A la Mode Shoppe is the type of ice cream/candy shop that every neighborhood should have in it. It is a colorful spot with unusual, homemade ice cream flavors, and a nice selection of gourmet sodas, candies and gifts. The store is decorated with bright colors, comfortable chairs and a festive inviting environment. They even have a small party room off to the side of store with seating for small children.
The inside of A la Mode Shoppe (A la Mode Facebook)
What I come for is the ice cream. There are two flavors that I come for when I visit the store, Pink Sprinkles, which is Strawberry ice cream with loads of colorful sprinkles layered…
This was the first year that “The Great Saunter Walk”, the 32-mile perimeter walk around the entire island took place since 2019. Since I had done the walk twice on my own, actually doing more of the walk than was required. This year I wanted to make it official.
I officially finished “The Great Saunter Walk” in May of 2022
The problem was by the time I wanted to sign up for the walk, it was completely sold out. So, I was put on a waiting list. With a prediction of rain all day (and it did rain all day!), many people dropped out before the event occurred, so I got to sign up. On a very gloomy Saturday morning, I got to the Frances Tavern at 7:30am to register and start the walk by the entrance of the Staten Island ferry.
Rather than rewrite the whole day, I updated the blog that I have written over the last two years and added to it. I hope you all enjoy my journey around the most famous island on earth on the gloomiest and rainy day ever. I hope you enjoy the journey!
My story of my walk around Manhattan island:
“The Great Saunter Walk”:
July 15th Walk:
I wanted to complete the walk again in the Summer to look at if from another perspective and walked the island perimeter again on July 15th. It took another three and a half hours to do the walk. This is due to meal breaks and just exhaustion due to the heat.
Normally I walk “The Great Saunter” in June around the time of either Father’s Day or the Summer Solstice, so that I have plenty of light. The problem was I was so busy in June that I had to push it back to July and the biggest problem was the heat. In the morning when I started the walk, it was cool and in the high 70’s due to the clouds. When they broke around 10:00am, it started to get hotter and went to the mid 80’s. It would not have been so bad, but the humidity plays a role in the walk. When I did the official walk in May, it was so cold and wet we never stopped for a long break as we all just wanted to get it done and go home.
In the warmer months, I like to stop and relax at various parks like Jefferson Park in East Harlem or Carl Schulz Park on the Upper East Side and let my legs relax. The reason why we finished the walk in May quicker is because the businessman who I was walking with in the last leg of the walk around Stuyvesant Cove just wanted to finish as well so we never stopped.
There were a lot more people in the parks that day, so it made maneuvering a bit harder and, in some cases, like in Jefferson Park, people were all over one another. I have noticed one thing and it is not just in New York City, people’s courtesy has gone way down. People were riding their electric bikes and motorcycles in the paths of the park and on the sidewalks practically knocking people down. One very over-weight woman rode a moped through the main path of Jefferson Park chasing her dog and nearly ran over two little girls who had just finished swimming. That was something!
The nice part of the walk in July was the clear sunny day it had been and being able to enjoy the breezes and the sunshine. It is much nicer to do the walk on a pleasant day than in the rain.
*I wanted to let readers know that this blog is a combination of all four of my walks around the perimeter of the Island of Manhattan and I have kept it in order by section of the island. This way you can experience all the wonderful things to see, do and eat at along the way. Never do this walk in the rain! That was tough.
As New York City is just beginning to reopen during the COVID-19 Pandemic and trying to return to normal, I have been wondering Manhattan to see what changes have happened in those three months. It is still incredible how much of the City is beginning to remind me of the mid-1970’s.
My trip in 2020 into lower Manhattan revealed a City looking circa 1980 with boarded up stores and graffiti all over the place. Walking around the neighborhoods in Midtown and Downtown last week were a real eye-opener on how pent-up frustration can almost destroy the fabric of a City and the underpinnings of human nature. It really showed just how frustrated everyone is with being sick, unemployed and broke.
Fifth Avenue boarded up on June 15th, 2020
Even when the stores windows get fixed and the stores restocked, I don’t think people will forget that quickly. When you finally let people ‘out of their cages’ (i.e. their apartments) though you can see that compassion come back. This is what I saw on my thirty-two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan.
On my walk in 2021, the weather was just as spectacular as it was in 2020 but the mood of the City was different as things in Manhattan had been opened now for a year and the mask mandates were giving way to better days ahead. I saw so much interesting ‘public art’ all along my walk and ate at restaurants new and revisited from other blogs in the past six years. I felt like I was seeing old friends. I also took more time to look over artworks, explore parks and admire the views more on this beautiful day. There are better days ahead for New York City as it continues to morph and change.
In May of 2022, I did the official walk with the Shorewalkers Inc., the people that run the walk every year. This was the first time since 2019 that the group held the walk and I wanted to be part of it with all the other walkers. Initially the walk was sold out three weeks before the day of the walk, but I got on the waitlist and when the weather report said rain all day, a lot of people dropped out. It ended up raining (and I mean raining) the whole time of the walk with just a few lulls and the sun did peak out for about five minutes up by the Carl Schulz Park. I wish it had been longer. I was drenched by the time it was over.
We started the morning of 2022 with an early report to the Frances Tavern at 54 Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan, the start and finish of the walk. I had not been there in years and missed the beauty of the building and its historical value. Since I signed up for the walk at the last minute, I did not want to be late. I had started at West 23rd and West 42nd Street in the past so I knew how to pace myself and once I was all signed in at 7:30am, I started the walk. Many others had started before me so I passed many people along the way, wondering how many of us would finish.
The Frances Tavern at 54 Pearl Street is the official start point for the Great Saunter in May every year
The “Great Saunter” was done exclusively in the rain this year. Usually, I pick a sunny day during the Summer Solstice which honors my dad on Father’s Day but since the official walk is the first Saturday in May, off I went. It poured and was gloomy the whole time of the walk. I endured it in good spirits meeting others along the way that kept me going.
In July of 2022, I decided to do the perimeter walk one more time because the weather had been so horrible in May of 2022 that I wanted to see the whole island again when the weather was nice. The walk had started out nicely with it being overcast and in the 70’s but once the clouds broke and it cleared up, it was in the 80’s and got humid. Still it was a beautiful day for walking.
Walking around the Island of Manhattan is no easy task. In 2020, I had planned this since last year and made it my goal to do the walk on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. The problem was I had a ton of yard work to do on the first day of the summer and I had to get it done knowing that I would be tired after a walk like this. So, after a day of trimming bushes and weeding the lawn, I put my game plan together for the next morning.
Since it was Father’s Day Sunday, I wanted to do something different and special to honor my father more than just sitting at a cemetery looking at an inscription. This is not something my father would want me to do. So my honoring him was to remind myself of all the wonderful Father’s Day’s we spent in Manhattan visiting museums, parks and going to see independent movies at the MoMA and the Angelica. After which we would dine at whatever restaurant I had seen in the Village Voice. Those were the days I wanted to remember.
My inspiration “The Great Saunter” by Cy V. Adler
‘The Great Saunter Walk’ had been cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and would be held at a later date. The walk was started in 1984 by Mr. Cy A. Adler, who founded The Shorewalkers Inc., a non-profit environmental and walking group whose group was fighting for a public walkway since 1982. The first Saturday in May was designated as ‘Great Saunter Day’ (Wiki and Company founding) and has been recognized by most current Mayors of New York City.
Cy V. Adler
I got the map of the walk off the internet and tried to figure out where to start. The walk starts at Frances Tavern in Lower Manhattan, but I thought that was too far away. I thought of starting at 110th Street so I could get through Harlem faster but then I would be travelling back to 110 Street late at night, so I nixed that. Then I thought, I have to get off at 42nd Street for the Port Authority anyway and that is where I am at now with my walking project plus when I finish, I will only be a few blocks away from the bus station so why not start there?
So, in 2020 for my first walk, I started my walk around the Island of Manhattan at the Circle Line Boat Pier where I celebrated last year’s birthday. In 2022, this is where I started again. It made it easier for when I needed to get back to Port Authority.
The Circle Line is where I spent 2019’s birthday touring Manhattan by rivers
I took the 6:35am bus into New York to start early. During the week, the first bus comes at 5:30am and I would have liked to get more of head start but I wanted to do the walk on Father’s Day so into the City I went that morning. I got to the Pier by 7:07am and started the walk around the island. It was the same in 2022.
The Circle Line was closed also because of COVID-19 so the Pier was quiet that morning. I looked over my map of Manhattan and started the walk along the pathways along the Hudson River going up the Joe DiMaggio Highway to the Henry Hudson Highway. I had not been to this part of the Manhattan in about two years.
In 2022, the Circle Line had opened for business, but the first ride was not until around 10:00am so the area was quiet as well. When I finished the walk at 8:55pm, fourteen hours after I had started, the Circle Line had just returned from a ride around the island and people were flowing off the boat. Talk about a huge change in just two years.
When I decided to do the walk for a second time on June 25th, 2021, I put together a different game plan. With all the problems happening all over the City (shootings and harassments had been going up all over the City), I decided that I wanted to start earlier then I had the previous year and decided to spend the night before in Manhattan so I could get an earlier start.
I stayed at the Moxy Hotel in Chelsea at 105 West 28th Street in the heart of the Flower District and I have to say that the hotel has excellent views of the City. I received a room on the tenth floor facing Sixth Avenue and at night I have to say it was one hell of a view. When the lights came on in the evening, the whole neighborhood twinkled.
I got up at 5:00am that morning as the sun shined through the floor to ceiling windows (I wanted to get up early so I pulled the curtains back to see the sun) and got ready then checked the luggage, checked out and started my walk the second time at 6:15am.
The mood of the City was much different from the previous year with more businesses opening up and more people milling around the parks. Still the City was pretty quiet for most of the day especially as I reached uptown.
In 2022, I signed up for the official walk a few days before the walk started knowing that it was going to rain all day that year. That’s why I was able to join in because so many people dropped out (and kept dropping out along the route with all that rain).
I started the walk in 2021 with a good breakfast at Chelsea Papaya at 171 West 23rd Street #1. I have passed this small hole in the wall restaurant for years on my walks around the neighborhood but had never eaten there. I had passed it the night before on my way back to the hotel and thought it would be a good to have breakfast before I started the walk in Riverside Park.
It was an amazing and filling breakfast of three pancakes, two scrambled eggs and three slices of bacon with a medium papaya drink for $11.00. The food was excellent and the guys working they’re at 6:15am could not have been nicer. The seating was not so hot with two small tables outside the restaurant where the tables and street could have used a good cleaning. Still, it was a carb laden meal that prepared me for the long walk.
Don’t miss the wonderful and filling breakfasts at Chelsea Papaya
I started the walk in 2021 on West 23rd Street, so I got to visit this side of the park during the day with it sweeping views of Jersey City and the Hudson River. When I started walking in the park at 6:30am, it was a beautiful sunny day but as the morning grew and I got to around West 42nd Street, the clouds started to roll in and it got cooler.
That did not last long. In 2022, I was not so lucky as it was a misty rain when I started the walk at 7:30am in the morning but it was bearable. I started at Staten Island Ferry terminal and then off I went with the other walkers who were up for the challenge.
The first thing you will see when entering the park is the Monarch Waystation Garden that is one of many that have been planted around the rim of Manhattan. I have seen this also in east side parks as well.
The Monarch Waystation Garden is as you enter Riverside Park
As I entered Hudson River Park, I noticed many works of art displayed on the fences and walls of the surrounding buildings. The 2021 NY Salt Exhibition was being displayed and I took some time to look over the works while walking through the park. I made may way from West 23rd Street and proceeded north walking near the river.
The NY Salt Exhibition at Hudson River Park in 2021
When you walk up past the Piers along Riverside Park in the 40’s, the first thing you will see in the next Pier over is the Intrepid Sea-Air Space Museum which was closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. Pier 86 where the ship was docked was really quiet that morning with only two people eating their breakfast on one of the tables in the little park near the ship. There were sweeping views of New Jersey across the river of Weehawken and West New York.
The Intrepid Sea-Air Museum is just reopened after being closed for almost a year
Most of the West Side is pathways along the river with views of New Jersey until you hit about West 50th Street when you get to the lower part of the new Hudson River Park that has been built on fill to create a new riverfront.
In May of 2022, as I walked around the southern tip of the island, I could not believe how many works of art in the parks that I missed on the previous two walks. I guess I just wanted to finish the walk by that point. During the July 2022 walk, I started at the same point as 2020 and when I saw my first piece of artwork, it was like seeing an old friend.
When I reached the park by Pier 96, I came across Malcolm Cochran’s artwork “Private Passage” again. I came across this sculpture when visiting the park two years earlier. The piece is a giant bottle and when you look in the port hole you will see a state room of the former Queen Mary. It is an interesting piece of artwork that is not hard to miss and take time to look in the port holes.
The artist is originally from Pittsburgh, PA and is graduate of Wesleyan College who specializes in large sculptures.
Further up the park, I came across the old New York Transfer Station piece in Riverside Park. This is a relic of the old West Side Railroad tracks that were once part of the New York Central Railroad that the park and buildings behind it are built on. This transfer bridge once was used to attach railroad cars to the freight tracks that once ran up and down this part of the island (Forgotten New York).
The New York Central Transfer Station
It is interesting to see this now as a piece of art instead of a functioning part of the railroad but it is fascinating to see how we use the parts of the past as a piece of art in the present. This shows the current park visitor how we have made new uses of the riverfront for recreation and pleasure which was not true during the early parts of the last century.
As I was walking up through Riverside Park, I noticed a lot of artworks displayed in Riverside Park that were part of the ‘Summer 2021-Re: Growth’ art display that stretched from the West 40’s to 100’s at various points in the park. Some were interesting in design, and it was nice to see a lot were from local New York Artists.
These lined the length of Riverside Park and you had to really look for them. These were the works of art I viewed on the way up Riverside Park. I included the work and a short biography on each artist that I saw:
Ms. Amezkua is American born New York City based artist living in Bronx. A graduate of Cal State Fresno with a BA and also attended the Academia de belle Arte in Florence she is formally trained as a painter (Artist Bio).
Ms. Letven is an American born artist raised in Philadelphia with a BFA from the Tyler School of Art and a MFA from Hunter College and currently teaches at Parsons School of Design and Art and Design at New York University. She is a multidisciplinary artist in sculpture, installation and painting (Artist Bio).
Ms. Mattingly is an American born artist currently living in New York City. She has a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art from Portland, OR and attended Parsons School of Design. She is known for creating photos and sculptures representing futuristic and obscure landscapes (Wiki).
Mr. Goode is an American born artist from Texas. He has a MFA from Boston University and has worked as an archaeologist on several digs Artsy Bio).
These works are on display until August 2021 and try not to miss this interesting display of art in this ‘open air museum’.
Hudson River Park and Riverside Park South blend into one another with the housing complexes behind them are a shining example of the uses of urban renewal and reclaiming our riverfront for pleasure and conservation. It is also one of the nicest new complexes built in Manhattan in recent years.
What I love about this park is the nice pathways and lawns just to sit back and relax and enjoy the views. There are a lot of places to stop and rest. Since I had been to this side of the island two years ago, I continued my walk up to West 72nd Street when I got to the southern border of Riverside Park which runs much of this side of Manhattan.
I made it up to West Harlem Piers Park by 8:46am (7:43am in 2021) and made my first stop of the morning. The park was a mess. People must have been having parties in the park the night before and did not clean up after themselves because I could see a NYC Parks worker in the picking up the garbage and she did not look happy about the mess. Usually, this park is pristine, and I was not used to seeing it such a mess. I guess these are the things you see in New York City parks early in the morning. The efforts to keep them clean.
The park is down the road from the new extension of the Columbia University campus extension, so this park gets a lot of use during the school year. This early in the morning there were just a few joggers and one homeless guy who was throwing more garbage around. I did not want to be near the Parks worker when she had to deal with that.
What I had not noticed on my trips to the park in the past were some unusual sculptures by artist Nari Ward, a New York based artist who likes to use objects found in his own neighborhood (artist website).
These unusual silver sculptures I almost interpreted as people trying to speak and it was interesting that the sculptures were called Voice I and Voice II. I was not sure of what the artist was trying to communicate with his artwork, but it does stand out in the park. The unfortunate part of it was that there was so much garbage in the park you could not get up close to see them.
I really enjoy this park. It has wonderful breezes and excellent views and plenty of places to sit down and relax. It offers such nice views of the river and as the morning progressed, I started to see more sailboats and water boats out cruising up and down the Hudson River.
I reached the bottom of the George Washington Bridge by 9:36am and watched an artist putting a display of layered rocks along the Hudson River shore. Uliks Gryka the artist behind the “Sisyphus Stones” that line this part of the park was carefully layering stones one on top of another and fixing and creating new formations. It was interesting to watch how he balanced each of the stones into a new work. The artist is originally from Albania and has no formal art training (Artist website).
The work reminded me of the Moai on Easter Island, the famous statues that faced the sea. It made me think how the artwork looks to the river and how maybe it is nature communicating with land and sea. I was not sure the message the artist was trying to portray, and he looked too busy working to ask him. The artwork was still there in 2021 and it looked like the artist was still updating it.
I continued on into Fort Washington Park to see the Little Red Lighthouse, which I had not visited in almost three years since my last walk in the neighborhood. Many tourists were by the site just under the George Washington Bridge, taking pictures by the lighthouse and enjoying the sunny weather.
The Little Red Lighthouse had been constructed in 1889 and moved from Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1917 and moved here in 1921. It was decommissioned in 1948 after the construction of the George Washington Bridge in 1931. What had saved the lighthouse from destruction was the book “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge” by author Hildegarde Swift in 1942 (Wiki).
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift
I didn’t stay long by the lighthouse because it was loaded with tourists taking pictures, but I did stay by the tables and enjoy the view of the George Washington Bridge. It was making quite the racket as more cars are travelling over it again and on a sunny day offered some dazzling views. The breezes were amazing! In both 2021and July 2022, the lighthouse and the park were really quiet, so I got to enjoy the views on my own this time.
In 2022, the rain had turned to mist, and it was not so bad by the time I got to the lighthouse. I noticed that most people did not stop to look at the lighthouse. They just passed it to keep walking. I stopped because I love seeing this interesting landmark.
Walking up the stairs to get to the upper level of the park is not for the faint hearted and I saw many people much younger than me get out of breath on their way up. One guy had to be about twenty and he looked like he needed oxygen. To me it was just a walk up and I continued to walk through the lower part of Fort Washington Park. In 2021, I could not believe how in much better shape I was that I handled it better.
This part of the park faces Englewood Cliffs, NJ and the Palisades Park Highway on the other side of the river. There is no construction on that park of the river, so it offers views on the cliffs and the woods that line it.
The view of Englewood Cliffs, NJ
As I walked further up into the park, it was mostly wooded highway and further up the hill was Fort Tyron Park and the home of The Cloister Museum which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum has been closed since March, but I had taken one of the last of the guided tours on religious flora in art of the Middle Ages before it closed on March 13th. The museum reopened in July of 2020.
Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters Museum in the park
When you reach Fort Tyron Park by foot along the Henry Hudson Parkway, you will see two large stone columns that look like the entrance to an estate and then across the street there is a pillared overlook to the Hudson River. These are remnants of the former C.K.G. Billings estate, “Tryon Hall”.
The old entrance to the estate is covered with brush
Mr. Billings, the Chairman of Union Carbide, owned most land of which the park is located and theses small relics are the remains of the great estate. I had never been in this part of the park before and thought it interesting that these pieces of the estate were left.
The archway and drive are still part of the park, and you can see them closer to The Cloisters Museum. The old driveway to the estate is still used inside the park.
I travelled up further and arrived at the Dyckman Beach Park located at the end of Dyckman Avenue in Inwood. This tiny little beach is hidden from the road and is located next to the pier. Every time I have visited the park, this little section is in high demand for picnickers, and you have to get there early. The pier is a nice place to relax and soak of the sun and admire the view.
Don’t miss this tiny beach and the pier. It is so relaxing!
In 2021, the beach area was busy with a local high school graduation going on in the restaurant right next to the beach. There was much cheering and celebrating going on and it was good to see that. All along the harbor deck, people were relaxing and fishing. In July of 2022, it was quiet with a few people fishing so I had the whole place to myself. This was when I took my first break. The heat was starting to get to me.
In 2020, I walked around one side of the park that contains the soccer field where a very heated match between two teams was taking place. I could tell there was a heated discussion in Spanish that these two teams were in major competition. While the men were playing soccer, the ladies were cooking up a storm, making skewers of meat, cutting fresh fruit and stirring lemonade for a makeshift concession stand. This was a very organized league.
I walked around the field and watched the game as the families settled in for a long afternoon. These guys really took the game seriously and were going back and forth side to side for the twenty minutes I watched the game. The pathway to the park ends in a semi-circle and on the side is a walkway bridge over the railroad tracks which will take you around Inwood Hill Park to the lower pathways that overlook the Hudson River and to the Henry Hudson Bridge that leads to the Bronx.
In 2021, the fields were very quiet which I was surprised by. Usually, this area is very crowded with people even when COVID was at its height. It was better to be outside than inside. It was earlier in the morning.
When you follow the path, it leads to the Spuyten Duyvil, a man-made canal that was created during the Dutch era for shipping and trade. It cuts off a small section of Manhattan that is now on the Bronx side of the City. Here you will see the giant blue “C” for Columbia University, whose stadium is on the other end of the park.
The Columbia “C” from Inwood Hill Park
The paths lead down wooded areas that are some of the last of the ‘virgin’ forest left on the island of Manhattan and one of the few true wooded areas.
When you exit the pathways into the lawn area of the park, you are greeted by a giant boulder which is one of the most historic objects on the Island of Manhattan, the Shorakkopoch Rock. The rock is the legendary location of where Peter Minuit bought Manhattan from the Reckgawawang Indians for what is today $24.00 of household goods and trinkets.
On the other side of the small cove is the natural cove, Muscota Marsh where the Columbia Rowing Team has their sheds. The Muscota Marsh was created in a joint partnership between the NYC Parks system and Columbia University. This one-acre marsh is located in the Spuyten Duyvil creek and is part freshwater and part salt-water marsh. It is home to many native birds who use it as a nesting and watering site.
I sat and relaxed while birds flew in and out of the marsh that morning. It was the most beautiful sunny morning, and you could feel the cool breezes coming off the creek while small boats passed by. The Muscota Marsh is one of those hidden treasures in Manhattan that tourists rarely visit. It was nice to just sit and relax. I had reached the northern most part of Manhattan by 11:11am four hours after the start time.
In 2020, I had eaten a light breakfast at the house and had gone through my snacks while walking up to Inwood Hill Park. Most of the places I had gone to in the past while up walking the neighborhood or going to the Columbia/Cornell football games were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic or went out of business. I ordered breakfast from Park Terrace Deli at 510 West 218 Street.
I had the most amazing Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a Hero that hit the spot. I was starved and this large sandwich fit the bill. It was loaded with freshly cooked bacon and the hero roll was toasted and then pressed when the bacon, cheese and eggs were loaded inside. I sat down with a much-needed Coke in the benches by Isham Park further down Broadway. I enjoyed every bite, and the ice-cold Coke gave me the burst of energy I needed to continue the walk down the western part of Manhattan.
This has become a tradition as I came back for the same sandwich in July of 2022 and enjoyed my breakfast on the benches of Muscato Marsh, enjoying the breezes and watching the row teams. It is a great place after you grab a snack to sit and enjoy the views.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich at Park Terrace Deli is excellent!
In 2021, I was still full from my breakfast at Chelsea Papaya and stopped in Twin Donut at 5099 Broadway (now closed) for a donut. I have been to this shop many times when walking in the neighborhood and their donuts are delicious. I had one of their Blueberry jelly filled ($1.50) and that hit the spot. The owner said that they were selling the business after sixty years and it would soon be a twelve-story building. In July of 2022, the building still sits empty.
Twin Donut was at 5099 Broadway for almost 60 years
In 2022, I stopped in Inwood Park to meet up with other walkers for snacks and go to the bathroom. The rain stopped for a bit, and we were able to stand and talk to one another. People were playing soccer nearby and residents were shopping at the Farmer’s Market close by. Even though the snacks were nice you can’t make a meal out of Pringles and Goldfish. So, I packed up a few of the snacks to take with me and went on my way.
In 2021, I stopped at G’s Coffee Shop for the same breakfast sandwich and as usual, the food and service was excellent, feeding my weary body. Every meal that I have had at G’s has been good.
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
After breakfast, I travelled down 10th Avenue from 218th Street and followed the path of the original footprint of the island until I arrived at the cross streets of Dyckman Street and Harlem River Drive at the beginning of Highbridge Park and Sherman Cove. Even in this busy area of car repair shops, small restaurants and the Dyckman Houses, everyone pretty much ignored me as if I was not there. Not one person looked at me. Many people looked down as I passed which I thought was strange.
In 2020, most of this part of Highbridge Park was still closed off to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because it was Father’s Day, people were barbecuing along the thin path and patch of land between the park and the highway. It amazes me how creative these residents are with the use of space.
In 2021, the Sherman Creek part of the park was open for walking through, and I took the time to walk the path to the river through the winding woods and streams. It is a nice break from the busy City and it a very underrated part of Highbridge Park. The views of the East River were spectacular, and the breezes were so nice and cool. It was nice to have the park to myself that morning.
Sherman Creek Park/Swindlers Cove is at 351 West 205th Street
Before I took the long trip down Harlem River Drive along the rim of High Bridge Park, I walked along Dyckman Street, one of the three big retail corridors for the Dominican community in Washington Heights. The other two being 207th Street and the other 181st Street and Broadway.
Dyckman Street on the west side of Broadway is so alive on the weekends with street vendors selling food and wares, music playing and people socializing with their neighbors. I love coming here for the bakeries and to get fresh pastilitoes and freshly squeezed juice from the street vendors who have to listen to my broken Spanish. It was a little tougher to visit the places as social distancing let less people into the stores that were open.
On warm weekends Dyckman Street is alive with shoppers
After I walked a few blocks of Dyckman Street to see what was available, I started the long trek down the path along Harlem River Drive with High Bridge Park across the street. The long curves of the park, the lush woods and rock formations show what was once the former shoreline of this part of the island. From this location it looks alike Inwood Hill Park with clean paths and virgin plantings.
The reality of the park is that if you walk through the park you are faced with the over-grown paths, the graffitied rocks and garbage that parts of the park suffer from. When you walk through the paths on the other side of the park, you see how far the park has gone down and the work that still needs to be done. Abandoned cars and garbage still plaque parts of the park from the park side paths. Still the City is doing a lot to improve the park.
I passed the old High Bridge Water Tower that was being renovated and was covered in scaffolding. The water tower and the bridge are the lasting remnants of the way water used to travel into New York City from upstate in the late 1800’s. The tower was built in 1872 and was part of the old Croton Aqueduct system of moving water into Manhattan. The tower and the surrounding area is currently going under renovation and the pool is closed because of COVID-19.
This part of the park had no activity and, on the path, leading down to the old Polo Grounds there was not much activity. What always makes me nervous is walking around the Polo Ground Houses that run from West 165th Street to about West 155th Street. The complex is a tired looking set up public housing with one building looking exactly like the other and a small patch of green in the middle. I could see from the hill over-looking the lawns that there were some small parties going on.
The Polo Ground Tower Housing Complex
All I kept thinking about is the activities that go on there and I zig-zagged my way down the sidewalk until I hit the part of the fence that was covered with trees and vines. Out of site from the prying windows. Ever since I read about the complex on the internet, I have never felt comfortable in this part of the City. This was before I walked all around the complex four years ago when I walked Harlem and didn’t think much about it. I walk around quickly in this neighborhood.
I crossed the street and walked down Edgecombe Avenue on the upper side of Jackie Robinson Park. On the corner of the edge of the street is the John Hooper Fountain at 155th Street and Edgecombe Avenue. The fountain was designed by architect George Martin Huss and is a ornamental horse fountain and lantern. It was dedicated in 1894 and donated to the park by businessman John Hooper (NYCParks.com/MichaelMinn.net). It was used by the horses for drinking when carriages and horse riding at that time.
The John Hooper Fountain is at the corner of Edgecombe Avenue and 155th Street
As I walked past the fountain and entered the edge of Jackie Robinson Park, I could hear music and kids screaming from the sidewalk. The park was alive with people using the playground or setting up parties for Father’s Day. It was also a mixed crowd of people who were conversing amongst themselves about recent events, and I heard many lively debates. In July of 2022, the pool had opened up again and there were kids screaming and yelling as they played in the pool. This is also a good place for a bathroom break.
The one thing I discovered about this section of the park is that everything across the street or closer to the park is brand new housing, a lot catering to CUNY students. Much of Bradhurst and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard have been knocked down and rebuilt with new housing and much of West 145th Street is new stores and restaurants. It changes as you get closed to Lenox Avenue and Young Park.
I find Jackie Robinson Park very nice. The park has always been well maintained and the place was clean and well-landscaped. During the warmer months of the school year, a lot of CUNY students can be seen on the hill as you enter the park on West 145th Street sunning themselves and studying. Now families were setting up barbecues unfortunately many of them without masks.
The worst thing I found about travelling in these blocks of the City in 2020 is how the Parks system treats the patrons of the parks. There was not one open bathroom in the four parks that I visited. High Bridge Park had no bathrooms on the Harlem River Drive part of the park, both Jackie Robinson Park’s bathrooms were shut tight and Young Park’s were also closed. Thomas Jefferson Park further down only had Porto toilets (and I will not mention in this blog the condition they were in. COVID-19 would not even survive in those). In 2021, there were more bathrooms open but not in great shape. In 2022, I would not have ventured into them.
After a rest in Jackie Robinson Park, I ventured down West 145th Street to Young Park and then crossed down Malcolm X Boulevard to West 143rd Street. There were no open bathrooms here, so I headed down Fifth Avenue before making the connection on to Harlem River Drive.
In 2021, I stopped for a quick lunch at Sweet Mama’s Soul Food Restaurant at 698 Malcolm X Boulevard on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 145th Street. It was a little too hot for such heavy food, but I thought why not? I had not had Southern food in a long time.
I tried the Fried Chicken wings, Mac & Cheese, Sweet Potatoes and a biscuit with a Coke. The food is served buffet style and bought by the pound. My ‘little’ meal with beverage was $9.00 and I thought that was a bargain for all that food. The fried chicken tasted delicious but had been sitting in the steamer too long, but the biscuit, sweet potatoes and mac & cheese were all excellent and full of flavor. Refreshed from my lunch, I carried on down Malcolm X Boulevard (Lexington Avenue). Don’t bother with the public bathrooms at Carl Young Park across the street. They are not clean.
During the walk in May of 2022, to get out of the rain, warm up and get away from these annoying people who started to walk with me from Alabama, I stopped in King Pizza of Harlem at 110 West 145th Street for a snack. I knew that I wanted a chopped cheese for lunch, but I was starved and needed to eat something. I also needed a break from the walking.
For a little hole in the wall pizzeria in not the greatest part of the neighborhood, the cheese pizza is excellent. The sauce is so well spiced and topped with loads of mozzarella cheese. The slice was rather large and made a great snack. It was just pleasant to sit down and relax.
As I made my way down Fifth Avenue from 143rd Street, I stopped for a moment to look at a obelisk that I had not noticed the last time I had visited the area. The obelisk is located on a tiny triangle near the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 142nd Street. The Monument is the 369 Infantry Regiment Memorial dedicated to the all-black unit that fought so valiantly in World War I with the Fourth French Army. It was in such an obscure place that I must have just passed it when I visited Harlem. The drunk homeless guy sitting next to it was a deterrent from really looking at it.
I crossed over the triangle and continued to follow the river to West 135th street (the river walk ends at West 135th Street and continued down Madison Avenue. I had to walk through the Lincoln Houses Public Housing and again pretty much everyone avoided me. I was surprised that there was so much garbage on the lawns and in the parks. I could not believe that none of the residents would have picked this up.
As I walked down Madison Avenue, I noticed another homeless guy trying to solicit money from people coming off the highway and almost getting hit a few times. I was going to yell at him, but I thought I better mind my business walking in this section of the City.
I made a turn into the courtyard of the Lincoln Houses to see the statute of Abraham Lincoln with Child statute at 2120-2122 Madison Avenue. With all the statutes being torn down in 2020, I was surprised that not only was this statute up but in good shape.
Lincoln and Child at 2120-2122 Madison Avenue in the Lincoln Houses
The statue was designed by artist Charles Keck. Mr. Keck was an American born New York artist who studied at the National Academy of Design and the Arts Students League of New York. He was best known for his work on statues and monuments.
In 2022, as I admired the statute for a second time in the rain, some crazy homeless guy got right into my face and started talking about Lincoln and slavery. I walked away as fast as I could. How come I attract all the crazies? Everyone I was walking with walked faster down the street away from me.
I walked south down Madison Avenue until I reached West 128th Street and walked towards the river towards Second Avenue. I stopped in Harlem River Park and Crack is Wack Playground and again no open bathrooms and I passed the Tri-Boro Plaza Park nothing there either, so I just continued down Second Avenue to East 120th Street and walked down Pleasant Avenue towards Thomas Jefferson Park. The park was pretty busy in both 2020 and 2021 with kids playing baseball or running around the park.
While walking around Harlem River Park, I came across the artwork “Dream Fulfilled”, which was unveiled in August of 2011 as a partnership between the Harlem CDC, their State and City Partners, East, Central, and West Harlem Committees and the Creative Arts Workshop for Kids (CAW) (Empire State Development).
The project “Dreams Fulfilled” in 2011
As I walked down Second Avenue from 125th Street, I noticed interesting artwork on the side of the Taino Towers at 221 East 122nd Street. The towers had been going through a major renovation the last time I had visited the neighborhood and parts of the complex were still under scaffolding.
Artist Don Rimx painted a mural of Nuyorocan poet Jesus ‘Tato’ Laviera. The painting had been unveiled in 2017 (long after my visit to the neighborhood) and 123rd Street was renamed after the poet (Street Art NYC).
The mural of Jesus ‘Tato’ Laviera at Taito Towers at 122nd Street and Second Avenue
Mr. Rimx was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and in 2009 moved to Brooklyn and then in 2014 to Florida. He graduated from Central High School of Visual Arts and Escuela Des Arts Plasticas. He is known for his use of styles in art and culture and known for his murals (Artist Bio).
As I passed the towers and its new artwork, I crossed Second Avenue to the Wagner Houses complex. People were having all sorts of picnics and barbecues inside and outside the Wagner Houses and people were celebrating Father’s Day in full force. It was all I could do from walking through the complex again. The last time I did that the residents looked at me like I was a Martian who just set down.
The Wagner Houses
The Robert Wagner Sr. sculpture in the Wagner Playground by artist Georg John Lober
Georg John Lober was an American artist from Chicago who studied at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design and worked for the New York City Municipal Art Commission for seventeen years.
As I walked around the Wagner Complex, little had changed from my various trips in this part of the neighborhood except they finished a lot of the luxury housing across the street. The complexity and diversity of the neighborhood was changing fast right before COVID hit and in the 2021 trip, it is still changing.
Pleasant Avenue was once home to the East Harlem “Little Italy” and the ‘Dance of the Giglio’ takes place here every August outside the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (See Day Eighty-Four The Feast of Our Lady of Carmel and the Dancing of the Giglio). Now it is becoming a gentrified neighborhood and I saw many people eating in outdoor cafes or shopping at the local mall. I stopped at Pleasant Finest Deli at 375 Pleasant Avenue in both 2020 and 2021 for a snack and a Coke. On an 84-degree day there is nothing like an ice-cold Coke. This is my ‘go-to’ place when I am in the neighborhood for snacks.
The ‘Chopped Cheese’ is a cult sandwich made up of two chopped hamburgers topped with American cheese, chopped lettuce and tomato with salt, pepper and spices and then pressed. It is like heaven with every bite. I took my sandwich into Thomas Jefferson Park, which is currently under renovation and ate my sandwich. After I was finished, I had the energy to continue the walk downtown.
In 2021, I wanted to make up for time and ate it when I got to Carl Schulz Park near East 84th Street. I figured I had eaten enough by that point and could save it for later. I had to have a chopped cheese that day.
The Chopped Cheese Sandwich at Blue Sky Deli (Harlem Taste Deli)
In May of 2022, I had to get out of the rain and stopped in the deli for about a half hour while my order was cooking. The rest of the customers at the deli did not know what to make of a six-foot drenched white guy who looked starved and angry. I was just wet and tired. The sandwich was terrific as usual, but I had to eat it quickly in the park again to continue the walk. When I digested it a few blocks later it gave me a lot more energy to walk.
After I finished my lunch, I felt refreshed and ready to go but still had to find a bathroom. Since the park was under renovation, there were only Porto bathrooms and trust me, STAY AWAY! They were so dirty that COVID-19 could not survive these things. After eating a big lunch, I ended up nauseous for the rest of the afternoon and lost my appetite for anything else. I left the park at 3:48pm and thought I was making good time.
When I did the walk in May of 2022, it was pouring rain when I got to the deli and sitting in Blue Sky Deli was the only time that I really warmed up. Because there is no place to sit down in the deli, I had to eat my sandwich in the park during the drizzling rain. Not the best conditions to eat but it really warmed me up and gave me energy to continue the walk down the esplanade from East 110th Street.
Before I left Thomas Jefferson Park, I came across another piece of art that I had not noticed on my many visits to the park. The sculpture located in the middle of the park is entitled “Tomorrow’s Wind” by artist Melvin Edwards. The sculpture is made of welded steel and is tilted so that it reflects the sun. The piece was placed in the park in 1995 (NYCParks.org).
Mr. Edwards is an American born artist from Texas. He is known for his known for his abstract steel sculptures. He graduated with a BFA from University of Southern California and studied at the Los Angeles Art Institute.
I exited the park at West 111th Street and followed the overpass over FDR Drive and walked down the esplanade from West 111th Street to West 60th Street in Sutton Place. The views of the Harlem and East Rivers are ever changing with new construction in Queens and Brooklyn and the developments on Randall’s-Ward and Roosevelt Island. The whole riverfront changes every year.
The Tram to Roosevelt Island
Between the sunny skies and cool river breezes, it is an amazing walk if you take your time like I did and just soak up the sunshine. I never realized how easy this part of the walk would be. I just walked others walk by enjoying their afternoons and looked at all the buildings going up and the boats and jet skiers passing by. It was one busy river.
I relaxed when I arrived at Carl Schurz Park to enjoy the views of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island and look at the flower beds in the park. Carl Schurz Park has its own Friends group, and they do a great job taking care of the park. The flower beds are so colorful and vibrant, and the playground is full of active screaming kids.
There were finally some decent OPEN bathrooms and the water fountains here work and the water is good. The fountains dispense cold water and New York City water tastes good especially at these water fountains. In all of my trips around the island and even when I was walking around the Upper East Side for this blog, Carl Schulz Park has the best facilities for its visitors.
In 2020, I stayed at the park for about fifteen minutes. Any longer and I would not have left. Carl Schurz Park is one of my favorite parks in Manhattan. I love the views, the sights and sounds of this park and love how lively and calm it is at the same time. It is a true neighborhood park.
In 2021, I just relaxed in the park, ate my chopped cheese sandwich (which I could tell people around me envying) and watched the boats and jet skiers pass by. I also had a direct view of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island, so I got to watch everyone visit the little lighthouse at the tip of the island. Outside of Bryant Park in Midtown, I find Carl Schulz Park one of the best parks in the City to relax and just people watch and let nature encompass you.
In May of 2022, when I arrived at Carl Schulz Park it was the only time of the day where the sun peaked out giving me hope that the weather would break. It did not happen and that was the joke Mother Nature played on us. It was not raining as badly but it continued to misty and light raining.
In July of 2022, I stayed at the park for a half hour just relaxing and watching the water flow by and looking at the people at the tip of Roosevelt Island across the river. The benches by the water are the best place to relax on a nice day.
I continued down the river front walk until I had to stop at West 60th on the border of the Upper East Side and Sutton Place and proceeded up the ramp. This is where the sculpture by artist Alice Aycock is located and one of my favorite ‘street art’ sculptures ‘East River Roundabout’.
From here I travelled up the ramp which surrounds Twenty-Four Sycamores Park which borders both neighborhoods and is extremely popular with the neighborhood children and their babysitters and parents. The park was closed though because of the COVID-19 pandemic but will be reopened soon. This park was start and stop point when I was visiting this side of town for the blog. I like the shade trees and it has good bathrooms.
In May of 2022, they had finished renovating the bathrooms at the park and they were open. The best part was that they were really clean and were heated. I was able to relax for a minute, go to the bathroom and get warm. I understand the plight of the homeless on a cold night.
I walked down Sutton Place past the old mansions and stately apartment buildings. This area of the City was really quiet as the residents here were probably out of town with all that was going on. The streets were pretty much deserted, and I saw a few people in Sutton Place Park. Please check out my walk of the Sutton Place/Beekman Place neighborhood on my blog:
Day One Hundred and Thirty-Four: Walking Sutton Place
In July of 2022, it had gotten so hot, and the humidity was getting to me that I had to stop for some ice cream, and I remember A la Mode Shoppe at 360 East 55th Street. I had the most amazing ice cream there years ago when I was blogging about Sutton Place and even checked the Internet the day before to make sure that they were open.
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
The two flavors that I love are Pink Sprinkles (Strawberry Ice Cream with layers of colorful sprinkles and Cloudy Weather (Blueberry Ice Cream with tiny marshmallows). I was looking forward to going there on this whole trip down this side of the island. I knew I was going to need something to cool myself down. It is such a great little store that also sells gourmet sodas, candy and toys.
A la Mode Shoppe is such a whimsical store
Watch taking the turn on East 53rd Street to First Avenue. The cars and cabs will not stop for you when you try to cross the street so be careful. I always take a mad dash across the road.
From here you have to walk on First Avenue from East 53rd Street until East 37th Street as the United Nations dominates this area. The United Nations looked like it was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic with just a few guards on duty and not much traffic. It also looked to me like they removed a lot of their statuary because of all the vandals destroying artwork all over the country.
The United Nations Complex
The complex was completely quiet on this gloomy day, and I did not see a sole anywhere near the complex. Even the security booths seemed quiet when I passed. You can no longer walk around the on the grounds, so I peered from the gate and admired the statute ” Good defeats Evil” by artist Zurab Tseretelli. This interesting statue I found out later was made of old United States and Russian missiles to commemorate the signing of the ‘Treaty of the Elimination of Intermediate’. The statue was to represent peace (United Nations Gifts).
Good defeats Evil by artist Zurab Tseretelli (United Nations Gifts)
Artist Zurab Tseretelli is a Russian born artist who is noted for his sculptures all over the world. He graduated from Tbilisi State Academy of Arts and was a visiting professor at SUNY in New York State on top of other teaching and academic honors (Wiki).
I stopped in Ralph Bunche Park at First Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Street. I just needed to sit for a bit, and I admired a sculpture that I had not noticed before when walking the park.
Ralph Bunche Park at First Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Streets
Mr. Johnson was an American born artist from California. He studied at the Chouinard Art Institute and then studied in Paris. He was known for his abstract paintings and steel sculptures.
Another interesting piece of art was on the wall of 777 First Avenue, the Church Center for the United Nations. The work was created by artist Benoit Gilsoul and is entitled “Man’s Search for Peace” (Wiki).
The Church Center for the United Nations at 777 First Avenue
Mr. Gilsoul was a Belgium born artist who immigrated to the United States in 1967 and became an American citizen. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux Arts in Belgium. He was noted for his abstract works (IstDibs.com).
I then exited East 37th Street and continued to walk down the esplanade along the East River. I had never travelled to this section of the City before (I have currently not passed 42nd Street on my current walk of Manhattan in 2020) so it was an adventure to see new views of the island. I stayed on this pathway until I got to the Battery.
In May of 2022, the rain began to let up when I got to the esplanade, and it was just a light mist. I was just hoping that it would stop soon. While everyone else was racing down the walkway to finish the walk, I took the time and admired the buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront. It is getting more impressive every year.
Along the way between East 37th Street and East 11th Streets, you tend to see the backs of a lot of buildings on the Manhattan side life Bellevue and the Tisch Hospital. You then pass Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and then the Con Ed Power Plant so there is not much to see on this side but from the other side you will see the skyline of Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn.
Downtown Long Island City keeps changing
On the turn before you get to the larger East River Park is the smaller Stuyvesant Cove Park which was once the site of an old cement plant and has now been reclaimed for a riverfront park. The park runs from about East 22nd Street to East 18th Street. The park is planted with native plants of New York City and has become a haven for birds and butterflies (Stuyvesant Cove Park Association). I left Stuyvesant Cove by 5:45pm in 2020, 6:30pm in 2021 and 4:30pm in 2022. I took more time to explore the parks and artwork in 2021 and was walking slower because of the rain in 2022.
Around East 12th Street its best to the follow the path signs to John V. Lindsay East River Park. The park was created in 1939 by then Parks Director Robert Moses on reclaimed land from the waterfront and piers and is a 57.5 acre point of relief to the residents of the Lower East Side (Wiki).
The park has many recreational facilities and the afternoon I was walking through countless parties and barbecues were going on. With meats sizzling on the grills and water gun fights and the sound of music throughout the park, people were enjoying their Father’s Day celebrations in every corner of the park. I found open bathrooms that were clean and a water fountain that worked and I was happy. Don’t miss the giant anchor facing the river near the entrance to the park.
Don’t miss the “Anchors Away” sculpture in John Lindsey Park
Once I left the park in 2020 and 2021, I was on my way to South Street Seaport. This part of the walk meant walking under overhangs, bridge over-passes and the housing was a combination of new and old construction. On the other side of the river, there is a difference on the riverfront on the Brooklyn side. The growth of DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn has changed the whole look from this side of the river.
Downtown Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Bridge
In May of 2022, the rain was really getting to me, and I was not sure if I could keep going. My muscles in my legs were really getting to me because of the cold. It went from 54 to 45 degrees by the time I got to Lower Manhattan. I just happened to meet up with a businessman from Fort Lee, NJ who I had seen hours earlier on the other side of the island. He asked if he could walk the rest of the way with me and I said yes. It was nice to have someone to talk with for the rest of the trip.
This is now becoming some of the most expensive housing in New York City with warehouses and old factories becoming expensive lofts. Things just changing on that side of the river and the riverfront even this far down keeps changing. I passed the Peck Slip Park at 6:30pm on my way to the South Street Seaport.
South Street Seaport is some of the original structures of Lower Manhattan many dating back to the Civil War when this was a major shipping area. The home of the Dutch West Indies Company in the early 1600’s, this port area has seen many changes. The most modern ones when the Rouse Corporation turned this into a dining and shopping entertainment area setting up concept for many downtowns in city’s that needed revitalizing. Since its development, South Street Seaport was their most successful venture.
I had never seen it so quiet in the time of COVID-19. There was no one walking around this busy area but a few tourists and residents. In 2021, the mood had changed, and it was much busier. I passed through the Seaport by 6:48pm.
As I was leaving the South Street Seaport in 2021, I was watching fire trucks leave in a hurry from one of the local firehouses. It caught my attention so much that I lost my footing for some reason and fell flat on my face. It was almost as if someone had tripped me. In May of 2022, the only thing we did was race by the place because of the weather but in July of 2022, the Seaport was alive with people having dinner and drinks.
From here it was again more overhangs from the highway until I got to the Ferry stations for Staten Island and Governors Island and then rounding the corner to make it to Battery Park where the sites of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island loomed in the distance. All over the harbor were sailboats and motorboats enjoying the early evening. It was now 7:15pm and I had been travelling since noon.
In 2020 and 2021, I spent about a half hour relaxing and enjoying the views on a sunny early evening. Being the day after the Summer Solstice it was one of the longest days of the year and I got to enjoy the extra sunshine. I needed to cool down and this was the place to do it. It still is one of the most picturesque places in New York City.
In May of 2022, the rain and clouds got so bad that I could barely see things in the harbor. It looked like it was trying to clear and by 5:00pm it finally stopped raining. We had been walking under the highway underpass by South Street Seaport and the two of us started to dry out.
In July of 2022, this is where I took my longest break of forty-five minutes. I just needed to relax before I made the last leg of the journey back to West 34th Street. Similar to the walk I did in 2020, it took a lot of effort to complete this part of the journey and I wanted to build my strength.
I have to say that I never get tired of seeing Lady Liberty. I still can’t believe that I am seeing the same statute that both of my grandfathers’ saw when they arrived in this country. It puts it all into perspective to me how powerful of a symbol it is to this country as a way of welcoming people to the United States.
When finishing ‘The Great Saunter’ in 2022, this was our last stop before heading back to Frances Tavern. Myself and my walking partner for the last four miles of the trip had talked most of the time about our careers and families and about why we took the walk. The time just flew from there. I learned that his wife and her friend had made it all the way to Inwood Park before they took the subway back downtown and then home.
Justin Watrel completing “The Great Saunter” officially in May of 2022
We walked to the registration desk in front of the Frances Tavern and collected our certificates that we completed the walk. We then took our picture with our certificates and then said our goodbyes. He then told me that probably could not have finished the walk without me and I felt the same way. I need someone to keep pace with me and help me finish this difficult day. I warmed up in the restaurant for a bit and then took the subway back uptown and then the bus home. Everything had to go in the dryer when I got home and air out. I finished the walk by 5:45pm taking me almost eleven hours to finish, a personal best.
In 2020 and July of 2022, I had just walked the entire east side of Manhattan and I have to tell you I was stiff by this point. I was ready to throw in the towel here and rest, but I pressed on wanting to get home at a decent time. I really misjudged how long it would take to get from the Battery to West 42nd Street. It is a decent amount of time even though it doesn’t look it on the map. You just have to distract yourself by looking at the coves and the artwork along the way.
In 2022, I walked past Fort Clinton, also known as Castle Clinton, where you buy tickets for the Statue of Liberty. The fort has had an interesting history. Built between 1809 to 1811, it has served as a fort in the early wars of the country, then an entertainment spot, an immigration outpost before Ellis Island was built, then the home of the New York Aquarium and now home to the start off point and history discussion on the Statue of Liberty (Wiki).
In 2021, I was much better prepared and had more walking time under my belt. I was in much better shape, so it did not tire me so much at this point of the walk. I was rearing to go after a half hour break.
I left Battery Park at 7:30pm and followed a crowd of people out of the park. Before I left the park for Battery Park City and its beautiful parks, I came across the sculpture “American Merchant Marines Memorial” at the edge of the Battery. The statue commemorates the thousands of merchant ships and crews that fought since the Revolutionary War (NYCParks.org).
The “American Merchant Marines Memorial” by artist Marisol Escobar
Ms. Escobar was born in Paris and raised in Venezuela and moved to New York in the 1950’s. She is known for her highly stylized boxy sculptures (NYCParks.org). She studied art at the Jepson Art Institute, the Ecole des Beaux Arts and Art Students League of New York (Wiki).
Another sculpture I missed on my first two walks around the island was the New York Korean Memorial by artist Mac Adams.
The statue is one of the first monuments to the Korean conflict built in the United States and the void in the sculpture represents the absence and loss of the war and a metaphor for death (NYCParks.org).
Artist Mac Adams is a British born artist who now lives in the New York area. He holds an MFA from Rutgers University. He is known for his large public works and for the use of ‘space between images’ (Wiki/Artist Bio).
I left Battery Park and entered into the newer extension of Robert Wagner Jr. Park next to Battery Park City. In the front part of the park, I came across these unusual musical instrument sculptures that graced the entrance of the park.
The art entitled “Resonating Bodies” were created by British born artist Tony Cragg, whose work I had seen uptown many times. The sculptures resemble a lute and a tuba. The work is based on the concept that all physical bodies including ourselves are constantly enveloped by various energy forms (NYCParks.org).
“Resonating Bodies” at Robert Wagner Jr. Park in Battery Park City
Mr. Cragg is a British born artist from Liverpool and studied at the Gloucestershire School of Art, received his BA from the Wimbledon School of Art and his MA from the Royal School of Art. He has been showing his works since 1977. He is best know for his contemporary sculptures (Artist Bio/Wiki).
I walked behind them as I travelled through the South Cove of Battery Park City. Not a lot of tourists know that this whole area is fill in of old piers on the fillers from the building of the original World Trade Center. Now the area sits apartment buildings with breathtaking views and well-landscaped parts. The South Cove was filled with small groups of people who were also not social distancing and very few masks. I think people were just throwing caution to the wind.
Don’t miss the twists and turns of the South Cove of Battery Park City
Another piece of art that I missed and saw in 2022 was ‘Ape and Cat at the Dance’ by artist Jim Dine. The sculpture of a cat and ape dancing cheek to cheek like humans had been inspired by the Henry James story of “The Madonna of the Future”. The Parks Department describes it as a ‘human like and asks us to reflect on ourselves”. (NYCParks.org/Downtown Alliance).
“The Ape and the Cat at the Dance” in Battery Park
Artist Jim Dine is an American born artist who studied at the University of Cincinnati, School of Fine Arts in Boston and graduated with a BFA from Ohio University. He is known for his many different mediums of sculpture, printmaking and drawing (Wiki).
Mother Cabrini was born in Italy as Maria Francesca Cabrini in 1850. She took her vows and founded the Missionary of the Sacred Heart. She immigrated to the United States in 1889 and continued her charity work, founding organizations and was the first naturalized citizen to be canonized (NYCbio/MotherCabrini.org/Wiki).
The work was created by artists Jill Burkee and Giancarlo Baigi.
Jill Burkee is a sculpture and draftswoman who studied at the Arts Students League of New York and the University of Washington and has studied in Italy. Giancarlo Baigi is a sculptor and multi-media artist. He also studied at the Arts Students League of New York and has a MA from Stagio Stagi in Peitrasanta in Italy (Arts Students League bio).
Another piece of art that I came across that I missed in the last two trips is “Apple” by artist Stephen Weiss. The piece was part of the ‘Larger than Life” series of the artist and symbolized the heart and core of life in New York City (Hudson River Park)
“The Apple” by artist Stephen Weiss in Hudson River Park
Artist Stephen Weiss was a New York born artist who had attended the Pratt Institute. He had worked for his family company and was the husband of designer, Donna Karan. He was known for his sculpture works (RoGallery).
When I walked the parks both North and South Coves in 2021, people were still having Graduation parties, small picnics and the restaurants had reopened both indoors and outdoors without masks. The parks, restaurants and lawns were really hopping that night.
From here it was following the path up to the North Cove of Battery Park City and the views of Jersey City. Each of the parks had unique landscaping and walkways that accented the buildings of the World Financial Center. It is hard to believe how damaged these were after the long days after 9/11. You would have never known with boats docked for dinner and people having picnics and wine in the shadows of these buildings.
I was pretty surprised as I walked through the park with more daylight time to spare that I came across what looked like an Egyptian Temple sitting in Battery Park. The sculpture building is entitled “The Upper Room” designed by artist Ned Smyth. This self-contained sculptural environment suggests a contemporary reimagining of an Egyptian temple offering a stylized sanctuary from the surrounding city (BPCA-NYC).
Mr. Smyth is an American born artist who born in NYC and works in NY. He has a BA from Kenyon College in Ohio. He is part of the Pattern and Design Movement of the 1970’s and known for his large-scale public works (Artist Bio/Artist Profile Bio).
As I started to pass some of the open air restaurants, I saw another piece of art that stood out which was a series of colored rings but could not get close enough to see the artist who created it. For another trip to the park.
The last piece of art that stood out to me on this trip through Battery Park was entitled “Days End” by artist David Hammons. It looked like the shell of an empty building and struck a nerve as the sun started to set on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. It is an ‘Open Air’ sculpture that explores the history of the neighborhood (Whitney Museum).
Mr. Hammons is an American born artist who studied at the Chouinard Art Institute (CalArts) and at Otis Art Institute. He is known for his Body Prints and sculpture work (Wiki/Artnet.com).
As the light started to fade in the evening as the sunset over Jersey City across the river, I started to fade too. I just singing to myself and kept encouraging myself to keep moving. I really wanted to finish even though my thighs were getting stiff, and my fingers looked like sausages. I was determined even though I wanted to stop. Every time I asked that question of myself I then said, ‘then why did I start the walk if I was not going to finish it?’
I stopped for a second to look at the sun setting in the backdrop of Jersey City and watched in wonder the beauty of it all. It is almost a reminder how much bigger the world is than us.
The Jersey City Waterfront at sunset
While I was walking through the parks, a few pieces of park sculpture stood out to me as I reached Hudson River Park in Chelsea. The long trek up Joe DiMaggio Highway made me more aware of my surroundings as I had to stop again. I came across the ‘Serpentine Sculptures’, these large twisting metal concoctions that graced the riverfront walkway.
These interesting, twisted sculptures are by American artist Mark Gabian who holds a BA in Art History and BFA in Sculpture from Cornell University (my Alma Mater!). Mr. Gabian’s sculptures can be seen all over the world. The artist has been quoted as saying he created monumental site-specific commissions in two or three dimensions’ (the artist’s website).
The last leg of the journey loomed in the distance as I saw the lights of the Hudson Yards in the distance like a mythical ‘Oz’ waiting for me. I saw the heliport and observation deck glittering in the distance and knew I had to reach it.
The Observation Deck and the glittering buildings are just a few blocks from the Port Authority Bus Terminal where my journey started, and I knew I was there. In 2020, I reached the Circle Line Pier again at 9:11pm in the evening and I celebrated by sitting on a boulder outside the ticket booth for fifteen minutes watching the security guard play on his cellphone. I did the same thing on the walk in July of 2022, but this time I made it at 8:55pm exactly fourteen hours after I stated.
I was not tired Per Se, but I was stiff all over. I could feel my thighs tighten up and my fingers and hands I had to shake several times to get proper circulation back into them. Still, I was not out of breath and was able to walk back to the Port Authority and make the 9:50pm bus out of New York City for home. I got home by 10:10pm almost sixteen hours later.
In 2020 and July of 2022, I walked the entire rim of Manhattan from top to bottom in fourteen hours. Not the twelve hours the Great Saunter Walk guide says but there is a lot more to it than just walking. You will need many bathroom, water and rest breaks along the way. Drink lots of water too. Still, it was a great walk and one for the blog!
In 2021, I arrived back at Hudson River Park at West 23rd Street just as the sun started to set over New Jersey and got to see the multi colors that were created in the sky. Mother Nature’s work of art for everyone to see.
I was not as tired on this trip as I had the year before. All that walking and training in Midtown Manhattan neighborhoods plus an overnight stay in the City to get an earlier start helped out tremendously. I finished the perimeter walk of the island in exactly fourteen hours, one hour more than 2020 but I stopped more times to admire public artworks, snack at restaurants and snack shops and walk through more parks and neighborhoods to see what was there. It was a more interesting trip where I did not rush it. I finished at 8:20pm in 2021.
For dinner that night, I stopped at Lions & Tigers & Squares at 268 West 23rd Street, where I had eaten many times for lunch after working at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (which I had mentioned many times in this blog). The restaurant features Detroit style pizza where the cheese and sauce are baked into the sides of the pizza and there is no crust. It is a type of Sicilian pizza with a twist to it.
I treated myself to a sausage pizza which was loaded with fried sweet sausage, caramelized onions and they put a dash of maple syrup on top to add to the complexity. God was that delicious! There is so much flavor in each bite. I was not even planning on eating there but the pizza cook waved me inside and then sold me on it. I was lucky that he did!
Do not miss the Sausage Slice at Lions & Tigers & Squares
It was another great trip around the Island of Manhattan trying new restaurants and visiting old ones, viewing wonderful public art in the open-air art museum that New York City is, touring interesting parks and feeling like part of the neighborhood.
In both 2020 and July of 2022 because I had to start at West 42nd Street and it was so late, I just dragged myself home. Even going from the Circle Line to the Port Authority took its efforts. I was so stiff both times that it took some effort just to walk those blocks. In May of 2021 since we started at the Frances Tavern, I took the subway back to Port Authority and dragged my wet body home. In 2021, I had a lot more spring to my step and walked to the Port Authority.
I think spending the night in the City and starting at West 23rd Street was the best way of doing the walk. You are in the City to start and do not have to start so far uptown. It seems that the walk goes quicker when you start further downtown. You have a lot more energy in the morning and get the West Side done when you have the energy to finish it. You are not exhausted by the time you reach Battery Park.
For people who say that New York City is going downhill during COVID, I say to you walk the whole island and you will see the heart of the City is in the people who live here and the contributions they make to keep the City as great as it is. Remember there is more to Manhattan than just Midtown and Times Square. There is so much more to see!
For all its troubles, in 2022 I can see that the City is slowly starting to come back and there are more tourists visiting than before. Will it ever get back to 2019? Yes, but it will take some time. We will just have to learn to accept that COVID will be part of our lives and we will have to adapt to it. I am not going to let it dictate my life.
I dedicate these walks to my father, Warren Watrel, as my Father’s Day Gift of Remembrance. To my dad for all the wonderful afternoons we spent in New York City on Father’s Day. I felt you by my side that afternoon.
I had passed Jimbo’s Hamburger Palace many times when walking the Sutton Place neighborhood of Manhattan for my project “MywalkinManhattan.com” and decided to come in for lunch. It is a small local restaurant and most of the customers obviously have been coming here for years since the guys at the grill seemed to know everyone. Most of the locals in the neighborhood were sitting at the counter, kidding around with the cooks who seemed to know everyone by either name or site.
Jimbo’s is a small diner type restaurant on First Avenue and one of those small hole in the wall restaurants that every neighborhood needs and are now becoming a dying breed in areas all over Manhattan. Lucky that this wonderful…
While I was walking around the Sutton East neighborhood on the border of Sutton Place and Turtle Bay, I came across Lin’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 1097 Second Avenue. What looks like another run of the mill hole in the wall Chinese takeout place is anything but when it comes to the taste of their food and quality of the dishes.
What is nice is that they have a good lunch combination menu with a wide selection of dishes to choose from all in the $8.00 to $8.50 price range. Each of the lunch selections comes with a side of either pork fried, brown or white rice and a choice of soup or an eggroll. The portion sizes are quite large and it…
I have been running in and out of the City since I started teaching classes again at the college and had a ‘bucket list’ of small museums that I wanted to visit for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” and restaurants I wanted to try before the Summer was over. So there was a lot of running around the last several weeks. That’s why the blogs come out a little later than usual.
I got back to finishing my walk around ‘Midtown East’ by walking the only two Avenues inside the neighborhoods borders, Madison and Park Avenues from East 43rd Street (which hugs the Turtle Bay neighborhood) and East 59th Street (which hugs the Upper East Side & Sutton Place). On the Avenues in this part of the neighborhood is mostly residential and commercial spaces with rows glass boxes on some streets and limestone and marble residential buildings one the others. There is a lot of sameness in the architecture here but don’t let that fool you. There are a lot of interesting things to see and places to visit in this very much working modern neighborhood.
My walk started on Madison Avenue’s commercial district at the start of East 43rd Street where a giant new glass box is being created right next to Grand Central Station. Probably not Mr. Vanderbilt’s vision for the area but I think he would have been impressed by the progress the area has experienced in the last 100 years.
My first stop is admiring and walking into the headquarters of Brooks Brothers Clothing store at 346 Madison Avenue, one of the most American and famous clothing stores in the United States. Stepping into Brooks Brothers is like a step back into time when shopping was still experience and customer service actually meant something. Their displays are elegant without being stuffy.
The elegant displays at Brooks Brothers main floor (now closed)
The store was designed by architects La Farge & Morris in 1915 the Italian Renaissance design with prominent arched entrances, wrought iron arches and carved limestone details around the building. You can see the detail work in the cornices that line the top of the building.
The Brooks Brothers headquarters at 346 Madison Avenue (the now closed headquarters)
Another great clothing store is Paul Stuart at Madison Avenue and East 45th Street. The store has been in business since 1938 and carries some of the most impressive clothing and accessories for Men and Women.
Paul Stuart Specialty Store at Madison & East 45th Street
The store was a privately held family business until December of 2012 and then it was sold it’s long time partner, Mitsui. The store has changed a lot since the sale. It once had some of the best customer service in all the specialty stores in Manhattan but when I went to visit on this trip in my shorts and polo, the three sales people on the floor at the time ignored me. It’s not the same store with the orange carpet and older, more mature salespeople.
The Men’s Department after the renovation
When you get to Madison and 55th Street, watch for the security as this is the back section of Trump Tower and East 55th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues is blocked off by barriers and armed NYPD detectives and police. Only one side of the street is open here so it is best to keep walking.
Another impressive building on Madison Avenue is at 550 Madison Avenue, the old AT&T Building with its signature ‘Chippendale’ roof. This building was considered radical and innovative at the same time when AT&T built it to house their world headquarters. The 37 story building was designed by famed architect Philip Johnson in 1984 in the postmodern design. Critics called it ‘Chippendale’ after the famed furniture due to the ‘open pediment’ look of the top of the building based on English furniture design (Wiki). The building is currently have some lobby renovations that I passed.
Next to the AT&T Building is the IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue. This 41 story building was built in 1983 by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes & Associates and developed by IBM and designed in the post-modern design (Wiki).
The IBM Building at 590 Madison Avenue & East 57th Street
Because of the zoning laws established in 1916, there is a beautiful and relaxing open atrium filled with food kiosis and art work for the public to enjoy on the ground level. It is a nice place to relax after a long walk. Take time to admire the art works that line the atrium.
The Atrium at the IBM Building
One piece of art that stands out is the red geometric sculpture on the corner of Madison and East 57th Street is the great artist Alexander Calder “Saurien” (which is a large reptile), that was created by the artist in his studio in 1975. This is an example of Calder’s “Stoic” work and were called ‘stabiles’ because these abstract works, unlike his floating works of art, stand strongly and firmly into the ground (Art Nerd 2018).
The Alexander Calder sculpture, “Saurien” (now replaced by another sculpture by artist Joel Shapiro)
Walk around this wonderful work by Calder and try to take a breath and understand what the artist was trying to say. It is almost like all the ‘legs’ on the sculpture are trying to show stability and contrast.
Inside the atrium, there are two interesting pieces of artwork that standout. There are two colorful acrylic apples that are done in colorful motifs that you should not miss. The sculptures were created in 2004 for the “Big Apple Fest” to promote the City’s tourism. Companies paid $8,500.00 to sponsor and $12,500 to keep the apples in which artists were allowed to decorate inside or outside.
One of them is entitled “A Day in the Big Apple” by an artist named Billy.
‘A Day in the Big Apple’ by artist Billy
The other is of a colorful face by artist Romero Britto entitled “New York Future”.
“New York Future” by artist Romero Britto
Romero Britto is a Brazilian born American artist whose colorful works elude the optimism the artist has on his view of the world. He uses bold and colorful patterns to enhance his works (Artist Bio).
When you reach the edge of the neighborhood at East 59th Street, you are greeted by the former GM Building that stretches from Fifth to Madison Avenues. This elegant 50 story building once represented the presence of GM in New York City. It was designed by the architectural firms of Edward Durell Stone & Associates and Emery Roth & Sons in 1968. It was designed in the “International Style” and stands guard at the end of the commercial district of Midtown East and the Upper East Side.
As you cross back down Madison Avenue on East 59th Street, you will notice the ever-changing retail landscape and all the empty storefronts on this part of Madison Avenue. Twenty years ago, this would not have existed, but it is a sign of the times.
The details of the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street
Another interesting building to admire is the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street on the corner of Madison Avenue. The building was created for the Fuller Construction Company in 1929 by architects Walker & Gillette in the ‘Art Deco Style’. The building’s exterior sculptures were designed by architect Elie Nadelman. Look at the interesting details not just on the outside of the building but walk into the lobby to take a look around (Wiki).
One of the great hotels in New York City stands guard at 455 Madison Avenue and 50th Street, the New York Palace Hotel (formerly the Helmsley Palace Hotel) which is a combination of an old mansion and the modern building behind it. The front of the building facing Madison Avenue is the former Villard Mansion.
The front of the hotel is the “Villard Houses” created in 1882 for Henry Villard, a railroad financier, who worked with the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to create a series of six brownstone townhouses facing a courtyard in the ‘Italian Neo-Renaissance style’. Developer Harry Hemsley leased the houses and hired Emery Roth & Sons to create the 55 story modern hotel in the back of the houses.
The Villard Houses part of the New York Palace Hotel
The hotel opened in 1981 as the notorious ‘Helmsley Palace Hotel’ with hotelier Leona Helmsley in charge. Considered one of the best hotels at the time, it was a five star/five diamond hotel (with one of the most nervous staffs in New York City). The hotel has been owned by Lotte Hotels & Resorts since 2015.
The inside of the New York Palace Hotel, the Villard Houses
Take time to walk through the hotel from the East 50th Street entrance to the East 49th Street exit and walk around the public rooms and admire the architectural details from the Gilded Age. There are elegant features from staircases to marble fireplaces and the most beautiful views on Madison Avenue.
I found this pardon of the Helmsley Hotel on YouTube. It is very clever.
Another older hotel that stands out is the Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 45th Street. It stands guard next to Grand Central Station. The hotel opened in 1924 and was designed by the architectural firm of George P. Post & Son for businessman, Frank A. Dudley and it was ran by United Hotels Company from a leased agreement with the New York Central Railroad. Like the other hotels that line Lexington Avenue, there used to be a separate passageway from the railroad to the hotel (Wiki).
The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street (currently closed)
This is similar hotel to take the time to walk through the lobby and look at the vaulted ceilings and the Gilded Age details of the hotels with its thick carpets and elegant staircases. The hotel has a somewhat dark, more European feel to it. There is a lobby restaurant when open that looks pretty interesting.
The entrance to the lobby at the Roosevelt Hotel
As you walk around Grand Central Terminal and through the archway pedestrian tunnels that lead to Park Avenue from East 45th to East 46th Streets, you will be traveling under the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue that stands guard at the beginning to the business and residential neighborhood of Park Avenue.
The Helmsley Building was built in 1929 as the New York Central Building for the rail company and was designed by architects Warren & Wetmore, who also designed Grand Central Terminal, in the ‘Beaux-Arts style’. Take time to admire the statuary around the clock that dominates its front and the beautiful stone detail work of the exterior of the building.
The beautiful details of the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue
The New York Central used the building as its starting point of “Terminal City”, a series of buildings and hotels that the railroad developed on the top of the rail line (Wiki). The true beauty of The Helmsley Building is at night when the owners put on a light show illuminating the building with colorful spotlights.
The Helmsley Building light show after dark
All along Park Avenue is a series of ‘glass boxes’ for office buildings and residential towers that line the Avenue all the way up to East 96th Street at the exit of the rail line. Along the way, there are some interesting examples of architecture that line Park Avenue.
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue is currently closed and under scaffolding awaiting its new life as a small hotel and condo complex. The hotel, as mentioned in previous blogs in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, was built and opened in 1931. It was designed by the architectural firm of Schultz & Weaver in the ‘Art Deco style’ and is probably one of the most famous and talked about hotels in New York City outside the Plaza Hotel (Wiki). There have been so many movies and TV shows filmed and written about the hotel to count and the restaurants inside the hotel were some of the better ones in New York City. The building will open sometime in the future.
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue (currently under renovation)
St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 325 Park Avenue is one of the older buildings on Park Avenue and stands alone amongst the bigger buildings on this part of Avenue. Though the congregation was started in 1835, this structure was built between 1916-17 and designed by Bertram Goodhue, who had designed the St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue (See Walking the Border of Midtown East-MywalkinManhattan). The church was designed in the ‘Byzantine Revival Design’ and he was required by the congregation to retain the old church portal from the former church on Madison Avenue and East 44th Street in the new church design (Wiki).
Look at the details of the old church and the stained-glass windows. In the Summer months, there is a wonderful (yet somewhat over-priced) restaurant in the courtyard of the church and there are art markets during the Summer and Christmas holiday season that you should visit. There is also afternoon music at certain times of the year.
St. Bart’s restaurant and terrace during the summer
One standout, innovative building on Park Avenue sits between East 52nd and 53rd Streets is the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue. The building and its exterior designs were created by German American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with the interior Four Seasons Restaurant designed by American architect Philip Johnson.
This 38-story building of wonder was innovative in its time. Finished in 1958 as the corporate headquarters of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, the building was noted for its ‘functional aesthetics’ and a prominent example of ‘corporate modern architecture’. Keeping up with modern building codes, the architect used ‘non-structural bronze I-beams and large glass windows’ to create the cool and well-toned exterior structure of the building (Wiki).
Also utilizing the 1916 building code and the new use of open public spaces, the building was one of the first in New York City to embrace the open-air plaza that was prevalent in the 1980’s and early 90’s design. It was an extremely innovative design at the time and still sets the standard for the modern ‘glass box’.
Seagram Building Plaza, innovative to its time
One of the last stand out buildings that I saw on Park Avenue before my walk back down the Avenue was at 465 Park Avenue, The Ritz Tower, an apartment hotel. This elegant residential building stands out because of its details on the exterior of the building and I later learned it was once home to the famous French restaurant, La Pavilion.
This elegant building was designed by architects Emory Roth and Thomas Hastings for journalist Arthur Brisbane, who was the developer. The apartment hotel was managed by the Ritz-Carlton Company. The exterior of the building has many carved stone features so look closely from the other side of Park Avenue to admire the detail work. Don’t stare too long because the doorman gets a suspicious look if you look too long. He kept looking me over as I admired the building and the read the plaques.
Look at the elegant details of the Ritz Tower
Up and down the Park Avenue Mall is the work of artist Alex Katz “Park Avenue Departure”, of which it looks like the back of a woman who is walking away from some place. The work is a depiction of the artist’s wife, Ada. Each of the works along the mall is changed slightly to show the sculpture in motion as if it is walking down the mall. This street art exhibition will run through November 2019 (The Fund for Park Avenue).
Alex Katz’s Park Avenue Mall exhibit “Park Avenue Departure” (closed in December 2019)
American artist Alex Katz who was born in Brooklyn, NY and is a graduate of Cooper Union Art College. His long career has seen many changes in art form and today some of his concentrations are in landscape and portraiture. His work can be seen in museums all over the world.
For lunch and dinner that afternoon, I ate at Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop at 139 East 45th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues (See reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). After a long day of walking, I treated myself to a plate of mixed roasted meats, duck and pork, with a side of rice ($9.00) and an egg roll ($1.38). Their roasted meats are a lacquered delight with the rich, crackling skin of the duck worth every bite. The food here is delicious and so reasonable for Midtown East.
By the end of the evening, I got a chance to double back around the Helmsley Building and look at the detail work of that structure as well and then walked up and down the tiny Vanderbilt Avenue between East 45th and 47th Streets that line next to Grand Central Terminal. The most notable building on this block is the Yale Club at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue. The famous clubhouse was designed by Yale Alumnus and architect James Gramble Rodgers, and it opened in 1915.
The Yale Club at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue; notice the plaque to Nathan Hale on the bottom left
The most notable item outside the club is the historical mark where supposedly Patriot Nathan Hale was hung. There is a conflict to where it actually took place and there is another site on the Upper East Side (See Walking the Upper East Side Streets in MywalkinManhattan), where that plaque is outside the local Pier One. I personally like that theory better. Where else in American could a Patriot of the Revolutionary War be hung in that two hundred years later would house a retailer that sells Christmas chukkas made in China?
That’s what I love about Manhattan!
Check out my other blogs on Walking Midtown East:
Day One Hundred and Forty-Three-Walking the Borders of Midtown East:
I covered the edges and the Avenues of Turtle Bay recently and it was time to walk all the streets. To cover the rather odd shaped part of the neighborhood, I walked from East 58th Street to East 48th from Lexington Avenue to Second Avenue first and on the second part of the walk, I covered from East 47th to East 44th Streets from Lexington Avenue to the East River on the second part of the walk to complete the neighborhood. I criss crossed some of the same blocks so I might be pointing things out for a second time that you should not miss seeing. Even amongst the all the modern architecture, there are many beautiful things to admire here.
It is an interesting mix of buildings and residential use and a neighborhood in much transition as it is becoming more commercial and more like Midtown as the small neighborhood feel is surrounded by glass tower apartment buildings and offices. The side streets still keep a localized charm while the Avenues have given way to the big towers. Here you can see the distinct difference in the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. The West Side has not lost that charm on the Avenues.
I started the walk revisiting 58th Street and walked past all the bath and home design shops that line the street. It is an interesting block of old brownstones and prewar apartment buildings fitted for all the small businesses. One stand out on the block was Bon Vivant at 231 East 58th Street Petit Fours and drinks (See reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com).
Bon Vivant’s display at 231 East 58th Street (Closed August 2022)
This charming little bakery had the most whimsical little cakes for $3.50 for a small and $6.50 for a large. The cakes come in various flavors but do try the Lavender with its fusion of lavender petals and sweet fondant outside studded with flavors. Its a nice place to eat in and just watch the street traffic go by.
Their delicious Lavender Cake
At the end of the block on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 58th Street is the Bloomberg Building at 731 Lexington Avenue. Designed by architect Cesar Pelli & Associates, the building opened in 2004 to house the Bloomberg Company headed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The building holds the offices and meeting areas for the company as well as the back part of the building which is connected by a seven-story courtyard to hold the residences. This impressive building replaced the empty and now defunct Alexander’s Department Store which had closed years earlier.
The impressive Bloomberg Tower dominates the northwest corner of the Turtle Bay neighborhood at 731 Lexington Avenue
As you round Lexington Avenue onto East 57th Street, you will notice the mix of old and new buildings with a collection of old grand hotels and modern office buildings. The street itself is lined with all sorts of businesses catering to the busy Midtown customer. On stand out business is Royal-Athena Galleries at 153 East 57th Street (See my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com-Closed in 2022), which carries ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek art of museum quality at all prices.
It is part museum and part store. It is like visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and seeing price tags on all the artworks. Everything here is authenticated and anything over $5,000 is registered with the Art Loss Registry in London so you know where it comes from. Don’t miss walking through the gallery cases and tables to see all the beautiful items.
Royal-Athena Gallery 153 East 57th Street (closed in January 2022)
Also, part of the shopping district is the iconic Hammacher Schlemmer store at 147 East 57th Street, which has been in this location since 1926. The company was founded in New York City as a hardware store for finding hard to find tools in 1848 in the Bowery district downtown. The company was founded by Charles Tollner and R. Stern with Albert Hammacher investing in the company in 1859. William Schlemmer bought out Charles Tollner part of the company in the 1860’s. It stayed in the family until 1953 when it was sold to investors (Company History).
The store is like a playground for adults with all sorts of unusual items on sale like fishing equipment, survival kits, transportation vehicles and clothing and accessories not found in the department stores.
The Hammacher Schlemmer store at 147 East 57th street
Rounding the corner on Second Avenue towards East 56th Street, you will pass the unassuming High School of Art & Design at 245 East 56th Street, which is closed for the school year except for a few students taking summer classes and their gallery which is still open to the public. I went to see the “Honors Illustration Show” in the John B. Kenny Gallery, which was still opened when I was walking the neighborhood.
The High School of Art & Design at 245 East 56th Street
I only got to spend about a half hour viewing the show which dealt in different media forms with the theme of social justice, social media, racism and phobias in modern society. The graduating students created their works in all media aspects including painting and quilts, which I thought was interesting.
The John B. Kenny Gallery at the High School of Art & Design
The Kenny Gallery was named after John B. Kenny who was one of four art teachers that founded the school in 1936. He became principal of the school in 1941. Originally named the School of Industrial Arts, the name was changed to the High School of Art & Design in 1960 when the school moved to its currently location (School History page).
After saying my goodbyes to the security staff for letting me spend time alone in the gallery I turned the corner at Lexington Avenue and walked down East 55th Street towards Second Avenue again. I passed the Central Synagogue, which is the second oldest continuous Synagogue in New York and the oldest in the City. Designed by architect Henry Fernbach between 1870-72, the building was designed in Moorish Revival.
I admired the Central Synagogue on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 55th Street at 652 Lexington Avenue
Walking down the street, I revisited some of the sites I had seen before. On the corner of Third Avenue and East 55th is the original P.J. Clarke’s Restaurant at 915 Third Avenue which was jammed with people for happy hour.
P.J. Clarke’s has been in this location since 1884 at 915 Third Avenue
This famous restaurant has been in business since 1884 and is named after Patrick J. Clarke who bought it from the original owner after ten years of working there. The restaurant is currently privately owned. When you look at the structure, the building is a holdout wraparound of 919 Third Avenue when the rest of the block was torn down. The building was built around the bar. This makes it really stand out.
Look for the sculpture, ‘Red Flying Group’ in front of 909 Third Avenue by artist Ann Gillen. This unusual sculpture really stands out for its bold design. Ms. Gillen was raised in Brooklyn and is a graduate of both Pratt and Columbia University. As an artist, she is noted for her use of Greek theory of matter which uses geometric forms to explain spatial relationships. When she creates a piece, she considers the work’s axis, resistance to gravity, the manner of construction and the color dynamic. This really shows in this particular piece (Wiki and Artist Bio).
The Red Flying Group outside of 909 Third Avenue by artist Ann Gillen
Making the next turn onto East 54th Street from Second to Third Avenue on the corner of Third Avenue that stretches from East 54th to East 53rd is the well-known ‘Lipstick Building’. The building was completed in 1986 by John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson and is called the ‘Lipstick Building’ because of the ‘set-backs’ that were required by the zoning laws for use of light. With its oval design and pinkish hue, it almost looks like a retracting lipstick. An oval building really stands out among the rest of the glass boxes along Third Avenue (Wiki and Builders history). The building had been featured in the papers recently being the offices of Bernie Madoff and his major Ponzi scheme.
The Lipstick Building that looks like a ‘contracting lipstick’
When crossing back from East 54th to East 53rd by Lexington Avenue again please notice all the turn of the last century architecture in both the office buildings and hotels (See this on Day One Hundred & Thirty-Eight Walking the borders and Avenues June 2019). This line of hotels was built to accommodate the railroad patrons coming into New York City from Grand Central Station.
At 599 Lexington Avenue in the lobby of the building at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 53rd Street, look into the glass lobby and notice the colorful sculpture “Salto nel Mio Sacco” by New York artist Frank Stella. This colorful ad whimsical piece translates to ‘Jump into my Sack’ (Art Nerd).
Frank Stella is a New York City artist who had worked in many mediums before being influenced by the abstract artists of the 50’s and 60’s like Jasper Johns. His use of many materials and colors reflex in his artwork. This piece which is made in aluminum and colorful paints in a three-dimensional form with all different shapes on top of one another. This bold work was quoted by the artist in saying, “the essential issue is to have a sense of form without it being illustrational, to make things that impress the eyesight and have an impact”. (New York Times McGill 1986).
Walking towards Second Avenue into the heart of Turtle Bay, you will notice a series of excellent restaurants on both side of the street. You will also begin to notice more brownstones and small apartment buildings which gives this part of Turtle Bay its character which is rapidly disappearing. You can wonder amongst the ethnic restaurants and small retail stores tucked into the block.
East 52nd Street offers its charms as well full of brownstones and small apartment buildings. The Consulate of Hungary takes up a large portion between Second and Third Avenues and tall office buildings line the Avenue.
Look up and notice the detailed stonework of 240 East 52nd Street with its carved windows and stone faces staring at you from every direction as you pass by. The building was built in 1900 and is considered an “Old Law Tenement” which means that it is built in a dumbbell shape to let in natural light and fresh air.
At the end of the block as you walk down Lexington Avenue to East 51st Street is the famous subway grates that were featured in the 1955 movie, “The Seven Year Itch” with Marilyn Monroe. The famous scene was shot here at night and took 14 times to film to get it right.
The grates today that I walked on top of and did not know.
The famous 1955 scene in the movie
When walking down East 51st Street from Lexington Avenue you will notice more hotels popping up not just on the Avenue but on the side streets as wellbeing refigured into older buildings. I revisited the old RCA Headquarters at 570 Lexington Avenue which was designed by architects Cross & Cross in the Gothic style. You really have to look up and around the building to see the details in it. Try to look at the building from a distance to see its sculpture work and admire the ‘GE’ clock outside the entrance.
One place that I found and is such a nice place to just sit and relax is the Greenacre Park at 217 East 51st Street. This wonderful little park is situated between two buildings and has nice shade trees and benches to relax on and go down the stairs and you will come to a waterfall and streams on the side where the water replenishes itself.
Greenacre Park was built between 1970 and 1971 by Abby Rockefeller Mauze, who founded the Greenacre Foundation in 1971 who still maintains the park. The park was designed by architect Hideo Sasaki and Harmon Goldstone. The park is privately owned but open to the public (Greenacre Foundation).
The park is composed of three levels. The lowest level has a 25-foot waterfall composed of huge, sculptured granite blocks with the east wall trickling down its face to form a brook along the sidewalk. The central level is landscaped with locust trees and small chairs and tables and then there is a raised terrace which has a trellis roof to protect park goers and there is a small snack shop, Carol’s Cafe, (See review on TripAdvisor) offering a variety of refreshments (Greenacre Foundation).
I ate at Carol’s Cafe one afternoon when visiting the neighborhood and the food is very good. I had a cheeseburger ($8.95) that was loaded with fresh veggies and one of the coldest cans of Coke ($1.00) I had in a long time. It was fun to eat at one of the tables and just relax (Beware though and check your bill. These people can Bait and Switch on posting their prices).
Carol’s Cafe offers delicious food at reasonable prices but check your bill!
Across the street from the park is another really nice and very reasonable restaurant, The Pho 6 at 222 East 51st Street (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). It is a Vietnamese restaurant offering some of the simplest and freshest food since my trip to Vietnam back in 2016.
The Pho 6 for very reasonable Vietnamese food at 222 East 51st Street (Closed August 2020)
The room is done all in woods and the walls, tables and chairs are all made of the same material which makes for interesting decor. The food is delicious. I had an order of Pork Spring Rolls ($6.00) which were crisp and full of ground pork and fresh veggies and Vermicelli Noodles with grilled Shrimp ($10.00) which was studded with fresh shrimp and topped with assorted greens. The whole meal was wonderful and very reasonable for what I ate.
The delicious Pork Spring Rolls at The Pho 6
After lunch, I continued to walk down East 51st Street to round Lexington Avenue again to East 50th Street and look at the details and renovations of the old hotels lining this part of the Avenue. The Waldorf-Astoria which sits between East 50th and 49th Streets is currently going though a major renovation to make it part hotel and part condo.
The Waldorf-Astoria at 301 Park Avenue was opened in 1931 replacing the original hotel where the Empire State Building now sits. The hotel was designed in Art Deco design by architects Schultz & Weaver. The hotel when finished will contain 350 condos and 350 hotel rooms with most of the public rooms reopened. It will be interesting to see the results.
The Benjamin Hotel at 125 East 50th Street sits across from the Waldorf-Astoria and recently went through a major renovation and is open for business. The former Hotel Beverly was built between 1926-27 by architect Emery Roth and was designed in Romanesque Motif with pelican and owl sculptures around it. The hotel currently was named after Benjamin J. Denihan Sr., who is the new owner of the hotel (New York Landmarks).
The rest of East 50th Street is dotted with mom-and-pop businesses, pre-war apartment buildings and Consulates being so close to the United Nations. Here and there there are still brownstones letting you know that Turtle Bay is exists alongside the commercial district.
East 49th Street is graced by The Barclay InterContinental Hotel which sits at the entrance of the neighborhood at 111 East 48th Street. The hotel stretches from East 49th to East 48th Streets. Designed by architects Cross & Cross in 1926 in the neo-Federal Colonial Style the hotel was part of Terminal City as part of the Grand Central complex and had been owned by the Vanderbilt family (Wiki).
The InterContinental Barclay Hotel at 111 East 48th Street
Walking down East 49th Street to Third Avenue you will see the historic Smith & Wollensky Restaurant at 797 Third Avenue which has been serving the neighborhood since 1897 when it was called Manny Wolf’s Steakhouse. The restaurant was opened by Allan Stillman, the founder of T.G.I. Fridays in 1977 and who still owns the original restaurant (the rest of the chain is privately owned). Known for their USDA Grade A Prime Meats, the restaurant is still a popular neighborhood institution (Company History and Wiki).
This building like the rest of the neighborhood has seen the change in times as it too is surrounded by a glass skyscraper at 797 Third Avenue
Ms. Werner is a Manhattan based fine artist who studied at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. She has created what is called ‘interactive art’ with the ‘Etazin’ an outdoor lounge chair. She was quoted by saying she was creating “large pieces that were both beautiful and useful.” (JustLux 2017)
Further down the street is lined with brownstones which is the back part of the Turtle Bay Gardens that line East 48th Street. The lovely stretch of brownstones is residential and also houses more Consulates. Many of these historic homes were built in the 1860’s.
When you double back to Third Avenue look up at 780 Third Avenue to the murals by Brazilian graffiti artist, Eduardo Kobra, who has three murals in the neighborhood. The one on the right side of the building on East 49th Street is of an exhausted fire fighter who fought bravely on 9/11. The 343 represents the number of fire fighters killed that day and pays honor to them.
The 9/11 Tribute to Fallen Fire Fighters by Eduardo Kobra on the East 49th Street side of the building
On the other side of the building is another mural by Mr. Kobra “Genius is to Bike Ride”, which is a commentary of the new bike lanes in New York City. Mr. Kobra is weighing in on the debate of adding bicycle lanes on New York streets to relieve traffic. The mural is of Albert Einstein riding a bicycle. Einstein was rumored to have come up with some of his best ideas while riding a bicycle (780 Third Avenue building history).
“Genius is to Bike Ride” by Eduardo Kobra on the East 48th Street side of the building
As I finished that afternoon at East 48th Street, I walked past these murals again taking a good glance of the vibrant colors, the detail work and the message each was trying to tell of the City. Mr. Kobra knows how to tell a story in his paintings.
I finished walking down East 49th Street and stopped abruptly to see the building at 225-227 East 49th Street. It looked like a creepy old fraternity house. It was built in 1900 as a Converted Dwelling/Rooming House and now contains apartments. Look at the writing carved in the doorway from 1926 and unusual coat of arms that greets you at the doorway with the words “Erected in the Year 1926”, whatever that means carved over the entranceway. It looks more like ‘enter if you dare’.
I completed the top part of the neighborhood by walking part the Turtle Bay Garden Historic District homes again, looking at these historic brownstones that were built in the 1860’s and how luck they were saved by Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan in the 1920’s. She bought these twelve historic homes, renovated them to modern feel and restored them to their former glory combining the homes with the brownstones on East 49th Street so that they all looked out on a common garden. Don’t miss admiring the work that was done on them and that the owners still continue into today.
The Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District on East 48th Street between Second and Third Avenues
At 237 East 48th Street at the Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District there is a plaque to Dorothy Thompson, a journalist who lived in the home from 1941-1957. Her novel “I saw Hitler” and her column ‘One the Record’ were influential in calling for the intervention of America into World War II. She was one of the first female foreign correspondents in the 1930’s and had been expelled from Germany right before the war.
Dorothy Thompson, Turtle Bay resident, journalist and foreign correspondent
Also near the brownstones is a modern home by William Lescaze at 211 East 48th Street, the Father of the Modernist Movement and the designer and builder of this historic home that served as his living quarters and studio. It may not seem that radical today but it was when it was designed in 1934.
I finished my first day of walking the streets of the upper part of the neighborhood and I was exhausted by the heat. The weather had gotten to me. Turtle Bay has a lot to do and see. Here and there is tucked another gem that you can only see by walking around the neighborhood.
I came back to explore the streets of Turtle Bay after a long day in the Soup Kitchen. They had me working in the prep kitchen making salads and cutting vegetables for the next day’s service, so I was tired when I arrived in the neighborhood. It was a little cooler then the first day around 80 degrees, so it was more pleasant to walk around and take my time.
I started with lunch at Lin’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 1097 Second Avenue by 57th Street (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). This was my second time at the restaurant having lunch and I highly recommend it. I order the Shredded Beef with Hot Spicy Sauce with pork fried rice and hot & sour soup ($8.25). The food was excellent and perfect on a hot day as it seemed to cool me down.
Lin’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 1097 Second Avenue
The beef was cut in very thin slices like the accompanying vegetables and was cooked with hot chilies to give it some bite. The dish was studded with shredded carrots and celery, so it was a nice combination of flavors. They did not skip on the beef, and it was a generous portion. The hot & sour soup also had its share of chilies and the whole meal woke me up and I was ready to walk again.
After lunch, I started my day walking down First Avenue to East 47th Street and started by taking a break in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, which I had read was the comprise of the grand entrance to the United Nations complex. This popular park is full of nice shade trees, benches, a small restaurant and the Katharine Hepburn Garden.
The park and many of the surrounding buildings to the park were named after Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjold who was born in 1905 to the former Prime Minister of Sweden in World War One, Hjalmar Hammarskjold. Mr. Hammarskjold had served many government and educational positions over the years in Sweden until 1953 when he was asked to serve as Secretary-General of the United Nations. His work in Middle East Peace talks, involvement in the Suez Canal dispute and work in operations in the Republic of Congo earned him a reputation in the United Nations. He died in a plane crash near Norther Rhodesia in 1961 and was post humorously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961 (NYCParks.org).
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza has been part of the NYC Parks system since the land was acquired in 1948 and was renamed for him in 1961. In 1997, the park had a major reconstruction which created a symmetrical layout from north to south. The same year the Katharine Hepburn Garden was created on the south side of the park. The Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza was formed to raise funds for the park, organize events and keep the place clean (NYCParks.org).
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Turtle Bay
The Katharine Hepburn Garden, which is inside of the park, is a quiet oasis from the hustle of the city. Ms. Hepburn, one of most accomplished American actors, moved to Turtle Bay in 1932 with her then husband, Ludlow Ogden Smith, had joined the Turtle Bay Association in 1957 and was instrumental in keeping construction from encroaching into the neighborhood. In 1997, the community got together and dedicated this garden in her honor for the work she did in the neighborhood and for her love of gardening and flowers. It is so peaceful to walk along this path and just look at the plantings.
Across the street from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza is the Japan Society at 337 East 48th Street. It was founded in 1907 to promote friendly relationships with the United States and over the years has promoted Japanese art and culture, held lectures and hosted Japanese dignitaries and royalty. During the strained times of World War II, the Society did not take sides politically and closed for time. In 1971, under the direction of then President John D. Rockefeller III the organization grew, and a new building was opened, the Japan House, designed by architect Junzo Yushimura. It became the first building in New York of Japanese contemporary design. It now hosts many exhibitions and social functions. When I was visiting the neighborhood, they were promoting their film festival which I attended. That was a lot of fun.
I saw four excellent films including the release of the musical “Dance with Me” which was a light weight and fun musical. The director knew what he was doing when he wanted to create escapism from the troubles outside. I can’t wait for the Society to open their Fall exhibition.
Watch ‘Dance with Me’ the opening film to the Film Festival
At the end of the block right on the island on First Avenue in front of the United Nations Building is the monument to Raoul Wallenberg. You could almost miss them (I did twice look for them) but they stand like so many black pillars in a row at 300-386 East 47th Street.
The Raoul Wallenberg Monument
Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish citizen who was educated in the United States in the 1930’s and when he returned to Europe was recruited by the U. S. Refugee Board to go to Hungary to save as many Hungarian Jews as possible. His and his colleagues’ efforts help save over 100,000 Jewish citizens by issuing protection from the Swedish Government. His own ending was more tragic in that when the Soviets entered Budapest he disappeared (Wiki).
The monument by designers Gustav and Ulla Kraitz are made of Swedish black disbase and bronze and were dedicated in 1998. Take time to look at the inscriptions on each of the five pillars. Gustav Kraitz is from Hungary and studied at the Art Academy in Budapest when the war broke out. He fled to Sweden in 1956 after the invasion of Hungary and stayed on as a visiting professor. There he met his wife; Ulla and they continue their artwork together and apart.
A store that stood out when walking past it was the Gabrielle Carlson Studio at 501 Lexington Avenue near East 47th Street (moved to 1034A Lexington Avenue in 2022). The clothes in the window really stand out for the vibrant and almost jewel like colors in deep greens, red and purples. The side tables are lined with custom ‘Made in New York’ jewelry. If you are lucky to meet Ms. Carlson like I did she can give you advice and help dress, you for the office or a nice evening out on the town.
A satisfied customer outside Gabrielle Carlson Studio
As I walked down East 46th Street I passed Sparks Steakhouse at 210 East 46th Street. Well- known for their food and service it was also the spot of the assassination of ‘Big” Paul Castellano, the Boss of the Gambino Crime Family in December 1985. This ‘hit’ took place right outside the restaurant and the gunmen fled down Second Avenue. This still casts a shadow on an excellent restaurant for those of us who remember the incident.
Artwork seems like it is all over this neighborhood especially when I crossed onto East 45th Street and was greeted by the painting “Youth Employment” tucked into the side of the building by artist Cenzano.
Youth Employment by Cenz
When walking in the other direction on East 44th Street I saw the painting by artist Faith XLVII, “Gender Equality”.
These paintings that were created so close to the United Nations to promote programs such as youth employment, child labor laws, green jobs, gender equality at work and forced labor (Brooklyn Street Art).
Faith XLVII is an international artist who is based in Los Angeles. Through her works she attempts to disarm the strategies of global realpolitik in order to advance the expression of personal truth. In this way her work is both an internal and spiritual release that speaks to the complexities of human condition its deviant histories and existential search (Artist Bio).
I passed ‘Zuma’ again in front of the Nigerian Consulate created by artist Billy Omebegho and have to say it does pack a punch.
I finished my walk at the James P. Grant Plaza at East 44th Street and First Avenue. I needed a rest from all the walking and from the heat. The cool waterfalls and chairs to relax in.
James P. Grant Plaza at East 44th Street
This little pocket park adjoins the UNICEF Building and was dedicated to former Director of UNICEF, James P. Grant who worked tirelessly to combat preventable childhood illness and a ‘childhood survival and development revolution’ (NYCPark.org).
By the time I got to East 44th Street I was exhausted. The summer heat was getting to me, and I had to rewalk the neighborhood several times to go back to things I wanted to see for a second time. Turtle Bay offers so many wonderful things to see if you look up and around. They are tucked here and there, in corners of parks, on the sides of buildings, in front of you on the sidewalk or if you just look up at the structure of the that building that you have passed a hundred times.
The street art alone makes Turtle Bay its own open-air museum and it is nice to see so many perspectives on life from so many artists of all ages ranging from the traditional to the contemporary that I have learned a lot from them. Walking around this neighborhood is not just enjoyable but entertaining but educational as well. The United Nations has done its job here bringing together so many visionaries into the neighborhood.
For more information on my walk in the Turtle Bay neighborhood, please read my blogs on Turtle Bay:
The Borders of Turtle Bay:
‘MywalkinManhattan.com-Day One Hundred and Eighty-Three: Walking the Borders of Turtle Bay’:
The Street Artwork and Architectural Buildings are too numerous to name but I gave the best directions to see everything. Like I said, Turtle Bay is an open-air museum with loads of public art to see. Just look up and you won’t miss anything.
I can’t believe it is my forth anniversary of my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”. What started out as just a simple walk through the entire Island of Manhattan has morphed into visits to the outer boroughs and to outside the City. There is countless restaurant reviews, museum visits, visits to parks and historical parks and window shopping in stores all around the Tri-State area.
These additional views of the City have inspired the extension blogs to this site, “VisitingaMuseum.com”, “LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com” and “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com” to showcase more wonderful things to do, places to see and places to eat in New York City. What started out as a small site has now morphed into a blog that explores all the wonderful things to do and see in neighborhoods all over the City.
The best part of this experience is that I thank all the input that my students have given me on the sites and all the comments that have made it more enjoyable to the reader from adding in TripAdvisor reviews to contributing pictures and videos of the areas discussed. I want to thank them for their ideas and suggestions.
Today I entered the Turtle Bay neighborhood which is located next to Sutton and Beekman Place in the neighborhood that surrounds the United Nations located next to the East River. Over the last twenty years the borders of the neighborhood have become blurred with Midtown with much of Second, Third and Lexington Avenues giving way to large apartment and office complexes. There are still pockets of brownstones with local businesses dotted on the Avenues and side streets but they are becoming few and far between.
Turtle Bay has an interesting history as part of Manhattan. ‘Turtle Bay’ was originally a cove in the East River that was shaped like a knife which the Dutch gave the name “deutal” for knife. The cove was filled in after the Civil War. The neighborhood was originally a forty acre farm named “Turtle Bay Farm” that extended from what is now East 43rd to East 48th Street and from Third Avenue to the East River. When the street grid system was put into place after the Civil War, the hilly cove and surrounding areas was graded and filled in and subdivided for development (Wiki).
The neighborhood changed dramatically after the Civil War until the turn of the last century when the center of the neighborhood became a brownstone section and the river portion of the area became home to manufacturing with breweries, power plants and laundries and tenement homes to house the workers. The overhead elevated trains on Second and Third Avenues added to the decline of the neighborhood (Wiki).
The rowhouses of ‘Turtle Bay Gardens’ were saved by resident, Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan. She bought eleven of the brownstone homes and had them renovated with stucco fronts and a common garden in the back. These have been lived in by celebrities such as actresses Ruth Gordon, June Havoc and Katharine Hepburn. It was named a historic district in 1966 (Wiki).
The 2,800 unit Tudor City was built between 1927 to 1932 replacing the dangerous shanty town of ‘Prospect Hill’ where Irish gangs ruled and the neighborhood and the rest of the neighborhood was leveled between 1948 and 1952 for the United Nations Headquarters. When the elevated trains were torn down by 1956, it opened the neighborhood to new construction of high rises and apartment buildings (Wiki).
I started the walk at my favorite neighborhood starting point, 24 Sycamores Park on First Avenue and 60th Street, where I mapped out the walk. With schools letting out for the summer, the park was mobbed with kids with their nannies and baby sitters. It was nice to relax after a long day at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. They kept me busy on the hot line and we served over 800 lunches that afternoon, so I was tired. It is fun to just sit back on the benches under the trees and watch the kids chase one another and the pigeons.
Since my walk of Sutton Place, East 59th’s empty store fronts are starting to fill up with new businesses again. A lot of the windows are covered with brown paper, so it looks like more businesses are coming to the neighborhood. This is how the City keeps changing. I had covered all of Second Avenue to 48th Street in my blog of Sutton Place and since technically the neighborhood does not start until East 53rd Street, I started the walk East 58th Street between Second and Lexington Avenue and then walked down Lexington Avenue to East 43rd Street and then to the United Nations by the river (I will include East 58th Street to East 54th from Second to Lexington Avenues in my Turtle Bay walks).
I started the afternoon with lunch at Lin’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 1097 Second Avenue (See the reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). They have the most amazing lunch specials for between $8.00-$8.50. I had the Beef with Broccoli with a side of pork fried rice and an eggroll ($8.25).
Lin’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 1097 Second Avenue
The quality of the food is excellent as the beef was tender and well-seasoned with a combination of Hunan and soy sauce and the broccoli was perfectly cooked, a rarity in many of these take out places. The service is really friendly too. After lunch, it was off to walk the borders and Avenues of the neighborhood.
The Beef and Broccoli was delicious
Lexington Avenue from East 58th to East 43rd Street is pretty much a commercial district. The left side of the road is lined with famous hotels and luxury apartments. Sharing this edge with Midtown East Manhattan, this area of the neighborhood is geared towards the business world and just keeps developing. I can see more newer buildings replacing the older ones in the future. Most of the hotels have been renovated in the past decade to reflex the increase of tourists into the City.
When crossing East 58th Street from Second to Lexington Avenue, I came across a gem of bakery, ‘Bon Vivant’ at 251 East 58th Street between Second and Third Avenues (See my review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This elegant little store sells the most delicious Petit fours, pastries and beverages in an elegant atmosphere. I just walked in to see what it was like and I ended up eating a large Lavender Petit Four ($6.00), that was light and sweet with just a hint of the lavender leaves in the filling. It’s a unique little store where the desserts are displayed like a work of art.
Bon Vivant for pastries at 251 East 58th Street (Closed in August 2022)
Having some energy from the dessert, I continued the walk over the next block to Lexington Avenue. Lexington Avenue is the border of the neighborhood and is more commercial than residential. The Avenue is lined with hotels and office buildings and home to some of the oldest and well-known hotels in Midtown.
On the corner of Lexington Avenue between East 59th and 58th Streets is the Bloomberg Tower at 731 Lexington Avenue, one of the first buildings merging the borders of Turtle Bay with Midtown East. This massive 55 story building of glass and steel was built in 2001 for the Bloomberg L.P., the home of the Bloomberg empire including the offices for the main company and Bloomberg news.
The building was designed by renowned architect, Cesar Pelli & Associates and developed by Vornado Realty Trust. The back part of the building is called One Beacon Court and is home to condos and retail businesses and have their own private entrance. This building replaced the closed but once popular Alexander’s Department Store. Security is really tight around here and the police will watch you (Wiki).
The Bloomberg Tower ushering in a new look modern look for the neighborhood
Historical buildings especially around Lexington Avenue still prevail. One of the first buildings to really pop out at me on Lexington Avenue was the Central Synagogue at 652 Lexington Avenue on the corner of 55th Street. Designed by prominent architect Henry Fernbach, the synagogue was built between 1870 and 1872 is the oldest continuing synagogue in New York City and the second oldest in New York State. The building is one of the oldest synagogues in the country. The outside of the building was designed in Moorish Revival while the inside exterior is in a Gothic design. The Synagogue practices the Reformed Jewish faith (Wiki).
Another beautiful building is on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 51st Street, the former RCA Victor Building now known as the General Electric Building. It was designed and built by architect John Cross of Cross & Cross in 1931. The 50 story building was designed in the Gothic style and you really have to look at the details in the structure with the elaborate masonry and architectural figural sculpture all over the building (Wiki).
The building is decorated with lightning bolts and hands with blots in their hands to represent the growth of lightening and electricity. The edges of the building are decorated with figures representing energy and the dome of the building represents ‘Gothic tracery’, representing electricity and radio waves and lit from within at night. There is even a clock with the ‘GE’ logo on it on the side of the building (Wiki).
Look at the detail work of 570 Lexington Avenue
The Gothic Tracery tower of 570 Lexington Avenue
Lexington Avenue has many such historical buildings up and down the Avenue especially with hotels that dot both sides of the street. Since I started this part of the walk on June 21st, the first day of the Summer (The Summer Equinox) and the longest day of the year, there were concerts everywhere in Midtown. I stopped at 570 Lexington Avenue where they have a courtyard on the side of the building near the subway entrance.
The building was hosting part of a concert series that afternoon for people walking by while the Godiva Chocolate store in the courtyard was handing out ice cream samples to hot patrons. It was enjoyable to just relax and listen to the combo while eating that sweet, rich ice cream.
When walking down the remainder of Lexington Avenue, the street is dotted with famous hotels down to East 42nd Street. This was part of the 1916 rezoning of this part of the City when Grand Central Terminal opened to rail traffic and the City needed luxury hotels to cater to the Upper-Class customers who used the rail service. Some of the oldest and most famous hotels in New York line Lexington Avenue.
Across the street from 570 Lexington Avenue is the historic 30 story Hotel Benjamin at 125 East 50th Street. The Benjamin was the former Hotel Beverly and after a massive renovation in the late 90’s was renamed after the new owners founder, Benjamin J Denihan Sr. Built in 1926-27 by building developer Moses Ginsberg and designed by architect Emery Roth, the hotel was marketed for ‘sophisticated New Yorkers at a moderate rate’. The hotel is richly decorated in a Romanesque motif and incorporates pelican and owl sculptures and warrior head corbels (NYC Landmarks Preservation).
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue between 50th and 49th Streets is currently closed and going under a massive renovation to condos. This block long hotel’s back faces Lexington Avenue. The hotel is converting from 1413 hotel rooms to 350 condos and a 350 room hotel when it is complete.
The hotel was designed by architects Schultz & Weaver and was designed in the Art Deco design which was popular when the hotel opened in 1931. The original hotel was demolished for the building of the Empire State Building. The hotel has been home to many famous restaurants and was considered the ‘jewel’ of the Hilton Hotel empire. Countless society events and celebrity visits too extensive to name have taken place in this hotel. It will be a wait and see when it reopens in 2021.
The InterContinental Barclay Hotel at 111 East 48th Street stretches back to East 49th Street.
The InterContinental Barclay was designed by architects Cross & Cross in 1926 in the neo-Federal American Colonial style. The thirteen-story hotel was part of the concept called ‘Terminal City’ which was part of the New York Central and Terminal Corporation owned by the Vanderbilt family and contains 702 rooms. The hotel still hosts Society and corporate events.
The Hotel Roger Smith at 501 Lexington Avenue is a family run hotel that was originally called the Hotel Winthrop and gets its current name when it was part the Roger Smith Hotel Chain in the 1930’s. The hotel was designed by architects Hearn & Erich in 1926 and is made of brick with a clean look.
The Hotel Lexington opened in 1929 one of the last hotels of the building boom on Lexington Avenue. Designed by architects Schultz & Weaver who designed the Waldorf-Astoria, the Hotel Lexington was the promise of General J. Leslie Kincaid, who was President of the American Hotel Company of ‘a modern hotel with a refined atmosphere and with exceptional service without the hassles of a large hotel.” The hotel has Normanesque terracotta decorations that adorn the outside of the hotel (Wiki).
Toward the edge of the neighborhood at East 45th and Lexington Avenue is the Grand Central Post Office Annex that was built between 1903 and 1914 under the direction of the New York Central Railroad. Architect firms of Warren & Wetmore with the collaboration with architectural firm Reed & Stern designed this annex to provide railroad related office space, shops and a network of underground tracks and tunnels.
Grand Central Postal Annex at 450 Lexington Avenue
As you round Lexington Avenue to East 43rd Street to the edge of Turtle Bay, you will enter the lobby of the Chrysler Building. The Chrysler Building has a very interesting history in Manhattan as the once ‘tallest building in the world’ opening one day before the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
The building was the brainchild of former New York Senator William H. Reynolds, who had a goal to build the ‘World’s Tallest Building’. He hired famed architect William Van Alen to design the building which in the late 1920’s was an Art Deco design which represented the progress, innovation and modernity of the time. By the time Reynold’s sold the property to Walter Chrysler in 1928, Van Alen and his former partner at the architectural firm they once worked at, H. Craig Severance were in a race to build the World’s Tallest Building (Wiki & Chrysler Building history).
The “Race into the Sky” began between the Chrysler Building being designed by Van Alen and 40 Wall Street being designed by Severance. They kept added floors trying to top one another and, in the process, build their buildings higher than the Woolworth Building then the tallest in the world. 40 Wall Street was raised to 925 feet when it opened making it the tallest building until Van Alen secretly assembled a 125 spiral for the top of the building and in October of 1929, the spiral was raised and riveted in pieces on the top of the building making it 1046 feet. It would stand the tallest in the world until the Empire State Building was finished a few years later in 1931. The Chrysler Building was the still the World’s Tallest Steel Frame Building, with a steel frame surrounded by masonry (Wiki).
Still the outside of the building is studded with gargoyles for five floors and there were hubcaps and fenders at the 31st floor and eagles on the 61st floor. Because of the 1916 Zoning, there are setbacks on various floors of the building (Wiki). The inside of the lobby is just as impressive.
On the ceiling of the triangular shaped lobby is the mural “Transport and Human Endeavor” by artist Edward Trumball, which was painted in 1930. It represents the ‘energy and man’s application of it to the solutions of his problems’. Look to the detail work to see all the figures that the artist was trying to portray (Wiki).
The lobby of the Chrysler Building should not be missed
After the small tour of the Chrysler Building, I proceeded out the door down East 43rd Street towards the United Nations Building. West 43rd Street is an interesting block. By Second Avenue, you will begin to see the transition from the once ‘brownstone’ neighborhood on the corner of Second Avenue and 43rd Street to the more modern ‘glass boxes’ that now dominate the neighborhood. Here you can see how Midtown East is creeping into this once residential neighborhood.
The buildings on both sides of the street are almost a juxtapose of styles and uses until you get toward the end of the block, and you are in front of the Ford Foundation Building at 320 East 43rd Street. This impressive building was built between 1963-67 and houses the Ford Foundation. It was designed by architect Kevin Roche and engineer partner John Dinkeloo who are credited for creating the first indoor tree-filled atriums in New York, which set the tone for these public spaces in modern buildings (Wiki).
The Ford Foundation Atrium at 320 East 43rd Street
What is interesting about the design of this building is that it is a perfect glass block from the outside but a created L-Shaped design on the inside because of the atrium garden. The large windows let the sunlight in so that you can walked this tiered garden on several levels. The only problem is that there is no place to sit down in the garden and just look at it.
Just off of the main lobby is the small Ford Foundation Gallery that is also open to the public. This was a real treat in that it really gave an interesting look at ‘controversial art’. As said by gallery director, Lisa Kim, “Guided by inclusion, collaboration and urgency that are underrepresenting in traditional art spaces. In doing so, our hope is for the Ford Foundation to be a responsive and adapted space, the one that serves the public in its openness to experimentation, contemplation and conversation.” (Ford Foundation Gallery website).
The Gallery is currently showing “Radical Love” an exhibition on art from different cultures that is sending a message of love and acceptance in society. The show’s theme is “offering love as the answer to a world in peril” and shows different artists around the world trying to portray a social median to the problems of hate and prejudice (Ford Foundation Gallery Site).
After finishing up at the Ford Foundation Gallery, I toured the indoor atrium one more time walking all the tiers of the gardens and not believing that I had never seen this all before. It is really a beautiful building that you all need time out to explore.
I walked to the end of the block only to discover Tudor City with its beautiful Gothic architecture and well landscaped grounds. Tudor City is one of the first planned middle-class housing ‘skyscraper’ complexes in New York City. Built in 1926, the complex was called Tudor City due to the Tudor Revival architecture of the complex. The complex starts right behind the Ford Foundation Building and extends between East 43rd to East 40th Street on a small cliff that overlooks First Avenue, the U.N. Complex and the tip of Roosevelt Island (Wiki).
Tudor City between East 43rd to 40th Streets overlooking First Avenue
The complex was designed by the team lead by architect H. Douglas Ives for the Fred F. French Company, developers of modern apartment complexes and was the brainchild of Leonard Gans and Paine Edson, who bought up what had been derelict housing and manufacturing businesses. The complex did expand into the 1930’s and now contains 13 buildings and two parks that the buildings face in a ‘U’ pattern (Wiki).
You really have to look up at the buildings to see the great detail that was designed to give them that Gothic look. When Mr. Ives team designed the buildings, there was an array of towers, gables, turrets, bay windows, four centered arches and chimney stacks amongst the detail work with cast iron and terracotta details. You have to walk the entire complex and really look to the detail work which is quite amazing (Wiki and my own observations).
What was really nice was the small parks that line the inside of the ‘U’ shaped courtyard of the buildings. These two parks are now run by Tudor City Greens Inc., which has run the parks since 1987 and cares for the landscaping and maintenance. They do a wonderful job caring for the parks which when I walked through were being replanted and watered and full of people either reading books or having group discussions.
While walking through the building complex, I came across Azalea & Oak at 5 Tudor Place, a little boutique specializing in women’s accessories and children’s dress-up clothes and toys (see my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This unique little store has one of the nicest selections of children’s dress items, accessories and handmade toys that I have seen in the City.
The salesperson told me the owner was formerly from Saks Fifth Avenue and you could see it in the detail of the store design and the quality of the merchandise. Don’t miss their selection of stuffed animals and handmade crowns and masks. This will be much to the delight of the younger set of customers. The owner also designs her own jewelry so there are unusual pieces to see.
The Stuffed toys at Azalea and Oak at 5 Tudor Place
I rounded 43rd Street and came back to visit Ralph Bunche Park that is at the end of East 43rd Street. It is not much a park as most of it is under scaffolding for renovations of Tudor City. The park is named in 1979 after Ralph Bunche was the first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Bunche was a diplomat, scientist and academic who won the award in 1950 for work on mediation with Israel.
As you are walking down the granite stairs to First Avenue, notice the quote from Isiah 2:4 carved into the wall “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spires into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” The stairs, now called the ‘Sharansky Steps, named after dissident Nathan Sharansky, were built and dedicated during the construction of the U.N. In front of the stairs is a 50-foot steel obelisk by artist Daniel LaRue Johnson, entitled “Peace Form One” that was created in 1980 (Wiki).
Mr. Johnson has studied at Chouinard and in Paris and was part of the African American artist movement in Los Angeles that dealt with the social and political changes in the mid-Twentieth century. He had also known Mr. Bunche as well (Artist Bio).
The Sharansky Steps with the Wall of Isiah
Once down the steps, you will find yourself in front of the United Nations Building that sits on the East River and is very impressive.
The United Nations Building complex is under ‘lock and key’ and don’t bother trying to walk around the grounds. Everything is behind a fence with tons of security surrounding all sides of the building. The complex is about 18 acres that line the East River from East 42nd and East 48th Streets.
The complex was designed by architect Wallace Harrison for the firm of Harrison & Abramovitz and was completed in 1952. The whole area was cleared of manufacturing and the complex replaced blight in the neighborhood with a brand-new building and parks. The Rockefeller family was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the site and Nelson Rockefeller helped purchase the land for the site (Wiki).
The building is built in a long horizontal block that houses the meeting rooms and a tall tower in the center for the Secretariat. The building is surrounded by pathways and lawn to give the building the impression of power and with the flags of the nation’s surrounding it, an international flair. Still walking up United Nations Plaza back up to East 48th Street to where I stopped at the edge of Sutton East, there is armed security all over the place and its best to blend into the crowds.
The United Nations Building which covers the edges of Turtle Bay with the East River
I continued the walk-up United Nations Plaza up to East 48th Street and walked down the block towards Third Avenue. Once you round First Avenue, you will see less security in front of the buildings when you go back into the neighborhood.
East 48th Street is a beautiful block of old brownstones and apartment buildings and has a real neighborhood feel to it. I have discovered that the blocks above East 50th Street once you past Second Avenue are becoming more commercial with lots of large apartment and office buildings. It feels more like Midtown and once you get below East 50th Street, it looks more historical and quintessential ‘Old New York’.
I walked up and down the remainder of Second Avenue from East 43rd to East 48th Streets that border the neighborhood with Sutton East. Most of the buildings are glass boxes with commercial businesses on the bottom. There is one stand out on these five blocks in front of the Consulate General of Nigeria at 828 Second Avenue on the corner of East 44th Street and Second Avenue. It is a sculpture called ‘Zuma’ by artist Billy Omebegho.
Mr. Omebegho is considered one of the foremost modern sculptures in Nigeria and created the work in 1991. Born in Nigeria in 1944, Mr. Omebegho studied art at both Cornell University (fellow Alumnus) and New York University. The work ‘Zuma’ was created in 1991 and is a zig-zag form to symbolizes rebirth and renewal and the snake like pattern represents air, water, heaven and earth (Culture Now). This unique sculpture had some controversy in 2005 when the Consulate was approached about replacing it but it still stands proudly at the entrance.
As I passed along Second Avenue to Third Avenue, I passed a row of brownstones on the right which are the Turtle Bay Gardens houses. These were the homes that were saved, preserved and renovated by Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan in the 1920. The two rows of ten homes were built in the 1860’s and when they were renovated and updated now share a common garden with the homes on East 49th Street. These graceful brownstones set the tone for the neighborhood (Turtle Bay History).
Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District
As you pass Turtle Bay Gardens, another unique house stands out at 211 East 48th Street, the William Lescaze House. William Lescaze was a Swiss-born New Yorker who was credited with bringing the modernist movement in the United States by building this house in 1934. The four-story home served as his personal home and studio (Curbed NY).
As I rounded back down Second Avenue to East 43rd Street and crossed over to Third Avenue to walk from East 43rd to East 59th Streets this is another block in transition. Third Avenue has pretty much been torn down is more like Midtown than Turtle Bay. There are a few holdovers from another era meaning the 60’s and 70’s in the way of restaurants.
Tucked in between all the glass towers that have changed this part of the neighborhood there are some culinary gems that still serve customers as they have for years starting with Smith & Wollensky at 797 Third Avenue.
Smith & Wollensky is a legendary steakhouse that has been in this location since 1977. What is interesting about this popular restaurant is that the name was taken out of the phone book. The creators of the restaurant, Allan Stillman (of TGI Friday’s fame) and Ben Benson, looked in the phone book to Smith and then Wollensky to get the name.
The restaurant was originally called Manny Wolf’s Steakhouse which had been in business from 1897 until the name change in 1977. It is now owned by the Patina Restaurant Group although the original New York restaurant is still owned by Mr. Stillman. The restaurant is known for its USDA Prime Grade beef which is all butchered in house (Wiki and Smith & Wollensky history). The building like the rest of the neighborhood is surrounded by a glass box skyscraper.
Another well-known restaurant on Third Avenue is P.J. Clarke’s at 915 Third Avenue on the corner of Third Avenue and East 55th Street. P. J. Clarke’s was established in 1884 by a Mr. Duneen and Patrick J. Clarke was one of his employees. After ten years of working at the bar, he bought the establishment from Mr. Duneen and renamed it P.J. Clarke’s. The restaurant has been known for its pub food and popular bar scene.
The restaurant like Smith & Wollensky’s is a holdout from the past and is surrounded by a glass office building. 919 Third Avenue was built around the restaurant in the late 60’s and the owners, the Lavezzo brothers had the owners build around their property. In an agreement, they bought the building from the two brothers and knocked the top two floors of the restaurant down. Due to financial difficulties the brothers lost the restaurant and it is now owned by new group of investors (Wiki).
P.J. Clarke’s in comparison to 919 Third Avenue showing the changes on Third Avenue
Third Avenue has it pockets of the old neighborhood here and there but is now firmly establishing itself as part of Midtown with its gleaming office buildings and apartment houses giving the Avenue a modern look.
As I walked back down Third Avenue, some street art caught my attention. Outside the U.S. Post Office at 909 Third Avenue is the sculpture, Red Flying Group by artist Ann Gillen, that adds some life to the building that looks like geometric blocks.
Red Flying Group by artist Ann Gillen outside 909 Third Avenue
Ms. Gillen has been trained in Industrial design at Pratt and got her MFA from Columbia University’s School of Art. She is noted in the use of color and the structure suggests a human body in motion. She uses all sorts of materials in her art noted with metals and stone work. Red Flying Group is based on man’s sense of motion (Wiki).
The other standout on Third Avenue was the mural of the fallen fireman in honor of 9/11. The mural by artist Eduardo Kobra, who based the painting on a photo of fire fighter Mike Bellantoni, who arrived at the scene after the second tower fell. The picture was taken by New York Post photographer Matthew McDermott (NY Post 2018). The painting depicts an exhausted fire fighter on the scene.
Mural outside of 780 Third Avenue
Mr. Kobra was noted in saying of the mural “I was paying homage to the fire fighters who fought bravely that day. The helmet represents the 343 fire fighters lost that day and the colors represent one goal, to pass on the message of life, of a restart and of reconstruction.” (Time Out Magazine).
Mr. Kobra is a Brazilian street artist who has a passion for street art. His use of squares and triangles bring life to his paintings. His use of photorealism and color bring life to his works of art (Wiki).
The one building that does stand out prominently on Third Avenue is on the corner of Third Avenue and 53rd Street, “The Lipstick Building” at 885 Third Avenue. The building was designed by John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson and was completed in 1986. What stands out about this building is the oval design and color of the building. What makes the building unusual is the ‘set back’ space required by zoning laws and how the building seems to retract ‘as if it retracts telescopically’ (Wiki and Architectural firm).
It also has a usual shade of burgundy or dark pink that makes it stand out among the other office buildings in the area. At the base are large columns that act like a ‘post-modern’ entrance to the building and allow pedestrians to walk freer in the space (Wiki and Architectural firm). I just think the building has a unusual beauty to it in that it defies the contemporary design of the squarer glass boxes and its shape and color make it stand out in a neighborhood where there is too much of the same design. Buildings like this is what gives the City character.
The columned entrance to the Lipstick Building
As I rounded down Third Avenue to East 43rd Street and headed up Third Avenue again, you can see more changes in the distance in the area around Grand Central Station with new buildings soon to be open on Madison Avenue and along 42nd Street. More construction and more buildings are going up around the station.
As I traveled up Lexington Avenue to East 59th Street, I saw the after-work crowd bring more life to the neighborhood. Between the office buildings and the hotels in the area, the place was loaded with tourists and office workers milling around after a long day and the sidewalks were jammed.
I ended my day rounding East 59th Street and having dinner from Blue and Gold Deli at 1075 First Avenue. I had been in earlier to buy a lottery ticket (did not win so still walking) and noticed their menu and the very reasonable prices. I decided on a Meatball hero ($7.00) with a Coke which I took over to 24 Sycamores Park to eat. It was still light out at 8:00pm and I watched the children playing around in the park with their parents while I ate. The meatball sandwich was loaded with meatballs and a nicely spiced tomato sauce. It was good but not a standout, so it warrants another try.
As I ate and watched the night sky get darker, it was fun to watch the world go by and people continue on with their business. I really wonder if they see the same things I do when walking to work or school.
The bitter winter finally gave way to some warmer weather and I was finally able to continue walking the streets of Manhattan again. It had been almost three months since I finished the Upper West Side but the holidays were particularly busy and full of activities that had me running from the Hudson River Valley to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for Christmas plus a host of holiday activities, fundraisers, dinners at the house with my family, parties, selling Christmas trees and generally a lot of running around. On the first warm (at this point 48 degrees) and sunny day, off I went to continue my walk starting on the Upper East Side and revisiting East 59th Street.
After a long day at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen serving up breads and pastries to the guests, I walked up to the Upper East Side to start my walk of Sutton and Beekman Places by the East River, neighborhoods steeped in history and beautiful architecture. It was a beautiful warm day with the sun shining and that was a plus.
I started the afternoon with lunch at Flip, the restaurant inside the main Bloomingdale’s store on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor). I had been here a few times before when walking the lower part of the Upper East Side. It is located in the lower level of the store and has the most wonderful hamburgers and sandwiches. I had the Bavarian Burger ($18.00), which was delicious and the perfect pick me up after a long day serving other people.
The burger was made with a combination of ground meat and short ribs and was topped with caramelized onions, apple smoked bacon, Brooklyn lager cheese sauce and homemade bread and butter pickles on a pretzel roll served with a side a steak fries. It tasted as good as the description. I highly recommend a trip to Flip when visiting Bloomingdale’s main store. You will find it in the downstairs Men’s Department.
I started my walk at 24 Sycamores Park on East 60th Street. I needed to take a quick rest after that big lunch and it was such a nice day to just relax on the benches and watch the kids play with their nannies. It is such a great little pocket park with an interesting history. It was one of the parks developed for the Upper East Side residents who complained to Robert Moses that there was no greenery on their side of the City. Here I planned my walk around Sutton Place, Beekman Place and Sutton East (between First & Second Avenues), which some people consider part of the Turtle Bay neighborhood.
After relaxing in the park for a half hour and catching my breath from the Soup Kitchen and lunch, I started my walk along First Avenue. This is lined with elegant apartment buildings and a combination of old brownstones and mansions. It depends on what part of the Avenue you live on. The area around Sutton Place and Beekman Place is pretty much self-contained and off to itself. You really have to walk through the side streets and the parks to see the real beauty of the neighborhood and the little gems that make the neighborhood special.
The one thing I have noticed in this part of the neighborhood is that a lot of the stores on East 59th Street from Second to First Avenue have closed down and have joined the rest of the epidemic of empty store fronts in the City. Since I finished the walk of the Upper East Side in December, in just three months about a half dozen businesses have closed down. It will be interesting to see what replaces them.
I started the day walking down from East 59th Street and walked the perimeter of the neighborhood from FDR Drive to Second Avenue from East 48th Street where the United Nations is located to East 59th Street, the border of Sutton Place with the Upper East Side. Here and there lots of buildings and restaurants stand out.
I walked down Sutton Place from Sycamore Park down to the United Nations Building. This official border of Sutton Place is lined with pre-war apartment buildings, modern co-ops and a few brownstones and mansions tucked here and there.
Sutton Place is named after Effingham B. Sutton (1817-1891), a shipping magnate and entrepreneur, who made a fortune during the Gold Rush. He developed a series of brownstones between East 58th and 57th Streets in hopes of reestablishing the neighborhood for residential purposes from its then current state of small factories and commercial purposes. The Sutton Place Parks at the end of each street from East 59th through East 54th Street were established in 1938 when the FDR Drive was built taking away the access to the river. There are a series of five parks now along the East River at the end of each block (NYCParks.org).
At the corner of East 59th Street and Sutton Place starts the series of mansions that line this part of the street. In 1883, this little stretch of roadway had been renamed Sutton Place, a nod to Mr. Sutton, who had constructed that row of brownstone residences in 1875 (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The Vanderbilt and Morgan Mansions on Sutton Place
The beautiful old mansion at 2 Sutton Place was renovated by Anne Vanderbilt, the widow of William K. Vanderbilt. She sold the Vanderbilt mansion on Fifth Avenue that had been built by her husband’s family and bought the Effingham Sutton House. She hired architect Mott B. Schmidt to renovate the home into a 13 room Georgian mansion.
Anne Vanderbilt Mansion at 2 Sutton Place; next door is the Anne Morgan Mansion
Anne Tracy Morgan bought the 3 Sutton Place, the house on the corner of Sutton Place and East 57th Street and merged it with the home at 5 Sutton Place. Mott Schmidt filed revised plans for Anne Morgan’s house at 3 Sutton Place when she bought 5 Sutton Place and had the homes merged. The plans called for the rebuilding of the two structures into a four-story dwelling in American Colonial style with a roof garden and Morgan and Vanderbilt would share a common garden. To create the illusion of a vintage home, Mott reused the bricks from the old buildings on the site. The house was completed in 1922 (Daytonian Manhattan).
The entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion at 2 Sutton Place
As you walk the side streets between East 58th through East 48th Street, these dead-end blocks offer magnificent views of Roosevelt Island and the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront which is quickly changing from old warehouses to luxury high-rises and waterfront parks. Each has its own unique view of Roosevelt Island.
At the end of Sutton Place at the corner of East 53rd Street there is a small park, Sutton Place Park South, overlooking the tip of Roosevelt Island and FDR Park with its beautiful landscaping and stonework. It is a nice place to just relax and enjoy the cool breezes and hear the racket of FDR Drive zooming by.
Sutton Place Park South at the tip of Sutton Place
At 11 Sutton Place was once the home to architect I.M Pei and his wife, Eileen. They lived in the house for 45 years. The four-story residence is now on the market for eight million dollars. Mr. Pei was responsible for some of the most famous and innovative architecture in the twenty century.
11 Sutton Place was home to architect I. M. Pei and his family
This wonderful park should be visited by everyone who visits Manhattan. It has the most spectacular views of Roosevelt Island and the Queens/Brooklyn Waterfront and on a sunny warm day, it is one of the most relaxing parks I have visited since MywalkinManhattan.com started.
Sutton Place Park South
It is nice to sit amongst the cool breezes of the river by small gardens and shade trees. There were two dedications in the park that stood out to me. One was to Clara Coffey and the other was to Bronka Norak.
Clara Stimson Coffey was a landscape architect who in 1936 accepted the role of Chief of Tree Plantings for the NYCParks system and helped design several parks including the Clement Clark Moore Park in Chelsea which I recently visited on my Victorian Christmas Tour (Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight).
Bronka Norak was a long time Sutton Place resident and upon her death, her husband, the late Adam Norak, left an endowment for the maintenance of the flowers, trees and shrubs in the park.
On the west side of Sutton Place is lined with pre and post war apartment buildings each with a doorman that will look you over if you walk around the neighborhood too much as I did. You would think that they would have better things to do.
As I crossed back over East 59th Street, my next part of the walk took me to First Avenue which itself is going through a transition. Many of the old buildings and store fronts are giving way to new apartment buildings. As with the rest of Manhattan, this area is going through a makeover to upscale housing.
On my next trip to Sutton Place after another long day at the Soup Kitchen (the Bread Station is beginning to get to me. Every time we have desserts available, the guests’ pound on me), I walked from Ninth Avenue and West 28th Street to First Avenue and East 59th Streets. On top of all the exercise from running around the Soup Kitchen, I got even more walking in but on a sunny, warm day it does not make much a difference.
I stopped into Jimbo’s Hamburger Place at 991 First Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor) and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for lunch. This small hole in the wall diner has been there for years and is a favorite for many of the older neighborhood residents who seem to know the owners quite well. The food is here is wonderful and the whole menu is very reasonable for this neighborhood.
I had a cheeseburger with fries ($8.50) that tasted as if the meat had just been ground and cooked perfectly with a nice caramelization on the meat. The fries were cooked to order and the whole meal was delicious and hit the spot. What was nice was to talk to people who had lived in Sutton Place. The restaurant has a nice neighborhood feel to it and the patrons had obviously been eating here for years. One woman who sat next to me eats here every day. I guess as you get older and are single you don’t want to cook for yourself anymore.
Jimbo’s Cheeseburger and fries
After lunch, I continued the walk down First Avenue, I stopped at 931 First Avenue which had once been an old elementary school that had been built in 1892 in the Romanesque style. Instead of knocking the school down, the builder incorporated the school into the office tower above and around it. It gives the building a modern twist. As I was looking over the current renovation, I noticed a plaque on the corner wall.
The former P.S. 135 now the Beekman Regent Building
The school sat on the site of patriot James Beekman’s estate, Mount Pleasant, that had once been the British headquarters during the Revolutionary War. James Beekman (1732-1807) was a prominent New York City merchant and came from a family of merchants, lawyers and politicians. His ancestors had been Mayors of New York City and Albany and held positions as Governors of New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania. His grandfather, Gerardus Beekman, had been the acting Governor of New York under British rule (Wiki).
James Beekman whose name is given to Beekman Place
His estate and mansion, Mount Pleasant, had been used by the British as their headquarters during the war. The estate covering what is currently now both Sutton and Beekman Place. This was also the site for the trial of Patriot Nathan Hale.
Nathan Hale had volunteered to go behind enemy lines during the war and was recognized in a tavern by Major Robert Rangers of the Queen’s Rangers. Another story was he was turned in by his own cousin, Samuel Hale, who was a loyalist. Either way, Hale was questioned at the Beekman mansion by British General William Howe and was led to gallows on September 22nd, 1776 (See MywalkinManhattan.com on the Upper East Side. He was hung where there is a Pier One store at present).
Mount Pleasant, the home of James Beekman and his family
The house was moved once to a buff at First Avenue and East 50th Street when the street grid was put into effect and the house was torn down in 1874 at the start of the real estate boom after the Civil War (Untapped Cities).
I continued walking down First Avenue until I reached East 48th and 49th Streets where the road forks into First Avenue and United Nations Plaza. This area is filled with Embassies and offices for the United Nations and Trump World Tower is at end of the neighborhood at 845 United Nations Plaza, so traffic here is rough and the security all around the place is tight.
The Bridge leading to the East River Walk
When I reached the east side of First Avenue and at 51st Street, I took a turn down the road to the river and I went over the pedestrian bridge at the end of the block. This leads into the enclave of Beekman Place, the former estate of James Beekman. As you cross the bridge, you will enter Peter Detmold Park and its extension leading down FDR Drive, General Douglas MacArthur Park.
Peter Detmold (1923-1972) was once a tenant of the Turtle Bay Gardens. He was a veteran of World War II, serving under General George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge in France. Upon his return to civilian life, he was a Cornell graduate and when he moved to the City, became the one of the founders and President of the Turtle Bay Association and the founded the Turtle Bay Gazette. He along with other residents fought to keep the are residential and away from the commercial districts that were creeping into the area. On the night of January 6, 1972, after returning home from a meeting of the East Side Residential Association, he was murdered inside his building. The murder still has not been solved and the park was named after him later that year (NYCParks.com).
Activist, Veteran, Resident of Turtle Bay and fellow Cornell Alumnus Peter Detmold
Before I walked the bridge to the overpass, I walked down the steep stone steps down to the park area. It is a really hidden park. The area is surrounded by stone walls and apartment buildings above. To the left is a dog walk park that is extremely popular with residents and pooches alike. It is always busy.
To the right is a series of garden beds and benches to sit down and relax. There are tables where people were eating their lunches or playing with their dogs and being the beginning of spring, lots of flowers are in bloom. I walked around the area and watched as groups of residents talked and ate their meals or played games. The parks trees were just budding so the park had a canopy covering the top. When you walk through the gate at the end corner of the park, it leads to the General Douglas MacArthur Park and playground. Here you will find the much-needed public bathrooms and they are in good shape.
The General Douglas MacArthur Park and Playground was named for General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), who had a illustrious military career that spanned four wars and five decades. Having served in the Philippine Islands and Mexico, he served in France during WWI. He was called back into service for WWII serving as the Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific and developed the strategy of “island hopping” that turned the tide of the war. He also served in the Korean War as well. After serving as an unofficial advisor to two presidents before retiring in 1951. After that, he retired at the Waldorf Towers in NYC (NYCParks.com).
The park was originally built as part of the UN Plaza then was ceded to the City by Alcoa Associates and became part of the NYC Parks system in 1966. The small playground has a several swings, jungle gyms and tables to play chess along with bed of flowers and shade trees. It is right around the corner from some of the United Nations buildings so the outside can be busy with cars coming and going. The best part is the bathrooms are nice and open until 5:00pm (NYCParks.com)
After visiting both parks, I went back to Peter Detmold Park and went back up the narrow stone stairs and walked over the crosswalk to the riverfront promenade that lines the East River from East 51st to East 54th Streets offering breathtaking views of Governors Island and the Queens Riverfront. On a sunny day, the whole riverfront gleams.
View from the Riverfront Promenade
After walking the Promenade to East 54th Street and walking back, its hard to believe that changes in the riverfront areas in both Queens and Brooklyn in the last fifteen years. The whole coast is lined with luxury housing, boast slips and parks offering excellent views of the East Side of Manhattan.
Once you exit the park, you will notice a small tree lined street with brownstones and pre-war apartment buildings. You have just entered Beekman Place, a tiny enclave of older homes and an assortment of embassies.
I glanced down a small road lined with small brownstones, townhouses and pre-war apartment buildings and proceeded to detour down Beekman Place to tour the road and the side streets, each leading back out to First Avenue from East 51st Street to Mitchell Place.
As you walk down this quiet enclave of majestic architecture, there is a lot to admire in the surrounding buildings and the serene side streets of 50th Street and Mitchell Place. Each block is lined with unique buildings all decorated with plantings.
21 & 23 Beekman Place
Many famous people have lived in this neighborhood. At 23 Beekman Place, stage actress Katharine Cornell and her husband, Guthrie McClintic lived. Ms. Cornell was once considered one of the greatest American actresses on stage, best know for her roles in ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’ and her Tony award winning role in ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’. Her husband was a famous theater and film director whose production company produced all of his wife’s plays (Wiki).
At 21 Beekman Place, Ellen Biddle Shipman, one of the most famous and best regarded landscape architects in the United States known for her formal gardens with a lush planting style. A Radcliffe graduate, she is best known for her work on the Longue Vue Gardens in New Orleans and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University, considered her finest work (Wiki).
As you walk to the end of these streets facing the river, you get the most spectacular views of the Queens waterfront and Roosevelt Island. Along East 51st, East 50th and Mitchell Place you will find an assortment of embassies from countries I am not too sure people might know.
I exited down Mitchell Place at the edge of the neighborhood and passed the Beekman Tower at 31 Mitchell Place. Originally called ‘The Panhellenic’, the tower was built between 1927 and 1928 in the Art Deco style by architect John Mead Howells. It was opened as a residence for women of the Greek sororities who were entering the workforce in New York City but by 1934, the building had male residents. Today this graceful building is being used as a corporate apartment building.
The Art Deco Beekman Tower at 31 Mitchell Place & First Avenue
I walked back up First Avenue, I looked across the street and saw the most beautiful floral displays and flowers for sale outside of Zeze Flowers at 938 First Avenue (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This is more than a store it is more like a museum of flowers. Everything from the window displays with the ‘Man in Moon’ to the exotic flowers enticing you inside you will be taken by the beauty of store.
Once inside Zeze Flower Shop you will admire the beauty of the displays, statuary and the gorgeous orchids that line the shelves and tables. All the tables are lined with all sorts of decorative objects and the walls with vases to hold their carefully cut flowers. The store itself is a work of art and the bouquets and arrangements look like something out of a painting. There is a lot of care in this store and the staff is attentive and friendly.
The beautiful flowers and gift ideas of Zeze Flower Shop
On the way back up First Avenue, I passed the spot of the Beekman Mansion again at First and East 51st Street and admired the renovation of the building which was once a school. The building, The Beekman Regent at 351 East 51st Street, had been designed and built in 1892 by George W. Debevoise, who was the Superintendent of Board of Education at the time as P.S. 135. Later it had become the United Nations School. It now serves as a luxury apartment building that won the 2002 Mercedes Benz Property Award for the ‘finest new redevelopment in the world’ (Beekman Regent history).
The Beekman Regent building at 351 East 51st Street
I continued up First Avenue past a long line of restaurants. I have noticed just in the two weeks that I have been walking the Sutton Place neighborhood, two businesses have closed and the storefronts are empty.
Another restaurant I ate at when walking the Upper East Side at another time was Go Noodle at 1069 First Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). There combination platter at lunch are reasonable and I had a chicken with string beans and an egg roll ($8.50) that was delicious.
I made it back to East 59th Street in time to see the traffic building up on the Queensboro Bridge. The lights from the waterfront started to come on and when I walked back to 24 Sycamores Park, the place was still filled with families. I was exhausted and saved the rest of the walk for another day.
I came back to the neighborhood a week later on a beautiful sunny day after a long day working the Bread Station at Holy Apostles again. These guests love their bread and we were busy again, so it was another long walk up to Sutton Place. Here I started at East 59th and Second Avenue. Technically this area is known as Turtle Bay but some creative people in the real estate industry have called the area between First and Second Avenues between East 59th and 49th “Sutton East” as I saw on some of the buildings. So down Second Avenue I went to visit ‘Sutton East’.
Second Avenue between East 59th and East 48th Streets has become a real hodge-podge of buildings as the area closer to Midtown, between East 48th and 50th Streets have given way to larger office and apartment buildings. Once above East 51st Street, there still is a mixture of older brownstone and smaller apartment buildings that house the mom & pop stores and restaurants that keep the borders of Sutton Place and Turtle Bay unique.
I started my day with lunch at Mee’s Noodle Shop at 930 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) which I had passed a few times when walking back to Port Authority. The menu and the write ups on the restaurant had been very good and there is a lot of creativity to the selection. Since it was Good Friday when I visited, I stuck to all seafood dishes which was a nice choice. The restaurant’s specialty is dumplings and noodles that are made fresh on premise, and you can see them being made as you walk in.
Mee’s Noodle Shop at 930 Second Avenue (Closed in August 2022)
I ordered the steamed seafood dumplings ($6.50) which were a combination of crab, shrimp and scallop. They were really light and had a nice taste to them with the soy dipping sauce. For my main part of the meal, I ordered the Shrimp Lo Mein (Small $7.35/Large $9.20). This was especially good because all the noodles were being made in front of me and were fresh and cooked to perfection. The dish was studded with nice size shrimp and an array of vegetables including a very well cooked Bok choy. The service could not have been nicer especially during the lunch rush.
After lunch I walked the distance of Second Avenue, looking over all the menus on the restaurants that lined the Avenue. There is a lot to choose from. There are coffee shops, Italian restaurants, Continental, German, Thai and several very good pizzerias. What I like about Second Avenue in this stretch of the Avenue is the juxtaposed look of the buildings that give it character. The most action at night seems to be between East 50th and 51st Streets where a lot of the bars are located. This part of the neighborhood I read that the residents here worked hard to fight the city on new construction to keep the character of the neighborhood the way it has been.
A nice place to sit and relax is the Katherine Hepburn Place by Sterling Plaza at Second Avenue and East 49th Street. This little park named after the actress who lived and advocated for the neighborhood is a small area of trees and benches that is nice to rest for a bit. It is nice to people watch here especially the dog walkers who all seem to converge here.
As I walked back up to East 59th Street, I began to notice that again smaller businesses between that and East 57th were beginning to close. It seems that the fringes of the Upper East Side are beginning to blend into this neighborhood. When you reach the top of the block at East 59th Street, you are greeted with the traffic going into the Queensboro Bridge, the tram going back and forth to Roosevelt Island and the sheer movement of people.
On the way back down Second Avenue, I visited La Vera Pizza at 922 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) for a quick slice. The pizza is really good and they make a delicious Sicilian slice ($3.00). The slice was pillowy and crisp and their sauce has a lot of flavor to it.
There is a distinct difference when you cross East 48th Street from the neighborhood as all the brownstones disappear and you see more office and apartment buildings on that part of Second Avenue. From East 58th to East 49th Streets, you will see a transition and change block by block. Some blocks will be all brownstones and small mom & pop businesses and others it will be a new building with a combination of businesses at street level.
From here, I walked block by block and explored the side streets of the neighborhood and there are many hidden gems in way of restaurants, stores and historic architecture to explore.
Starting on East 59th Street a lot has changed since I walked the neighborhood since before the holidays. A lot of the stores that I had passed were gone and the stores were empty. Either to changing times or higher rents, these businesses disappeared right after the New Year so I turned the corner at Second Avenue and walked down East 58th Street and was surprised by the trove of stores and restaurants on the street. There are still a lot of antique stores and florists on the street as well many restaurants. You will also see the most amazing views of the Queensboro Bridge as it extends from Manhattan to the shores of Queens in the distance.
The Queensboro Bridge on East 59th Street
When you turn the corner and enter 58th Street towards the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge, you will see two small brownstones, 311 and 313 East 58 Street. They were built between 1856-57 by Hiram G. Disbrow for his own use. They were built in the Greek Revival-Italianate style with a porch with a picket fence (Streeteasy). 311 is now the home of Philip Colleck Ltd., an antique furniture store where they carry beautiful classic furniture for the home. 315 is still a private home right next to the ramp on the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge. These two interesting little brownstone homes stand out against the modern high rises that dot the rest of East 58th Street.
This pretty much dominates East 57th Street as well until you get to the Morgan and Vanderbilt Mansions at 2 & 3 Sutton Place with the amazing view of Roosevelt Island and the Queens Waterfront. There is a real beauty in the line of old mansions and brownstones between East 58th and 57th on Sutton Place.
The mansions on Sutton Place
East 56th Street is lined with an array of pre and post war buildings as well with more great views of the river at the end of street of the East River on Sutton Place. East 55th Street is about the same but there is a standout with A La Mode, an ice cream shop at 360 East 55th Street.
A La Mode at 360 East 55th Street
A La Mode (see my review on TripAdvisor) is a very cute and engaging ice cream shop that caters to the locals. The selection of homemade ice creams offers a few unusual flavors. I enjoyed a double scoop of Pink Sprinkle (Strawberry with colored sprinkles) and Partly Cloudy (Cotton Candy with baby marshmallows) both of which were colorful and delicious. They also carry an assortment of gifts and clothes for that lucky child. I must have enjoyed eating it because everyone smiled at me on my walk down to Sutton Place Park to enjoy it and the views.
As I rounded the corner onto East 54th Street, I stopped by both Sofia Pizza and Marinara Pizza many times when touring the neighborhood. Sofia Pizza Shoppe at 989 First Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) has been noted as being one of the best slices in the City by several magazines. I would bypass the traditional slice as it was okay ($3.25) but the Sicilian slice ($4.50) was delicious. It had a nice pillowy consistency, and the sauce is loaded with flavor of fresh tomatoes.
Marinara Pizza at 985 First Avenue and the corner of East 54th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor) is a beautiful open restaurant that allows you to look in at all the pizzas. I had a slice from a pizza that just came out of oven, and it was excellent. Their sauce is delicious and well spiced, and the cheese was nice and gooey. Between the slice of pizza here and the sundae at A La Mode while looking at the view at Sutton Place Park at East 54th Street it was the perfect afternoon. People were smiling back at me that I seemed so happy to indulge in my ice cream while walking down the street.
When you get to the end of East 54th by Sutton Place, there is a small set up stairs that will take you to the first part of Sutton Place Park, Sutton Place Park North, with benches that overlook the skyline of Queens and Roosevelt Island. On a nice day, it is the perfect place to soak up the sunshine and relax while looking at soaring skyline.
Walking down East 54th Street from the park you will find the Recreation Center 54 at 348 East 54th Street with the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater next door at 350 East 54th Street. The Neo-Classical building was built in 1911 as a recreation facility for the working classes and has many of the original details inside such as wrought iron staircases and marble baths. Originally called the 54th Street Baths and Gymnasium, the facility has now morphed into complete gaming experience with basketball, volleyball and swimming (NYCParks.org). Really look up to see the beauty of the building.
Recreation 54 Building on East 54th Street
On the outside of the Neighborhood Playhouse School next door, there is a plaque for Sanford Meisner, one of its most famous faculty. He developed the ‘Meisner Technique’, which is a self-investigation for the actor.
The Sanford Meisner Plaque at the Neighborhood Playhouse School
Mr. Meisner, who had wanted to be an actor since he was a child has studied under Lee Strasberg at the Theater Guild for Acting. In 1935, he joined the faculty of The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater which had been founded in 1928. He had served at the Director of the Acting Department until his retirement in 1990.
At the other end of East 54th Street by Second Avenue, there is an interesting and relaxing little public space that is part of the apartment complex, The Connaught Tower. This is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long walk with benches, small gardens and shade trees. In the front of this public space is the artwork by artist Alexander Liberman, ‘POPS209: Accord’, a large geometric sculpture
Mr. Liberman’s, Russian born immigrant as way of France, career as an artist covered many different forms of art including photography, painting, sculpture and retiring as an Editorial Director at Conde Nast. In his sculpture work, he was noted for his use of industrial objects like steel drums, and I beam and then painting them in uniform bright colors. POPS209: Accord is example of that, but you almost miss it as the trees are growing all around it.
After several breaks in this public space, it was off to explore East 53rd Street. As I made my way back to the river passing the southern part of Sutton Place Park and rounding Sutton Place South onto East 53rd. Be careful when walking in this area. You are blind to cars coming on street from Sutton Place South and they may not stop.
What stands here is this small red brownstone at 413 East 53rd Street that sits like a poor sole amongst the large apartment buildings that surround it.
This little building doesn’t look as good as this now on the outside, but it does have a colorful history in the transformation of this neighborhood several times. The property was once part of the Beekman estate in an area of summer homes and estates of wealthy downtown Manhattanites.
After the Civil War and the land boom that pretty much doomed the Beekman’s estate, this area was built up with tenement housing for the working class who worked in the nearby factories and this little house must have built somewhere in the late 1880’s. It has been lived in by several interesting characters.
The house was once lived in by corrupt politicians who were once slum lords in other parts of the neighborhood, then by a prostitute and her pimp and after that to an insurance company which dealt with cremations. After that it became a sheet metal shop and was fought over and sold by the slum lord’s estate (Daytonian in Manhattan).
By the time that Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Morgan built their homes up the road, the little brick building became a clock shop and then for the next several years was an antique reproduction store. Its last incarnation was as a dentist office and the upper two floors was renovated into a luxury home. Now it sits empty and boarded up waiting for the next stage of its history. So much history for such a small building.
As you pass the corner of East 53rd Street and First Avenue, take a peek inside the doorway to 400-402 East 53rd and look at the secret garden behind the locked door. If you glare to the back, you will see the garden that is hidden behind all the buildings on this part of First Avenue between East 53rd and 52nd Streets. If you could only sneak inside to take a peek.
The secret garden hides behind this entrance
Walking further down East 53rd Street, two small wooden homes that stood out among all the luxury buildings and commercial shops on the street. These two little wooden homes are two of the last remaining in Manhattan and are currently landmarked.
The homes were built in 1866 by Robert and James Cunningham, two returning Civil War veterans who returned to an ever-changing City. The area had once been the farm of David Devore and now contained slaughterhouses and factories and was considered ‘sketchy’. The brothers built the two twin wooden homes right before the City changed the building codes banning wooden homes due to fires destroying the City like the ‘Great Fire of 1835, which destroyed most of downtown (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The two homes are built in the French Second Empire Style and have mansard roofs and brick basements and a shared garden in the back of both homes. The brothers leased the homes out until 1870. In the 1920’s 312 East 53rd was leased to Lincoln Kitsten, who founded the New York City Ballet and then to Society Hostess Muriel Draper and her dancer son, John. The homes were landmarked in 1968 and 2000 respectively (Daytonian in Manhattan).
As you cross the street at Second Avenue and walk down the other side of the street heading back to the river, you will pass Éclair Bakery at 305 East 53rd Street (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), which I consider one the best independent bakeries I have tried on my walk since Estrella Bakery in Washington Heights and the now closed Glaser’s Bakery on the Upper East Side.
Éclair Bakery has some of the most delicious pastries, quiches and sandwiches at what I consider very reasonable prices for this part of the city. The Strawberry and Nutella mini doughnuts ($2.50) are pillowy and coated with sugar filled with fresh strawberry jelly and chocolaty Nutella and are three bite wonders.
The eclair’s ($5.75) come in various flavors and are arranged in the case like jewels. The Hazelnut was my favorite. The Quiche with ham and cheese ($5.75) when warmed up has a nice custard like texture and a sharpness due to the cheese. Everything here is delicious, and the service is really friendly.
Do not miss a visit to Éclair Bakery when visiting Sutton Place
East 52nd Street between the river and Second Avenue is filled with mostly pre- and post-war buildings and filled with many embassies and consulates. As you walk toward the United Nations, you will notice that a lot of the smaller apartment buildings and brownstones between East 52nd and East 48th Street have many foreign signs.
Turning the corner onto East 51st Street on Second Avenue, you will see a change in the neighborhood again. Second Avenue is the border between Turtle Bay and Sutton Place East neighborhoods, and you will notice as you get further down the avenue block by block you will see a change between new modern apartment buildings and the smaller brownstone buildings that house the locally owned restaurants. It still is a neighborhood in this section between East 51st and East 49th Streets.
Again, on the corner of East 51st Street and First Avenue, you will pass the site of the Beekman Mansion on the way back to the East River. At the end of street, you will return to Peter Detmold Park. On a beautiful sunny day, take another walk across the bridge to take in the views of the East River and Roosevelt Island or just sit on the benches in the park and watch people playing with their dogs.
There is one little standout building on the Street at 328 East 51st Street. This beautiful little yellow townhouse was built in 1861 and was the home of actress Katharine Cornell when she moved back to the City in 1965. The two tiny sculptures that sit above the doorway are of Julia and Comfort Tiffany, the twin daughters of Louis Comfort Tiffany who were born in 1887. Ms. Cornell commissioned sculpture to artist, Mary Lawrence Tonetti, who was a good friend of her’s and whose son-in-law, Eric Gugler and architect, had designed the actress’s homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Sneden’s Landing (New York Times). Really look at the stonework and grill work of this home.
328 East 51st Street has a beauty of something in the French Quarter
When you turn the corner again to East 50th Street, the area around Beekman Place closer to the East River by the park has more classic brownstones and prewar apartment buildings and the area between First Avenue and the river is its own little enclave. Here the brownstones on the side streets are filled with many consulates. As you walked down to Second Avenue, the streets are lined with pre and post war buildings. Take the time though to walk Beekman Place and Mitchell Place near the Beekman Tower. It is like its own neighborhood.
Walking back and forth down East 49th Street, you will notice this lower part of the neighborhood is changing to more modern buildings and businesses catering to the United Nations around the corner and the same with East 48th Street which is more modern buildings and parking garages for the UN. The classic brownstones give way to the modern buildings of Midtown.
Still, you have two great restaurants between East 49th and 50th Streets, Mee’s Noodles for those wonderful dumplings and noodles at 930 Second Avenue and La Vera Pizzeria on the corner of East 49th Street and Second Avenue at 922 Second Avenue (see reviews on TripAdvisor). My last trip into the neighborhood I made another trip to La Vera Pizzeria and the place was crowded with people getting off work from Midtown. Their pizza is very good, and the service is friendly.
You can see how this part of the City like all others is in a state of transition as the brownstone buildings with their independent businesses are giving way to the more modern structures of today changing it to an extension of Midtown. Still many parts of the blocks have a ‘neighborhood’ feel to it and the area is loaded with interesting buildings, wonderful restaurants, small pocket parks and amazing views of the East River and the outer boroughs changing skyline. It is a wonderful place to just walk around and enjoy!
Steve Tyrell and Neil Sedaka “Laughter in the Rain”. It cheered me up!
I don’t know why but I kept humming this the entire time I walked Sutton Place.
I started my walk today with a walking tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sometimes the Soup Kitchen gets to be too much before these walks and since making my goal of two thousand hours, I have wanted to calm it down. My next goal will be twenty-five hundred hours but I can take my time on that one.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue
I toured the Asian galleries with other patrons of the museum. The exhibition was the “Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Nepal” which was a tour of the famous crowns of Nepal. The funny part of these crowns were that they had always been in the collection but had been marked incorrectly by museum for the Armory Galleries as helmets. When they discovered what they had in storage, they put them out on display and soon will be restored so we won’t see them again for a long time.
The “Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Napel” exhibition at the Met
The unique part of the tour that the docent told us is that they had never been out on display together since they had been bought to the museum and the first time ever had been displayed at the museum the way they are now. You really had to have the details explained as the symbolism of each crown stood on its own, with their Buddhas and flowers described in detail. All of them were accented with semi-precious jewels.
After the tour was over, I had enough time to walk around the new “Visitors to Versailles” exhibition. This is an exhibition you should not miss while it is open. It has all sorts of the pictures and artifacts on the creation of the building, how it progressed, who visited and how it continued to be added on up to the French Revolution and into the modern times. It was fascinating to see the progress on how it started as a hunting lodge right up to the modern gardens that were installed. Be prepared for at least a two hour visit for both exhibitions to see them properly. It was better than spending the morning cutting vegetables.
The “Visitors to Versailles” exhibition at the Met
I started my walk around the neighborhood at East 72nd Street, walking the lower part of the street passing familiar businesses and apartment buildings. It is amazing how fast scaffolding goes up. It must grow on its own because in just a few weeks, more buildings are surrounded by it or are in the process of being redone or knocked down. As I have said in previous entries, Manhattan is changing at a pace that you cannot keep up with it. You can walk a block and a week later it seems that something is in the process of change.
This is true on the first Avenue I walked today, the ever-changing York Avenue. It just seems like the entire Avenue is being rebuilt. I have never seen so many new buildings going up on one street. The rest of the blocks will certainly be going through the transition.
If you want to tour the FDR Walkway tour of the river, cross over at East 71st Street and York Avenue and cross the walkway here. It has the most beautiful views of the river and of Roosevelt Island. This is one way to get down to East 59th Street and the edge of the neighborhood. You can also cross over the East 63rd Street entrance as well to the river walk.
The Riverwalk along the East River
York Avenue has the Cornell-Weill Hospital between East 71st to East 68th Streets so these are busy blocks and then you pass the tranquil Rockefeller University between East 68th to East 63rd Street where most of the property facing York Avenue is landscaped and park-like and very pleasant to walk by. I just wish the campus was more open like the Columbia is where you can walk around the Quad. At the end of York Avenue at East 59th Street under the Queensboro Bridge starts the exclusive Sutton Place.
As I have said in a previous blog, really look at the beautiful artwork on the Queensboro Bridge, with its geometric designs along the sides, its beautiful tiling and its vaulted ceilings. The now closed supermarket under the bridge must have been amazing to shop in when it was open.
For lunch I stopped at Go Noodle Chinese Restaurant at 1069 First Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) which was part of a series of restaurants near the bridge. It’s a nice restaurant to sit in and people watch. The lunch specials are reasonable and very good.
I started my meal with an egg roll and then had shredded chicken with string beans for my entree. The food here is very good. The entree was loaded with chicken cooked in a brown garlic tasting sauce with properly sauteed string beans. The egg roll was better than most I have tried at neighborhood Chinese restaurants but standard with roast pork and shredded cabbage. At $8.25 for a full meal plus the soda, not a bad price for lunch and it was lunch and dinner for me.
Their Chicken and String Beans was very good
After lunch, I needed a rest from the large lunch and all the walking and I stopped in Twenty-Four Sycamore Park on the corner of York Avenue at 501 East 60th Street right next to the Andrew Haswell Green Park on the other side of the road. This delightful little park is very popular with the kiddie/nanny set and had kids scrambling all over the place on this hot day chasing after one another while all the adults sat in the shade and talked amongst themselves. It was a nice place to just sit back and relax. I just tried to avoid the squirt gun fight going on.
As you turn to the lower part of First Avenue, you still see traces of the older part of the city but as you enter the higher East 60’s, things start to change. More and more new buildings are going up. The popular St. Catherine’s Park is between East 67th to 68th Streets and according to the park system mimics the Santa Maria sopra Minerva Church in Rome in its layout to honor St. Catherine (NYCParks.org).
This is another popular spot in the neighborhood for kids and adults alike. Kids were running around all over the park while the parents were relaxing under the shade trees. The sandbox seemed to be really popular with the kids jockeying for space in it.
When reaching East 66th Street, you will come across the large condominium complex of Manhattan House, which was built between 1950 to 1951 and designed by Gordon Bunshaft for the firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the modernist style. It overlooks a garden that runs the entire block with two sculptures by the artist Hans Van de Bovenkamp (which you can see from the sidewalk through the windows).
Some of the famous people who have lived there include actress Grace Kelly and musician Benny Goodman. The apartment complex reached landmark status in 2007 and take time to walk around the front garden of the complex. It looks like something in Fort Lee, NJ.
Second and Third Avenues are mostly commercial but have many spots to look over and visit. Walking down Third Avenue past East 66th Street is a plaque on the site of the Nathan Hale, the American Patriot and spy, hanging by the British during the Revolutionary War. The site is much debated based on its location near the Dove Tavern on the Old Post Road. Another is by the Yale Club near East 44th Street. There has been a debate where the Royal Artillery Park was located.
If only Nathan Hale knew where he died would now be a Pier One Store, even he would be shocked. It shows just how much Manhattan has changed.
Down the Avenue at East 60th Street is Dylan’s Candy Bar at 1011 Third Avenue, a giant emporium of candy and sweets, (which I hate to say is an exact copy of the old FAO Schweetz, which I ran back in the 90’s when I worked at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue. It was very reminiscent of the department due to the fact that the designers of the store, store management and buyer all came from the store to work with Dylan Lauren, designer Ralph Lauren’s daughter. My boss, Jeff, is one of her partners).
She took the creation and made it her own in a store that stocks 7,000 types of candy and a small cafe on the third floor. With the inspiration of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, the store leads into a real life ‘Candyland’. The store is stocked with a rainbow of sweets and treats and one of the top tourist spots in the City (Dylan’s Candy Bar press).
I stopped at Bloomingdale’s Department Store at 1000 Third Avenue at 59th and Lexington Avenue, the famous ‘Bloomies’, for another visit to ‘Forty Carrots’ (See review on TripAdvisor) on the 7th Floor. I swear on a hot day this is one of the best solutions. For $7.00, I had a small strawberry yogurt with rainbow sprinkles that cooled me down after this part of the long walk around the neighborhood.
40 Carrots inside Bloomingdale’s New York City 1000 Third Avenue
I got a chance to walk around the store and look at the merchandise. I have to say that the store has changed a lot over the years. It has gotten more upscale and the merchandise more expensive. It still has its past allure but has gotten more elegant in its feel.
Walking back up Lexington Avenue there are a few buildings of interest you really have to see. At 131 East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue is The Studio Building, considered one of the purest Italian Renaissance-palazzo style apartment buildings in New York City. The twelve-story building was designed by Charles A. Platt for developer, William J. Taylor, who had developed ‘studio’ apartment buildings on the West Side of Manhattan. Mr. Platt also designed the other sister building at 130-134 East 67th Street (CityRealty).
The buildings are distinguished by the handsome and large cornice and its very impressive entrance portals flanked by columns and topped with broken pediments on the street-side. The building has a nice tall, wrought-iron fence and four string courses (CityRealty). The buildings were designed landmarked in 1949 for their unique design. Both buildings are quite breath-taking to look at for their elegance.
As you walk further up Lexington Avenue, you will pass the Seventh Regiment Armory, whose entrance is at 643 Park Avenue, that goes the full block from Lexington to Park Avenues (you can see the statue dedicated to the regiment on Fifth Avenue), the Armory was built between 1877-1881 and is considered to have one of the most important collections of 19th Century intact interiors in New York City. It is now used as a performance art space.
The building was built in the ‘Silk Stocking’ district of Manhattan and was one of the first regiments to answer the call of arms by President Lincoln for the start of the Civil War in 1861. It was designed by Charles W. Clinton of the firm of Clinton & Russell and had been a member of the Regiment. It had been used as a military facility and a social club Armory History).
Further up the road between East 67th-69th Streets is the famed Hunter College campus. The students were out in full force when I was walking around the campus. Like Rockefeller University, this college dominates this part of the neighborhood with students and businesses catering to them. The problem is that the rents are getting so expensive, the students can’t support the upscale businesses that surround the campus and I am beginning to notice that there are more and more empty storefronts around the neighborhood. Still, it has a great bookstore to visit.
The rest of Lexington Avenue is surrounded by businesses and apartment buildings that are rapidly changing like the rest of the city. It is funny to walk down these blocks months later to see buildings under scaffolding or businesses that were once a part of the neighborhood for years suddenly disappear.
This is why Park Avenue is so nice. It never really changes. Dominated by pre-war and/or Victorian apartment buildings, it still has the look and feel that it did in the 30’s although there is a lot more money here now than then. Here and there is an old mansion or a small shop and I have found it home to three small but interesting museums and galleries.
At Park Avenue & 66th Street is the front part of the Park Avenue ‘Seventh Regiment Armory”. Built in the Gothic style by architect Charles Clinton in 1880, you can see the real detail of the building on the Park Avenue side. The former home of the Seventh Regiment it is now the home of the performing center.
The Americas Society Gallery at 680 Park Avenue is a unique and small little gallery located in the Spanish Institute. There was an interesting exhibition “The Metropolis in Latin America 1830-1930” on the development of cities in Latin America that was very interesting. Another museum/gallery next door to that is Italian Cultural Institute at 686 Park Avenue, who has the tiny ‘Museo Canova’ with the works of Italian artist Antonio Canova.
His “The Tempera Paintings of Possagno” was cataloged in 1817 and reference is made to those paintings depicting “various dance moves, frolics between nymphs and lovers, muses and philosophers, drawn for the artist’s personal knowledge and delight.” (Museo Canova pamphlet). They were interesting little paintings of nymphs and little angels dancing around each other.
The Americas Society and Spanish Institute is housed in the former Percy Rivington Pyne home that was built between 1909-1911 by McKim, Mead & White. Mr. Pyne was a director of the First National City Bank of New York and the founder’s grandson. The other part of the Institute is the former home of Oliver D. Filley (husband of Mary Pyne Filley, Percy Rivington Pyne’s daughter).
Italian Cultural Institute at 684 Park Avenue is housed in the former home of Henry P. Davison, a financier that was designed by the firm of Walker & Gillette in 1917 in the Neo-Georgian style. All three of these homes were saved by Margaret Rockefeller Strong de Larram, Marquesa de Cuevas in 1965 and all three of these homes (now Institutes) were designated as a New York City landmark by the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission on November 10, 1970. Take time to look at the plaques attached to the three buildings and the architecture of the homes. It forms one of the last intact architectural ensembles on Park Avenue (Wiki).
Further up Park Avenue is the Asian Society and Museum at 725 Park Avenue which was founded by John D. Rockefeller III in 1956 with a vision, to create an institute that would build bridges of understanding between the United States and Asia (Asian Society pamphlet). The museum houses the collection of John D. Rockefeller III on the third floor along with an exhibition of local children’s art and their interpretation of Asian Art. The bottom level houses a well-received restaurant and gift shop. It is an interesting exhibition on Hindu and Buddhist Art.
Madison Avenue also offers a wide array of interesting architecture and retail stores. At the very top of Madison Avenue is the home of the main store of Ralph Lauren, which is housed in the former Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo Mansion.
The home was built by the old money heiress between 1893-1898 designed by Kimball & Thompson in the French Renaissance revival design. It has been leased by Ralph Lauren since 1983, whose company redesigned it as a retail store. This is a store that proves that the ‘brick & mortar’ store is not dead with its elegant displays of merchandise.
Madison Avenue from East 72nd Street to 59th Street is really an Avenue of extremes. Just like the uptown blocks from East 72nd to East 96th Streets is full of extremely expensive but always empty looking stores. More and more of the store fronts are empty as even the raising rents are affecting this area of the city as well. Still, it is a great Avenue to window shop.
Still, you will find a collection of top American and European upscale shops that cater to that ‘certain’ customer. Needless to say, this part of Madison Avenue I never notice that busy and late at night the Avenue is practically barren.
One stands out on the Avenue is the St. James Church at 865 Madison Avenue near the Ralph Lauren store. This graceful and beautiful Episcopalian church was built 1810-1883 in various locations until in 1884, the present church designed by Robert H. Robertson was designed and built to open in 1885 in the Romanesque style. It has been added onto since the church has been built. Look at the graceful details around the church when you pass by.
I reached the top of Fifth Avenue that evening and was totally pooped! It was 8:20pm and starting to get dark. I just wanted to get back home at that point. I don’t where I garnered the energy, but I walked from Fifth Avenue and East 72nd Street to Port Authority at West 42nd Street and collapsed on the bus ride home.
On the 25th of May, I started my day at the Soup Kitchen again lucking out at a somewhat quiet day working on the Bread Station. We did not get any donations of sweets or desserts, so it was just bread today and we were able to butter away.
I walked up Sixth Avenue to the Museum of Modern Art to pick up tickets for the museum’s restoration of the movie, “Rosita” with Mary Pickford. This silent film had been all but lost until a print was found in Germany. Most of Mary Pickford’s films were destroyed by the actress herself who I had once read in biography that she did not want to see herself in old films. Pity, she would have been thrilled to see the theater was packed to the gills and they were turning people away.
I had lunch at Halal Guys food cart on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 53rd Street. I have been coming here for years and the lines for their food always keep increasing (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
I had one of their combo sandwiches ($6.00), which is loaded with chopped chicken and gyro meat on a soft pita bread. It is so good, and I highly recommend it when visiting the MoMA. It is nice to have a sandwich or one of their platters and just sit by the stone benches by the CBS Building and watch the world go by.
Halal Brothers cart is always busy on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 54th Street
I started my walk of the Upper East Side with a walk-through Central Park. On the way to the pathway into the park, I noticed a rather weird sculpture by British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibane entitled “The Wind Sculpture”.
The artist created this sculpture to replace a more radical sculpture that had been taken down. The theme behind the piece is tolerance and highlights global migration (The Guardian). The artist concentrates on the themes of Colonial and Post-Colonial art.
As you pass the Batik colored sculpture, you will enter the walk way to Central Park Zoo, one of the biggest tourist spots for kids in the City. The Zoo, which is now part of the Wildlife Conservatory, has been part of Central Park since the 1860’s and then was renovated again in 1934. The current park was designed in 1984 and was reopened in 1988.
The Wind Sculpture at the entrance of Central Park off Fifth Avenue
Like the rest of Central Park in the 1970’s and 80’s, the place got run down. Now it is more open and naturalistic to the animal’s home environment. Don’t miss the seal tanks and the penguin room as I find those the most interesting to visit. Try to get to the seal feeding at 2:00pm when the seals are not too tired of looking at tourists. The gardens are nice along the perimeter of the zoo to just sit and relax on a warm sunny day.
One thing not to miss is the Delacorte Clock just outside of the park. Every half hour, the clock chimes and all the animals do a dance routine. It starts with two monkeys’ hitting the bell and then the animals dance around the clock. There is an elephant, goat, bear, kangaroo, penguin and hippo that dance to songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and 24 other children’s songs. The clock was a gift from philanthropist George T. Delacorte, who also donated to the park the “Alice in Wonderland” statue and the Delacorte Theater. It was designed by artist Fernando Texidor in partnership of architect Edward Coe Embury and was dedicated in 1965 to Central Park. Try to get to the park to hear the songs and watch the animal’s dance.
I also took my first tour of the Tisch Children’s Zoo right next to the main zoo and this rather more mellow counterpart is more for younger children to see and pet smaller animals. Part of the original park, Lawrence Tisch saw to the renovations and it reopened in 1997. This is a great place for the under 12 crowd.
Between the late-night ambulance calls and the work in the Soup Kitchen and the long walks the days before, I relaxed on a grassy knoll in the park near the Fifth Avenue entrance off East 66th Street. I just fell asleep next to a bunch of other people who also were falling asleep in the park.
On a warm, sunny day under a shade tree, there is nothing like it. It is so relaxing to just look up at the trees and the sunshine and not believing you are still in the middle of a busy city. I can’t believe this is the same park of the 80’s when you didn’t dare enter. Just don’t do this late at night.
I walked up and around Fifth Avenue to East 72nd Street and walked back down on the park side. There are two interesting statues to take time to see. At Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street is the memorial to architect Robert Morris Hunt. Unveiled in 1893, this memorial was designed by Daniel Chester French, who was the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Robert Morris Hunt designed some of the most prominent mansions during the ‘Gilded Age” and whose work is still a part of the New York City landscape.
The other sculpture is the memorial to the One Hundredth & Seventh Infantry at Fifth Avenue and East 67th Street. This memorial was designed by sculptor Karl Illava and was dedicated in 1927 to the City. Mr. Illava, a New York City resident, had been in the 107th as a Sargent and wanted to convey the horrors of war.
Across the street from the Robert Morris Hunt Sculpture is the Frick Collection housed in the former home of industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The mansion is one of the last intact surviving “Gilded Age” mansions left on Fifth Avenue. It was designed by architect Thomas Hastings of Carrere & Hastings between 1912-1914 and was lived in by the family until Mrs. Frick’s death in 1931. The house and all its artwork were willed as a museum and since that time, it has been expanded to add a research library and now has travelling collections on top of their permanent collection that contains many “Old Masters”.
I set out to see the new “George Washington” exhibition on the creation of the statue for the Virginia State Capital that was destroyed by fire in the last century. All of the models and drawings were accompanying the display to see how the work was created. After that, I just walked through the galleries to see all the paintings and sit by the fountain in the middle of the old house. The weather got to me and I left the City right after visiting the museum.
The inside of the Frick Museum (currently closed for renovation)
I finished my walk of this part of the neighborhood after another day in the Soup Kitchen on May 30th. I was lucky that there were so many people at the Soup Kitchen volunteering that I got put on the Spoon station wrapping spoons. I needed that after the week of walking around that I did.
There was a restaurant I wanted to try for lunch that I had passed when walking around First Avenue earlier in the visit, New Wong Asian Food Inc. at 1217 First Avenue between East 65th and 66th Streets (See review on TripAdvisor). This little Chinese ‘hole in the wall’ caters alot to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital crowd and seeing the lunch in front of one of the hospital workers, I order the same thing, the General Tso’s Chicken lunch special with fried rice ($7.85).
I thought it was a little to American even for me. It was a large portion of tempura-like fried chicken pieces in a sauce that had not flavor to it. I mean none! It looked so good on the plate that I ordered it because of the worker and someone else ordered it because they saw it on my plate. It looked good but it was so over-fried and under spiced I would suggest not ordering it.
It was a sunny warm day and I decided to double back to see some of the sites I had passed earlier and visit some of the small museums and galleries, like the Asian Society at 725 Park Avenue, the Americas Society Gallery at 680 Park Avenue and the Museo Casnova at 686 Park Avenue. I also revisited some of the sites on Park, Madison and Fifth Avenues ended my day at Glaser’s Bake Shop at 1670 First Avenue (See many reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). This meant that I had to try a few things like the Lemon Crumb Danish ($3.00) and the Kitchen Sink Stuffed Cookie ($3.50). After all that walking, I figured I could walk this all off.
Glaser’s Bake Shop at 1670 First Avenue (Closed in 2018)
My last part of the day before going home I just relaxed at Carl Schurz Park at East 84th Street. I just ate my dessert and walked the boats go by. On a warm sunny late afternoon, there is nothing like sitting in the park and watching the river traffic go by and people walk their dogs and kids play in the playground (See reviews in earlier blogs).
Who says the Twitter generation does not have fun? I did not see many cellphones out while the kids were chasing one another around. By the way, they did finish that luxury building across the river in Queens next to the housing projects.
As I passed Park Avenue and East 72nd Street, I saw an unusual sculpture in the Park Avenue Mall by artist Tony Cragg made of fiberglass with the most unusual spirals called “Hammerhead 2017”. This British artist has been working with uses a form of mixed materials and is part of the “Art in the Park” program. Don’t miss this geometrical sculpture on the mall.
I did walk from York Avenue and East 84th Street back to Port Authority on West 42nd Street. Along the way at the very edge of the neighborhood, there is the famous hotels, The Pierre at 2 61st Street, where I had once worked for a week in college in the sales department and the Sherry-Netherland at 781 Fifth Avenue. These start the upscale hotels and stores of Fifth Avenue until about East 50th Street. I was exhausted by the time I hit the East 59th Street.
Still, it is an interesting neighborhood, loaded with small museums, parks, stores and public art. That’s why these entries are getting longer as there is so much more to see and so much more time to spend walking around.
Hey, I had to work off the Chinese meal, two pastries, two protein bars and three Cokes. I need to buy stock in Coca Cola.
See read my other Blogs on walking the Lower Part of the Upper East Side:
Day One Hundred and Sixteen: Walking the Streets of the Lower Upper East Side: