Category Archives: Exploring Coney Island, Brooklyn

Author Justin Watral

Day Ninety One: New Blog Sites: VisitingaMuseum.com and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@WordPress.com by Blogger Justin Watrel.

To all of my readers and fellow bloggers following my blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. I created two more blog sites to accompany the main site.

I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ to take what I have discovered on the walk around the city and put it into more detail.

I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ to feature all the small and medium museums, pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that I have found along the way in my walking the streets of the island and in the outlining areas of Manhattan. There are loads of sites you can easily miss either by not visiting the neighborhoods by foot or not consulting a guidebook. Most of the these places are not visited by most residents of the City and should not be missed.

I never realized how many small museums exist in New York City, let alone the outer boroughs and in New Jersey. I have discovered so many wonderful and interesting artifacts in these museums that not only have so much historical value but they also deal with local history.

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Gallery Bergen at Bergen Community College

There are so many pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that you would miss if you did not walk the neighborhoods. What has also been fascinating about it is the people you meet along the way that volunteer in these facilities. There is so much pride to be had by these local residents dedicating their time to make these places successful.

‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ is my latest site:

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/

I am featuring and promoting wonderful local restaurants that I have found along the way when doing the walk as well as places I have recently visited outside the city for $10.00 and below. I am not just featuring them for their price but for the quality of the food, the selection and the portion size.

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Delicious Dumplings at ‘Dumplings’ on Henry Street

These little ‘hole in the wall’ dining establishments offer a good meal at a fair price as well as supporting the local economy. I have a very limited budget for meals and thought this blog site would help all of you economize when touring New York City and the outlying regions. I cross reference my reviews on TripAdvisor.com.

For anyone thinking of doing a similar project like ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, I want to let you know how expensive it is to do. I have to pay not just for bus tickets, subway passes, meals, donations to museums and historical sites but the general wear and tear on my clothes. I am on my third pair of sneakers due to this walk. This is why you need to set a budget for it:

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/

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Beekman Place

So I hope you enjoy ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com when coming to Manhattan. Please check all of this places out online for a change of hours and exhibits and menus.

Check out the newest site, “LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com” for small boutiques and specialty shops that are unique and quirky.

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Little Shop on Main Street:

https://littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/

Please check out my fire fighting blog sites, ‘The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association’, ‘tbcfma.Wordpress.com’, where I am blogging about the activities of the association that I am volunteering for at the home on a quarterly basis and the support that the organization gives to The New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, New Jersey. Firemen for all over Bergen County, where I live, volunteer their time up at the nursing home with activities to engage and cheer up our fellow fire fighters.

New Jersey Firemen's Home Museum

The New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ

https://tbcfha.wordpress.com/

The second site about fire fighting I blog about is ‘The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department”, ‘EngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartmentNJ.Wordpress.com’, where I blog about the activities of  Engine Company One, in which I am a member, as part of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. We do a lot of volunteer work for the department and many of our members are very active and hold a lot of positions on the department.

Brother's of Engine One with their bell

The Brothers of Engine One HHFD (site now closed-Blogs moved to section of MywalkinManhattan.com called “My life as a Fireman”):

https://engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/tag/engine-one-hhfd/

The most frequented of my blogs is “BergenCountyCaregiver.com’, a caregivers blog site to help adult caregivers take care of their loved ones. This helps caregivers navigate a very broken system and put all sorts of programs that might help them all in one place to read and chose what might help them. This deals with county, state and federal programs that most social workers miss because there are so many of them that don’t get a lot of attention. It is by far the most popular site.

BCFHA Barbecue 2019 V

The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association

I wanted to share these with my readers and thank you for following my main blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. Please also share this with your friends who are visiting New York City to really tour the city by foot and see it for its own beauty and uniqueness.

Happy Reading!

My Blogs:

MywalkinManhattan.com

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/

BergenCountyCaregiver.com

https://wwwbergencountycaregiver.com/

VisitingaMuseum.com

https://visitingamuseum.com/

DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/

TheBrothersofEngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartment@Wordpress.com

https://engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/

TBCFMA@Wordpress.com

https://tbcfha.wordpress.com/

Also visit my past blog on Patch.com: The Merchant Series

https://patch.com/users/justin-watrel

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-merchant-series-young-fashions

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-merchant-series-young-fashions

I did this for the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library from 2009-2014.

Coney Island Sandcastle Building Contest

Day Eighty-Five: Back to Coney Island for the Annual Sandcastle Building Contest and Walking Surf Avenue August 19th, 2017

 

I had a busy day running around Newark and then Brooklyn visiting both the Newark Museum and Coney Island. I love how everything gets planned on the same day. Everyone is preparing for the Solar Eclipse on Monday, so both the Newark Museum and the American Museum of Natural History are getting ready for the viewings. So I stopped at the Newark Museum first today to see what they were planning knowing that New York was going to be very busy.

The Newark Museum is running a series of members mornings with a early morning tour of the museum and a light breakfast that seems to be catching on with the membership. We had a early morning tour of the kinetic sculpture of Uram Choe, a Korean artist who specializes in metal working sculptures that move on motion. His one piece upstairs in the Asian galleries opens up like the sun would in the morning and his downstairs on the second floor piece is a serpent eating itself, which is based on an old legend.

Uram Choe

Uram Choe’s work at the Newark Museum

Mr. Choe’s is from an architect background and each piece moves on a series of motors based on motion. Every piece is placed with such detail and the way it moves is so intricate. The Newark Museum (See TripAdvisor review) is going though a major renovation where they will be opening the original entrance to the museum in the Fall after twenty years and hopefully a new beginning for a museum with a major identity crisis.

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The Newark Museum

The museum has such amazing works to see in a beautiful setting but the problem is that Newark still has a negative  image to most suburbanites. No one I know wants to go there and that is a real problem for the city.  The museum in a great area of the downtown that is being rebuilt and refigured with all sorts of new housing and lofts but it will take time to shake the riots of the 60’s from peoples minds.

They just opened the new American Indian exhibition and refigured the American Art wing to reflect the development of the United States from Native American time to the present. Their Asian and African galleries are very detailed but the biggest problem they have is the imagine of an ‘African’ museum which they can’t seem to shake. It is such a gem and try not to miss going there.

We had a long talk in the gallery about the artist and about the development of Korean Art from Ancient times until today and then the museum had a beautiful Continental breakfast on the top floor of the Ballentine House. This was Mrs. Ballentine’s daughter’s section of the house that was built in the late 1890’s when they moved in after her husband’s death. The room, now used as the trustees room, is a look back on the Gilded Age and the invention of electricity in modern homes. It really showed me the treasure trove of artifacts that exist in this small museum.

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Ballentine House

After the tour, there was a quick tour of the museum and then a train ride to Manhattan and then a long subway ride on a beautiful clear sunny day to Coney Island. The whole thing took about two hours and I got there by three o’clock.

The Annual Sandcastle Building Contest I thought would be much bigger than it was. Only about twenty people were competing in it. Several mounds of  sand in one section of the beach outside of Luna Park were used but still the imagination of the work was spellbound.

Most of the works that I saw were some form of castle which seemed to be the object that everyone based their idea on but some people were a little more creative. There were gorillas, octopuses, people crawling out of the sea and one artist even dug out a complete hole and had the imagine of a women lying in the sea. There were some pretty interesting ideas at play. I am not sure who won that afternoon but the prize was $500.00.

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Coney Island Sand Castle Contest 2017

Some of the professional artists did works to welcome everyone to the contest and their detail work was interesting as you see in the picture above. This was not done by a group of ten year olds.

I walked along the beach to relax my feet and as I walked I could not believe how empty the beaches were for a Saturday afternoon in August. By the water it was full but towards the back by the boardwalk it was empty. Not the Coney Island of yesteryear when every spot was full. I guess its just not that place anymore.

After a long walk along the beach, I dried off and walked the boardwalk to the end to Seagate, a private community at the end of the boardwalk. Along the way, I passed by the Coney Island Houses, one of the more dangerous housing complexes in Brooklyn. I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was to build low income housing along the shore front but that made no sense to me.

It looked like the complex was having a barbecue, that is until two guys went after each other in the basketball court area as the DJ was announcing a kids dance. She was beside herself to tell them to calm down. Then you had two groups of people trying to calm the situation down. It was not a pleasant scene.

I got to the end of the boardwalk and decided I wanted to see all of Surf Avenue to see the real changes on the island since the closing of the amusement area. I agree with an article I read years ago, it still is like a war zone.

They built all this public housing outside Seagate and as you walk along Surf Avenue until you get to about where the rehab center is, it just looks like Beirut. The whole area is full of rundown looking public housing and the street itself is a shell of the once glorious resort if it ever  was that. If there are ever going to get this island back into shape, the city seriously needs to rethink this part of the island.

I walked the entire length of Surf Avenue down to Brighton Beach and really looked at the stretch of the island facing the shore. By Brighton Beach, the area got so much nicer and more built up. Even in some of the pockets before the amusement area, they are building new condos along the boardwalk in between the projects. Even still, even when you reach Nathan’s, there is just too much wasted opportunity along the shore front.

I turned around and walked up Stillwell Avenue by the subway spot and there they are starting to knock down the block and replacing it with low rise apartment buildings. This is where all the hipster people must be living. It looks like more of this area is about to come down.

For dinner, I went to Totonno’s Pizzaria Napolitano at 1524 Neptune Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets (See TripAdvisor review). This place is harder to get into than any trendy restaurant in Manhattan. They only make so much dough and as a matter of fact the smaller pizzas sold out before I got there and it was 4:30pm when I ate my lunch/dinner. The place was busy the entire time I got there. The only bad thing about the restaurant is the seating. They need to reconfigure their tables to accommodate more people. You can’t seat a single person like myself at a six top table.

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Totonna’s Pizza

The menu is so simple. Either you get a small or large pizza with a choice of ten toppings for $2.50 extra. The drinks were pricey with a bottle of Coke being $2.50. The pizza was $20.50 for the large or $18.50 for the small. The place is cash only.

The pizza was wonderful and with the size and the quality of ingredients, well worth the money.  You get a large pizza that is a large pizza with fresh tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, which gives it a different flavor from the shredded processed cheese most places use giving it a creamy flavor. The whole thing was topped with fresh basil and I added sausage to it. Cooking it in a coal brick stove gave it a nice smoky flavor. Needless to say, the owner could not believe I ate almost the entire pie at one sitting.

Tononna Pizza

Totonna’s Cheese Pizza

I met Louise Ciminieri, the current owner and the granddaughter of the original owner. She told me how the business passed down from her grandfather to her uncle and then to her. Her uncle had a habit of only making so much dough and after it was gone, the restaurant closed for the day. A little strange for a business to make money.

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Louise Ciminieri of Totonno’s Pizza

She could not have been nicer or more welcoming to me and seemed to get a kick at the fact that I made such a fuss in meeting her. I told her of all the reviews online and the fact that my own mom had eaten here probably when he uncle first owned the business. She has not changed the place much over the years and she explained how the neighborhood has changed so much since they opened. What was once an Italian neighborhood is now all car repair places.

After dinner, I took once last walk around Surf Avenue and then headed back to Manhattan where I ended up spending the rest of the evening at an outdoor concert in Bryant Park. It was nice to just relax and listen to the music.

It was a beautiful night and a great way to end the trip to Coney Island.

The Coney Island Sand Castle Building Contest is held each August.

 

Places to Visit:

 

Newark Museum/Ballentine House

49 Washington Avenue

Newark, NJ  07102

(973) 596-6550

https://www.newarkmuseum.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46671-d217958-Reviews-Newark_Museum-Newark_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1818

 

Coney Island Beach

Surf Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d106173-Reviews-Coney_Island-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

 

Totonno’s Pizza

1524 Neptune Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

(718) 372-8606

https://www.totonnosconeyisland.com/

Open: Friday-Sunday 12:30pm-7:30pm/Closed Monday-Thursday

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d459062-Reviews-Totonno_Pizzeria_Napolitano-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Luna Park in Coney Island

Day Eighty-Two: Going from Q to Q. Taking the subway from the beginning of the Q on 96th Street to Stillwell Avenue Coney Island August 9th, 2017

I had finished the Manhattan Valley neighborhood earlier in the day when the Soup Kitchen was full and they did not need me. So I walked the lower part of the neighborhood to finish it off and then walked across Central Park to the beginning of the new subway stop for the Q subway train at 96th Street and Second Avenue. As I had written on Day Sixty-Six on my walk, this subway line is really nice and take time to look at the artwork at the stops at 96th, 72nd and 63rd Streets.

96th Street Stop in Coney Island

the 96th Street stop my starting point

If you are going to take the Q to Coney Island leave yourself plenty of time because it is over an hour to get from one end of the Q to the other. It was a beautiful warm clear sunny day around 84 degrees and a perfect day to go to the shore.

I love the Q train! I love the new section of the subway with its interesting art and the fact that it is so clean. That and the fact they the E subway has the newest cars to stretch out in. It makes it a pleasure for the long trips.

You get some of the best views of the city from the subway once you cross over into Brooklyn. You get a great views of lower Manhattan when exiting from underground plus you get to see the old parts of Brooklyn with views of the ‘Brownstone’ neighborhoods. There’s another area that keeps changing with gentrification.

The subway ends at the Stillwell subway stop. This rebuilt stop was the first part in the renovation of the island to make it a more 24 hour resort. Most of the other plans have been scrapped or were never enacted. To be honest with all of you, the amusement area of Coney Island is still dumpy and has not been much since the Luna Park fire of 1946 and the Dreamland fire of 1911. They keep trying though.

Even when I went to Coney Island as a kid in the 70’s, it was rundown then. Please don’t get me wrong, Coney Island can be a lot of fun and you can have a great day out here but don’t get too lofty of expectations of what it is like (See reviews on TripAdvisor). Don’t venture too far from Nathan’s after dark and follow the crowd back to the Stillwell subway station after dark if you stay for the films on the beach or the fireworks.

I have been down for the Mermaid Parade in the Spring several years ago and will be going to the Sandcastle Building contest next week. There is a lot going on during the summer and it is good to check out these activities. The Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s draws thousands to the island to watch their hero’s devour hot dogs at record speed.

Still the I love to explore the changes to the island and walked around Surf and Neptune Avenues after I got there. I wanted to see if Totonno’s Pizza was open that day so I walked for two blocks Neptune Avenue and I will tell you that though the area is changing it still is not a great neighborhood.

Totonno’s is in the middle of a commercial area with a series of garages and car repairs. The worst part was that it closed for the day. The restaurant is only opened from Wednesday to Sunday so its for another time. I did get to see the back part of the island and found where the original Coney Island Creek was located. This is where the original Sea Lion Park and Luna Park were located back in the early part of the century.

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Totonno’s Pizza on Neptune Avenue

I changed my plans around and walked the length of Surf Avenue and started my walk around the amusement area which runs from the Aquarium at West 8th Street to about West 16th Street. Even with the rebuilding of Luna Park on the footprint of the old Astroland, Surf Avenue needs a major makeover. The chain restaurants have added a little life to it but still some of the blocks are a series of rundown buildings and old time amusements.

I stopped by the Coney Island Museum at 1208 Surf Avenue and the museum part was closed for the day but the side show part was open but I had missed the show. I walked around some of the open exhibitions on the outside and it is interesting to see some of the artifacts from the old amusement days.

Coney Island Museum

Coney Island Museum at 1208 Surf Avenue

My next stop was the famous Cyclone Roller Coaster on West 10th Street (see review on TripAdvisor). This is the most amazing and exciting ride on the island and one of the things you should see while you are in New York City. It is $10.00 to ride the coaster but it is well worth it! That first hill you go down is so mind-blowing. You feel as if the cars are going to fly into the sea. It rolls up and down those hills back and forth facing the buildings across the street and the sea. Of all the amusement parks I have been to there is nothing like the Cyclone.

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Cyclone Rollercoaster

I walked into the Luna Park area and saw the improvements that have been added to the park. The problem with Luna Park is that its mostly kiddie rides and not much for adults with the exception of the Log Flume Ride. Luna Park was rebuilt on the old Astroland which had closed by in 2008 and is trying to capture the old magic of the island with upgrades on rides and concessions. It even recreated the original entrance of Luna Park across the street from the old park. Still it will take a lot more work on the park and more added rides in the future. I give them so much credit for revitalizing the park with a new look.

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The entrance to the new Luna Park in Coney Island

I walked after that to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, 1025 Regielmann Boardwalk, which I had not been on for about seven years and the famous Spook-a-Rama, which I had not ridden since I was about eight. The Wonder Wheel was built back in the 20’s and with a height of 150 feet, has great views of the ocean and of the island. Both rides were $8.00 and were well worth it for the day.

When riding the Wonder Wheel, make sure to get one of the cars that slide. Not only do you get the view but you get the excitement of sliding around. When you reach the top of the Wonder Wheel, it has the most breathtaking view of the boardwalk area, the beach and ocean and a view of the whole island. The breeze is so refreshing up there and you feel like the world is your own. Talk about seeing the world go by.

Deno's Wonder Wheel

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park at 1025 Regielmann Boardwalk

After the Wonder Wheel, I walked over to Spook-a-Rama, also $8.00, which I first rode when I was eight and it has not changed that much since then. It does have a few thrills that do pop out at you that will have you jumping. There have been a few updates on it with video displays but for the most part I remember it being much scarier as a kid. I will let you know though the first couple of things popping out at you will still have you jumping out of your seat but still its not the Haunted Mansion at Disney Parks.

I had enough time to go to the New York Aquarium located at West 8th Street, just past the Cyclone. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, most of the Aquarium was seriously damaged and most of the park is still under construction. The Coral Exhibition is still interesting especially with the destruction of the wreaths around the world and the Sea Lion demonstration is a lot of fun. The Sea Lions are such hams and seem to love the crowds. What I thought was interesting is that both of them were born in New York City at the Bronx Zoo so they have only known humans. Still they look like they are having fun.  They seem to love waving to the audience and the crowds love them back.

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New York Aquarium at West 8th Street

My last stop of the evening was dinner at Nathan’s at 1310 Surf Avenue. This hot dog chain was founded in 1916 and is still in their original location. They have the best hot dogs and their French fries are some of the best in the industry. When you go you have to have the original hot dog with mustard, the regular fries (which is a large order anywhere else) and their famous Orange-aid. It is the best meal.

Nathan's Coney Island

Nathan’s Coney Island at 1310 Surf Avenue

On a hot sunny day, it is nice to sit out on the tables right next to the restaurant. There is something about the sea breezes, the salt air and hot dogs and fries that make a phenomenal combination. It is a meal that is part of the beach experience and that was worth the trip alone.

Before it got too late, I was back on the Q Train back to Manhattan. I’m sorry but sensible people still get out of Coney Island before it gets dark. Even though the subway station on Stillwell and Surf Avenues is very safe and there is a police station there, its better to leave before dusk. I don’t care how many artists have moved into the area.

The subway ride took just over an hour to get back to Manhattan but it was still light out when I left the shore area and got my last glimpse of the ocean pass by. There is nothing  like watching the sun reflect on the beach. The best was that we passed lower Manhattan before we went under the tunnel and watched the skyline brightened by the lights in the office towers. If you want to see an amazing site, it is when the city lights come on and the skyline is ablaze. It is like a picture postcard and impressive. When people think of New York City, this is what they imagine.

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Coney Island Beach

When I finally got back to 96th Street, I had some time to look at the artwork again and stretch around the station. I still love to see museum quality art in a subway. Then it was off back on the Q back to midtown.

For the price of a round-trip ticket on the subway, it is fantastic voyage around the city on the new Q. Artwork, amusements, skyline views and the beach. What more could you want?

From Q to Q Beginning to End from 96th Street to Stillwell Avenue

 

Places to Visit:

 

Coney Island Museum

3050 Stillwell Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

(718) 372-5159

https://www.coneyisland.com/programs/coney-island-museum

Open: Sunday-Saturday 12:00pm-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d555621-Reviews-The_Coney_Island_Museum-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1978

 

Luna Park Coney Island/Cyclone Rollercoaster

1000 Surf Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11224

(718) 373-5862

https://lunaparknyc.com/

Open: Monday-Thursday 11:00am-10:00pm/Friday-Sunday 11:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d1796964-Reviews-Luna_Park_at_Coney_Island-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Deno’s Wonderwheel Park

1023 Riegelmann Boardwalk

Brooklyn, NY  11224

(718) 372-2592

https://www.denoswonderwheel.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d565041-Reviews-Deno_s_Wonder_Wheel_Park-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

The New York Aquarium

602 Surf Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

(718) 265-3474

https://nyaquarium.com/

Open: Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm/Monday-Thursday 10:00am-5:00pm/Friday & Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d107414-Reviews-New_York_Aquarium-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3619

 

Places to Eat:

 

Nathan’s Famous

1310 Surf Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11224

(718) 333-2202

https://nathansfamous.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d458011-Reviews-Nathan_s_Famous-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Blogger Justin Watrel in front of street art

My Walk in Manhattan: my walking experience around the whole island. I started this project on Father’s Day, June 2015

Happy Father’s Day!

(This project is dedicated with much love to my father, Warren George Watrel, who still inspires me!)

Hello and Welcome to ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, an extensive  project to walk the entire island of Manhattan. My name is Justin Watrel and I will be your guide in exploring the island of Manhattan, searching every nook and cranny of the island for the unusual, the usual and the in between.

‘Walking the Island of Manhattan’ may not be terribly original as there are about four other people doing the project at the same time, but this project is different in the way I see the island. Not rushing through to prove I have walked it but to see what these neighborhoods are all about and what is there to discover and enjoy.

For all you ‘Manhattanites’ who think you know your island, I will show you things that you have never seen and places you have never gone, restaurants you have never tried and historical sites and museums you never knew existed. Maybe just a few blocks from where you live. As the son of two “Brooklynites’, I have traveled around the city a lot since 1969, my first time in the City when my parents took me to Chinatown to Hunan Gardens, a Chinese restaurant on Mott Street. I ended up there for eight birthdays until it closed in the early 2000’s.

Chinatown Parade

Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown

“My Walk in Manhattan” is a  project to walk the entire island of Manhattan in New York City from top to bottom from the beginning of the Summer of 2015 until I finish the walk. Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide and covers a total area 23.7 square miles.  Along the way of walking the streets of Manhattan, I will be walking into parks, museums, restaurants and looking at the architecture of the neighborhoods and the buildings in them.

The Island of Manhattan

My soon to be path around the Island of Manhattan

I have found that people miss a lot when they walk with their cellphones and only look down at it. When you look up, you see the true beauty of the City. You see the stone work of old brownstones, you see small boutiques off the beaten track and can indulge in those hole in the wall restaurants that are usually found by foreign tourists. Nothing is more interesting then seeing a stone face on a building staring back at you, a tiny pocket park that residents created out of a garbage dump and that small entrepreneur trying to create a vision.

611 Broadway Cable Building II

The Cable Building at 631 Broadway

This project was inspired by many things. My major inspiration for this project follows the recent passing of my father, Warren George Watrel. My dad and I loved to walk around the city and spend the day at various museums, walking around Central Park and the Conservatory, taking the subway to try new restaurants in Chinatown or Little Italy or any new place I had read about in the Village Voice (my Bible when looking for things to do on weekends).

Columbus Circle.jpg

Columbus Circle on the West Side

My father was a ‘Brooklynite’ from Williamsburg (long before it was ‘Hipster Central’, he would have been amused) and loved the city, so this voyage is dedicated to him. Having watched the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen, we look for inspiration in our travels  and try to find the answers to why something happens the way it does. Walking to explore does that.

I was my father’s caregiver after his illness hit him and I continued my trips into Manhattan as my father got better. It was the inspiration to this site’s sister site, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver.com’. After he passed in 2014, I wanted to spend Father’s Day doing something different yet do something that we would have done together. Thus started the first walk in Marble Hill.

Marble Hill VI

My first Day in Marble Hill, Manhattan

Another inspiration was a recent article in New York Magazine entitled “Which New York is Yours? A Fierce Preservationist and a Pro-Development Blogger Debate” in which the author Justin Davidson asks about the disappearance of New York’s Character. “What does that character actually consist of? If we did make an all-out effort to preserve it, how would we know what to protect?” How much is the city changing? I have worked off and on in New York City since 1988 and the answer is in some parts of Manhattan it is night and day. Could you imagine walking in Bryant or Tompkins Square Parks in 1990?

I did and they were very different places back then. With the changing Zoning Laws and gentrification of many neighborhoods, its not the city of 1970’s movies. What I am looking for are those unique little pocket parks that we pass, those statues of people we have no clue who they are and those historic plaques of places gone by and people we don’t know.

Astor Row Houses

Astor Row Houses in Harlem

Another are the books, ‘Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost its Soul’ by Jeremiah Moss and ‘The Death and Life of the Great American City’ by Jane Jacobs. How do cities keep progressing and changing? How does change effect a city and what direction are we going in? Does the Island of Manhattan have to be all luxury or can it be mixed to help keep the creativity alive and keep innovation going? Do we want the big bad 70’s again or the luxury brand of the 2010’s and 20’s? How is it impacting and changing the city? How much has Manhattan and the rest of the boroughs changed with the rezoning of the city under the Bloomberg Administration. This can also be looked at in the documentaries “Gut Renovation” and “My Brooklyn”.

The last inspiration was my doctor. He said I have to lose ten pounds. I am hardly over-weight but like many people he feels that I will be healthier if I lose the weight and keep it off. I want to see how a walk like this tones the body.

Bowling Green Park

Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan

I know many people before have walked the entire length of Manhattan while others have or are attempting to walk the every  block in the city, mine has a more personal reason. To really see the city I love from the ground up and explore parts of the island that I have never ventured to and see what I find there. Along the way, I want to see how the city changes while I am taking the walk. This is not the “Christopher Columbus” attitude most people are taking when exploring the neighborhoods but more honoring those residents who are trying to make the City better.

My project also includes stops at various points of interest and to get a better feel for all the neighborhoods, I am walking both sides of the street to get a better look at the buildings in each neighborhood and what defines the character of a neighborhood. I get the impression from some of the readers of Mr. Davidson’s article and from comments on the Internet that Manhattan is some “playground of the wealthy that is being gentrified to the hilt and soon no one will be able to afford any part of Manhattan”. Like in any place, there are people struggling everyday to survive in New York and like every city in the country, people are moving back in droves and want a quality of life for them and their families.

Delacorte Clock.jpg

Delacorte Clock in Central Park

In the Age of COVID, it has been interesting starting the project again. I had been on hold from March 13th, 2020 through June 10th, 2020 when the City was closed for anyone other than First Responder and people who had to work there. I was so happy when I could return and continue walking Manhattan. My walk down Broadway for the forth time was a surprise with all the businesses closed on the Upper West Side and I met the challenge of “The Great Saunter Walk” , the 32 mile walk around the perimeter of the island in 14 hours. There is now more to see and explore and write.

The COVID world though has me facing closed businesses that I have covered over the years. Restaurants and stores that I have mentioned in this blog since 2015 have since closed permanently or closed for the time being, I am not too sure. We also have a walking world of masks that keep us safe. The times in Manhattan are changing from the way we eat in restaurants to the way we shop and visit museums.

SoHo boarded up after the June Riots 2020

Fifth Avenue boarded up after the June Riots 2020

Things are constantly changing in Manhattan since the riots in June and COVID keeps raging in the City with people not wanting to wear masks. I hope that things will get back to normal soon. I still see people out and about doing their thing and enjoying the warm weather so I am optimistic about life. Still though, Manhattan keeps changing with the Theater District boarded up and Chinatown looking like a ghost town. We will see how New York City recovers from COVID like the rest of the country.

I have now expanded this site to three other blogs, ‘VisitingaMuseum’ (VisitingaMuseum.com), which features all the historical sites, community gardens and small museums and galleries I find in not just Manhattan but throughout the rest of the NYC and beyond in the suburbs. 

‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ (DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), where I feature wonderful little restaurants, bodegas and bakeries that I find along the way. The one requirement is that the meal is around $10.00 and under (for us budget minded people).

“LittleShoponMainStreet” (LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) where I find unique and creative stores in Manhattan and locally whose merchandising, displays, merchandise and service stand out in an age of Amazon. This harks back to a time when shopping was enjoyable and not a chore.

I have also added two new sections to the blog, “My life as a Fireman”, which I have moved from an old site that I had created for my old engine company to describe my experiences on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department over the last 16 years. Also, this is what takes up my time when I am not exploring New York City.

Justin Watrel Fireman

Justin Watrel, Fireman

Another is “A Local Journey” are tours of downtown’s and communities outside the New York City area to travel to when you need to escape the City’s clutches. I have specific guidelines in finding stores, restaurants and museums/cultural sites in the area. This has lead me to really explore my own town of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and exploring out of town destinations like Red Hook, NY and Beach Haven/Long Beach Island, NJ. You would be amazed on what these small towns offer.

Downtown Red Hook, NY

Downtown Red Hook, NY in the Summer months

With COVID still rearing its head when I am in New York City, I do everything to stay safe from being fully vaccinated (I have take both shots and no I have not turned into a ‘Pod Person’) to wearing a mask and keeping hand sanitizer on me. I abide by all NYC Parks rules and try to stay away from people when in museums and restaurants.

Even with all its problems, New York City is still the most exciting City on earth and follow the blog, neighborhood by neighborhood and join me in discovering what makes Manhattan one of the greatest places on Earth!

So to readers who will be following me on the journey walking through Manhattan and beyond, I hope you enjoy trip walking by my side!

Red Hook Trip IV

Me in Red Hook, Brooklyn discovering my new love in “Street Art”

This project is dedicated to my father, Warren George Watrel, with lots of love and many wonderful adventures and memories to keep me company as I take “My Walk in Manhattan”.

Dad & I

My dad, Warren and I at a Grandparent’s Day Brunch in 2013

‘Break My Stride’ still plays in my mind when I do this walk.

This walking song plays in my mind when I start ‘Walking’. Thank you Mary Mary!