The Blackwell House on Roosevelt Island finally opened for tours after a major renovation of the house. When I had visited Roosevelt Island the last time in 2017, the house was corded off and was not open for touring. It had looked like it was falling apart from the inside out.
The home has now gone through a major renovation. The grounds outside were beautifully landscaped and gave the house a very warm and welcoming entrance to the property. In the middle of the summer, the flowers and trees were all in bloom and it was a nice view from the street. The house is conveniently located in the middle of the island, so…
I started walking the streets of the Upper East Side on the gloomiest misty day. After a long day at the Soup Kitchen taking tickets, I wanted to break out and do some walking. This was not the day to do it. I only got through three blocks. I was able to get through East 72nd Street after lunch, then East 73rd, 74th and 75th Streets before I called it quits. It just got so misty and then really rained. Nothing is worse than New York City in the rain when you need to be outside.
I started my after another day at Holy Apostle’s Soup Kitchen working taking tickets from the guests. I swear I think that sometimes they think it is a restaurant. Some of them get a little entitled but I understand. When you have nothing you want to have some say in something you are involved with on a daily basis. Being near the end of the month, many of them were running out of money and it got very busy. What I really like about being a part of the Soup Kitchen is not only am I giving back to the city but that in some small way I am helping deal with the homeless problem in NYC. It may not be the solution but it gives the homeless and working poor help through the process.
I started my walk with lunch at La Crosta Restaurant & Pizzeria at 436 East 72nd Street (See review on TripAdvisor & DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). They have wonderful lunch specials and for $7.00, I ordered Spaghetti and Meatballs. It was enough to feed two people. I got what looked like almost a pound of pasta and three large meatballs and a side of bread. More than enough food for the rest of the day. Add in a meat pinwheel (made with sausage, ground meat and pepperoni $2.50), it was some meal. I have to admit though they do throw in the spices. I highly recommend the restaurant.
La Crosta Restaurant & Pizzeria at 436 East 72nd Street (Closed January 2022)
In the gloom of the walk, I have to admit that the side streets of the Upper East Side are far different of the Avenues. Most of the streets have not been plowed over for new office and apartment buildings although on some blocks it is slowly happening. The real character of the neighbors of the Upper East Side is in the side streets. Here there is still a combination of brownstones, small stone apartment buildings and on some streets wooden homes and stone carriage houses, reminiscent of and ‘Old New York’, when the wealthy used this a summer retreat and later the outer blocks from their Fifth Avenue homes to house their horses and carriages. Its ironic today how valuable and desirable these buildings are now.
The carriage houses along East 72nd Street
Walking along East 73rd Street between Madison and Lexington Avenues you can see the carriage houses of the wealthy that have now been converted into homes. These beautiful stone structures sit gracefully, still awaiting the carriages return. I was surprised to see so many left noting most of these structures from the old Fifth Avenue mansions have been torn down.
Rounding Fifth Avenue going on to East 74th Street and Fifth Avenue, I needed to make a bathroom pit stop and walked into Central Park to the Kerbs Boathouse. This is located by the entrance near East 72nd Street and when the bathrooms are open, it has a clean, well-maintained place to do your business. The Kerbs Boathouse was built in 1954 on the site of a former wooden structure and during the summer months the pond in front of it is loaded with kids sailing motorized boats.
Kerbs Boathouse Central Park near the East 72nd Street entrance
Some of the statues that surround the Conservatory Pond are the famous ‘Alice in Wonderland’ located in the Margaret Delacourt Memorial that was built in 1959 by Spanish born American artist Jose de Creeft. The artist studied at the Academie Julian in Paris and studied under artist Mariano Benlliure at the Artistic Foundry of Masriera Campins.
It was commissioned by George Delacourt for his wife, Margarita, who loved to read the book to her children. It is one of the most popular statues in Central Park (Central Park Conservatory).
Alice in Wonderland Statue
‘Hans Christian Anderson’ statue that faces the other side of the pond. This statute was created in 1958 by artist Georg John Lober for the 150th Anniversary of the author’s birth. It had been commissioned by the Danish American Women’s Association in his honor. Georg John Lober was born in Chicago and was based later on out of New York City. He studied at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design and National Academy of Design working under artist Gutzon Borgium. In his later years, he worked for the New York Municipal Art Commission (Wiki).
You should take some time to walk around the pond and see both statues especially the detail work of the ‘Alice in Wonderland’. These are the favorite of many adults and children alike (Central Park Conservatory).
Hans Christian Anderson Statue
Before you exit the park at East 72nd Street, take a moment to look at the Waldo Hutchins Memorial as you are exiting the path up the hill. It was named after the State Representative and Central Park Commissioner Waldo Hutchins.
Here in certain times of the year, you can follow the shadows of the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter Equinox and follow the shadow to the exact line that follows when the Equinox hits New York City. I am sure this is something most people miss.
By the time I rounded East 74th Street, I had had enough. The rain and mist were getting to me and I was getting tired. I doubled back to the subway and headed home. I would start the walk again later in the week.
My second day in the Upper East Side was much nicer on a sunny day and the weather was about 51 degrees F. It was perfect to walk around. I had spent the morning in Newark, NJ at the Newark Museum for the reopening of the entrance of the museum on Washington Street. It had not been opened since the early 90’s (At least as long as I have been a member and I just celebrated by 25th year. I was honored as a Museum Fellow the night before at the Annual Meeting of the Newark Museum).
It was a big to-do with high school marching bands, politicians including the Mayor of Newark and many council people and all sorts of city and museum officials. The museum put its best foot forward with reopening the museum to the city. After a few speeches, there was an official ribbon cutting ceremony and then everyone entered the museum. Since I had been here the night before for the Annual Museum Membership meeting, I had toured the whole museum including the new Mediterranean and African exhibition’s (which you should not miss). After the museum opening, I just hopped the train over to Manhattan.
Newark Museum front entrance Grand Opening
The Celebration at the Newark Museum for the entrance reopening
I took the Q train back up to the Upper East Side and walked to Fifth Avenue and continued the walk starting at the top of East 74th Street and Fifth Avenue. I wanted to see the street again without all the gloom and rain. The park still does not have that touch of Spring yet but you can see by the buds on the trees that its coming.
I passed the old carriage houses again to get a better look at the doors they use as an entrance and think what a creative layout for a house now. I bet those owners didn’t realize how trendy they would be eighty years later or that some family would be living where their horse and carriage had once been.
As I crossed onto East 75th Street, I noticed there were more carriage houses between Lexington and Madison Avenues. These must have been back-to-back stables for the wealthy. Outside these two rows of carriage houses and the one closer to the East River, all the rest must have been knocked down over the years.
I stopped again as I rounded East 76th Street as it was getting dark and threatening rain again. The weather has been such a mixed bag in the month of March and I didn’t want to risk it.
I doubled back up Lexington Avenue to the Burger One Coffee Shop at 1150 Lexington Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I had passed the restaurant as I crisscrossed the neighborhood and watched how the cook was making everything through the window. I had a cheeseburger with fries ($8.00) that was one of the best burgers I had had in a long time. Freshly scooped from fresh ground meat and cooked on the grill right in front of me. The right amount of caramelization and perfectly cooked. Everything on the menu is below $10.00.
The next day I spent the morning in Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen again working in the prep kitchen. There was a lot of bonding while I cut up eight boxes of chicken breasts and helped prepare some frozen vegetables. I swear we are always busy there, but the numbers never seem to reflex it. We only did 875 lunches for guests.
I headed uptown on the Q subway and made from the 72nd Street stop and walked up to East 76th Street. This area of the neighborhood is dominated by the hospitals. Lenox Hill Hospital sits at the head of the neighborhood starting at Park Avenue and I swear it is always busy here. As you head further down East 76th Street, it is a sea of graceful brownstones and marble homes. Take time to look at the detail work on the buildings and you will see the craftsmanship of a different era when time was spent making these masterpieces.
One of the more interesting buildings on 77th Street is at 459 East 77th Street. It is a home with the accents of a former church. You can see how they redesigned it keeping the detail work as part of the home. As you head toward John Jay Park at the end of the block note that the bathrooms are open until 5:00pm. By the early afternoon, school let out and the park was dominated by kids, nannies and parents just trying to relax. On a clear day, the view to Roosevelt Island is dominate and take time to really see what the island has to offer.
When rounding the block onto East 78th Street, you get to see the beauty of the Gilded Age’ mansions starting with the old James Duke mansion on the corner of the block off Fifth Avenue. The home had built in 1912 by architect Horance Trumbauer and had been copied from a French Hotel. It has replaced another mansion on the same site.
I had read online after the death of James B. Duke, both Doris Duke and her mother decided to donate the mansion to New York University in 1954. It now houses the NYU Institute of Arts.
The old Payne Whitney Mansion also on Fifth Avenue serves as the French Consulate. It was built by Stamford White in 1906 for Payne Whitney and his wife, Helen. After their deaths, the home became the consulate.
These mansions are part of the line of ‘Gilded Age’ mansions that line East 79th Street between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue. Homes like this have disappeared off Fifth Avenue, being knocked down for apartment buildings or have been converted into stores, museums or consulates. Still the workmanship and the stonework on these buildings are impressive and you really need to notice the detail work.
Gilded Age mansions on East 79th Street
There are other beautiful homes to look over are the brownstones that line 210-216 East 78th Street. There is such magnificent detail work to these brick row houses that all sit in a line on the south side of the street between Park and Lexington Avenues. They have a New England feel to them. Most of East 78th Street is line with a juxtapose of different style homes and really shows its uniqueness from block to block on the way to East End Avenue.
There are some interesting stores along East 78th Street, one of them being the Tiny Doll House at 314 East 78th Street. This unique store is the last of its kind in New York City according to the owner. The store is filled to the brim with dollhouses and furniture and accessories for them. There is even handmade items locked behind cases in the store for the collector who knows quality. Even the food for the tables looks real.
Turning the corner at East 80th Street, you really see some impressive old mansions. First there is the Vincent Astor mansion at 130 East 80th Street. The house was built by architect Mott B. Schmidt for Mr. Astor in the early 1900’s and upon his death traded hands until the New York Junior League bought the house in 1947 who owns it now. The house has a graceful elegance to it.
A few doors down is the George and Martha Whitney home at 120 East 80th Street. Built by the firm of Cross & Cross this elegant was built in 1930 but harks back to a time of a more Federalist look with the brick face and portical in the front.
George and Martha Whitney Mansion at 120 East 80th Street
Towards the end of the block, you are treated to Lester’s Department Store at 1534 Second Avenue (See LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). I walked the whole store and was impressed by their assortment of children’s and teen wear. It reminded me of a ‘preppie’ clothing store of the 70’s and 80’s. They even have a camp registry. I thought about the lucky kids who got to buy their clothes here before spending their summer away from their parents. Who really lucks out in that situation?
I finally had to stop at Lexington and East 81st Street as it was getting dark. I never can believe how long it takes to walk these streets especially on this side of time. I took a second trip to Burger One on Lexington Avenue and had dinner this time trying their turkey club sandwich with fries ($9.50). It was excellent.
The sandwich was made with fresh turkey and the tomatoes were ripe. I could barely finish it. This is when I added to my blog, ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com. This is a place everyone should know about. I just thought it was funny the way they looked at me when I walked in. With all the hundreds of customers they must have one of the owners gave me a happy but suspicious look when I walked in for a second time. I thought how could she remember me.
My last day of walking the neighborhood, I had taken a walking tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue and 79th Street of one of the galleries. I love the Met. You can get lost in it for the entire day and never see everything. We were doing a tour of the American Galleries and looking over some of the famous paintings. After the tour, I just wanted to get some air and finished this part of the neighborhood.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue
I started by double backing on East 84th Street and remembered that I had done most of this area in the Fall. It is amazing how fast time goes. I turned the corner onto East 83rd Street and walked towards Madison Avenue and stopped in Sugarfina at 1100 Madison Avenue (Now closed). This is a whirlwind of sweets with a creative twist to the packaging and a price to match. Everything here is very expensive for a piece of candy. They let me have a sample of the sample of the candy, this is more of a business account store. Still the packaging is great.
Sugarfina Madison Avenue at 1100 Madison Avenue (Closed 2019)
As you walk down East 83rd Street, take a look up and admire 222 East 83rd Street. The brick work and landscaping make this home really stand out among the bigger apartment buildings on this part of the block. This beautiful standout was built in 1901 (Streeteasy).
There are two places you should not miss when walking East 82nd Street. One is the Hungarian House at 213 East 82nd Street. The beauty of this brick building is matched by its mission of being the center point of Hungarian American culture and relations. It really does offer a lot of programming while being a center point of Hungarian culture in New York City.
Around the corner from the Hungarian House is the original Ottomanelli Brothers Butcher Shop at 1549 York Avenue. The store has been a neighborhood staple since 1900 and has all sorts of wonderful meats, pastas and groceries that you might need as well as a hot food section that many patrons were taking advantage of when I was visiting that afternoon.
Another gem of a store I discovered when I was finishing East 81st Street was Art for Eternity at 303 East 81st Street (See LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This unique art gallery offers a selection of Pre-Columbian Art of museum quality. I saw many interesting bowls and vases. When talking with gallery Director Howard Nowes, he gave me a detailed tour of the works, showing me the detail work of many pieces and explaining their purpose. It was like being back at the Met.
I ended my last day in the neighborhood at another early morning tour at the Met, seeing the new Pre-Columbian exhibition, “The Art of Luxury”, which showcases the treasures of early American art. My last lunch on the Upper East Side was at Harb’s at 1374 3rd Avenue near 78th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com-now closed). It is a cross between an English and Japanese bakery shoppe. They have a wonderful lunch special for $20.00 (See my review on TripAdvisor-Now Closed).
The meal consisted of a large cup of English tea, for lunch a Croque-Monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with mustard butter) with a side salad with buttermilk dressing and for dessert, a small slice of Mocha cake which was layered with a rich mocha creme. It was a great meal with excellent service.
Harb’s at 1374 Third Avenue (Closed in 2020)
Not such a bad way to end my walk on the Upper East Side.
How to get there:
The Subways The 6 & Q trains
Check out the other blogs on walking the Upper East Side neighborhood:
Walking the Avenues of the Upper East Side Day One Hundred and Two:
I took a walking tour of Roosevelt Island with the American Museum of Natural History today. The island is located right off the Upper East Side and is one of the many islands in the New York County area. Roosevelt Island has had its share of problems living there in the past.
Many articles had been written about the island in the 80’s with lack of good housing, lack of stores, the tram not working and not much to do on the island. This has changed like the rest of the city in the last 40 years. There has been so much development and new housing plus on top of the tram, you do have a subway stop in a renovated station. The nice part about the tram is that you can use your subway card to ride it and what a view!
I took the F Train over that morning to meet the rest of the group. I toured with the same tour guide who led us through Inwood two years ago. Unfortunately, his get up and go is not there much these days and he looked like he packed on about 25 pounds since the last tour. Still, we took a geological tour of the island, so I got to see the island in its developed stages as well as the modern stage.
In 2022, it had been five years since I visited Roosevelt Island and there had been changes in construction, businesses being opened and closed since the pandemic and there was now a sense of optimism on the island since visitors were able to return. I did see a lot of tourists on the island which I would have ever thought they would be interested in coming here.
I took the tram over to the island in 2022, which was an experience as it began to rain. The clouds opened up a couple of times while I was touring the island but luckily there are a lot of indoor things to do on the island. I have to say it is quite the view at any time of the year. Looking over the Upper East Side and Sutton Place from the air is very interesting and gives you a different perspective of the Manhattan.
Walking around Roosevelt Island only takes about an hour (or two if you want to just relax and take your time). We started our tour outside the Roosevelt Island Historical Society Center Kiosk on West Road. Here we met the head of the Historical Society and were invited to visit later on after the tour.
On my tour of the island in 2022, I stopped back at the kiosk to talk to the guides and bought a map of the island ($1.00) which I recommend as it is a good guide and a great souvenir. It shows you the location of everything on the island and things you might miss.
The history of Roosevelt Island is interesting. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Island was originally called Minnahannock by the Native Americans and Varkins Island by the Dutch settlers. The island was acquired by the Blackwell family in the late 1600’s, who renamed the land Blackwell Island. The Blackwell’s lived on and farmed it before selling it to the City of New York in 1828 for $30,000 (Wiki/Roosevelt Island Historical Society).
Roosevelt Island in the beginning
In the 19th century, the island was used by the City for institutional facilities, including the Workhouse Penitentiary, Lunatic Asylum, City Hospital and City Home and given the name Welfare Island in 1921. The island was for residents that were out of site out of mind. These institutions gradually being relocated to areas more easily accessible to public transportation.
In 1969, this two-mile island was lease to the State of New York for 99 years. Under New York State’s Urban Development Corporation, Welfare Island became a beacon for the affordable housing movement within the city. Construction of the island community was completed in 1975 with four housing developments. In 1973, the island was renamed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Island (Wiki).
Today, Roosevelt Island has a small town feel with approximately 20 buildings and 14,000 residents. The island is home to six landmarked structures and proudly houses Four Freedoms Park, one of the original visions for the island (Judith Berdy, President Roosevelt Island Visitor Center).
Our first part of the tour was visiting the new Cornell Tech campus on the southern part of the island. This new complex of four buildings is the wave of our university’s urban campus to soon be joined by a new hotel and another tech building (both opened and operating in 2022). The area has been replanted and a new lawn and gardens has been built on a waste deposit site. It’s hard to believe that it is built on a trash mound.
The tour guide explained that this is all reclaimed land. The campus is beautifully set on the island and is located right near the tram and subway station. I got to tour the Bloomberg Building and walk through their new restaurant.
Cornell Tech Campus: Go Red!
In 2022, I stopped at the Cafe at Cornell Tech for a snack. It had been so hot outside that I went in for a cool drink. I ended up buying some of the college’s homemade ice cream from the Agriculture School that is made fresh on campus. The Mango Sorbet ($3.00 for a half pint) really cooled me down and I was ready to go again (See review on TripAdvisor).
Just outside the Cornell campus, I noticed another interesting statue entitled “The Blue Dragon”, a whimsical statue that was designed in an interesting form. It was created by artists Ulla and Gustav Kraitz. The work was meant to be engaged by children to climb on.
Ulla and Gustav Kraitz are Swedish born artists. Gustav Kraitz graduated from the State Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. Ulla Kraitz was educated at the College of Arts in Sweden. The two met when Mr. Kraitz moved to Stockholm in 1960. They are known for their stylized sculptures of animals and fruits in lustrous and vivid colors (Artist bio).
Past the Cornell campus is South Point Park and the Smallpox Hospital, which is currently laying in ruins. The city is now refurbishing the building, but it will never be reopened as a fire did damage to all of the building. It was behind scaffolding and was not much to look at except for the architecture itself.
The Smallpox Hospital is a Gothic Revival structure designed by American architect James Renwich Jr. and opened to the public on December 18, 1856. It was the first hospital in the country dedicated to treating smallpox, a highly contagious and deadly viral disease.
The original footprint of the Smallpox Hospital was the rectangle central bay, which measured roughly 100 feet by 40 feet and was three stories in height. The building was constructed of granite quarried on the island and was built by prison labor. In 1875, the hospital was renamed Riverside Hospital and in 1886, the building was converted to a nursing school called the Home for the Nurses of the Maternity and Charity Hospital Training School. The northern and southern wings were completed in the early 1900’s in order to provide additional space for classrooms, laboratories and dormitories.
In the 1950’s, the nursing school closed, and the building was abandoned. It was stripped of floors, windows and stairwells. The Gothic ruin has been emptied ever since. What exists today is largely its shell (Roosevelt Island Historical Society at http://www.TheRuin.org).
After the picture taking at the hospital, it was on to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. It is amazing park located at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island with the most fantastic views of the City. On this clear sunny day, I could see all the way downtown. It was nice to just sit on the steps and just look out on this sunny day.
This is where the tour ended with our guide. I swear the guy looked exhausted and we had only walked the southern part of the island. Our group went on their way while I decided to see the rest of the park and walk the entire island. I started with walking the park.
I admired the FDR Hope Memorial in which the statue of the President reaches to a young girl with a disability herself. The statue offers encouragement to those with a disability and the power to persevere.
Ms. Bergmann is an American born artist with BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art and attended Parsons School of Design and Wesleyan University. Her public works explore history, social justice, human rights and disabilities (Author’s bio).
Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Points Freedom Park is the first memorial dedicated to the president in his home state of New York. Located at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in New York City. It is the last work of Louis I. Kahn, an iconic architect of the 20th century.
The memorial, which opened to the public in October 2012, celebrates the four freedoms, as pronounced in President Roosevelt’s famous January 6, 1941, State of the Union address: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park
(Park’s Mission: As a steward of this civic space, Four Freedoms Park Conservancy advances President Roosevelt’s legacy and inspires, educates and engages the public in the ideals of the four freedoms. The Conservancy does this by:
*Safeguarding the memorial as a space for inspired use.
*Fostering community and understanding.
*Igniting conversation about human rights and freedoms today.
The park is built on land filling from on-island demolition and this extended the island on the southern part.
(New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Society).
From the park, I walked the path around the exterior of the entire island taking in the view of the coast of Queens. The shoreline of Queens is slowly changing too. New apartment buildings are going up in Astoria and Long Island City not to mention the coastline of Brooklyn as well. Much of this is built around parks that line the East River. This is not our parent’s outer borough.
The pathway around the island had its twists and turns around the many parks and housing complexes. Some of these you could tell were built back in the 80’s and were the housing developments that were bitched about in New York Magazine so many years ago. Now these apartments have become desirable and have been spruced up. They are surrounded with newer, modern buildings that are attracting new younger residents.
The pathway with its breezy views attracts the island joggers and fisherman. It turned out to be an 81-degree day and everyone was out enjoying the unseasonable warm weather. The leaves were just starting to change colors so there was a new view in the parks on the island and in the parks across the river.
The east part of the pathway on the island took me to Lighthouse Park on the northern tip of the island. This was the park I had seen a few weeks earlier when visiting Carl Schulz Park by Gracie Mansion. The lighthouse was built in 1872 by inmates from the penitentiary with stones from the island and it was designed by the architect who designed the Smallpox Hospital.
Lighthouse Park Roosevelt Island at 910 Main Street
The lighthouse was built to guide ships through the treacherous waters of the East River and Hellgate. Now decommissioned, the park is a perfect place for picture taking and for picnicking. It has the nicest views of the Upper East Side and Randalls-Wards Island to the north. It really is a nice place to take pictures or just relax, sit and enjoy the breezes. It was funny to now see the people from across the river. They seemed so much smaller.
Next to the lighthouse is a monument of faces dedicated to Nellie Bly and to women who have faced hardship entitled “The Girl Puzzle”. The sculpture was dedicated to journalist Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, pen name Nellie Bly, who wrote about the abuses in the mental asylum on what was known as Mental Island at the time. She wrote the full report “Ten Days in the Mad House” on the abuses of patients.
“Girl Puzzle” by artist Amanda Matthews (Artist Bio)
The piece was created by American born artist Amanda Matthews. Ms. Matthews graduated with a BA in Studio Art from the University of Louisville and had studied abroad in Europe. She is known for her work that honors women and celebrates diversity and inclusion (Wiki).
The northern part of the island is dominated by the Coler Rehabilitation Center and many of the patients were out and about on the pathways with their families enjoying the warm weather. Be careful when walking the western part of the island as you could be nipped by a passing wheelchair.
Passing the hospital is the Octagon Apartments. The front of the building is the original Octagon building that was part of the Lunatic Asylum was built in 1834 and designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis.
This is where Nellie Bly wrote “Ten Days in a Nuthouse”, a famous piece describing the conditions in the building. Now it is a luxury eco-friendly apartment building. The parks next door to it have the nicest playground and a fantastic view of the Upper East Side.
Other newer apartment buildings line this part of the island of which have views anyone would envy. If you are going to live in New York City and want a view, this is the place to go.
As I was leaving the area, I came across a tiny statue of a woman entitled “Sabrina” right behind the Octagon apartment building. This is a bronze recasting of artist William Calder Marshall’s 1845 statue that has been part of the Ahmherst College tradition of pranking over the last hundred years.
Mr. Marshall was educated at the University of Edinburgh and was known for as a prolific sculpture of poetic subjects and many public commemorative works (National Galleries.org).
The nicest part of the walk was the water sculptures by American and Kansas born artist Tom Otterness entitled “The Management of Money & Real Estate”, which are two cute looking sculptures that depict the combination of money and real estate and how they affect one another. You could see this when each one of the sculptures were dunked in the water. You have to take time out and really look at these. It is really reflective of an island where mixed income seems to work. You also notice the irony when you look to Manhattan with its gleaming towers and then you look towards Queens with the public housing projects next to newer apartment buildings.
Mr. Otterness came to New York City in 1970 to study in the Arts Student League and the Whitney Museum. He is considered one of the best public sculptors in the Art world (Artist Bio and Google.com)
Tom Otterness “The Management of Money & Real Estate”
As I rounded the Promenade in 2017, I had to stop for some lunch. There are not too many restaurants on the island but the ones who are there look pretty good. I ate at Piccolo Trattoria at 455 Main Street (See review on TripAdvisor) for a slice of pizza. This is the only place to get a slice of pizza on the island.
The best part is the restaurant is really good. I had a slice of their Sicilian pizza ($2.50), which had just come out of the oven. It was really good. Their sauce is excellent, and one slice is enough to fill you up. There service is friendly as well. I needed it as I was ready to walk the interior of the island.
In 2022, I was in the mood for something different and had wanted to try the Chinese restaurant on the island, but it only accepted cash. So, I tried the new Zhongzhong Noodles at 568 Main Street. I had the most amazing meal there. The noodles and the Soup Dumpling that I ordered were made fresh on premise for me and you could taste the quality in every bite (See my review on TripAdvisor). The Za Jiang Noodles were made with a minced pork and fresh vegetables in a sauce that when mixed together had the most complex and delicious taste. The Soup Dumplings were juicy and tasted wonderful in the soy dipping sauce.
After lunch, I walked in interior of the island and walked both side of the main street. There are some interesting restaurants, historical sites, a brand-new school and the original Blackwell family house that was built in 1796 and sold in 1823.
It was closed in 2017 when I visited the island for much needed renovations but had finally reopened in 2022. The only problem was there was not much to tour once you were inside the house. It had been given a renovation but not a historical restoration, so the interior looked like a modern-day McMansion.
The tour guide explained to me that the house had been gutted and renovated and the only thing left of the original home was the stone foundation which he opened the basement door to show me. These had been quarried locally and had historic significance. That and there were some historical pictures around the house including one of Captain Blackwell of Revolutionary War fame who built the house but not much else that looked historic. I think they need a curator to come in and add some historic touches to the home. It looks really nice, but it loses its historic distinction.
The modern-day living room at the Blackwell House
By the Motorgate building, there was a Farmer’s Market going on that afternoon. In 2017, I was able to walk around and see all the different vendors.
It seems to be a great place to raise children. The public-school PS/IS 217 looks like the type of school where the parents really support it. There are some interesting programs going on at the school and an active PTA. There is also an active theater down the road and a new library. There is a lot to do for a small neighborhood.
The tour of the island has a lot to do and see. There is a nice mix of historical buildings and brand-new architecture that blends together. Everything mixes well and has created a very livable and vibrant neighborhood. There is a lot to do and I am not sure if the rest of Manhattan knows what they are missing.
I left the island on the Tram and the nice part is I did not need to use a special ticket. It was part of my subway card and all I needed to do is swipe the card and I was on my way.
What a view! I do not care how touristy anything is the view from the Tram on a clear sunny day is the best. You can see all the way up the island and you really see the beauty of the island of Manhattan. To see all the buildings and parks and the river I think of the people who see this view in pictures and never get to experience this and I am right here seeing it. If anything, you have to take the Tram once. Being crowded in is well worth it.
Dinner in 2017 was at Dorrian’s Red Hand Restaurant on 1616 Second Avenue at 84th Street (See review on TripAdvisor), which I had mentioned before when walking through Yorkville. It is old-fashioned bar founded in 1960 and is a true Upper East Side ‘preppie’ bar. Everyone was pretty dressed up and the games were on.
I ended up staying to watch the Michigan State versus Indiana game. I swear I had to calm down because it was a nail biter and I had to deal with rugby players constantly blocking the TV. That last minute touchdown really helped (that and the fact that Cornell beat Brown at Homecoming was nice). Michigan State won our Homecoming Game!
The food here is excellent. You have to try their UES Burger, which was a version of a ‘breakfast’ burger with bacon, artisan cheddar and a fried egg. The combination really worked, and it had a salty savory flavor to it. The French Fries were perfectly cooked with lots of salt. Everything just worked. The place was packed with Syracuse fans watching their game, so I was the only green and white in a sea of orange and blue. These games got close. I ended the win with a piece of warmed apple pie which hit the spot.
Back on the Q subway at 96th Street again to go home but on a warm night it was nice to walk around Second Avenue and look at everyone else eating outside and enjoying the warm evening. It was a great day in New York and my first trip to Roosevelt Island.
Go Green & Go Red!
Transportation to Roosevelt Island:
Take the tram (Cost of a subway ride with pass) between 59th and 60th Streets on Second Avenue in Manhattan or the F subway line.
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 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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
The Brothers of Engine One HHFD (site now closed-Blogs moved to section of MywalkinManhattan.com called “My life as a Fireman”):
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.
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.
(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
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
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 in the Summer months
With COVID still rearing its head when I am in New York City, I do everything to stay safe from being fully vaccinated (I have take both shots and no I have not turned into a ‘Pod Person’) to wearing a mask and keeping hand sanitizer on me. I abide by all NYC Parks rules and try to stay away from people when in museums and restaurants.
Even with all its problems, New York City is still the most exciting City on earth and follow the blog, neighborhood by neighborhood and join me in discovering what makes Manhattan one of the greatest places on Earth!
So to readers who will be following me on the journey walking through Manhattan and beyond, I hope you enjoy trip walking by my side!
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”.
My dad, Warren and I at a Grandparent’s Day Brunch in 2013
‘Break My Stride’ still plays in my mind when I do this walk.
This walking song plays in my mind when I start ‘Walking’. Thank you Mary Mary!