available by appointment). After my tour around the lighthouse and park, it was back to downtown.
A slice of pizza at Slices at 71 Partition Street went up to almost $4.00 and an ice cream cone at several places will set you back over $5.00. I know these things are gourmet but not when they are more than New York City prices. The rents must have really gone up over the years. Even my favorite restaurant, Miss Lucy’s Kitchen at 90 Partition Street was more than I remember. Their food was mind-blowing the last time I ate there years ago.
Miss Lucy’s Kitchen at 91 Partition Street was a favorite of mine years ago
I was able to walk the entire downtown and it was also slowly changing as well as buildings were being renovated all over the downtown and homes were getting a facelift. I had never seen so many potted plants and wreaths on doors. A younger crowd was moving downtown with many bars opening and an increase in nightlife that I did not remember on my last few visits.
Before I left that evening, I took a walk down by the river to the Saugerties Village Beach Park at 47 South Partition Street and watched all the kids running around the park and some people actually taking a dip in the water (I thought it was too early). It was so nice to watch the sun shine and sit back under a tree and just watch the world go by. It is such a relaxing park.
Saugerties Village Beach Park at 47 South Partition Street is a the bottom the downtown area
Don’t miss taking a trip to any of these small towns lining the Hudson River. COVID has driven people out of the City and it has brought a new vibe and built on improvements made to these once small manufacturing and shipping towns. New restaurants, art galleries and stores have brought not just new customers but new ideas on ways to reach customers. It is so nice the times of good service and a friendly local atmosphere have not given way in the Amazon era.
There is still a relaxed and creative buzz to these towns that was always there but now being added to with new members of the community. COVID did not kill this spirit in the Hudson River Valley.
*Bloggers Note: In fairness to stores, restaurants and parks I visited on my journey are mentioned below. The others I have added their links so that you all can choose the places you want to go. I will keep adding to this blog with more small towns.
There are times that I just stumble upon a really good restaurant by accident. I found Big Bowls/Little Plates on my Dining program with Mileage Plus and once I tried it I have been coming back ever since. The food and service are just excellent and the atmosphere is downtown ‘hip’.
For a small restaurant in downtown Rutherford, NJ it is so interesting in it’s decor. The use of the exposed brick walls, the Christmas lights on the ceiling and the wooden tables gives it a ‘City Vibe’ with a contemporary twist. The tables are larger made to share the space but in the era of COVID we are kept apart. While most of the orders when I was there both times were take out, it is more fun to…
With classes finally behind me for the term and the Summer break here, it is time to start exploring the West side of Manhattan. I had started the borders of Midtown West/ Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen before Final exams and just finished before we ended the semester (See Day One Hundred and Ninety-Four) and it took time.
The neighborhood which is located next to the Theater District on the other said of Eighth Avenue is a mess. That part of the neighborhood is loaded with closed theaters, hotels and restaurants and loaded with graffiti. You would think the City would have had these business owners clean their buildings on a regular basis.
Day One Hundred and Ninety-Four: Walking the Borders of Midtown West/Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen:
I swear sometimes I never realize the ground I have to cover for this project. I have been walking the streets of Hell’s Kitchen for three days and I am only doing half of the area. That stretch of walking back and forth through the neighborhood from Eighth to Tenth Avenues can be exhausting. This neighborhood is much different from the others I have walked in the past as most of the housing is low level former tenement buildings with a few small apartment buildings on the edges of the neighborhood. It looked like Mayor Bloomberg did not zone this area for much development.
Still block by block each is unique in its own way. Here and there tucked in a corner or on a wall is an interesting piece of street art, a pocket park, a small restaurant or an interesting quirky store and occasionally face stares at you from a building. This part of Midtown West/Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen has what we call ‘character’. Even though it still has that rough look about it, the area has pretty much been fully gentrified.
Those small tenement buildings have been sandblasting back into pristine form and many have small gardens, plantings and artwork incorporated to their entrances. A newer much younger resident has replaced the people who used to call this place “Hell’s Kitchen” and use the more historical name of “Clinton” after the family estate that used to dominate this area of the island before the Civil War. Governor George Clinton called this place home just until after the Civil War when the real changes in the neighborhood happened.
I started my walk on West 43rd Street around the corner from Eighth Avenue. This area has been going through a transition since the Bloomberg Administration rezoned the area and parts of Eighth Avenue have been rebuilt with larger hotels and office buildings. Even though COVID has emptied these areas out for the time being, the whole district around the Port Authority building has become home to more company offices and has started already to return the workers that crowded the streets here.
As I walked each street, they are pretty much lined with older tenement buildings that have been renovated and sandblasted back into more luxurious homes. I can see this in the details such as the fancier gates, the ornate door knobs, the flowering pots and small gardens that are surrounding each home. Here and there are small treasures such as interesting street art and small pocket parks and community gardens. Each block has it own attributes.
As you walk down West 43rd Street from Eighth Avenue you will pass the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center building for the Health Care Worker Association the 1199SEIU at 314 West 43rd Street. On the side of the building is the tile art by artist Anton Refregier that was created in 1970.
The Anton Refregier mosaic at 314 West 43rd Street. This will be demolished soon.
It captures the ideals of the labor movement with the wording saying “If there is no struggle, there is not progress”. Unfortunately this well-known mosaic can’t be moved and the building is scheduled for demolition this year. A copy is being created in the new headquarters to replace it (W42nd Street.nyc , O’Brien 2021).
Artist Anton Refregier was born in Moscow and moved to Paris as a teenager. He immigrated to the United States in 1920. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked for the WPA/FPA as an artist through the Depression and was known for many of his works.
Venturing further down West 43rd Street, I stopped in front of 421 West 43rd Street and admired the embellishments and decorative carvings on the building. The front of the entrance has interesting details around the entrance. The elegant building was built in 1910 (Realty.net).
421 West 43rd Street stands out amongst the smaller tenement
Reaching Tenth Avenue, I travelled back down West 43rd Street and stopped in McCaffrey Playground at 341 West 43rd Street, where groups of families were chasing their small children around the park. I needed to take a break and relax so I sat towards the back of the playground. I must have stood out at 6: 4 with tinted glasses because many of the parents gave me a funny look.
The little oasis of green was named after Monsignor Joseph A. McCaffrey, known as the ‘Bishop of Times Square’, who fought against crime in Times Square. It was at his urging of the City that the land was bought for a park to be developed for neighborhood children. It was one of the many parks built during the Robert Moses era (NYCParks.org). The playground has been renovated many times with modern play equipment and many shade trees for the weary traveller like myself.
Monsignor Joseph A. McCaffrey who the park is named after
I had read online that the Little Pie Company was on this block and I made a B-line to the bakery. The bakery is known for their small five inch individual pies and I wanted to try one.
Little Pie Company is at 424 West 43rd Street
Little Pie Company is located at 424 West 43rd Street and was founded in 1985 by actor Arnold Wilkerson who was inspired by his grandmother’s baking. I have to tell you that the Three Berry pie was delicious (see my review on TripAdvisor) and was reasonable at $9.95.
THe Three Berry Pie at Little Pie Company is terrific
I stopped at the little park down the block and ate my little pie with gusto and ‘MMM ing’ the whole time at the tart sweet taste. Even the pigeons stared at me to get a taste.
After about fifteen minutes of relaxing and getting more stares, I moved on down West 43rd Street and turned the corner of West 44th Street. Much of the block around Eighth Avenue has been rebuilt with modern buildings but still there are many gems tucked here and there.
Being so close to the theater district, I passed two famous studios for actors. First was the New Dramatists building at 424 West 44th Street. The organization is located in the former All People’s Church which was built in the 1880’s in the Gothic Revival style for St. Matthews German Lutheran Church. The New Dramatists are an organization of playwrights founded in 1949. Playwrights serve a seven year residence here as they hone their skills (Wiki).
Further down the street is The Actor’s Studio at 432 West 44th Street, which is world renown as a place for actors to ‘hone their craft’. Founded in 1947 by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford and Bobby Lewis and it known as the home for ‘method acting’ (The Actors Studio History Website).
The Actors Studio at 432 West 44th Street
I was not sure if either organization was open at the time I was in the neighborhood because they both looked so quiet. With the theaters scheduled to open at the end of September (some say closer to December), this will become a much busier block.
Walking back down from Tenth Avenue, I passed a tiny gift shop, Domus-unaffected living at 413 West 44th Street. This quirky little store was closed on my first tour of the neighborhood and I made this my first place to visit when I came the second day (see my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com and on TripAdvisor).
Domus-unaffected living is an interesting little gift and home furnishing store that carries many unique items from handmade throw pillows and table runners to toys, books and games for some lucky child. They carry porcelain from a local artist in the neighborhood to handmade jewelry. The store also supports small female owned manufactures and artists both here in the States and abroad and I thought that was important direction the store was taking. The owner is really nice and spent time with me explaining her business.
There is a little something for everyone at Domus-unaffected living
Walking down West 45th Street was interesting at the blocks between renovated tenements and small restaurants along the Avenue corridors. I was entering the core of the residential section of the neighborhood and was impressed by the pride people took in caring for their homes. Even in the pandemic, people took time to tend to their gardens and showcase their flowers which were blooming all over the neighborhood.
I stopped at Mathews-Palmer Playground at 445 West 45th Street for a quick rest. I am not sure what I am doing when I enter a park but I could see those little stares again as a single man walking into a playground to take a rest. This busy little park stretches from West 45th to West 46th and is extremely busy in the afternoons with families. Kids were running all over the place chasing one another while parents chatted.
The Mathews-Palmer Playground at 445 West 45th Street
The park has all sorts of interesting equipment to play on and the shade trees are really nice as the weather is getting warmer. It is just fun to watch the families interacting with one another even as COVID rolls on.
The park is named after two neighborhood activists May Mathews, who worked and lived in the neighborhood eventually working at the Hartley House as the head social worker until 1954. Alexandra Palmer was a long time resident of West 46th Street who worked tirelessly to maintain the park and work with its upkeep (NYCParks.org).
Behind scaffolding in the park is a well known mural “Against Domestic Colonialism” by artist Arnold Belkin. You could not see it from the park side so I had to look up. The work was finished in 1972 during the time the artist was living in New York City between the late 60’s and early 70’s. It has been deteriorated over the last few decades (Boston.com).
The Arnold Belkin mural “Against Domestic Colonialism” before the scaffolding
Mr. Belkin was born in Canada and started his training at the Vancouver School of Art and continued his training later at the Banff School of Fine Arts. The artist is known for his murals large and small and his work with plastic.
Artist Denise Penizzotto, who is handling the restoration
Ms. Penizzotto is a professional artist with experience in project and arts management both here and abroad. She is currently attending and working at Hunter College in New York and has studied at St. Cloud University.
Another interesting mural in the park that you can see from the playground is the “Kids Project 1991” mural at the front of the park.
The “Kids Project 1991” in Mathew-Palmer Playground
When I entered West 46th Street, most of the street was barricaded off for outdoor dining for “Restaurant Row”, a well-known group of eating establishments that cater to the theater crowd. Many of these were closed at the time I made my first visit to the neighborhood when it was colder but as the weather has gotten nicer the tables have been set up and people are enjoying outdoor dining again. The closed off block is only between Eight and Ninth Avenue.
As I passed through, I stopped to admire the plaque at the Hartley House located at 413 West 46th Street. This important establishment has been helping neighborhood residents since 1897 founded on providing education, volunteerism and charity (Hartley House History).
Tucked behind an alleyway and gate is the only remainder of the old Clinton estate, the old carriage house which is now a private home. You really have to look for this hidden entrance as it is in the middle of two buildings down a narrow alley. It is like a hidden kingdom.
The Clinton Court gate leading back to the old carriage house
The carriage house is said to date back to the 1820’s and may be the last reminder of the old estates that used to be part of this neighborhood before the Civil War. The Clinton family had owned most of the land in this neighborhood (Untapped Cities/Emphemeralnewyork@Wordpress.com). As several bloggers mentioned, you can’t see the carriage house from the street and it is private property.
The old Clinton Carriage House at 420-422 West 46th Street
I finished up the first day of walking the neighborhood exhausted. It had been a hot day and it was a lot walking from West 43rd to West 46th from Eighth to Tenth Avenues after a long day of running around. It was also still getting dark early so I finished the evening here.
I returned a few days later to finish the rest of the streets and this time left plenty of time to really look things over that I might have missed. I started my afternoon by revisiting a restaurant that had been closed for a while in Murray Hill, Hop Won at 149 East 45th Street. It was so nice that the restaurant reopened. I was scared that it had closed permanently.
The family that runs the restaurant looked like they happy to see me on that late afternoon. I had the Combination Roast Duck and Pork plate with white rice with an egg roll (see my review on TripAdvisor) and it was so good. I munched down on that for lunch and that got me through the rest of the afternoon of walking.
Don’t miss Hop Won Express at 149 East 45th Street in Midtown East
I walked from the east side to the west side after lunch and revisited some of the spots that I needed more time at like rewalking restaurant row (it was much busier on this warmer day) and Mathew-Palmer park to take a better look at the restoration after reading up on it.
I then turned the corner onto West 47th Street and came upon another painting outside the restaurant Anejo, a Mexican and Tequila Bar at 668 10th Avenue. It seems that a lot of the restaurants in the City are using artists to decorate the side walls of their restaurants.
As I walked down the street I came across the Actors Temple at 339 West 47th Street. This interesting building was built in 1917 as the West Side Hebrew Association. Because of a dwindling membership, the synagogue now rents out the space for dance, music performances and religious services (The Actors Temple NYCArts.org).
I took a moment to relax and finish my notes at Ramon Aponte Park at 343 West 47th Street, a small pocket park in the middle of the neighborhood. This busy little park had kids running all over the place like many of the parks in the neighborhood while the parents talked amongst themselves.
This wonderful little park was named after Ramon Aponte, who was the former President of the 47th/48th Street Association. When the Police Station that once stood in this spot was knocked down the spot became a vacant lot and stood empty during the high crime years of the City. He and many concerned residents of the Association thought it would make a nice green space for the neighborhood. The park opened in 1979 and it was transferred to the New York Parks system in 1987 (NYCParks.com).
I picked up the pace a bit when I got to West 48th Street. I wanted to make it to West 58th Street before dark and I was spending too much time looking at every building carefully. I was amazed for small tenement buildings that people had done such a nice job fixing them up. I wonder what the residents from thirty and forty years ago who lived in the neighborhood would think of this.
On West 48th Street, I passed the Clinton Community Garden which was closed for visitors because of COVID but I could see the volunteers working inside. The garden was not in full bloom yet from what I could see but it looked very impressive and I will have to revisit it in the future.
The Clinton Community Garden at 434 West 48th Street
When the Clinton Community Garden was started over thirty years ago, it was vacant lot with a lot of illegal activity in a time when the City was falling apart. Volunteers cleaned the plot up and planted the area. When the lot was threatened to be sold, the volunteers from the neighborhood appealed to the City to buy it. It was transferred to the Parks system in 1984 and now is run along with the Clinton Garden non profit. Many special events happen in the Garden during the warmer months (NYCParks.org).
When I reached Tenth Avenue again, I relaxed in Hell’s Kitchen Park which lines Tenth Avenue between West 47th and 48th Streets. This restful park was always busy when I walked in the neighborhood and was a nice place to bring my lunch on several afternoons when I want to rest from a long day under the shade.
Hell’s Kitchen Park is on Tenth Avenue between West 47th and 48th Street
Hell’s Kitchen Park has an interesting history in that it had once been a parking lot. Since there was not a lot of green space in this area of the City since it was developed, the City bought this land which had been condemned at the time and developed into the current park that opened in 1979. Today it is one of the hubs for the neighborhood (NYCParks.org).
When I visited, there was always a pickup game of basketball and the kids populated the park after school. I enjoyed eating my lunch here and watching the families enter the park and have a nice time. It is nice to relax on the benches below the shade trees and nod off.
After my break at the park, I turned the corner again and walked down West 49th Street from Tenth Avenue. As I passed the Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship HIgh School at 439 West 49th Street. On the side of the building, there was another interesting piece of outdoor art by artist Hans Hofmann called ‘Untitled’. The mosaic was created in 1957.
Artist Hans Hofmann was born in Germany and started his career in public service but always leaned towards the creative arts. On encouragement, his studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and the Academie Colarossi in Paris and immersed himself in the Avante-Garde scene. He moved to the States in the thirties to teach and remained in the United States for the rest of his life becoming a citizen in 1941 (Wiki).
Next to the high school was the closed and probably much needed Gutenberg Playground at 420 West 49th Street named after Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of moveable type in printing and was noted for creating the ‘Mazarin Bible’ also known as the ‘Gutenberg Bible’. The playground was built next to the high school in 1958 and was transferred to the NYC Parks Department in 1959. The playground is currently getting an update (NYCParks.org).
Walking back to Eighth Avenue, I had to make another rest stop in the courtyard of the World Wide Plaza Residence at 350 West 50th Street which stretches from West 49th to 50th Streets. It is a nice place to take a break and just relax from the traffic of the City.
In the middle of the courtyard of the building that is open to the public, is the most unusual and beautiful fountain. The fountain called “The Four Seasons” was designed by artist Sidney Simon and each of the four female statutes holds up a globe and represents the four seasons. The statutes were modeled by Molly Ackerman (Wiki).
The World Wide Plaza Fountain “The Four Seasons” by artist Sidney Simon
Sidney Simon was an American born artist from Pennsylvania. He was educated at Carnegie-Mellon and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Fine Arts and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Known as a sculpturist, the fountain at World Wide Plaza was considered one of his most noted works (Wiki).
When I turned the corner onto West 50th Street and walked down the street, I passed the Stella Tower at 425 West 50th Street which was an elegant building in the middle of a neighborhood of small structures. The apartment house was built in 1927 and designed by architect Ralph Walker and was named after his wife, Stella. It is considered a prime example of Pre-War architecture with art deco details (StreetEasy.com/CityRealty.com)
I walked down the rest of the street admiring the small buildings and the array of restaurants that lined the Avenues.
When I started my walk down West 51st Street, I came across the most intriguing and colorful paintings outside ‘ritas Restaurant at 756 Ninth Avenue. The colors are so vibrant and the skull in the middle of the mural is pretty powerful. The reviews on online say that the food is excellent.
The Mural at ‘ritas Restaurant at 756 Ninth Avenue should not be missed
As I walked towards Tenth Avenue, I noticed the beautiful Sacred Heart of Jesus Church at 457 West 51st Street. What an interesting little church. Even though the cornerstone was laid in 1884, there is some debate on when the church was finished and designed by who. The church says it was finished in 1885 and the AIA Guide to New York said it was finished in 1901 and designed by the architects at Napoleon DeBrun & Sons. The church is designed in red brick and terra cotta (Wiki).
Sacred Heart of Jesus Church at 457 West 51st Street
Walking back down the street, I noticed to beautifully detailed buildings that stood out amongst all the others. One was at 330 West 51st and the other was at 306 West 51st Street. They stood out amongst the smaller tenements buildings on the block.
The stone work and carvings of 330-332 West 51st Street was built in 1920 and has interesting archway entrances. The building is an SRO and was just renovated. There is an elegant beauty to it with its faded stone work.
There were also two interesting restaurants that I popped my head into when I was walking around. The Hudson Market Place Deli at 755 Ninth Avenue and another small restaurant that just opened Seguidilla Empanadas at 455 West 51st Street. Both look really nice and are pretty popular in the neighborhood.
Seguidilla Empanada just opened their doors and did this video on YouTube:
The owner welcomes you to his business.
When I walked the neighborhood another afternoon and was traveling the border of the neighborhood I stopped in for a snack. I tried the Chicken Empanada ($2.99) and they were really good. The empanadas were filled with chicken and served it with a pink sauce. They also carry a Dominican soda called ‘Country Club’ and the orange really hit the spot. They have a nice menu.
Turning the corner onto West 52nd, there was a lot to see. At 348 West 52nd Street is an empty carriage house that was in the process of being renovated. The carriage house was built somewhere in the 1870’s by owner, John Newcomb, who ran an auction business. He used this carriage house for his stables for delivery. Since his ownership, the building has had many incarnations up until recently when it was a trendy bar called ‘Therapy’ (Daytonian 2019).
348 West 52nd Street-The John Newcomb Stable now “Therapy”
Outside Crispin’s Restaurant at 764 Tenth Avenue off West 52nd Street is an unusual mural outside the restaurant that I thought was very amusing. This wonderful Italian restaurant I have read has excellent food.
Crispin’s Restaurant mural on West 52nd Street and Tenth Avenue
By this point, I needed a break for dinner myself and I was dying for a hamburger. Lucky for me that I found Lucky’s Famous Burger restaurant at 370 West 52nd Street. This little hole in the wall burger place is excellent. They are also very reasonable. For $12.95, I had one of their combination meals of a Cheeseburger with fries and a large coke. The amount of food I got was a lot.
Lucky’s Famous Burgers at 370 West 52nd Street
The cheeseburger was incredibly juicy and the fresh toppings really made the burger and the fries were cooked to perfection and the portion size was more than generous (please read my review on Tripadvisor).
After dinner was over, I was done for the day. It was getting dark out and I could not see much in the dark. I just could not believe how fast these days went.
When I returned a few days later, the weather finally broke and it was nice outside. It was a breathtaking beautiful sunny afternoon when I arrived in Midtown West/ Hell’s Kitchen again. It was the perfect day to walk around.
I started by walk on the top of West 52rd Street, passing the many businesses I had just visited the other day and then rounded the corner to West 53th Street. Most of the block was non-descrip with the exception of an unusual mural someone spray painted behind a fence at 333 West 53rd Street.
As I rounded the corner onto West 54th Street off Eighth Avenue, I was struck by the beauty of the Saint George Greek Orthodox Church at 307 West 54th Street. This beautiful church was constructed in 1886 and has served many purposes over the years. In the 1950’s, the church took over this spot (Saint George Greek Orthodox Church history)
307 West 54th Street-Saint George Greek Orthodox Church
Further down the block, when I passed 341 West 54th Street, I saw a series of faces staring back at me. I love these buildings with faces all over them. I was in need of something sweet to keep me going with all the walking that I had to do this afternoon, so I stopped at Huascar & Company Bakery at 453 West 54th Street. This tiny bakery is tucked into a corner near a building that is being renovated so it is easy to miss.
Huascar & Company at 453 West 54th Street
Not wanting to have the usual cupcakes and cookies, I saw in a jar a small cookie that the woman behind the counter said was a traditional South American cookie, a Alfagar, a type of sugar cookie with a caramel filling and powdered sugar on top. It was a little expensive at $3.50 but it was delicious and worth the price.
The ‘Alfagar cookie’ at Huascar & Company bakery
After having some refreshments inside me, I walked down West 55th Street and noticed the elegance of the Sherwood Apartments at 340 West 55th Street. The Sherwood was built in 1925 and is a combination of stone and brick and has some stand out balconies. It stands out from the other residences on the blocks between Eighth and Tenth Avenues (StreetEasy.com). It even has a planted roof deck.
When walking down West 56th Street, I noticed that the block had some interesting artwork all along the block in places you would never think. In front of 424 West 56th Street, you are greeted by a purple figure smiling at you. I figured a local artist lives here.
They must have also decorated the fence across the street which has all this unusual stuff attached to the webbing of the fence. It will be hard to keep up when the construction finishes on the site.
This is a portion of the fencing at 310 West 56th Street
Tucked into the public plaza at 330 West 56th Street, there was an unusual bird sculpture located near the entrance but I did not know who made it. It had the strangest shape to it.
Walking through the courtyard of The Sheffield at 322 West 57th Street from the West 56th Street side, I came across the unusual sculpture ‘IKON’ by artist David Hostetler. This strange portrait of a woman made an impression on everyone relaxing in the garden. The sculpture has an unique form and stands out in the courtyard.
The sculpture “IKON” by artist David Hostetler at between West 56th and 57th courtyard of The Sheffield complex
Artist David Hostetler
Artist David Hostetler is an American born artist from Ohio. He graduated with a BA from Indiana University and a MFA from Ohio University. He specialty was wooden and bronze sculpture and known for his ‘feminine’ works (Artist Bio).
When I rounded West 57th Street from Eighth Avenue passing the The Sheffield again I passed another building at 309 West 57th Street. On the outside of the building was a plaque to the composer Bela Bartok.
The plaque dedicated to Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, one most influential composers of the 20th Century. Mr. Bartok was born in Hungary and studied at Royal Academy of Music in Budapest and studied under many well known composers. He migrated to the United States in 1940 with his wife when he refused to recognize the Nazi regime. He remained in New York for the rest of his life working for Columbia University
When I walked along West 58th Street again, I noticed that a lot of the restaurants and stores had closed during the era of COVID. This part of the City has really taken a hit with the lack of tourists and office workers. There is only so much the local residents can support. I walked towards the back of the Time Warner Building and walked past the back entrance to the Time Warner Building and I noticed a piece of street art that I had not noticed on my last few trips in the neighborhood. That statue is called “Asaf and Yo’oh” by artist Boaz Vaadia and is tucked into the entrance of the building at 25 Columbus Circle-1 Central Park West.
The artist was born in Israel and came from a farming background. He studied at the Avni Institute of Fine Arts in Tel Aviv and was sent to the United States on a grant from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation and then studied at Pratt. His works are made of varies mediums of stone (Artist Bio).
It was surprising how quiet the hotel looked as the Mandarin Hotel was one of the few uptown hotels that are still open during the pandemic. No one was around so it gave me a chance to peak inside the building which looked empty. With most people still working from home I did not expect to see a lot but the area is getting busier.
I ended my walk on the last afternoon at 57 Taco Express for lunch. I was in the mood for a Cheese and Chicken Quesadilla ($5.99) and ordered one and took it down to Hell’s Kitchen Park for lunch. It was nice to just sit back and relax and watch the world go by. The quesadilla was pretty good. It was nice to eat it in a sunny park under the trees watching everyone have a great time around me. Some people have not let the pandemic totally control their life.
Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen offers so much so take time to stroll each street and take it all in.
With the College in Summer recess, its full steam ahead!
I ordinarly try a restaurant a few times before I recommend it for this site but this evening I had the most amazing sandwich for dinner and I had to share this with the world.
Banh Mi Place at 824B Washington Avenue
I was at this tiny sandwich shop in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Banh Mi Place at 824B Washington Avenue ordering a sandwich before an event at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I was in the mood for something different for dinner so I ordered the Classic Sandwich which is pate, Vietnamese ham, roasted ground pork with mayo, cucumbers, julienne carrots and daikon radish and cilantro and it was served on a toasted French baguette.
I finally got back to the West Side of the Island since before the Christmas holidays of 2019. I could not believe it had that long since I had visited that part Island. Like the rest of Manhattan, this area just keeps changing. COVID has changed the rest of the country but in New York City, it has shuttered and changed whole neighborhoods.
Unlike the Midtown South neighborhood that had been built as Midtown business district during the “City Beautiful Era” of cities between the Civil War and WWI with its classic Beaux Arts and French Renaissance style buildings, Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton was filled with tenements and smaller commercial buildings that catered to the working class living there who were employed in the factories and the docks in Chelsea and the Garment District. Up until the early 1990’s, this was still a pretty tough area. As the City has gentrified, this is one of the last frontiers for people to move into reasonably. Up until COVID hit the City, the area had been fully gentrified and the corridors of Ninth and Tenth Avenues had become ‘restaurant rows’ for the theater district . Now Tenth Avenue is retrenching with a lot of empty storefronts.
I started my walk at the Port Authority which is the southern part of the neighborhood. This is the main port of transportation for thousands of workers from New Jersey and in pre-COVID times, this area was filled with active restaurants and theaters. Things have opened back up slowly but most of the restaurants for now closed. The 42nd Street Corridor from Eight to Sixth Avenue has not fully recovered from the lost of the Theater traffic. As I walked up Eight Avenue from West 42nd to 59th Streets, some restaurants were fully opened and some were take out and delivery so the foot traffic was pretty quiet that day. Even some of the hotels have not opened back up for business. This area has been hit very badly since the closure of the Theater District.
Since Midtown West had been rezoned eight years ago, the area is in the process of being knocked down and rebuilt with new office buildings and apartment houses. The area around Eight Avenue from West 42nd to 50th Streets has changed a lot in the last ten years. COVID has closed most of the restaurants on the street as well. Looking on the side streets many of the theaters in the Theater District are either chained closed or boarded up with the hotels in the neighborhood. It can be a scary ghost town at night.
The area has had an interesting past. During Colonization by the Dutch, the neighborhood was known as “Great Kill” due to three streams that used to empty into the Hudson River and was home to many large farms and estates of the wealthy . The area was dominated by family names such as Hopper and Clinton, the latter being the former Vice-President and New York State Governor George Clinton, whose family owned a villa around where present West 46th Street is now. All that is left of that part of the neighborhood’s history is the carriage house from the estate in an alleyway at 422 West 46th Street (Wiki).
Former Vice-President and New York Governor George Clinton
In 1849, the railroad reached the neighborhood and it started to form its Industrial stage with tanneries and docks being built along the shore and shanty towns for workers forming along the waterfront. Later tenements were built to house the workers of the industries filling with recent Irish immigrants after the Civil War and the area had a notorious reputation for gang violence until gentrification started in the 1980’s. The neighborhood has been transforming since that time with new construction along the West 42nd to 59th corridor along Eighth Avenue (Wiki).
The area is still in a state of transformation even during the Global Pandemic. Many of the restaurants around the neighborhood have closed partially due to the closing of Broadway theaters that dominate the neighborhood and the empty office buildings that line Eighth Avenue. The ‘Theater District’ that lies just east of the neighborhood is still mostly boarded up as well as the hotels are still all closed. It makes it spooky at night to walk through almost similar to those years in the 1980’s and early 1990’s when you had to run down Eighth Avenue to get to the Port Authority.
The edges of this neighborhood have changed a lot in the past twenty years. Between the redevelopment of the area under the Koch and Giuliani Administrations and the rezoning under the Bloomberg Administration, the Eighth Avenue corridor and streets from West 40th to 45th have all been rebuilt. I have never seen so much change in an area in the last twenty years.
Pre-COVID the Port Authority between West 42nd to West 41st Streets from Eighth to Ninth Avenues was going through a face-life renovation and the facility started to move out all the older stores and restaurants for higher end takeout places and an art gallery. It looks now that it has been put on hold until people start to return.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal at 625 Eighth Avenue
Since I returned to Manhattan to resume this project last June, the traffic going through the Port Authority has not changed much even though there are more people on the bus. The afternoon I came into the City it was sunny and 66 degrees. More outdoor dining was in play and more people were outside enjoying the weather.
I started my walk exiting the Port Authority at the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 42nd Street, a corner that still needs a lot of work. Pre-COVID this was a bustling area of theaters, shops and restaurants and one of the biggest McDonald’s in the country. Most of it is closed down now and the homeless have taken back over this area. Surprisingly though, it still remains clean a result of the Partnerships established in the mid-1990’s. This area is swept all day long.
As I walked along the eastern border of Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton, there is a distinct change in the area. Even if many of the hotels and theaters are closed, slowly the restaurants in the Theater District have reopened to outdoor dining giving this area a much needed boost.
One of the most interesting buildings in the Times Square area is the Westin New York at Times Square at 270 West 43rd Street which stretches from West 42nd to West 43rd along Eighth Avenue. This hotel (which is currently closed during COVID) was considered one of the most innovative designed buildings in New York City when it was built.
Westin New York at Times Square at 270 West 43rd Street
The hotel was so innovative at the time when it was built and was considered a key in the redevelopment of the West 42nd Street district. The hotel was commissioned by the architectural firm of Arquitectonica to design the building. The 863 room hotel is actually two towers merged together with a ten story midsection for retail and hotel suites. The large scale abstract design has the look of a multi-dimensional gigantic origami (Arquitectonica website). The building was designed by HKS architects and was finished in 2002.
Further up Eight Avenue is the well-known Row NYC Hotel at 700 Eighth Avenue. This hotel opened in 1928 as the Hotel Lincoln and was the largest hotel in Manhattan when it opened with 1331 rooms. In 1957, the hotel was sold and remodeled and open again as The Hotel Manhattan. It was closed in the 1960’s as the rest of the area declined. It reopened again as the Milford Plaza Hotel in 1978 and was a big theater going hotel. In 2013, the hotel was sold once again and went through another renovation and opened as the currently Row NYC Hotel (Wiki).
Passing now closed hotels and restaurants that line this part of Eighth Avenue that border the theater district, I passed the now closed Smith’s Bar, which has been a fixture in Times Square for over sixty years opening in 1954. The bar had been sold to new owners in 2009 and then closed in 2014 to reopen a year later. The bar is now closed again due to the COVID pandemic.
This bar has seen Times Square go through a major transition over the years and was once located in one of the worst areas during the 1990’s. It survived all of that and closed a few months ago due to the COVID pandemic.
Further up the avenue on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 46th Street is the West 46th Street SRO. This interesting building that I thought was an elegant Victorian is actually a combination of three former tenement buildings and two residences to make one building. Architects Oaklander, Coogan & Vitto PC created this interesting building with an additional shared floor topped with a mansard roof and tower. It used to house many trendy restaurants and bars but since the pandemic has been empty (OCV Architects PC).
I reached West 48th Street and I passed Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9, which I used to pass all the time when I worked down the road at the Java Shop on the corner of Broadway and West 46th Street at 782 Eighth Avenue. These companies were hit hard a year after I left my job on 9/11 when the Brothers of this house lost 15 members that day, their entire shift. The memorial they have to their members is really touching and the guys that work there always seem so friendly to all the tourists that pass by.
Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9 at 782 Eighth Avenue
Pay respects to the Engine 54/Ladder 4 Memorial on the front of the building
I made a detour back to West 55th Street for lunch. I stopped at Stage Star Deli at 105 West 55th Street for a sandwich before I continued the walk around the neighborhood. The deli is so reasonable and has so many choices (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
Stage Star Deli at 105 West 55th Street
I chose a Chicken Salad sandwich with Pesto combination lunch ($8.95) which was excellent. The chicken salad was so fresh and the pesto had such a nice flavor. The sandwich was served on a hero roll and could have fed two people. The food here is consistent and excellent.
The Chicken Salad with Pesto here is excellent
After lunch I headed down the road to Myzel Chocolate at 140 West 55th for dessert. I had not been there in over a year since the shutdown of the City last March. I had to have one of their Chocolate Chip cookies and they still had Cadbury Creme Eggs from Easter (See reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). I was shocked when the bill came to $4.10. For a cookie and a piece of candy that must have been a month old?
Myzel’s Chocolate at 140 West 55th Street
I talked with the owner, Mrs. Myzel and she was talking about the lack of business since the shut down and all the problems the City was facing with the homeless and the lack of office workers. I told her it would be about a year until things started to get to the new normal. Still the store had so much of its magic to it with all the decorations and displays. It is a store to visit to forget your troubles.
Mrs. Myzel greets all her customers with a smile
I double backed to Eighth Avenue after lunch and walked up the avenue to West 59th Street. As I continued up Eighth Avenue and circled Columbus Circle, I saw the familiar sites of the statue of Christopher Columbus and the Time-Warner Complex in the background. It has been almost two years since I finished the Upper West Side of Manhattan and even as I walk those streets again I always feel like I missed something. In the era of COVID, it keeps changing so much.
Columbus Circle has changed over the last twenty years
Columbus Circle was always busy day and night with street vendors, bicyclists, performers and just people sitting and reading or enjoying the weather and people watching on a warm day. Now because of the ‘Cancel Culture’ crowd dominating the headlines and the idiots knocking down statues, the area is fenced off with police cars around it. It used to be such a nice area to sit down and talk.
The 76 foot statue was designed by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo as part of a plan to honor Columbus’s discovery of the Americas as part of the 1892 commemoration of the 400 year anniversary of the event. If you look closely at the pillar, you will see the reliefs of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria ships on the memorial (Columbus Memorial and Wiki).
Columbus Circle itself was part of the great plan of Central Park in 1857 by Fredrick Law Olmsted, the designer of many parks in New York City as having four rotary entrances to the park. The other rotary in the neighborhood is Grand Army Plaza by The Plaza Hotel.
The Time Warner Center on the other side of the circle represents the massive change in the Upper West Side from a liberal working class area to the new luxury of Manhattan. The Time Warner Center is a mixed use building containing office space, the Mandarin Hotel, many exclusive restaurants and shops and entertainment. The building was designed by David Childs and Mustafa Kemel Abadan of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. This modern palace of luxury replaced the old New York Coliseum and opened in 2003 (Wiki). Don’t miss just wondering around the building.
On the other side of the Circle is the new Museum of Art & Design that opened in 2008. The building was the former home of the Gallery of Modern Art designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1969. The building was modernized by architect Brad Cloepfil (Wiki) and the museum shows interesting aspects of art from media, video, painting and photography.
Museum of Art and Design at 2 Columbus Circle
As I crossed the street, the neighborhood is full of Post War architecture but one building stands out with its modern twist. The Hearst Tower at 300 West 57th Street.
The first six floors of the original Hearst Tower were built in 1928 by architect Joseph Urban for the headquarters of the Hearst publishing empire. The building was originally supposed to have an office tower on top but the Great Depression put a stop to the construction. Take a look at the statuary, stone work and details of the original building before admiring the new addition (Wiki).
Admire the detail work of the original 1928 building
Architect Norman Foster designed the 46 story addition to the building which was completed in 2006. The addition of glass and steel is designed in the ‘Diagrid’ pattern and was the first ‘green building’ with environmental features in New York City (Wiki).
I then walked across that street to the Time Warner Building right off the subway station under Columbus Circle (it is amazing where they put this stuff) to the food court in the subway station. The Turnstyle Underground Market is located at the West 59th Street entrance at the Time-Warner Building. Just take the escalator down.
The Turnstyle Underground is in the subway station at the Time Warner Building at 59 Columbus Circle
The food court market had just reopened a few months ago and the place was more than half empty. All the great little restaurants that were independently owned were gone. VIctims to the COVID pandemic and the lack of tourists and office workers. I had read that my favorite, Daa Dumplings had closed about four or five months ago due to lack of traffic (See Day One Hundred and Fifty-Walking the Borders of Central Park South):
If I saw four people sitting down there, it was a lot. Most of the restaurants were empty and almost all the small stores were gone as well. Even the bar that was so popular at the end of the food court and the small independent pizzeria were shut down. It was really spooky because just a year and a half earlier your could not get a seat here.
I walked towards the back of the Time Warner Building and walked past the back entrance to the Time Warner Building and I noticed a piece of street art that I had not noticed on my last few trips in the neighborhood. That statue is called “Asaf and Yo’oh” by artist Boaz Vaadia and is tucked into the entrance of the building at 25 Columbus Circle-1 Central Park West.
The artist was born in Israel and came from a farming background. He studied at the Avni Institute of Fine Arts in Tel Aviv and was sent to the United States on a grant from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation and then studied at Pratt. His works are made of varies mediums of stone (Artist Bio).
It was surprising how quiet the hotel looked as the Mandarin Hotel was one of the few uptown hotels that are still open during the pandemic. No one was around so it gave me a chance to peak inside the building which looked empty. With most people still working from home I did not expect to see a lot.
West 59th and 58th Streets are disrupted in their flow by the Time Warner Building and I continued my walk across West 58th Street and then crossed back over to West 59th behind the complex. This area of the City was part of major urban renewal project back in the 1960’s when the Lincoln Center complex and the Colleges were built so most of the construction up here is new or been updated. I have seen a lot of changes since I walked this neighborhood in when walking the area in 2018 (See Day One Hundred and Twenty-Five-MywalkinManhattan).
Day One Hundred and Twenty-Five: Walking the Streets of the lower part of the Upper West Side:
Still here and there are gems of architecture from another era. Walking down West 59th Street there are still structures that survived urban renewal of the area. I passed the the Parish House of the Church of St. Paul at 415 West 59th Street. The building was built in the late Victorian Gothic Revival style by architects Jeremy O’Rourke and the Rev. George Deshon between 1876 to 1884. The structure was construction used stones from various historical buildings (Church of St. Paul and Wiki).
The Parish House of the Church of St. Paul at 415 West 59th Street
The other building not to miss is the Williams J. Syms Operating Theater at 338 West 59th Street right behind the Time-Warner Complex. It was built in 1892 as a medical hospital and is the last remaining piece of the old Roosevelt Hospital by architects William Wheeler Smith and surgeon Charles McBurney. Made with marble and mosaic floors as not to harbor bacteria, it was considered state of the art when it opened. It is now being renovated for a school (Wiki and HDR Org).
Turning the corner on West 59th 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
The walk down Tenth Avenue was very different from other neighborhoods I had been recently. NoMAD, Rose Hill and Kips Bay were filled with historical architecture and embellished office buildings while this part of Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen is filled with tenement housing, small theaters and restaurants. Unlike Ninth Avenue with its vibrant restaurant scene, Tenth Avenue is full of empty storefronts and closed restaurants with ‘For Rent’ signs. This is a sign of the times during the era of COVID.
One of the few patches of green in the neighborhood is the Hell’s Kitchen Park at thew corner at Tenth Avenue and West 48th Street. This park was created from a parking lot in 1966 when the neighborhood demanded green space for residents who lived here (NYCParks.org). The park was packed with families and kids playing basketball and running around the playground.
Hell’s Kitchen Playground at Tenth Avenue and West 48th Street
It was strange to be in a neighborhood with such small buildings. Not just small buildings but so many ‘For Rent’ signs on the windows. I know this neighborhood will bounce back to the vibrant place it once was but it will take time. The traffic changed again when I got to West 42nd Street. There were most people walking around the streets.
A lot of the businesses on West 42nd Street heading back to the Port Authority have started opening up again. Sidewalk cafes were out with the warmer weather and customers were milling around.
One of my favorite Chinese restaurants from the 1990’s, Ollies at 411 West 42nd Street had not just opened their dining room but their outside cafe dining. Ollies had once been a popular restaurant in the Theater district at the corner of West 46th Street off Broadway and one of my favorite places to eat after work. It is still popular but the chef has since changed.
One building that stood out amongst the smaller tenement buildings of West 42nd Street was the Holy Cross Church at 329 West 42nd Street, which was decorated by plantings of many flowers that gave it a festive appearance.
The building has a interesting history. The parish was established in 1852 and the original building was built in 1852 but it was outgrown so a new building was built in 1854. This building was hit by lightning in 1867 and the current building was built in the same spot in 1870. It was built by architect Henry Englebert and is the oldest building on 42nd Street (Wiki and Holy Cross History).
Once I got back to Port Authority is was back for a bathroom break as there are not many public toilets in the neighborhood. Then I made the walk around the second time around the perimeter admiring the buildings and businesses for a second time. I could see by the traffic that the east side of Eighth Avenue was very quiet near the now closed theaters. This area was hit hard by COVID pandemic and it is rumored that Broadway theaters should open between September and December (we all hope) and the district will once again open.
When I reached West 58th again, I stopped at Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street for a quick slice. The pizza was pretty good and it was a nice sized slice of pizza. I had passed the place for years but never went into so it was another dining adventure (see review on TripAdvisor).
After my snack, I continued the walk back down Tenth Avenue and stopped in Hell’s Kitchen Park to take some more notes. I swear the park got busier since visiting a few hours before. I made the turn on West 42nd Street and decided to walk up the length of Ninth Avenue and explore the Avenues of the neighborhood as well.
Just like Tenth Avenue, Ninth Avenue is filled with smaller tenement buildings, restaurants and small theaters and shops but being the heart of the Gay community, Ninth Avenue is much more vibrant. Most of the restaurants and outdoor cafes were filled the afternoon I visited the neighborhood. Being later in the evening, many people filled the bars and tables of the establishments and I noticed how many people were on top of each other and were not wearing masks. I thought this is a recipe for disaster but still it has a very vibrant restaurant scene.
In the midst of all the restaurants and bars on Ninth Avenue, there were only two that I have tried, Mom’s Kitchen & Bar at 701 Ninth Avenue for breakfast a few years before and Saccio Pizza at 819 Ninth Avenue for pizza one afternoon and it was pretty good.
Mom’s Kitchen & Bar at 701 Ninth Avenue
Sacco Pizza at 819 Ninth Avenue
The one thing I remember about eating at Mom’s Kitchen & Bar that morning was the unusual menu they had for brunch. A friend and I shared an order of their Fruity Pebble Pancakes and their Mac & Cheese Pancakes and they were strange combinations but really tasted good especially the Mac & Cheese Pancakes with a honey syrup. It was an interesting breakfast.
The Mac & Cheese Pancakes at Mom’s Kitchen & Bar are amazing
This is a neighborhood in a big transition now that the theaters are closed but I know brighter days are ahead as things open up soon. With the warmer weather and more vaccine coming, it will revert back to the neighborhood it was becoming. You can see this on a busy night at dinner time with restaurants filling up and people walking around with and without masks.
I am still wearing my mask around the City for now.
The weather has finally started to break and it is getting warmer out. It has made it better to do my walks in the City. It figured though I would start my walk on the Avenues of Koreatown/Midtown South/NoNaNe on the coldest day of the week. Even though it was a sunny day the wind whipped through the neighborhood. It was Mother Nature letting me know that it was still winter.
The City was quiet on the afternoon that I came in to finish walking the Avenues of Koreatown/Midtown South/NoNaNe. Even Macy’s seemed quiet when I walked through the store to get from Seventh Avenue to Broadway. I needed to warm up before my walk and I wanted to see if the store was going to prepare for the Annual Flower Show during COVID. I am sure that they will cancel it.
I started my day walking Fifth Avenue from East 34th to East 30th Streets. This is where the most elegant of the Beaux Arts buildings are located. In the midst of all this rebuilding in Midtown, it is Fifth Avenue that has kept its historic architecture. Some of the most beautiful buildings in the neighborhood are located on Fifth Avenue.
Walking down from East 34th Street, I looked up and saw the first of several beautiful buildings at 344 Fifth Avenue. This elegant office building was finished in 1907 and was designed by architects Maynicke & Franke in the Beaux Arts style with large display windows on the bottom and details along the middle and edges of the building (Metro Manhattan).
344 Fifth Avenue
Next to this building is another interesting building that stands out amongst its taller neighbors at 335-399 Fifth Avenue and East 33rd Street is the former A.T. Demarest & Company building. I could tell by its design that it had more of a purpose at one time than being home to a grouping of fast food restaurants.
335-339 Fifth Avenue-The A. T. Demarest Building
The building was designed by architects Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell in the Renaissance Revival style with a terra cotta exterior details and large bay windows of a building that showcased the firm’s business in carriages and the dawn of the automotive industry (Daytonian). Look up at the edges of the room for the interesting details of the building.
At the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 32nd Street is 320 Fifth Avenue, the former Reed & Barton Building. Known more now for the CVS at the bottom of the building in the retail space, the former headquarters and showroom of the famous jeweler was built in 1905 by architect Robert Maynicke in the Beaux Art style. You can see by the intricate detail of the top and edges of the building the festoons, wreaths and columns of the building. The company would remain here until 1921 when like the rest of the shopping district moved to upper Fifth Avenue where it remains today (Daytonian/StreetEasy/42 Floors Up).
320 Fifth Avenue-The Reed & Barton Building
As I continued my walk down Fifth Avenue, there were several other interesting buildings tucked in between the new construction taking place all over this part of the neighborhood. At 315 Fifth Avenue and East 32nd Street is another intriguing building not just for its beauty but for the shape of the design.
315 Fifth Avenue-The Rock Building
The building is known as “The Rock Building” and was built in 1907 for owner Mathias Rock, a local merchant and tailor who made a fortune in his trade and had this building built for his business. The architects for the building were Maynicke & Franke and the building was a hybrid of French Classical and Beaux Arts trim with cast iron show windows and heavy decoration are the room and around the top windows (Daytonian). The beauty of this building is that it is tall and narrow and the way it fits into its space on Fifth Avenue.
I noticed the beauty of 303 Fifth Avenue on the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 31st Street. This interesting building was designed by architect Buchman & Fox in the Beaux Arts style and was built in 1909. Known as the ‘Jewelry Building’, it has been home to many prominent retailers in the past such as FAO Schwarz and now serves as office and retail space (MetroManhattan).
303 Fifth Avenue-The Jewelry Building
On the border of Koreatown/Midtown South with NoMad/Rose Hill is the The Wilbraham Building at 284 Fifth Avenue. Its old charm beauty really stands out. Most of the buildings on 30th Street were non-descriptive. The Wilbraham Building, a beautiful Victorian building built between 1888-90 that was commissioned by jeweler William Moir. The building was designed by architect D. & J. Jardine in the Romanesque Revival style. The building has been home to Shalom Brothers Rugs for many years (StreetEasy.com).
284 Fifth Avenue at East 30th Street-The Wilbraham
As I made my way back up Fifth Avenue and studying the history of the area, I never realized how this part of Fifth Avenue once mirrored the same shopping district twenty five blocks up the avenue. Since the 1990’s, most of these companies have since gone out of business but remembered by us who used to shop there in the 1970’s and 80’s.
Reaching the border of Koreatown/Midtown East/Murray Hill is the former B. Altman Department Store that closed in 1989 and in the other corner is the Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world.
The B. Altman Building at 361 Fifth Avenue was built by Benjamin Altman for the new location for his ‘carriage trade’ store. The store was designed by architects Trowbridge & Livingston in the “Italian Renaissance Style” in 1906. The palatial store was home to couture clothing, fine furniture and expensive art work.
The former B. Altman Department Store at 361 Fifth Avenue
Still the most amazing building in the neighborhood is the Empire State Building on the corner of Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets. It’s the most impressive and well known building in the neighborhood is the former tallest building in the world at 102 floors, the Empire State Building at 2-20 West 34th Street.
The Empire State Building is probably the most famous building in New York City outside of maybe Rockefeller Center and one of the most prominent. The building sits on the side of the former Astor Mansion and the first Waldorf-Astoria Hotel before the current one was built in the 1930’s on Park Avenue. The building was designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon in 1930 (Wiki).
The Empire State Building was inspired during the “Race to the Sky” movement in New York City during the 1920’s prosperity with builders vying for the “World’s Tallest Building” title. This was going on in cities all over the US at a time of great innovation in building. The building was conceived in 1929 long before the Stock Market Crash of 1929 as 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building were being constructed (Wiki).
As the shopping district left Sixth Avenue below 23rd Street, the former “Ladies Shopping Mile” (read my Victorian Christmas Blog on the shopping district) gave way to stores opening between 34th Street to 42nd Street and eventually to the Fifth Avenue locations between 50th and 60th Streets where what is left of the great stores stand today.
My blog on the Ladies Shopping Mile and a “Victorian Christmas”:
Across the street from the old B. Altman’s building is another impressive building also under scaffolding 10 East 34th Street, The Ditson Building. The impressive building with it intricate details was built in 1906 and designed by architects Townsend, Steinle & Haskell in the Beaux-Arts style for Charles H. Ditson. Mr. Ditson ran the New York division of his family’s company, Charles H. Ditson & Company, a publisher and musical concern (Daytonian).
10 East 34th Street-The Ditson Building
Madison Avenue below East 34th Street changes from its more ’boutique’ image from above East 42nd Street. Like the rest of the neighborhood, this area is ‘in transition’ during the pandemic. I have never seen so much renovation and building going on in one neighborhood. Still you have your ‘architectural gems’ tucked here and there in the neighborhood.
On of the most beautiful and innovative at the time it was built is 181 Madison Avenue on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 34th Street, the Madison Belmont Building.
I walked past the grill work of this interesting office building. The Madison Belmont Building at 181 Madison Avenue was built in 1924 and designed by architects Warren & Wetmore in the Renaissance style with Art Deco details for the Cheney Brothers Silk Company (Wiki/NewYorkArchitecture).
“The Madison Belmont Building” at 181 Madison Avenue
Look up at the interesting grill work and details of the building
Further down Madison Avenue hidden under all the scaffolding is the American Academy of Dramatic Arts Building, the former “Colony Club” at Madison Avenue at 120 Madison Avenue. This very ‘Colonial’ building was built in 1907 and designed by architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White.
The club had been founded in 1903 by Florence Jaffray Harriman creating a club that would rival private Men’s clubs at that time (Wiki/Daytonian). In 1917 the club relocated to its new home on Park Avenue and in 1963 was bought for the home of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It is currently going under an extensive renovation (Wiki/Daytonian).
120 Madison Avenue-The American Academy of Dramatic Arts Building/The Colony Club
Up and down the rest of this part of Madison Avenue is filled with a hodgepodge of new and old architecture as this part of the neighborhood is transforming to newer buildings.
I made my way around to Park Avenue and here like Madison Avenue is made up of many newer buildings and a lot of recent building has been going on. One building did stand out which itself is going through a renovation is 4 Park Avenue. This stately building was once the Vanderbilt Hotel.
4 Park Avenue-The former Vanderbilt Hotel
The hotel was built in 1912 by Albert Gwynne Vanderbilt and designed by architects Warren & Westmore who had designed Grand Central Terminal for the Vanderbilt family. Mr. Vanderbilt had wanted a luxury hotel built near the terminal and it is located six blocks away. The hotel was designed in the British Adams style with clean lines and a brick face. It remained a hotel until after the 1964 World’s Fair and then was sold and converted into a office building (Daytonian).
Most of the neighborhood was relatively newer buildings either soaring corporate headquarter types or apartment buildings in an ever growing residential neighborhood. It was in front of 475 Park Avenue that I saw a piece of art that just stood out. The piece was “Triad” by artist Irving Marantz. The statue was inspired by Picasso’s “The Three Musicians” (ArtNet).
“Triad” by artist Irving Marantz
Mr. Marantz studied at the Art Student League and graduated from the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art. He served at the Director of the Princetown Art Association and Museum and taught at the Brooklyn Museum Art School (ArtNet/American Art).
The afternoon grew cooler and I finished my walk of the Avenues of Koreatown/Midtown South with lunch with a little hole in the wall dumpling restaurant in the Garment District. Stick to my Pot Potstickers is at 224 West 35th Street. The food is so good here and made nicer by the fact that you can eat inside. I would never thought that eating inside would be such a big deal but in the era of COVID it has become so.
I love the restaurant’s logo
The dumplings here are so good! They are freshly made on premises and are loaded with freshly ground pork, chives and spices and are pan-fried perfectly ($3.99). Crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Dipped in their spicy soy sauce were perfect on a cool afternoon. Their scallion pancakes were delicious as well ($2.99). Just eating at the bar and relaxing after a long walk meant so much. I forgot how much fun it was to eat INSIDE a restaurant again.
The dumplings here are excellent
Exploring the neighborhood was interesting and good exercise. Its a nice way to spend the afternoon.
My time walking around the neighborhood of Koreatown/Midtown South/NoNaNe:
Walking the Borders of the Koreatown/Midtown South/NoNaNe:
I came across Stick to my Pot Potstickers, a little hole in the wall in the Garment District, when I found it on my Mileage Plus Dining club. I must have passed it hundreds of times without noticing it but in the last week I have come twice. I have been very impressed by the quality of the food and the service.
The restaurant logo is so pleasant
What is also nice is the prices are very reasonable and the portion sizes are very fair. It is nice to be able to eat inside again since they lifted the dining rules in New York City. The restaurant has a long bar instead of tables and they keep all the customers socially distanced…
Well, Christmas is finally officially over for me. It was one for the books. The holiday season just came and went without much fanfare or activities. Nothing like last year which was a lot of running around visiting decorated homes or running to the next cocktail party or dinner. Those things just did not exist this year. This season was all about the outside walking tours and small get togethers.
The whole holiday season became a blur and I started to attend a lot of outdoor activities that became available. Anything to get out of the house and see people or go do something out of the ordinary. I really had to search things out.
They started closest to home. I was trying to split my time between places that were just a drive away, going back and forth to the Hudson River Valley, which gave me a change of scenery and walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan, which gave me a sense of purpose as I felt I was supporting the City by being a cheerleader for all it had to offer even in the era of COVID.
My holiday journey started with the delivery of 375 Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. It was a big undertaking for a major charity that supports graduating high school seniors with scholarship money for college. I sometimes wonder if these students know what we go through to get the funds.
The trees were really nice this year
I have never seen so many Christmas Trees fly off a lot so fast. The membership of the Men’s Association got there at 9:00am and the truck arrived at 10:15am. We sold our first tree at 11:30am as we were tagging them. I stayed the entire day from 9:00am to 10:00pm when we closed the lot down for the evening. In the three shifts that I was there with the other guys, we sold 45 trees which we have never done our first day of sales.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at set-up 2020
We were completely sold out by December 11th which I have never seen before. It seemed in the era of COVID everyone reverted back to the 1970’s and wanted a fresh Christmas tree for their home. I thought this was wonderful and people could not have been more supportive to our organization.
Please read my blog on “Christmas tree sales in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ”:
Please watch the commercial I did in 2015 to sell our trees
The first week of December means “Open Houses” at some of our merchants in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas merchandise being offered, all the bouquets created for the event and the beautiful Christmas windows that our florists in town have done.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist at 231 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ always has a nice gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year was like no other but it did not keep a nice crowd of residents from coming out and looking over ideas for floral displays, house decorating ideas and listening to festive holiday music all while nibbling on prepackaged treats and bottled drinks.
Bill O’Shea’s has some of the nicest displays at the holidays
In a normal year, it would be hot chocolate and coffee with freshly baked goods but COVID has changed the way these businesses are run. Everything had to be prepackaged and most people at it outside as juggling and shopping with a mask on was tough.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, the same weekend we set up the Christmas Tree lot for the Men’s Association, Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ had their Open House and that was equally as nice.
Heights Flower Shoppe is housed in a turn of the last century home that dates back to the original founding of our downtown and has a very classic boutique look to it. The store was stocked with all sorts of Christmas decorations, homemade candies, decorative household gifts and beautiful floral displays as well as outside had decorated wreathes and grave blankets.
The homemade candies and Christmas decorations adorn the store
Like Bill O’Shea’s, there was all sorts of packaged holiday treats to enjoy including Italian sodas, small bags of homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Last year they had a nice assortment of cookies and small sandwiches with coffee, tea and punch so there are always holiday treats to nibble on too here as well.
All of Downtown Hasbrouck Heights was beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths on all our lamp posts, Christmas lights on the trees, merchants display windows decorated to the hilt and Christmas music playing.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so nicely decorated for the holidays
This year because of COVID, the Annual Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting were cancelled in town but they did have a small get together at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights to light the town Christmas tree. It was lit from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany on January 6th. It is always a beautiful site when entering town from the west side of town.
The Christmas Tree on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Even the little Neil Parrot playhouse, a local landmark in Hasbrouck Heights, was decorated for the holidays and was lite up at night as well.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights awaiting Santa
There were several nights of my aunt and I exploring the town and driving block by block to see all the decorated homes. Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns of Lodi and Wood Ridge always do a wonderful job decorating for the holidays but with everyone being home and COVID hitting the area hard, people wanted to really decorate and make this year even more festive. Between the merchants and home owners, they made this time of year in Hasbrouck Heights very festive.
Please read my blog on Visiting Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:
I did not just celebrate Christmas in Hasbrouck Heights. I ventured into other parts of New Jersey, to New York City and my usual haunts in the Hudson River Valley but like New Jersey, New York State was on a lock down as well and all the decorated mansions and holiday gatherings were all cancelled as well. So everyone did their best to celebrate outdoors and have all sorts of tours and small get togethers. You had to move fast when reserving these events as they did fill up because everyone wanted to get out of the house and see things.
The Sinterklaas Parade that I have participated and volunteered at for so many years was cancelled because of COVID but like the Halloween Parade, the committee put together a video of the parade to share with the world. Still it did not compare to the excitement of walking down the hill with stars and music lighting up Downtown Rhinebeck, NY.
The noble Frog was to be our mascot for this year’s Sinterklaas Parade
It was not the same as the year before where the crowds kept getting larger and larger every year. The whole town came to life with activities, songs, lights and laughter but was silent that weekend except for people having dinner in town. I was able to sneak up during the week. The entire town was decorated with white lights and beautifully decorated store windows. Rhinebeck is one of those towns in the Hudson River Valley that looks straight out of a Currier & Ives woodcut.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Since all the Christmas parties and get togethers were cancelled, it gave me more time to look into other outdoor events. I went to a special “Historical walking tour at the Holidays” at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, NJ. The tour was lead by Historical singer and lecturer, Linda Russell, who explained the traditions of the Dutch Christmas all while singing Colonial Christmas songs in between the talks at each historical house on the property.
The Steuben House at Christmas
Actors dressed in costumes (and masks of course-COVID is still going on) danced in the Steuben House ballroom as colonialists celebrating the holiday, Dutch housewives putting their children to bed while awaiting Sinterklaas. There was a Dutch wooden shoe with carrots for his horse outside the door and mistletoe on the ceiling.
Linda Russell performing and lecturing at the Bergen County Historical Society
There was a discussion on the Pagan traditions of bringing ‘greens’ from outside inside to have a bit of ‘live nature’ into the home. So mistletoe, pine and holly adorned homes during the winter months as these things were green and brought a bit of life into the dead of winter.
The last part of the lecture was done in front of the Campbell-Christie House with a visit from Sinterklaas himself. We had a short talk about who Sinterklaas was and his part in the holiday season. Then all the members of the tour enjoyed refreshments and got a goody bag when we left with holiday sweets. The lecture and songs were a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.
My favorite song by Linda Russell “I saw Three Ships”
As I was finishing up the semester at the College, I was getting holiday preparations done at the house, having small gatherings of family and friends and trying to be COVID safe. I was also running in and out of the City finishing my blog on Kips Bay before the holidays started getting busier. I learned a lot of New York’s Colonial past from walking around this area of the City.
My blogs on the Walking the neighborhood of Kips Bay:
The next weekend I made my last trip of the season to Long Beach Island to visit Beach Haven and the tour the rest of the island one last time before winter set in. It had really closed down since Halloween. I expected it to be much busier with more people moving down there on a permanent basis. Driving up to the lighthouse, I saw more dark homes then lite ones.
I wanted to take one more tour of Long Beach Island to see how they celebrate Christmas at the shore. They do things very quietly in Beach Haven. I went to the Surflight Theater to see the only play I had seen since I attended Carnegie Hall last Christmas to see the play “We need a little Christmas” which I had seen advertised at the theater over the summer.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, NJ
After the theater, it was surprisingly warm that afternoon hovering around 58 degrees so I walked to the beach one block away and walked on the Jersey shore for my only time that year and for the first time on Beach Haven beach since 1975. It has been a long journey since that time.
The Beach Haven beach was beautiful that afternoon
The town’s Christmas trees were across the street from the theater on the square just off the downtown. Even they had a subdued Christmas at the shore and the whole event welcoming in the season was done virtually.
Christmas in Beach Haven, NJ adapted like the rest of the world
My holiday dinner was spent at the Chicken or the Egg that evening and it was really good. The menu is so extensive and innovative. It was hard to make choices.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich at Chicken or the Egg
Their fried chicken sandwiches are really good and their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream sandwich should not be missed.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven
I was able to tour the whole island that afternoon before it got dark and even at twilight here and there were signs of Christmas in small trees lit in the shopping areas and decorated homes. It is an interesting place at the holidays with the waves crashing in the background.
My blog on “Exploring Downtown Beach Haven and Long Beach Island, NJ”:
The next week was finals week at the College and I had to give my final exam. The students also finished work on their case study, “Bud N’ Mud”, a simulated flower/coffee shop I had the students develop. It was interesting to see how a group of student entrepreneurs would create a store with their own ideas on how to grow the business. This project ended the Fall semester.
One of my favorite logo’s from the “Bud N’ Mud” project
With the Christmas trees selling out by December 11th, we held our annual Christmas party at the Christmas tree stand site for the Men’s Association. It was a cool not cold night and we all huddled around the fire taking alternate turns hitting the makeshift buffet table and enjoying good conversation. It was a great way to end the year successfully and there will lots of scholarships being given out at the end of the school year.
The last big event before Christmas came was the Sunday before Christmas with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department holding our Annual “Santa Around Town”. Because COVID was growing, the event was revamped from previous years and instead of stopping at sites all over town, we drove down each street in town slowly, having Santa wave and greet people who were on their lawns, driveways and porches. The residents of Hasbrouck Heights seemed touched by it and I could tell from the safety of the fire truck that the kids got a kick out of seeing Santa. People really needed the pick me up in holiday spirit at the time.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020
On the Tuesday before Christmas after I finished work with my other job I needed a break and wanted to go on a road trip to the Hudson River Valley again. I was nostalgic for Christmas’s past and decided to visit some of the towns Upstate.
I explored Downtown Woodstock first seeing their very unusual Christmas tree in the square. I have to say one thing about Woodstock, they do pick out the most interesting tree to sit in the square. It always looks more surreal than traditional. Their annual “Santa Parade” was cancelled this year as well and they did a drive by with Santa at the Woodstock Fire Department who runs the parade.
Downtown Kingston, NY was next on the list. Talk about a town in transition. In the almost three years since I have been visiting Kingston, I have never seen a downtown change so rapidly. The businesses there have gone from all this ‘hippie granola’ businesses to all these antique furniture stores and art galleries and some really expensive restaurants. One of the locals told me the new residents are “Brooklynizing” Kingston.
Still the downtown was nicely lit for the holidays and their Christmas Tree while small is nicely lit for the holidays on the edge of the downtown “Stockade” district. The Dutch Reformed Church on the other end of downtown was nicely lit with wreaths on the doors.
I crossed the river and drove to Red Hook, NY which I love. Their downtown looks like an old fashioned shopping district straight out of another Currier & Ives print. All the little stores were decorated with garland and white lights and the merchants decorated their windows to the hilt.
My last stop on my search for the perfect picturesque Hudson Valley River town was returning to Rhinebeck, NY for the day. Rhinebeck was quiet on this Tuesday evening as most of the restaurants were closed and the shops had closed for the evening. Still it was nice to walk around and admire the while lights on the trees and admire the display windows.
The Christmas lights and windows of Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
Even the way I celebrate Christmas changed this year. Instead of spending time with my family, I spent three days in Manhattan with my best friend, Maricel, at a hotel in Times Square. Neither of us had the time to travel and we both had to work in the City, her at her hotel and me working on my blogs so both of us needed the rest.
AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street
We stayed at the AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street. What the room lacked in size, it made up in the view and in the location. We were one block from Port Authority, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance from all the Christmas attractions from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
While Maricel worked on Christmas Eve, I walked around the City. I saw the tree at Rockefeller Center which was loaded with people not keeping socially distanced. I admired the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which had a New York City theme with Christmas scenes from around the City “This is how we Celebrate”.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Themed window “Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods to Grandfather’s House We Go”
Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree was even more special this year
I thought the windows at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf-Goodman really lacked in creativity. Bloomingdale’s was having a bad year and Bergdorf’s had just gotten sold again (forth time since I worked there in 2004) so I did not expect much. With Lord & Taylor declaring bankruptcy earlier in the year and closing the main store on Fifth Avenue and B. Altman’s long gone and Macy’s going mechanical for the last few years, the excitement of seeing the windows has been less than enthusiastic.
Still it was nice to walk around Midtown after leaving the Rockefeller Center area and just walking around Third, Park and Madison Avenues. By 7:00pm, everything had shut down for the night and the streets were really quiet. What was eerie was when walking down Park Avenue and looking up and seeing so many dark buildings. The area looked abandoned with so many apartment lights out. I wondered where everyone went?
When Maricel got off work, I brought in dinner 9th Avenue Deli at 769 Ninth Avenue. I brought in a juicy cheeseburger and chicken fingers which we shared and then dug into. The perfect comfort food on a cool night. Christmas Eve was a mild 59 degrees and it was nice to walk around.
9th Avenue Deli at 769 9th Avenue
We just hung out the whole night and watched movies in the hotel room. I went to bed early and sunk into the wonderful Marriott hotel bed. Marriott had the best hotel beds and every time I stay at one of their hotels, I slept like a log.
Christmas Day we just relaxed in the room and I called many members of my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. While Maricel went to work, I decided to start touring neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Rose Hill and NoMAD in preparation in my walks there. It started out being a cold, cloudy day and there was barely anyone on the street. I saw a few people walking their dogs and that was about it until about 3:00pm. It them cleared up and was a mild 55 degrees until it got dark and then cooled down.
What really shocked me about Times Square was how dirty it was on the streets. They had not picked up the garbage on Christmas Eve day and did not pick it up until after Christmas Day so between the theaters being boarded up and the ply boards filled with graffiti, hotels closed and restaurants shut, the whole Theater district looked like NYC circa 1975. It was creepy how the pandemic was affecting the business of this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Murray Hill, Rose Hill, NoMAD and the Flatiron District were really quiet that morning and early afternoon. All the restaurants and stores were dark, three hotels had closed in the district and I saw just a few people milling around. Things changed as I got closer to Macy’s Herald Square.
When walking around Koreatown, which runs between Sixth and Fifth Avenues between 35th to 32nd Streets, the side streets were teeming with Korean couples and groups of family members dining in the outdoor restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood was really jumping and full of life.
As the day wore on by 5:00pm, the rest of the City came back to life and more restaurants and stores opened up. Christmas morning and afternoon were now over and I could tell that people wanted to get out of the house (probably to get away from the family celebrations). When Maricel returned, I ordered in dinner from Golden City Chinese Restaurant at 423 Ninth Avenue, one of the few neighborhood restaurants open and we our dinner in the room. The food was okay. It was nice to just eat in the room and relax.
Christmas dinner was Lemon Chicken and Fried Rice from Golden City Chinese Restaurant
We checked out at noon on the 26th and she left for work that afternoon, I headed into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. Both were really quiet that day. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was mostly dormant for the winter and most of the garden was closed off because of COVID. The “Studio 54” exhibition had long closed at the Brooklyn Museum so I just wondered the halls and looked at some of the changes in the permanent exhibitions that they had. I left the City for home early that evening.
The last week of the holiday, I entertained family at a Lasagna and Champagne dinner I had a the house. Since I was not able to spend time at home during the holidays, my aunts came over to my house and we had a three course meal with champagne and wine. We spent the whole night laughing and enjoying the evening.
New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening at home alone talking with other friends who were staying home alone as well. Times Square was empty that evening with the exception of the 350 first responders who were invited to the ball drop. When I watched it on TV it was eerie to see it so quiet. There was no one for blocks except police guarding Times Square.
I headed back up to the Hudson River Valley again on New Year’s Day to go on two walking tours in Staatsburgh, NY at the Mills Mansion. It was the Annual “First of the Year” walking tours and it was a cool, crisp morning for a walking tour of the property. There were two tours that morning, one was on “Winter Activities in Victorian Times” with us learning about all the winter activities that the residents here enjoyed like skating , sledding, ice boating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Staatsburgh, the Mills Mansion in the winter
The other tour later that afternoon was on “Ice Harvesting in the Hudson River Valley” , where we learned about how the ice harvesting of the Hudson River was a big business before the advent of refrigeration. Large slabs of ice were cut from the river, floated down stream and then packed in straw awaiting sale over the metropolitan area for peoples ice boxes throughout the year. It just gave me anther excuse to visit the region I love so much.
My blog on the Mills Mansion on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Another local event that was COVID safe was a driving tour through the “Holiday Lightshow” at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. This was the first time that the farm opened the apple and peach orchard across the street from the farm stand. I saw this display the last week it was open and even after the holidays, it was a special treat as we awaited the Epiphany.
Driving through the display only took about forty minutes but was a delight in the senses and sounds. I played the classical music station as I drove through and admired all the colorful lights on the now dormant trees while Santa’s and Snowmen winked and waved and toy soldiers lit the way through the dark field. Even the Demarest homestead was ablaze with lights.
Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Drive in Hillsdale, NJ
My blog on “Visiting the Farms of Bergen County, NJ at Christmas”:
Don’t miss this holiday lights ride through the orchard in 2021
The holiday event I visited was the Bronx Zoo for their “Holiday Lights” event at the zoo. It was the last night of the event and I arranged for the tickets that afternoon. The zoo gave me a 30% discount to go that evening and I was on the subway ride up to the Bronx.
The Bronx Zoo Light Show
I was really impressed by the display. The entire park was decorated with white lights, with different sections of the park decorated with different themes such as jungle animals, aquatic mammals and all sorts of assorted elephants, seals, penguins, lions, tigers and bears (oh my haha). There were costumed characters to take pictures with and they even had the Bug Carousel open that evening. I got a kick out of riding this since I had not done this since I was a little kid.
The Bronx Zoo musical Christmas Tree in the old part of the zoo
In the older section of the park, they had zebras on stilts and a musical Christmas trees that had an interesting soundtrack of contemporary Christmas songs. Even though Christmas had been over now for almost two weeks, it me back into the Christmas spirit.
So there was the Christmas holidays in the era of COVID. Lots of outdoor activities in hot and cold weather. Many walking tours and more subdued events. Gone were the cocktail parties and big formal dinners and in their place were many more smaller outdoor events and communicating with nature.
Maybe we all needed to take a break from the more formal traditions and go back to the basics of family and friends. I think this was a reflective year and realizing what is important. It had not changed that much for me. I just adjusted to the times, wore a mask and got going. Staying safe and keeping others safe is what is all about.
Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.
Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.
As the warmer days of the Fall are coming to a close, the Christmas decorations are starting to come out and I can see that the City is really gearing up for the holidays. The office buildings and stores decorated far earlier than they normally do. It is like Thanksgiving is just a way station for Christmas once Halloween was over. Halloween was a bigger deal this year but the activities had to be done on a smaller scale with less people. That still did not prevent groups of people from running around that night and the COVID situation has gotten worse. Even New York and New Jersey are bracing to see what the results of Thanksgiving and Christmas will be in the upcoming weeks.
I noticed this as I continued to walk Kips Bay on this sunny Thursday afternoon. The City seemed much more quiet as the cooler weather was upon us. I was surprised that the City was so empty since the beginning of December. When it had been warmer in November there were more people around. I also noticed how clean the streets were that day. I mean really clean. I had never seen them like this.
I had started my day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is the one museum that I have been visiting a lot since the museums opened back up since June. I went into the museum to see the “About Time: Fashion and Duration” which was extremely popular and had long lines when it first opened and I revisited the “Making of the Met-150 year Anniversary”. I had gone on a quiet day during the mid-week so there were no lines to get in.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue
This was the third time I had seen the “Making of the Met” exhibition and everytime I see it, I either learn something new or see something in a different light. This shows you the complexity and the size of these exhibitions in that you continue to notice new aspects of the exhibition.
“Making of the Met” exhibition
The “About Time” exhibition compared fashions through the ages with contemporary fashion of recent years and the exhibit showed me how much fashion does not change or comes back into style over time. Most of the displays showed “black on black” fashions where all the clothes comparisons were in black. A lot of morning clothes. It was an interesting way to look at fashion.
“About Time” exhibition
It boggled my mind how quiet the museum was that afternoon so close to Christmas. The Christmas tree was up in but it had been moved from the Medieval Galleries to Petrie Court section of the museum where there would be more ‘social distancing”. It was a better move safety/health wise but did not have the same effect. I thought we were lucky that the Met is still open as museums around the country are closing fast.
The Christmas Tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in its usual home in the Medieval Galleries
After I visited the museum, I walked around the Upper East Side neighborhood for a bit and realized how much was changing here too. Some old time buildings have come down to be replaced by more luxury condos/co-ops. Many small businesses were gone and there was a lot of empty retail space even before the pandemic. I will have to revisit these neighborhoods in the future to see the changes. For now, there was a lot of decorating going on for the holidays and that put me in the Christmas spirit.
I took the Number 6 subway back downtown to Park Avenue and East 34th Street and started my walk again of the Streets of Kips Bay. I was lucky that the weather broke and it was a crisp but sunny day and a real pleasure to walk around the neighborhood. It is amazing the transformation that the neighborhood is still making before my eyes. So many buildings are coming down or being renovated. Closer to the First Avenue my thoughts were that this was accommodating the expansion of the hospital complex and the colleges.
I started my journey on East 33rd Street walking from Lexington Avenue to as far on FDR Drive as I could go. By First Avenue, either the NYU Langone or Bellevue Hospital complexes will stop you from walking any further to FDR Drive and the East River. That complex of hospitals pretty much stretches the neighborhood from East 34th to East 23rd Streets. If you want to tour the river, you would have to walk along the ‘East River Greenway’ walkway.
East 33rd Street has a lot of charms and transitions to it. As I had discussed in many of my blogs on my walks on the East Side of Manhattan Island, most of these neighborhoods are being knocked down and rebuilt with office buildings sharing the borders with Midtown and between Third Avenue and First Avenue you will see the traces of “Old New York” with the brownstones and low rise commercial buildings on the side streets.
Even in Kips Bay like the lower parts of Murray Hill, First and Second Avenues are making way for bigger buildings and the character of these neighborhoods are changing. Here and there are those ‘little gems” tucked on side streets and in between buildings that you will have to walk past to really appreciate what Kips Bay has to offer.
I started my walk on Seventh Avenue and West 34th Street at the giant Macy’s Herald Square store. After five years at working at this store in the early 90’s, it is still home to me. I wanted to see the Christmas decorations at the store. First I started with another old Macy’s tradition, having breakfast at Al’s Deli at 458 Seventh Avenue. I had not eaten here in almost twenty-five years. I needed a breakfast sandwich to start the day of walking.
Al’s Deli & Catering at 458 Seventh Avenue
I had one of Al’s Sausage and Egg sandwich’s on a roll. There was nothing like it on a cool morning. Two soft scrambled eggs with a spicy sausage patty on a fresh hard roll. Each bite was like heaven with the complexity of flavors warming me up inside. Nothing had changed in twenty-five years. Even the price at $3.00 had not changed much.
I then cut through Macy’s Herald Square to look over the Christmas decorations and admire the displays. Things had been toned down in the store for various reasons but it was still elegantly decorated for the holidays and people were shopping in the store. That’s the one thing about Macy’s. People do still shop there and bags do leave the store.
Macy’s Herald Square decorated main floor
“Santaland” on the Eighth floor was closed because of COVID but the giant Christmas department on the Ninth Floor was decorated to the hilt. After I toured the store and admired the decorations and display windows, I walked down West 34th Street to Lexington Avenue and started my walk along the streets of Kips Bay at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 33rd Street. It really is an interesting neighborhood.
The Streets of Kips Bay like Murray Hill is a combination of residential and commercial buildings with the more historical buildings being closer to the Midtown border and whats left of the tenement housing closer to First Avenue near the hospital complex.
On the corner of East 33rd Street and Third Avenue there is an interesting mural by street artist Smufo of the customers at the Stickey’s Chicken Joint that faces Third Avenue. The mural must have been commissioned by the restaurant and I thought was very clever.
Smurfo is an American born, native New Yorker from Brooklyn who works out of his hometown borough and specializes in ‘street art’. His vibrant colorful art is not just featured on the streets of New York but in independent galleries as well.
While walking around this part of Kips Bay, I was noticing what I had discovered when I was walking the Avenues and Border of the neighborhood, that the urban renewal project of the late 50’s and early 60’s really did change the complexity of this neighborhood. The side streets between parts of Third Avenue and the blocks between Second and First still have that small brownstone charm to them. After that, most of the blocks are changing fast with new office towers and hospital and school extensions.
Tucked into the block between Second and First Avenues at 242 East 33rd Street between two brick apartment buildings is a unique little brownstone with a sunken stairs and a small court yard that shows how different the neighborhood must have been in the early 1900’s as the home was built in 1901. With its small garden and flower potted line stairs, it shows such character.
242 East 33rd Street earlier in the year
Heading back to Lexington Avenue, I also passed P.S. 116, the Mary Lindley Murray School named after the prominent Murray family member who stopped the British troops in their tracks with song, entertainment and pleasantries while the Patriot forces escaped (Murray Hill Neighborhood Association and Wiki).
Mary Lindley Murray entertaining the British troops at her home
The elementary school that bears her name has quite a good reputation with parents and the neighborhood. It is a progressive elementary school with good test scores and advancement for children. The school also has a strong PTA and the parents seem to care at the school.
As I made my way back down the street, I noticed how quiet the block was that afternoon. The school must be closed for now since the increases of COVID in the City. Usually you would see lots of children running around and yelling and screaming in the playground but there was no one around.
East 32nd Street was almost similar but the neighborhood starts to change with the large Kips Bay Tower complex that was built during the urban renewal changing the configuration of the area. The classic look of this section of the City especially between Third and Second Avenue starts to change.
Kips Bay Towers was part of the 1950’s Urban Renewal project
Those small tenement buildings start to end by Second Avenue. One unique building does stand out is an old brownstone that sits alone in the back of the playground like a lost sole. It looks like what was previously an old mansion when the neighborhood was once fashionable. With its beautiful detail work, it stands out amongst the plainer buildings.
One unique feature of East 31st Street once I rounded the corner was the painting of the logo of the now closed Vino Tapa at 201 East 31st Street. The restaurant had been opened for outdoor dining when I first started to walk the neighborhood and was going strong but by my second trip the restaurant had shut its doors during the pandemic. It’s logo sits proud on the wall near the entrance.
The Vino Tapa Logo outside the restaurant at 201 East 31st Street
The standouts on both East 31st and East 30th Streets are the brownstones and tenement buildings that sit between Second and Third Avenues. Many people decorated their homes early for the holidays and all the wreaths and garland with lights on coming on in twilight really put you in the festive spirit.
Another building that had beautiful detail work carved into it is 160-164 Lexington Avenue, The Dove Street Marketplace, which offers floor after floor of high end goods. This building sits on the corner of East 30th and Lexington Avenue.
The detail work is amazing on 160-164 Lexington Avenue-The Dove Street Market
The building has the most beautiful detail work on all sides. It was built in 1909 as the New York School for Applied Design for Women. It was designed by one of the school’s instructors, architect Wiley Corbett, to resemble a Greek Temple (Forgotten New York).
Across the street from the Dover Street Market at 154 Lexington Avenue is the First Moravian Church. The building was started in 1849 and finished in 1852 at the Rose Hill Baptist Church designed in the Lombardian Romanesque style. In 1869, the church was sold to the First Moravian Church which had been located at Sixth Avenue and 34th Street (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The First Moravian Church at 154 Lexington Avenue was built in 1854
When I rounded the corner again down Lexington Avenue at East 29th Street, I found myself back in “Curry Hill” and all the wonderful South Asian restaurants and stores. I ate at Curry Express at 130 East 29th Street for a late lunch. They kept advertising a lunch special for $6.99 for lamb kebobs and Naan Bread and it sounded really good.
The food was really good but the only problem was that they microwaved the kebobs and that made them a little hard. Still they had a nice garlicy taste to them with a combination of ground lamb and spices. The naan bread was freshly baked and very good (see review on TripAdvisor). What really stood out at lunch was the Chicken Patties that they had. They are delicious. Ground spicy chicken wrapped in a flaky pastry. They make a great snack while walking around.
Curry Express at 130 East 29th Street
The one thing I enjoyed about the restaurant is that the customers with me were not boring. They were an interesting bunch of characters that reminded me of why Manhattan and New York City in general was so interesting. They dressed usually, made the strangest comments to the owners and complained about nothing.
Walking back through East 29th, you will see impressive wooden home at 203 East 29th Street which is one of the oldest homes in the City. The house sits on what was once the “Rose Hill Farm” that dated back to 1747 (The Rose Hill section of Manhattan overlaps between Third and Lexington Avenues with Kip’s Bay). The house itself is not part of the original estate but must have been moved to this location when the street grid was laid out in the mid-1800’s. The house is said to have been built around 1790 (Wiki & Manhattan Sideways).
203 East 29th Street is one of the oldest houses in Manhattan
I also journeyed into Vincent Albano Jr. Playground again. I was able to relax on the benches while I was watching a few of the neighborhood kids play in the playground. I guess the parents needed to get out of the apartments as well during the week. This small park has an interesting history.
The Vincent F. Albano Jr. Playground at 523 Second Avenue is tucked into a corner of Second Avenue and East 39th Street. This quaint little park is full a charm with a small playground and shade trees all around it.
Vincent F. Albano Playground at 523 Second Avenue
The park was designed by architect M. Paul Friedberg in the late 1960’s and has gone through several renovations since that time. The park was named after Vincent F. Albano, a Republican district leader who lived in the neighborhood until his passing in 1981. He helped preserve the park when the neighborhood was going through all the construction changes (NYCParks.org).
On my three trips to Kip’s Bay, I was able to see the park at different times of the seasons, with the last stages of the warmer months giving way to the holiday season. The park has its own Friends organization so the park is well maintained and very popular with the residents.
When walking towards First Avenue, you will run into the historical and massive Bellevue Hospital complex. The side streets between East 30th and 26th Streets is pretty much monitored by the security of the hospital and there is not much to see. On East 30th Street where the Men’s Shelter is located there is a lot of people walking around at all hours of the day.
The Bellevue Hospital complex runs from East 30th to 25th Street
As I rounded the corner to East 28th Street, I noticed how dark it was getting and I decided to stop for my first day. It is hard to walk the streets of the neighborhood when you can’t see much. Since it was getting dark, I stopped at a unique clothing store whose display windows captured my attention, Vintage India at 132 Lexington Avenue.
Vintage India at 132 Lexington Avenue
Vintage India is a clothing store that carries all sorts of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories. There are many traditional clothing choices both vintage and modern and there are some contemporary outfits with a British influence. The men’s clothing selection has some colorful jackets with interesting designs and patterns. The jewelry selection for weddings is extensive and I love the designs of the items.
Vintage India has an amazing selection
I started walking Kip’s Bay again about a week later after I had given my last quiz and the last two research papers for my class were distributed out to the students.I had some time to break away from school and it was nice to just wonder the streets of New York again.
I started where I had left off at the corner of East 28th Street and Lexington Avenue admiring the windows of Vintage India again. The store is pretty amazing and it is worth the visit to see the beautifully designed clothes.
Walking East 28th Street is a neighborhood again in transition by the time you reach Second Avenue. The big Kip’s Bay Court complex dissects the street from old tenement housing to the glossy new complex. The one attribute is Bellevue Park South that is hidden away in the middle of the complex. By this point all the leaves were gone and the park seemed pretty barren with not that many people in the park. There were a few playing basketball but outside that not much action.
The large Kips Bay Court complex at 490 Second Avenue, that stretches from East 26th to East 29th Streets and when you walk through the complex you will find the oasis of Bellevue South Park. As Fall was progressing, the park was ablaze with what was left of the gold and reds of the leaves of the trees that surrounding the park.
Kips Bay Court Apartments stretch from East 26th to East 29th Streets on the east side of Second Avenue
Bellevue South Park is a nice break for all the people working in the area and for people living in the apartment complex. The park was created in 1966 when this whole part of the neighborhood went through urban renewal in the 1950’s that ran from East 23rd to East 30th between First and Second Avenue. The park is full of playground equipment and long paths and has some interesting artwork.
Bellevue South Park
What really caught my eye when walking around the park was the sculpture “Scagerrak” by artist Antoni Milkowski. The three interlocking steel blocks was created by the artist for the park in 1970.
‘Scagerrak’ by Antoni Milkowski
Artist Antoni Milkowski
Mr. Milkowski is an American born artist from Illinois but moved to New York City as a child and is a graduate of Kenyon College and Hunter College in New York. He started to get involved with art in the early 1960’s and started to create contemporary pieces. The work was donated to the Parks system through the Association for a Better New York whose goal it was to enliven parts of the City. The work moved around until places in Bellevue South Park in the mid-1970’s (NYCParks.org).
Walking back through the neighborhood a few unique buildings stood out. The brick apartment between 218-225 East 28th Street was built around 1900 (Daytonian/Cityrealty.com) and has faces staring back at you in all directions with a beautiful geometric looking cornice. You have to walk on the other side of East 28th Street to admire its beauty.
219-225 East 28th Street detail work
Another interesting building is The Epiphany School at 141 East 28th Street. The building dates back to 1888 and the new building was built in 1902 by architect Elliott Lynch in the Beaux-Arts style (Daytonian). You have to walk on the opposite side of the street to admire the true beauty of the stone carvings and the multi layer designs. I wondered if the students that go to the school ever stop to admire it.
The Epiphany School at 141 East 28th Street
Turning the corner at East 27th Street the architecture on this block starts to get interesting so remember to look up and around or you might miss something. The first building that stands out is the brick building at 218-222 East 27th Street with its faces that follow you and their devilish looks.
218-222 East 27th Street
I am not sure if the architect was trying to scare the residents at 218 East 27th Street
I was struck by the sculpture on the corner of East 27th Street in the courtyard across from Bellevue Hospital. Here is the sculpture “Sentinel” by artist Theodore Roszak. It was designed and dedicated to all people involved in public health. The sculpture is somewhat hidden now under scaffolding during a current renovation of the building next to it.
Mr. Roszak was an Polish born American artist who grew up in the Polish section of Chicago. He was mostly self-taught. He studied both at the Chicago Art Institute and in Europe. He created this sculpture in 1968 and it studied the struggle between man and nature (Art@Site).
Another interesting piece of architecture is the original Bellevue Hospital Building that now has the new entrance of the hospital surrounding the original building. You can try to sneak in to the hospital but there are guards all over the entrance. I was able to walk in during one of their breaks and see the lobby. It once had a beautiful entrance but modern architecture has taken over. Take some time to see this interesting stonework and carvings.
The original Bellevue Hospital entrance by McKim, Mead &White
The original building which was designed by architects McKim, Mead & White in 1930 housed the oldest continuous public hospital in the United States founded in 1794. The hospital was built on the original Belle Vue farm (thus its name) and today is one of the most innovative hospitals in the world. It still have the stigma though of being a “nut house” when it is far more doing so much innovative work in medicine (Bellevue Hospital History).
The original Bellevue Hospital built by McKim, Mead & White in 1930
The new entrance to the Bellevue Hospital Center Ambulatory Center by architect firm Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners designed between 2000-2005
On the way back down street, I passed the Gem Saloon again on the corner of Third Avenue at 375-377 Third Avenue. These buildings were built in 1910 and was once the old Rodeo Bar that had been a staple in the neighborhood for 27 years. The restaurant was still offering outdoor dining even though it was getting cool out.
I stopped by La Delice Pastry Shop at 372 Third Avenue again. There is a reason why this bakery has been around since 1935 is the consistency of their baked goods. I got a black and white cookie and munched on it on the way back to Lexington Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor).
La Delice Pastry Shop at 372 Third Avenue has been there since 1935
I was getting tired when walking down East 26th Street and had to stop in Bellevue South Park again. This time of the afternoon there were more people in the park, sitting on the benches talking and there were a few people walking their dogs around the park. It really is a nice place to relax and just people watch.
I was tempted to stop at Tipsy Scoop at 217 East 26th Street for alcohol infused ice cream sandwiches so I stopped on another visit to Kips Bay to try it (see review on TripAdvisor). I had one of their Confetti Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches ($7.00), which were two rather large Confetti Cookies with Cake Batter Vodka Martini Ice Cream in the middle. I did not get much of a buzz but felt it later.
Booze infused ice cream at Tipsy Scoop at 217 East 26th Street
When I got to First Avenue again it was tough to walk the side streets between First Avenue and FDR Drive because they were either closed off access or loaded with security so I had to walk around them. There is not much to see on these side streets.
On the way back I passed 226-228 East 26th Street and noticed more faces staring back at me. This building was constructed in 1900 and you have to look up at the detail work to appreciate all the stonework and multiple looks you get from the carvings.
226-228 East 26th Street stares back at you
Walking by the glassed in hospital entrance, the building was really busy that afternoon. People were milling around the lobby and rushing off to where they had to rush off too. I decided to stop staring in the lobby as I could tell that security was watching the tall guy with the tinted glasses.
By East 26th Street, I passed “Little India” and was in front of the 69th Regiment Building at 68th Lexington Avenue. This beautiful building is the home to the New York Army National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, known as the “Fighting Irish” since the Civil War (Wiki).
69th Regiment Building at 68 Lexington Avenue
The building was designed by architects Hunt & Hunt in the Beaux Arts style and was completed in 1906. It has been home to many events and show including the controversial 1913 Armory Show of contemporary art (Wiki). You really have to walk around the building to admire its beauty and history.
As I rounded Lexington Avenue towards East 25th Street, I stopped off to the side to admire the mural of artist Yuki Abe “Urban Ocean”, a colorful painting that sits on the wall opposite next to the entrance of Jenna Optical at 50 Lexington. The colorful portrait has a whimsical look to it.
As I walked along the blocks on East 25th and East 24th Streets I noticed a distinct change in the neighborhood getting closer to the commercial district of East 23rd Street. Baruch College which is part of the CUNY system is starting to take over this section of the street and NYU is building up their campus closer to First Avenue. The older buildings of the area are giving way to modern glassy administration and classroom space for the college.
The one stand out on East 25th Street will have even more faces staring at you at 208-214 East 25th Street. Between the glaring looks and the mansard roof on part of the building it gives it almost an eerie look to it. Even though it has a Victorian look to it the building was constructed in 1930 (Realty.com).
208-214 East 25th Street also looks back at you
I took another walk through the Asser Levy Park watching the few people working out on the track. The park was pretty much empty and closed at this time of the day.
Asser Levy Park tract on East 25th Street
The Baths and Park was named for Asser Levy, a Jewish trailblazer in colonial times when Mr. Levy and 23 Jews fled from Brazil in 1654 to seek refuge in New Amsterdam. He challenged Governor Peter Stuyvesant when he tried to evict the Jews from the colony. He was the first Jew to serve in the militia and own property in the colony (NYCParks.org).
The street art is also interesting on this part of Lexington Avenue. One the corner of East 24th Street & Lexington Avenue is the Friends House New York, a housing unit. Painted on the wall is a very unique painting by Italian street artist, Jacopo Ceccarelli.
Painting by artist Jacopo Ceccarelli
The mural is on the corner of East 24th & Lexington Avenue-The St. Francis Residence Building
The Milan born street artist, who goes by the name “Never 2501” hones his skills after moving to San Paolo, painting murals with an edge that got global recognition. He uses geometric forms in his work with circles and lines creating the abstract(Do Art Foundation).
I ended my walk reaching the new Student Plaza being constructed at Baruch College and relaxing in a small park by the East Midtown Housing complex that sits between East 23rd and East 24th Street between Second and First Avenues. On a cool winter evening there were only a few residents milling around but it is a nice place to relax and catch you breath.
I can only imagine the area is like when school is in session and the place is swarming with college students but for now the few CUNY and NYU students who are walking around get to where they are going with masks on as the campus building look shut for the semester.
The future “Baruch College Clivner-Field Student Plaza at East 25th Street off Lexington Avenue
The afternoon ended with lunch and a much needed break at Awesum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street. It was one of the last times I was able to eat inside a restaurant before the City shut indoor dining down again due to COVID in early December 2020.
I had their Fried Rice Dumplings and their Roast Pork Buns with a Coke and that was more than enough after a long walk. The food was excellent as usual (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). The restaurant has been my new ‘go to’ place since visiting this neighborhood and Murray Hill and will probably carry on into exploring “Rose Hill” and “Gramercy Park”.
Awesum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street
The restaurant has also been discovered by the Baruch and NYU students who were dining both inside and outside on the cool but crisp evening. Nothing stopped anyone from having their Dim Sum.
The Baked Roast Pork Buns here have a sweet dough when you bite into them
After having to fight off everyone in the restaurant for a seat “socially distanced” I ended my evening with a much needed back massage in Chinatown. (I will discuss the fact the Chinatown looks like a ‘ghost town’ now with its blocks of ‘for rent’ buildings and empty restaurants in a later walk. I don’t want to have to describe how bad things have gotten down here.)
All the selling of Christmas trees, yard work and snow shoveling did a number on my back and I needed an hour of work of them pulling and pushing into my lower back to get it back to normal. It would take two weeks for it to heal.
I stopped in Little Italy to end the evening for a couple of slices of pizza at Manero’s Pizza at 113 Mulberry Street. The pizza here is amazing (see review on TripAdvisor) being crisp on the outside and on the crust and the most delicious tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella. The pizza here is like heaven.
Manero’s Pizza at 113 Mulberry Street
A nice way to spend a few days before Christmas!
Please enjoy my blog on ‘Walking the Borders of Kips Bay’ on MywalkinManhattan.com: