*I discovered the Morris-Jumel Mansion on my walk around Manhattan and noted it on my blog site “MywalkinManhattan.com”. This is the only remaining Colonial residence left on the island of Manhattan and is worth the time to take the tour of the house for its significance in the American Revolutionary War and in it’s later history.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s only remaining Colonial era residence is unique in its combination of architectural and historical significance. Built as a summer ‘villa’ in 1765 by the British Colonel Roger Morris and his American wife, Mary Philipse, it originally commanded extensive views in all directions: of New York harbor and Staten Island to the south; of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers to the west and east and of Westchester county to the north. The estate named “Mount…
In the late 1700’s, well-to-do dwellers moved to Harlem Heights in the summer, seeking its cool breezes. They also wanted to avoid yellow fever, a summer threat in lower Manhattan, Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth (of the influential Schuyler family) often visited friends here and decided to build their own retreat.
In 1802, they moved in and Hamilton began commuting to his downtown law office, a 90 minute carriage trip. He and Elizabeth also began to entertain friends, colleagues and leader in their elegant home and gardens. Little did Hamilton know that his time at The Grange would be brief.
Witness to Slavery:
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) grew up on Nevis and St. Croix, islands in the Caribbean, where thousands of enslaved Africans labored in…
The Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s) is becoming a cult favorite in the restaurant industry as the home of the ‘infamous’ chopped cheese sandwich, otherwise known as a ‘ghetto’ sandwich. I have been coming into New York City for fifty years and had never heard of this sandwich. The one thing I can tell you is that a trip to the Blue Sky Deli is interesting. It is located in East Harlem and surrounded by housing projects on almost all sides. It is a destination place for anyone from other parts of the city.
There is a big debate now online of where it originated but most people will tell you it was created here on the corner of 1st Avenue & 110th Street and more rappers…
When I finally finished walking Sutton and Beekman Places, I finally decided to take the long walk down Broadway that I had planned for two years. As you can see by the blog, I like to take one neighborhood or section of the City at a time and concentrate on getting to know it. What is the history of the neighborhood? What is there now? Who are the shop keepers and the restaurant owners? What is the neighborhood association doing to improve the area? I like to become part of the neighborhood when I walk around it.
But recently I have noticed people on the Internet have been posting that they walked the entire length of Broadway and bragged about it like they were ‘performing brain surgery’. So I put aside my next walk and decided to see what the fuss was about walking up and down Broadway. I am not sure about everyone else but it was a long trip that took a little over eight hours and I highly recommend the exercise. It was a lot of fun and I felt terrific afterwards. The walk goes by very quickly.
I got to visit neighborhoods that I had not seen in about two to three years. The most striking thing I had discovered especially walking through Harlem and Washington Heights is how many of the old businesses I had either passed or had eaten at had closed. Just like the rest of the City, these areas are going through a lot of change and are being gentrified. It seems like the college campus neighborhoods are leading the way especially around Columbia’s new campus above 125th Street and SUNY between 145th Street to 130th Street. The shifts in neighborhoods are changing very fast and more and more buildings are under scaffolding or being knocked down and replaced.
Since the walk down Broadway from 242nd Street to Bowling Green Park is so extensive, I will not go into the intense detail of historical sites and parks along the way. More detail can be found on my sister sights, VisitingaMuseum.com, DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com. On these three sites I will discuss more on each site and a more detailed history. More information on each neighborhood can be found section by section of Manhattan on my blog, MywalkinManhattan.com.
Broadway itself as an Avenue has a very interesting history. Broadway is the English-language literal translation of the Dutch name, ‘Brede-wey’. Broadway was originally the Wickquasgeck Trail that was carved into brush of Manhattan by the Native American inhabitants. ‘Wickquasgeck means “birch-bark country” in Algonquian language. The trail originally snaked through swamps and rocks along the length of Manhattan island (Wiki).
Manhattan in Colonial Times
When the Dutch arrived, the trail became the main road through the island with the colony of Nieuw Amsterdam at the southern tip. The word ‘Brede-wey’ was translated when the British took possession of the island they changed the name to ‘Broadway’. Known in the past as ‘Broadway Street’, ‘Kingsbridge Road’ and ‘Bloomingdale Road’ in parts around the island, it officially became ‘Broadway’ in 1899 when the whole street from the top of Manhattan to the bottom was named for one long road (Wiki).
The entire length of Broadway through Manhattan from Inwood to the Battery is 13 miles and the length in the Bronx is 2 miles. There is an additional 18 miles that runs through Westchester County all the way to Sleepy Hollow, NY where it ends. I just concentrated on the subway route from the 242nd Street Subway exit to the Bowling Green at the tip of Manhattan.
I started my mornings at 5:30am getting up and stretching. The sun shined in my room and that was a good start to the day. The weather was going to be in the high 70’s with a touch of clouds and the weather really cooperated. I got into New York City at 8:15am and started my day with breakfast at my favorite deli in the Garment District, 9th Avenue AM-PM Deli (or Juniors AM-PM Deli as it also known by (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com)
What I love about 9th Avenue AM-PM Deli is the generous portions at a very fair price. I started my day with a French Toast platter ($4.99). I had four very nice sized slices of French Toast that were nicely caramelized and just a hint of cinnamon. On my second time on the walk, I ate here again ordering one of their Hungry Man Hero’s ($9.75), which is three eggs, potatoes, ham, bacon and sausage on a soft hero roll with mayo. Ladened with calories yes but taste wise wonderful. It had all the calories and carbs for a 15 mile walk.
It is always nice to grab one of the stools and eat by the window and watch the world go by. Just remember to get here early before all the construction workers from the Hudson Yards come over for their half hour union break. Then it really gets busy.
9th Avenue AM-PM Deli
After breakfast, it was off to Times Square to take the Number One Subway up to 242nd Street-Van Cortland Park stop to start the walk. Manhattan actually starts lower than that but on such a nice day, I thought it would be nice to start at the very top of the subway route. I had not been to the Van Cortlandt House Museum (See VisitingaMuseum.com and TripAdvisor for my reviews) since right after the holidays to see the house decorations and not seen the park ever in the warmer months.
Van Cortlandt House Museum in Van Cortlandt Park
I got to my destination at 9:00am and had to go to the bathroom. What is nice about Van Cortlandt Park is that the public bathrooms are right near the subway exit and there is another set right next to the Van Cortlandt House Museum so that is covered when you enter the neighborhood. Make sure to take a bathroom break now because the options get slimmer until about 207th Street.
I started my adventure by walking into the park and visiting the museum grounds. Van Cortlandt Park is a beautiful park that was once the Van Cortlandt estate. The last time I had been here was to tour the house for Christmas and to see the decorations. The house is much nicer in the Summer months with the gardens in bloom. The house was closed when I got to the park so I just walked around the grounds to stretch a bit and admire the foliage. It was nice to see the trees with leaves on them and the gardens surrounding the house were in full bloom.
Van Cortlandt Park
Don’t miss when exiting the park to stop and see Memorial Grove, a small section of the park dedicated to 21 servicemen who gave their lives in World War. There are twenty-one oak trees that were planted by the graves which are now fully grown. It is a somber but quiet place to reflect on what these men gave for our country.
Memorial Grove Park inside Van Cortlandt Park
Also, take a peek at the statue of General Josiah Porter, a Civil War hero who is memorialized just outside the entrance to Van Cortlandt Mansion. This elegant statue was created by artist William Clarke Nobel in 1902.
General Porter lead the 22nd Regiment of the National Guard of New York during the war (NYCParks.org).
General Josiah Porter in front of the Van Cortlandt Mansion
Once I left the park, I started the walk on the west side of Broadway and the plan was to walk the west side the first day and then the east side the second time so that I could see the buildings along the way and see what restaurants had opened, closed and what looked interesting. Plus where to find public bathrooms along the way. This was the interesting part of the walk was trying to find bathrooms when you needed them.
Since I have visited most of the neighborhoods already from 59th Street up to the tip of Inwood and wrote about historical sites, buildings, gardens and museums that I have visited along the way in other blogs, I won’t be mentioning these in as much detail as you can see them in other entries.
I will refer to the other sites DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com, LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com, VisitingaMuseum.com and other entries of MywalkinManhattan.com for more details to read on each neighborhood.
Also to make the walk more enjoyable and include all the wonderful places to visit and see along the way, I will be blending both days experiences into one blog so I can make stopping points that visitors should take time to see. Both walks took just over eight hours and please watch the humidity. There was a big difference doing this walk in 70 degree weather versus 85 degree weather with humidity. I needed more liquids in me and more time to sit down. Still it was great exercise and you will never be bored.
Once I left Van Cortlandt Park, it was walking down through the commercial district of the Bronx along the Broadway corridor which is loaded with chain stores and malls of all sorts. So much for people saying the Bronx is dead. There was so much shopping going on that you never had to leave for the suburbs to find a chain store.
At each subway stop station I did notice clusters of small family run businesses and here you can find some interesting restaurants and pizzerias. There are a lot of family run bakeries as well but none that stood out.
When you reach the edge of Marble Hill (the Northern most part of Manhattan), you will pass the Marble Hill Houses. I had more whistles and yells when I passed the projects on my second trip on the neighborhood. I am not sure what about me screams cop. Even so as I walked in the front walks of the houses I noticed that the residents were growing gardens that were part of the ‘Outer Seed Project’, a program of growing crops on the projects lawns. I thought it will be interesting when everything gets harvested.
It was when you will cross the bridge at 225th Street in the Bronx to the tip of Manhattan in Inwood is where it all starts to change as you enter the northern Columbia University campus and pass the football stadium.
The Columbia University ‘C’ when you exit Marble Hill and go over the bridge to the Island of Manhattan
The interesting part of this part of Inwood is that on tip of Manhattan is nothing at the end of it. Here we have bus stations, garage trucks and delivery vans. This is one of the most commercial parts of Manhattan I have ever seen outside parts of the Garment District. The area has been rezoned so there will be a lot more changes up here in the future. Once you cross the bridge from the Bronx, you feel the difference in the neighborhoods depending on what side of Broadway you are on.
Crossing the bridge means that you have entered Columbia University territory and to the right is Columbia Stadium which is pretty much shut down this time of year. There were some football players in the field but the Ivy League season starts later so it was not that busy. On my second trip down the east side of Broadway, I made two pit stops in Inwood past the stadium that I think tourists and residents alike should see.
The first is Muscato Marsh at 575 West 218th Street (See review on VisitingaMuseum.com)right behind Columbia Stadium that faces the shores of Marble Hill. This interesting marsh is one of the few in the City and one of the only ones in Manhattan that I know of and it is a great place to just sit and relax.
Muscato Marsh at 575 West 218th Street
The Muscato Marsh is right next to the Columbia Boathouse where their rowing team set their boats off and right next to the Columbia Football stadium. On a sunny morning or afternoon it is a nice place to just sit back and watch the boaters and people on jet ski’s zoom by. It is nice to just sit by the flowers and relax.
If you want to walk a little further into Inwood Park, visit the Shorakkopoch Rock the place where it has been said that Peter Minuet had bought the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans. This is where a three hundred year old tulip tree had once stood and legend stated that the event had taken place under a tulip tree in clearing on the island. No one is too sure if this is the right place but to really understand the history of Manhattan. this is the spot where to begin.
Shorakkopoch Rock the site of the purchase of Manhattan Island by Peter Minuet
On the way of exploring Broadway, I followed the path of artwork by artist Nicolas Holiber and his bird sculptures that lined Broadway similar to the art by Joy Brown and Bernadette Myers. So traveling from 165th Street to 59th Street searching for bird artwork.
As I left Inwood Park, I watched as kids participating in Summer camps were playing games and running around. Parts of the park were closed to reseeding so you can see that money was being put into the park and renovations were starting.
As I walked down Broadway the few times I have visited the area since my initial walk in 2015, I have noticed so many businesses open and close which is almost a epidemic all over Manhattan. Broadway for almost the entire length is no different. I had recently read an article about Borough President Gale Brewer walking the length of Broadway in Manhattan and saying that about 200 store fronts were empty. This is not good and is showing what is going on not just in the economy but how the landlords are beginning to gouge small businesses with rent increases. So many small Dominican businesses I have watched close to be replaced by Hipster restaurants who are also not making it with these rent increases.
Still there are many businesses that are thriving along the Broadway corridor and a lot of great restaurants to stop and visit along the way. Even after a big breakfast, I needed to take snack breaks along the way and the restaurants in the Washington Heights area are reasonable and have great travel food.
My first stop after visiting the Muscato Marsh was Twin Donut at 5099 Broadway for a donut and a bathroom break. You will need to know which public bathrooms are good along the way and for the price of a donut is was well worth the visit. Their donuts are around a $1.75 depending on the type but go for one of their jelly or custard filled. They are really good. This is one of the first places I visit during the Cornell/Columbia Football games.
As you are traveling down Broadway, take some time to walk the side streets into the heart of ‘Little Dominica’, Inwood’s Dominican community of stores, restaurants and bakeries. The first stop should be walking down 207th Street to the subway stop on 10th Avenue. While the street is full of all sorts of restaurants, stop at the street vendors for fresh juice and pastilitos, the Dominican version of the empanadas. These usually run about $1.00. There are all sorts of street vendors selling their wares along the sidewalks. On my second trip down I stopped at a vendor for fresh chicken pastilitos and there is nothing like them when they are just out of the fryer.
As I traveled through Inwood, I stopped at the Dyckman Family Farmhouse (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com), which is the oldest home on the Island of Manhattan. The Dyckman Farmhouse was built in 1785 and was once part of a 250 acre that stretched to the tip of Inwood. The house now sits on a bluff overlooking Broadway and Washington Heights on about an acre of land. The house is still impressive to walk through and when you have time, take the formal walking tour of the home and hear about the history of how the farm worked and about the Dyckman family.
The Dyckman Family Farmhouse at 4881 Broadway
As you pass the Dyckman House and walk south also take a side trip down Dyckman Avenue to visit more Dominican restaurants, bakeries and stores from Broadway to Nagle Avenue. There are some interesting places to have a snack but again check out the street vendors first especially on the weekends when the weather is nice. More people are out walking around.
When you cross Dyckman Street, Ann Loftus Playground at 4746 Broadway (named after a local community leader) will be to the right and there are nice public bathrooms and water fountains here. There are also benches under shade trees to sit under and on a warm day, their are vendors selling Dominican ices for $1.00. Go for the mango/cherry or the rainbow. On a hot day, they are very refreshing.
Ann Loftus Playground at 4746 Broadway
Ann Loftus Playground is part of the extensive Fort Tyron Park that runs from Riverside Drive to Broadway from Dyckman Street to 190th Street. If you want to take a walk through the park, not only are there beautiful views of the Hudson River along the stone paths but it leads up to The Cloisters Museum at 99 Margaret Corbin Drive which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that features Medieval Art including the ‘Hunt of the Unicorn’ tapestries.
The Cloisters and Fort Tyron Park
The park also has many colorful flower gardens and paths along the river with amazing views. There is a lot of walking up and down hills in Fort Tyron Park but trust me the views are breathtaking and the paths lead to amazing gardens and lawns. There are also nice public bathrooms to stop at here.
As you leave the park and continue walking down Broadway, you will be in the heart of Washington Heights so on a warm day expect to see people sitting on the benches socializing, playing checkers and dominoes and listening to music. There is a lot of life on these sidewalks.
As you pass Fort Tyron Park, take a peak at the street art work inside the 190th Street Station and take some time to walk the corridor. It is its own museum in constant change and the street taggers do some interesting work.
The subway station at 190th Street
When walking into the streets between 187th and 160th, there are some wonderful Spanish restaurants catering mostly to Dominican families but the menus are extensive and the prices are reasonable. There are a lot of restaurants especially clustered around the George Washington Bridge Depot. Two standouts that I highly recommend are La Dinastia at 4059 Broadway for Dominican Chinese food and 5 Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for pastries, pastilitos and all sorts of hot snacks.
The restaurant row around 181st Street
La Dinastia has a reasonable lunch menu and I recommend having the Chicken Cracklings, a type of batter fried chicken patty with their Special Fried Rice which contains shrimp, sausage, eggs and vegetables (See review on TripAdvisor). A lunch special here can run about $12.00 with a Coke and tip and you will be full for the rest of the afternoon.
La Dinastia Chicken Cracklings and Special Fried Rice
Before you leave this area, check out the former Coliseum Cinema on the corner of Broadway and 181st Street before they tear it down. It was built in 1920 as an old vaudeville theater and famous actors including the Marx Brothers and Harold Lloyd performed there. The building is slated for demolition due to its structure concerns and will be replaced by housing and a retail mall.
The Coliseum Theater at 181st & Broadway has interesting detail work
There is a small park across from the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Mitchell Square, at the corners of Broadway and St. Nichols Avenue at 168th Street, that features the Washington Heights-Inwood War Memorial by artist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. It was dedicated in 1922 for members of the community who fought in WWI. I found it very touching. It features two soldiers assisting another wounded one.
Washington Heights-Inwood War Memorial by artist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
Also check out some of the Dominican bakeries in the area. 5 Star Estrella Bakery is near the corner of 161st Street and Broadway. Everything at the bakery is delicious and I have never had one bad thing to eat here (See reviews on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com and TripAdvisor).
Their chicken and beef pastilitos are cooked perfectly and stuff full of filling ($1,50), their doughnuts are light and slathered in thick icing ($1.00) and their cinnamon buns ($2.00) are the best. They are light, chewy and sugary. Another item that stands out is a type of potato croquette that is filled with meat ($1.50). If they are available, grab one. Totally delicious!
5 Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway
As you reach the small pocket park at 157th Street, you will come across the first piece of Broadway Art by artist Nicolas Holiber for his “Birds on Broadway” Audubon Sculpture Project exhibit which is a partnership he has with Broadway Mall Association, NYC Parks, NYC Audubon and the Gitler Gallery. These interesting sculptures bring attention to birds species that are endangered by climate change. These birds are either native to New York or do a fly by when in season. They are made of 100% reclaimed or recycled wood (Nicolas Holiber website).
The Wood Duck by artist Nicolas Holiber
The first sculpture on the walk that I saw was the Wood Duck. It was an interesting piece that unfortunately was being walked on by a couple of kids that did not seem to know the significance of the work. These rustic pieces really do stand out though and I like the write ups with each one which gives a short story on each bird.
As you pass the sculpture and continue south to the right is the Audubon Terrace at 155th Street and Broadway, which is home to Boricua College, the Hispanic Society of America Museum (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) which is currently closed for renovation and the American Academy of Arts & Letters (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) which just recently closed and is only open twice a year to exhibitions. Both museums are only open at select times of the year so you have to visit their websites for more information.
The American Academy of Arts & Letters at 633 West 155th Street
The college abuts the Trinity Church Cemetery that holds the graves of many prominent New Yorkers including John Jacob Astor IV and Mayor Ed Koch. It is interesting to walk along the paths of the cemetery during the day and look at the historic tombstones. When visiting the grave of Mayor Koch, be prepared to find lots of stones along the gravesite as a sign of respect for the dead.
Ed Koch grave site
As you pass the borders of 155th Street into Harlem there is a distinct change in the street life. It is a lot quieter when you reach the borders of Washington Heights and Harlem. There are less people on the sidewalks here. In Washington Heights, there is music on the side walks, families playing games and men debating issues. It is a lot quieter I noticed when you cross the 155th Street border between the neighborhoods.
There is also a difference in the types of restaurants and shopping as slowly CUNY is starting to spread its wings and more businesses catering to students and faculty are opening in this area.
The next stop was to see Nicolas Holiber’s Snowy Owl at 148th Street. This was one of the more whimsical pieces in the exhibit and was unique with its outlaying wings.
The Snowy Owl by artist Nicolas Holiber at 148th Street
My next stop for a snack was at Olga’s Pizza at 3409 Broadway (See review on TripAdvisor). Olga’s I had just stumbled across as I had a craving for a slice and the pizza is delicious. The secret to a good pizza is a fresh tasting and well spiced sauce and Olga’s hits both marks on this. It is a little pricey at $2.50 a slice but she is catering to the CUNY students who venture from campus to the restaurants on Broadway for meals. I got to meet Olga herself in the pizzeria who was working alongside of her parents and she seemed please that I liked her pizza so much.
To the right of Olga’s just down the block is Montefiore Park, which is always a nice place to take a break and sit down to rest under the trees. It is a real mixture of neighborhood families, college students and teenagers who are eating at the local McDonalds or one of the food trucks that line the park in the warmer months. Just north of the park at 139th Street is the third sculpture in the Nicolas Holiber exhibit, the Hooded Merganser.
The Hooded Merganser by artist Nicolas Holiber at 136th Street
One surprising thing I found at the corner of Broadway and 135th Street was a Pediatric office that housed in the front of it the Martinez Gallery at 3332 Broadway. The gallery features in the front waiting room an array of street art. This was interesting for a doctor’s office.
The Martinez Gallery at 3332 Broadway
The inside artwork at the Martinez Gallery. Very unassuming doctor’s office
Once you pass 135th Street, you enter the new extension of the Columbia University campus and because of the growth of the campus to this section of Harlem especially around the 125th Street corridor, it is changing fast. I have never seen so many new restaurants and shops going up right across the street from the Manhattanville Housing Projects. It is becoming a real extreme in this part of the neighborhood.
Columbia University’s new Manhattanville campus that stretches from 125th to 130th Streets
Once you cross 125th Street on this part of Broadway, you enter Morningside Heights and the home of Columbia University. This part of 125th Street and Broadway has really changed since I started the walk of the island. There is a more established ‘Restaurant Row” that stretches from 125th Street to 122nd Street on Broadway that contains such restaurants as LaSalle Dumplings at 3141 Broadway and Bettolona at 3143 Broadway that I have tried in previous entries on this blog and check them out on my blog on Morningside Park. They are both excellent and I highly recommend them.
As soon I arrived on the Columbia University campus at 125th Street the mood of Broadway changed again from the streets of Harlem to a collegiate atmosphere. Don’t miss a break at the Columbia University commons around 116th Street. It is a lot of fun when school is in session and even during these quiet times of the summer, there still is a lot of energy here. It is a nice place to gather your thoughts and relax.
What is also nice is all the food trucks outside the commons that cater to the Asian students. You can get fresh dumplings, pork pancakes, noodle dishes and fresh soups for very reasonable prices and you can relax in the commons on a nice day and enjoy your lunch.
Right next to the campus on East 117th street is the third in Nicolas Holiber’s sculptures, the Common Golden Eye. This is one of the nicer locations for the work as there is plenty of seating in much less congested area of Broadway. You can sit back and just admire the work.
The Common Goldeneye by artist Nicolas Holiber at 117th Street
After taking a break in the commons and watching the summer students reading and chatting amongst themselves or so involved in their cell phones that they would not look up at a zombie attack, I headed back to Broadway to cross into the Upper West Side. It is amazing how everything between 125th and 110th have changed over the past few months and even from 110th to 100th Streets the changes have been constant in a twenty year period.
When you need to take a break from the heat, Straus Park which is between 107th and 106th Streets. This shady and well landscaped little pocket park was name after Isidor and Ida Straus who were once the owners of Macy’s and died in the Titanic sinking. There is a beautiful memorial to them in the park. Friends of the Park maintain it with the city so it is always beautifully planted.
Straus Park at 107th Street
Look close or you will miss it is the ‘Art for Art Sake’ dedication to Duke Ellington on the Broadway Island on West 106th Street. The work is done in tiles and you have to look down to see the work as it on the bottom park of the cement island facing the bench. I guess most people miss this interesting piece of street art.
One of my favorite bakeries in Manhattan is located right near the park at West 105th Street and Broadway, Silver Moon Bakery at 2740 Broadway (See review on TripAdvisor ande DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I love coming here for all the creative pastries and buns that the bakery created and I have the most delicious blueberry danish ($3.50) and cinnamon bun ($3.25) for a snack. Don’t be shy in this bakery and try several items. Everything I have ever ate there was wonderful.
Silver Moon Bakery at 2740 Broadway
When I got to 103rd Street, I saw the next part of the Birds on Broadway exhibit with the Double Crested Cormorant that stood proud on the Broadway island looking over the neighborhood.
The Double crested Cormorant by artist Nicolas Holiber at 103rd Street
Another little pizzeria that you might miss is Cheesy Pizza at 2640 Broadway (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). The food is really reasonable and their personal pizza ($5.00) and pizza special (Two slices and a Coke for $5.00) are a real steal and their sauce is delicious and so well spiced.
Cheesy Pizza at 2640 Broadway
When you finally cross over past West 100th Street, you enter the Upper West Side which has been extensively traveled on this blog. There are dozens of shops and restaurants that line Broadway on this stretch of Broadway and sadly a lot of empty store fronts. This seems to be an epidemic all over the City with landlords jacking up rents every month. It really is changing this stretch of Broadway. At West 96th Street and Broadway is the next “Birds on Broadway” piece, the “Brant Goose”.
The Brant Goose at West 96th Street
When walking on Broadway in the West 80’s, don’t miss walking through Zabar’s at 2245 Broadway near 80th Street. It is fun to wander around the store and smell the aromas of cheese, olives, freshly baked breads and chocolate. Don’t miss their cafe at the corner of West 80th Street (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). There is a nice assortment of pastries and soups at a reasonable price and on certain days they have specials that are reasonably price. They have the most delicious pastries and pan pizza.
Zabar’s Cafe is the original place where Zabar’s started at 2245 Broadway
You will also see the next sculpture by Nicolas Holiber at West 79th Street, the “American Brittern”, which stands majestically on Broadway.
“The American Brittern” by artist Nicolas Holiber at West 79th Street
Still when you reach the West 70’s there are many beautiful apartment buildings that I admired that were built at the turn of the last century when builders were trying to woo the wealthy in the late 1890’s to the early 1900’s. The area itself is going through building boom and is changing all the time. At West 79th Street, look to the Broadway island again to see Nicolas Holiber’s “Scarlett Tanager” sculpture. These playful little birds are fun to look at.
The Scarlet Tanager by artist Nicolas Holiber at West 86th Street
Broadway has a series of churches that are really beautiful in design and in the details like the stone work and the stained glass windows. One church that stands out is the First Baptist Church 265 West 79th Street. It was built between 1890-93 and was designed by architect George M. Keister. The large window facing Broadway depicts Christ as the center of the New Testament Church (Wiki).
First Baptist Church on West 79th Street
Some of the apartment buildings are quite spectacular. The Apthorp Apartments at 390 West End Avenue (that stretches back to Broadway) is one of the most beautiful enclosed buildings with an elegant courtyard in the center. This building was built in 1908 and is the largest type of apartment of its kind in New York City. If you can take a peek inside the gates it is worth it.
The Apthorp Apartments at 390 West End Avenue
The Ansonia Apartments at 2109 Broadway is one of the biggest and grandest of the Victorian age apartment buildings on the Upper West Side. Built between 1899 and 1904 the outside of the building is studded with beautiful stone work, interesting torrents and a Mansard roof. Take time to walk around the building and admire the stonework.
The Ansonia Apartments at 2109 Broadway
Another building that stands out in the neighborhood is the Doriltan Apartments at 171 West 71st Street that was built in 1902. This elegant building is in the Beaux-Arts style and is another building that sets the tone for this part of the neighborhood.
The Doriltan Apartments at 171 West 71st Street
This is where the Upper West Side has changed so much. This area has become so expensive and the once notorious “Needle Park” Sherman Square is now a nicely landscaped park with a coffee vendor and young mothers with strollers. It is amazing how the City just keeps changing itself.
Sherman Square; the once “Needle Park”
Right by the subway stop at West 72nd Street is the next sculpture the “Peregrine Falcon”.
“The Peregrine Falcon” at West 72nd Street
Once you pass the borders of West 72nd Street, you will begin to see the magic of former Parks Director and major City Planner, Robert Moses. In the mid-1960’s, the City decided the area was dilapidated and pretty much leveled the neighborhood to build the Lincoln Center complex and branches of the local colleges so you will see more modern architecture on the western side of Broadway.
By the time you get to West 67th Street, you will see Julliard School, some of the buildings in the Lincoln Center complex and then Lincoln Center itself between West 65th and West 62nd Streets. On a theater night, the complex is so full energy and it is always a nice trip to see the ballet, opera or the philharmonic. The groundbreaking for this complex was in 1959 with President Eisenhower present and the complex was developed between 1962 and 1966 with current renovations still occurring in 2005. Take time to walk the courtyard and admire the fountains and the artwork that are around the buildings.
Lincoln Center at night
While passing Lincoln Center, you will see Dante Park across the street and the stately Empire Hotel. Here in Dante Park which is named after the Italian Poet, Dante Alighieri. This beautiful little pocket park sits across from Lincoln Center and has been a place to relax on my walks down Broadway. This is also the location of the last sculpture on the “Birds on Broadway” tour, the “Red Necked Grebe with Chicks”. This whimsical piece shows the mother grebe with her little ones on her back.
The Red Necked Grebe with Chicks by artist Nicolas Holiber at West 64th Street
As you head down Broadway, you will reach the Time Warner Building with its upscale shops and restaurants and Columbus Circle with its impressive statue of Christopher Columbus and the soaring fountains that surround it. This is one of the best places in Manhattan to just sit back and relax and people watch. The statue was recently part of a controversy on statues of specific people and history and happily that seems to have gone away for now.
Columbus Circle at West 59th Street
As you pass Columbus Circle and enter into Midtown Manhattan, notice to the south the Museum of Art & Design at 2 Columbus Circle. This innovative little museum has the top floors of the building has a interesting exhibition of “Punk Rock” art and music going on right now. (See my write up on it on VisitingaMuseum.com.)
Museum of Arts & Design at 2 Columbus Circle
Punk Rock Exhibition
The crowds get larger the closer you come to the 42nd Street Mall. This part of Broadway near the TKTS for Broadway shows becomes crowded as these four blocks of Times Square is now an open air mall with seating and loads of costume characters who beg for pictures and money with tourists. It has gotten really crowded and annoying and the quicker you get through it the better. This is where the Ball drops on New Year’s Eve and you can see it up above the One Times Square building. Still get through Times Square, especially on a Saturday or Sunday as quick as possible.
Times Square by the TKTS booth and the Marriott Marquis to the right
The one thing that is important to know is that the bathrooms at the Marriott Marquis at 1535 Broadway are free and it is a good pit stop before heading further downtown. They are located on the Eighth floor and are clean and very nice. They also have some good restaurants in the hotel like the Broadway Bar (See review on TripAdvisor) to eat at but wait until you head further downtown.
As you head down past Times Square you will notice that not much has changed on this part of Broadway. Most of the buildings are pre-war and been around since the 30’s and 40’s. Here and there new buildings have creeped in. Stop in the lobby at 1441 Broadway, the Bricken Textile Building that was built in 1930 to see the “Nurturing Independence Through Artistic Development” art exhibition. It is quite creative. The whole lobby was full of modern art. There was a very interesting piece by artist Daniel Rozin who created a ‘Software Mirror’ where when you looked into it, it then looked back at you.
Artist Daniel Rozin demonstrating how the piece works
After wondering through the art show, I stopped in Frankie Boys Pizza at 1367 Broadway for a slice and a Coke and just relaxed. I was starved by this point of the walk. Their pizza is very good (See review on TripAdvisor) and was crowded that afternoon with people having an late lunch.
After I finished my lunch, I continued the walk to Herald Square the home of Macy’s at 151 West 34th Street, whose store still dominates the area and is one of the last decent department stores in New York City. It is fun to take a quick pit stop in the store to see the main lobby and there is another public bathroom both on the lower level and on the Fourth Floor.
Macy’s Broadway entrance
Once you leave Herald Square and walk south you will be entering what is left of the old Wholesale district where once buyers used to come into these stores to commercially buy goods for their businesses. Slowly all of these businesses as well as most of the Flower District is being gentrified out with new hotels, restaurants and bars replacing the businesses. It seems that most of the district is being rebuilt or renovated.
I got down to Worth Square by Madison Square Park in the early evening and admired the William Jenkins Worth monument. General Worth was a military hero during the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. The monument was designed by James Goodwin Batterson and when General Worth died in 1849, his remains were buried under the monument.
It was interesting to read that at the percussion for his funeral that 6500 military men were at the ceremony (Wiki).
The General William Jenkins Worth Monument
As you look down further on the square, you will see the Flatiron Building one of the most famous and most photographed buildings in New York City. The building was designed by Daniel Burnham as a Renaissance Palazzo with Beaux-Arts styling . The original name for the building was the “Fuller Building” for the Company. The name “Flatiron” comes from a cast iron clothes iron from the turn of the last century. (Wiki)
The ‘Flatiron’ Building at 175 Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street
As you pass the Flatiron Building and continue the walk south between 23rd and 14th Streets, take a look up to admire the buildings that once help make up the “Ladies Mile”, once the most fashionable shopping neighborhood after the Civil War (See my blog in MywalkinManhattan.com “Walking the Ladies Shopping Mile”).
One of the most elegant buildings on this part of Broadway is the former “Lord & Taylor” building at 901 Broadway. The building was constructed for the department store in 1870 and was the main store until 1914. It is now the Brooks Brothers Red Fleece store. Really take time to look at the detail work of the store and step inside. The Mansard Roof is an amazing touch.
901 Broadway “Lord & Taylor” building from 1870-1914
Finally reaching Union Square at Broadway and 14th Street, I was able to relax on a bench under a shade tree. I stopped at the Farmers Market, that is there every Wednesday and Saturday, and pick up some fruit and a couple of cookies from one of the stands. This is a lot of fun in the warmer months and don’t miss it September and October when the produce really comes in.
Busy Union Square
As you leave Union Square and head south again, you will be entering the campus of New York University and all over you can see classrooms, stores and restaurants that cater to the students. Sometimes I think these kids are trying so hard to look cool it becomes outlandish. The way some of them dress is over the top.
At the bend on Broadway, another church stands out in the neighborhood. Grace Episcopal Church at 802 Broadway on the corner of Broadway and East 10th Street sits at a bend in Broadway and makes an impressive statement in the neighborhood. The church was designed by architect James Renwick Jr. in the French Gothic Revival style and started construction in 1843 (Wiki).
Grace Church at 802 Broadway
Walking south, stop in front of both 770 Broadway between 8th and 9th Street, the former home of John Wanamaker Department Store and 693 Broadway at 4th Street, the Merchants Building. These two buildings stand out for their beauty and design.
770 Broadway was built between 1903 and 1907 by architect Daniel Burham as the annex for the main store of Wanamaker’s which was next door. There was a skyway that once connected the two stores. The company closed for business in 1954. (Wiki)
770 Broadway, the former Wanamaker’s Department Store Annex
Stop at 693 Broadway to admire the design of the building. Built in 1908 by architect William C. Frohne the building is studded with interesting stone carvings and ornamentation. What really stands out is all the owls that decorate the building (Greenwich Village Preservation).
693 Broadway The Merchants Building
The owls that line 693 Broadway
Looking up at the scaffolding of 611 Broadway, The Cable Building, it is not hard to miss the detail work of this graceful building. The stone work like a lot of the buildings on lower Broadway has beautiful detailed stonework adorning it. The building was designed by architect Stanford White of McKim, Meed & White and was designed in the Beau-Arts design of “American Renaissance”. The building was once home to the Metropolitan Traction Company, one of New York’s big Cable Car companies. In the last twenty years it has been home to the Angelika Film Company and Crate & Barrel home store. (Wiki)
Above all the scaffolding, look at the stone detail work of 611 Broadway
Take some time to admire 366 Broadway, a former Textiles Building built in 1909. Designed by Fredrick C. Browne, the building was designed in Edwardian commercial architecture and look at the detail work of the pillars, stone carved faces and other decorative stonework. The building once housed the Royal Typewriter Company then moved on in its later life to house textile firms including Bernard Semel Inc. (where the signage comes from on the outside), who was a former clothing jobber. Now called The Collect Pond House is a coop in Tribeca neighborhood (Tribeca History News)
The Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway is one of the most famous buildings on Broadway. The former headquarters for F. W. Woolworth & Company was once the tallest building in the world when it was constructed in 1913 and stayed the tallest building until 1930 when the Chrysler Building was finished on Lexington Avenue in 1930. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert in the neo-Gothic style and was a representation of the time as a “Cathedral for Commerce”. The lower floors are clad in limestone and the upper floors in glazed terra-cotta panels (Wiki). The lobby is one of the most detailed and ornate in New York but ask security first if you can walk around.
The Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway
Across the street from the Woolworth Building is the very popular City Hall Park home to the to the 1803 built City Hall (Tweed Hall) and the seat of government for the City of New York. The park has always been used as some form of political function since the beginning in the Colonial days as a rebel outpost to its current function. It has had a prison, public execution site and parade ground on the site. Since the renovation in 1999 under then Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the park has been a place for people downtown to gather and relax by its fountain and beside the beautifully designed gardens. There are about a dozen statues in the park to admire so take time to enjoy a walk in the park (NYCParks.org).
The City Hall Park
Another historic church that played a big role in the recovery of the World Trade Center events of 9/11 is the St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church at 209 Broadway. The Church was built in 1766 and is the oldest surviving church in Manhattan and is designed in the late Georgian church architecture by architect Thomas Mc Bean and crafted by Andrew Gautier (Wiki).
St. Paul’s Church at 209 Broadway
George Washington worshipped here on his Inauguration day in 1789 and continued to worship here when New York City was the capital of the country. The church had been spared by a sycamore tree on the property that absorbed the debris from the World Trade Center site and became a place of recovery and reflection in the aftermath of the events on 9/11 (Wiki).
Another building to admire is 108 Broadway at Leonard Street. This beautiful Italian Renaissance Revival building was designed by McKim Mead & White and has been refitted for apartments.
108 Broadway at Leonard Street
Upon reaching Zuccotti Park which is right near the World Trade Center sight and the home of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that traveled around the world after the 2008 meltdown of the New York Stock Market. The movement and occupation of the park which is private property, began in September of 2011. The park which is owned by Brookfield Office Properties was named after the Chairman of the company, John Zuccotti in 2011. (Wiki)
Zuccotti Park at twilight at Broadway and Cedar Streets
Zuccotti Park during its days of “Occupy Wall Street”
Take time to admire “Joie de Vivre” by artist Marco Polo ‘Marc’ di Suvero, and Italian now American artist.
This interesting sculpture was installed in the park in 2006 and features “four open-ended tetrahedrons”. (Wiki)
“Joie de Vivre” by artist Marc di Suvero
As you pass Zuccotti Park and head down the last stretch of Broadway look around at the buildings on both sides of Broadway as they have not changed much since the early 1900’s.
The last historic church I have visited and have walked past many times when in the neighborhood is Trinity Church, an Episcopal church at 75 Broadway. The first church on the site was built in 1698 and burned during the Revolutionary War during the Great Fire of 1776 when a two thirds of the City burned after a fire started in tavern and left most of New Yorkers homeless (Wiki).
Trinity Church at 75 Broadway
The current church was built in 1839 and finished in 1846 and was built in the Gothic Revival design by architect Richard Upjohn. It was the tallest building in the United States until 1869. The church has played important roles in recent history as a place of refuge and prayer during the attacks on 9/11. It also was part of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2012 as a place of refuge and support to the protestors (Wiki and Church History).
One of the most elegant buildings in lower Manhattan is the Cunard Building, the former home of the Cunard Shipping line. The building was designed by architect Benjamin Wistar Morris and opened in 1921. The company sold the building in 1971 and has different tenants now.
The Cunard Building at 25 Broadway
I finally got to my designation of Bowling Green Park on the first trip down Broadway at 5:45pm (starting time again 9:00am) just in time to see all the tourist lined up by The Bull statue (see my review on VisitingaMuseum.com). The statue was designed by artist Arturo de Modica and was installed as ‘renegade art’ meaning he did not have permission from the City to place it there. It has been a big tourist attraction since its installation and I could not see a reason for the City to move it from its location. At 7,100 pounds they can move it too far.
The Charging Bull at Bowling Green Park by artist Arturo de Modica
I reached the end of Broadway at 5:45pm and relaxed in Bowling Green Park (See review on VisitingaMuseum.com) for about a half hour. It was so nice to just sit there watching the fountain spray water and watching the birds as they pecked around.
Bowling Green has a rich history as a park. It was designed in 1733 and is the oldest park in New York City. It was here that the first reading of the Declaration of Independence was read and then the toppling of the Statue of King George III in defiance. You can still see where the citizens at the time cut off the small crowns on the fencing that surrounds the park. This is another place that was rumored to be the site of where the Dutch bought Manhattan. The park is the official start of Broadway.
Bowling Green Park at the height of its beauty
I walked from the Bowling Green Park and sat by the harbor in Battery Green Park and watched the ships go by. It is a nice place to relax and watch the sun set and the lights go on in all the buildings in lower Manhattan and watch the Statue of Liberty illuminate. It is quite a site. Look at the lights of Jersey City and Governors Island.
For dinner that night, I walked from the Battery into Chinatown and went to Chi Dumpling House (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) at 77 Chrystie Street in Chinatown. They have the most amazing menu that is so reasonable. Ten steamed dumplings for $3.00 and a bowl of Hot & Sour Soup for $1.50.
Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street
For dessert that evening I came across Gooey on the Inside at 163 Chrystie Street (See review on TripAdvisor) for the most soft and gooey homemade cookies. I saw a bunch of people smiling as they left this basement business raving about the cookies and I had to investigate. I have to admit that they are pricey ($5.00 and higher) but the cookies are amazing. The Chocolate Chunk was loaded with large pieces of chocolate and the Birthday Cake is filled with icing and is soft and chewy. The best way to end the evening.
Gooey on the Inside Birthday Cake Cookies at 163 Chrystie Street
On my second day of walking down Broadway, I stopped at Pranzo Pizza at 34 Water Street (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for dinner. I had arrived later in the evening and did not realize they closed at 8:00pm. The food which is normally excellent, had been sitting for awhile and was not that good. I had a Chicken Parmesan and spaghetti special that was dried out. Not their best work.
Pranzo Pizza at 34 Water Street
After dinner, I returned to Battery Park to admire the lights on Governor’s Island and the illuminated Statue of Liberty. There is nothing like this site in the world and only off the. Island of Manhattan can you see it this way.
The Broadway Mall Art Exhibition:
The Birds of Broadway by artist Nicolas Holiber:
Artist Nicolas Holiber in front of his sculptures for the “Birds on Broadway” show
I started walking the streets of East Harlem after a long day in the Soup Kitchen. They keep me very busy there and I had to work the busy bread station. It can very harried if there are any sweets such as pastries and doughnuts to give out. I was worn out but still carried on.
I took the number six subway uptown to 110th Street and started my day with lunch at the Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s) again for another chopped cheese sandwich. I am beginning to love these things. For five dollars and my budget on the project, it just makes sense. Plus it is nice to sit in Jefferson Park and just relax and watch the kids play soccer while I am eating. I don’t know if it was the sandwich or all the walking but I had stomach craps for the rest of the day. It was a long day of walking.
Blue Sky Deli is now known as Harlem Taste Deli
I started the day by retracing my steps on 110th and looking over all the housing projects that line this part of First Avenue. I looked along the long line that is First Avenue and made sure to walk this part of the street as quick as possible. It does not start to get sketchy until about 105th Street but still you want to get through as fast as possible. Walking eight blocks across and back is impossible to do in one day even walking fast so I broke it up into two and a half separate days.
East River Projects at 105th and First Avenue
Along most of these blocks I was retracing what I saw along the Avenues and there is a lot of new construction and renovating along the way. A lot of buildings are being sandblasted to their original beauty and along the way there are little surprises along the way to discover. I just wanted to let readers know that since I had already walked First Avenue and the side streets on both sides, when I reached First Avenue when walking the streets, I did not cross the street and stayed on the west side of the avenue.
Most of the side streets I had walked already in some form along the way of walking the Avenues and took time out revisit many of the parks and restaurants that I had traveled previously. There are still many gems in this neighborhood that you should take time to visit. In some parts of the neighborhood, I would suggest going during the day when many other people are around. Even as safe as Manhattan has gotten over the years, I still look over my shoulder all the time and watch everyone no matter what neighborhood I am in.
I made several walks through the housing projects all over the neighborhood. You can really understand the complexity of the projects by walking through them as many as times as I did. It really is a different life. Sometimes I get the impression that being piled up in one complex is not good for anyone. The yards are not properly taken care of and playgrounds that are not kept in great shape.
Yet there are signs that residents have made it their own though. I walked through the Dewitt Clinton, Franklin, Lehman and Washington Carver Housing complexes and here and there are raised beds for fruits, vegetables and flowers. Some residents have taken it upon themselves to clean up the garbage in the playgrounds and paint the equipment and benches. Some make their own repairs in the play areas and then stand guard, watching what the kids are doing. I discovered this as I walked through the Washington Houses three times to complete 108th, 107th and 106th by criss-crossing the open air park in between the complex. People kept looking at me walking through park.
Along the way, I discovered many small community gardens tucked between buildings such as the Neighbors of Vega Baja Garden at 109th between First and Second Avenues and the Humaniano Community Garden at 108th between First and Second Avenues. These small patches of green make the block. Hidden behind fences, I can see that the neighborhood puts a lot of pride into landscaping them and planting them. Some times they are open to the public but I just walk by because no one is there.
Community Garden in East Harlem
I was back at Make & Bake Pizza at 108th and Third Avenue for lunch again (See my review on TripAdvisor). For a dollar this is great pizza and they give you a nice size slice. The restaurants in this are around the three local schools offer menus with reasonable prices catering to the kids and their families so take time to explore them. Mr. Moe’s is right down the road and I can still taste that chopped cheese sandwich.
Make & Bake Pizza
I also saw some of my favorite ‘street art’ murals on these blocks. Between 109th and 107th there are several that I saw. This ‘Spiritual Art’ work has almost an Aztec/Mayan look to it and its use of color and motion are so detailed. Take time to look at these works of art. Some are ‘tags’ while others the artist was trying to tell a story. Look to the side of the buildings and the sides of schools. You might see some on the sliding doors of businesses. There is a lot of talent here. If there was only a gallery for these kids.
Art at East 104th Street
As you travel to the corner of Lexington and 107th, the neighborhood starts to change again once you pass the Franklin Housing Project. The buildings around this area are being fixed up and sandblasted back to their original beauty and new restaurants and shops are opening bringing a little life back to the area. By Hope Community Inc., there is are interesting portraits of Latino Cultural leaders. The detailed portrait of Pedro Pietri by James de la Vega is interesting and take time to admire the work.
Perdo Pietri by James de la Vega
My first day walking the streets, I made it to the corner of 105th and First Avenue by the beginning of nightfall and decided to stop there. I was passing the East River Houses again and there were some shady characters walking around so I decided to finish 105th and rounded 104th Street for my next stop in the neighborhood and relaxed in the Central Park Conservatory on 104th and Fifth Avenue for the rest of the evening. My feet were killing me at that point.
Central Park Conservatory
My next trip up to the neighborhood was June 21st, the third Anniversary of ‘MywalkinManhattan’. I can’t believe it has been three years since I started walking the island of Manhattan. I still remember my first day walking in Marble Hill on Father’s Day 2015. I honestly thought I would finish in one summer and here I am at 96th Street on the East Side with the rest of the island ahead of me.
I started at 96th Street and walked the length of it again from the park to the river. It was sad that the tulips along the river had died by the time I got back. They had been a colorful display by the path entering the river. Even the flowers at the Park Avenue Mall at Park and 97th Street started to change. Spring was giving way to the summer months and you could see the difference in the plants and trees. Between the plantings on the streets and second stage of flowers in Central Park, June was here.
You begin to notice distinctions in the grid pattern of the neighborhood block by block. By East 97th Street, you will see a real change. The Metropolitan Hospital, the Department of Sanitation and the Washington Housing projects set almost a border between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem once you pass Third Avenue.
Along the border of 97th Street on the grounds of the projects, the residents have set up a series of vegetable and fruit gardens and have done some landscaping that have some character to the lawns of the housing complex. I give the residents credit for their creativity and I will have to revisit the site over the summer months to see how it turns out. Also along the street is the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Catholic Church, which is the only one of its kind in NYC. Stop and look at the detail of the church.
By 99th Street, the Washington Carver Houses start to dominate the middle of the neighborhood and Mt. Sinai cuts the neighborhood between the Upper East Side from Spanish Harlem to the east to Park Avenue. I tried once again to visit the Martha Stewart Garden in the Washington Carver complex but again the gate was locked. At this point, it looked like it could have used a gardener to touch it up.
Martha Stewart Garden
I continued the zig-zag through the streets having criss-crossed again through the projects that I had walked a couple of times before. Between Park and Lexington Avenues as you round 101st Street, you can find some beautifully maintained brownstones and landscaped stairs with potted plants. It looks like something you would see in the village downtown.
This small break in the grid pattern shows what the neighborhood once was before the city leveled it for public housing. People are really moving back in this pocket of the neighborhood and fixing up the buildings. Here is where you will find the street art on the walls and fences. I saw a lot of the yarn art I saw uptown but am not sure if this was the same artist.
I had a funny incident with a young police officer at the 23rd Precinct on the corner of 102nd and Third Avenue. He was making a phone call and had just finished and really must have wondered what I was doing in the neighborhood. He took the time to yell a ‘hello’ to me and I just looked at him for a minute and said ‘hello’ back and waited for him to say something. I guess my progressive glasses must have given me a professional look and he did not say anything else. He watched me walk through the Washington complex and strangely enough waited for me to come back and then watched me walk back up 102nd on my way back up to Fifth Avenue. I saw him staring at me again and I just nodded and smiled and kept walking. I didn’t know that me walking around was so interesting.
Between Park Avenue and Third Avenue up to where the projects start again by 109th Avenue and Madison and Fifth Avenue is where you are seeing where the neighborhood is starting to gentrify and people are starting to fix up the buildings and the new restaurants and shops are starting to pop up. There is a pizzeria on Lexington Avenue that I have on my bucket list.
Thank God I did not have to venture past 105th Street as it was getting darker. Between Second Avenue and First Avenue after 101st Street, I always felt that the people in the housing complexes were watching me. More like staring at me yet I could not catch them actually doing it. I guess I really stood out.
As I rounded 104th onto 105th Streets on First Avenue, I must have made quite the impression walking down the street. A group of guys, I swear to God, looked like they jumped when they saw me round the corner. When I had to walk back up the opposite side of the southern part of 105th Street and First Avenue to complete this part of the neighborhood, they completely disappeared. I swear I thought that they were going to gang up on me and jump me. They also gave me the strangest looks. It reminded me of walking on 155th Street by the river and what I saw up by the Dyckman Houses. I just don’t blend in.
I walked pass the parks along 103rd and 105th Streets and brought a quick snack into the White Playground on 105th Street and relaxed for a bit just watching the parents watch the kids playing on the park equipment. I really like this park. They keep it in good shape and the parents in the neighborhood really seem to enjoy coming here. I walked past Maggie’s Garden again on 101st Street but the gate was locked on this day.
I ended the afternoon walking through Central Park and walking around the length of the reservoir and watch the joggers pass me by. If they only knew how much I had already walked that afternoon.
It really made me think, looking at the crowd of joggers in the park and the people walking around the Central Park Conservatory that early part of the evening, how many of the people I passed that day venture past their part of neighborhood. These blocks have really been an eye-opener in urban planning gone wrong and how a neighborhood can be affected by the wrong decisions in building efforts. I saw a lot of people in the neighborhood trying to improve things on their own terms and take matters in their own hands.
I just don’t think that this part of Manhattan has to worry about getting too ‘hipster’ or ‘Yuppie’ unless the city sells off the projects and knocks them down. Even if they did, the neighborhood has its own character and I credit the people living there for making it that way. There is no real way to explain it without you, the reader walking these streets yourself and soaking up the culture that is East Spanish Harlem. Do yourself a favor though, don’t dress like me
Happy Third Anniversary and a very Happy Father’s Day to my Dad!
Thank you for inspiring this walk around Manhattan!
For checking out the street art and the community gardens in the neighborhood please walk the area. Things are changing so fast that you never know when something can disappear. The Community Gardens have their own hours depending on the season.
Whew! This was a two day affair. I had already walked 5th and 1st Avenues and then all of FDR Drive and the Esplanade on other days. This left for me to walk the length of Madison, Park, Lexington, 3rd and 2nd Avenues from 96th Street to 110th Street. This meant 14 blocks back and forth, up and down the streets of the neighborhood. It was a long day of walking. I never realized how long it would take.
This part of Manhattan is a real mish-mush of everything. It transitions from East Harlem into the Upper-Upper East Side into Yorkville. Some others call it Carnegie Hill. It has it all. Housing projects, schools, a business district on Lexington, expensive brownstones, luxury apartments and hospitals that create the border between the two very different neighborhoods.
96th Street is the true border between the two areas but even that transitions as you get closer to the East River. A you get closer to 98th Street, you will see luxury housing complexes right across the street from some sketchy housing complexes right across the street (some people want the authenticity of the city). This changes from block to block and if you follow the grid pattern, be prepared to walk through some housing complexes. I would only recommend that while the kids are exiting from after-school. Then the neighborhood is teeming with kids with their parents picking them up. Public or Private, adults are all over the place at the schools and it makes any neighborhood safe to walk around in as the police are out in many of these neighborhoods watching everyone.
Where you really see the difference in the neighborhood is between 97th Street and 99th Street on the East Side of Central Park. Some of the blocks are lined with beautiful and graceful brownstones and apartment buildings and then right across the street you can see where they leveled the neighborhood to building the housing projects that line long avenues and streets.
You start to see the changes as you walk down 97 Street and you reach the end of the Park Avenue Mall, a grassy knoll between the uptown and downtown grid which in the lower part of Park Avenue is planted with flowers and trees during the year. This gives way to the elevated railroad tracks after 97th Street and Park Avenue. As you get further up into the 100’s streets, Park Avenue is lined with housing projects. This is the failure of city planning where whole blocks in this neighborhood were leveled for public housing that never worked. This ‘slum clearance’ of the 1960’s would now be a fully gentrified neighborhood by now.
George Washington Carver Houses
Walking the Avenues , one sees how the neighbor changes. Every block is so different in this neighborhood. You can go from luxury housing to a public housing project just by walking the street. Also, if you walk while school is in session and when it gets out for the day, you should have no problem walking around the housing projects. Pretty much everyone ignored me or just looked at me in the corner of their eyes and then put their heads down. It was such a strange attitude. In my opinion, people are people but the site of 6:4 preppie white guy walking around in a blue polo must have panicked people.
Along the way, there is so much so see and experience in this neighborhood. Small hole in the wall restaurants at very reasonable prices, great street art, small community gardens tucked between buildings, beautiful brownstones in a row and interesting views of Central Park and the East River as way of sidewalks. It is a diverse neighborhood that is getting harder to define as the whole island changes. Even in the short time I walked around Spanish Harlem, things were being knocked down and rebuilt.
It seems that every block had something to offer in some small way. Since I had done the borders of the neighborhood already and wanting to avoid First Avenue again (scary) with all the public housing, I started my trip up and down Second Avenue.
Hospitals seem to dominate in this section of the city with Mt. Sinai dominating the borders of Fifth to Madison from 96th to 101st and Metropolitan Hospital from 97th to 100th Street along Second Avenue. These large facilities create a wall on the neighborhood borders almost sheltering the Upper Upper East Side from Spanish Harlem. The neighborhood around them reflects the role the hospital plays around it with ever expanding buildings in the neighborhood and housing for the residents. I saw this up in Washington Heights with Columbia as they expand in the neighborhood.
Located off Second Avenue, the Marx Brothers have a small park named after them and it was busy after school with kids playing tag. The Marx Brothers were a famous team of brothers, Harpo, Groucho, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo, who were raised at 179 East 93rd Street. The brothers had many hits in the 1930’s and 40’s. The park has been recently part of a debate in the City on what connotates a park as a developer wants to build a tower here.
As you walk up Second Avenue, the area is dominated by a mix of brownstones and public housing. This is dominated by the huge Washington Housing complex that stretches from 97th Street to 104th from Second Avenue to Third Avenue. After school, this are was very lively with kids but boy did they give me looks when I walked through later in the week when I was doing the streets. Because of the way the grid works, you have to walk through the same paths. So the same people kept seeing me walk through the complex.
Marx Brothers Park
Between Third Avenue and Lexington, there is a nice place to sit and relax at the Marketplace Plaza. This small pocket plaza was created between to newish buildings and provides a comfortable place amongst the flower beds to sit and relax and people watch. There are benches and rows of flower beds to admire and rest your legs on the long walks up the Avenues.
Third Avenue is the most commercial section of the neighborhood dominated by stores and restaurants along the way. It is again a street of extremes as new buildings dominate until you reach the Lexington Houses at 98th Street and then the street is juxtaposed again with a series of public housing, luxury buildings tucked away and commercial buildings that are in the process of renovation.
I reached the Poor Richards Playground outside the Tag Young Scholar School and Junior High 117 by mid-afternoon and the kids were letting out for the day. The place was mobbed with children and parents from the neighborhood. Poor Richard’s Playground was named after Benjamin Franklin as this was one of his alias’s, Poor Richard Saunders of which ‘Poor Richard’s Almanac’ was named. He has so many accomplishments to his name it is hard to pin-point one (NYCParks.org).
Kids were playing basketball and tag on the school’s playground and I got quite the looks from the teachers as I watched the kids play basketball especially when I had to throw the ball over the fence when it flew over to me. I just smiled and continued the walk.
Poor Richard’s Playground
Across the street from the school and the surrounding blocks there are some really nice reasonable restaurants for lunch. These are places that the kids and their parents were eating at after school. Make & Bake Pizza at 1976 Third Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) has terrific pizza at $1.00 a slice and it is so fresh because the place is so busy. Another great place to eat is Mr. Moe’s Deli at 2001 Third Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). They make a terrific chopped cheese sandwich that competes with Blue Sky Deli up on 110th Street. The nice part about Mr. Moe’s is that their chopped cheese sandwich comes with a Coke for $3.50. It is a great bargain and it is delicious.
Make & Bake Pizza
The best part is on a nice day take your lunch to the White Playground on 106th between Third and Lexington Avenues and relax on the benches. It is such a nice playground and is beautifully landscaped and I thought very safe with all the parents and grandparents around watching the kids play.
The park was named after author and activist Walter White.
Activist and author Walter White
Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue are also the land of extremes as well. Walking up Lexington Avenue to about 98th Street is an extension of the Upper East Side until you hit the Lexington Houses at 98th Street and those go on for a block until you reach between 101st and 102nd Streets, where you will see the most beautiful set of brownstones with art work from local Harlem artists on the west side of the road across from the gas station. The is also a few outdoor cafes that are very nice in the area so you can see the area is getting gentrified.
Lexington Avenue at 104th Street
The street art in this neighborhood is varied and very unique. On 106th Street off Lexington Avenue, there is a painting dedicated to Puerto Rican Poet Julia de Burgos entitled ‘Remembering Julia de Burgos’ that has excellent detail and you should take the time to see. Also along 110th Street and Lexington Avenue on the wall of the Success Academy, there is another interesting mural that is very colorful. The art work featured on this blog was my favorite piece of street was the man dressed in animal costumes that I saw on 106th Street. I was not too sure if it was a Central American theme to it or just tagged. Whatever the story to this artwork, who ever did it I thought was extremely talented.
Julia de Burgos Painting in East Harlem
Travelling back down Lexington Avenue, there is all sorts of architecture to admire. There is a beautiful row of brownstones between 106th and 107th Streets. A small private gated park by Bean Y Vino is at Lexington Avenue and 104th Street that I could only see from the outside is nicely landscaped.
Between 100th and 101st Streets on Lexington Avenue, there is Maggie’s Magic Garden, which is a whimsical little oasis of trees, flowers and plants with imaginative statuary all over this little space tucked between two buildings. I was lucky that the garden was open that day and met Maria ‘Maggie’ Amurrio herself who created the garden over a decade ago from a weed ridden lot to this little piece of paradise that is perfect for kids to visit.
She and I talked for about a half hour and she explained that she was sick and tired of this lot looking like this and wanted to do something about it. Like many of the Community Gardens and their creators whom I have met along my travels, she took matters into her own hands and with the help of other volunteers started to clean the lot up and plant it. She told me that later the Parks Department recognized this effort and now she has the seal from the city. Not only does she grow flowers here but is also growing fruits and vegetables and took me on a tour to show me where birds live in the trees. It is amazing how the determination of one New Yorker and a group of volunteers shows in creating this creative piece of landscape. Try not to miss this little oasis on your travels up and down Lexington.
Traveling up Park and Madison is interesting because when you get past 98th Street, it is pretty much public housing complexes from 98th to 110th Streets, stretching from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue. This is dominated by the Washington Carver Houses from 99th Street to 106th Street, the Lehman Houses from 107th Street to 110th Street, the Governor DeWitt Houses on the Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue from 110th to 108th and then to 106th to 104th Streets and the Lexington Houses from 98th to 99th Streets. So walking through this area of Park and Madison Avenues make sure to go through while school is out and people are outside. I never felt unsafe but there will moms and kids all over the playgrounds in the projects and everyone ignored me.
The projects also cut the neighborhood into sections as you have to keep walking through them to get to the extension of the street. So as I was finishing the Avenues on my way to starting the streets, you have to make several trips especially on 107th Street through the projects to complete the grid.
Martha Stewart has been involved in helping Mt. Sinai Hospital and built a beautiful garden across the street between 99th and 100th Streets that was locked both times I tried to visit it. Her and her staff did a nice job landscaping and planting this part of the Washington Carver Houses gardens and the playground. Many of the staff from the hospital use this area to relax on their lunch breaks and the kids are very active here.
Martha Stewart Garden
Mt. Sinai creates the border between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem on this side of the neighborhood and the campus spreads two blocks over. Between this and the Park Avenue train creates the border on this side of the neighborhood. The between the west side of Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue are the most expensive housing in the neighborhood that faces Central Park. Even here the housing is being updated and renovated. You have also some of your nicest stone buildings with elegant carved entrances. Businesses also dominate this side of Madison Avenue.
There are some good options to eat at in the neighborhood. On the corner of 97th and Madison Avenue at 1398 Madison Avenue there is Famiglia Pizza. This has some of the best pizza by the slice in the city and their prices are fair. Their plain and sausage pizzas are really good. For a quick snack, I also like Tu Casa Grocery at 29 East 104th Street right next to the Museum of the City of New York. For a dollar, they have excellent chicken and beef pastilitos and they sell soda and candy for a reasonable price. I took a couple of pastilitos and a Coke and went into Central Park to relax after finishing the Avenues.
Famiglia Pizza on the border of the Upper East Side and East Harlem
I finished the Avenues on May 15th by relaxing at the Conservatory Garden at 104th and Fifth Avenue. It was an interesting and tiring day and it was just nice to relax.
The realtors have changed the borders many times to extend neighborhoods from their traditional borders to include areas that have improved and been renovated to add to the value of the neighborhood. This is what I have seen in SoHA (South Harlem). Morningside Heights has creeped across the border, leap-frogging over Morningside Park to include a new ‘Restaurant Row’ on Frederick Douglas Boulevard making it the new eastern border of Morningside Heights.
What the borders might be now, I really could not say but I can see how the area has changed in the last twenty years. When I visited the Columbia campus in the early 90’s, I remember overhearing some of the students talking about all the fires that they saw the night before in the area on the other side of Morningside Park and how metal gates used to be in front of the steps leading to the park. Oh how times have changed in this area.
I started my walk during the winter break from school and the weather was in the high 60’s and low 70’s the whole week and it seemed that everyone had a case of cabin fever. People were all out and about this whole week. I started my walk that Wednesday morning and the weather had to be about 68 degrees and it was just beautiful out. It had started out a little cloudy then just cleared giving me perfect weather to walk around. My first part of the trip to me to the border of ‘SoHA’, South of Harlem 125th Street.
125th Street, which is the main artery of Harlem, is still being developed. All over the place things are under scaffolding or being knocked down and rebuilt all over the street. It is amazing the changes that have taken place so quickly since the summer. Since the summer, many of the side streets are under scaffolding as brownstones have been bought and even ones that have been bricked up for years have been sold and are being gutted.
My first part of the day was exploring Morningside Park by walking down Morningside Avenue and walking through the park area in the late morning. Most of the buildings facing the park have been renovated and sandblasted back into beauty and I am sure have gone up in value in the last 15 years. New playgrounds and spring plantings and clean up were happening all over the park as the park service had their crews were working all day to clean up the park for spring. The warm weather had plants popping up all over the park about a month early as I could see daffodils ready to bloom.
Morningside Park has come back to life with the renovation
The park was full of mothers with strollers and kids playing baseball and soccer. The schools were out for the winter break and these kids really lucked out with the beautiful weather. It was more like late spring instead of the middle of the winter with warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. Everyone was taking advantage of the warm weather.
I was impressed by how nice the park looked with its new landscaping, well-tended paths and new playgrounds. It was a far cry from the drug dens that my father described when he was attending Columbia. The police would not even let him cross the park when he took the wrong subway and wanted to walk across the park to get to class. They made him go back downtown and take the 1 subway uptown.
Morningside Park by Columbia University
I was fascinated by a statue of George Washington and General Lafayette that stood at the corner of 114th Street and Morningside Avenue. This impressive statue sits in a small triangle park across the street from Morningside Park and is surrounding by Victorian looking apartment buildings. The whole block surrounding the park has been sandblasted and renovated back to its original elegance. It is an impressive block of brownstones and prewar apartment buildings that surround this pocket park.
“Washington Greeting Lafayette’ by Morningside Park
The Statue of George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who had designed the Statue of Liberty. This copy of the statue was donated to the City of New York by Charles B. Rouss, who was a merchant in New York City at the time (Walk About New York).
Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was born in Colmar, France in 1834 and had attended the Lycee Louis de Grand in Paris and then went off to study architecture and painting. In 1871 on his first visit to the United States he suggested the idea of a massive gift from France to the United States for the Centennial Celebrations which resulted in the “Statue of Liberty (Wiki).
As I exited the park, I can see all the new construction that is taking place on 110th Street which now looks like the Upper East Side. Pretty much everything from Riverside Drive to Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard has been renovated or rebuilt and has become an extension of Columbia University. The whole area was loaded with students going to classes or just trying to escape their classes by sitting in both Morningside and Central Parks. Several of the apartment buildings along 110th Street look straight off Park Avenue downtown with their elegant facades and their doormen.
The first day I walked this part of the neighborhood, I walked the Avenues and was able to walk Manhattan Avenue, Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, Nicholas Avenue (which crosses these Avenues) and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. It is amazing how the neighborhood changes from block to block.
Morningside Avenue and Manhattan Avenue are lined with elegant brownstones and prewar apartments that are beginning to see signs of college students moving in. I saw students milling around the area all day long. These and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard (which in the not so distant future will probably be renamed Central Park North) have extended Morningside Heights further west. These three blocks east of the park are starting to cater to Columbia students and faculty.
Fredrick Douglas Boulevard has become ‘Restaurant Row’ to the college students and hipsters living in the area. I had never seen so many new restaurants on a fifteen block stretch and the funny part was you know that they are not catering to the local crowds as the cheapest entrée on most of the menus was between $15.00 to $20.00. All of these places were ridiculously expensive for this part of the city and the menus were very similar. On such a warm day though, the outdoor cafes were in full swing and the street was loaded with people either walking their dogs, catching up with friends or eating outside. I have to tell you this though, the white population in this section of SoHA is growing fast and they are young.
After covering these streets from 110th to 125th and back, I took a break and relaxed at the Harlem Meer (Dutch for Lake) located in Central Park North at 110th Street. On a beautiful sunny day, there is no better place to relax than on the benches facing the meer. People were outside fishing with their children and seniors were relaxing with their fishing poles bobbing by the side of the meer and gossiping about their neighbors. Behind them, loads of small children and their parents were running around the playground.
The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center and the Harlem Meer in the Summer months
I took some time out from my sunning and walked around the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, where the bathrooms (note these are open late), visitors center and the history the park played in the Revolutionary War are located here. You can also arrange walking tours or become a member of the Central Park Conservatory ( I know because I did). I took some time out and looked over the history of the park. It is a very interesting timeline of the park during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Take a half hour out and look over the display.
Inside the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center
I walked up and down the every changing Nicholas Avenue that cuts across the neighborhood from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard across 7th Avenue to exit at Lenox Avenue. This ever changing street has loads of new restaurants and businesses on it. It starts off a small triangle a block below 125th Street that has a theater and a slew of new restaurants. You can see how the blocks keep changing with a lot of the buildings under scaffolding and for rent signs. There was an impressive memorial tribute to Harriet Tubman at 122nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue with a beautiful statue located on a triangle over looking the road crossing.
The Harriet Tubman Statue at St. Nicholas Avenue and Fredrick Douglass Boulevard by Artist Alison Saar.
Ms. Saar is a Sculptor and Installation artist from California, who graduated from Scripps College with a BFA and another degree in MFA from Otis College of Art & Design.
I was able to cover a small section of Lenox Avenue the first day in the neighborhood and between 112th to 115th Streets stretching from Lenox Avenue to 5th Avenue the area is dominated by the Martin Luther King Jr. Houses and then from 5th Avenue to Park Avenue by the Taft Houses.
Martin Luther King Houses
It looks like the city just bulldozed down an entire part of the neighborhood to build this hideous public housing. No wonder Jane Jacob said in “The Death and Life of American Cities” that public housing was the failure of a neighborhood and how it disengages itself from the rest of the neighborhood. There was a lot of renovation of the houses and parks in both areas but it looked out of place with the blocks of prewar buildings and brownstones (Who knew that living in the projects was so trendy?).
It was getting dark on my first day in the this part of the neighborhood but with so many people outside, I never felt unsafe even walking through the projects. I double backed down part of Lenox Avenue and discovered at the corner between 109th and 110th Streets in a series of restaurants, a small take out Chinese restaurant named Hunan Chen’s Kitchen at 1003A Columbus Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor). This little hole in the wall is amazing.
Hunan Chen’s Kitchen at 1003A Columbus Avenue is excellent
The food and the service is just excellent. The place is so small it can barely hold three people comfortably and it has only one table to sit on and that is always full. The food is so reasonable and the portion sizes are huge. I was there for a second time and had to try their General Tso’s Chicken, which had been raved about online on Grubhub.
The General Tso’s Chicken is worth the trip
At about twilight, I took my food and ate it on the benches at the entrance of Morningside Park on the corner of 110th Street and just watched the crowds of people in the park. The large portion of chicken was well-fried and the sauce had a tangy sweetness and just enough fire from the hot chilies to wake me up. It was excellent. The food was steaming hot and the egg roll had just come out of the fryer. With a Coke, the whole meal which could have easily fed two people was $8.25. It was a real steal and the food was wonderful.
My second day I walked in the neighborhood, I concentrated on walking more of the avenues and covered Lenox, Madison, Park and Lexington Avenues. That took time as I walked from 110th to 125th Streets both sides up and down. I also stopped in various parks and businesses. I could see traces of the old Italian neighborhood up on 116th Street east of Park Avenue with many Italian restaurants with Spanish menus.
All three streets are dominated by public housing surrounding 110th Street and between 112th and 115th Streets. The Taft Houses, the Martin Luther King Jr. Houses and the Jefferson Houses pretty much surrounds this section of the neighborhood and you see as far as you can about a dozen hulking buildings surrounded by small businesses. Again, once you cross 116th Street, it starts to change again with new apartment complexes wedged a block from the projects that cater to a whole other person. Surrounding those new apartment buildings are new restaurants and shops especially coffee shops are dotted all over this section of the neighborhood. They are the hang outs for all the twenty and thirty something’s that live there.
Lenox and Fifth Avenues above 116th and near Mount Morris (Marcus Garvey) Park is dominated by the Mount Morris Historic District. Streets that surround the park on the west side of the park are either scaffolded or have already been sandblasted to their original charm. These brownstones and prewar apartments have a turn of the last century charm to them and the blocks are very elegant and well-maintained. When you pass them, really look at the stonework and detail work in the carvings. Are those flowers and faces in the buildings?
Mount Morris Historical District
Park Avenue has its own charm and uniqueness to it after you go above 98th Street when the tracks become elevated and it cuts the street in half. Some businesses have been established under the tracks to add to the charm of the area.
The Urban Garden Center at 1640 Park Avenue has a huge array of products for the urban gardener including the trees, bushes and all the equipment for heavy duty gardening. La Marqueta Marketplace is at 1590 Park Avenue, which has an interesting grouping of bakeries and shops that cater to both the locals and the hipsters.
There are about three bakeries inside the market and it is a nice place to venture on a long day. Hot Bread Bakery has quite the reputation in the neighborhood.
The vendor “Hot Bread Kitchen” at La Marqueta
I stopped at Patisserie Vanessa one afternoon and had a Caramel Caneles ($2.00), which was a tiny crème caramel with burnt sides (see TripAdvisor review). It was a delicious little chewy dessert and was cute to look at and had a wonderful bite to it. The problem is that these bakeries never seem to be open during the week.
The Inside of La Marqueta
Another nice bakery I came across is Lee Lee’s Bakery, which I stopped at for a much needed pastry. This bakery is located at 283 West 118th Street.
Lee Lee’s Bakery is at 283 West 188th Street
I had the most amazingly buttery peach pastry that melted in my mouth (see review on TripAdvisor). They also have the most delicious buttery rugelach, little cinnamon pastries. This little store is located right off Fifth Avenue and is worth the trip uptown.
Lee Lee’s Bakery pastries are so buttery
There are several Community Gardens tucked in between the blocks of businesses and the projects. I cam across Peaceful Valley Community Garden at 117th Street that looked like it was being replanted in the middle of the winter in the warm weather. Chenchita’s Garden was at East 112th Street and was also being worked on in the warm weather. The Villa Santurce Jardinera at East 112th Street looked like it was going to need some work in the spring. That is the resourcefulness of this neighborhood is that the residents have taken these empty lots and created something beautiful in their place. It shows the pride of wanting to build a neighborhood.
Peaceful Valley Community Garden at 117th Street
I walked the last section of SoHA on April 3rd and it took most of the day. After a long day of working at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (which I do most mornings before I start by neighborhood walks), I took the subway up to 125th Street and walked down the street from Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard to Park Avenue. 125th Street keeps morphing.
It seems that every building on the block around 5th Avenue is going through some sort of renovation or is being knocked down. It is so funny to see a Red Lobster next to the Apollo Theater (but it is the same when you pass the Cotton Club and how it is dominated by the new Columbia campus extension. It is out of place now). Once you pass 5th Avenue, the businesses start to get a little fancier reflecting the changes in this part of the neighborhood with the renovation of the brownstones around Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park).
Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)
I stopped at Lady Lexis Sweets Bakery at 1931 Madison Avenue to grab a quick snack to keep me going before lunch. They had a nice selection of cookies, candy and cakes in the cases and very creative art work on the walls (See review on TripAdvisor). The mother-daughter team that runs the bakery does a nice job. I had a from scratch M & M cookie that was pretty good but a little on the expense side. I think that $1.75 for a cookie is a little steep but it was well worth it. It had a sugar cookies sweetness to it.
Lady Lexis Bakery at 1931 Madison Avenue
I rounded the corner of 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue and decided to pin-point the walk between 5th Avenue and Lexington Avenue between 125th Street and 116th Street and then Lenox Avenue from 115th Street to 110th Street and retraced my tracks on 125th, 124th, 116th and 110th Streets. The scaffolding keeps going up.
It was such a nice day that I took some time out and walked around Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park) or about a half hour. I was able to walk all over the park but I want to warn readers about going into the park. I walked around the upper level of the park and there were more than a few suspicious looking guys hanging around the top of the hill of the park. They took one look at me walking around and they left the top of the hill.
I walked around the hill and watched them and then walked around the perimeter of the park. I watched the families in the playground and by the dog park and admired a structure of huts by artist Simone Leigh, that had been placed in the park. Ms. Leigh is an American artist from Chicago now living in New York who holds a BA in Art and Philosophy from Earlham College. Her specialty is art of an auto-ethnographic with a specialty in African art, vernacular objects and feminism (Wiki).
The exhibit was part of the ‘Flex Public Art’ display as part of the city’s ‘Changing Landscapes’ program. Its a work that shows three huts or ‘imba Yokubikira’ or called ‘kitchen houses’ based on structures in Zimbabwe. The artist from what I read was trying to show the sense of community or a loss of it. They are located the entrance to the hill and are very interesting public art.
Simone Leigh’s ‘Imba Yokubikira’ in Mount Morris Park
After walking the whole park, it was off down 123rd Street and covering the upper section of the neighborhood. Most of the this section of SoHA is dominated by schools and businesses. Before you cross over to 118th Street, most of what I saw were the commercial strips of 125th Street and its back lot 124th Street. As you walk in this area, there are a lot of elementary schools, health clinics, churches and apartment buildings, especially a lot of affordable housing buildings that are being renovated. It seems that the city is trying to upgrade its public housing.
Around 118th Street and Madison Avenue, the neighborhood starts to change again with new apartment buildings and businesses dominating 5th, Madison, Park and Lexington Avenues. This area is being knocked down for new construction and small residential buildings are opening all over the place. The strangest thing is that there is luxury housing opening right next door to the public housing. It seems that the next generation of luxury owners does not mind this arrangement.
In the midst of all of this change and renovation, you discover all sorts of pocket parks and street art. Artist Naomi Lawrence has a yarn work called ‘Lotus’ on the fence at the corner of Park Avenue and 120th Street.
Ms. Lawrence is a fabricartist that hails from England who now lives in East Harlem and uses acrylic yarn to create her works of art on chain link fences by schools and public places. This flower sculpture is woven into the fence and is the image of a colorful opening up. This street art that is also part of the ‘Changing Landscapes’ project (Naomi Lawrence Blog site).
Artist Naomi Lawrence creating her interesting weaves on a school fence
The ‘Three Women’ sculpture in front of the new apartment building at 120th and 5th Avenue by artist Nnamdi Okonkwo, shows three somewhat rotund women hugging one another. Mr. Okonkwo was born in Nigeria and graduated with a BFA from BYU-Hawaii and currently lives in Fayetteville, GA.
Artist Nnamdi Okonkwo in front of his work, “Friends”
It was interesting to see how these artists expressed themselves. It was not typical of you might see outside.
“Friends” by Nnamdi Okonkwo
I discovered more urban community gardens while walking around the neighborhood. The Peaceful Valley Community Garden at 117th and Madison Avenue and the Jackie Robinson Garden at 122nd and Park show the creativity of residents with space and plantings. They have managed to put in raised vegetable beds, flower gardens, modern sculpture and stone paths into a tiny area and still make it attractive. I have noticed these small urban parks that are part of the ‘Green Thumb’ initiative. The city is really backing all these small gardens that dot Harlem.
I also noticed that even in the projects that people are adopting the raised vegetable beds. Many of the residents are fencing off space to grow fruits and vegetables in obscure parts of lawns and playgrounds. I noticed this as I walked 114th Street through the Taft, Johnson and Jefferson Housing Projects. There is a little ray of sunshine in these rather depressing complexes. It is sad to walk through what was once supposed to be ‘transition’ housing’ and see desolate parks and playgrounds and the mountains of garbage piling up in their dumpsters and wonder how the city has let this happen.
I also wondered what people thought of a six foot white guy walking the length of these complexes. These interlocking complexes stretch from Lenox Avenue to 2nd Avenue from 115th to 112th Streets and it is an interesting and eye opening walk of how not to ‘warehouse’ people. Small groups of people gave me either the strangest looks or just pretended that I was not there. Try to walk around the exterior boundaries of these areas.
I revisited 116th Street again with its dozens of eating selections and took a pit stop for lunch at Sam’s Famous Pizza at 150 East 116th Street on the corner of 116th and Lexington Avenue. These over-sized slices are well worth the $2.25 price (See review on TripAdvisor). The sauce has the right amount spices and a rich tomato flavor and is well cooked. The owner and his son seem to know everyone in the neighborhood.
Sam’s Famous Pizza at 150 East 116th Street
For dessert not far from the end of the projects, I discovered Milenio Bakery at 2030 Third Avenue not far from Thomas Jefferson Park. This amazing little bakery (see TripAdvisor review) has a selection of both Spanish and Italian baked treats run by an Asian family and trust me, nothing gets lost in translation.
Milenio Bakery at 2030 Third Avenue
I had the most delicious Spanish sugar cookie, filled with mango cream, I had ever tasted. It was two chewy sugar cookies with the cream in the middle and gave a new twist to a traditional Woopie pie. Among the mouthwatering pastries in the cases were mango and lemon filled puffs, apple turnovers and several Spanish desserts that I have never seen before. The quality is excellent and the selection is interesting. The nice part is that the owners are very engaging and want to be sure that you made the right selection.
I took to munching it on the way back to Thomas Jefferson Park, across the street from the Thomas Jefferson Houses. This park attracts everyone from the kids in the projects playing basketball and soccer to the hipsters who are moving into the former Italian neighborhood strolling with their kids. It is a very Democratic park. It is also in need of a dire renovation and could be a jewel of a park with its view of the river and extensive recreational options. Just try to avoid it towards sundown when most people leave the park as the characters in it get very interesting.
Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem
My last section of the neighborhood that I covered was the entire lengths of 112th and 111th Streets from Lenox to the Jefferson Park and by the time I exited Lenox Avenue at 110th Street, I needed to rest by the Harlem Meer.
At the time of the day, the clouds had started to roll in but people were still playing with their kids in the park or fishing or reading or singing. At sundown, there was still a lot of action going on in Central Park. All I know that after walking 24 blocks by 4 city blocks I was done for the day.
I started the day walking 125th Street again on a beautiful sunny February day. It must have been 62 degrees out, sunny and glorious. The kids in the city like in the suburbs were off from school for the winter break, so everyone was outside in the parks enjoying the warm weather. The streets were crowded with people walking their dogs, students from Colombia walking around between classes and neighborhood children playing football and baseball in the parks.
With all the area above 125th finally complete, I have started to walk the neighborhoods below traditional Harlem and above the Upper East and West sides. Morningside Heights is the area bordered by Morningside Avenue to 110th to 125th to Riverside Square Park, South Harlem is from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, South Harlem is bordered again from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard to Fifth Avenue from 110th to 125th Streets and Spanish Harlem from 5th Avenue to FDR Drive from 110th to 125th Streets. So this time to make it easier I have broken it up into three sections to do the walk.
I started the walk today at 125th Street at Morningside Avenue walking shoppers and tourists milling around the shopping district at 125th Street. The whole shopping district is going through a transformation from old cut-rate stores and family businesses to a series of chain restaurants, stores and gyms. Every business you find in a suburban strip mall are coming to Harlem from TJMax and Rainbow to Red Lobster and Olive Garden. It is pretty shocking how fast it has changed but even more how the flavor of the area is being adjusted to tourism.
The famous Apollo Theater is surrounded by Red Lobster and Whole Foods now
Another surprising aspect of the neighborhood is how nice it has gotten. Gone are the days that Colombia University had to practically erect walls to keep the neighborhood out. Colombia students like their fellow SUNY students thirty blocks up are starting to move in and take over this neighborhood. The South Harlem area is awash with scaffolding of people renovating the buildings and new restaurants and shops.
Morningside Park, which pretty much is the traditional border between the university and Harlem has been renovated over the past twenty years and is no longer the dismal overgrown park that you would get mugged in if you entered. My dad went to Colombia in the 60’s and my cousin in the 80’s and in those years, you would never enter the park. In 1993-95, the park was renovated and had new plantings and equipment installed in the park, giving it the same cheerful appearance of any other park in the city. Does it have it’s share of problems still? Like any park in New York City after dusk, you have to watch yourself.
Morningside Park near Columbia University
Because of the weather being so warm at this time, the park was being spruced up with park employees raking and cleaning up the beds and lawns. The garbage was being picked up as well and the park looked clean and well planted. With it being February, not much is in bloom but you can see where tulips and daffodils are starting to pop up in the soil. Lots of people were jogging in the park, walking with baby carriages or playing sports. A far cry from the needle and crack cocaine days in the 80’s. You can see the new landscaping and water features that have been created in the park and at dusk the lights actually work.
I traveled down the road planning on visiting the park again in more detail. I turned at 110th Street and walked the entire length of 110th from west side to east side and talk about a street of extremes. As you walk towards Riverside Park, you have Colombia to the north and the very top of the Upper West Side to the south. The buildings on this side of West 110th have been sandblasted back to their original elegance and from what I can see of the residents had never really gone down hill with the rest of the neighborhood.
Riverside Park by 110th Street
Amsterdam Avenue north of 110th Street has some interesting restaurants that I will need to try and I am discovering the holes in the wall that must cater to the students. Many have reasonable lunch specials and some have creative menus. I stopped in Riverside Park for a bit to relax before the long walk and the park was busy with nannies and mother’s with their kids in the 110th Street Tot Playground. The place was teaming with toddlers having a good time. The park still has not had the hint of Spring but having traveled this area last summer, it is a beautiful park when in bloom.
I walked down to Columbus Avenue and walked around the newly planted park area and discovered Hunan Chen’s Kitchen, a tiny hole in the wall restaurant at 1003 A Columbus Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor and on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). This little restaurant has only one table and is so small you can barely turn around. What is lacks in atmosphere, it makes up in food and service.
Hunan Chen Kitchen off 110th Street at 1003A Columbus Avenue
The lady who works the counter could not have been friendlier and accommodating. The prices were so cheap that you can order a nice meal for under $10.00 that could feed two people and for $5.00 you can buy a nice snack in their appetizer and soup section. I ordered an eggroll and a pint of Roast Pork Lo Mein. I must have gotten a pound of Lo Mein that was steaming hot and loaded with roast pork. It was delicious and well seasoned. The eggroll could have had more roast pork in it but was still plump and well-cooked. I was able to eat in on the benches in Morningside Park at the entrance at 110th Street. It was nice to people watch on a warm day and fun to see the students finally utilizing the park for pleasure.
Roast Pork Lo Mein with egg roll
After lunch, it was a the long walk to the northern stretches of Central Park and the Harlem Meer. This section of the park was packed with people. Seniors were fishing in the Meer (lake) and the kids were playing in the playground by the Lenox Avenue entrance. This area had been replanted and fixed in the late 90’s and again in the early 2000’s by the city with the help of the Central Park Conservatory. People were taking pictures of the ducks or chasing the pigeons around the park.
The Charles A. Dana Discover Center and the Harlem Meer
I had an interesting afternoon at the Charles A. Dana Discover Center located on the Meer and reading how the area was so influential in the Revolutionary War. Much of the battles had taken place in this area and the forts were located right in the park boundaries. The Battle of Harlem was not far from this spot and it was amazing how the area went back to nature once the war was over. The panels tell the story of the area and you should take about an hour and really read about the areas part in the war. On such a beautiful day the park really sparkled and it looked like a lot of adults were playing hooky on such a nice day.
Crossing Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue is the start of the extremes of 110th Street. You will pass what was once public housing but looks like it is going ‘market rate’ with renovations and once you pass the border of Madison Avenue, you will enter Spanish Harlem and a series of public housing projects. Again this area was alive with people but the mood of the area is completely different.
The Spanish influence was all over the place. On the walls of the stores and in the restaurants and signs as well as the music. There must be at least four or five housing projects in this area in various degrees of maintenance. Some were well maintained like by the Lehman Houses. By the Houses, it got a little scary. I would not venture in that area at night. At the end of 110th Street, you have the East River Houses, that look like a more pleasant middle-class looking development.
Lehman Houses (be careful walking around them)
I walked around Thomas Jefferson Park, a space of green that needs a serious renovation. The park could use a little sprucing up from what I could see. I did not want to enter the basketball grounds due to a scary looking group of teens and walked around the edges of the park. Just south of the park on New Street, Zip Car seems to have their headquarters and the whole lot is lined with cars.
Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem
The funny part about 110th street in this area is that it is dotted with new housing, bars and restaurants. The 20 year old set is starting to move into this area. On a rather seedy stretch of 110th, I was always looking over my shoulder until I saw some 20 year old ‘hipster’ with shorts on and an expensive IPhone playing that I felt like a jerk. Either I was the one worrying or he was putting himself at risk.
I stopped for a snack at El Chevere Cuchifritos, a Spanish restaurant, take-out place and bakery at 2000 Third Avenue for some pastilitoes. I ordered them with my broken Spanish which seemed to pass fine as the woman waiting on me understood what I said. I ordered a chicken and beef but got a cheese and they were good but not as good as some I have had in Washington Heights. They are reasonable at $1.50 each and very fresh. They have a nice selection of reasonable hot foods to take out and I just munched on them on the trip back up 110th to Fifth Avenue.
El Cheve Cuchifrito Bakery at 2000 Third Avenue
Fifth Avenue from 110th to 125th Streets was where I was lining my walk to concentrate in this area. I walked up and down Fifth Avenue to Marcus Garvey Park and walked around the park which was packed with people walking their dogs by the dog park and kids playing in the playground. Even though the avenue is lined with public housing, the area is dotted with new developments especially on the north and west parts of the park.
Marcus Garvey Park (Mount Morris Park)
The west side of Marcus Garvey Park is the Mount Morris Historical Area. This stretches from about 124th Street to 118th Street and has the most beautiful and graceful brownstones the line the side streets by the park. This area like the rest of Harlem is being sandblasted and renovated back to an earlier era and people are snatching up these homes.
Mount Morris Historical District
I finished this park of the walk by walking down Fifth Avenue through the Taft Homes that line the streets and back down 110th and back up Morningside Avenue and then down Manhattan Avenue to finish off the walk for this part of the visit to the area.
This is a huge area to cover so I will be breaking the visit down into three sections to really see what the neighborhood has to see and offer. I have already walked the boarders of 125th Street and 110th Street and will continue on to do the avenues first and then the side streets. So join me as we explore the newest in ‘hip’ areas, SoHA.
Places to Visit:
Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)/Historic District
I finally completed my walk of the entire Harlem neighborhood from 155th to 145th Street. I was lucky that it was a nice day with not much humidity. It has been pretty bad with the weather lately. This part of my walk took me to the area east of Jackie Robinson Park from Bradhurst Avenue to the East River. It was one of the harder sections of the city. I always felt that I was being watched by someone.
As I walked along the side street between 145th Street and 155th Streets the residents reacted to me differently. Some were smoking pot on the street and when I came back walking on the other side of the street they disappeared. One woman was having a very heated argument with a man on Frederick Douglas Boulevard that was getting pretty heavy and when she saw me immediately shut up. When I walked down the other side of the street, she and the man had also disappeared.
The police in the area kept driving around looking me over and when I was walking on 147th Street, someone threw a bottle from the building that hit the other side of the street I was walking on. I never thought I ever screamed ‘cop’ before but I got a pretty good idea that that’s what the local residents thought I was that afternoon. Things really quieted down as I walked around this area.
Like all other areas of Harlem, the area is quickly gentrifying. I have never seen so many young perky white kids running around the area. All the buildings lining Bradhurst Avenue by Jackie Robinson Park especially closer to 145th Street are all brand new and there is even a Starbucks on the corner of 145th and Bradhurst Avenue which means that the neighborhood is past the ‘transition’ stage.
Most of the area around 145th Street to Frederick Douglas Boulevard are new housing a lot of it catering to the CUNY students who are boldly pushing the boundaries of the campus into all parts of Harlem. They walk all over the neighborhood, sometimes much to the surprise of the local merchants.
Entering Jackie Robinson Park at 145th Street is very pleasant. There are basketball courts, a public pool, picnic and barbecuing areas that are very popular with the local residents and walking trails. The rock formations in the middle of the park not too different to the ones in High Bridge Park tell the story of how the Ice Age molded these parks for the future.
Jackie Robinson Park
The large formations are mostly covered with vegetation but still make quite an impression. The park was very busy that afternoon with kids crowding into the pool and many pick up basketball games going on. On the upper reaches of the park, there must have been four barbecues going on at once, many were having birthday parties and many of the area seniors were sitting around talking and watching what I was doing. I didn’t know that me walking around was such a topic of discussion.
It must have spread around the neighborhood because a bottle came flying down from one of the apartment buildings on 147th Street. That surprised some of the people walking around the neighborhood. Between that and the police vans trolling the neighborhood, I felt like I was being followed.
Walking down Bradhurst Avenue, the street is lined with new buildings facing the park and many new shops that have opened between the park and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard along 145th Street like Starbucks and Popeye’s that cater to the students and residents alike. As you move further into the neighborhood, local businesses line the avenues along Fredrick Douglas and Maccombs with interesting local stores and restaurants. The chain stores have found themselves up here so the services are changing in the shopping area.
At 146th Street is the Robert Clinkscales Playground and Community Park at 234 West 146 Street that was founded in the neighborhood in 1983. This small park has an active playground on one side with a cooling area in the middle and raised vegetable garden on the right side of the park with sitting areas throughout. Even on a Sunday, the playground was very active with lots of kids being looked upon by their grandparents. The vegetable garden was in full form with lots of tomato and herb plants all around the gardens. It is a nice refuge from the hot streets and a good portion of the brownstones and apartment houses that surround the park have been renovated.
Robert Clinkscales Playground at 234 West 146th Street
I have noticed a trend in all the neighborhoods I have walked so far in Upper Manhattan. If a neighborhood puts the time and effort into Community Garden or triangle park, all the real estate around it improves. Time and time again I have seen homes renovated around these small parks and that the owners enjoy having a view of something.
The Flower beds at Robert Clinkscales Playground
As I worked my way up the side streets, the area of renovation depends on how close you are to Jackie Robinson Park. The closer you are to the park, the newer the buildings and more construction is going on. The further you get away from the park towards Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, you move towards the projects. Even the projects are going through a renovation in the neighborhood as most are under scaffolding and look like they are getting a sandblast and new windows.
The lower part of the neighborhood is dominated by a bus depot at 145th Street and Lenox Avenue. Large apartment buildings dominate around this area of Lenox Avenue and the streets can get quite busy on the weekends. A lot of residents hang out outside their buildings gossiping with their neighbors. No one seemed to pay attention to me walking by until I made my way onto their side of the road and then everyone seemed to disappear.
As I made my way onto 152nd Street, the street was dotted with many small Community Gardens. There is a real community spirit with in the neighborhood when it comes to Community Gardening. The ‘Garden of Love’ run by the Bradhurst Garden Association at 321 West 152nd Street has beds of flowers and vegetables but locked from the outside and the 8th Avenue Garden at 301 152nd Street near Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, were small patches of green on this residential strip. The neighbors reclaimed these spots and by planting them and taking care of them really add to the fabric of the community as well as teaching the kids about gardening. Their a special touch to the neighborhood.
Walking up Macombs Place, I saw a neighborhood that is starting a very early transition. Beautiful townhouses and apartment buildings line the street and lead into the Bronx where Yankee Stadium is located. People were smoking pot outside one of the apartment buildings when I passed and where fighting with each other and when I walked back down the street, there were long gone. This seemed to be the trend where ever I went.
The exception was Colonel Charles Young Triangle at Macombs & 153rd Street, the one big park in the neighborhood outside of Jackie Robinson Park. This large triangle is in the corner of the neighborhood at 154th Street just off the bridge and dominates a very busy traffic corner. The park is named after the third Black graduate of West Point.
Many of the people in the neighborhood gather here to talk or in some cases have family parties as I had seen the three times I walked in the park. It is not well taken care of as it needs a good weeding and planting. The only thing I did was turn some heads.
Colonial Charles Young, third Black soldier to graduate from West Point
Much of the upper part of the neighborhood is commercial and when you walk down the steps to 155th Street, you are facing probably the most sterile and probably one of the more dangerous projects in the city at the old Polo Fields where the NY Giants used to play. As I said on a previous day, please do not linger around here. Even the police stay in their cars in this neighborhood and the site of a preppie 6:4 guy walking around the neighborhood for a third time must have had everyone wondering what I was doing there.
The Polo Ground Houses on 155th Street
Trust me, I walked down 155th Street to Bradhurst Avenue as fast as I could go and then crossed down Bradhurst before the other set of stairs that leads up to Harlem River Drive and Edgecomb Avenue where High Bridge Park is located. Pretty much the park separates the two areas from one another.
My last stop on the tour of this neighborhood was dinner. I stopped at Charles County Pan-fried Chicken on Fredrick Douglas Boulevard between 152nd and 153rd Streets and a neighborhood staple. While eating lunch, I talked to Charles, the owner, who was taking a quick break. He could not believe the makeup of his customers that day which were mostly white and some were out of town tourists. I told him that everyone reads about the restaurant on TripAdvisor and Yelp and that’s why he has such a hodgepodge of customers. There were some excellent reviews online. I just found the place while walking around earlier and checked TripAdvisor for what people were saying.
Charles Country Pan-Fried Chicken
Thank God I ate there that day because Charles said that this was his last day at this location. He had been there for over twenty years and was moving to a bigger spot on 137th Street which is closer to CUNY. He explained that he needed more room as big groups wanted to visit and he had to keep turning them down. He only had about five tables and they were all full.
The food is excellent. He really does cook his chicken in a very large cast iron pan and chicken is constantly cooking so it is fresh. They give you a big portion for a meal so bring your appetite (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the fried chicken dinner which consisted of a freshly fried chicken breast and wing, a big portion of creamy mac & cheese and candied yams that were a syrupy candied on the yams and were sweet and moist. The chicken is crisp and flavorful on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside. It was one of the best fried chickens I had in a long time.
The Fried Chicken, Mac & Cheese and Sweet Potatoes are delicious
As I was eating, I told Charles that I thought his food was excellent which he appreciated. Remember to wash it all down with their fresh lemonade. It will really cool you down on a hot day. It was nice to eat with and talk to the owner of the restaurant.
The day ended with a final walk into Jackie Robinson Park and a cool down period on this humid day. Many of the CUNY students have come to sunning themselves on the lawn on the hill off 145th Street or cooling down in the pool located in the park. After that, a quick subway ride from 145th Street back to midtown. The whole area between 155th Street to 145th Street both sides and in between had been done.
It was quite a walk that afternoon.
The stairs and lawn where CUNY students now sun themselves
I finally finished my two Brooklyn tours through school and was back up in Harlem today. It was a long day of walking as those city blocks across are long. I started at the subway stop at 168th Street and walked down to 155th Street (the subway was not running to 155th Street over the weekend). As usual when I have to walk down Broadway, I stopped at my new favorite bakery, Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway (check out the numerous reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for chicken pastilitos and cubanitos.
The pastries are Estrella Bakery are wonderful
If you like hot snacks and sweet desserts, this will be your ‘go to’ place for a quick snack when walking up here. It is still one of the reasons why I don’t complain about getting off at 168th Street when the C subway is not in service. I like to stop at one of the pocket parks on Broadway to relax and eat. It was a long afternoon of walking.
Don’t miss this excellent Dominican Bakery on Broadway
My walk over these three days took me from 155th Street to 145th Street from Riverside Drive to Lenox Avenue (there are still some side streets on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park that I have not finished yet). Don’t let these maps fool you, these are long blocks being walked in humid weather.
I started my walk today at the Hispanic Society of America Museum at 155th Street which is on the Boricua College-Manhattan Campus. It shares the campus with the American Academy of Arts & Letters, which closed down in June for the rest of the summer. The Hispanic Society of America is a free museum that is small enough that you can enjoy the visit for about an hour without being over-whelmed like you would at one of the bigger museums.
The Hispanic Society of America
It was a small but no less impressive collection of Spanish Art from different periods. The Hispanic Society of America was founded as a free museum and research library in 1904 by the American scholar and philanthropist Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955). Over the past century, the Hispanic Society had promoted the study of the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Spain and Portugal and their areas of influence in the Americas and throughout the world. The Museum and Library constitute the most extensive collection of Hispanic are and literature outside Spain and Latin America (Hispanic Society of America literature).
The museum had a nice crowd that afternoon, (how these people found it I will never know. I never knew it existed) and the galleries were small but the work was impressive. Some of the pieces that stood out were Jouquin Sorallo y Bastida’s ‘Vision of Spain’ created between 1911-1919, with many traditional views of parts of Spain and ‘After the Bath’ done in 1908, which looked more like a contemporary beach scene. The one piece that stuck in my mind was a new piece to the collection, ‘The Four Fates of the Soul’, which showed Death, Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. The sculpture really proved it’s point and made me think that we really are being watched from above. Even the guard as I was leaving said it was a new piece to the collection but people really talked about it as they were leaving.
After the museum, I had about ten minutes to walk around Trinity Cemetery, which is a quiet but scenic place.
Trinity Church Cemetery plaque
The graves on this side of Broadway overlook the Hudson River and are so peaceful with beautiful views, it makes you think of where you want your final resting place to be located. To live eternity here says something. Even the views of New Jersey are gorgeous. Be sure to get to the museum and the grave site early as they do close at 4:00pm.
Trinity Cemetery on 155th Street
I began my zig-zag trip of this part of Harlem at 154 Street and from there until 145th Street, the areas between Riverside Drive and Edgecombe Avenue house some of the most beautiful and elegant brownstones that I have seen in the city. So many of the them are under scaffolding as the new population moving up here is putting a lot of money into the renovations of these properties. The results are amazing with wooden doors, elegant metal work cleaned up and lively planters all around the stairs and the windows.
Sugar Hill Neighborhood
With the CUNY campus just south of this area, you can see that college population is spreading its wings all over the neighborhood as the students, even in the summer, are moving in or living in this neighborhood and invest in buying in the bodegas, restaurants and hanging around the parks. The more diverse population looks like it is really making an effort to work together for this neighborhood. The most beautiful of these blocks is concentrated between Amsterdam Avenue and Nicholas Street so take time to really look at these homes and see the love and care that is put into them.
Jackie Robinson Park where the students hang out.
Another stop I made was in the Hope Steven Garden at 153rd Street that runs through 152nd Street. This was an empty lot between all the buildings that has now been cleaned up and the neighborhood held their Annual Open House & Barbecue for the neighborhood. It was not much of a turnout at that point of the afternoon but all the neighborhood seniors looked at me like ‘oh oh, another one is moving in’. You begin to pick up on these things when you walk through neighborhoods that have not seen me before.
Hope Steven Garden
Everyone was really nice though and some of the ladies were explaining how the neighborhood banded together to clean and landscape the garden. The garden now contains peach trees, berry bushes and a grape arbor while supporting a cat colony that lives in the garden. Some of the neighbors were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs and older residents were chatting amongst themselves. No one made a fuss about me eating and since I was not hungry, I did not partake in the barbecue but it looked pretty good.
Most of the residents sat around and chatted with their neighbors or busy working in the garden. As I sat down to rest, two of the women who volunteer here, looked like they wanted to recruit me to do the same as they told me the story of how the city’s water aqueduct runs underneath the garden so they can never build here and how bad the neighborhood had become and how it was coming back to life. It takes a big person to show the immense pride in a neighborhood.
I stopped back in Convent Garden again to visit Ms. Davis, who was chatting the afternoon away while getting her exercise working in their garden. She was telling me that they will be having a jazz concert with food on Labor Day Weekend and invited me to join in. This I don’t want to miss as it is my two favorite things, jazz music and food. The volunteers were really working away at making this garden the well maintained and colorful place that the garden is to the neighborhood. Everything is in full bloom right now.
Convent Garden in full bloom
The Sugar Hill neighborhood is really impressive and you could see that this was not one of the places that went downhill as the rest of Harlem decayed in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. It was and still is an grand group of homes that their owners take a lot of pride in. Now that the rest of the city has caught up with it, it will be interesting to see what comes out of it the next few years.
Another small oasis exists on 149th Street, which is Maggie’s Garden. It was locked at the time but also another garden taken from an empty lot and brought back to life. Maggie Burnett, are Harlem resident, turned what was once a ‘rickety old house’ when torn down into an urban oasis starting in 1974. Fighting off drug dealers to build the garden, she got some help from New York Restoration Project and its founder, Bette Midler who assisted in 1999 helping clear the site and now it is a garden with trees, flowers, a full vegetable garden and a barbecue. You could not see all that from the locked gates. (Daily News article).
I was able to start my walk on the other side of Bradhurst Avenue on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park. I will let you know that the college students from CUNY have discovered the park and were sunning themselves the afternoon I walked around the park. Bradhurst Avenue has a lot of new buildings on it and the businesses include a Starbucks so you know that neighborhood is going through a transition.
Jackie Robinson Park
To let you know though, this transition stops here and the further you get away from the park, the seedier the area gets. By the time you hit Lenox Avenue, gentrification has not hit this area of the neighborhood and you should watch yourself. The buildings are beautiful and there is a police station a block in but it still needs a lot of work on this side of West 145th Street.
The end of the walk that day was at 145th Street and lunch at Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings at 346 West 145th Street (now closed) which is right next store to Victorio’s Pizza that is more of the rave. The pizza was just average and the sauce did not have much flavor to it. The funny part was to listen to Indian music while eating my pizza. That was strange. My recommendation is go to Victorio’s Pizza and get it to go and eat it in Jackie Robinson Park. The middle of the park has benches to sit on and the park is really pretty with its slopping walkways and rock work and it’s large trees to sit under.
The entire walk between 155th Street and 145th Street with an extra afternoon walking down Convent Avenue took almost five hours. Again, don’t let these blocks fool you as they are long and you will want to stop in the parks and gardens and walk around.
Places to Visit:
Jackie Robinson Park
85 Bradhurst to Edgecombe Avenues at 145th Street to Manhattan Avenue