Category Archives: Exploring Rockaway Beach in Queens

Author Justin Watral

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

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

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

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

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

Gallery Bergen II.jpg

Gallery Bergen at Bergen Community College

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

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

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/

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

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Delicious Dumplings at ‘Dumplings’ on Henry Street

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

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

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/

Beekman Place.jpg

Beekman Place

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

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

Cute Downtown.jpg

Little Shop on Main Street:

https://littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/

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

New Jersey Firemen's Home Museum

The New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ

https://tbcfha.wordpress.com/

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

Brother's of Engine One with their bell

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

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

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

BCFHA Barbecue 2019 V

The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association

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

Happy Reading!

My Blogs:

MywalkinManhattan.com

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/

BergenCountyCaregiver.com

https://wwwbergencountycaregiver.com/

VisitingaMuseum.com

https://visitingamuseum.com/

DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/

TheBrothersofEngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartment@Wordpress.com

https://engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/

TBCFMA@Wordpress.com

https://tbcfha.wordpress.com/

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

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

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

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

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

Ripper's in Rockaway Beach Queens

Day Sixteen: From Inwood to Rockaway Beach-Point A to Point A: Number 1 Subway Ride from the tip of Inwood to Far Rockaway Beach September 25th, 2015

I decided to take a break from the usual route and again got into the city late again (all those errands) and didn’t start the journey until 1:15pm. I started the trip on the number One Subway and walked down 207th Street to the A Subway at 207th Street. I took the over hour ride from the beginning of the A line to the end of the A line at 116 B in the Rockaway Beach area. This was my first trip to the Rockaway Beach in all the time I have lived in the New York City area.

My goal was to go to Rippers, a beach side hamburger stand that had been heavily written up all over the internet and taste the perfect hamburger.

It was a long trip by subway. I sat and read the paper as the various stops passed by with the inter-changing people getting on and off the subway. I have never seen so many guys under the age of 30 with scraggly beards with backpacks and untucked shirts. I swear I think I am seeing a clone of a person with no personality on their way to a 9:00am class. Guys tuck your shirts in already. It isn’t cool!

I finally got to Rockaway Beach  stop 116 in about an hour and a half. I got out of the subway to stretch before getting back on the subway and took the line to the 90th Street stop and got off. It is a scary stop with all the projects surrounding the stop. Once you cross the street and get past the strip mall and closer to the beach, the area gets nicer. The Boardwalk and beach are really nice but it was a very windy day and tough to sit on the beach for any length of time.

Rippers Photo

Ripper’s at Rockaway Beach

Ripper’s was worth the trip. The food and service were excellent. The staff could not have been nicer and friendlier. I had a cheeseburger and fries with a Coke and thoroughly enjoyed it.  According to the Village Voice, the restaurant is a joint venture between Roberta’s, a pizzeria in Bushwick, Brooklyn and the Meat Hook, a butcher in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The burgers are perfectly cooked and flavorful. After so many bad burgers on this walk, this one finally tasted like a freshly ground burger with the right seasonings. It had a rich beef flavor to it. The French Fries are freshly cut and have been dipped in flour and then flash fried seasoned with black pepper, paprika and salt. They have a salty richness to them as well. The portion sizes are very generous and I did not need dinner that night.

Ripper's.jpg

Ripper’s

The best was the wonderful opera music that the staff was playing which  I thought was a very nice touch and really made for a festive atmosphere even though the ladies at the next table made it clear that they did not appreciate opera music. They were playing ‘The Masked Ball’, which was very enjoyable. With the wonderful music, sounds of the waves in the background and the salt air on this sunny yet windy day made for the perfect lunch. The main reason I went today is that they close next week at the end of September and will not open again until next Summer.

Ripper's Hamburger

Yes, the Ripper Burger was worth it!

After a nice lunch on the picnic tables outside and a great conversation with staff, I walked over to the beach. It was not a day to lounge on the beach with all that wind and the waves were pretty rough. I saw a couple of brave souls swimming although the red flags were out. I was able to put my feet in the ocean one last time which was nice after such a long trip and the quick on the boardwalk was pleasant after being cooped up on a subway all afternoon. Then it was back to the subway for the trip back to Inwood.

Note to all subway riders, take a good look on each station after you leave the Broad Channel stop and get on the local S train. At each station stop from the 90th Stop to the 116th Stop, there is a stain glass display by each subway sign. Take a good look at the colorful and beautiful work by artist Michael Miller done in 2010. They are very beautiful.

Michael Miller artist

Artist Michael Miller

Located at the Beach 90 Station in Rockaway Beach, the artist, who is a graduate of New Mexico State University and the School of the Art Institute Chicago, was given the commission by MTA Arts in Transit and created this piece using the inspiration of his paintings  to make these glass creations. These were created between 2009-2012.

Michael Miller Glasswork

Subway Station 90 artwork by Michael Miller

I stopped in Broad Channel, a subway stop and small island beach community off the Rockaways’. Broad Channel has a nice homey feel about it with all the kids playing in the playground by the school and library, all the American flags up and down Cross Bay Boulevard and several people saying hello to me. I thought it had a down home feel to it. I can still see the effects of Hurricane Sandy from three years ago as some homes have still not been rebuilt while others have redone their homes. Walking the boulevard was a nice way to walk off lunch, see the neighborhood and look at the shore line and the very distant view of Manhattan.

Broad Channel Island

The Main Drag on Broad Channel Island

Then came the long trip back to Inwood, I dealt with the on again off again passengers and a large group that came on at the airport stop. For those of you who are flying into New York City and want the cheapest transportation into Manhattan, the A train can be beat. It is a little longer but still a great way to travel.

I got back to 207th Street by 8:15pm, seven hours late and an interesting way to spend the afternoon in search of the perfect hamburger. 207th Street back to the Number One Subway was alive  with people. Many of the outdoor cafes on Broadway and on the beginning stretch of 207th Street were in full swing on this nice but cool night. While 207th Street was not the outdoor flea market like it is on the weekends, it was still lively with people shopping and eating out. I then took the long train ride on the One Train downtown. I got home by 9:30pm. It was a nice trip to the shore.

For those of you who are the adventurous sort, take one of the subway lines from beginning to end. This trip was an eye opener to a part of the city I hadn’t ever visited in all my years coming into New York.

From A to A starts at the 207th Street stop to Rockaway Beach.

 

Places to Eat:

 

Ripper’s

8601 Shore Front Parkway

Rockaway Beach, NY  11693

https://www.eatrippers.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g616325-d8424950-Reviews-Rippers-Queens_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

Rockaway Beach-right in front of you

Broad Channel Island-take time to walk around the island and its small downtown.

 

Don’t the glass work art at each beach stop in the Rockaways by Artist Michael Miller.

https://www.michaelmillerpaintings.com/

Blogger Justin Watrel in front of street art

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

Happy Father’s Day!

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

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

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

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

Chinatown Parade

Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown

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

The Island of Manhattan

My soon to be path around the Island of Manhattan

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

611 Broadway Cable Building II

The Cable Building at 631 Broadway

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

Columbus Circle.jpg

Columbus Circle on the West Side

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

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

Marble Hill VI

My first Day in Marble Hill, Manhattan

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

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

Astor Row Houses

Astor Row Houses in Harlem

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

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

Bowling Green Park

Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan

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

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

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Delacorte Clock in Central Park

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

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

SoHo boarded up after the June Riots 2020

Fifth Avenue boarded up after the June Riots 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Watrel Fireman

Justin Watrel, Fireman

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

Downtown Red Hook, NY

Downtown Red Hook, NY in the Summer months

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

Red Hook Trip IV

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

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

Dad & I

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

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