I have stopped in at the Hotel Chocolat a few of times over the last couple of months and have found that the store has the most amazing candies, chocolates and ice cream creations. The store had been closed during the COVID pandemic but reopened with a nice manager with a big smile and hearty greeting. I have never been so warmly welcomed to a store before.
I had been staying in Manhattan over the Spring Break, working on updating my blog on ‘Midtown East’ for my sister site “MywalkinManhattan.com” and revisited the store again. There were all sorts of beautifully boxed chocolates for sale for the upcoming Easter holidays as well as every day candies.
The candies here are creatively made and packaged with all sorts…
I have recently been reading articles about New York City and how ‘dead’ it has become and how ‘it will never come back this time’. It’s funny when people who did not come into New York in the 1970’s and early 80’s or were even born remember what we went through when visiting Manhattan. Some residents who came into the City in the last ten years see a much different place than what I remembered in all my years working on Macy’s on 34th Street. It was ‘no miracle in 1990’s when I started in the Buying offices and Seventh Avenue after 6:00pm was no better when left the store for home.
That famous cover from so many years ago
Still by doing this walking project I don’t see a ‘dead city”. I see a City going through another transition and adaption. New York City is unique in the way it changes over time. When I walked the streets of Manhattan at Christmas just nine months ago, I saw a City again in the process of changing. I had never seen so many homeless out on the streets and saw the streets and avenues get dirty again. This started the last two years under Mayor Bloomberg and continued under the current mayor. I was not too sure what was happening or why it was changing considering all the building going on and renovations in parks, squares and pathways around the City.
Still as I started to walk the Avenues of Murray Hill, I did not see a ‘dead city’. I saw vibrancy and energy on each block. I saw adaption in restaurants with outdoor dining and delivery. I saw stores open to limited people but still open and display their wares with zest. I saw hopelessness next to enthusiasm but the one thing I didn’t see was everyone giving up.
From the delivery guys from GrubHub piling up orders to the men and women meeting their friends socially distanced at outdoor cafes all over the neighborhood to the little girl who was shooting hoops (and hitting every basket) in St. Varta Park park that afternoon. There is still resilience and things to do and get done in Murray Hill and all over New York City.
I really had a nice time walking around Murray Hill the other day and started today with a plan to walk all the Avenues of the neighborhood. Again I was amazed how quiet the City was this afternoon but more people are starting to sit in Bryant Park and the lines for the bathrooms there (the public bathrooms there are still the best in NYC) are getting longer.
The Bryant Park bathrooms; they should all be like this
I am starting to see tourists slowly coming back as I am seeing more selfies in Midtown. Not like Christmas (not at all) but still slowly coming back in. There are still a lot of people (masks included) walking around the City taking pictures, searching for an open restaurant and sunning themselves in the park.
Bryant Park is still alive with people and flora
I started the walk today walking down Eighth Avenue to see if some of the restaurants on my ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com site were still open. Restaurants have been closing like crazy but the small places still have staying power.
I stopped for an early morning snack at Fu Xing at 273 West 38th Street for some roast pork buns ($1.20) which they make homemade and when they come fresh out of the oven are amazing. They are soft and sweet on the outside and filled with freshly chopped roast pork. I ordered two and munched on them on the walk around Bryant Park. I was just happy that all the places in the Garment District are still open.
The assorted buns at Fu Xing are available in the mornings and late afternoons
I took these wonderful little treats on my walk around the Garment District and back up to West 42nd Street and then cut across town back to the borders of Murray Hill. I started my walk again at the front of New York Public Library admiring the architecture of Fifth Avenue and passing it on my way to Madison Avenue.
When I was walking Fifth Avenue, even after all these years, it feels like I am seeing it for the first time. With not many people walking on the sidewalks, you have more time to look up and admire what is right in front of you. I never realized how from 34th to 42nd Streets was such a prominent shopping district before the move further up Fifth Avenue. The buildings reflect how retailers took themselves more seriously about setting up shop and how the exteriors should match the importance of the interiors. They were merchants that were there to stay (now mostly gone with the closing of Lord & Taylor).
The former Lord & Taylor Department Store headquarters on Fifth Avenue
Madison Avenue is still an important advertising and communications business neighborhood with many current office building renovations to workers who may or may not come back after the pandemic. It was really creepy to not see more than ten people walking down the Avenue.
I could not believe how many restaurants had closed and stores that have not reopened. The problem is that with all the office workers gone, the foot traffic during lunch went with it. So many restaurants that were packed just a few months packed up and closed. Still there are many bright spots that make Madison Avenue so unique.
The Library Hotel at 299 Madison Avenue at 41st Street is a beautiful spot on the Avenue with music drifting from the main lobby and outdoor tables from the cafe spilling on to the sidewalk with a few people dining in the early afternoon.
Their outdoor restaurant, Madison & Vine is a beautiful little cafe with an interesting menu and the few people dining there looked like they were having a nice time. I will have to try it in the future.
Madison & Vine at the Library Hotel
The hotel is housed in a former office building designed in the ‘sliver design’ facing East 41st Street across the street from the New York Public Library. The hotel is designed in the ‘Neo-Gothic style’ in 1912. Many of these historic office buildings have been turned into hotels while historic hotels like The Plaza and The Waldorf-Astoria are being turned into condos.
Madison Avenue in the East 40’s is mostly office buildings but here and there are architectural gems tucked here and there left over from the Gilded Age. At 205-209 Madison Avenue is the Church of the Incarnation, an Episcopal church that was built in 1896. The original church had been built in 1865 but was destroyed by fire in 1882.
The original design for the church was designed by architect Emlen T. Littel and after the fire all that survived were the walls and the tower. The redesign of the church was built by architect David Jardine and added many of the features seen today. Many prominent ‘old families’ of New York were parishioners here like the Sedgwick’s, Delano’s and Roosevelt’s. Take time to look at the church’s details and stained glass windows (Wiki).
The church is now an historic landmark
Further down Madison Avenue are reminders of the ‘Gilded Age’ in the form of the Morgan and De Lamar mansions built at a time when money was no object and there were no income taxes. These palaces of gracious living were a reminder of people who wanted to show their place in the world and Society welcome them with open arms (if Mrs. Astor allowed it).
The De Lamar Mansion, which is now the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland of New York since 1973. was built by C. P.H. Gilbert in the ‘Beaux-Arts style’ for millionaire Joseph Raphael De Lamar, a Dutch born sea merchant who made his fortune in mining and metallurgy. The home was completed in 1905. By the time the mansion was finished, he and his wife divorced and he lived in the house for another eight years until his death in 1918. The mansion was sold by his daughter shortly after on her move to Park Avenue (Wiki).
The De Lamar Mansion (now the Polish Consulate) at Madison Avenue & East 37th Street
Jan Karski Statue outside the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland/De Lamar Mansion
The statue is of Jan Karski who was a courier who served as part of the Anti-Nazi Resistance in German occupied Poland during WWII. The statue was created by Polish artist Karol Badyna. The statue was dedicated in 2007 (Big Apple Secrets).
Karol Badyna is a Polish born artist who has studied at the Post-Secondary School of Conservation of Works of Art and Sculpture at Monuments Conservation Studio in Krakow, Poland. He currently serves a Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts (Artist bio).
The Morgan Library & Library is at 225 Madison Avenue is a wonderful little museum that holds the art and library collection of J.P. Morgan, the famous banker. The museum is made up of three buildings, the original library that J.P.Morgan built before he died, the annex building where the bulk of the museum collection is located and the brownstone mansion where the Morgan Dining Room and gift shop are located.
The first part of the building was the Italianate brownstone on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 37th Street that was built by Isaac Newton Phelps in 1854 who left it to his daughter upon his death. It was bought by J.P. Morgan for his son, J.P. Morgan II who lived there from 1905-1943. It houses the Morgan Dining Room and the gift shop (Wiki).
The Morgan Library & Museum-The Phelps Mansion and the Annex
The Morgan Library’s Annex building in the middle of the Museum was built on top of the original family mansion and was built by Benjamin Wistar Morris. This is where the exhibition hall and theater is located (Morgan Library Museum).
The last part of the building is the Morgan Library that houses the manuscript collection and artworks. The building was designed in the ‘Classic Revival Style’ by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead & White. The building was finished in 1907 (Wiki).
The former J. P. Morgan mansion is now the Morgan Library Museum.
The Morgan Library Museum Annex and Library buildings
The inside of the Morgan Library Museum Annex
On the corner of Madison Avenue and East 34th is the old B. Altman Department store, the final location for the iconic department store that closed in 1989. The store was the brainchild of merchant Benjamin Altman. The store was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston in 1906-1913 expanding from Fifth to Madison Avenues. The store was designed in the ‘Italian Renaissance style’ (Wiki).
The former B. Altman & Company at the Fifth Avenue entrance
The store was known for its exclusive designs, Couture clothing, it’s elegant wooden interiors, Christmas window displays and the famous Charleston Gardens Restaurant.
The Charleston Gardens Restaurant at B. Altman & Company
Walking back up Madison Avenue, I notice another sculpture that popped out at me. The sculpture of “Eight” by artist Robert Indiana located in front of 261 Madison Avenue.
Eight by Robert Indiana
Artist Robert Indiana was an American born artist who was involved with the ‘Pop Art’ Movement. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and Edinburgh College of Art (Wiki). He looked at art with images of small town America with the visual image of High Art. The result was what he called an “verbal visual forms’ (MIA).
I rounded the corner from Madison Avenue to the open blocks of lower Park Avenue seeing Grand Central guarding over the Avenue. This beautiful ‘Beaux Arts Style’ building seems to define the elegance that is Park Avenue.
Grand Central Station defines Park Avenue with its elegance
Just walking down Park Avenue you can see the difference in the way the Avenue portray’s itself with its elegant office buildings, Gilded Age mansions tucked here and there, private clubs and interesting pieces of street art creating an ‘open air’ museum to walk through.
Just outside of 90 Park Avenue is the interesting artwork “The Couple” by artist Arthur Carter. Mr. Carter’s extraordinary life took him from the military to Wall Street to publishing to farming to art. A Brown and Dartmouth graduate from a financial background is pretty much self-taught. His works are very impressive and this work does stand out.
On the corner of Park Avenue and East 37th Street on the side of a building is the plaque for the home of the Murray family mansion (which the neighborhood is named after) ‘Inclenberg’, that once stood on the site.
The plaque to the Murray home “Inclenberg”
The Murray family were merchants and prominent business people at the time of the Revolutionary War. Robert Murray’s wife, Mary Lindley Murray, had delayed General Howe’s troops by several hours letting the Patriots escape by serving wine, tea and cake to the British soldiers and entertaining them with music and conversation (Wiki and Untapped Cities).
Mary Lindley Murray entertaining the British at her home
The Murray Mansion ‘Inclenberg’ now the site of Park Avenue and East 37th Street
The continued walk on Park Avenue brought me to the Union League Club at 38 East 37th Street. The club was founded in 1863 by former members of the Union Club who did not like the Pro-Southern activities of club members and created their own club with the Union League Club. The current clubhouse was designed by member Benjamin Wistar Morris and opened in 1931.
The elegance of the Union League Club at 38 East 37th Street
At 23 Park Avenue, another elegant mansion graces the beauty of Park Avenue and a reminder of its Gilded Age past. The home was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White with architect Stanford White leading the design. The home was built in 1890 for retired Senator James Hampden Robb and his wife Cornelia Van Rensselaer Robb. The mansion is now a co-op (Street Easy & Wiki).
23 Park Avenue-The Cornelia Robb House.
Another Gilded Age mansion is now the Guatemala UN Mission at 57 Park Avenue was once the Adelaide T. Townsend Douglas mansion. She had been the wife of William Proctor Douglas, a Capitalist and rumored to be the mistress of J.P.Morgan, the banker. Never divorcing her husband, she continued on as a New York Socialite (Untapped Cities).
The mansion was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer in the ‘French Classical style’ and it was completed in 1911. In 1978, the house was sold after several owners to the Guatemala UN Mission as their headquarters to the United Nations (Daytonian).
57 Park Avenue-Guatemala UN Mission & the former Townsend Mansion
One of the little treasures I found on Park Avenue though was the alleyway of the Church of our Savior at 59 Park Avenue. This beautiful church has hidden off to the side of the building a tiny alleyway with a garden with statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. It is such a nice tranquil place to relax and think that I did not want to leave. It was a relaxing reprieve from the hustle of the City.
The Church of Our Savior at 59 Park Avenue-Check out the garden alleyway
Another building that stands out is 41 Park Avenue owned by the Stonehenge NYC. This beautiful and elegant building was built in 1950 and has all the pre-war details.
41 Park Avenue
I was in a mood most of the morning because of some past events of the week and as I passed a small cafe on the corner of Park Avenue and 40th Street I heard a familiar song from the 1980’s that reminded me of college and immediately put me back in a good mood. It is amazing the power of the memories of songs.
‘Once in a Lifetime’ by Talking Heads
I was humming all the way to Lexington Avenue. The rest of the day just seemed so much better. The song brought me back to my wonderful college years.
Lexington Avenue was quiet for most of my walk down to East 34th Street. Lexington Avenue between it and Park Avenue has some of the most beautiful brownstones on the side streets. It looks like a classic New York neighborhood. That runs between about East 40th to East 36th Streets and then gets more commercial as you get closer to 34th Street.
Murray Hill Brownstones
What I was surprised by is the amount of restaurants that closed their doors on Lexington Avenue. I never saw so many for rent signs on buildings before. Some well known neighborhood places like House of Lasagna were shut at the time of my visit.
House of Lasagna at 334 Lexington Avenue
On a recent visit to the neighborhood in 2021, I went to dinner at the House of Lasagna after it reopened for business. I thought the restaurant was really nice and the service was excellent but the lasagna was okay. I had the Lasagna Bolognese and it was just okay. I am not too sure it warrants another trip but I am willing to try it in the future.
One restaurant going strong with outdoor dining with a creative menu is Hunan Manor (now Hunan Village) at 339 Lexington Avenue. I saw some of the patrons eating outside and their Soup Dumplings and Chicken dishes that I saw people eating for lunch looked really good. Another restaurant for the bucket list. I finally ate in the restaurant in May of 2021 when it reopened under a new name and new owners.
The lunch specials here are very reasonable and the food was very good that afternoon. I had a General Tso’s Chicken lunch special with Vegetable Fried Rice and Hot & Sour Soup. I thought the meal was delicious but they put all of their food on cold plates so the food got cold fast. The place was empty as this section of the City is still opening up in May of 2021.
Hunan Manor Restaurant at 339 Lexington Avenue (now Hunan Village)
Walking down Lexington Avenue was very different from Fifth, Madison and Park Avenues with their unusual architecture, interesting parks and street art. It was more of a combination of low rise buildings and commercial spots. There was one standout though and that was the Sailors Club at 283 Lexington Avenue.
283 Lexington Avenue-The Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club
The Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club is the only private club of its kind to provide accommodations at a subsidized rate for service men and women and retirees, veterans and their families visiting New York (Club website). The club was founded in 1919 by Cornelia Barnes Rogers and Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt with General John J. Pershing. The club is housed in two 1880 twin brownstones that once served the area as upper middle class housing (Club website and Wiki). Towards 34th Street you will enter the midtown campus of Yeshiva University.
Walking back up Lexington Avenue, you can see how both Lexington and Third Avenue are quickly changing. Gone are all the low rise and smaller buildings and their businesses giving way to large office high rises and commercial spots. The small rise buildings are being razed for larger buildings.
Here and there on Third Avenue are pockets of the old neighborhood below East 38th Street but the neighborhood is changing to a more modern commercial area. There are more smaller businesses as you get closer to 34th Street. One older restaurant, Sarges Delicatessen & Diner at 548 Lexington Avenue has been around since 1964. It offers traditional deli items such as Matzo-ball Soup and over-sized sandwiches. The restaurant was the idea of retired NYPD Sargent Abe Katz, who who loved Jewish style cooking and wanted to open a deli when he retired. The family has been carrying his tradition for all these years offering many dishes made from scratch in-house (Meat & Poultry-Fox 2019).
Sarges Delicatessen & Diner at 548 Lexington Avenue
All around Sarges though the neighborhood continues to morph into a commercial neighborhood where skyscraper office buildings are becoming the norm. Here and there tough are little touches of artistic creativity.
The sculpture “Windward” is sitting just outside an office building at 655 Lexington Avenue by artist Jan Peter Stern.
“Windward” at 655 Third Avenue
Jan Peter Stern was a German born American artist who specialized in contemporary, politically influenced artist of the Post-War era. He graduated from Syracuse with a degree in Industrial Design and married to artist Irene Stern.
The changes of Lexington and Third Avenues in the East 40’s is also changing the complexity of Second Avenue as well. In the upper parts of the neighborhood, the small buildings and brownstones that set the character as one of the last bastions of ‘old New York’ are giving way to office buildings and apartment high-rises. Second Avenue to me from 100th to 34th Streets still represent ‘old New York’ to me with the smaller buildings with character and the ‘mom and pop’ stores that still line the Avenue.
In the East 30’s there are still the quintessential small brownstone and low rise buildings with many ‘for rent signs’. A lot of the smaller ‘mom and pop’ have closed with the ravages of COVID-19 or just have not reopened. Some of the smaller restaurants have opened outdoor cafes and with the NYU Langone Hospital around the corner, there is a small lunch business when I visited but most workers take their lunches to the open garden courts and then get back to work. Still there is a lot of character to this part of the neighborhood.
One of the standouts in the lower part of the Murray Hill between Second and First Avenues is St. Vartan’s Park. This small oasis of green is very popular with families in this part of the neighborhood.
St. Vartan Park is between Second and First Avenues at East 35th Street
The park is named after the Armenian Orthodox Church nearby, St. Vartan Cathedral which is a nod to the neighborhood’s Armenian heritage (NYCParks). The park has a wonderful basketball court, playground and lawn space to run around on. The bathrooms were shut which was not helpful but still a nice place to just relax under a tree.
It was just nice to sit and relax both when I was walking Second and First Avenues. The shade trees blocked the sun and there was nice benches to sit down on and watch everyone playing basketball and paddle ball.
What really caught my attention was at the other end of the basketball court was this little girl who could not have been older than four throwing the basketball into the adult hoop. What was amazing was that she made it every time! I could not believe it. She would just throw it and it went right into the basket with no problems. I was mystified by it all how she did it.
St. Varta Park between First and Second Avenue
After some rest in the park, it was time to finish the walk with a stroll down First Avenue which I made on my border walk of the neighborhood a few days earlier. The upper parts of First Avenue like everything between Lexington and Second Avenue is going through a big transition and must have been before the COVID-19 pandemic with the upper sections of the neighborhood. The low-rise buildings are giving way to new office and apartment buildings that offer views of the river and the changing Brooklyn and Queens skylines.
Just like the rest of the City during the Pandemic, the Murray Hill is quietly changing and morphing into a new neighborhood. It will be interesting to see what will develop here in the future. Like a flower in the Spring, it will show its ‘true beauty’ in the future.
My walk of the Borders of Murray Hill on August 13th, 2020:
Fee: Adults $22.00/Seniors (over 65) $14.00/Current Students with ID $13.00/Free to Members and Children under 12 accompanied by a parent. Free on Friday Nights from 7:00pm-9:00pm. Discount for people with disabilities $13.00-Caregiver Free. review
I can’t believe that with all this craziness with COVID-19 I was finally able to get back to walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan. I had not done this since I finished Central Park South before the holidays.
The whole City has morphed since March 13th. It is like a different world. Just like I saw on my recent Broadway walk through neighborhoods that I had seen in the past everything has changed so much. Restaurants and stores that had been part of the City fabric for years have disappeared. Interesting little hole in the wall restaurants that I had enjoyed so much in Turtle Bay and in Midtown are either shut or out of business. I have had to start revisiting neighborhoods just to see if things are still open.
The surprising part of today’s walk is how quiet the City was not just in Murray Hill but all over the place. I did not get into the City until noon and even Times Square at lunch hour was quiet. Port Authority looked like it had less than 50 people in it and it is surreal how quiet most of the restaurants that are open are to customers. This is what happens when there are not tourists. It was like looking at Manhattan through a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode.
Since Murray Hill’s northern border is East 42nd Street, it was an easy walk across town. I had not walked around the neighborhood in about seven months so I revisited a few places on the border of the neighborhood in Turtle Bay and Midtown East. It was shocking how many places shut their doors for good. It is surreal in that seven months ago these places were going strong. It is almost like Christmas 2019 did not not exist where you could not walk on the sidewalks in Midtown.
I started my morning with a walk through Bryant Park which is right behind the New York Public Library and one of most beautiful small parks in Manhattan. It was one of those really nice Summer mornings and the park was surprisingly busy. The tables and chairs are ‘socially distanced’ and park patrons did their best to stay away from each other. It also has the nicest and cleanest public bathrooms in Manhattan.
Years ago when I worked in Manhattan in the early 90’s, Bryant Park was only used for drug dealing and criminal activity and was best avoided. What twenty years and a major renovation can do to a park. Today you can walk along the flowering paths and think you are in Paris. In the past there have been concerts and movies in the park but because of COVID-19, you can just sit in the park on a chair or bench and enjoy the sunshine and admire the flowers.
Just walking along the paths of Bryant Park can make you forget your troubles
I started my walk of the Murray Hill neighborhood at the New York Public Library admiring the stone carvings and statuary that is part of the entrance of the famous library. The library had just had a recent refreshing and looked magnificent with the fountains flowing and patrons filling the tables outside the building.
The New York Public Guards the borders of Murray Hill from Fifth Avenue
This famous iconic building was designed by the firm of Carrere and Hastings in the Beaux-Arts style and opened its doors May 23, 1911. The founding for this important library came from patronage of the wealth members of society who believed in the value education and opened it to the people.
The famous lion statues that grace the entrance of the library were designed by American sculptor Edward Clark Potter and they were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, American stone carvers whose business was based in the Bronx.
Edward Clark Potter is an American born artist who studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and at the Academie Julian in Paris where he studied ‘animalier’, animal sculpture.
The Piccirilli Brothers were a family of stone carvers and artists in their own right who were from Massa, Italy and owned a business in the Bronx. There were responsible for many famous statues all over the City including the Maine Memorial in Columbus Circle and the Firemen’s Memorial in Riverside Park.
Artist Attilio Piccirillo , one of the most famous from the family
Another feature of the famous building and I had never noticed before was the elegant fountains that flank the entrance to the library. I did not realize that these fountains had just been restored in 2015 after thirty years of not functioning. They were restored with a grant from the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust (NYPL Site).
The fountain “Beauty”
The fountain “Truth”
These beautiful fountains were designed by artist Frederick MacMonnies, an American born artist who studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
After having a snack at the tables in front of the library and throwing a few coins in the fountains for good luck, off I went to explore the borders of Murray Hill.
Enjoy the opening scene of “Ghostbusters” from 1984 shot at the NY Public Library:
Enjoy this scene from “Ghostbusters” from 1984 shot at the NY Public Library
Murray Hill is an interesting neighborhood with a fascinating past. The name “Murray Hill” comes from the Colonial Murray family, who were Quaker merchants and overseas traders. The family was presided by its patriarch, Robert Murray and his wife, Mary Lindley Murray, who raised a family in their home, Inclenberg, which is now the corner of Park Avenue and East 37th Street.
The Murray family mansion, Inclenberg, now the corner of Park Avenue and East 37th Street
Mrs. Murray was credited with delaying General William Howe and his army during General Washington’s retreat from New York following the British landing at Kip’s Bay on September 15,1776. According to the family lore, Mrs. Murray invited the officers to tea, treating them to cakes and wine with singing and poetry readings by her daughters, allowing a successful retreat by the Americans to the other side of the island to meet up with another branch of troops (Wiki and American History).
Mrs. Murray entertaining the British troops and hastening the American retreat
The plaque were the spot the house stood sits prominently on the corner of Park Avenue and East 37th Street.
The plaque dedicated to Mary Lindley Murray’s patriotism
I started my trip in exploring the neighborhood walking down East 42nd Street, the northern most border of Murray Hill with the Midtown East and Turtle Bay neighborhoods. East 42nd Street is host to many famous architectural gems of Manhattan starting as you cross Fifth Avenue and head to Grand Central Terminal, the crown jewel of Murray Hill to the north of the neighborhood.
There are still many tourists around the building taking pictures but not like in pre-COVID-19 years where the place is crowds of people milling around. The look of the building is impressive inside and out. The building was designed by the team of Reed and Stem for the overall design and Warren and Wetmore for interior and exterior designs. The detailed sculptures on the exterior was created by the team of Jules Felix Coutan, Sylvain Salieres and Paul Cesar Helleu including the crown gem of sculpture “Glory of Commerce”.
The “Glory of Commerce” sits proud above Park Avenue
Artist Jules-Felix Coutan was born in France and had studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. “The Glory of Commerce” was one of his most famous works.
I was not surprised that most of the buildings were now closed to touring. The Chrysler Building looked closed to walk ins, the Ford Building with its indoor gardens and small gallery was closed and walking around Grand Central Station was like an episode of the “Twilight Zone”. There were maybe hundred people milling around with some tourists taking pictures of the ceiling. The downstairs food court which was always nuts at lunch had about three restaurants open and a very bored police officer looking at either a book or a cell phone.
The Grand Central Terminal Food Court is almost closed
The food court on the lower level usually bustling with people have lunch or snacks from the surrounding office buildings is down to about four or five open vendors and even they are no that busy. The only busy place in the food court was the public bathrooms as the few tourists in the City could not find a place to go. When I walked out of the food court to go back to 42nd Street, some guy looked at the famous Oyster Bar restaurant and said to me “I can’t believe this place is closed. It never closes.” The sign on the door of the restaurant said it was closing on March 16th by City order. It is amazing how time still stands still for parts of the City since the reopening. It’s the same in the subway system. There are still posters for things that say “March…”.
The terminal is barely filled these days
Exiting the building’s main entrance, look up closely before you leave and you will see the sculpture of the railroad’s founder, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. I have missed this many times so you have to look on a angle for it. The statue used to sit at the Hudson River Freight Depot which has since been demolished (Wiki and Ernst Plassman bio).
The statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt the founder of the shipping and railroad empire
The statue was designed by artist Ernst Plassman a German born American artist who moved to New York in 1853. The artist studied under many famous artists in Europe before founding the “Plassman’s School of Art” in New York City in 1854.
After leaving the surreal Grand Central Terminal with the empty main floor and quiet halls (I can’t wait to see what it looks like again when a vaccine is found), I walked out the main entrance towards East 42nd Street. Pershing Square across the street was busy with what office workers who work in the area and tourists filling the tables of the cafe that was open for business. People really like sitting outside and moving the concept of restaurants to outside dining has made it extremely popular in the nice weather for what restaurants can open under this concept. On a nice day, people don’t mind socially distancing in Murray Hill.
Across the street from Grand Central Station where the now closed Cipriani is the former headquarters of the Bowery Savings Bank. Don’t miss the beautiful details of the bank’s design. This became the new headquarters in 1920 in the move uptown from their former Stanford White designed headquarters in Chinatown. It was designed by York and Sawyer in the ‘Italian Romanesque Style’ with William Lewis Ayres as a partner in the project (Wiki).
The former Bowery Savings Bank Building at 110 East 42nd Street
Another very interesting building with amazing details is the Chanin Building at 122 East 42nd Street. The building was named after it’s developer Irwin S. Chanin. You have to look close and then across the street again to see its details. The building was developed between 1927-29 and was designed by Sloan & Robertson in the “Art Deco Style” with a brick and terra cotta frontage.
I then passed the now closed to tourists Chrysler Building with it Art Deco design and interesting sculptures jutting out. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the building does not encourage people to enter who don’t work there. Still you can read about my earlier visits there last year when walking the Turtle Bay neighborhood.
The Chrysler Building was built in the ‘Art Deco’ style by architect William Van Alen for Walter Chrysler, the owner of the company. The building held the title of the “World’s Tallest Building” for 11 months until the completion of the Empire State Building. The building along with 40 Wall Street and the Empire State Building competed for the “Race to the Sky” in 1929 right before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. You really have to look up to see the details to the building and walk its lobby (closed to the public during the pandemic).
You have to look up high to see this
When the building is open don’t miss the ceiling in the lobby. It is really detailed and the security guards are really cool about letting you take pictures. In Post-COVID they do not want you to enter the building unless you work there. The work shows the ambitions and accomplishments of the business world (The Ornamentalist). The beauty of the art commerce is “Transport and Human Endeavor” by artist Edward Turnbull (I could not find anything on the artist online).
“Transport and Human Endeavor” by artist Edward Turnbull
As you walk down East 42nd Street towards the East River, you will pass The Daily News Building at 220 East 42nd Street. This interesting building was designed by architects Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells in the ‘Art Deco Style’ and built between 1928-1930 to house the Headquarters of the New York Daily News.
Their lobby was open when I was touring the Turtle Bay neighborhood (its now closed to the public) should not be missed with its interesting paintings on the walls and grillwork by the elevators all designed in the ‘Art Deco Style’.
Going into their lobby (now closed Post-COVID) is really interesting to see the globe
The Ford Foundation Building is another interesting piece of architecture. The building was created by architects Kevin Roche and John Dinkleloo in the ‘Late Modernist Style” and was completed in 1968.
The Ford Foundation Building at 320 East 43rd Street
It includes the most beautiful landscaped courtyard and gardens that are nice to sit in on a long day. The building is currently closed.
The courtyard at the Ford Foundation building is relaxing
It also contains the Ford Foundation Gallery that opened in March 2019 and offers art with a social justice emphasis.
The Ford Foundation Gallery has some interesting art
At the very end of East 42nd Street is Tudor City, one of the earliest examples of a planned middle class communities. Built on what was once a combination of manufacturing and residential area surrounding First Avenue and the East River, architect H. Douglas Ives created Tudor City, named after the ‘Tudor Style’ design of the buildings with gardens, paths, bay windows and arches that make up the details of the buildings. It opened in 1926.
Its worth the trip up the stairs to the gardens and paths on both parts of the complex. Not part of the original plan of the complex, they were designed by landscape architect Sheffield A. Arnold designing the North Park (Wiki). These cool refuges from the hot sun are nice on a walk around the complex.
The Tudor City Green spaces are nice on a hot day to relax
I also wanted to check out one of my favorite stores in Manhattan, Azalea & Oak, located at 5 Tudor Place but it was closed because of the COVID pandemic but open by appointment only or by internet. Don’t miss this unique children’s and accessory store. It has such interesting merchandise.
Azalea & Oak at 5 Tudor City
When I finally passed all this creative architecture in the ‘open air museum’ of East 42nd Street I got to First Avenue where the United Nations complex is located to the left and Robert Moses Park to the right.
Before you cross the street, there is a Ralph Bunche Park & Garden, a small garden on the edge of the park named after the Nobel Prize winner, who played a role in many peacekeeping operations sponsored by the United Nations.
The gardens have gotten a little over grown since my last visit but still very colorful with flowers and plantings still crowding out all the weeds that are beginning to take over. Tucked in the park is a plaque to Bayard Rustin, a American leader of social movements and who helped organize the ‘Freedom rides’ of the 1960’s (Wiki).
As I crossed the street, I walked around the very sterile Robert Moses Park. For one of our great park system builders and who changed the highway system around New York City, they named one of the most unattractive parks after him. Though the man was far from perfect after reading the book “Power Broker” about his life, he changed the whole way New Yorkers lived. The park somewhat personifies him in the end of being sterile and aloof with the public.
The Robert Moses Playground is somewhat sterile and aloof
As I toured the parks the worst part is that the bathrooms here are closed to the public so I had to keep walking to find somewhere to go. The border of the East River with FDR Drive I would not suggest walking down. You will walk down a combination of First Avenue and FDR Drive until you get to the East River Esplanade at East 36th Street, then you get the cool breezes of the river and the beautiful views of the Brooklyn coast. Its nice on a hot day to sit back and enjoy the sunshine and cools breezes.
The East River Esplanade snakes from East 41st Street to East 34th Street
When I walked to East 34th Street, I came across another plaque that more to do with the history of Murray Hill, the Kips Bay (Keps Bay) landing of the British army to Manhattan. On September 15th, 1776, the British landed their army here in an ambitious military landing in what the type was a deep water cover surrounded by a meadow. This lead to the retreat of the American militia to another part of the island (Wiki). Today it is one of the boat landings for the New York ferry system and a start off point to walk the esplanade.
The Kip’s Bay landing by the British on September 15th, 1776
I walked all along the esplanade, enjoying the views and watching people walk their dogs and jogging like nothing was happening around them. It also offers the most breathtaking views of the Brooklyn skyline that keeps changing.
I give New Yorkers credit for their resilience. There are some people who go about life like nothing is going on around them but just doing it with a mask on. That does give me faith that things are getting somewhat back to normal.
When exiting the Esplanade and walking up the FDR extension, there is an interesting and very relaxing public square at 626 East 36th Street and FDR Drive next to the American Copper Buildings. It is a nice place to relax on the benches and just people come and go.
The little plaza by 626 First Avenue is a nice place to just sit and relax
I finally got to East 34th Street by the Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital later that afternoon and was surprised to find such a playful piece of art just outside. “Spot” is a Dalmatian balancing a taxi on his nose is located just outside the Children’s Hospital’s doors. “I wanted to make something so astounding to distract to even those arriving with the most serious procedures” (Artist Bio) the artist was quoted as saying when the piece was unveiled. It sits four stories in front of the hospital. It is a very playful piece of art that stopped me in my tracks.
“Spot” by artist Donald Lipski
Artist Donald Lipski is an American born artist who is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cranbrook Academy of Art. He is best known for his large scale works in public places (Artist’s Bio).
I reached East 34th Street by lunch hour and I have to say for around a hospital there is a limited choice of take out places around the facility. Most of the restaurants in the area are still closed or have gone out of business. Even before the pandemic, some parts of the neighborhood are being knocked down for new construction and work continued as I visited taking down many of the smaller buildings that used to house small restaurants.
I had lunch at Pizza & Pita at 344 East 34th Street right across the street from the small park that faces the hospital. I just wanted a slice of pizza and when I walked in a fresh pie had just come out. The pizza looked as good as it tasted.
Pizza & Pita at 344 East 34th Street
The sauce has an amazing rich flavor and the loaded with cheese for a gooey consistency. I was so impressed by the pizza that I went back later that afternoon for a Chicken Parmesan sandwich that was just as good. Two large freshly fried chicken cutlets loaded with their delicious sauce and loads of cheese on a fresh roll. It was heaven in every bite.
The pizza here is great!
I just relaxed and ate my lunch in the small public plaza across the street from the hospital and watched as the hospital staff came out from their frustrating days and ate their lunches beside me. It seemed to do them well.
While at lunch I admired another interesting art piece entitled “Stemmer” by New York City born American artist David Fried.
“Stemmer” at the plaza at East 34th Street and First Avenue
The artist grew up in New York City and attended the School of Art & Music and was accepted into the Arts Students League of New York. The “Stemmers” sculptures is one of his trademark pieces.
After lunch, I continued my walk down East 34th Street to the border of Murray Hill at Fifth Avenue. The neighborhood is very ‘old New York’ especially between First and Madison Avenues with the small buildings and high rises from the 1960’s and 70’s. The area is currently going through a make over with new buildings but it still has that “Woody Allen” feel of New York. Everything is not gleaming and new.
Tucked here and there by buildings and courtyards on East 34th Street is a bevy of interesting street art. The statue “Thinking Big” which was formally in Central Park South on Sixth Avenue last year has found a home in front of 222 East 34th Street.
Jim Rennert is an American born artist known for his large bronze sculptures depicting the everyday man. Mostly self-taught, his works are seen all over the country and really do make a statement.
Walking further down East 34th Street just outside a little courtyard of one of the apartment buildings is artist John Sewart Johnson’s II sculpture “The Right Light”, a bronze sculpture of an artist and his easel. The sculpture is located just outside a building between Third and Lexington Avenues.
‘The Right Light’ by artist John Sewart Johnson II
Artist John Seward Johnson II was an American artist who attended the University of Maine and he is known for his ‘familiar man’ sculptures and icons paintings.
I reached Madison Avenue and walked past the grill work of another interesting office building. The Madison Belmont Building at 181 Madison Avenue was built in 1924 and designed by architects Warren & Wetmore in the Renaissance style with Art Deco details for the Cheney Brothers Silk Company.
“The Madison Belmont Building” at 181 Madison Avenue
Look up at the interesting grill work and details of the building
Reaching the border of Murray Hill to the south is the former B. Altman Department Store that closed in 1989 and in the other corner is the Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world.
The B. Altman Building at 361 Fifth Avenue was built by Benjamin Altman for the new location for his ‘carriage trade’ store. The store was designed by architects Trowbridge & Livingston in the “Italian Renaissance Style” in 1906. The palatial store was home to couture clothing, fine furniture and expensive art work.
The former B. Altman Department Store at 361 Fifth Avenue
As the shopping district left Sixth Avenue below 23rd Street, the former “Ladies Shopping Mile” (read my Victorian Christmas Blog on the shopping district) gave way to stores opening between 34th Street to 42nd Street and eventually to the Fifth Avenue locations between 50th and 60th Streets where what is left of the great stores stand today.
My blog on the Ladies Shopping Mile and a “Victorian Christmas”:
As I walked up Fifth Avenue, the western border of the neighborhood, I was struck by all the other beautiful buildings that must have housed fine retail stores as the shopping district moved to this area.
At the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 36th Street is 390 Fifth Avenue that was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White for the Gorham Manufacturing Company of fine silver products in 1903. It was designed in the “Italian Renaissance Style” and was used for manufacturing and their showroom. It later became Russeks Department store and has now found other uses.
390 Fifth Avenue-The Gorham Manufacturing Building
Further up is the dazzling 373 Fifth Avenue which was built in 1800’s for the home of Charles H. Russell when the area was dominated by great mansions. As one by one the mansions were razed for commercial use, the home was razed in 1906 and architects Hunt & Hunt built the current office building in 1906 for Joseph Fahys & Company and for silversmiths Alvin Manufacturing Company (Daytonian).
Walking further up Fifth Avenue into the 400 block, more unique buildings fascinated me. The first that has always caught my eye is 401 Fifth Avenue, the old Tiffany & Company building. The building was designed for the company by Stamford White of McKim, Mead & White and was completed in 1905. The building was used by the jewelry store until 1940 when it moved to its new location further up Fifth Avenue. The building was inspired by the Palazzo Grimani de San Luca in Venice, Italy (Wiki).
Another standout building further up is 411 Fifth Avenue with its interesting trim and sculpture along the sides and top of the building. This building was built in 1915 again by the architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore with what was considered baroque trim that included urns, flowers and heads with facial reliefs (Daytonian). The building was used for small luxury manufacturing for things like millinery, lace and silversmiths. Today it is used as an office building.
Approaching the New York Public Library again, I passed what were some of the great department stores along the Fifth Avenue retail corridor that once dominated between 34th and 42nd Streets.
The former Lord & Taylor headquarters store that opened in 1914 just recently closed with a sale to the now imploded WeWorks company and was just sold to Amazon for 985 million dollars. This former ‘grand carriage trade’ store replaced the former headquarters store at Broadway and 20th Street by Union Square and opened at this location at 424-434 Fifth Avenue. The 11 story building was designed by architects Starrett & Van Vleck in the ‘Italian Renaissance Revival’. The store closed for business in January of 2019 after over one hundred years in the location.
Lord & Taylor was founded in New York City in 1826 and has moved around the City several times in its long history. I will miss walking around the store and wondering through the store at Christmas time which was always magical in the store’s heyday. I like everyone in the City will miss their Christmas windows.
I’m not sure if Amazon will continue this tradition
Another great retailer was at 452 Fifth Avenue, the former home to Knox Hat Company which was incorporated into the HSBC Tower in 1984. The glass tower was built around the Beaux Arts building for the HSBC and it was considered an architectural marvel when it opened. The Knox Building was built in 1902 and is considered on of the finest examples of ‘Beaux Arts style’ in Manhattan.
452 Fifth Avenue-The Knox Hat Company Building part of the HSBC Building
The Knox Hat Company was considered one of the finest hat companies for men when it was founded in 1838. It once had 62 retail stores and was sold in all the finest stores. It did not survive the Great Depression and was merged with three other companies in 1932 to form Hat Corporation of American (Hat Co) (Bernard Hats history).
The last interesting building I saw before returning to the library to relax by the fountains again was 454 Fifth Avenue at 40th Street, the old Arnold Constable & Company department store.
Fifth Avenue at 40th Street-Arnold Constable & Company Department store
The building opened in 1915 and closed when the company went out of business in 1975. It is now part of the New York Public Library. Arnold Constable & Company was founded in 1825 and was considered one of the oldest stores in New York City. The building was created as the shopping district moved further uptown.
I finished my day back at the tables in front of the New York Public Library and then back in Bryant Park to relax under a tree. God did it pour that afternoon as I made my way around the streets surrounding Murray Hill. I did not realize not just the rich history of the neighborhood and its role in the Revolutionary War but the treasure trove of street art and unique buildings that line its avenues.
You really do learn something new every day!
Check out my other blogs on Murray Hill as well:
Walking the Avenues of Murray Hill on August 14th, 2020:
I left the addresses and locations of the buildings and street art that I found in the full body of the blog. Remember don’t miss looking up and admiring the ‘open air’ museum that is free when walking on the sidewalks.
As New York City is just beginning to reopen during the COVID-19 Pandemic and trying to return to normal, I have been wondering Manhattan to see what changes have happened in those three months. It is still incredible how much of the City is beginning to remind me of the mid-1970’s.
My trip in 2020 into lower Manhattan revealed a City looking circa 1980 with boarded up stores and graffiti all over the place. Walking around the neighborhoods in Midtown and Downtown last week were a real eye-opener on how pent-up frustration can almost destroy the fabric of a City and the underpinnings of human nature. It really showed just how frustrated everyone is with being sick, unemployed and broke.
Fifth Avenue boarded up on June 15th, 2020
Even when the stores windows get fixed and the stores restocked, I don’t think people will forget that quickly. When you finally let people ‘out of their cages’ (i.e. their apartments) though you can see that compassion come back. This is what I saw on my thirty-two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan.
On my walk in 2021, the weather was just as spectacular as it was in 2020 but the mood of the City was different as things in Manhattan had been opened now for a year and the mask mandates were giving way to better days ahead. I saw so much interesting ‘public art’ all along my walk and ate at restaurants new and revisited from other blogs in the past six years. I felt like I was seeing old friends. I also took more time to look over artworks, explore parks and admire the views more on this beautiful day. There are better days ahead for New York City as it continues to morph and change.
Walking around the Island of Manhattan is no easy task. I had planned this since last year and made it my goal to do the walk on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. The problem was I had a ton of yard work to do on the first day of the summer and I had to get it done knowing that I would be tired after a walk like this. So after a day of trimming bushes and weeding the lawn, I put my game plan together for the next morning.
Since it was Father’s Day Sunday, I wanted to do something different and special to honor my father more than just sitting at a cemetery looking at an inscription. This is not something my father would want me to do. So my honoring him was to remind myself of all the wonderful Father’s Day’s we spent in Manhattan visiting museums, parks and going to see independent movies at the MoMA and the Angelica. After which we would dine at whatever restaurant I had seen in the Village Voice. Those were the days I wanted to remember.
My inspiration “The Great Saunter” by Cy V. Adler
‘The Great Saunter Walk’ had been cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and would be held at a later date. The walk was started in 1984 by Mr. Cy A. Adler, who founded The Shorewalkers Inc., a non-profit environmental and walking group whose group was fighting for a public walkway since 1982. The first Saturday in May was designated as ‘Great Saunter Day’ (Wiki and Company founding) and has been recognized by most current Mayors of New York City.
Cy V. Adler
I got the map of the walk off the internet and tried to figure out where to start. The walk starts at Frances Tavern in Lower Manhattan but I thought that was too far away. I thought of starting at 110th Street so I could get through Harlem faster but then I would be travelling back to 110 Street late at night so I nixed that. Then I thought, I have to get off at 42nd Street for the Port Authority anyway and that is where I am at now with my walking project plus when I finish I will only be a few blocks away from the bus station so why not start there?
So in 2020 for my first walk, I started my walk around the Island of Manhattan at the Circle Line Boat Pier where I celebrated last year’s birthday.
The Circle Line is where I spent 2019’s birthday touring Manhattan by rivers
I took the 6:35am bus into New York to start early. During the week, the first bus comes at 5:30am and I would have liked to get more of head start but I wanted to do the walk on Father’s Day so into the City I went that morning. I got to the Pier by 7:07am and started the walk around the island.
The Circle Line was closed also because of COVID-19 so the Pier was quiet that morning. I looked over my map of Manhattan and started the walk along the pathways along the Hudson River going up the Joe DiMaggio Highway to the Henry Hudson Highway. I had not been to this part of the Manhattan in about two years.
When I decided to do the walk for a second time on June 25th, 2021, I put together a different game plan. With all the problems happening all over the City (shootings and harassments had been going up all over the City), I decided that I wanted to start earlier then I had the previous year and decided to spend the night before in Manhattan so I could get an earlier start.
I stayed at the Moxy Hotel in Chelsea at 105 West 28th Street in the heart of the Flower District and I have to say that the hotel has excellent views of the City. I received a room on the tenth floor facing Sixth Avenue and at night I have to say it was one hell of a view. When the lights came on in the evening, the whole neighborhood twinkled.
I got up at 5:00am that morning as the sun shined through the floor to ceiling windows (I wanted to get up early so I pulled the curtains back to see the sun) and got ready then checked the luggage, checked out and started my walk the second time at 6:15am.
The mood of the City was much different from the previous year with more businesses opening up and more people milling around the parks. Still the City was pretty quiet for most of the day especially as I reached uptown.
I started the walk in 2021 with a good breakfast at Chelsea Papaya at 171 West 23rd Street #1. I have passed this small hole in the wall restaurant for years on my walks around the neighborhood but had never eaten there. I had passed it the night before on my way back to the hotel and thought it would be a good to have breakfast before I started the walk in Riverside Park.
It was an amazing and filling breakfast of three pancakes, two scrambled eggs and three slices of bacon with a medium papaya drink for $11.00. The food was excellent and the guys working their at 6:15am could not have been nicer. The seating was not so hot with two small tables outside the restaurant where the tables and street could have used a good cleaning. Still it was a carb laden meal that prepared me for the long walk.
Don’t miss the wonderful and filling breakfasts at Chelsea Papaya
I started the walk in 2021 on West 23rd Street, so I got to visit this side of the park during the day with it sweeping views of Jersey City and the Hudson River. When I started walking in the park at 6:30am, it was a beautiful sunny day but as the morning grew and I got to around West 42nd Street, the clouds started to roll in and it got cooler. That did not last long.
The first thing you will see when entering the park is the Monarch Waystation Garden that is one of many that have been planted around the rim of Manhattan. I have seen this also in east side parks as well.
The Monarch Waystation Garden is as you enter Riverside Park
As I entered Hudson River Park, I noticed many works of art displayed on the fences and walls of the surrounding buildings. The 2021 NY Salt Exhibition was being displayed and I took some time to look over the works while walking through the park. I made may way from West 23rd Street and proceeded north walking near the river.
The NY Salt Exhibition at Hudson River Park in 2021
When you walk up past the Piers along Riverside Park in the 40’s, the first thing you will see in the next Pier over is the Intrepid Sea-Air Space Museum which was closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. Pier 86 where the ship was docked was really quiet that morning with only two people eating their breakfast on one of the tables in the little park near the ship. There were sweeping views of New Jersey across the river of Weehawken and West New York.
The Intrepid Sea-Air Museum is just reopened after being closed for almost a year
Most of the West Side is pathways along the river with views of New Jersey until you hit about West 50th Street when you get to the lower part of the new Hudson River Park that has been built on fill to create a new riverfront.
When I reached the park by Pier 96, I came across Malcolm Cochran’s artwork “Private Passage” again. I came across this sculpture when visiting the park two years earlier. The piece is a giant bottle and when you look in the port hole you will see a state room of the former Queen Mary. It is an interesting piece of artwork that is not hard to miss and take time to look in the port holes.
The artist is originally from Pittsburgh, PA and is graduate of Wesleyan College who specializes in large sculptures.
Further up the park, I came across the old New York Transfer Station piece in Riverside Park. This is a relic of the old West Side Railroad tracks that were once part of the New York Central Railroad that the park and buildings behind it are built on. This transfer bridge once was used to attach railroad cars to the freight tracks that once ran up and down this part of the island (Forgotten New York).
The New York Central Transfer Station
It is interesting to see this now as a piece of art instead of a functioning part of the railroad but it is fascinating to see how we use the parts of the past as a piece of art in the present. This shows the current park visitor how we have made new uses of the riverfront for recreation and pleasure which was not true during the early parts of the last century.
As I was walking up through Riverside Park, I noticed a lot of artworks displayed in Riverside Park that were part of the ‘Summer 2021-Re: Growth’ art display that stretched from the West 40’s to 100’s at various points in the park. Some were interesting in design and it was nice to see a lot were from local New York Artists.
These lined the length of Riverside Park and you had to really look for them. These were the works of art I viewed on the way up Riverside Park. I included the work and a short biography on each artist that I saw:
Ms. Amezkua is American born New York City based artist living in Bronx. A graduate of Cal State Fresno with a BA and also attended the Academia de belle Arte in Florence she is formally trained as a painter (Artist Bio).
Ms. Letven is an American born artist raised in Philadelphia with a BFA from the Tyler School of Art and a MFA from Hunter College and currently teaches at Parsons School of Design and Art and Design at New York University. She is a multidisciplinary artist in sculpture, installation and painting (Artist Bio).
Ms. Mattingly is an American born artist currently living in New York City. She has a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art from Portland, OR and attended Parsons School of Design. She is known for creating photos and sculptures representing futuristic and obscure landscapes (Wiki).
Mr. Goode is an American born artist from Texas. He has a MFA from Boston University and has worked as an archaeologist on several digs Artsy Bio).
These works are on display until August 2021 and try not to miss this interesting display of art in this ‘open air museum’.
Hudson River Park and Riverside Park South blend into one another with the housing complexes behind them are a shining example of the uses of urban renewal and reclaiming our riverfront for pleasure and conservation. It is also one of the nicest new complexes built in Manhattan in recent years.
What I love about this park is the nice pathways and lawns just to sit back and relax and enjoy the views. There are a lot of places to stop and rest. Since I had been to this side of the island two years ago, I continued my walk up to West 72nd Street when I got to the southern border of Riverside Park which runs much of this side of Manhattan.
I made it up to West Harlem Piers Park by 8:46am (7:43am in 2021)and made my first stop of the morning. The park was a mess. People must have been having parties in the park the night before and did not clean up after themselves because I could see a NYC Parks worker in the picking up the garbage and she did not look happy about the mess. Usually this park is pristine and I was not used to seeing it such a mess. I guess these are the things you see in New York City parks early in the morning. The efforts to keep them clean.
The park is down the road from the new extension of the Columbia University campus extension so this park gets a lot of use during the school year. This early in the morning there were just a few joggers and one homeless guy who was throwing more garbage around. I did not want to be near the Parks worker when she had to deal with that.
What I had not noticed on my trips to the park in the past were some unusual sculptures by artist Nari Ward, a New York based artist who likes to use objects found in his own neighborhood (artist website).
These unusual silver sculptures I almost interpreted as people trying to speak and it was interesting that the sculptures were called Voice I and Voice II. I was not sure of what the artist was trying to communicate with his artwork but it does stand out in the park. The unfortunate part of it was that there was so much garbage in the park you could not get up close to see them.
I really enjoy this park. It has wonderful breezes and excellent views and plenty of places to sit down and relax. It offers such nice views of the river and as the morning progressed I started to see more sailboats and water boats out cruising up and down the Hudson River.
I reached the bottom of the George Washington Bridge by 9:36am and watched an artist putting a display of layered rocks along the Hudson River shore. Uliks Gryka the artist behind the “Sisyphus Stones” that line this part of the park was carefully layering stones one on top of another and fixing and creating new formations. It was interesting to watch how he balanced each of the stones into a new work. The artist is originally from Albania and has no formal art training (Artist website).
The work reminded me of the Moai on Easter Island, the famous statues that faced the sea. It made me think how the artwork looks to the river and how maybe it is nature communicating with land and sea. I was not sure the message the artist was trying to portray and he looked too busy working to ask him. The artwork was still there in 2021 and it looked like the artist was still updating it.
I continued on into Fort Washington Park to see the Little Red Lighthouse, which I had not visited in almost three years since my last walk in the neighborhood. Many tourists were by the site just under the George Washington Bridge, taking pictures by the lighthouse and enjoying the sunny weather.
The Little Red Lighthouse had been constructed in 1889 and moved from Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1917 and moved here in 1921. It was decommissioned in 1948 after the construction of the George Washington Bridge in 1931. What had saved the lighthouse from destruction was the book “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge” by author Hildegarde Swift in 1942 (Wiki).
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift
I didn’t stay long by the lighthouse because it was loaded with tourists taking pictures but I did stay by the tables and enjoy the view of the George Washington Bridge. It was making quite the racket as more cars are travelling over it again and on a sunny day offered some dazzling views. The breezes were amazing! In 2021, the lighthouse and the park were really quiet so I got to enjoy the views on my own this time.
Walking up the stairs to get to the upper level of the park is not for the faint hearted and I saw many people much younger than me get out of breath on their way up. One guy had to be about twenty and he looked like he needed oxygen. To me it was just a walk up and I continued to walk through the lower part of Fort Washington Park. In 2021, I could not believe how in much better shape I was that I handled it better.
This part of the park faces Englewood Cliffs, NJ and the Palisades Park Highway on the other side of the river. There is no construction on that park of the river so it offers views on the cliffs and the woods that line it.
The view of Englewood Cliffs, NJ
As I walked further up into the park, it was mostly wooded highway and further up the hill was Fort Tyron Park and the home of The Cloister Museum which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum has been closed since March but I had taken one of the last of the guided tours on religious flora in art of the Middle Ages before it closed on March 13th.
Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters Museum in the park
When you reach Fort Tyron Park by foot along the Henry Hudson Parkway, you will see two large stone columns that look like the entrance to an estate and then across the street there is a pillared overlook to the Hudson River. These are remnants of the former C.K.G. Billings estate, “Tryon Hall”.
The old entrance to the estate is covered with brush
Mr. Billings, the Chairman of Union Carbide, owned most land of which the park is located and theses small relics are the remains of the great estate. I had never been in this part of the park before and thought it interesting that these pieces of the estate were left.
The archway and drive are still part of the park and you can see them closer to The Cloisters Museum. The old driveway to the estate is still used inside the park.
I travelled up further and arrived at the Dyckman Beach Park located at the end of Dyckman Avenue in Inwood. This tiny little beach is hidden from the road and is located next to the pier. Every time I have visited the park, this little section is in high demand for picnickers and you have to get there early. The pier is a nice place to relax and soak of the sun and admire the view.
Don’t miss this tiny beach and the pier. It is so relaxing!
In 2021, the beach area was busy with a local high school graduation going on in the restaurant right next to the beach. There was much cheering and celebrating going on and it was good to see that. All along the harbor deck, people were relaxing and fishing.
In 2020, I walked around one side of the park that contains the soccer field where a very heated match between two teams was taking place. I could tell there was a heated discussion in Spanish that these two teams were in major competition. While the men were playing soccer, the ladies were cooking up a storm, making skewers of meat, cutting fresh fruit and stirring lemonade for a makeshift concession stand. This was a very organized league.
I walked around the field and watched the game as the families settled in for a long afternoon. These guys really took the game seriously and were going back and forth side to side for the twenty minutes I watched the game. The pathway to the park ends in a semi-circle and on the side is a walkway bridge over the railroad tracks which will take you around Inwood Hill Park to the lower pathways that overlook the Hudson River and to the Henry Hudson Bridge that leads to the Bronx.
In 2021, the fields were very quiet which I was surprised by. Usually this area is very crowded with people even when COVID was at its height. It was better to be outside than inside. It was earlier in the morning.
When you follow the path, it leads to the Spuyten Duyvil, a man-made canal that was created during the Dutch era for shipping and trade. It cuts off a small section of Manhattan that is now on the Bronx side of the City. Here you will see the giant blue “C” for Columbia University, whose stadium is on the other end of the park.
The Columbia “C” from Inwood Hill Park
The paths lead down wooded areas that are some of the last of the ‘virgin’ forest left on the island of Manhattan and one of the few true wooded areas.
When you exit the pathways into the lawn area of the park, you are greeted by a giant boulder which is one of the most historic objects on the Island of Manhattan, the Shorakkopoch Rock. The rock is the legendary location of where Peter Minuit bought Manhattan from the Reckgawawang Indians for what is today $24.00 of household goods and trinkets.
On the other side of the small cove is the natural cove, Muscota Marsh where the Columbia Rowing Team has their sheds. The Muscota Marsh was created in a joint partnership between the NYC Parks system and Columbia University. This one acre marsh is located in the Spuyten Duyvil creek and is part freshwater and part salt-water marsh. It is home to many native birds who use it as a nesting and watering site.
I sat and relaxed while birds flew in and out of the marsh that morning. It was the most beautiful sunny morning and you could feel the cool breezes coming off the creek while small boats passed by. The Muscota Marsh is one of those hidden treasures in Manhattan that tourists rarely visit. It was nice to just sit and relax. I had reached the northern most part of Manhattan by 11:11am four hours after the start time.
In 2020, I had eaten a light breakfast at the house and had gone through my snacks while walking up to Inwood Hill Park. Most of the places I had gone to in the past while up walking the neighborhood or going to the Columbia/Cornell football games were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic or went out of business. I ordered breakfast from Park Terrace Deli at 510 West 218 Street.
I had the most amazing Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a Hero that hit the spot. I was starved and this large sandwich fit the bill. It was loaded with freshly cooked bacon and the hero roll was toasted and then pressed when the bacon, cheese and eggs were loaded inside. I sat down with a much needed Coke in the benches by Isham Park further down Broadway. I enjoyed every bite and the ice cold Coke gave me the burst of energy I needed to continue the walk down the western part of Manhattan.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich at Park Terrace Deli is excellent!
In 2021, I was still full from my breakfast at Chelsea Papaya and stopped in Twin Donut at 5099 Broadway (now closed) for a donut. I have been to this shop many times when walking in the neighborhood and their donuts are delicious. I had one of their Blueberry jelly filled ($1.50) and that hit the spot. The owner said that they were selling the business after sixty years and it would soon be a twelve story building.
Twin Donut was at 5099 Broadway for almost 60 years
After breakfast, I travelled down 10th Avenue from 218th Street and followed the path of the original footprint of the island until I arrived at the cross streets of Dyckman Street and Harlem River Drive at the beginning of Highbridge Park and Sherman Cove. Even in this busy area of car repair shops, small restaurants and the Dyckman Houses, everyone pretty much ignored me as if I was not there. Not one person looked at me. Many people looked down as I passed which I thought was strange.
In 2020, most of this part of Highbridge Park was still closed off to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because it was Father’s Day, people were barbecuing along the thin path and patch of land between the park and the highway. It amazes me how creative these residents are with the use of space.
In 2021, the Sherman Creek part of the park was open for walking through and I took the time to walk the path to the river through the winding woods and streams. It is a nice break from the busy City and it a very underrated part of Highbridge Park. The views of the East River were spectacular and the the breezes were so nice and cool. It was nice to have the park to myself that morning.
Sherman Creek Park/Swindlers Cove is at 351 West 205th Street
Before I took the long trip down Harlem River Drive along the rim of High Bridge Park, I walked along Dyckman Street, one of the three big retail corridors for the Dominican community in Washington Heights. The other two being 207th Street and the other 181st Street and Broadway.
Dyckman Street on the west side of Broadway is so alive on the weekends with street vendors selling food and wares, music playing and people socializing with their neighbors. I love coming here for the bakeries and to get fresh pastilitoes and freshly squeezed juice from the street vendors who have to listen to my broken Spanish. It was a little tougher to visit the places as social distancing let less people into the stores that were open.
On warm weekends Dyckman Street is alive with shoppers
After I walked a few blocks of Dyckman Street to see what was available, I started the long trek down the path along Harlem River Drive with High Bridge Park across the street. The long curves of the park, the lush woods and rock formations show what was once the former shoreline of this part of the island. From this location it looks alike Inwood Hill Park with clean paths and virgin plantings.
The reality of the park is that if you walk through the park you are faced with the over-grown paths, the graffitied rocks and garbage that parts of the park suffer from. When you walk through the paths on the other side of the park, you see how far the park has gone down and the work that still needs to be done. Abandoned cars and garbage still plaque parts of the park from the park side paths. Still the City is doing a lot to improve the park.
I passed the old High Bridge Water Tower that was being renovated and was covered in scaffolding. The water tower and the bridge are the lasting remnants of the way water used to travel into New York City from upstate in the late 1800’s. The tower was built in 1872 and was part of the old Croton Aqueduct system of moving water into Manhattan. The tower and the surrounding area is currently going under renovation and the pool is closed because of COVID-19.
This part of the park had no activity and on the path leading down to the old Polo Grounds there was not much activity. What always makes me nervous is walking around the Polo Ground Houses that run from West 165th Street to about West 155th Street. The complex is a tired looking set up public housing with one building looking exactly like the other and a small patch of green in the middle. I could see from the hill over-looking the lawns that there were some small parties going on.
The Polo Ground Tower Housing Complex
All I kept thinking about is the activities that go on there and I zig-zagged my way down the sidewalk until I hit the part of the fence that was covered with trees and vines. Out of site from the prying windows. Ever since I read about the complex on the internet, I have never felt comfortable in this part of the City. This was before I walked all around the complex four years ago when I walked Harlem and didn’t think much about it. I walk around quickly in this neighborhood.
I crossed the street and walked down Edgecombe Avenue on the upper side of Jackie Robinson Park. On the corner of the edge of the street is the John Hooper Fountain at 155th Street and Edgecombe Avenue. The fountain was designed by architect George Martin Huss and is a ornamental horse fountain and lantern. It was dedicated in 1894 and donated to the park by businessman John Hooper (NYCParks.com/MichaelMinn.net). It was used by the horses for drinking when carriages and horse riding at that time.
The John Hooper Fountain is at the corner of Edgecombe Avenue and 155th Street
As I walked past the fountain and entered the edge of Jackie Robinson Park I could hear music and kids screaming from the sidewalk. The park was alive with people using the playground or setting up parties for Father’s Day. It was also a mixed crowd of people who were conversing amongst themselves about recent events and I heard many lively debates.
The one thing I discovered about this section of the park is that everything across the street or closer to the park is brand new housing, a lot catering to CUNY students. Much of Bradhurst and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard have been knocked down and rebuilt with new housing and much of West 145th Street is new stores and restaurants. It changes as you get closed to Lenox Avenue and Young Park.
I find Jackie Robinson Park very nice. The park has always been well maintained and the place was clean and well-landscaped. During the warmer months of the school year, a lot of CUNY students can be seen on the hill as you enter the park on West 145th Street sunning themselves and studying. Now families were setting up barbecues unfortunately many of them without masks.
The worst thing I found about travelling in these blocks of the City in 2020 is how the Parks system treats the patrons of the parks. There was not one open bathroom in the four parks that I visited. High Bridge Park had no bathrooms on the Harlem River Drive part of the park, both Jackie Robinson Park’s bathrooms were shut tight and Young Park’s were also closed. Thomas Jefferson Park further down only had Porto toilets (and I will not mention in this blog the condition they were in. COVID-19 would not even survive in those). In 2021, there were more bathrooms open but not in great shape.
After a rest in Jackie Robinson Park, I ventured down West 145th Street to Young Park and then crossed down Malcolm X Boulevard to West 143rd Street. There were no open bathrooms here so I headed down Fifth Avenue before making the connection on to Harlem River Drive.
In 2021, I stopped for a quick lunch at Sweet Mama’s Soul Food Restaurant at 698 Malcolm X Boulevard on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 145th Street. It was a little too hot for such heavy food but I thought why not? I had not had Southern food in a long time.
I tried the Fried Chicken wings, Mac & Cheese, Sweet Potatoes and a biscuit with a Coke. The food is served buffet style and bought by the pound. My ‘little’ meal with beverage was $9.00 and I thought that was a bargain for all that food. The fried chicken tasted delicious but had been sitting in the steamer too long but the biscuit, sweet potatoes and mac & cheese were all excellent and full of flavor. Refreshed from my lunch, I carried on down Malcolm X Boulevard (Lexington Avenue). Don’t bother with the public bathrooms at Carl Young Park across the street. They are not clean.
As I made my way down Fifth Avenue from 143rd Street, I stopped for a moment to look at a obelisk that I had not noticed the last time I had visited the area. The obelisk is located on a tiny triangle near the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 142nd Street. The Monument is the 369 Infantry Regiment Memorial dedicated to the all black unit that fought so valiantly in World War I with the Fourth French Army. It was in such an obscure place that I must have just passed it when I visited Harlem. The drunk homeless guy sitting next to it was a deterrent from really looking at it.
I crossed over the triangle and continued to follow the river to West 135th street ( the river walk ends at West 135th Street and continued down Madison Avenue. I had to walk through the Lincoln Houses Public Housing and again pretty much everyone avoided me. I was surprised that there was so much garbage on the lawns and in the parks. I could not believe that none of the residents would have picked this up. As I walked down Madison Avenue, I noticed another homeless guy trying to solicit money from people coming off the highway and almost getting hit a few times. I was going to yell at him but I thought I better mind my business walking in this section of the City.
I made a turn into the courtyard of the Lincoln Houses to see the statute of Abraham Lincoln with Child statute at 2120-2122 Madison Avenue. With all the statutes being torn down in 2020, I was surprised that not only was this statute up but in good shape.
Lincoln and Child at 2120-2122 Madison Avenue in the Lincoln Houses
The statue was designed by artist Charles Keck. Mr. Keck was an American born New York artist who studied at the National Academy of Design and the Arts Students League of New York. He was best known for his work on statues and monuments.
I walked south down Madison Avenue until I reached West 128th Street and walked towards the river towards Second Avenue. I stopped in Harlem River Park and Crack is Wack Playground and again no open bathrooms and I passed the Tri-Boro Plaza Park nothing there either so I just continued down Second Avenue to East 120th Street and walked down Pleasant Avenue towards Thomas Jefferson Park. The park was pretty busy in both 2020 and 2021 with kids playing baseball or running around the park.
While walking around Harlem River Park, I came across the artwork “Dream Fulfilled”, which was unveiled in August of 2011 as a partnership between the Harlem CDC, their State and City Partners, East, Central, and West Harlem Committees and the Creative Arts Workshop for Kids (CAW) (Empire State Development).
The project “Dreams Fulfilled” in 2011
As I walked down Second Avenue from 125th Street, I noticed interesting artwork on the side of the Taino Towers at 221 East 122nd Street. The towers had been going through a major renovation the last time I had visited the neighborhood and parts of the complex were still under scaffolding.
Artist Don Rimx painted a mural of Nuyorocan poet Jesus ‘Tato’ Laviera. The painting had been unveiled in 2017 (long after my visit to the neighborhood) and 123rd Street was renamed after the poet (Street Art NYC).
The mural of Jesus ‘Tato’ Laviera at Taito Towers at 122nd Street and Second Avenue
Mr. Rimx was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and in 2009 moved to Brooklyn and then in 2014 to Florida. He graduated from Central High School of Visual Arts and Escuela Des Arts Plasticas. He is known for his use of styles in art and culture and known for his murals (Artist Bio).
As I passed the towers and its new artwork, I crossed Second Avenue to the Wagner Houses complex. People were having all sorts of picnics and barbecues inside and outside the Wagner Houses and people were celebrating Father’s Day in full force. It was all I could do from walking through the complex again. The last time I did that the residents looked at me like I was a Martian who just set down.
The Wagner Houses
The Robert Wagner Sr. sculpture in the Wagner Playground by artist Georg John Lober
Georg John Lober was an American artist from Chicago who studied at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design and worked for the New York City Municipal Art Commission for seventeen years.
As I walked around the Wagner Complex, little had changed from my various trips in this part of the neighborhood except they finished a lot of the luxury housing across the street. The complexity and diversity of the neighborhood was changing fast right before COVID hit and in the 2021 trip, it is still changing.
Pleasant Avenue was once home to the East Harlem “Little Italy” and the ‘Dance of the Giglio’ takes place here every August outside the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (See Day Eighty-Four The Feast of Our Lady of Carmel and the Dancing of the Giglio). Now it is becoming a gentrified neighborhood and I saw many people eating in outdoor cafes or shopping at the local mall. I stopped at Pleasant Finest Deli at 375 Pleasant Avenue in both 2020 and 2021 for a snack and a Coke. On a 84 degree day there is nothing like an ice cold Coke. This is my ‘go-to’ place when I am in the neighborhood for snacks.
The ‘Chopped Cheese’ is a cult sandwich made up of two chopped hamburgers topped with American cheese, chopped lettuce and tomato with salt, pepper and spices and then pressed. It is like heaven with every bite. I took my sandwich into Thomas Jefferson Park, which is currently under renovation and ate my sandwich. After I was finished, I had the energy to continue the walk downtown.
In 2021, I wanted to make up for time and ate it when I got to Carl Schulz Park near East 84th Street. I figured I had eaten enough by that point and could save it for later. I had to have a chopped cheese that day.
The Chopped Cheese Sandwich at Blue Sky Deli (Harlem Taste Deli)
After I finished my lunch I felt refreshed and ready to go but still had to find a bathroom. Since the park was under renovation, there were only Porto bathrooms and trust me, STAY AWAY! They were so dirty that COVID-19 could not survive these things. After eating a big lunch, I ended up nauseous for the rest of the afternoon and lost my appetite for anything else. I left the park at 3:48pm and thought I was making good time.
Before I left Thomas Jefferson Park, I came across another piece of art that I had not noticed on my many visits to the park. The sculpture located in the middle of the park is entitled “Tomorrow’s Wind” by artist Melvin Edwards. The sculpture is made of welded steel and is tilted so that it reflects the sun. The piece was placed in the park in 1995 (NYCParks.org).
Mr. Edwards is a American born artist from Texas. He is known for his known for his abstract steel sculptures. He graduated with a BFA from University of Southern California and studied at the Los Angeles Art Institute.
I exited the park at West 111th Street and followed the overpass over FDR Drive and and walked down the esplanade from West 111th Street to West 60th Street in Sutton Place. The views of the Harlem and East Rivers are ever changing with new construction in Queens and Brooklyn and the developments on Randall’s-Ward and Roosevelt Island. The whole riverfront changes every year.
The Tram to Roosevelt Island
Between the sunny skies and cool river breezes, it is an amazing walk if you take your time like I did and just soak up the sunshine. I never realized how easy this part of the walk would be. I just walked others walk by enjoying their afternoons and looked at all the buildings going up and the boats and jet skiers passing by. It was one busy river.
I relaxed when I arrived at Carl Schurz Park to enjoy the views of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island and look at the flower beds in the park. Carl Schurz Park has its own Friends group and they do a great job taking care of the park. The flower beds are so colorful and vibrant and the playground is full of active screaming kids. There were finally some decent OPEN bathrooms and the water fountains here work and the water is good. The fountains dispense cold water and New York City water tastes good especially at these water fountains.
In 2020, I stayed at the park for about a fifteen minutes. Any longer and I would not have left. Carl Schurz Park is one of my favorite parks in Manhattan. I love the views, the sights and sounds of this park and love how lively and calm it is at the same time. It is a true neighborhood park.
In 2021, I just relaxed in the park, ate my chopped cheese sandwich (which I could tell people around me envying) and watched the boats and jet skiers pass by. I also had a direct view of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island so I got to watch everyone visit the little lighthouse at the tip of the island. Outside of of Bryant Park in Midtown, I find Carl Schulz Park one of the best parks in the City to relax and just people watch and let nature encompass you.
I continued down the river front walk until I had to stop at West 60th on the border of the Upper East Side and Sutton Place and proceeded up the ramp. This is where the sculpture by artist Alice Aycock is located and one of my favorite ‘street art’ sculptures ‘East River Roundabout’.
From here I travelled up the ramp which surrounds Twenty-Four Sycamores Park which borders both neighborhoods and is extremely popular with the neighborhood children and their babysitters and parents. The park was closed though because of the COVID-19 pandemic but will be reopened soon. This park was start and stop point when I was visiting this side of town for the blog. I like the shade trees and it has good bathrooms.
I walked down Sutton Place past the old mansions and stately apartment buildings. This area of the City was really quiet as the residents here were probably out of town with all that was going on. The streets were pretty much deserted and I saw a few people in Sutton Place Park. Please check out my walk of the Sutton Place/Beekman Place neighborhood on my blog:
Day One Hundred and Thirty-Four: Walking Sutton Place
Watch taking the turn on East 53rd Street to First Avenue. The cars and cabs will not stop for you when you try to cross the street so be careful. I always take a mad dash across the road.
From here you have to walk on First Avenue from East 53rd Street until East 37th Street as the United Nations dominates this area. The United Nations looked like it was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic with just a few guards on duty and not much traffic. It also looked to me like they removed a lot of their statuary because of all the vandals destroying art work all over the country.
The United Nations Complex
I stopped in Ralph Bunche Park at First Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Street. I just needed to sit for a bit and I admired a sculpture that I had not noticed before when walking the park.
Ralph Bunche Park at First Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Streets
Mr. Johnson was an American born artist from California. He studied at the Chouinard Art Institute and then studied in Paris. He was known for his abstract paintings and steel sculptures.
Another interesting piece of art was on the wall of 777 First Avenue, the Church Center for the United Nations. The work was created by artist Benoit Gilsoul and is entitled “Man’s Search for Peace” (Wiki).
The Church Center for the United Nations at 777 First Avenue
Mr. Gilsoul was a Belgium born artist who immigrated to the United States in 1967 and became an American citizen. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux Arts in Belgium. He was noted for his abstract works (IstDibs.com).
I then exited East 37th Street and continued to walk down the esplanade along the East River. I had never travelled to this section of the City before (I have currently not passed 42nd Street on my current walk of Manhattan) so it was an adventure to see new views of the island. I stayed on this pathway until I got to the Battery.
Along the way between East 37th Street and East 11th Streets, you tend to see the backs of a lot of buildings on the Manhattan side life Bellevue and the Tisch Hospital. You then pass Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and then the Con Ed Power Plant so there is not much to see on this side but from the other side you will see the skyline of Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn.
Downtown Long Island City keeps changing
On the turn before you get to the larger East River Park is the smaller Stuyvesant Cove Park which was once the site of an old cement plant and has now been reclaimed for a riverfront park. The park runs from about East 22nd Street to East 18th Street. The park is planted with native plants of New York City and has become a haven for birds and butterflies (Stuyvesant Cove Park Association). I left Stuyvesant Cove by 5:45pm in 2020 and 6:30pm in 2021. I took more time to explore the parks and artwork in 2021.
Around East 12th Street its best to the follow the path signs to John V. Lindsay East River Park. The park was created in 1939 by then Parks Director Robert Moses on reclaimed land from the waterfront and piers and is a 57.5 acre point of relief to the residents of the Lower East Side (Wiki).
The park has many recreational facilities and the afternoon I was walking through countless parties and barbecues were going on. With meats sizzling on the grills and water gun fights and the sound of music throughout the park, people were enjoying their Father’s Day celebrations in every corner of the park. I found open bathrooms that were clean and a water fountain that worked and I was happy. Don’t miss the giant anchor facing the river near the entrance to the park.
Don’t miss the “Anchors Away” sculpture in John Lindsey Park
Once I left the park, I was on my way to South Street Seaport. This part of the walk meant walking under overhangs, bridge over-passes and the housing was a combination of new and old construction. On the other side of the river, there is a difference on the riverfront on the Brooklyn side. The growth of DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn has changed the whole look from this side of the river.
Downtown Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Bridge
This is now becoming some of the most expensive housing in New York City with warehouses and old factories becoming expensive lofts. Things just changing on that side of the river and the riverfront even this far down keeps changing. I passed the Peck Slip Park at 6:30pm on my way to the South Street Seaport.
South Street Seaport is some of the original structures of Lower Manhattan many dating back to the Civil War when this was a major shipping area. The home of the Dutch West Indies Company in the early 1600’s, this port area has seen many changes. The most modern ones when the Rouse Corporation turned this into a dining and shopping entertainment area setting up concept for many downtown’s in city’s that needed revitalizing. I had never seen it so quiet in the time of COVID-19. There was no one walking around this busy area but a few tourists and residents. In 2021, the mood had changed and it was much busier. I passed through the Seaport by 6:48pm.
As I was leaving the South Street Seaport in 2021, I was watching fire trucks leave in a hurry from one of the local firehouses. It caught my attention so much that I lost my footing for some reason and fell flat on my face. It was almost as if someone had tripped me.
From here it was again more overhangs from the highway until I got to the Ferry stations for Staten Island and Governors Island and then rounding the corner to make it to Battery Park where the sites of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island loomed in the distance. All over the harbor were sailboats and motor boats enjoying the early evening. It was now 7:15pm and I had been travelling since noon.
I spent about a half hour relaxing and enjoying the views on a sunny early evening. Being the day after the Summer Solstice it was one of the longest days of the year and I got to enjoy the extra sunshine. I needed to cool down and this was the place to do it. It still is one of the most picturesque places in New York City.
I have to say that I never get tired of seeing Lady Liberty. I still can’t believe that I am seeing the same statute that both of my grandfathers’ saw when they arrived in this country. It puts it all into perspective to me how powerful of a symbol it is to this country as a way of welcoming people to the United States.
I had just walked the entire east side of Manhattan and I have to tell you I was stiff by this point. I was ready to throw in the towel here and rest but I pressed on wanting to get home at a decent time. I really misjudged how long it would take to get from the Battery to West 42nd Street.
In 2021, I was much better prepared and had more walking time under my belt. I was in much better shape so it did not tire me so much at this point of the walk. I was rearing to go after a half hour break.
I left Battery Park at 7:30pm and followed a crowd of people out of the park. Before I left the park for Battery Park City and its beautiful parks, I came across the sculpture “American Merchant Marines Memorial” at the edge of the Battery. The statue commemorates the thousands of merchant ships and crews that fought since the Revolutionary War (NYCParks.org).
The “American Merchant Marines Memorial” by artist Marisol Escobar
Ms. Escobar was born in Paris and raised in Venezuela and moved to New York in the 1950’s. She is known for her highly stylized boxy sculptures (NYCParks.org). She studied art at the Jepson Art Institute, the Ecole des Beaux Arts and Art Students League of New York (Wiki).
I left Battery Park and entered into the newer extension of Robert Wagner Jr. Park next to Battery Park City. In the front part of the park, I came across these unusual musical instrument sculptures that graced the entrance of the park.
The art entitled “Resonating Bodies” were created by British born artist Tony Cragg, whose work I had seen uptown many times. The sculptures resemble a lute and a tuba. The work is based on the concept that all physical bodies including ourselves are constantly enveloped by various energy forms (NYCParks.org).
“Resonating Bodies” at Robert Wagner Jr. Park in Battery Park City
Mr. Cragg is a British born artist from Liverpool and studied at the Gloucestershire School of Art, received his BA from the Wimbledon School of Art and his MA from the Royal School of Art. He has been showing his works since 1977. He is best know for his contemporary sculptures (Artist Bio/Wiki).
I walked behind them as I travelled through the South Cove of Battery Park City. Not a lot of tourists know that this whole area is fill in of old piers on the fillers from the building of the original World Trade Center. Now the area sits apartment buildings with breathtaking views and well-landscaped parts. The South Cove was filled with small groups of people who were also not social distancing and very few masks. I think people were just throwing caution to the wind.
Don’t miss the twists and turns of the South Cove of Battery Park City
Another interesting piece of sculpture I came across was the Mother Cabrini Memorial that was dedicated to the park in 2020.
Mother Cabrini was born in Italy as Maria Francesca Cabrini in 1850. She took her vows and founded the Missionary of the Sacred Heart. She immigrated to the United States in 1889 and continued her charity work, founding organizations and was the first naturalized citizen to be canonized (NYCbio/MotherCabrini.org/Wiki).
Jill Burkee is a sculpture and draftswoman who studied at the Arts Students League of New York and the University of Washington and has studied in Italy. Giancarlo Baigi is a sculptor and multi-media artist. He also studied at the Arts Students League of New York and has a MA from Stagio Stagi in Peitrasanta in Italy (Arts Students League bio).
When I walked the parks both North and South Coves in 2021, people were still having Graduation parties, small picnics and the restaurants had reopened both indoors and outdoors without masks. The parks, restaurants and lawns were really hopping that night.
From here it was following the path up to the North Cove of Battery Park City and the views of Jersey City. Each of the parks had unique landscaping and walkways that accented the buildings of the World Financial Center. It is hard to believe how damaged these were after the long days after 9/11. You would have never known with boats docked for dinner and people having picnics and wine in the shadows of these buildings.
I was pretty surprised as I walked through the park with more daylight time to spare that I came across what looked like an Egyptian Temple sitting in Battery Park. The sculpture building is entitled “The Upper Room” designed by artist Ned Smyth. This self-contained sculptural environment suggests a contemporary reimagining of an Egyptian temple offering a stylized sanctuary from the surrounding city (BPCA-NYC).
Mr. Smyth is an American born artist who born in NYC and works in NY. He has a BA from Kenyon College in Ohio. He is part of the Pattern and Design Movement of the 1970’s and known for his large scale public works (Artist Bio/Artist Profile Bio).
As I started to pass some of the open air restaurants I saw another piece of art that stood out which was a series of colored rings but could not get close enough to see the artist who created it. For another trip to the park.
The last piece of art that stood out to me on this trip through Battery Park was entitled “Days End” by artist David Hammons. It looked like the shell of an empty building and struck a nerve as the sun started to set on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. It is an ‘Open Air’ sculpture that explores the history of the neighborhood (Whitney Museum).
Mr. Hammons is an American born artist who studied at the Chouinard Art Institute (CalArts) and at Otis Art Institute. He is known for his Body Prints and sculpture work (Wiki/Artnet.com).
As the light started to fade in the evening as the sunset over Jersey City across the river, I started to fade too. I just singing to myself and kept encouraging myself to keep moving. I really wanted to finish even though my thighs were getting stiff and my fingers looked like sausages. I was determined even though I wanted to stop. Every time I asked that question of myself I then said ‘then why did I start the walk if I was not going to finish it?’
I stopped for a second to look at the sun setting in the backdrop of Jersey City and watched in wonder the beauty of it all. It is almost a reminder how much bigger the world is than us.
The Jersey City Waterfront at sunset
While I was walking through the parks, a few pieces of park sculpture stood out to me as I reached Hudson River Park in Chelsea. The long trek up Joe DiMaggio Highway made me more aware of my surroundings as I had to stop again. I came across the ‘Serpentine Sculptures’, these large twisting metal concoctions that graced the riverfront walkway.
These interesting twisted sculptures are by American artist Mark Gabian who holds a BA in Art History and BFA in Sculpture from Cornell University (my Alma Mater!). Mr. Gabian’s sculptures can be seen all over the world. The artist has been quoted as saying he created monumental site-specific commissions in two or three dimensions’ (the artist’s website).
The last leg of the journey loomed in the distance as I saw the lights of the Hudson Yards in the distance like a mythical ‘Oz’ waiting for me. I saw the heliport and observation deck glittering in the distance and knew I had to reach it.
The Observation Deck and the glittering buildings are just a few blocks from the Port Authority Bus Terminal where my journey started and I knew I was there. In 2020, I reached the Circle Line Pier again at 9:11pm in the evening and I celebrated by sitting on a boulder outside the ticket booth for fifteen minutes watching the security guard play on his cellphone.
I was not tired Per Se but I was stiff all over. I could feel my thighs tighten up and my fingers and hands I had to shake several times to get proper circulation back into them. Still I was not out of breath and was able to walk back to the Port Authority and make the 9:50pm bus out of New York City for home. I got home by 10:10pm almost sixteen hours later.
In 2020, I walked the entire rim of Manhattan from top to bottom in fourteen hours. Not the twelve hours the Great Saunter Walk guide says but there is a lot more to it then just walking. You will need many bathroom, water and rest breaks along the way. Drink lots of water too. Still it was a great walk and one for the blog!
In 2021, I arrived back at Hudson River Park at West 23rd Street just as the sun started to set over New Jersey and got to see the multi colors that were created in the sky. Mother Nature’s work of art for everyone to see.
I was not as tired on this trip as I had the year before. All that walking and training in Midtown Manhattan neighborhoods plus an overnight stay in the City to get an earlier start helped out tremendously. I finished the perimeter walk of the island in exactly fourteen hours, one hour more than 2020 but I stopped more times to admire public artworks, snack at restaurants and snack shops and walk through more parks and neighborhoods to see what was there. It was a more interesting trip where I did not rush it. I finished at 8:20pm in 2021.
For dinner that night, I stopped at Lions & Tigers & Squares at 268 West 23rd Street, where I had eaten many times for lunch after working at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (which I had mentioned many times in this blog). The restaurant features Detroit style pizza where the cheese and sauce are baked into the sides of the pizza and there is no crust. It is a type of Sicilian pizza with a twist to it.
I treated myself to a sausage pizza which was loaded with fried sweet sausage, caramelized onions and they put a dash of maple syrup on top to add to the complexity. God was that delicious! There is so much flavor in each bite. I was not even planning on eating there but the pizza cook waved me inside and then sold me on it. I was lucky that he did!
Do not miss the Sausage Slice at Lions & Tigers & Squares
It was another great trip around the Island of Manhattan trying new restaurants and visiting old ones, viewing wonderful public art in the open air art museum that New York City is, touring interesting parks and feeling like part of the neighborhood.
For people who say that New York City is going downhill during COVID, I say to you walk the whole island and you will see the heart of the City is in the people who live here and the contributions they make to keep the City as great as it is. Remember there is more to Manhattan than just Midtown and Times Square. There is so much more to see!
I dedicate these walks to my father, Warren Watrel, as my Father’s Day Gift of Remembrance. To my dad for all the wonderful afternoons we spent in New York City on Father’s Day. I felt you by my side that afternoon.
While I was walking around the Sutton East neighborhood on the border of Sutton Place and Turtle Bay, I came across Lin’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 1097 Second Avenue. What looks like another run of the mill hole in the wall Chinese takeout place is anything but when it comes to the taste of their food and quality of the dishes.
What is nice is that they have a good lunch combination menu with a wide selection of dishes to choose from all in the $8.00 to $8.50 price range. Each of the lunch selections comes with a side of either pork fried, brown or white rice and a choice of soup or an eggroll. The portion sizes are quite large and it…
I came across Azalea & Oak when I was walking around Tudor City in the Turtle Bay neighborhood in New York. This unique and quirky store specializing in Women’s Accessories, jewelry and children’s clothing, gifts and stuffed toys was beautifully displayed and wonderful stocked with all sorts of handmade items. It is somewhat hidden in the Tudor City complex. I love their displays as well.
I was talking with one of the salespeople and she was telling me that the store had just been renovated from a flower shop into this new concept of a gift store. The owner is a former buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue and it shows in the selection of merchandise. Everything here is high quality.
The owner herself was the designer of the most of the jewelry in the shop…
I came across the Éclair Bakery when I was walking the Sutton Place neighborhood for my walking project, “MywalkinManhattan.com”. The bakery is on the side street of East 53rd Street close to Second Avenue on the border of the Sutton Place and Turtle Bay neighborhoods in an area some people in the neighborhood call “Sutton East”.
For all the confusion of what neighborhood it is in, Éclair Bakery is a rather large and narrow restaurant with seating in the front and back and the counter with all the baked goods in the middle. All the products here are lined up like colorful jewels in the display case.
The bakery selection
The bakery is the brainchild of Stephane Pourrez, a French Pastry chef from Paris. He was trained at Ferrandi and the French…
On my travels to the Turtle Bay neighborhood, I came across a little gem of a restaurant tucked into the office buildings that line the border of Turtle Bay and Midtown East. Hop Won Chinese Noodle Shop is located in a series of small mom and pop restaurants in what is left of the brownstone section of the neighborhood. The rest of the street had been leveled for new office towers and this small strip of restaurants is what remains.
Hop Won appears small from the outside but the restaurant is rather large in the back with lots of nice seating to enjoy your meal. The front section of the restaurant is where you do your ordering and during the lunch rush…
I covered the edges and the Avenues of Turtle Bay recently and it was time to walk all the streets. To cover the rather odd shaped part of the neighborhood, I walked from East 58th Street to East 48th from Lexington Avenue to Second Avenue first and on the second part of the walk, I covered from East 47th to East 44th Streets from Lexington Avenue to the East River on the second part of the walk to complete the neighborhood. I criss crossed some of the same blocks so I might be pointing things out for a second time that you should not miss seeing. Even amongst the all the modern architecture, there are many beautiful things to admire here.
It is an interesting mix of buildings and residential use and a neighborhood in much transition as it is becoming more commercial and more like Midtown as the small neighborhood feel is surrounded by glass tower apartment buildings and offices. The side streets still keep a localized charm while the Avenues have given way to the big towers. Here you can see the distinct difference in the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. The West Side has not lost that charm on the Avenues.
I started the walk revisiting 58th Street and walked past all the bath and home design shops that line the street. It is an interesting block of old brownstones and prewar apartment buildings fitted for all the small businesses. One stand out on the block was Bon Vivant at 231 East 58th Street Petit Fours and drinks (See reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com).
Bon Vivant’s display at 231 East 58th Street
This charming little bakery had the most whimsical little cakes for $3.50 for a small and $6.50 for a large. The cakes come in various flavors but do try the Lavender with its fusion of lavender petals and sweet fondant outside studded with flavors. Its a nice place to eat in and just watch the street traffic go by.
Their delicious Lavender Cake
At the end of the block on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 58th Street is the Bloomberg Building at 731 Lexington Avenue. Designed by architect Cesar Pelli & Associates, the building opened in 2004 to house the Bloomberg Company headed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The building holds the offices and meeting areas for the company as well as the back part of the building which is connected by a seven story courtyard to hold the residences. This impressive building replaced the empty and now defunct Alexander’s Department Store which had closed years earlier.
The impressive Bloomberg Tower dominates the northwest corner of the Turtle Bay neighborhood
As you round Lexington Avenue onto East 57th Street, you will notice the mix of old and new buildings with a collection of old grand hotels and modern office buildings. The street itself is lined with all sorts of businesses catering to the busy Midtown customer. On stand out business is Royal-Athena Galleries at 153 East 57th Street (See my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com), which carries ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek art of museum quality at all prices.
It is part museum and part store. It is like visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and seeing price tags on all the art work. Everything here is authenticated and anything over $5,000 is registered with the Art Loss Registry in London so you know where it comes from. Don’t miss walking through the gallery cases and tables to see all the beautiful items.
Royal-Athena Gallery 153 East 57th Street
Also part of the shopping district is the iconic Hammacher Schlemmer store at 147 East 57th Street, which has been in this location since 1926. The company was founded in New York City as a hardware store for finding hard to find tools in 1848 in the Bowery district downtown. The company was founded by Charles Tollner and R. Stern with Albert Hammacher investing in the company in 1859. William Schlemmer bought out Charles Tollner part of the company in the 1860’s. It stayed in the family until 1953 when it was sold to investors (Company History).
The store is like a playground for adults with all sorts of unusual items on sale like fishing equipment, survival kits, transportation vehicles and clothing and accessories not found in the department stores.
The Hammacher Schlemmer store at 147 East 57th street
Rounding the corner on Second Avenue towards East 56th Street, you will pass the unassuming High School of Art & Design at 245 East 56th Street, which is closed for the school year except for a few students taking summer classes and their gallery which is still open to the public. I went to see the “Honors Illustration Show” in the John B. Kenny Gallery, which was still opened when I was walking the neighborhood.
The High School of Art & Design
I only got to spend about a half hour viewing the show which dealt in different media forms with the theme of social justice, social media, racism and phobias in modern society. The graduating students created their works in all media aspects including painting and quilts, which I thought was interesting.
The John B. Kenny Gallery at the High School of Art & Design
The Kenny Gallery was named after John B. Kenny who was one of four art teachers that founded the school in 1936. He became principal of the school in 1941. Originally named the School of Industrial Arts, the name was changed to the High School of Art & Design in 1960 when the school moved to its currently location (School History page).
After saying my goodbyes to the security staff for letting me spend time alone in the gallery I turned the corner at Lexington Avenue and walked down East 55th Street towards Second Avenue again. I passed the Central Synagogue, which is the second oldest continuous Synagogue in New York and the oldest in the City. Designed by architect Henry Fernbach between 1870-72, the building was designed in Moorish Revival.
I admired the Central Synagogue on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 55th Street
Walking down the street, I revisited some of the sites I had seen before. On the corner of Third Avenue and East 55th is the original P.J. Clarke’s Restaurant at 915 Third Avenue which was jammed with people for happy hour.
P.J. Clarke’s has been in this location since 1884
This famous restaurant has been in business since 1884 and is named after Patrick J. Clarke who bought it from the original owner after ten years of working there. The restaurant is currently privately owned. When you look at the structure, the building is a holdout wraparound of 919 Third Avenue when the rest of the block was torn down. The building was built around the bar. This makes it really stand out.
Look for the sculpture, ‘Red Flying Group’ in front of 909 Third Avenue by artist Ann Gillen. This unusual sculpture really stands out for it’s bold design. Ms. Gillen was raised in Brooklyn and is a graduate of both Pratt and Columbia University. As an artist, she is noted for her use of Greek theory of matter which uses geometric forms to explain spatial relationships. When she creates a piece, she considers the work’s axis, resistance to gravity, the manner of construction and the color dynamic. This really shows in this particular piece (Wiki and Artist Bio).
The Red Flying Group outside of 909 Third Avenue by artist Ann Gillen
Making the next turn onto East 54th Street from Second to Third Avenue on the corner of Third Avenue that stretches from East 54th to East 53rd is the well-known ‘Lipstick Building’. The building was completed in 1986 by John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson and is called the ‘Lipstick Building’ because of the ‘set-backs’ that were required by the zoning laws for use of light. With its oval design and pinkish hue it almost looks like a retracting lipstick. An oval building really stands out among the rest of the glass boxes along Third Avenue (Wiki and Builders history). The building had been featured in the papers recently being the offices of Bernie Madoff and his major Ponzi scheme.
The Lipstick Building that looks like a ‘contracting lipstick’
When crossing back from East 54th to East 53rd by Lexington Avenue again please notice all the turn of the last century architecture in both the office buildings and hotels (See this on Day One Hundred & Thirty Eight Walking the borders and Avenues June 2019). This line of hotels was built to accommodate the railroad patrons coming into New York City from Grand Central Station.
At 599 Lexington Avenue in the lobby of the building at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 53rd Street, look into the glass lobby and notice the colorful sculpture “Salto nel Mio Sacco” by New York artist Frank Stella. This colorful ad whimsical piece translates to ‘Jump into my Sack’ (Art Nerd).
Frank Stella is a New York City artist who had worked in many mediums before being influenced by the abstract artists of the 50’s and 60’s like Jasper Johns. His use of many materials and colors reflex in his art work. This piece which is made in aluminum and colorful paints in a three-dimensional form with all different shapes on top of one another. This bold work was quoted by the artist in saying, “the essential issue is to have a sense of form without it being illustrational, to make things that impress the eyesight and have an impact”. (New York Times McGill 1986).
Walking towards Second Avenue into the heart of Turtle Bay, you will notice a series of excellent restaurants on both side of the street. You will also begin to notice more brownstones and small apartment buildings which gives this part of Turtle Bay its character which is rapidly disappearing. You can wonder amongst the ethnic restaurants and small retail stores tucked into the block.
East 52nd Street offers its charms as well full of brownstones and small apartment buildings. The Consulate of Hungary takes up a large portion between Second and Third Avenues and tall office buildings line the Avenue.
Look up and notice the detailed stone work of 240 East 52nd Street with its carved windows and stone faces staring at you from every direction as you pass by. The building was built in 1900 and is considered an “Old Law Tenement” which means that it is built in a dumbbell shape to let in natural light and fresh air.
240 East 52nd Street in Turtle Bay
At the end of the block as you walk down Lexington Avenue to East 51st Street is the famous subway grates that were featured in the 1955 movie, “The Seven Year Itch” with Marilyn Monroe. The famous scene was shot here at night and took 14 times to film to get it right.
The grates today that I walked on top of and did not know.
The famous 1955 scene in the movie
When walking down East 51st Street from Lexington Avenue you will notice more hotels popping up not just on the Avenue but on the side streets as well being refigured into older buildings. I revisited the old RCA Headquarters at 570 Lexington Avenue which was designed by architects Cross & Cross in the Gothic style. You really have to look up and around the building to see the details in it. Try to look at the building from a distance to see its sculpture work and admire the ‘GE’ clock outside the entrance.
570 Lexington Avenue designed in the Gothic Style
One place that I found and is such a nice place to just sit and relax is the Greenacre Park at 217 East 51st Street. This wonderful little park is situated between two buildings and has nice shade trees and benches to relax on and go down the stairs and you will come to a waterfall and streams on the side where the water replenishes itself.
Greenacre Park was built between 1970 and 1971 by Abby Rockefeller Mauze, who founded the Greenacre Foundation in 1971 who still maintains the park. The park was designed by architect Hideo Sasaki and Harmon Goldstone. The park is privately owned but open to the public (Greenacre Foundation).
Greenacre Park at 217 East 51st Street
The park is composed of three levels. The lowest level has a 25 foot waterfall composed of huge sculptured granite blocks with the east wall trickling down its face to form a brook along the sidewalk. The central level is landscaped with locust trees and small chairs and tables and then there is a raised terrace which has a trellis roof to protect park goers and there is a small snack shop, Carol’s Cafe, (See review on TripAdvisor) offering a variety of refreshments (Greenacre Foundation).
I ate at Carol’s Cafe one afternoon when visiting the neighborhood and the food is very good. I had a cheeseburger ($8.95) that was loaded with fresh veggies and one of the coldest cans of Coke ($1.00) I had in a long time. It was fun to eat at one of the tables and just relax (Beware though and check your bill. These people can Bait and Switch on posting their prices).
Carol’s Cafe offers delicious food at reasonable prices but check your bill!
Across the street from the park is another really nice and very reasonable restaurant, The Pho 6 at 222 East 51st Street (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). It is a Vietnamese restaurant offering some of the simplest and freshest food since my trip to Vietnam back in 2016.
The Pho 6 for very reasonable Vietnamese food at 222 East 51st Street
The room is done all in woods and the walls, tables and chairs are all made of the same material which makes for interesting decor. The food is delicious. I had an order of Pork Spring Rolls ($6.00) which were crisp and full of ground pork and fresh veggies and Vermicelli Noodles with grilled Shrimp ($10.00) which was studded with fresh shrimp and topped with assorted greens. The whole meal was wonderful and very reasonable for what I ate.
The delicious Pork Spring Rolls at The Pho 6
After lunch, I continued to walk down East 51st Street to round Lexington Avenue again to East 50th Street and look at the details and renovations of the old hotels lining this part of the Avenue. The Waldorf-Astoria which sits between East 50th and 49th Streets is currently going though a major renovation to make it part hotel and part condo.
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue
The Waldorf-Astoria at 301 Park Avenue was opened in 1931 replacing the original hotel where the Empire State Building now sits. The hotel was designed in Art Deco design by architects Schultz & Weaver. The hotel when finished will contain 350 condos and 350 hotel rooms with most of the public rooms reopened. It will be interesting to see the results.
The Benjamin Hotel at 125 East 50th Street sits across from the Waldorf-Astoria and recently went through a major renovation and is open for business. The former Hotel Beverly was built between 1926-27 by architect Emery Roth and was designed in Romanesque Motif with pelican and owl sculptures around it. The hotel currently was named after Benjamin J. Denihan Sr., who is the new owner of the hotel (New York Landmarks).
The Hotel Benjamin at 125 East 50th Street
The rest of East 50th Street is dotted with mom and pop businesses, pre-war apartment buildings and Consulates being so close to the United Nations. Here and there their are still brownstones letting you know that Turtle Bay is exists along side the commercial district.
East 49th Street is graced by The Barclay InterContinental Hotel which sits at the entrance of the neighborhood at 111 East 48th Street. The hotel stretches from East 49th to East 48th Streets. Designed by architects Cross & Cross in 1926 in the neo-Federal Colonial Style the hotel was part of Terminal City as part of the Grand Central complex and had been owned by the Vanderbilt family (Wiki).
The InterContinental Barclay Hotel at 111 East 48th Street
Walking down East 49th Street to Third Avenue you will see the historic Smith & Wollensky Restaurant at 797 Third Avenue which has been serving the neighborhood since 1897 when it was called Manny Wolf’s Steakhouse. The restaurant was opened by Allan Stillman, the founder of T.G.I. Friday’s in 1977 and who still owns the original restaurant (the rest of the chain is privately owned). Known for their USDA Grade A Prime Meats, the restaurant is still a popular neighborhood institution (Company History and Wiki).
This building like the rest of the neighborhood has seen the change in times as it too is surrounded by a glass skyscraper.
On the corner of East 48th Street and Third Avenue it is easy to miss the sculpture ‘Etazin’ by artist Katherine Werner sitting in front of an office building.
‘Etazin’ by artist Katherine Werner
Ms. Werner is a Manhattan based fine artist who studied at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. She has created what is called ‘interactive art’ with the ‘Etazin’ an outdoor lounge chair. She was quoted by saying she was creating “large pieces that were both beautiful and useful.” (JustLux 2017)
Further down the street is lined with brownstones which is the back part of the Turtle Bay Gardens that line East 48th Street. The lovely stretch of brownstones is residential and also houses more Consulates. Many of these historic homes were built in the 1860’s.
When you double back to Third Avenue look up at 780 Third Avenue to the murals by Brazilian graffiti artist, Eduardo Kobra, who has three murals in the neighborhood. The one on the right side of the building on East 49th Street is of an exhausted fire fighter who fought bravely on 9/11. The 343 represents the number of fire fighters killed that day and pays honor to them.
The 9/11 Tribute to Fallen Fire Fighters by Eduardo Kobra on the East 49th Street side of the building
On the other side of the building is another mural by Mr. Kobra “Genius is to Bike Ride”, which is a commentary of the new bike lanes in New York City. Mr. Kobra is weighing in on the debate of adding bicycle lanes on New York streets to relieve traffic. The mural is of Albert Einstein riding a bicycle. Einstein was rumored to have come up with some of his best ideas while riding a bicycle (780 Third Avenue building history).
“Genius is to Bike Ride” by Eduardo Kobra on the East 48th Street side of the building
As I finished that afternoon at East 48th Street, I walked past these murals again taking a good glance of the vibrant colors, the detail work and the message each was trying to tell of the City. Mr. Kobra knows how to tell a story in his paintings.
I finished walking down East 49th Street and stopped abruptly to see the building at 225-227 East 49th Street. It looked like a creepy old fraternity house. It was built in 1900 as a Converted Dwelling/Rooming House and now contains apartments. Look at the writing carved in the doorway from 1926 and unusual coat of arms that greets you at the doorway with the words “Erected in the Dear (or could be door) 1926”, what ever that means carved over the entrance-way. It looks more like ‘enter if you dare’.
225-227 East 49th Street
I completed the top part of the neighborhood by walking part the Turtle Bay Garden Historic District homes again, looking at these historic brownstones that were built in the 1860’s and how luck they were saved by Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan in the 1920’s. She bought these twelve historic homes, renovated them to modern feel and restored them to their former glory combining the homes with the brownstones on East 49th Street so that they all looked out on a common garden. Don’t miss admiring the work that was done on them and that the owners still continue into today.
The Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District on East 48th Street between Second and Third Avenues
At 237 East 48th Street at the Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District there is a plaque to Dorothy Thompson, a journalist who lived in the home from 1941-1957. Her novel “I saw Hitler” and her column ‘One the Record’ were influential in calling for the intervention of America into World War II. She was one of the first female foreign corespondents in the 1930’s and had been expelled from Germany right before the war.
Dorothy Thompson, Turtle Bay resident, journalist and foreign corespondent
Also near the brownstones is a modern home by William Lescaze at 211 East 48th Street, the Father of the Modernist Movement and the designer and builder of this historic home that served as his living quarters and studio. It may not seem that radical today but it was when it was designed in 1934.
The William Lescaze House at 211 East 48th Street
I finished my first day of walking the streets of the upper part of the neighborhood and I was exhausted by the heat. The weather had gotten to me. Turtle Bay has a lot to do and see. Here and there is tucked another gem that you can only see by walking around the neighborhood.
I came back to explore the streets of Turtle Bay after a long day in the Soup Kitchen. They had me working in the prep kitchen making salads and cutting vegetables for the next day’s service so I was tired when I arrived in the neighborhood. It was a little cooler then the first day around 80 degrees so it was more pleasant to walk around and take my time.
I started with lunch at Lin’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 1097 Second Avenue by 57th Street (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). This was my second time at the restaurant having lunch and I highly recommend it. I order the Shredded Beef with Hot Spicy Sauce with pork fried rice and hot & sour soup ($8.25). The food was excellent and perfect on a hot day as it seemed to cool me down.
The beef was cut in very thin slices like the accompanying vegetables and was cooked with hot chilies to give it some bite. The dish was studded with shredded carrots and celery so it was a nice combination of flavors. They did not skip on the beef and it was a generous portion. The hot & sour soup also had its share of chilies and the whole meal woke me up and I was ready to walk again.
After lunch, I started my day walking down First Avenue to East 47th Street and started by taking a break in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, which I had read was the comprise of the grand entrance to the United Nations complex. This popular park is full of nice shade trees, benches, a small restaurant and the Katharine Hepburn Garden.
The park and many of the surrounding buildings to the park were named after Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjold who was born in 1905 to the former Prime Minister of Sweden in World War One, Hjalmar Hammarskjold. Mr. Hammarskjold had served many government and educational positions over the years in Sweden until 1953 when he was asked to serve as Secretary-General of the United Nations. His work in Middle East Peace talks, involvement in the Suez Canal dispute and work in operations in the Republic of Congo earned him a reputation in the United Nations. He died in a plane crash near Norther Rhodesia in 1961 and was post humorously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961 (NYCParks.org).
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza has been part of the NYC Parks system since the land was acquired in 1948 and was renamed for him in 1961. In 1997, the park had a major reconstruction which created a symmetrical layout from north to south. The same year the Katharine Hepburn Garden was created on the south side of the park. The Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza was formed to raise funds for the park, organize events and keep the place clean (NYCParks.org).
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Turtle Bay
The Katharine Hepburn Garden which is inside of the park is a quiet oasis from the hustle of the city. Ms. Hepburn, one of most accomplished American actors, moved to Turtle Bay in 1932 with her then husband, Ludlow Ogden Smith, had joined the Turtle Bay Association in 1957 and was instrumental in keeping construction from encroaching into the neighborhood. In 1997, the community got together and dedicated this garden in her honor for the work she did in the neighborhood and for her love of gardening and flowers. It is so peaceful to walk along this path and just look at the plantings.
Katharine Hepburn Garden
Across the street from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza is the Japan Society at 337 East 48th Street. It was founded in 1907 to promote friendly relationships with the United States and over the years has promoted Japanese art and culture, held lectures and hosted Japanese dignitaries and royalty. During the strained times of World War II, the Society did not take sides politically and closed for time. In 1971, under the direction of then President John D. Rockefeller III the organization grew and a new building was opened, the Japan House, designed by architect Junzo Yushimura. It became the first building in New York of Japanese contemporary design. It now hosts many exhibitions and social functions. When I was visiting the neighborhood, they were promoting their film festival which I attended. That was a lot of fun.
I saw four excellent films including the release of the musical “Dance with Me” which was a light weight and fun musical. The director knew what he was doing when he wanted to create escapism from the troubles outside. I can’t wait for the Society to open their Fall exhibition.
Japan Society at 337 West 48th Street
Watch ‘Dance with Me’ the opening film to the Film Festival
At the end of the block right on the island on First Avenue in front of the United Nations Building is the monument to Raoul Wallenberg. You could almost miss them (I did twice looking for them) but they stand like so many black pillars in a row at 300-386 East 47th Street.
The Raoul Wallenberg Monument
Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish citizen who was educated in the United States in the 1930’s and when he returned to Europe was recruited by the U. S. Refugee Board to go to Hungary to save as many Hungarian Jews as possible. His and his colleagues efforts help save over 100,000 Jewish citizens by issuing protection from the Swedish Government. His own ending was more tragic in that when the Soviets entered Budapest he disappeared (Wiki).
The monument by designers Gustav and Ulla Kraitz are made of Swedish black disbase and bronze and were dedicated in 1998. Take time to look at the inscriptions on each of the five pillars. Gustav Kraitz is from Hugary and studied at the Art Academy in Budapest when the war broke out. He fled to Sweden in 1956 after the invasion of Hugary and stayed on as a visiting professor. There he met his wife, Ulla and they continue their art work together and apart.
A store that stood out when walking past it was the Gabrielle Carlson Studio at 501 Lexington Avenue near East 47th Street. The clothes in the window really stand out for the vibrant and almost jewel like colors in deep greens, red and purples. The side tables are lined with custom ‘Made in New York’ jewelry. If you are lucky to meet Ms. Carlson like I did she can give you advice and help dress you for the office or a nice evening out on the town.
A satisfied customer outside Gabrielle Carlson Studio
As I walked down East 46th Street I passed Sparks Steakhouse at 210 East 46th Street. Well known for their food and service it was also the spot of the assassination of ‘Big” Paul Castellano, the Boss of the Gambino Crime Family in December 1985. This ‘hit’ took place right outside the restaurant and the gunmen fled down Second Avenue. This still casts a shadow on an excellent restaurant for those of us who remember the incident.
Sparks Steak House at 210 East 46th Street
Right down the road there is a group of buildings, the Blue Buildings at 222 East 46th Street that house offices and art galleries. They just stand out for being brownstones painted blue.
The Blue Buildings at 222 East 46th Street
Artwork seems like it is all over this neighborhood especially when I crossed onto East 45th Street and was greeted by the painting “Youth Employment” tucked into the side of the building by artist Cenzano.
Youth Employment by Cenz
When walking in the other direction on East 44th Street I saw the painting by artist Faith XLVII , “Gender Equality”.
‘Gender Equality’ by Faith XLVII
These paintings that were created so close to the United Nations to promote programs such as youth employment, child labor laws, green jobs, gender equality at work and forced labor (Brooklyn Street Art).
Faith XLVII is an international artist who is based in Los Angeles. Through her works she attempts to disarm the strategies of global realpolitik in order to advance the expression of personal truth. In this way her work is both an internal and spiritual release that speaks to the complexities of human condition its deviant histories and existential search (Artist Bio).
I passed ‘Zuma’ again in front of the Nigerian Consulate created by artist Billy Omebegho and have to say it does pack a punch.
I finished my walk at the James P. Grant Plaza at East 44th Street and First Avenue. I needed a rest from all the walking and from the heat. The cool waterfalls and chairs to relax in.
James P. Grant Plaza at East 44th Street
This little pocket park adjoins the UNICEF Building and was dedicated to former Director of UNICEF, James P. Grant who worked tirelessly to combat preventable childhood illness and a ‘childhood survival and development revolution’ (NYCPark.org).
By the time I got to East 44th Street I was exhausted . The summer heat was getting to me and I had to rewalk the neighborhood several times to go back to things I wanted to see for a second time. Turtle Bay offers so many wonderful things to see if you look up and around. They are tucked here and there, in corners of parks, on the sides of buildings, in front of you on the sidewalk or if you just look up at the structure of the that building that you have passed a hundred times.
The street art alone makes Turtle Bay its own open air museum and it is nice to see so many perspectives on life from so many artists of all ages ranging from the traditional to the contemporary that I have learned a lot from them. Walking around this neighborhood is not just enjoyable but entertaining but educational as well. The United Nations has done its job here bringing together so many visionaries into the neighborhood.
For more information on my walk in the Turtle Bay neighborhood, please read my entry in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com-Day One Hundred and Thirty-Eight: Walking the Borders of Turtle Bay’:
The Street Art Work and Architectural Buildings are too numerous to name but I gave the best directions to see everything. Like I said, Turtle Bay is an open air museum with loads of public art to see. Just look up and you won’t miss anything.
I can’t believe it is my forth anniversary of my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”. What started out as just a simple walk through the entire Island of Manhattan has morphed into visits to the outer boroughs and to outside the City. There is countless restaurant reviews, museum visits, visits to parks and historical parks and window shopping in stores all around the Tri-State area.
These additional views of the City have inspired the extension blogs to this site, “VisitingaMuseum.com”, “LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com” and “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com” to showcase more wonderful things to do, places to see and places to eat in New York City. What started out as a small site has now morphed into a blog that explores all the wonderful things to do and see in neighborhoods all over the City.
The best part of this experience is that I thank all the input that my students have given me on the sites and all the comments that have made it more enjoyable to the reader from adding in TripAdvisor reviews to contributing pictures and videos of the areas discussed. I want to thank them for their ideas and suggestions.
Today I entered the Turtle Bay neighborhood which is located next to Sutton and Beekman Place in the neighborhood that surrounds the United Nations located next to the East River. Over the last twenty years the borders of the neighborhood have become blurred with Midtown with much of Second, Third and Lexington Avenues giving way to large apartment and office complexes. There are still pockets of brownstones with local businesses dotted on the Avenues and side streets but they are becoming few and far between.
Turtle Bay has an interesting history as part of Manhattan. ‘Turtle Bay’ was originally a cove in the East River that was shaped like a knife which the Dutch gave the name “deutal” for knife. The cove was filled in after the Civil War. The neighborhood was originally a forty acre farm named “Turtle Bay Farm” that extended from what is now East 43rd to East 48th Street and from Third Avenue to the East River. When the street grid system was put into place after the Civil War, the hilly cove and surrounding areas was graded and filled in and subdivided for development (Wiki).
Turtle Bay in the early 1800’s
The neighborhood changed dramatically after the Civil War until the turn of the last century when the center of the neighborhood became a brownstone section and the river portion of the area became home to manufacturing with breweries, power plants and laundries and tenement homes to house the workers. The overhead elevated trains on Second and Third Avenues added to the decline of the neighborhood (Wiki).
The rowhouses of ‘Turtle Bay Gardens’ were saved by resident, Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan. She bought eleven of the brownstone homes and had them renovated with stucco fronts and a common garden in the back. These have been lived in by celebrities such as actresses Ruth Gordon, June Havoc and Katharine Hepburn. It was named a historic district in 1966 (Wiki).
The 2,800 unit Tudor City was built between 1927 to 1932 replacing the dangerous shanty town of ‘Prospect Hill’ where Irish gangs ruled and the neighborhood and the rest of the neighborhood was leveled between 1948 and 1952 for the United Nations Headquarters. When the elevated trains were torn down by 1956, it opened the neighborhood to new construction of high rises and apartment buildings (Wiki).
I started the walk at my favorite neighborhood starting point, 24 Sycamores Park on First Avenue and 60th Street, where I mapped out the walk. With schools letting out for the summer, the park was mobbed with kids with their nannies and baby sitters. It was nice to relax after a long day at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. They kept me busy on the hot line and we served over 800 lunches that afternoon, so I was tired. It is fun to just sit back on the benches under the trees and watch the kids chase one another and the pigeons.
24 Sycamores Park at 501 East 60th Street
Since my walk of Sutton Place, East 59th’s empty store fronts are starting to fill up with new businesses again. A lot of the windows are covered with brown paper so it looks like more businesses are coming to the neighborhood. This is how the City keeps changing . I had covered all of Second Avenue to 48th Street in my blog of Sutton Place and since technically the neighborhood does not start until East 53rd Street, I started the walk East 58th Street between Second and Lexington Avenue and then walked down Lexington Avenue to East 43rd Street and then to the United Nations by the river (I will include East 58th Street to East 54th from Second to Lexington Avenues in my Turtle Bay walks).
I started the afternoon with lunch at Lin’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 1097 Second Avenue (See the reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). They have the most amazing lunch specials for between $8.00-$8.50. I had the Beef with Broccoli with a side of pork fried rice and an eggroll ($8.25).
Lin’s Gourmet Chinese Restaurant at 1097 Second Avenue
The quality of the food is excellent as the beef was tender and well-seasoned with a combination of Hunan and soy sauce and the broccoli was perfectly cooked, a rarity in many of these take out places. The service is really friendly too. After lunch, it was off to walk the borders and Avenues of the neighborhood.
The Beef and Broccoli was delicious
Lexington Avenue from East 58th to East 43rd Street is pretty much a commercial district. The left side of the road is lined with famous hotels and luxury apartments. Sharing this edge with Midtown East Manhattan, this area of the neighborhood is geared towards the business world and just keeps developing. I can see more newer buildings replacing the older ones in the future. Most of the hotels have been renovated in the past decade to reflex the increase of tourists into the City.
When crossing East 58th Street from Second to Lexington Avenue, I came across a gem of bakery, ‘Bon Vivant’ at 251 East 58th Street between Second and Third Avenues (See my review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This elegant little store sells the most delicious Petit fours, pastries and beverages in an elegant atmosphere. I just walked in to see what it was like and I ended up eating a large Lavender Petit Four ($6.00), that was light and sweet with just a hint of the lavender leaves in the filling. It’s a unique little store where the desserts are displayed like a work of art.
Bon Vivant for pastries at 251 East 58th Street
Having some energy from the dessert, I continued the walk over the next block to Lexington Avenue. Lexington Avenue is the border of the neighborhood and is more commercial than residential. The Avenue is lined with hotels and office buildings and home to some of the oldest and well-known hotels in Midtown.
On the corner of Lexington Avenue between East 59th and 58th Streets is the Bloomberg Tower at 731 Lexington Avenue, one of the first buildings merging the borders of Turtle Bay with Midtown East. This massive 55 story building of glass and steel was built in 2001 for the Bloomberg L.P., the home of the Bloomberg empire including the offices for the main company and Bloomberg news. The building was designed by reknown architect, Cesar Pelli & Associates and developed by Vornado Realty Trust. The back part of the building is called One Beacon Court and is home to condos and retail businesses and have their own private entrance. This building replaced the closed but once popular Alexander’s Department Store. Security is really tight around here and the police will watch you (Wiki).
The Bloomberg Tower ushering in a new look modern look for the neighborhood
Historical buildings especially around Lexington Avenue still prevail. One of the first buildings to really pop out at me on Lexington Avenue was the Central Synagogue at 652 Lexington Avenue on the corner of 55th Street. Designed by prominent architect Henry Fernbach, the synagogue was built between 1870 and 1872 is the oldest continuing synagogue in New York City and the second oldest in New York State. The building is one of the oldest synagogues in the country. The outside of the building was designed in Moorish Revival while the inside exterior is in a Gothic design. The Synagogue practices the Reformed Jewish faith (Wiki).
Another beautiful building is on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 51st Street, the former RCA Victor Building now known as the General Electric Building. It was designed and built by architect John Cross of Cross & Cross in 1931. The 50 story building was designed in the Gothic style and you really have to look at the details in the structure with the elaborate masonry and architectural figural sculpture all over the building (Wiki).
The building is decorated with lightening bolts and hands with blots in their hands to represent the growth of lightening and electricity. The edges of the building are decorated with figures representing energy and the dome of the building represents ‘Gothic tracery’, representing electricity and radio waves and lit from within at night. There is even a clock with the ‘GE’ logo on it on the side of the building (Wiki).
Look at the detail work of 570 Lexington Avenue
The Gothic Tracery tower of 570 Lexington Avenue
Lexington Avenue has many such historical buildings up and down the Avenue especially with hotels that dot both sides of the street. Since I started this part of the walk on June 21st, the first day of the Summer (The Summer Equinox) and the longest day of the year, there were concerts everywhere in Midtown. I stopped at 570 Lexington Avenue where they have a courtyard on the side of the building near the subway entrance.
The building was hosting part of a concert series that afternoon for people walking by while the Godiva Chocolate store in the courtyard was handing out ice cream samples to hot patrons. It was enjoyable to just relax and listen to the combo while eating that sweet, rich ice cream.
When walking down the remainder of Lexington Avenue, the street is dotted with famous hotels down to East 42nd Street. This was part of the 1916 rezoning of this part of the City when Grand Central Terminal opened to rail traffic and the City needed luxury hotels to cater to the Upper Class customers who used the rail service. Some of the oldest and most famous hotels in New York line Lexington Avenue.
Across the street from 570 Lexington Avenue is the historic 30 story Hotel Benjamin at 125 East 50th Street. The Benjamin was the former Hotel Beverly and after a massive renovation in the late 90’s was renamed after the new owners founder, Benjamin J Denihan Sr. Built in 1926-27 by building developer Moses Ginsberg and designed by architect Emery Roth, the hotel was marketed for ‘sophisticated New Yorkers at a moderate rate’. The hotel is richly decorated in a Romanesque motif and incorporates pelican and owl sculptures and warrior head corbels (NYC Landmarks Preservation).
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue between 50th and 49th Streets is currently closed and going under a massive renovation to condos. This block long hotel’s back faces Lexington Avenue. The hotel is converting from 1413 hotel rooms to 350 condos and a 350 room hotel when it is complete.
The hotel was designed by architects Schultz & Weaver and was designed in the Art Deco design which was popular when the hotel opened in 1931. The original hotel was demolished for the building of the Empire State Building. The hotel has been home to many famous restaurants and was considered the ‘jewel’ of the Hilton Hotel empire. Countless society events and celebrity visits too extensive to name have taken place in this hotel. It will be a wait and see when it reopens in 2021.
The InterContinental Barclay Hotel at 111 East 48th Street stretches back to East 49th Street.
The InterContinental Barclay was designed by architects Cross & Cross in 1926 in the neo-Federal American Colonial style. The thirteen story hotel was part of the concept called ‘Terminal City’ which was part of the New York Central and Terminal Corporation owned by the Vanderbilt family and contains 702 rooms. The hotel still hosts Society and corporate events.
The Hotel Roger Smith at 501 Lexington Avenue is a family run hotel that was originally called the Hotel Winthrop and gets its current name when it was part the Roger Smith Hotel Chain in the 1930’s. The hotel was designed by architects Hearn & Erich in 1926 and is made of brick with a clean look.
The Hotel Lexington opened in 1929 one of the last hotels of the building boom on Lexington Avenue. Designed by architects Schultz & Weaver who designed the Waldorf-Astoria, the Hotel Lexington was the promise of General J. Leslie Kincaid, who was President of the American Hotel Company of ‘a modern hotel with a refined atmosphere and with exceptional service without the hassles of a large hotel.” The hotel has Normanesque terracotta decorations that adorn the outside of the hotel (Wiki).
Toward the edge of the neighborhood at East 45th and Lexington Avenue is the Grand Central Post Office Annex that was built between 1903 and 1914 under the direction of the New York Central Railroad. Architect firms of Warren & Wetmore with the collaboration with architectural firm Reed & Stern designed this annex to provide railroad related office space, shops and a network of underground tracks and tunnels.
Grand Central Postal Annex at 450 Lexington Avenue
As you round Lexington Avenue to East 43rd Street to the edge of Turtle Bay, you will enter the lobby of the Chrysler Building. The Chrysler Building has a very interesting history in Manhattan as the once ‘tallest building in the world’ opening one day before the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
The building was the brain child of former New York Senator William H. Reynolds, who had a goal to build the ‘World’s Tallest Building’. He hired famed architect William Van Alen to design the building which in the late 1920’s was an Art Deco design which represented the progress, innovation and modernity of the time. By the time Reynold’s sold the property to Walter Chrysler in 1928, Van Alen and his former partner at the architectural firm they once worked at, H. Craig Severance were in a race to build the World’s Tallest Building (Wiki & Chrysler Building history).
The “Race into the Sky” began between the Chrysler Building being designed by Van Alen and 40 Wall Street being designed by Severance. They kept added floors trying to top one another and in the process build their buildings higher than the Woolworth Building then the tallest in the world. 40 Wall Street was raised to 925 feet when it opened making it the tallest building until Van Alen secretly assembled a 125 spiral for the top of the building and in October of 1929, the spiral was raised and riveted in pieces on the top of the building making it 1046 feet. It would stand the tallest in the world until the Empire State Building was finished a few years later in 1931. The Chrysler Building was the still the World’s Tallest Steel Frame Building, with a steel frame surrounded by masonry (Wiki).
Still the outside of the building is studded with gargoyles for five floors and there were hubcaps and fenders at the 31st floor and eagles on the 61st floor. Because of the 1916 Zoning, there are setbacks on various floors of the building (Wiki). The inside of the lobby is just as impressive.
On the ceiling of the triangular shaped lobby is the mural “Transport and Human Endeavor” by artist Edward Trumball, which was painted in 1930. It represents the ‘energy and man’s application of it to the solutions of his problems’. Look to the detail work to see all the figures that the artist was trying to portray (Wiki).
The lobby of the Chrysler Building should not be missed
After the small tour of the Chrysler Building I proceeded out the door down East 43rd Street towards the United Nations Building. West 43rd Street is an interesting block. By Second Avenue, you will begin to see the transition from the once ‘brownstone’ neighborhood on the corner of Second Avenue and 43rd Street to the more modern ‘glass boxes’ that now dominate the neighborhood. Here you can see how Midtown East is creeping into this once residential neighborhood.
The buildings on both sides of the street are almost a juxtapose of styles and uses until you get toward the end of the block and you are in front of the Ford Foundation Building at 320 East 43rd Street. This impressive building was built between 1963-67 and houses the Ford Foundation. It was designed by architect Kevin Roche and engineer partner John Dinkeloo who are credited for creating the first indoor tree-filled atriums in New York, which set the tone for these public spaces in modern buildings (Wiki).
The Ford Foundation Atrium
What is interesting about he design of this building is that it is a perfect glass block from the outside but a created L-Shaped design on the inside because of the atrium garden. The large windows let the sunlight in so that you can walked this tiered garden on several levels. The only problem is that there is no place to sit down in the garden and just look at it.
Just off of the main lobby is the small Ford Foundation Gallery that is also open to the public. This was a real treat in that it really gave an interesting look at ‘controversial art’. As said by gallery director, Lisa Kim, “Guided by inclusion, collaboration and urgency that are under representing in traditional art spaces. In doing so, our hope is for the Ford Foundation to be a responsive and adapted space, the one that serves the public in its openness to experimentation, contemplation and conversation.” (Ford Foundation Gallery website).
The Gallery is currently showing “Radical Love” an exhibition on art from different cultures that is sending a message of love and acceptance in society. The show’s theme is “offering love as the answer to a world in peril” and shows different artists around the world trying to portray a social median to the problems of hate and prejudice (Ford Foundation Gallery Site).
Ford Foundation Gallery “Radical Love”
After finishing up at the Ford Foundation Gallery, I toured the indoor atrium one more time walking all the tiers of the gardens and not believing that I had never seen this all before. It is really a beautiful building that you all need time out to explore.
I walked to the end of the block only to discover Tudor City with its beautiful Gothic architecture and well landscaped grounds. Tudor City is one of the first planned middle-class housing ‘skyscraper’ complexes in New York City. Built in 1926, the complex was called Tudor City due to the Tudor Revival architecture of the complex. The complex starts right behind the Ford Foundation Building and extends between East 43rd to East 40th Street on a small cliff that overlooks First Avenue, the U.N. Complex and the tip of Roosevelt Island (Wiki).
Tudor City between East 43rd to 40th Streets overlooking First Avenue
The complex was designed by the team lead by architect H. Douglas Ives for the Fred F. French Company, developers of modern apartment complexes and was the brainchild of Leonard Gans and Paine Edson, who bought up what had been derelict housing and manufacturing businesses. The complex did expand into the 1930’s and now contains 13 buildings and two parks that the buildings face in a ‘U’ pattern (Wiki).
You really have to look up at the buildings to see the great detail that was designed to give them that Gothic look. When Mr. Ives team designed the buildings, there was an array of towers, gables, turrets, bay windows, four centered arches and chimney stacks amongst the detail work with cast iron and terracotta details. You have to walk the entire complex and really look to the detail work which is quite amazing (Wiki and my own observations).
What was really nice was the small parks that line the inside of the ‘U’ shaped courtyard of the buildings. These two parks are now run by Tudor City Greens Inc., which has run the parks since 1987 and cares for the landscaping and maintenance. They do a wonderful job caring for the parks which when I walked through were being replanted and watered and full of people either reading books or having group discussions.
Tudor City gardens
While walking through the building complex, I came across Azalea & Oak at 5 Tudor Place, a little boutique specializing in women’s accessories and children’s dress-up clothes and toys (see my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This unique little store has one of the nicest selections of children’s dress items, accessories and handmade toys that I have seen in the City.
Azalea & Oak at 5 Tudor Place
The salesperson told me the owner was formerly from Saks Fifth Avenue and you could see it in the detail of the store design and the quality of the merchandise. Don’t miss their selection of stuffed animals and handmade crowns and masks. This will be much to the delight of the younger set of customers. The owner also designs her own jewelry so there are unusual pieces to see.
The Stuffed toys at Azalea and Oak at 5 Tudor Place
I rounded 43rd Street and came back to visit Ralph Bunche Park that is at the end of East 43rd Street. It is not much a park as most of it is under scaffolding for renovations of Tudor City. The park is named in 1979 after Ralph Bunche was the first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Bunche was a diplomat, scientist and academic who won the award in 1950 for work on mediation with Israel.
As you are walking down the granite stairs to First Avenue, notice the quote from Isiah 2:4 carved into the wall “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spires into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” The stairs, now called the ‘Sharnasky Steps, named after dissident Nathan Sharansky, were built and dedicated during the construction of the U.N. In front of the stairs is a 50 foot steel obelisk by artist Daniel LaRue Johnson, entitled “Peace Form One” that was created in 1980 (Wiki).
Mr. Johnson has studied at Chouinard and in Paris and was part of the African-American artist movement in Los Angeles that dealt with the social and political changes in the mid-Twentieth century. He had also known Mr. Bunche as well (Artist Bio).
The Sharansky Steps with the Wall of Isiah
Once down the steps, you will find yourself in front of the United Nations Building that sits on the East River and is very impressive.
The United Nations Building complex is under ‘lock and key’ and don’t bother trying to walk around the grounds. Everything is behind a fence with tons of security surrounding all sides of the building. The complex is about 18 acres that line the East River from East 42nd and East 48th Streets.
The complex was designed by architect Wallace Harrison for the firm of Harrison & Abramovitz and was completed in 1952. The whole area was cleared of manufacturing and the complex replaced blight in the neighborhood with a brand new building and parks. The Rockefeller family was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the site and Nelson Rockefeller helped purchase the land for the site (Wiki).
The building is built in a long horizontal block that houses the meeting rooms and a tall tower in the center for the Secretariat. The building is surrounded by pathways and lawn to give the building the impression of power and with the flags of the nations surrounding it, an international flair. Still walking up United Nations Plaza back up to East 48th Street to where I stopped at the edge of Sutton East, there is armed security all over the place and its best to blend into the crowds.
The United Nations Building which covers the edges of Turtle Bay with the East River
I continued the walk up United Nations Plaza up to East 48th Street and walked down the block towards Third Avenue. Once you round First Avenue, you will see less security in front of the buildings when you go back into the neighborhood.
East 48th Street is a beautiful block of old brownstones and apartment buildings and has a real neighborhood feel to it. I have discovered that the blocks above East 50th Street once you past Second Avenue are becoming more commercial with lots of large apartment and office buildings. It feels more like Midtown and once you get below East 50th Street, it looks more historical and quintessential ‘Old New York’.
I walked up and down the remainder of Second Avenue from East 43rd to East 48th Streets that border the neighborhood with Sutton East. Most of the buildings are glass boxes with commercial businesses on the bottom. There is one stand out on these five blocks in front of the Consulate General of Nigeria at 828 Second Avenue on the corner of East 44th Street and Second Avenue. It is a sculpture called ‘Zuma’ by artist Billy Omebegho.
Mr. Omebegho is considered one of the foremost modern sculptures in Nigeria and created the work in 1991. Born in Nigeria in 1944, Mr. Omebegho studied art at both Cornell University (fellow Alumnus) and New York University. The work ‘Zuma’ was created in 1991 and is a zig-zag form to symbolizes rebirth and renewal and the snake like pattern represents air, water, heaven and earth (Culture Now). This unique sculpture had some controversy in 2005 when the Consulate was approached about replacing it but it still stands proudly at the entrance.
As I passed along Second Avenue to Third Avenue, I passed a row of brownstones on the right which are the Turtle Bay Gardens houses. These were the homes that were saved, preserved and renovated by Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan in the 1920. The two rows of ten homes were built in the 1860’s and when they were renovated and updated now share a common garden with the homes on East 49th Street. These graceful brownstones set the tone for the neighborhood (Turtle Bay History).
Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District
As you pass Turtle Bay Gardens, another unique house stands out at 211 East 48th Street, the William Lescaze House. William Lescaze was a Swiss-born New Yorker who was credited with bringing the modernist movement in the United States by building this house in 1934. The four story home served as his personal home and studio (Curbed NY).
As I rounded back down Second Avenue to East 43rd Street and crossed over to Third Avenue to walk from East 43rd to East 59th Streets this is another block in transition. Third Avenue has pretty much been torn down is more like Midtown than Turtle Bay. There are a few holdovers from another era meaning the 60’s and 70’s in the way of restaurants.
Tucked in between all the glass towers that have changed this part of the neighborhood there are some culinary gems that still serve customers as they have for years starting with Smith & Wollensky at 797 Third Avenue.
Smith & Wollensky is a legendary steakhouse that has been in this location since 1977. What is interesting about this popular restaurant is that the name was taken out of the phone book. The creators of the restaurant, Allan Stillman (of TGI Friday’s fame) and Ben Benson, looked in the phone book to Smith and then Wollensky to get the name.
The restaurant was originally called Manny Wolf’s Steakhouse which had been in business from 1897 until the name change in 1977. It is now owned by the Patina Restaurant Group although the original New York restaurant is still owned by Mr. Stillman. The restaurant is known for its USDA Prime Grade beef which is all butchered in house (Wiki and Smith & Wollensky history). The building like the rest of the neighborhood is surrounded by a glass box skyscraper.
Another well known restaurant on Third Avenue is P.J. Clarke’s at 915 Third Avenue on the corner of Third Avenue and East 55th Street. P. J. Clarke’s was established in 1884 by a Mr. Duneen and Patrick J. Clarke was one of his employees. After ten years of working at the bar, he bought the establishment from Mr. Duneen and renamed it P.J. Clarke’s. The restaurant has been known for its pub food and popular bar scene.
The restaurant like Smith & Wollensky’s is a holdout from the past and is surrounded by a glass office building. 919 Third Avenue was built around the restaurant in the late 60’s and the owners, the Lavezzo brothers had the owners build around their property. In an agreement, they bought the building from the two brothers and knocked the top two floors of the restaurant down. Due to financial difficulties the brothers lost the restaurant and it is now owned by new group of investors (Wiki).
P.J. Clarke’s in comparison to 919 Third Avenue showing the changes on Third Avenue
Third Avenue has it pockets of the old neighborhood here and there but is now firmly establishing itself as part of Midtown with its gleaming office buildings and apartment houses giving the Avenue a modern look.
As I walked back down Third Avenue, some street art caught my attention. Outside the U.S. Post Office at 909 Third Avenue is the sculpture, Red Flying Group by artist Ann Gillen, that adds some life to the building that looks like geometric blocks.
Red Flying Group by artist Ann Gillen outside 909 Third Avenue
Ms. Gillen has been trained in Industrial design at Pratt and got her MFA from Columbia University’s School of Art. She is noted in the use of color and the structure suggests a human body in motion. She uses all sorts of materials in her art noted with metals and stone work. Red Flying Group is based on man’s sense of motion (Wiki).
The other standout on Third Avenue was the mural of the fallen fireman in honor of 9/11. The mural by artist Eduardo Kobra, who based the painting on a photo of fire fighter Mike Bellantoni, who arrived at the scene after the second tower fell. The picture was taken by New York Post photographer Matthew McDermott (NY Post 2018). The painting depicts an exhausted fire fighter on the scene.
Mural outside of 780 Third Avenue
Mr. Kobra was noted in saying of the mural “I was paying homage to the fire fighters who fought bravely that day. The helmet represents the 343 fire fighters lost that day and the colors represent one goal, to pass on the message of life, of a restart and of reconstruction.” (Time Out Magazine).
Mr. Kobra is a Brazilian street artist who has a passion for street art. His use of squares and triangles bring life to his paintings. His use of photorealism and color bring life to his works of art (Wiki).
The one building that does stand out prominently on Third Avenue is on the corner of Third Avenue and 53rd Street, “The Lipstick Building” at 885 Third Avenue. The building was designed by John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson and was completed in 1986. What stands out about this building is the oval design and color of the building. What makes the building unusual is the ‘set back’ space required by zoning laws and how the building seems to retract ‘as if it retract telescopically’ (Wiki and Architectural firm).
It also has an usual shade of burgundy or dark pink that makes it stand out among the other office buildings in the area. At the base are large columns that act like a ‘post-modern’ entrance to the building and allow pedestrians to walk freer in the space (Wiki and Architectural firm). I just think the building has a unusual beauty to it in that it defies the contemporary design of the more square glass boxes and its shape and color make it stand out in a neighborhood where there is too much of the same design. Buildings like this is what gives the City character.
The columned entrance to the Lipstick Building
As I rounded down Third Avenue to East 43rd Street and headed up Third Avenue again, you can see more changes in the distance in the area around Grand Central Station with new buildings soon to be open on Madison Avenue and along 42nd Street. More construction and more buildings are going up around the station.
As I traveled up Lexington Avenue to East 59th Street, I saw the after-work crowd bring more life to the neighborhood. Between the office buildings and the hotels in the area, the place was loaded with tourists and office workers milling around after a long day and the sidewalks were jammed.
I ended my day rounding East 59th Street and having dinner from Blue and Gold Deli at 1075 First Avenue. I had been in earlier to buy a lottery ticket (did not win so still walking) and noticed their menu and the very reasonable prices. I decided on a Meatball hero ($7.00) with a Coke which I took over to 24 Sycamores Park to eat. It was still light out at 8:00pm and I watched the children playing around in the park with their parents while I ate. The meatball sandwich was loaded with meatballs and a nicely spiced tomato sauce. It was good but not a standout so it warrants another try.
As I ate and watched the night sky get darker, it was fun to watch the world go by and people continue on with their business. I really wonder if they see the same things I do when walking to work or school.