It’s funny to return to a restaurant that had been part of your career twenty years earlier. In my years in the Macy’s Buying offices, Al’s Deli is entrenched in the memories of many Macy executives with early morning breakfasts before we had to be at the desk at 9:00am or in those late nights preparing for the holiday season after 8:00pm. Plus all those lunches being delivered when we were chained to our desks as the phones were ringing off the hook. Even when I visited the restaurant recently I still see their delivery people racing across the street delivering salads and sandwiches thinking nothing has changed over the years.
Al’s Deli has been serving the Garment District crowds since 1976 and its popularity is its…
I came across Stick to my Pot Potstickers, a little hole in the wall in the Garment District, when I found it on my Mileage Plus Dining club. I must have passed it hundreds of times without noticing it but in the last week I have come twice. I have been very impressed by the quality of the food and the service.
The restaurant logo is so pleasant
What is also nice is the prices are very reasonable and the portion sizes are very fair. It is nice to be able to eat inside again since they lifted the dining rules in New York City. The restaurant has a long bar instead of tables and they keep all the customers socially distanced…
I returned to the NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park) neighborhood after the holidays were over on a rather cold and cloudy day. What a difference three weeks makes in the mood of New York City. What ever was left of that little Christmas cheer that was in Manhattan was over. The streets had gotten really quiet again. Not the same when I walked the neighborhood on Christmas Day but still the busiest place in the neighborhood was Madison Square Park. Those little kids really love that playground and the dog walkers are finding refuge in the Dog park. Madison Square Park has been a blessing in disguise for many people in this neighborhood.
I started my walk on West 30th Street and Broadway. I have walked this part of Broadway many times on my full length walk of Broadway from 242nd Street to the Bowling Green Park at the tip of the Island and recognized many of these buildings from previous walks. This part of Broadway is so impressive in architecture and played such an important park of the City’s development as a business district.
My ‘Walk down the Length of Broadway’ has been done four times:
As the neighborhood as started to gentrify before my eyes (I have never seen so many buildings being gutted and sandblasted back to life), a new generation of upscale stores and restaurants are finding a home on Broadway between 30th to 26th Streets. Broadway right now is closed off for outdoor winter dining in the era of COVID. I could not believe the way people are bundling up to eat outside.
One of the most impressive buildings on the edge of the neighborhood that is currently under renovation is 1200 Broadway, former The Gilsey House Hotel.
1200 Broadway-The Gilsey House Hotel
This elegant Victorian confection was designed by architect Stephen Decatur Hatch with a cast iron facade in the Second Empire style. The hotel opened in 1872 as a luxury hotel catering to well-heeled guests when this was the main business district. I now is being renovated for residential use (Wiki).
One of the most beautiful buildings on Broadway is 1181 Broadway, The Baudouine Building, at the corner of Broadway and West 28th Street. The building was built for furniture maker Charles A. Baudouine with architect Alfred Zucker. The building was completed in 1896 (Daytonian).
1181 Broadway-The Baudouine Building
The ornate building has a unique feature on the top in the form of a small Greek temple on the roof that was once used for the Baudouine Realty business. There was a succession of businesses using the building over the years but it has now given way to apartments (Daytonian). You really have to walk around this building to admire its details done in terra cotta and limestone.
The Greek Temple roof at 1181 Broadway
Walking down Broadway, I passed 1133 Broadway, The St. James Building. It is another building that makes you stop and take notice of the detail work on the outside of the building. The St. James was built in 1896 by architect Bruce Price in the Beaux Arts style with a limestone exterior and noted for its arched windows (New Yorkitecture).
1133 Broadway The St. James Building
The buildings in this section of Broadway became more commercial towards the turn of the Ninetieth Century in a ‘race to sky’ with the rise of early skyscrapers (Flatiron Partnership).
1133 Broadway-The St. James Building
One building that stands out in the neighborhood that sits right near Madison Square Park like another overgrown confection amongst the other buildings is 1132 Broadway (also known as 210 Fifth Avenue), the Cross Chambers Building, once home to the Marc Cross & Company leather goods store. This detailed building was designed by architect John B. Snook & Sons in the Beaux Arts style (Daytonian).
1132 Broadway-The Cross-Chambers Building (210 Fifth Avenue)
This marble clad building stands guard impressively amongst the surrounding buildings and you really have to look closely of the details in design to see its beauty. Walking closer to the park, another stand out building is 1128 Broadway (212 Fifth Avenue).
This impressive building is next door to 210 Fifth Avenue and faces Madison Square Park between West 25th and West 26th Streets. This former commercial building was converted to residences in 2016. The building was built in 1912 by architects Schwartz & Gross in the Neo-Gothic and Romanesque style. The building is amazing when it is lit at night (Flatiron Partnership).
210 & 212 Fifth Avenue (1128 and 1132 Broadway) across from Madison Square Park
Making my way through the park, I relaxed by the playground again and could not believe how busy it was for a late afternoon. I was wondering if these kids were in school or had virtual classes and were taking a break. If the parents were cooped up in the apartments surrounding the park with their kids, maybe it was them that needed the break and the fresh air. Either way, the kids were having a ball and climbing all over the place while the parents talked amongst themselves happy to see other adults.
Madison Square Park in the summer months
From the park, I started my trip up Fifth Avenue from 25th to 30th Street. Fifth Avenue is the dividing line between the West Side and the East Side of Manhattan and has been almost the cultural divide between these two sections of Manhattan over the years.
For years when I was working in Manhattan in the Rug industry, this had been the Handmade Rug District and the Textiles District for the Garment Industry. Slowly this is giving way to more residential and commercial use for other industries such as the growing Tech, Advertising and Multi-Media industries that have been growing since 1998. It has been because of the fiber optic cables that line Eighth and Ninth Avenues along with beauty of all these classic buildings. More and more people want the charm of these Beaux-Arts style buildings that just a decade ago were considered obsolete and were being knocked down.
I finished my afternoon by having dinner at AweSum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street. Since dining inside was still closed in the City, I had to brave eating my dinner at one of the outdoor tables in the 40 degree evening with no pool heaters in site. I could not believe the other five tables were filled as well. It shows the popularity that this restaurant has gotten in the four months I have been visiting this neighborhood.
I explored the Dim Sum menu and settled on an order of Fried Rice Dumplings, an order of Spring Rolls and for dessert an order of Baked Cream Buns. Everything was nicely wrapped in small containers and boxes and I ate the furthest table by East 23rd Street. Talk about a view at twilight. All the lights were coming on and surprising the traffic around the restaurant was busy.
AweSum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street
The food here is excellent and reasonable. The Cream Buns especially were crisp on the outside due to the rice dough and sweet on the inside. Everything on the menu here is terrific.
The Cream Buns here are amazing
Fifth Avenue has so many charming buildings as well. Walking up Fifth Avenue from Madison Square Park I passed one of the most impressive buildings at 225 Fifth Avenue, the former Brunswick Hotel and called The Grand Madison. It presides over the northern part of Madison Square Park.
This impressive building also once the New York Gift Building was designed by architects Francis H. Kimball and Harry E. Donnell in the Renaissance Revival style in 1906. The outside of the impressive building is built with multi-color brick and limestone (StreetEasy).
225 Fifth Avenue-The Grand Madison/The former Brunswick Hotel
As I headed up Fifth Avenue, one neighborhood museum you should not miss is the Museum of Sex at 233 Fifth Avenue. Talk about an interesting museum dedicated tastefully to the art and history of sex.
Museum of Sex at 233 Fifth Avenue
I had visited the museum in the Pre-COVID days (that seems like a lifetime ago) and visited the exhibitions on the “History of Pornography” in film and “Punk Lust: Raw Provocation 1971-1985”, an exhibition on the ‘Punk Music Scene’ during the height of the ‘sexual revolution’. There is some very interesting art in this museum as well as they were building ‘Funland’ while I was visiting so I have to go back and see the exhibition. Don’t miss their interesting gift shop.
‘Punk Lust’ exhibition at the Museum of Sex
As I continued the walk up Fifth Avenue, I passed another architectural gem at 242 Fifth Avenue, The Bow Building. This unique building was finished in 1885 and was converted to apartments in 2016 (CityRealty.com).
The building was the former home of John C. Ely, a real estate owner and was originally built in 1883 as a private brownstone home. In 1885, architect George Harding converted it from residential to a commercial building with the addition of the large bay windows and a cast iron front (Daytonian).
242 Fifth Avenue-The Bow Building
Just further up Fifth Avenue near East 28th Street is 256 Fifth Avenue which also has the most interesting facade. The building was built by furniture maker Charles A . Baudouine when he started to buy real estate. The building was designed by architects Alfred Zucker (who also designed 1188 Broadway for the same owner) and John H. Edelman and was completed in 1893. The building is designed in the Moorish Revival style and was designed for retail use that started to fill the area at the later half of the 1800’s (Daytonian).
256 Fifth Avenue
At the tip of the neighborhood between East 29th and 30th Streets is the Marble Collegiate Church at 272 Fifth Avenue and 1 West 29th Street. The Marble Collegiate Church is one of the oldest churches in New York City being part of the Reformed Dutch Church. It was founded in 1628.
The Collegiate Marble Church at 272 Fifth Avenue at 1 West 29th Street
The church building was built between 1851 and 1854. It was designed by architect Samuel A. Warner in the Romanesque Revival style with Gothic Trim and is made of Tuckahoe marble (Wiki).
For dinner that evening, I made a detour back through Kips Bay to try Kips Bay Deli at 545 Second Avenue again for dinner. Indoor dining was still not available in Manhattan so I ordered a sandwich and took it with me to the little plaza across the street from Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone on the corner of East 34th Street and First Avenue.
Kips Bay Deli is at 545 Second Avenue
The sandwiches at Kips Bay Deli are just excellent and can easily feed two people. I ordered a Chicken Parmesan on a hero roll and it was just excellent (see my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). The sandwich was stuffed with two large fried chicken cutlets with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. I was starved from all that walking up and down both Broadway and Fifth Avenue. It tasted so good on a cool night. I just sat and watched the doctors leave from their shifts that evening.
The Chicken Parmesan sandwich here is really good
My last afternoon in NoMAD, I explored all the side streets from West to East 30th to West to East 25th Streets again between Sixth and Madison Avenue. I saw a lot of the same buildings that lined both Broadway, Fifth and Madison Avenue before and it was nice to admire them from all angles. Even on the side streets, I can tell even in the era of COVID this is an extremely desirable neighborhood and buildings are being gutted and renovated.
I started back in Madison Square Park to figure out my game plan. On this cool day, the park was extremely busy. The dog walkers were all talking amongst themselves while the kids were all yelling and screaming in the playground.
I started my walk on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 26th Street and made my way down the street. I passed the now closed Museum of Mathematics at 11 East 26th Street and looked through the window. There was no one in the museum. I will have to visit again when the museum is open in the future.
Museum of Mathematics at 11 East 26th Street is closed because of COVID
Walking down from East 26th to West 26th Streets to Sixth Avenue, I passed many of the historic buildings on Fifth Avenue and Broadway again with their beautiful details and their impressive stonework. This is true until you get to Sixth Avenue with its modern apartment buildings that were built in the late 1990’s until today.
Slowly the borders and businesses of the Garment and Flower Districts around Sixth Avenue are slowly disappearing. There is still some small manufacturing and whole businesses left but little by little these buildings are being torn down for another building or gutted for an upscale merchant or restaurant. The character of the old neighborhood will be gone within the next five years.
As I made my back down West 26th Street and rounded the corner on Madison Avenue to East 27th Street, so many interesting small buildings stood out when you left the confines of the Avenues. There is one standout that has an interesting history at 13-15 East 27th Street, The Prince Edward Hotel.
13-15 East 27th Street-The Prince Edward Hotel
The was designed by architect Howard Greenley in the Beaux-Arts style and opened in 1904 with a ‘British Flair’ with a “Ladies Tea Room’ and a “British Tap Room’ as noted by the signs outside. When it opened, it had its own celebrity clientele that spanned that era. The history changed 65 years later when in the 1970’s it was considered one of the most dangerous welfare residencies in the City. Today the hotel is going through another renovation to bring it back to its glory (Forgotten New York).
Another set of beautiful buildings you have to look up at to admire their beauty is 28-32 West 27th Street which was built in 1909 in the Beaux-Arts design and 34 West 27th Street next door which has a unique design itself and both are heavily decorated.
28-32 West 27th Street and 34 West 27th Street next door
Heading back down 27th Street to Fifth Avenue, I passed the Museum of Sex again and I could see through the window that the gift shop was busy. It was interesting that everyone was wearing masks because of COVID but it seemed rather suited for the museum.
My walk down East 28th Street offered similar architectural treasurers. As the neighborhood started to change from wealthy residential to commercial, the rich started to build their new mansions on the upper parts of Fifth Avenue around Central Park. This area became the new Midtown from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of WWI. It became home to many of the top hotels and the Hotel Latham from 4-8 East 28th Street became one of the top hotels.
4-8 East 28th Street-The Latham Hotel
The Latham Hotel was built 1904 and designed by architect Augustus N. Allen in the Beaux Arts style. The hotel opened as both an upscale residential and transient hotel. Like the Prince Edward Hotel, the modern era was not the best to the hotel and it was used for the homeless during the 1970’s and 80’s. Currently it is being renovated again (Daytonian).
One building I admired was at 34 East 28th Street. This small building has a unique facade that looks like it belongs in New Orleans. This brownstone with marble trim was built in 1910.
34 East 28th Street
I rounded the corner again to East 29th Street and stopped right in front of 2 West 29th Street. This elegant marble commercial building was built in 1928 and has since been renovated into condos. Don’t ask what the going price is to live here!
2 West 29th Street
On the way back to the East Side of Fifth Avenue, I walked past 1186 and 1200 Broadway again with their scaffolding and sandblasting that will be going on for months. I also passed many small groups of Caribbean men who work at the wholesale stores huddling under the scaffolding to keep warm and dry on the gloomy afternoon.
As the buildings in this neighborhood go through the transition back to hotels and upscale retail awaiting the post-COVID days in the future I wondered how much longer they will all be working here. Almost all the buildings I have highlighted in the neighborhood are going through some form of renovation turning the neighborhood back to its glory days as the Midtown hub.
My last stop in the neighborhood was the Church of the Transfiguration at 1 East 29th Street. The church was built in the English Neo-Gothic style in 1849. The church had continued to be added onto during the late 1800’s with the tower and guildhall built in 1852 and the lych-gate designed by architect Fredrick Clarke Withers in 1869. The chapels were added in 1906 and 1908. The early claim to fame of the church was it had actor Edwin Booth (the father of John Wilkes Booth) Memorial stained glass window designed by John LeFarge in 1898 located in the church (Wiki).
The Church of the Transfiguration at 1 East 29th Street
What is nice about the church is the gardens in the front where you can sit down and rest and contemplate about yourself. The original architect of the church is unknown but designed these English gardens as a place of refuge. What I thought was interesting was that the church had been used in films since Silent films and the most famous current film was the Woody Allen film “Hanna and her Sisters” (Wiki).
Still even on a gloomy day, it was a nice place to just rest, relax and think about how this neighborhood is going through its own transformation as the rest of the City is during this time of COVID. What will be the end results and what will the City look and be like?
I ended my evening once again with a quick slice of pizza at Fresh Pizza and Deli at 876 Sixth Avenue. I don’t know why I love this little dump of a restaurant but the food is so good. The pizza is a $1.00 and on a cold gloomy night tasted so good. The cooks here keep giving strange looks like I am going to arrest them or something. The people that eat here are real characters that work in the neighborhood and like to defy City orders and eat their pizza and sandwiches at the small counter inside the restaurant. I found myself doing the same until they nudged me to the sidewalk.
Fresh Pizza and Deli at 876 Sixth Avenue
I keep wondering how long this little neighborhood gem with last in the latest transformation of this neighborhood? I will stay-tuned as I continue my walk around the old Midtown.
My blog on “Walking the Borders of NoMAD/Rose Hill/Flatiron District”:
Well, Christmas is finally officially over for me. It was one for the books. The holiday season just came and went without much fanfare or activities. Nothing like last year which was a lot of running around visiting decorated homes or running to the next cocktail party or dinner. Those things just did not exist this year. This season was all about the outside walking tours and small get togethers.
The whole holiday season became a blur and I started to attend a lot of outdoor activities that became available. Anything to get out of the house and see people or go do something out of the ordinary. I really had to search things out.
They started closest to home. I was trying to split my time between places that were just a drive away, going back and forth to the Hudson River Valley, which gave me a change of scenery and walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan, which gave me a sense of purpose as I felt I was supporting the City by being a cheerleader for all it had to offer even in the era of COVID.
My holiday journey started with the delivery of 375 Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. It was a big undertaking for a major charity that supports graduating high school seniors with scholarship money for college. I sometimes wonder if these students know what we go through to get the funds.
The trees were really nice this year
I have never seen so many Christmas Trees fly off a lot so fast. The membership of the Men’s Association got there at 9:00am and the truck arrived at 10:15am. We sold our first tree at 11:30am as we were tagging them. I stayed the entire day from 9:00am to 10:00pm when we closed the lot down for the evening. In the three shifts that I was there with the other guys, we sold 45 trees which we have never done our first day of sales.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at set-up 2020
We were completely sold out by December 11th which I have never seen before. It seemed in the era of COVID everyone reverted back to the 1970’s and wanted a fresh Christmas tree for their home. I thought this was wonderful and people could not have been more supportive to our organization.
Please read my blog on “Christmas tree sales in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ”:
Please watch the commercial I did in 2015 to sell our trees
The first week of December means “Open Houses” at some of our merchants in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas merchandise being offered, all the bouquets created for the event and the beautiful Christmas windows that our florists in town have done.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist at 231 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ always has a nice gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year was like no other but it did not keep a nice crowd of residents from coming out and looking over ideas for floral displays, house decorating ideas and listening to festive holiday music all while nibbling on prepackaged treats and bottled drinks.
Bill O’Shea’s has some of the nicest displays at the holidays
In a normal year, it would be hot chocolate and coffee with freshly baked goods but COVID has changed the way these businesses are run. Everything had to be prepackaged and most people at it outside as juggling and shopping with a mask on was tough.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, the same weekend we set up the Christmas Tree lot for the Men’s Association, Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ had their Open House and that was equally as nice.
Heights Flower Shoppe is housed in a turn of the last century home that dates back to the original founding of our downtown and has a very classic boutique look to it. The store was stocked with all sorts of Christmas decorations, homemade candies, decorative household gifts and beautiful floral displays as well as outside had decorated wreathes and grave blankets.
The homemade candies and Christmas decorations adorn the store
Like Bill O’Shea’s, there was all sorts of packaged holiday treats to enjoy including Italian sodas, small bags of homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Last year they had a nice assortment of cookies and small sandwiches with coffee, tea and punch so there are always holiday treats to nibble on too here as well.
All of Downtown Hasbrouck Heights was beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths on all our lamp posts, Christmas lights on the trees, merchants display windows decorated to the hilt and Christmas music playing.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so nicely decorated for the holidays
This year because of COVID, the Annual Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting were cancelled in town but they did have a small get together at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights to light the town Christmas tree. It was lit from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany on January 6th. It is always a beautiful site when entering town from the west side of town.
The Christmas Tree on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Even the little Neil Parrot playhouse, a local landmark in Hasbrouck Heights, was decorated for the holidays and was lite up at night as well.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights awaiting Santa
There were several nights of my aunt and I exploring the town and driving block by block to see all the decorated homes. Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns of Lodi and Wood Ridge always do a wonderful job decorating for the holidays but with everyone being home and COVID hitting the area hard, people wanted to really decorate and make this year even more festive. Between the merchants and home owners, they made this time of year in Hasbrouck Heights very festive.
Please read my blog on Visiting Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:
I did not just celebrate Christmas in Hasbrouck Heights. I ventured into other parts of New Jersey, to New York City and my usual haunts in the Hudson River Valley but like New Jersey, New York State was on a lock down as well and all the decorated mansions and holiday gatherings were all cancelled as well. So everyone did their best to celebrate outdoors and have all sorts of tours and small get togethers. You had to move fast when reserving these events as they did fill up because everyone wanted to get out of the house and see things.
The Sinterklaas Parade that I have participated and volunteered at for so many years was cancelled because of COVID but like the Halloween Parade, the committee put together a video of the parade to share with the world. Still it did not compare to the excitement of walking down the hill with stars and music lighting up Downtown Rhinebeck, NY.
The noble Frog was to be our mascot for this year’s Sinterklaas Parade
It was not the same as the year before where the crowds kept getting larger and larger every year. The whole town came to life with activities, songs, lights and laughter but was silent that weekend except for people having dinner in town. I was able to sneak up during the week. The entire town was decorated with white lights and beautifully decorated store windows. Rhinebeck is one of those towns in the Hudson River Valley that looks straight out of a Currier & Ives woodcut.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Since all the Christmas parties and get togethers were cancelled, it gave me more time to look into other outdoor events. I went to a special “Historical walking tour at the Holidays” at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, NJ. The tour was lead by Historical singer and lecturer, Linda Russell, who explained the traditions of the Dutch Christmas all while singing Colonial Christmas songs in between the talks at each historical house on the property.
The Steuben House at Christmas
Actors dressed in costumes (and masks of course-COVID is still going on) danced in the Steuben House ballroom as colonialists celebrating the holiday, Dutch housewives putting their children to bed while awaiting Sinterklaas. There was a Dutch wooden shoe with carrots for his horse outside the door and mistletoe on the ceiling.
Linda Russell performing and lecturing at the Bergen County Historical Society
There was a discussion on the Pagan traditions of bringing ‘greens’ from outside inside to have a bit of ‘live nature’ into the home. So mistletoe, pine and holly adorned homes during the winter months as these things were green and brought a bit of life into the dead of winter.
The last part of the lecture was done in front of the Campbell-Christie House with a visit from Sinterklaas himself. We had a short talk about who Sinterklaas was and his part in the holiday season. Then all the members of the tour enjoyed refreshments and got a goody bag when we left with holiday sweets. The lecture and songs were a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.
My favorite song by Linda Russell “I saw Three Ships”
As I was finishing up the semester at the College, I was getting holiday preparations done at the house, having small gatherings of family and friends and trying to be COVID safe. I was also running in and out of the City finishing my blog on Kips Bay before the holidays started getting busier. I learned a lot of New York’s Colonial past from walking around this area of the City.
My blogs on the Walking the neighborhood of Kips Bay:
The next weekend I made my last trip of the season to Long Beach Island to visit Beach Haven and the tour the rest of the island one last time before winter set in. It had really closed down since Halloween. I expected it to be much busier with more people moving down there on a permanent basis. Driving up to the lighthouse, I saw more dark homes then lite ones.
I wanted to take one more tour of Long Beach Island to see how they celebrate Christmas at the shore. They do things very quietly in Beach Haven. I went to the Surflight Theater to see the only play I had seen since I attended Carnegie Hall last Christmas to see the play “We need a little Christmas” which I had seen advertised at the theater over the summer.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, NJ
After the theater, it was surprisingly warm that afternoon hovering around 58 degrees so I walked to the beach one block away and walked on the Jersey shore for my only time that year and for the first time on Beach Haven beach since 1975. It has been a long journey since that time.
The Beach Haven beach was beautiful that afternoon
The town’s Christmas trees were across the street from the theater on the square just off the downtown. Even they had a subdued Christmas at the shore and the whole event welcoming in the season was done virtually.
Christmas in Beach Haven, NJ adapted like the rest of the world
My holiday dinner was spent at the Chicken or the Egg that evening and it was really good. The menu is so extensive and innovative. It was hard to make choices.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich at Chicken or the Egg
Their fried chicken sandwiches are really good and their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream sandwich should not be missed.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven
I was able to tour the whole island that afternoon before it got dark and even at twilight here and there were signs of Christmas in small trees lit in the shopping areas and decorated homes. It is an interesting place at the holidays with the waves crashing in the background.
My blog on “Exploring Downtown Beach Haven and Long Beach Island, NJ”:
The next week was finals week at the College and I had to give my final exam. The students also finished work on their case study, “Bud N’ Mud”, a simulated flower/coffee shop I had the students develop. It was interesting to see how a group of student entrepreneurs would create a store with their own ideas on how to grow the business. This project ended the Fall semester.
One of my favorite logo’s from the “Bud N’ Mud” project
With the Christmas trees selling out by December 11th, we held our annual Christmas party at the Christmas tree stand site for the Men’s Association. It was a cool not cold night and we all huddled around the fire taking alternate turns hitting the makeshift buffet table and enjoying good conversation. It was a great way to end the year successfully and there will lots of scholarships being given out at the end of the school year.
The last big event before Christmas came was the Sunday before Christmas with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department holding our Annual “Santa Around Town”. Because COVID was growing, the event was revamped from previous years and instead of stopping at sites all over town, we drove down each street in town slowly, having Santa wave and greet people who were on their lawns, driveways and porches. The residents of Hasbrouck Heights seemed touched by it and I could tell from the safety of the fire truck that the kids got a kick out of seeing Santa. People really needed the pick me up in holiday spirit at the time.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020
On the Tuesday before Christmas after I finished work with my other job I needed a break and wanted to go on a road trip to the Hudson River Valley again. I was nostalgic for Christmas’s past and decided to visit some of the towns Upstate.
I explored Downtown Woodstock first seeing their very unusual Christmas tree in the square. I have to say one thing about Woodstock, they do pick out the most interesting tree to sit in the square. It always looks more surreal than traditional. Their annual “Santa Parade” was cancelled this year as well and they did a drive by with Santa at the Woodstock Fire Department who runs the parade.
Downtown Kingston, NY was next on the list. Talk about a town in transition. In the almost three years since I have been visiting Kingston, I have never seen a downtown change so rapidly. The businesses there have gone from all this ‘hippie granola’ businesses to all these antique furniture stores and art galleries and some really expensive restaurants. One of the locals told me the new residents are “Brooklynizing” Kingston.
Still the downtown was nicely lit for the holidays and their Christmas Tree while small is nicely lit for the holidays on the edge of the downtown “Stockade” district. The Dutch Reformed Church on the other end of downtown was nicely lit with wreaths on the doors.
I crossed the river and drove to Red Hook, NY which I love. Their downtown looks like an old fashioned shopping district straight out of another Currier & Ives print. All the little stores were decorated with garland and white lights and the merchants decorated their windows to the hilt.
My last stop on my search for the perfect picturesque Hudson Valley River town was returning to Rhinebeck, NY for the day. Rhinebeck was quiet on this Tuesday evening as most of the restaurants were closed and the shops had closed for the evening. Still it was nice to walk around and admire the while lights on the trees and admire the display windows.
The Christmas lights and windows of Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
Even the way I celebrate Christmas changed this year. Instead of spending time with my family, I spent three days in Manhattan with my best friend, Maricel, at a hotel in Times Square. Neither of us had the time to travel and we both had to work in the City, her at her hotel and me working on my blogs so both of us needed the rest.
AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street
We stayed at the AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street. What the room lacked in size, it made up in the view and in the location. We were one block from Port Authority, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance from all the Christmas attractions from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
While Maricel worked on Christmas Eve, I walked around the City. I saw the tree at Rockefeller Center which was loaded with people not keeping socially distanced. I admired the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which had a New York City theme with Christmas scenes from around the City “This is how we Celebrate”.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Themed window “Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods to Grandfather’s House We Go”
Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree was even more special this year
I thought the windows at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf-Goodman really lacked in creativity. Bloomingdale’s was having a bad year and Bergdorf’s had just gotten sold again (forth time since I worked there in 2004) so I did not expect much. With Lord & Taylor declaring bankruptcy earlier in the year and closing the main store on Fifth Avenue and B. Altman’s long gone and Macy’s going mechanical for the last few years, the excitement of seeing the windows has been less than enthusiastic.
Still it was nice to walk around Midtown after leaving the Rockefeller Center area and just walking around Third, Park and Madison Avenues. By 7:00pm, everything had shut down for the night and the streets were really quiet. What was eerie was when walking down Park Avenue and looking up and seeing so many dark buildings. The area looked abandoned with so many apartment lights out. I wondered where everyone went?
When Maricel got off work, I brought in dinner 9th Avenue Deli at 769 Ninth Avenue. I brought in a juicy cheeseburger and chicken fingers which we shared and then dug into. The perfect comfort food on a cool night. Christmas Eve was a mild 59 degrees and it was nice to walk around.
9th Avenue Deli at 769 9th Avenue
We just hung out the whole night and watched movies in the hotel room. I went to bed early and sunk into the wonderful Marriott hotel bed. Marriott had the best hotel beds and every time I stay at one of their hotels, I slept like a log.
Christmas Day we just relaxed in the room and I called many members of my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. While Maricel went to work, I decided to start touring neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Rose Hill and NoMAD in preparation in my walks there. It started out being a cold, cloudy day and there was barely anyone on the street. I saw a few people walking their dogs and that was about it until about 3:00pm. It them cleared up and was a mild 55 degrees until it got dark and then cooled down.
What really shocked me about Times Square was how dirty it was on the streets. They had not picked up the garbage on Christmas Eve day and did not pick it up until after Christmas Day so between the theaters being boarded up and the ply boards filled with graffiti, hotels closed and restaurants shut, the whole Theater district looked like NYC circa 1975. It was creepy how the pandemic was affecting the business of this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Murray Hill, Rose Hill, NoMAD and the Flatiron District were really quiet that morning and early afternoon. All the restaurants and stores were dark, three hotels had closed in the district and I saw just a few people milling around. Things changed as I got closer to Macy’s Herald Square.
When walking around Koreatown, which runs between Sixth and Fifth Avenues between 35th to 32nd Streets, the side streets were teeming with Korean couples and groups of family members dining in the outdoor restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood was really jumping and full of life.
As the day wore on by 5:00pm, the rest of the City came back to life and more restaurants and stores opened up. Christmas morning and afternoon were now over and I could tell that people wanted to get out of the house (probably to get away from the family celebrations). When Maricel returned, I ordered in dinner from Golden City Chinese Restaurant at 423 Ninth Avenue, one of the few neighborhood restaurants open and we our dinner in the room. The food was okay. It was nice to just eat in the room and relax.
Christmas dinner was Lemon Chicken and Fried Rice from Golden City Chinese Restaurant
We checked out at noon on the 26th and she left for work that afternoon, I headed into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. Both were really quiet that day. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was mostly dormant for the winter and most of the garden was closed off because of COVID. The “Studio 54” exhibition had long closed at the Brooklyn Museum so I just wondered the halls and looked at some of the changes in the permanent exhibitions that they had. I left the City for home early that evening.
The last week of the holiday, I entertained family at a Lasagna and Champagne dinner I had a the house. Since I was not able to spend time at home during the holidays, my aunts came over to my house and we had a three course meal with champagne and wine. We spent the whole night laughing and enjoying the evening.
New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening at home alone talking with other friends who were staying home alone as well. Times Square was empty that evening with the exception of the 350 first responders who were invited to the ball drop. When I watched it on TV it was eerie to see it so quiet. There was no one for blocks except police guarding Times Square.
I headed back up to the Hudson River Valley again on New Year’s Day to go on two walking tours in Staatsburgh, NY at the Mills Mansion. It was the Annual “First of the Year” walking tours and it was a cool, crisp morning for a walking tour of the property. There were two tours that morning, one was on “Winter Activities in Victorian Times” with us learning about all the winter activities that the residents here enjoyed like skating , sledding, ice boating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Staatsburgh, the Mills Mansion in the winter
The other tour later that afternoon was on “Ice Harvesting in the Hudson River Valley” , where we learned about how the ice harvesting of the Hudson River was a big business before the advent of refrigeration. Large slabs of ice were cut from the river, floated down stream and then packed in straw awaiting sale over the metropolitan area for peoples ice boxes throughout the year. It just gave me anther excuse to visit the region I love so much.
My blog on the Mills Mansion on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Another local event that was COVID safe was a driving tour through the “Holiday Lightshow” at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. This was the first time that the farm opened the apple and peach orchard across the street from the farm stand. I saw this display the last week it was open and even after the holidays, it was a special treat as we awaited the Epiphany.
Driving through the display only took about forty minutes but was a delight in the senses and sounds. I played the classical music station as I drove through and admired all the colorful lights on the now dormant trees while Santa’s and Snowmen winked and waved and toy soldiers lit the way through the dark field. Even the Demarest homestead was ablaze with lights.
Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Drive in Hillsdale, NJ
My blog on “Visiting the Farms of Bergen County, NJ at Christmas”:
Don’t miss this holiday lights ride through the orchard in 2021
The holiday event I visited was the Bronx Zoo for their “Holiday Lights” event at the zoo. It was the last night of the event and I arranged for the tickets that afternoon. The zoo gave me a 30% discount to go that evening and I was on the subway ride up to the Bronx.
The Bronx Zoo Light Show
I was really impressed by the display. The entire park was decorated with white lights, with different sections of the park decorated with different themes such as jungle animals, aquatic mammals and all sorts of assorted elephants, seals, penguins, lions, tigers and bears (oh my haha). There were costumed characters to take pictures with and they even had the Bug Carousel open that evening. I got a kick out of riding this since I had not done this since I was a little kid.
The Bronx Zoo musical Christmas Tree in the old part of the zoo
In the older section of the park, they had zebras on stilts and a musical Christmas trees that had an interesting soundtrack of contemporary Christmas songs. Even though Christmas had been over now for almost two weeks, it me back into the Christmas spirit.
So there was the Christmas holidays in the era of COVID. Lots of outdoor activities in hot and cold weather. Many walking tours and more subdued events. Gone were the cocktail parties and big formal dinners and in their place were many more smaller outdoor events and communicating with nature.
Maybe we all needed to take a break from the more formal traditions and go back to the basics of family and friends. I think this was a reflective year and realizing what is important. It had not changed that much for me. I just adjusted to the times, wore a mask and got going. Staying safe and keeping others safe is what is all about.
Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.
Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.
When I finally finished walking Sutton and Beekman Places, I finally decided to take the long walk down Broadway that I had planned for two years. As you can see by the blog, I like to take one neighborhood or section of the City at a time and concentrate on getting to know it. What is the history of the neighborhood? What is there now? Who are the shop keepers and the restaurant owners? What is the neighborhood association doing to improve the area? I like to become part of the neighborhood when I walk around it.
But recently I have noticed people on the Internet have been posting that they walked the entire length of Broadway and bragged about it like they were ‘performing brain surgery’. So I put aside my next walk and decided to see what the fuss was about walking up and down Broadway. I am…
I never thought I would see the day that Manhattan would look like Beirut.
Author Dominick Dunne wrote a book years ago entitled “Another City, Not My Own” about his return to Los Angeles after years of being away. It has been four months since the Membership Night at the Met Breuer and I swear it was almost surreal going back into New York City for the first time in over four months. I felt like I was in exile.
First barely anyone was on the bus into New York. I was one of about seven people on the bus that had to stop in Union City, NJ first before getting into Manhattan. It was strange to see everyone with masks on. It was a real eye opener. I felt like I was entering a different world and you could feel it when we arrived in Port Authority Bus Terminal. I had never seen the terminal so quiet in all my years coming into the City. Even late at night when I used to take the 12:20am or 1:20am buses out of Manhattan, there will still people all over the place at night.
When you get into Port Authority Terminal, there is not a lot of people hanging around anymore. All the stores and restaurants are closed except for a few fast food coffee places as not everything has opened up yet. Coming out of the terminal, there are no longer the crowds hanging out outside the terminal like there used to be. Everyone is on their way to where they have to go.
I started my walk up Eight Avenue past all the bodegas, fast food restaurants and many closed hotels. This stretch of Avenue was very quiet and because of the recent protesting and looting due to the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis, the Theater District was completely fenced off. You could not walk through that section of the neighborhood. There were a few fast food places open for take out and the popular Shake Shack, the upscale hamburger restaurant, was open for take out and going strong with the few tourists and business people in the area.
Some businesses were still closed and boarded up due to the nights of looting the first week of June during the protests. Plywood covered some of the smaller stores and hotels while most everything else was either starting to open up or opened. This was a very different scene from a week ago.
When I arrived at Columbus Circle, my end point for the project on the West Side, Columbus Circle Park has fencing and guard rails around it. They were trying to protect the statue of Christopher Columbus that stands tall atop a pedestal.
Columbus Circle in its better days
All over the county, people are vandalizing statues of what they conceive as ‘controversial’ historical figures and Christopher Columbus seems to now be a major target. The statue, created by artist Gaetano Russo, was donated by Americans of Italian decent and lead by publisher Carlo Barsotti, was dedicated in 1892 on the 400th Anniversary of Columbus arriving in the New World.
Now the statue, fountain and park are behind fencing to keep vandal from defacing the statue. It is a sad day in this Country when people try to ‘erase’ history because they do not agree with it. Trust me, the police were all over Columbus Circle.
The Christopher Columbus Statue at Columbus Circle
It was even stranger as I walked down 59th Street toward Fifth Avenue. All the hotels were boarded up on the lower levels, the apartment buildings had guards inside and out and to see plywood across the Plaza Hotel and the Park Lane Hotel it almost makes me wonder what Leona Hemsley, who once owned the hotel, would say? The guards and the doorman were standing tall in front of the hotels trying to direct people.
Turning the corner to Fifth Avenue was very calming. All over Fifth Avenue merchants were either taking down the plywood or had taken it down by Monday afternoon when I started my walk. Just six days earlier, businesses were scrambling to put the boards up and now they were taking them down. The guards were still there but there was security inside and out in stores up and down Fifth Avenue.
Bergdorf-Goodman with plyboards (has since come down)
The new Nordstrom Department Store that opened on Broadway was just taking the last of their plyboards down when I took a quick on Broadway to see the store. By the time I passed The Plaza Hotel, Bergdorf-Goodman and the Apple Store had either taken their boards down or were just finishing. Walking further down Fifth Avenue, the condition of the shopping area went block by block.
Fifth Avenue boarded up (still up at the time of this writing)
The exclusive stores on one side of St. Patrick’s Cathedral were still boarded up and Saks Fifth Avenue had taken all the plyboards down but still had guards all around the store. Even Rockefeller Center which just five and a half months ago was mobbed with people for the holidays was fenced off with guards and police all around it. You could only see the fountain in the distance.
Fifth Avenue north of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (still up at the time if this writing)
Saks Fifth Avenue had been really closed off with plywood on the doors and windows and barbed wire against the building. Armed guards with watch dogs monitored the store for several days. When I got there on Monday, the guards and dogs were still there but the boards were taken down but the store still looked eerie.
Saks Fifth Avenue boarded up (has since come down)
The guards did not look like anyone’s fools and I walked by quickly on my way down Fifth Avenue to East 44th Street. The Cornell Club which is where I work when I am in Manhattan working on the blog, was closed tight and would not be opening according to the sign until July 1st. Across the street from the club, the headquarters for Brooks Brothers Men’s store, which just declared bankruptcy, was still boarded up tight like that whole section of Madison Avenue. Madison Avenue also was just opening up the afternoon I was in Manhattan.
From East 44th Street, I walked down Fifth Avenue through the old shopping district below East 42nd Street and it was sad to see the old Lord & Taylor building being torn apart for an office building. A company that has been in business since 1826 declared bankruptcy and will be liquidated as soon as stores are allowed to fully open. This was a company that was once one of the best women’s stores in the world reduced to closing because of bad management.
Even Lord & Taylor could not get a break from all this
I rounded the corner at West 34th Street to see Macy’s Herald Square, where I had worked for four years back in the 1990’s when the neighborhood was not that great. The store had just taken the plywood off the store and the windows that were damaged on the night of the looting a week ago had been replaced. There was security and guards all around the store and strangely enough people were eating their lunch in the plaza by Herald Square like nothing had happened a few days earlier.
Macy’s Herald Square boarded up ( has since come down)
I could not believe what I saw on TV the night it was being looted and their were small fires outside the store. I had been working at the store during the Rodney King riots, the first attack on the World Trade Center and the problems in Crown Heights but I never thought I would see anything like this as the neighborhood is far better today then it was back then.
Macy’s the night of the looting a week ago
I never thought I would live to see this at a store I worked at for four years
As I walked by the store filled with colorful displays and ‘reopening soon’ signs you would have never known any of this had just happened a week earlier. People were just walking along the sidewalks like it was a regular day.
My walk continued down Seventh Avenue past the Fashion Institute of Technology, which was all boarded up since the campus is closed for classes and guards were all over the place. Here and there small restaurants and shops had now opened for curve side business and deliveries.
I crossed over to West 23rd Street to Ninth Avenue and again small take out places had reopened and drug stores were buzzing with people. There was a lot of people walking around in the neighborhood, taking to one another or walking their dogs. I walked past Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen which was gated at that time as service ended at 1:00pm and there was newsletters and posts on the fence that dated back to March 13th when the Soup Kitchen closed for business.
I walked up Ninth Avenue and crossed over again onto West 38th Street to where all the reasonable restaurants and take out places who cater to the Garment District are located. Most were closed for business but there were still a few Chinese places still open to the workers in the area.
I walked back into Times Square and took the subway to Chinatown. Now that was unusual. The platform had about four other people on it and it was spotless. There were no homeless people hanging around and the everything was very clean. I took the N Subway downtown and the car was spotless as well. I had never seen such a clean subway car. There was only two of us on the car and he was about ten feet away from me. We got to Chinatown the quickest I ever had in all the time I took the subway. Another eerie thing was all the posters on the walls of the subways were dated back from either February or March. By Chinatown, there is still a poster for a failed Christmas film.
Chinatown in lower Manhattan is usually a bustling neighborhood where you can barely walk the streets because there are so many people on the sidewalks. The sidewalks are usually lined on all sides by fruit and vegetable vendors and people selling prepared foods. I had not seen the neighborhood this quiet ever. Even when I visited Chinatown after 9/11 for my birthday dinner it was not this quiet. Almost all the businesses were still closed.
Mott Street which is the heart of Chinatown was deserted. Most of the popular restaurants and take out places were closed. Wonton Noodle Garden, my go to place for Cantonese Wonton Soup, was just doing take out and delivery. It is hard to believe the last time I had eaten there was March 9th and it was almost empty then.
Most of Mott Street and the side streets were closed for business.
It was strange to walk down a street of closed restaurants and stores. Unlike Little Italy located across Canal Street, they have never closed Mott Street down for outside dining. There were a few restaurants opened here and there and I was surprised that Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Bayard Street was open that afternoon and they looked busy.
I walked all over the neighborhood and one after one of my favorite spots to eat where either closed down or were in the process of opening up again. There were not too many choices to eat at in the late afternoon. Still I walked to Chrystie Street and my old standby, Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street A, for some fried pork and chive dumplings ($2.00). I swear that just cheered my up after everything I saw.
Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street
I sat in Sara Delano Roosevelt Park and just enjoyed the warm sunny day. The food at Chi Dumping House could put a smile on anyone’s face. These plump pork and chive dumplings are perfectly fried and crisp and crackle when you bite into them. With a little hot sauce, it was the perfect meal.
The dumplings here are so good
The people who were walking around seemed happy to be outside and that there was calm in the air. It was a beautiful sunny day and people were sitting and talking, jogging around the park and talking to their kids. There was some normalcy in the world that afternoon.
As I traveled back down Canal Street, I needed something sweet to finish off the meal and everyone one of my favorite bakeries was closed so I tried New Cameron Bakery at 242 Canal Street.
New Cameron Bakery at 242 Canal Street
The selection was pretty small that afternoon and I chose one of their Sweet Topped Buns ($1.35). A couple of bites of that and it really made the afternoon.
The sweet topped bun
Before I took the E Subway back up town to leave the Manhattan, I took a quick stroll through SoHo (South of Houston), which once upon a time when I was growing up was a manufacturing district and then was an artist enclave in the late 70’s and through the 80’s. By the 2000’s, it had become an extremely expensive and exclusive neighborhood. After a night of looting and stealing, the whole neighborhood boarded up.
SoHo boarded up
I had not seen the neighborhood look like this since the 1970’s and I can’t believe it looked the same when I was a kid. I have to admit the graffiti on the plywood was interesting but not something I really wanted to see here now.
This was truly pathetic
It is a sad day when you see human nature at its worst but I am still convinced that there are more good people in this world then bad and I still think we are winning!
I was watching this video on YouTube that someone took of Midtown Manhattan on the day before the Mayor put the City on a lock down. It is almost shocking how quiet the City was that afternoon. Even in the early morning hours, I had never seen it like this.
This was one week after I was at the International Restaurant Show and at the The Met!
It looked like the last day on earth!
Here is a copy of the video:
The ironic part was that my next walk was in the Theater District. It is strange how two weeks make such a difference.
I credit this video to YouTuber IURETA and them full credit for this video.
Locations: They also have locations at 549 9th Avenue, 31 West 46th Street and 755 6th Avenue
I have been coming to 2 Brothers Pizza, which is located right next to the back entrance to the Port Authority Bus Terminal since it opened back in 2010. Its original branch is down on St. Marks Place by Gramercy Park. It is home to the $1.00 slice of pizza and started the trend of $1.00 slice places in New York City. When the City, still reeling from the meltdown of 2008, this type of restaurant came at the right time.
2 Brothers Pizza also has the lunch special of two slices with a Coke for $2.99. It took off and has been popular ever since. The location…
I discovered New Li Yuan (Fu Xing) one day after passing it a million times on my way up Seventh Avenue. The restaurant caters mostly to the workers from the surrounding ( and what’s left of) the Garment District. It’s a restaurant that is Chinese for the Chinese workers. Over the last couple of months that I have been eating there, I have noticed that the customers have been diversifying. I see a lot of the young workers from the office buildings near by venturing in for take out and are in search of a reasonable meal.
The front counter is made up of a large steam table loaded with all sorts of entrée items with white rice and noodles available. It is diverse amount dishes including chopped pork…
Taco Bandito is right around the corner from the Soup Kitchen where I work and around the corner from the Fashion Institute of Technology campus where I went to school. The prices here are perfect for the normal college student as there is nothing on the menu over $10.00.
The menu is more of a Tex-Mexican food selection with many popular items. The menu contains…