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…
To all of my readers and fellow bloggers following my blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. I created two more blog sites to accompany the main site.
I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ to take what I have discovered on the walk around the city and put it into more detail.
I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ to feature all the small and medium museums, pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that I have found along the way in my walking the streets of the island and in the outlining areas of Manhattan. There are loads of sites you can easily miss either by not visiting the neighborhoods by foot or not consulting a guidebook. Most of the these places are not visited by most residents of the City and should not be missed.
I never realized how many small museums exist in New York City, let alone the outer boroughs and in New Jersey. I have discovered so many wonderful and interesting artifacts in these museums that not only have so much historical value but they also deal with local history.
Gallery Bergen at Bergen Community College
There are so many pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that you would miss if you did not walk the neighborhoods. What has also been fascinating about it is the people you meet along the way that volunteer in these facilities. There is so much pride to be had by these local residents dedicating their time to make these places successful.
‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ is my latest site:
I am featuring and promoting wonderful local restaurants that I have found along the way when doing the walk as well as places I have recently visited outside the city for $10.00 and below. I am not just featuring them for their price but for the quality of the food, the selection and the portion size.
Delicious Dumplings at ‘Dumplings’ on Henry Street
These little ‘hole in the wall’ dining establishments offer a good meal at a fair price as well as supporting the local economy. I have a very limited budget for meals and thought this blog site would help all of you economize when touring New York City and the outlying regions. I cross reference my reviews on TripAdvisor.com.
For anyone thinking of doing a similar project like ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, I want to let you know how expensive it is to do. I have to pay not just for bus tickets, subway passes, meals, donations to museums and historical sites but the general wear and tear on my clothes. I am on my third pair of sneakers due to this walk. This is why you need to set a budget for it:
Please check out my fire fighting blog sites, ‘The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association’, ‘tbcfma.Wordpress.com’, where I am blogging about the activities of the association that I am volunteering for at the home on a quarterly basis and the support that the organization gives to The New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, New Jersey. Firemen for all over Bergen County, where I live, volunteer their time up at the nursing home with activities to engage and cheer up our fellow fire fighters.
The second site about fire fighting I blog about is ‘The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department”, ‘EngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartmentNJ.Wordpress.com’, where I blog about the activities of Engine Company One, in which I am a member, as part of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. We do a lot of volunteer work for the department and many of our members are very active and hold a lot of positions on the department.
The Brothers of Engine One HHFD (site now closed-Blogs moved to section of MywalkinManhattan.com called “My life as a Fireman”):
The most frequented of my blogs is “BergenCountyCaregiver.com’, a caregivers blog site to help adult caregivers take care of their loved ones. This helps caregivers navigate a very broken system and put all sorts of programs that might help them all in one place to read and chose what might help them. This deals with county, state and federal programs that most social workers miss because there are so many of them that don’t get a lot of attention. It is by far the most popular site.
The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association
I wanted to share these with my readers and thank you for following my main blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. Please also share this with your friends who are visiting New York City to really tour the city by foot and see it for its own beauty and uniqueness.
I had finished the Manhattan Valley neighborhood earlier in the day when the Soup Kitchen was full and they did not need me. So I walked the lower part of the neighborhood to finish it off and then walked across Central Park to the beginning of the new subway stop for the Q subway train at 96th Street and Second Avenue. As I had written on Day Sixty-Six on my walk, this subway line is really nice and take time to look at the artwork at the stops at 96th, 72nd and 63rd Streets.
the 96th Street stop my starting point
If you are going to take the Q to Coney Island leave yourself plenty of time because it is over an hour to get from one end of the Q to the other. It was a beautiful warm clear sunny day around 84 degrees and a perfect day to go to the shore.
I love the Q train! I love the new section of the subway with its interesting art and the fact that it is so clean. That and the fact they the E subway has the newest cars to stretch out in. It makes it a pleasure for the long trips.
You get some of the best views of the city from the subway once you cross over into Brooklyn. You get a great views of lower Manhattan when exiting from underground plus you get to see the old parts of Brooklyn with views of the ‘Brownstone’ neighborhoods. There’s another area that keeps changing with gentrification.
The subway ends at the Stillwell subway stop. This rebuilt stop was the first part in the renovation of the island to make it a more 24 hour resort. Most of the other plans have been scrapped or were never enacted. To be honest with all of you, the amusement area of Coney Island is still dumpy and has not been much since the Luna Park fire of 1946 and the Dreamland fire of 1911. They keep trying though.
Even when I went to Coney Island as a kid in the 70’s, it was rundown then. Please don’t get me wrong, Coney Island can be a lot of fun and you can have a great day out here but don’t get too lofty of expectations of what it is like (See reviews on TripAdvisor). Don’t venture too far from Nathan’s after dark and follow the crowd back to the Stillwell subway station after dark if you stay for the films on the beach or the fireworks.
I have been down for the Mermaid Parade in the Spring several years ago and will be going to the Sandcastle Building contest next week. There is a lot going on during the summer and it is good to check out these activities. The Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s draws thousands to the island to watch their hero’s devour hot dogs at record speed.
Still the I love to explore the changes to the island and walked around Surf and Neptune Avenues after I got there. I wanted to see if Totonno’s Pizza was open that day so I walked for two blocks Neptune Avenue and I will tell you that though the area is changing it still is not a great neighborhood.
Totonno’s is in the middle of a commercial area with a series of garages and car repairs. The worst part was that it closed for the day. The restaurant is only opened from Wednesday to Sunday so its for another time. I did get to see the back part of the island and found where the original Coney Island Creek was located. This is where the original Sea Lion Park and Luna Park were located back in the early part of the century.
Totonno’s Pizza on Neptune Avenue
I changed my plans around and walked the length of Surf Avenue and started my walk around the amusement area which runs from the Aquarium at West 8th Street to about West 16th Street. Even with the rebuilding of Luna Park on the footprint of the old Astroland, Surf Avenue needs a major makeover. The chain restaurants have added a little life to it but still some of the blocks are a series of rundown buildings and old time amusements.
I stopped by the Coney Island Museum at 1208 Surf Avenue and the museum part was closed for the day but the side show part was open but I had missed the show. I walked around some of the open exhibitions on the outside and it is interesting to see some of the artifacts from the old amusement days.
Coney Island Museum at 1208 Surf Avenue
My next stop was the famous Cyclone Roller Coaster on West 10th Street (see review on TripAdvisor). This is the most amazing and exciting ride on the island and one of the things you should see while you are in New York City. It is $10.00 to ride the coaster but it is well worth it! That first hill you go down is so mind-blowing. You feel as if the cars are going to fly into the sea. It rolls up and down those hills back and forth facing the buildings across the street and the sea. Of all the amusement parks I have been to there is nothing like the Cyclone.
I walked into the Luna Park area and saw the improvements that have been added to the park. The problem with Luna Park is that its mostly kiddie rides and not much for adults with the exception of the Log Flume Ride. Luna Park was rebuilt on the old Astroland which had closed by in 2008 and is trying to capture the old magic of the island with upgrades on rides and concessions. It even recreated the original entrance of Luna Park across the street from the old park. Still it will take a lot more work on the park and more added rides in the future. I give them so much credit for revitalizing the park with a new look.
The entrance to the new Luna Park in Coney Island
I walked after that to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, 1025 Regielmann Boardwalk, which I had not been on for about seven years and the famous Spook-a-Rama, which I had not ridden since I was about eight. The Wonder Wheel was built back in the 20’s and with a height of 150 feet, has great views of the ocean and of the island. Both rides were $8.00 and were well worth it for the day.
When riding the Wonder Wheel, make sure to get one of the cars that slide. Not only do you get the view but you get the excitement of sliding around. When you reach the top of the Wonder Wheel, it has the most breathtaking view of the boardwalk area, the beach and ocean and a view of the whole island. The breeze is so refreshing up there and you feel like the world is your own. Talk about seeing the world go by.
Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park at 1025 Regielmann Boardwalk
After the Wonder Wheel, I walked over to Spook-a-Rama, also $8.00, which I first rode when I was eight and it has not changed that much since then. It does have a few thrills that do pop out at you that will have you jumping. There have been a few updates on it with video displays but for the most part I remember it being much scarier as a kid. I will let you know though the first couple of things popping out at you will still have you jumping out of your seat but still its not the Haunted Mansion at Disney Parks.
I had enough time to go to the New York Aquarium located at West 8th Street, just past the Cyclone. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, most of the Aquarium was seriously damaged and most of the park is still under construction. The Coral Exhibition is still interesting especially with the destruction of the wreaths around the world and the Sea Lion demonstration is a lot of fun. The Sea Lions are such hams and seem to love the crowds. What I thought was interesting is that both of them were born in New York City at the Bronx Zoo so they have only known humans. Still they look like they are having fun. They seem to love waving to the audience and the crowds love them back.
New York Aquarium at West 8th Street
My last stop of the evening was dinner at Nathan’s at 1310 Surf Avenue. This hot dog chain was founded in 1916 and is still in their original location. They have the best hot dogs and their French fries are some of the best in the industry. When you go you have to have the original hot dog with mustard, the regular fries (which is a large order anywhere else) and their famous Orange-aid. It is the best meal.
Nathan’s Coney Island at 1310 Surf Avenue
On a hot sunny day, it is nice to sit out on the tables right next to the restaurant. There is something about the sea breezes, the salt air and hot dogs and fries that make a phenomenal combination. It is a meal that is part of the beach experience and that was worth the trip alone.
Before it got too late, I was back on the Q Train back to Manhattan. I’m sorry but sensible people still get out of Coney Island before it gets dark. Even though the subway station on Stillwell and Surf Avenues is very safe and there is a police station there, its better to leave before dusk. I don’t care how many artists have moved into the area.
The subway ride took just over an hour to get back to Manhattan but it was still light out when I left the shore area and got my last glimpse of the ocean pass by. There is nothing like watching the sun reflect on the beach. The best was that we passed lower Manhattan before we went under the tunnel and watched the skyline brightened by the lights in the office towers. If you want to see an amazing site, it is when the city lights come on and the skyline is ablaze. It is like a picture postcard and impressive. When people think of New York City, this is what they imagine.
Coney Island Beach
When I finally got back to 96th Street, I had some time to look at the artwork again and stretch around the station. I still love to see museum quality art in a subway. Then it was off back on the Q back to midtown.
For the price of a round-trip ticket on the subway, it is fantastic voyage around the city on the new Q. Artwork, amusements, skyline views and the beach. What more could you want?
From Q to Q Beginning to End from 96th Street to Stillwell Avenue
I had some business to do uptown on my way back from Chinatown in Lower Manhattan and had to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the afternoon, so I decided to check out the new Q line stops along the new Second Avenue line. The Q line runs all the way from Coney Island with me picking it up on Canal Street. What an amazing trip!
The new construction of the subway lines has been in the works for almost a hundred years and has recently completed four stops along the Second Avenue line that make travelling to uptown Manhattan a real pleasure. The fact that not too many people have caught on to the line yet makes it even better as there is plenty of room to sit down on the brand new cars and you are not squeezing in like on the number 6 line. If you have ever been on the Number 6 subway in Manhattan at rush hour, you know what I am talking about. Sardines are not squeezed in like this.
I have been on the line twice since it has opened and what a pleasure it is to get a seat and relax instead of someone pushing into your back for a three stop trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The subway car is one of the new ones with the blue seats you do not have to squeeze into and you can see and hear all the announcements. The old joke of everyone is ‘mumbling’ over the speaker is still true on most subway cars in the city. With all the racket going on between the cars, the speakers and the occasional person singing and dancing in the subway car (I don’t think they have discovered them yet), you can’t hear a thing. It is so nice to read the paper in peace on this line.
It is interesting to note that they have been trying to build this part of the subway since 1919. This first phase of the subway route was conceived when it was realized that the ‘Fourth Avenue line’ was over-crowded and needed to ease the congestion. In 1927, a rapid transit plan was put out that called for a six-track Second Avenue subway line. These plans were abandoned with the Great Depression in favor for completing the IND line. It was revisited again in the 40’s then World War Two broke out.
In 1965, one year after the Urban Mass Transit Act mandated that federal funding be made available for transit programs, the MTA was founded. The Second Avenue Subway plan was proposed in 1968 with one two-track line stretching from 34th Street to the Bronx. The city broke down in 1972 when the city was granted $25 million in Federal funding. Construction started at East 103rd Street and Second Avenue but construction was halted in 1975 due to the Financial Crisis and the project was abandoned again with only three little tunnels between Chatham Square and Canal Street, 99th, 105th and 110th and 120th Streets. (New York Magazine and Gothamist.com 2016)
With Environmental Impact Studies done in 2004, the project was planned in four phases to be completed between 2004 and 2006. Ground was broken for Phase One in 2007 at 99th/101st Street and the project was to done in four phases with the first to go from 63rd Street to 96th Streets. Phase Two has been planned to start in 2019 with the line expanding to 125th Street with the last two Phases expanding down to Lower Manhattan. This will create the T Line while bringing back the W Line to Queens. All of this will alleviate the traffic on the 6 Line. (New York Magazine, Gothamist.com).
The best part of the subway line on top of the cleanliness is the artwork. The MTA Art & Design had four different artists create the work for the four completed lines. Their works are amazing and you feel like you are in a gallery instead of a subway station:
This creativity starts at 96th Street as you enter the subway with a combination of steel and blue lights and take the escalator down a futuristic tunnel down to the platform and you gaze upon the artwork of artist Sarah Sze. When you see the work from the subway platform, it almost looks like flying papers outside. When you walk the whole platform, you see what she is trying to achieve.
Ms. Sze is a Boston native American artist who has a BA from Yale and MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her specialty ranges from sculpture, painting, film making, printing, drawing and instillation (Artist Bio).
Artist Sarah Sze designing the subway station
Her ‘Blueprint for a Landscape’ when completed with tile masters from Spain who used porcelain to produce the work. It takes a few walks around to see the true detail of the work. The work is made up of fragmented images of scaffolding, birds, chairs and leaves. It is like being outside in a wind storm. The main body of work on the platform you can see the papers flying around and as you take the escalator up, you see the blue and white scaffolding, which took me two trips to figure out what is was. Off to the side, you see the birds in flight. It is like seeing a day in New York City with the different aspects of the city flying by. The most touching part is the ‘Subway’ poem by Billy Collins (born 1941).
As you fly swiftly underground
with a song in your ears
or lost in a maze of a book
remember the ones who have descended here
into the mire of bedrock
to bore a hole through this granite
to clear a passage for you
where there was only darkness and stone
remember as you come up into the light
A touching poem to match the beauty of the art work.
At the 86th Street stop you will be dazzled by the artwork of one of my favorite artists, Chuck Close. I had marveled at his artwork when I lived in Chicago at the Contemporary Museum. You always know his work by the powerful real life images that he presents. He created 12 large-scale works that spread throughout the platforms. Really look at the artwork and you will see that they are made of tiny mosaic pieces.
Artist Chuck Close in tile at the 86th Street stop
Mr. Close is an American born artist from Washington State. He earned his BA from the University of Washington and his MFA from Yale University. His specialty is photography and painting with an emphasis on Portraiture (Artist Bio).
It was also the detailed construction of these pieces and the work that went into creating them that is impressive. There are even two self-portraits of Mr. Close in the station proudly pronouncing his work to subway riders. Take the time to really look at the details of each piece even when security looks at you funny (as they did with me twice).
At 72nd Street, Brazilian artist, Vic Muniz has created a series called “Perfect Strangers” with portraits of real New Yorkers.
Mr. Muniz is a Brazilian born artist who lives and works between New York City and Rio de Janerio. His specialty is mixed media and photography (Artist Bio).
There are portraits of men holding hands, a policeman holding a Popsicle and a man chasing flying papers, who I have read is the artist himself. The artist created this work based on staged photographs on people he knows.
Again really look at the details that created these works. I almost immediately thought I was going crazy when I thought one of them was Daniel Boulud, the famous chef holding a fish in a bag until I read later on that it was him. To see him immortalized in a subway station artwork I thought was a real testament to him as a chef.
Chef Daniel Boulud in tile
The 63rd Street station is not modernistic as the other three stations but still has a sense of newness to it. It is also kept so clean now to match the other stations. Artist Jean Shin work is featured at this station. You really have to go outside the station to see the just of her work which was quoted as being inspired by the idea of illustrating the demolition of the Second and Third Avenue elevated lines.
Her more geometric pieces really show the metal work of a different era as well as her work was based on when “she dug through archives at the New York Transit Museum and at the New York Historical Society and used photographs she found based on the images of everyday riders and pedestrians from the 1920’s through the 1940’s, along with geometric shots of elevated girders being dismantled” (New York Times 2016). It took some reading on my part to figure it out. Again you really have to walk the stop to get the feel of her work.
The best part of these new stops are how clean they are and how well-managed the people from the MTA keep them. The three nights I traveled the new Q Line, the gentlemen from the MTA are constantly mopping and sweeping the cars and the platforms. They take immense pride in taking care of ‘their’ station and it shows in their work. The MTA should proud of how well-maintained these new stations are and should take note for many of their other stations that could use the same TLC.
So this is your opportunity readers to see the subway stops on your way to the Met or the Museum of the City of New York, the Conservatory or even Central Park and see the marvel of how art, commerce and construction and immense creativity on the part of the MTA, the City Planners and dedicated construction workers put their best foot forward and gave the city a living, breathing ‘art museum’ to pass through every day.
But SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! We want to enjoy first before the tourist get there.
The Q Subway line being developed
Update since this Blog: August 1, 2018
According to Our Town Paper of the Upper East Side, the ridership on the new Q line has exceeded expectations as it is stealing riders from the Number 6 line:
The Q/F Stop at Lexington & East 63rd Street: 20,893 riders
The Q/F Stop at East 72nd Street: 28,145 riders
The Q/F Stop at East 86th Street: 23,722 riders
The Q/F Stop at East 96th Street: 17,150 riders
This has eased the Number 6 line by almost 23% to 29% on most of the same stops. Right now there are plans to expand the line to East 125th Street with stops at East 106th Street, East 116th Street and East 125th Street that could be finished by 2029 if the funding from the government comes through. The cost could be around $6 billion; work on Phase One lasted ten years and cost $4.5 billion. The first phase took almost a hundred years to build with most being set up in the early 70’s before the money crunch of the City.
I decided to take a break from the usual route and again got into the city late again (all those errands) and didn’t start the journey until 1:15pm. I started the trip on the number One Subway and walked down 207th Street to the A Subway at 207th Street. I took the over hour ride from the beginning of the A line to the end of the A line at 116 B in the Rockaway Beach area. This was my first trip to the Rockaway Beach in all the time I have lived in the New York City area.
My goal was to go to Rippers, a beach side hamburger stand that had been heavily written up all over the internet and taste the perfect hamburger.
It was a long trip by subway. I sat and read the paper as the various stops passed by with the inter-changing people getting on and off the subway. I have never seen so many guys under the age of 30 with scraggly beards with backpacks and untucked shirts. I swear I think I am seeing a clone of a person with no personality on their way to a 9:00am class. Guys tuck your shirts in already. It isn’t cool!
I finally got to Rockaway Beach stop 116 in about an hour and a half. I got out of the subway to stretch before getting back on the subway and took the line to the 90th Street stop and got off. It is a scary stop with all the projects surrounding the stop. Once you cross the street and get past the strip mall and closer to the beach, the area gets nicer. The Boardwalk and beach are really nice but it was a very windy day and tough to sit on the beach for any length of time.
Ripper’s at Rockaway Beach
Ripper’s was worth the trip. The food and service were excellent. The staff could not have been nicer and friendlier. I had a cheeseburger and fries with a Coke and thoroughly enjoyed it. According to the Village Voice, the restaurant is a joint venture between Roberta’s, a pizzeria in Bushwick, Brooklyn and the Meat Hook, a butcher in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The burgers are perfectly cooked and flavorful. After so many bad burgers on this walk, this one finally tasted like a freshly ground burger with the right seasonings. It had a rich beef flavor to it. The French Fries are freshly cut and have been dipped in flour and then flash fried seasoned with black pepper, paprika and salt. They have a salty richness to them as well. The portion sizes are very generous and I did not need dinner that night.
The best was the wonderful opera music that the staff was playing which I thought was a very nice touch and really made for a festive atmosphere even though the ladies at the next table made it clear that they did not appreciate opera music. They were playing ‘The Masked Ball’, which was very enjoyable. With the wonderful music, sounds of the waves in the background and the salt air on this sunny yet windy day made for the perfect lunch. The main reason I went today is that they close next week at the end of September and will not open again until next Summer.
Yes, the Ripper Burger was worth it!
After a nice lunch on the picnic tables outside and a great conversation with staff, I walked over to the beach. It was not a day to lounge on the beach with all that wind and the waves were pretty rough. I saw a couple of brave souls swimming although the red flags were out. I was able to put my feet in the ocean one last time which was nice after such a long trip and the quick on the boardwalk was pleasant after being cooped up on a subway all afternoon. Then it was back to the subway for the trip back to Inwood.
Note to all subway riders, take a good look on each station after you leave the Broad Channel stop and get on the local S train. At each station stop from the 90th Stop to the 116th Stop, there is a stain glass display by each subway sign. Take a good look at the colorful and beautiful work by artist Michael Miller done in 2010. They are very beautiful.
Artist Michael Miller
Located at the Beach 90 Station in Rockaway Beach, the artist, who is a graduate of New Mexico State University and the School of the Art Institute Chicago, was given the commission by MTA Arts in Transit and created this piece using the inspiration of his paintings to make these glass creations. These were created between 2009-2012.
Subway Station 90 artwork by Michael Miller
I stopped in Broad Channel, a subway stop and small island beach community off the Rockaways’. Broad Channel has a nice homey feel about it with all the kids playing in the playground by the school and library, all the American flags up and down Cross Bay Boulevard and several people saying hello to me. I thought it had a down home feel to it. I can still see the effects of Hurricane Sandy from three years ago as some homes have still not been rebuilt while others have redone their homes. Walking the boulevard was a nice way to walk off lunch, see the neighborhood and look at the shore line and the very distant view of Manhattan.
The Main Drag on Broad Channel Island
Then came the long trip back to Inwood, I dealt with the on again off again passengers and a large group that came on at the airport stop. For those of you who are flying into New York City and want the cheapest transportation into Manhattan, the A train can be beat. It is a little longer but still a great way to travel.
I got back to 207th Street by 8:15pm, seven hours late and an interesting way to spend the afternoon in search of the perfect hamburger. 207th Street back to the Number One Subway was alive with people. Many of the outdoor cafes on Broadway and on the beginning stretch of 207th Street were in full swing on this nice but cool night. While 207th Street was not the outdoor flea market like it is on the weekends, it was still lively with people shopping and eating out. I then took the long train ride on the One Train downtown. I got home by 9:30pm. It was a nice trip to the shore.
For those of you who are the adventurous sort, take one of the subway lines from beginning to end. This trip was an eye opener to a part of the city I hadn’t ever visited in all my years coming into New York.
From A to A starts at the 207th Street stop to Rockaway Beach.
(This project is dedicated with much love to my father, Warren George Watrel, who still inspires me!)
Hello and Welcome to ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, an extensive project to walk the entire island of Manhattan. My name is Justin Watrel and I will be your guide in exploring the island of Manhattan, searching every nook and cranny of the island for the unusual, the usual and the in between.
‘Walking the Island of Manhattan’ may not be terribly original as there are about four other people doing the project at the same time, but this project is different in the way I see the island. Not rushing through to prove I have walked it but to see what these neighborhoods are all about and what is there to discover and enjoy.
For all you ‘Manhattanites’ who think you know your island, I will show you things that you have never seen and places you have never gone, restaurants you have never tried and historical sites and museums you never knew existed. Maybe just a few blocks from where you live. As the son of two “Brooklynites’, I have traveled around the city a lot since 1969, my first time in the City when my parents took me to Chinatown to Hunan Gardens, a Chinese restaurant on Mott Street. I ended up there for eight birthdays until it closed in the early 2000’s.
Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown
“My Walk in Manhattan” is a project to walk the entire island of Manhattan in New York City from top to bottom from the beginning of the Summer of 2015 until I finish the walk. Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide and covers a total area 23.7 square miles. Along the way of walking the streets of Manhattan, I will be walking into parks, museums, restaurants and looking at the architecture of the neighborhoods and the buildings in them.
My soon to be path around the Island of Manhattan
I have found that people miss a lot when they walk with their cellphones and only look down at it. When you look up, you see the true beauty of the City. You see the stone work of old brownstones, you see small boutiques off the beaten track and can indulge in those hole in the wall restaurants that are usually found by foreign tourists. Nothing is more interesting then seeing a stone face on a building staring back at you, a tiny pocket park that residents created out of a garbage dump and that small entrepreneur trying to create a vision.
The Cable Building at 631 Broadway
This project was inspired by many things. My major inspiration for this project follows the recent passing of my father, Warren George Watrel. My dad and I loved to walk around the city and spend the day at various museums, walking around Central Park and the Conservatory, taking the subway to try new restaurants in Chinatown or Little Italy or any new place I had read about in the Village Voice (my Bible when looking for things to do on weekends).
Columbus Circle on the West Side
My father was a ‘Brooklynite’ from Williamsburg (long before it was ‘Hipster Central’, he would have been amused) and loved the city, so this voyage is dedicated to him. Having watched the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen, we look for inspiration in our travels and try to find the answers to why something happens the way it does. Walking to explore does that.
I was my father’s caregiver after his illness hit him and I continued my trips into Manhattan as my father got better. It was the inspiration to this site’s sister site, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver.com’. After he passed in 2014, I wanted to spend Father’s Day doing something different yet do something that we would have done together. Thus started the first walk in Marble Hill.
My first Day in Marble Hill, Manhattan
Another inspiration was a recent article in New York Magazine entitled “Which New York is Yours? A Fierce Preservationist and a Pro-Development Blogger Debate” in which the author Justin Davidson asks about the disappearance of New York’s Character. “What does that character actually consist of? If we did make an all-out effort to preserve it, how would we know what to protect?” How much is the city changing? I have worked off and on in New York City since 1988 and the answer is in some parts of Manhattan it is night and day. Could you imagine walking in Bryant or Tompkins Square Parks in 1990?
I did and they were very different places back then. With the changing Zoning Laws and gentrification of many neighborhoods, its not the city of 1970’s movies. What I am looking for are those unique little pocket parks that we pass, those statues of people we have no clue who they are and those historic plaques of places gone by and people we don’t know.
Astor Row Houses in Harlem
Another are the books, ‘Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost its Soul’ by Jeremiah Moss and ‘The Death and Life of the Great American City’ by Jane Jacobs. How do cities keep progressing and changing? How does change effect a city and what direction are we going in? Does the Island of Manhattan have to be all luxury or can it be mixed to help keep the creativity alive and keep innovation going? Do we want the big bad 70’s again or the luxury brand of the 2010’s and 20’s? How is it impacting and changing the city? How much has Manhattan and the rest of the boroughs changed with the rezoning of the city under the Bloomberg Administration. This can also be looked at in the documentaries “Gut Renovation” and “My Brooklyn”.
The last inspiration was my doctor. He said I have to lose ten pounds. I am hardly over-weight but like many people he feels that I will be healthier if I lose the weight and keep it off. I want to see how a walk like this tones the body.
Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan
I know many people before have walked the entire length of Manhattan while others have or are attempting to walk the every block in the city, mine has a more personal reason. To really see the city I love from the ground up and explore parts of the island that I have never ventured to and see what I find there. Along the way, I want to see how the city changes while I am taking the walk. This is not the “Christopher Columbus” attitude most people are taking when exploring the neighborhoods but more honoring those residents who are trying to make the City better.
My project also includes stops at various points of interest and to get a better feel for all the neighborhoods, I am walking both sides of the street to get a better look at the buildings in each neighborhood and what defines the character of a neighborhood. I get the impression from some of the readers of Mr. Davidson’s article and from comments on the Internet that Manhattan is some “playground of the wealthy that is being gentrified to the hilt and soon no one will be able to afford any part of Manhattan”. Like in any place, there are people struggling everyday to survive in New York and like every city in the country, people are moving back in droves and want a quality of life for them and their families.
Delacorte Clock in Central Park
In the Age of COVID, it has been interesting starting the project again. I had been on hold from March 13th, 2020 through June 10th, 2020 when the City was closed for anyone other than First Responder and people who had to work there. I was so happy when I could return and continue walking Manhattan. My walk down Broadway for the forth time was a surprise with all the businesses closed on the Upper West Side and I met the challenge of “The Great Saunter Walk” , the 32 mile walk around the perimeter of the island in 14 hours. There is now more to see and explore and write.
The COVID world though has me facing closed businesses that I have covered over the years. Restaurants and stores that I have mentioned in this blog since 2015 have since closed permanently or closed for the time being, I am not too sure. We also have a walking world of masks that keep us safe. The times in Manhattan are changing from the way we eat in restaurants to the way we shop and visit museums.
SoHo boarded up after the June Riots 2020
Fifth Avenue boarded up after the June Riots 2020
Things are constantly changing in Manhattan since the riots in June and COVID keeps raging in the City with people not wanting to wear masks. I hope that things will get back to normal soon. I still see people out and about doing their thing and enjoying the warm weather so I am optimistic about life. Still though, Manhattan keeps changing with the Theater District boarded up and Chinatown looking like a ghost town. We will see how New York City recovers from COVID like the rest of the country.
I have now expanded this site to three other blogs, ‘VisitingaMuseum’ (VisitingaMuseum.com), which features all the historical sites, community gardens and small museums and galleries I find in not just Manhattan but throughout the rest of the NYC and beyond in the suburbs.
‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ (DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), where I feature wonderful little restaurants, bodegas and bakeries that I find along the way. The one requirement is that the meal is around $10.00 and under (for us budget minded people).
“LittleShoponMainStreet” (LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) where I find unique and creative stores in Manhattan and locally whose merchandising, displays, merchandise and service stand out in an age of Amazon. This harks back to a time when shopping was enjoyable and not a chore.
I have also added two new sections to the blog, “My life as a Fireman”, which I have moved from an old site that I had created for my old engine company to describe my experiences on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department over the last 16 years. Also, this is what takes up my time when I am not exploring New York City.
Justin Watrel, Fireman
Another is “A Local Journey” are tours of downtown’s and communities outside the New York City area to travel to when you need to escape the City’s clutches. I have specific guidelines in finding stores, restaurants and museums/cultural sites in the area. This has lead me to really explore my own town of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and exploring out of town destinations like Red Hook, NY and Beach Haven/Long Beach Island, NJ. You would be amazed on what these small towns offer.
Downtown Red Hook, NY in the Summer months
So to readers who will be following me on the journey walking through Manhattan and beyond, I hope you enjoy trip walking by my side!
Me in Red Hook, Brooklyn discovering my new love in “Street Art”
This project is dedicated to my father, Warren George Watrel, with lots of love and many wonderful adventures and memories to keep me company as I take “My Walk in Manhattan”.
My dad, Warren and I at a Grandparent’s Day Brunch in 2013
This walking song plays in my mind when I start walking. Thank you Mary Mary!