Koronet Pizza was established in 1981 and is located right on the border of the Columbia Campus in Morningside Heights and is known best for having ‘New York’s Biggest Slice’. I have to admit that the slice is huge.
I stumbled across Koronet Pizza when I was walking around the Columbia campus for my “WalkinManhattan” project and needed a quick lunch. The giant slice is part of their 32 inch pizza that they sell for $38.00. An individual slice of their delicious pizza is $4.75 and is about the size of two normal slices. You only need one to fill you up. When I ate there, customers got a big kick out of downing one of these slices.
The pizza is excellent. Their sauce has a spicy tomato taste…
I came across SheShe Pizzeria on my walk around Manhattan Valley (Between 110th Street-96th Street and Riverside Drive and Central Park West) for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan” when I was walking Columbus Avenue. This little ‘gem’ has one of the best lunch specials in the neighborhood. I am surprised that the Columbia students have not discovered this restaurant.
I stopped in for lunch twice and was very impressed that such a good quality lunch can be had for $5.00 (tax included). The first day of my ‘walk’ in the neighborhood, I tried the personal pizza with a Coke. It was delicious. The owner makes the pizza fresh for you and it comes out piping hot and gooey from…
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 finished walking East Harlem and it was an interesting experience. It took two weeks to crisscross the whole neighborhood and I was lucky that I double-backed on several streets so I got a more detailed experience. There was a lot of interesting architecture and some wonderful restaurants, bodegas and bakeries along the way to experience. I got to walk the parks at different times of the day and I finished the walk when the schools were closed for Spring Break, so I got to see the neighborhood come to life with families out and about.
My first day of the walk, I could not have asked for beautiful weather. It was clear, sunny and in the 60’s. It was perfect outside weather. After a busy morning at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (they had me working the hurried bread station and you would think that the homeless were at Starbucks with all of their requests), I took the number 6 subway to 110th Street to start the walk of East Harlem, now known as ‘Upper Spanish Harlem’. I have never seen so much renovation and building going on in one area which is changing the face of the neighborhood.
I started my walk up the Avenues and traveled on the north to south part of the neighborhood the first afternoon. I walked 3rd Avenue, 2nd Avenue and 1st Avenue and revisited Pleasant Avenue and the surrounding streets. It’s an interesting mix of commercial and housing space that houses a diversity of businesses.
Before the area was known as ‘El Barrio’, a Spanish neighborhood of Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Dominicans, it had the city’s first ‘Little Italy’ from the turn of the last century to about the late 1950’s to early 60’s when people moved out to the suburbs. There are still traces of the neighborhood left with some churches, businesses like Rao’s and Patsy’s still going strong and the streets named after famous Italians.
Pleasant Avenue off 120th Street in East Harlem
The area around Pleasant Avenue is going through a tremendous renovation as all the brownstones look like they are getting snatched up and being updated and a much younger crowd is beginning to move in. The biggest change that I saw that was attracting this crowd is the new Target Mall that was refitted into an old factory space between 118th-116th Streets. This mall has attracted everyone from the housing projects to the college students from the other side of the island. On a late Friday afternoon the place was mobbed.
In 2019, the area gained designation as a National Historic Landmark district. The new district is centered between East 114th and East 120th Streets near First and Pleasant Avenues, covers roughly two dozen blocks. The area contains some of the oldest buildings in the district includes churches such as Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on East 115th Street. This district has some of the most important designs of tenement housing in New York City.
The area is concerned with the coming of the extension of the Q subway line to 125th Street of losing these sights. This area has seen its share of immigration from being an Italian to a Puerto Rican community and wanted to preserved this culture. This area has been designed as the “East Harlem Historic District and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places (The Spirit Westsider 2019).
The Historic district of East Harlem
I started the afternoon at the Blue Sky Deli (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) on the corner of 1st Avenue and 110th Street (2135 1st Avenue), home of the now cult-like ‘Chopped Cheese Sandwich’, which has become the rave of the internet as the hipsters enter Harlem. I have never seen such a debate over a sandwich so I saved my appetite from my morning at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (another busy day)and dove into the experience.
Blue Sky Deli (Haijj’s) at 110th Street and First Avenue; ‘Home of the Chopped Cheese’
The ‘Chopped Cheese Sandwich’ is basically a double cheeseburger that is chopped up. It is two hamburger patties cooked on a flat grill with two slices of American cheese on top, cooked with onions and peppers and topped with chopped lettuce and tomato. It is then tucked into a hoagie roll and then pressed. With ketchup and mayo to finish the sandwich, it is heaven on earth. I took my sandwich and a Coke into Jefferson Park on 111th Street and watched the neighborhood kids play soccer and do track.
The famous ‘Chopped Cheese Sandwich”
The sandwich is a great blend of flavors and for $4.25 is a great deal. I know that comment gets a debate and rebuttal on the internet but when you are on a budget it is well worth it. Blue Sky Deli, also known in the neighborhood as ‘Hajji’s’, is known as the ‘home of the chopped cheese sandwich’ and is well worth the trip to this part of Harlem.
On the first day in the neighborhood, kids were just getting out of school and the streets were mobbed with children and parents or grandparents picking up their kids. After a relaxing lunch, I walked through the commercial district of 1st Avenue ending up back at the Wagner Houses at the edge of the neighborhood between 120th and 124th Streets.
The one thing I can tell you about walking around the Wagner Houses is that there are police there all the time. In the courtyards, by the schools and in the commercial district. I don’t know who was watching me more, the guys that looked like gang-bangers or the police trying to figure me out. Between them and the bodega owners with the wondering looks on their faces, it seemed to me that people were just trying to ‘figure me out’. I just keep quiet and smile a lot.
Wagner Houses at 120th Street
Talking about commercial real estate, I have discovered that developers will build anywhere to make money. One developer is in the middle of construction of a luxury building on the corner of 1st Avenue and 120th Street right on the edge of Wagner House complex. Its almost as if they are mocking the residents that live in the projects. That and who would want to buy these things. As I walked by the construction site, one senior resident said to me “They are not even that well built.” I commented that living in the Wagner Complex was safer than these homes that are put up quickly and that it will last longer. She just smiled and gave me a funny look.
I even went back to visit the Pleasant Finest Deli at the corner of Pleasant Avenue and 120th Street (see review on TripAdvisor) as the kids were getting out from school again across the street. I guess the tinted glasses through them off as they gave me strange looks as well like ‘what was I doing back?”. They were polite but in a formal way as I was buying a bag of chips. Maybe I was just picking up on it.
Walking on 1st Avenue has its advantages as you start to pass the last of the Italian businesses in the neighborhood. Pasty’s Pizzeria at 2287 1st Avenue (See Review on TripAdvisor) being the most famous. This is worth the stop. The pizza is excellent and at $1.75 a slice is a great deal. I haven’t tasted that fresh of a tomato sauce in a long time. There is a sit down place but stop in for a slice and just walk with it. On sunny day there is nothing better. Everyone else must have thought the same thing as I saw slices walking down the street.
Patsy’s East Harlem
I took a break and relaxed again in Thomas Jefferson Park on 114th Street and watched the soccer teams play. This is a nice park that I misjudged the first time I walked through it. Yes, the park does need some work but it is used by the whole neighborhood. From the hoopsters to the hipsters, I saw all types in the park playing sports, working with team competitions and parents of all sorts just relaxing with their kids. Over the three day period that I walked the neighborhood, residents just spread out, brought their lunches and snacks and relaxed.
Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem
To save some time and the fact that the kids were out, I walked the length of 1st Avenue down to 96th Street to the new Q subway line and doubled back and walked 102nd, 105th, 106th and 110th again to the Harlem River. This is scary stuff and a word of advice to readers, please avoid this section of the city. All along 1st Avenue in this section by the river are all housing projects especially the very dangerous East River Projects.
Avoid walking around the East River Houses on First Avenue
As I walked down both 105th and 106th Streets (the side streets on either side), I did notice that Citybike was located on both sides as well as luxury condos were across the street and next door to the projects. That’s well and good but when you glance into the parking lots at 106th, you see what is happening and I swear that I may have stopped a drive-by shooting from a guy who was watching the basketball players a little too closely. Either during the day or night, avoid these two side streets as they are considered two of the most dangerous blocks in the city (along with Lexington Avenue from 123rd to 124th Streets). Please stay away!
As I walked back up First Avenue, I noticed that surrounding these projects are many luxury condos and new stores. It is a strange mix in the same neighborhood as you can see that the neighborhood is transitioning. Still it is not the safest part of the city.
Needing to walk off a sandwich, a slice of pizza and two bags of chips, I crossed 110th on the way to 2nd Avenue. As you walk up 2nd Avenue, you pass the rows of brownstones and prewar housing that in some cases is falling apart mixed in with sliver luxury homes and new restaurants. The lower part of 2nd Avenue is quirky until you hit 112th Street and then you are back in the Jefferson projects. To cover 113th Street, which is two small cul-de-sacs, you have to walk through the projects.
This is when I really discovered how short-changed people in the housing projects are by living here. Talk about being treated like caged animals. All the lawns are fenced in, the parks are sterile with little life due to the equipment in them, garbage that is piling up in dumpsters or in the grassy area flying around in the wind and sitting areas that are damaged.
Because 114th Street stops at Lenox Avenue by the Martin Luther King Houses and does not start again until you exit from the Thomas Jefferson Houses by the Jefferson Park, you have to walk through the heart of the housing projects and you begin to see a lot. Maybe it is home to a large portion of the population up here but by the designs, they are almost warehousing people in this section of the city.
Thomas Jefferson Projects in East Harlem
There is some light to this with pocket parks off to the side of 112th Street and the Robert Wagner Playground at 120th Street. There was some life from the kids in the community as well as you see it in droves in Thomas Jefferson Park. There was some sunshine in that when you walk through the housing projects in that some residents have set up raised vegetable gardens and have planted flowers along the borders of some of the playgrounds. Kudos to these residents for bringing a personal touch to a sterile environment.
Walking both 2nd and 3rd Avenues you may have to really look but community pride does exist in these small gardens and in the community gardens on the side streets all over the area.
Between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, as you walk to the 120’s, this area is also in a state of transition with a branch of the SUNY campus and housing, most of East 125th Street being knocked down and eco-friendly housing between 124th and 125th Streets across from the Wagner Houses. As you get closer to 125th Street, the whole area is being knocked down and rebuilt as is the whole shopping corridor of 125th Street. If it has not already been knocked down or renovated, it is about to be or planned to be. In about five years the whole block will look like Times Square.
The biggest renovation that I saw was the Taino Towers around 122nd Street. The whole place is being ripped apartment and renovated. It is considered Section 8 housing but after the renovation I can see it will go mixed-use and change the neighborhood again. It is a nice complex and will interesting to see one they renovate the theaters and add a health club.
The Taino Towers under renovation
Like most of this section of the neighborhood above 120th Street, the area is mostly commercial and from previous walks in the neighborhood above 125th Street is where the bus stations are, dealerships are located and more City buildings are rising.
My second and third day in the neighborhood, I walked the side streets. Since I had already covered 125th, 124th, 120th,116th, 114th and 110th at length, I walked the rest of the blocks in one afternoon. Who knew it was take six hours and all the interesting things I saw along the way. I started the afternoon rounding 110th Street and stopping once again at the El Chevere Cuchfrito at 2000 3rd Avenue this time visiting the bakery (See review on TripAdvisor).
El Chevere Cuchfrito at 2000 3rd Avenue
Unlike some of their counterparts around the neighborhood, El Cheveres bakery is really good and very reasonable. I had a glazed filled doughnut for $1.00 and it really hit the spot. The glaze was so thick you could cut it with a knife and there was a large selection of baked goods. A definite spot to stop when visiting the neighborhood just for the pastilitos alone. The food here is really good and cheap. Just come knowing a little Spanish. They appreciate it even if its bad.
I walked the side streets this afternoon to finish the neighborhood. There are a lot of interesting sites along the way in East Harlem. I started on 115th Street and I seemed to hit every bakery in the area. My first stop on the journey was the market under the Park Avenue underpass, La Marqueta, at Park Avenue and 115th Street to try Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor-Now Closed for Business), which had been written up many times but was never open when I visited the market.
Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery
I tried two of their Mexican Chonco’s, which is a buttery-brioche type of muffin with either a vanilla or chocolate topping. Needing my carbs for the long walk I brought one of each ($2.00 each). Well worth it. The best part is your helping the bakery train people for a new profession and they do an excellent job.
I left the market to explore the rest of 115th Street and there are some interesting sites along the way. You have the Rodale Pleasant Community Garden at 437 114th Street that stretches to 115th by the church is an active community garden with flowers and vegetable beds. I could only see it from a distance at a distance as the gate was locked but great care I could tell went into maintaining it.
The Rodale Pleasant Community Garden at 437 114th Street in the Summer months
Across the street, the famous Italian church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is located. This church is noted for the famous dance each August when the Giglio Society does their famous “Dancing Giglio” dance carrying a giant statue of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders (along with a band). That is enough for another trip up to the neighborhood in the summer.
Dancing of the “Giglio” in East Harlem every August
I had also wanted to visit the National Museum for Catholic Art History which was on 115th Street in part of the church complex but it had closed a few years earlier for lack of attendance and funding. So I criss-crossed back to Park Avenue making various stops to look at churches and note menu’s on restaurants I wanted to try in the future.
I revisited 116th Street to look over restaurants I had seen on previous days. The street is the main shopping and restaurant drag for this part of SoHA and runs pretty much the whole length of the island. It has an interesting places to eat so if you have the time take the time to walk around.
I spent most of the afternoon snacking around the neighborhood wanting to try many of the bakeries and small restaurants I came across. There are loads of reasonable places to eat for under $10.00 and if you are visiting remember to have about $10-$20.00 in ones as most of the these places do not take credit cards.
One of my stops lead me to Bermudez Bakery at 1875 Lexington Avenue right off 116th Street (See review on TripAdvisor). I don’t know what I do that freaks people out so much but one of the guys who was inside called his friend from around the counter who was speaking jovial Spanish to everyone else took one look at me and spoke in more formal English. He could not have been nicer but when I turned around, all the other men inside had left the bakery. I thought that was weird.
Bermudez Bakery at 1875 Lexington Avenue
The baked goods are excellent though. I has a flaky pastry with a mango jelly but the best was their apple turnovers. They are so good and they melt in your mouth. This bakery is a must go to. It may look dumpy on the outside but the product speaks for itself.
The pastries here are really good!
I crossed over to 117th Street and walked from Park Avenue to the river. Outside St. Paul’s Roman Church just off Park Avenue you will find an Altar to the Virgin Mary that is very interesting. Take some time to read the plaque and look over the building. It is such a beautiful church.
St. Paul’s Church in East Harlem
Walking further down the street at the corner of 117th Street and the corner of 3rd Avenue there is an interesting mural on the side wall of a Payless Shoes store dedicated to the Island of Puerto Rico. This colorful artwork shows the strong roots of the neighborhood in the island as well as the pride these residents feel. Really look at the detail work.
Look for the Street art in the neighborhood
The neighborhood around Pleasant Avenue, which was the former Italian enclave is changing again as all the brownstones and apartment buildings are being sandblasted and renovated back into shape. Home to Rao’s Italian restaurant and Patsy’s original pizzeria, these blocks are still visited by tourists and residents looking for authentic Italian food. Pretty much outside these two business and the relationship to the churches most of the Italian heritage of the neighborhood is gone.
Between 118th and 119th Streets along Pleasant Avenue the neighborhood has created the Pleasant Valley Community Garden with a large flower garden and raised vegetable gardens in this full block garden. Many people were out that afternoon working in the garden and waved over when I was looking it over. The residents take immense pride in the garden and it will be interesting to see what it looks like in the middle of the summer.
Pleasant Valley Community Garden
As you turn the corner on 119th Street, on the wall of River East Elementary School, the kids have painted the most interesting mural that lines the wall of the back of the school. Look over the colorful interpretation of robots. The kids painted a very whimsical mural as only kids can do.
The kids were out in full force that afternoon playing games and doing sports as they off for the spring break and I guess the parents needed to keep them occupied. All sorts of activities were keeping the kids busy and I noticed a large police presence in the neighborhood while all of this was going on. I made another pit stop for a Coke at the Pleasant Finest Deli on the corner of Pleasant Avenue. I swear those owners are always giving me funny looks when I walked in like I am going to bust them or something.
The last part of the walk I covered 121st to 123rd Streets which is lined mostly with businesses, schools and many new apartment buildings that are going up around the new SUNY College. Most of 124th Street in this area has been rebuilt with a new eco friendly apartment building across from the Wagner Houses, so new businesses are opening to cater to those residents as well as the whole area from 2nd Avenue to river is being ripped up and rebuilt with a renovation of he park and the extension of the esplanade along the river (the esplanade currently stops at 124th Street and is closed off with fencing). When this park is done, it should look spectacular with new lawns and the pool opened.
Word of advice if you are going to walk near Lexington Avenue between 123rd and 124th Streets, this is considered one of the two most dangerous blocks in Manhattan with two rehab clinics and a shelter on the same block. There were three police officers hidden in a doorway in between the block and when I stopped for a Coke in a bodega on the corner of 123rd and Lexington Avenue, there were some pretty shady characters hanging out on the corner. This block is best avoided at anytime of the day.
I double backed down 123rd Street and cut down 1st Avenue and 120th Street to the Wagner House Playground and saw the impressive statue of Robert Wagner Sr., who the houses were named after. Frankly, I don’t think anyone notices it or knows how important the man was in New York politics helping with housing and social security. That and being the future Mayor of New York’s father.
The statue was created by artist Georg John Lober and dedicated in 1959. Mr. Lober was originally from Chicago and studied Beaux-Arts sculpture at The Institute of Design and the National Academy of Design (Wiki).
Georg John Lober, the Executive Secretary of the New York City Municipal Arts Commission
He started working the New York City Municipal Arts Commission in 1942 until 1960 just before his death in 1961 (Wiki).
Robert Wagner Sr. Statue by the Wagner Houses by Georg John Lober
My last stop was for a snack at the Jamaican restaurant, Jam Hut at 2327 1st Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) for a beef patty. These large beef patties are freshly made and rather large. Again the owners gave me a rather odd look when I ordered my food.
You think no one had ever seen a 6:3 white male in the neighborhood before. I have now spent over a month in East Harlem. I had walked every block, park and set of Housing Projects.
You think they would be used to seeing me walking around at this point.
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.
What a difference a week makes! I started the first part of my walking project last Friday night when it was 73 degrees outside and just spectacular. People had been out in the parks with their strollers and dogs and kids were playing sports all over the park even into twilight. Now it was about 43 degrees and back to being winter. The kids who were on their winter break really lucked out. They had a week of unseasonable weather to enjoy.
I started this part of the walk on Morningside Drive walking up the hill facing the park. It is some walk but I am sure in warmer weather it would be a lot more pleasant. You really do get your exercise walking this part of the neighborhood. Going up and down hills can take a lot out of you. What I liked best of this part of SoHA was the architecture. It had a combination of college campus appeal with the classroom buildings, the quad and the dorms mixed in with the pre-war buildings which have been renovated back to their original beauty.
Morning Side Park keeps improving every year
I think the appeal of Morningside Heights is the college atmosphere mixed into the urban setting and the fact that the area is so much safer than it was even ten years ago. This is not the urban campus of my father and my cousin, who are both Alumnus of the school. There has been a big change especially in Morningside Park which borders the neighborhood with Harlem.
Morningside Heights is an urban campus for Columbia University
Even in the middle of winter, the warm weather has done strange things to Mother Nature and the park was starting to bud and bloom a month and a half early. As I walked up and down Morningside Drive, I took a walking tour of the park for a second time. This ice-aged formed park really has a beauty to it when you look up close. The rock formations mixed in with the steps and the flowers peaking up and starting to bloom early adds to the grace of the park. The park just needed some TLC.
The park is full of long paths through the rock formations and offer nice views of the neighborhood below. There are several paths that go up and down the hills so be prepared to walk. By the pond toward the middle of the park, there is an interesting statue donated by respected banker, Alfred Seligman ‘The Bear and the Fawn’ with a little bear overlooking a fawn playing his flute. The statue was designed by American artist Edgar Edward Walter. Before the dedication of the statue, Mr. Seligman who was head of the National Highways Protection Society, died in one of the first documented highway accidents (Daytonian).
The detail work is beautiful and the statue is one of those things you would miss if you did not walk the length of the park. When it was a working fountain, it must have really graced the park. I walked up and down the paths and stairs before I exited the park at 110th Street.
‘The Bear and the Faun’ by artist Edgar Edward Walter
I walked around 110th Street to Amsterdam Avenue and walked up past the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and walked around the church and its gardens and statuary. Down the long paths of plantings and around the bends of the property, I came across another interesting statue. At the center of the park, there is a breathtaking statue called the “Peace Fountain”, created in 1985 which shows a unusual look at the battle between good and evil by artist Greg Wyatt, who was an artist in residence at the church.
Mr. Wyatt has graduated from Columbia College with BA in Art History and studied at National Academy of Design. He bases his work on the philosophy of the “spiritual realism’ merging realistic images and abstract forms of space, form and energy (Wiki).
The ‘Peace Fountain’ by artist Greg Wyatt
Really take some time to look over this statue and its detail work with all the animals, demons and angels. You have to see the figures from all sides to see all the characters in their stances and how it works into the battle of the forces. It is a very powerful statement of good conquering evil. It depicted the Archangel Michael versus Satan. On a warm summer day, it must be a beautiful park. It is a tough call now at the end of the winter.
Walking up Amsterdam Avenue, you hit the heart of Columbia University that runs from 114th Street to about 120th Streets. For pretty much the rest of the neighborhood until you hit 125th Street, this area is all geared to the university. The area is graced with graceful old buildings, some the turn of the last century and many pre-war apartment buildings on the side streets.
The best is when you walk to 116th Street and that leads you in the Quad in the main part of the Columbia campus. This bustling area by the library was full of students who were socializing and sunning themselves on the warmer days. During the breaks from class, the students flooded the streets looking for something to eat or running back to their residence halls.
The Columbia University Quad at 116th Street
Outside the entrance to the Quad, just above 116th Street, there are several food trucks at night that cater to the Asian students offering Chinese, Japanese and Thai food. Take a serious stop and try the food. I had a delicious ‘pork sandwich’ that was chopped roast port on a steamed bun for $4.00, a nice treat after a long walk and I was able to eat it in the Quad. It could have used a little sauce to it but it was still loaded with pork and was a nice size. This steaming chopped pork sandwich was just one of the items that were offered at a very reasonable price to the students. There are noodle dishes and dumplings all around the $3.00-$7.00 range and at lunch and dinner the lines can get quite long. Bring cash.
Amsterdam Avenue like its counterpart neighborhood by the CUNY campus is dotted with great restaurants and coffee shops that cater to both the locals and the students alike. I had concluded my first day walking the Morningside Heights neighborhood that evening with dinner at V & T Pizzeria, a local eating establishment located at 1024 Amsterdam Avenue (See the review on TripAdvisor). It is the typical red sauce Italian-American restaurant that you would expect from Little Italy not from uptown.
V & T Pizzeria at 1024 Amsterdam Avenue in Morningside Heights
The food was really good. I had a house salad with a creamy Italian dressing that was typical for an old-fashioned restaurant with the iceberg lettuce and chopped tomatoes but still good. I was in the mood after a long walk for a meatball hoagie. The sandwich was huge! The only problem was that the meatballs were not that good. I mean they were big and had a nice sauce but the meatballs were average with not that flavor. It was disappointing but the other food coming out looked good, so it will give a reason to come back another time.
The meatball sandwich was okay
I continued up Amsterdam Avenue touring up the sides of both the campus and the edge of the neighborhood that lined the park and you get to see the transition of the area by 123rd Street when you see the General Grant Housing Project, a huge complex that lines the edge of the neighborhood between 123rd Street to 125th Street from Broadway to Morningside Drive. This complex as nice as it looks from the outside has its share of problems on the inside. I had to walk through the complex a couple of times when walking through 124th Street extension and when I was walking the length of LaSalle Street to Amsterdam Avenue and no problems. It looks like a complex in Miami Beach.
The General Grant Houses sit at the edge of the Morningside Heights neighborhood
It is in this area the new extension of Columbia University is taking place between 125th Street and 135th Street along Broadway across from the projects. Once those buildings open this summer that will completely change this part of the neighborhood bringing more students up to this part of the area and all the restaurants along the Broadway stop of the 1 Train and along this part of 125th Street will start to change as you are seeing it now. Old bodegas and cut rate restaurants that catered to the people in the projects are now changing to more upscale restaurants, bars, coffee shops and shops. Broadway alone has three Starbucks and they were all full the entire time I walked the neighborhood. There are some serious changes it will make to this part of Morningside Park.
Walking down Broadway really puts you into the heart of the neighborhood and through the campus. Everything here pretty much caters to the college and the faculty and students. All the restaurants have their own uniqueness to them with the Columbia symbol prominently displayed on the windows. I found it is nice to get take out and sit in the Quad and eat while watching the students. Two days into touring the area the weather was around 60 degrees so it was nice to eat outside and relax and see the world go by. Reality set in as the winter weather set back in and it was 34 degrees again and back inside I went.
It was a quick walk up Claremont Avenue, the heart of Barnard College, the girl’s school of the college. This is area is being rebuilt and sandblasted as the college is expanding into the neighborhood. Most of the buildings between here and Riverside Avenue are filled with prewar apartments and student housing. Just be aware to prepare to walk on the street as some of the sidewalks are closed off. When it is all done it is going to look even more beautiful with the new buildings and renovations so close to Riverside Park, which in itself was a nice walk during the summer months.
As I walked the upper streets of the neighborhood, you can see more money is being put into the parks and historical parks in this part of the city. Sakura Park, which is lined with flowering trees still in winter hibernation, are beginning to see the first sign of spring as the buds are bursting early. On the warm days, there were a lot of students studying or playing games. The park is dedicated to the Japanese in parts with a giant Japanese Lantern Statue by the International Building that is quite detailed.
Sakura Park in the Spring months is pretty amazing
This park leads into Riverside Park and the newly renovated Grant’s Tomb (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This area for years was over-grown and vandalized with the decline of the neighborhood, which is no longer the case. The tomb has been sandblasted back to its original beauty and when I passed it over the summer was lined with American flags. It is only open at certain times of the week, so plan accordingly.
Grant’s Tomb National Memorial
Next to Grant’s Tomb is a small monument called the Tomb of the Amiable Child (see my review on VisitingaMuseum.com), which should not be missed. On the path close to the park, you will see this small marble urn surrounded by fencing. It is a somber site for a small child who died in the are in the 1700’s .
The Tomb of the Amiable Child
In Riverside Park I was able to walk over the summer and got a feel for how beautiful the park really is as it hugs the Hudson River. It is a great place to jog, ride a bike or picnic. It has gotten more popular over the years as the park has improved itself with more TLC from the community. The Friends of Riverside Park have done a nice job raising funds and awareness for the care of the park and it shows in the plantings and paths that have improved over the years. In the warm months, the place is in full bloom and with the view of the Hudson River the look is quite spectacular.
When walking the lower streets of the neighborhood on the west side of the park is full of prewar apartments and resident halls for the students as well as buildings that cater to the university. I don’t think there was one bad street on this side of the park. The area is very self-contained for the university and the buildings have an ‘old New York’ feel about them being built at the turn of the last century.
For the blocks between 111th Street to about 120th Street west of Morningside Park it is all about the university with class space and offices and a small Greek Row in the middle of the neighborhood. On the Claremont Avenue section of the neighborhood just west of Riverside Park is where Barnard College, the Woman’s College of Columbia is located and is expanding. More buildings are going up or being added to as the University expands.
This expansion continues in the area above Tiemann Place near the edge of the park and the river. The University is building a new ‘glass box’ section of campus between 125th and 133rd Streets along the river and the buildings should open up within the year. That is changing the whole complexity of the neighborhood around 125th Street in this part of the neighborhood. The upper reaches of Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue’s as well as this section of 125th Street between Marginal Street to Amsterdam Avenue is either getting new restaurants and shops that are catering to the college students or are being knocked down or renovated to cater to the changing population once those four buildings open up across the street from the housing projects.
The Columbia University extension above 125th Street is changing the neighborhood
For lunch that afternoon, I ate at Koronet Pizza at 2848 Broadway for a jumbo slice of pizza (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). This slice is pizza is HUGE and could feed two hungry people very easily. The jumbo slice is part of an 32″ pizza and the pizza was delicious. It has a very flavorful and spicy tomato sauce and uses a good amount and quality of cheese. It took a awhile to devour that delicious slice of pizza. The restaurant attracts a nice mix of neighborhood people, college students and professors and has a good ‘family feel’ about it.
Koronet Pizza at 2848 Broadway has the biggest slices around
On the tip of the neighborhood between LaSalle Street and 125th Street are the Morningside Apartments and the General Grant Houses, which both look more like mixed income apartment buildings than public housing. I really toured the area on this trip. The area landscaping and playgrounds are much better than most housing projects that I have seen in the city and they look better taken care of than most of the housing projects in this area of the city.
This corner of the neighborhood is also home to various small parks such as The West Harlem Piers Park at 125th Street and Riverside Park with benches and paths for walking and enjoying the views of the Hudson River and the cliffs of New Jersey. This is a great area in the summer to listen to music or watch the sun set. The St. Clair Rose Garden is right off St. Clair Place by the underpass and steps leading to Grant’s Tomb. It will be nice to see how this garden looks in the summer months.
The West Harlem Pier Park offers amazing views of the Hudson River
As I traveled east along 124th Street, I walked the island from west to east and it does change from one side of the island to the other. I crossed the boundaries of Morningside Heights to SoHA to Spanish Harlem and you can see the difference from block to block.
Pretty much the blocks west of Fifth Avenue are a mix of pre-war apartment buildings, turn of the last century brownstones and new pocket apartment buildings with a mix of small neighborhood gardens in between the buildings.
On my third day of the walk around the neighborhood, I was able to walk the streets between 124th Street to 120th Street west of Mount Morris (Marcus Garvey) Park. This area between Mount Morris Park West to Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue) is the Mount Morris Historical District, which is full of beautiful and graceful brownstones which are carefully bring renovated. A good portion of the neighborhood is under scaffolding (as most of Harlem and Washington Heights has been) as the buildings are being restored by their owners.
Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)
The stonework of most of these buildings is so detailed and unique with carvings of leaves, vines and faces gracing the outside of the buildings. Some have stained glass features around the doors and windows and the outside steps have been sandblasted and fixed to new with potted plants and an occasional Christmas feature still decorating the outside of the home.
Mount Morris Historic District
This area is also home to many small Community Gardens which at this time of the year are still under snow. There is the ‘Our Little Green Avenue Park’ at 123rd Street, the Joyce David Wilson Garden at 123rd Street, the Five Star Garden at St. Nicholas Avenue at 121st Street and Harlem Art Park at 120th Street at 3rd Avenue. These parks are small pocket parks taken care of by the neighborhood or street associations. I did not get much of a feel for them when they were under six inches of snow.
Five Star Garden Park at 121st Street in the Summer months
To tell you how the neighborhood is diverse in its housing is when you get to 124th Street and 1st Avenue where you have a luxury apartment building across the street from the Wagner Housing Project and the entrance to the Triboro Bridge and Louis Cuvillier Park which is under a renovation. You can see where new restaurants are popping up to cater to these new residents on 1st Avenue, 124th and 125th Streets.
The Wagner Houses I hate to say is a scary area even during the day. I always felt like I was being watched by everyone from the residents, to the Con Ed guys working in the area to the police looking out for the kids leaving school on 120th Street and Paladino Avenue by the river. People just kept saying hello to me like they were trying to tell me that they saw me there or in the case of the police just watched but tried to ignore me. I see this a lot in Harlem.
Walking around the Wagner Houses can be a little intimidating
One saving grace to the whole experience by the school was the bodega, Pleasant Finest Deli, on the corner of 375 Pleasant Avenue and 120th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor), which I could tell catered to the kids coming out of school with sandwiches under $3.00 and piles of chips and snack cakes for fifty cents to a dollar. The deals at this store were amazing and the owners looked like they were happy to see me. Just listening to the foul mouthed parents was interesting. The way they berated their children just floored me. Some of these women should never have had kids.
That evening I went to midtown to eat at the Land of Plenty Chinese restaurant by Bloomingdale’s at 204 East 58th Street (see review on TripAdvisor), a restaurant I have wanted to try for several years when it was ranked the number on Chinese restaurant in New York City by the Village Voice. The food and the service were just excellent.
The Land of Plenty Restaurant at 204 East 58th Street
I had the most delicious soup dumplings that were made for me and I did not even have to hike down to Chinatown for them. They just burst in my mouth when I bit into them. I had a Shredded Pork with a Sweet Miso sauce with scallions and their Ten Ingredient Fried Rice for my main meal which both were delicious and flavorful. The Sweet Miso sauce really had a tangy spiciness to it. The service was friendly and welcoming. A definite must when shopping at Bloomies.
Their Ten Ingredient Fried Rice is amazing
I continued on to the east side of Morningside Park, where the Morningside Heights extends as I walked the area from 125th Street to 110th Street that now extends to Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, the new ‘Restaurant Row’ of the neighborhood. This area is dominated by beautiful brownstones of many unique designs, pre-war apartment buildings and many local businesses that are in the midst of change. The neighborhood bodegas are giving way to new restaurants, art galleries and boutique bakeries that are catering to the new residents who are buying all those buildings under scaffolding and the current residents who look like they are enjoying the change.
Along the way I have seen so many gorgeous buildings being restored. The most beautiful is the Washington Irving Building at 203 West 112th Street. This graceful building has the most beautiful stonework and detailed accents to the outside it, you literally stop and just want to stare at it. I have only seen buildings like this midtown buildings on Park Avenue and in the Village.
The Washington Irving Building at 203 West 112th Street
Small pocket parks and community gardens continue to dominate the areas that once housed brownstones. These future flower and vegetable gardens are all over parts of the neighborhood such as the ‘Electric Ladybug Garden’ at 111th Street. There is a distinct elegance to the area around Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue) with its tree lined island with trees and flower plantings waiting for the Spring to come.
The area that is rapidly changing the most is Fredrick Douglas Boulevard which among the new businesses is being known as ‘Central Park North’, with several businesses adopted the SoHA (South of Harlem) signature. I have never seen so many expensive restaurants with entrees over the price of $15.00 in one area. I don’t even find the menus that exciting or innovative. They just look like bars with food being served.
On my last day in Morningside Heights, I tested the boundaries and walked the entire length of 116th Street from one side of the island to the other. You see more local businesses along the 116th shopping corridor with many soul food, seafood, pizza and local chicken places dominating to a very diverse population. Closer to the Columbia campus, you have more upscale places to eat but once you cross Fredrick Douglas Boulevard and head toward Spanish Harlem, it can be anything from the latest African cooking to island cooking from Jamaica to fast food and the chain restaurants to local bakeries serving empanadas and doughnuts. You can eat your way through the entire street and it would take months to do.
On the streets from 119th-115th Streets from Morningside Park to 5th Avenue are lined with a series of brownstones and pre-war apartments which hug the ‘Mount Morris Historical District’ or just outside of it. These blocks are going through a tremendous change right now as students and recent graduates are spreading out from the traditional borders of the neighborhood, which means the west side of the park and moving into this section especially to the 5th Avenue border. Crossing Fredrick Douglas Boulevard means even pushing the traditional boundaries of the neighborhood and going into SoHA. By the time you cross Lenox Avenue below 115th Street, you hit the long line of housing projects from 112th-115 Streets and even the streets surrounding the projects are being fixed up.
I have never seen so many new restaurants and stores opening up especially opening up this economy. All of these pocket businesses are opening right next to the traditional neighborhood stores and you can see that changing for the next few years. There are so many small luxury housing projects going up in every corner of the neighborhood that will need to be catered to and the local population seems to like the additions to the many blocks as I see a diverse crowd in all the businesses. Even most of the newer businesses in the area are adopting the SoHA name.
Not everyone is happy about the SoHA name in Harlem
Pretty much everything west of Fredrick Douglas Boulevard and west to Morningside Park is considered part of the Morningside Heights area now as the last of the empty buildings are being renovated and a lot of the Mount Morris Historical area is under scaffolding. There is a lot of pride in this neighborhood as it keeps changing and improving itself.
On my last night in Morningside Heights after walking almost 28 city blocks, I indulged a little and had dinner at LaSalle Dumpling Room on 3141 Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor). Make this a stop if you are visiting Columbia campus because the food and the service are excellent. All the dumplings are made fresh on the spot per order and come out cooked as light as a feather.
LaSalle Dumpling at 3141 Broadway should not be missed
The Pork & Crab Soup Dumplings are excellent, full of juiciness and flavor and the pan-fried pork dumplings are light and delicious and were perfectly cooked. I also tried the Dong Jing Rice Bowl which was a combination of white rice, sautéed beef, egg, onions and cheddar cheese in a brown sauce and the combination worked nicely (even though the onions were not necessary). The service was excellent.
The Soup Dumplings here are excellent
This section of SoHA is catering to the large and growing population of college students and those post-graduates who want to live in the area. It is more of an extension of the Upper West Side than traditional Harlem. Take a walk around soon because it just keeps changing.
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
(This project is dedicated with much love to my father, Warren George Watrel, who still inspires me!)
Hello and Welcome to ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, an extensive project to walk the entire island of Manhattan. My name is Justin Watrel and I will be your guide in exploring the island of Manhattan, searching every nook and cranny of the island for the unusual, the usual and the in between.
‘Walking the Island of Manhattan’ may not be terribly original as there are about four other people doing the project at the same time, but this project is different in the way I see the island. Not rushing through to prove I have walked it but to see what these neighborhoods are all about and what is there to discover and enjoy.
For all you ‘Manhattanites’ who think you know your island, I will show you things that you have never seen and places you have never gone, restaurants you have never tried and historical sites and museums you never knew existed. Maybe just a few blocks from where you live. As the son of two “Brooklynites’, I have traveled around the city a lot since 1969, my first time in the City when my parents took me to Chinatown to Hunan Gardens, a Chinese restaurant on Mott Street. I ended up there for eight birthdays until it closed in the early 2000’s.
Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown
“My Walk in Manhattan” is a project to walk the entire island of Manhattan in New York City from top to bottom from the beginning of the Summer of 2015 until I finish the walk. Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide and covers a total area 23.7 square miles. Along the way of walking the streets of Manhattan, I will be walking into parks, museums, restaurants and looking at the architecture of the neighborhoods and the buildings in them.
My soon to be path around the Island of Manhattan
I have found that people miss a lot when they walk with their cellphones and only look down at it. When you look up, you see the true beauty of the City. You see the stone work of old brownstones, you see small boutiques off the beaten track and can indulge in those hole in the wall restaurants that are usually found by foreign tourists. Nothing is more interesting then seeing a stone face on a building staring back at you, a tiny pocket park that residents created out of a garbage dump and that small entrepreneur trying to create a vision.
The Cable Building at 631 Broadway
This project was inspired by many things. My major inspiration for this project follows the recent passing of my father, Warren George Watrel. My dad and I loved to walk around the city and spend the day at various museums, walking around Central Park and the Conservatory, taking the subway to try new restaurants in Chinatown or Little Italy or any new place I had read about in the Village Voice (my Bible when looking for things to do on weekends).
Columbus Circle on the West Side
My father was a ‘Brooklynite’ from Williamsburg (long before it was ‘Hipster Central’, he would have been amused) and loved the city, so this voyage is dedicated to him. Having watched the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen, we look for inspiration in our travels and try to find the answers to why something happens the way it does. Walking to explore does that.
I was my father’s caregiver after his illness hit him and I continued my trips into Manhattan as my father got better. It was the inspiration to this site’s sister site, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver.com’. After he passed in 2014, I wanted to spend Father’s Day doing something different yet do something that we would have done together. Thus started the first walk in Marble Hill.
My first Day in Marble Hill, Manhattan
Another inspiration was a recent article in New York Magazine entitled “Which New York is Yours? A Fierce Preservationist and a Pro-Development Blogger Debate” in which the author Justin Davidson asks about the disappearance of New York’s Character. “What does that character actually consist of? If we did make an all-out effort to preserve it, how would we know what to protect?” How much is the city changing? I have worked off and on in New York City since 1988 and the answer is in some parts of Manhattan it is night and day. Could you imagine walking in Bryant or Tompkins Square Parks in 1990?
I did and they were very different places back then. With the changing Zoning Laws and gentrification of many neighborhoods, its not the city of 1970’s movies. What I am looking for are those unique little pocket parks that we pass, those statues of people we have no clue who they are and those historic plaques of places gone by and people we don’t know.
Astor Row Houses in Harlem
Another are the books, ‘Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost its Soul’ by Jeremiah Moss and ‘The Death and Life of the Great American City’ by Jane Jacobs. How do cities keep progressing and changing? How does change effect a city and what direction are we going in? Does the Island of Manhattan have to be all luxury or can it be mixed to help keep the creativity alive and keep innovation going? Do we want the big bad 70’s again or the luxury brand of the 2010’s and 20’s? How is it impacting and changing the city? How much has Manhattan and the rest of the boroughs changed with the rezoning of the city under the Bloomberg Administration. This can also be looked at in the documentaries “Gut Renovation” and “My Brooklyn”.
The last inspiration was my doctor. He said I have to lose ten pounds. I am hardly over-weight but like many people he feels that I will be healthier if I lose the weight and keep it off. I want to see how a walk like this tones the body.
Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan
I know many people before have walked the entire length of Manhattan while others have or are attempting to walk the every block in the city, mine has a more personal reason. To really see the city I love from the ground up and explore parts of the island that I have never ventured to and see what I find there. Along the way, I want to see how the city changes while I am taking the walk. This is not the “Christopher Columbus” attitude most people are taking when exploring the neighborhoods but more honoring those residents who are trying to make the City better.
My project also includes stops at various points of interest and to get a better feel for all the neighborhoods, I am walking both sides of the street to get a better look at the buildings in each neighborhood and what defines the character of a neighborhood. I get the impression from some of the readers of Mr. Davidson’s article and from comments on the Internet that Manhattan is some “playground of the wealthy that is being gentrified to the hilt and soon no one will be able to afford any part of Manhattan”. Like in any place, there are people struggling everyday to survive in New York and like every city in the country, people are moving back in droves and want a quality of life for them and their families.
Delacorte Clock in Central Park
I have now expanded this site to three other blogs, ‘VisitingaMuseum’ (VisitingaMuseum..com), which features all the historical sites, community gardens and small museums and galleries I find in not just Manhattan but throughout the rest of the NYC and beyond in the suburbs. ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ (DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.wordpress.com), where I feature wonderful little restaurants, bodegas and bakeries that I find along the way. The one requirement is that the meal is around $10.00 and under (for us budget minded people). “LittleShoponMainStreet” (LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) where I find unique and creative stores in Manhattan and locally whose merchandising, displays, merchandise and service stand out in an age of Amazon. This harks back to a time when shopping was enjoyable and not a chore.
So to readers who will be following me on the journey walking through Manhattan, I hope you enjoy trip walking by my side!
Me in Red Hook, Brooklyn with Street Art
This project is dedicated to my father, Warren George Watrel, with lots of love and many wonderful adventures and memories to keep me company as I take “My Walk in Manhattan”.
My dad, Warren and I at a Grandparent’s Day Brunch in 2013