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…
With classes being over and having the Summer Break ahead of me, I thought it was time to start exploring more of the Hudson River Valley region and continue my walk around the City. Instead of heading deeper Downtown into the Flatiron District, I also decided start exploring more of the West Side and started in Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton (Days One Hundred and Ninety Ninety-Six and Ninety Seven).
In the middle of exploring the neighborhood, I had an opportunity to leave the City and head upstate to see the Lindsey Webster Band perform at the Bearsville Theater on Saturday, May 22nd. I have written about seeing the band perform at the Woodstock Christmas Parade years ago when I used to spend Christmas in Woodstock from 2014-2017. When I saw the band in concert in December of 2014, I had not realized how huge the second album was going to be and a number one hit would come from it. It was nice to see the band in the very beginning when it was getting well known.
The concert was at the Bearsville Theater at 291 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY, which again I had not been to since the concert in 2014 and that was a very low key but lively concert.
Somehow I got to Hyde Park where I was spending the night, which is my headquarters in the Hudson River Valley when I am visiting the area very quickly. I checked in and dropped my bags off at the hotel before I drove to Woodstock which is about a half hour away over the bridge.
Since I had time before the concert started, I decided to stop at The Little Bear at 295 Tinker Street B, a Chinese restaurant within the complex for some dinner (see review on TripAdvisor). I have been many times when I have been up for a visit during Christmas and the food has gotten more uneven over the years since my first time.
The Little Bear Chinese Restaurant at 295 Tinker Street
The window seats at The Little Bear are the best for views of the woods and stream
I started my meal with the Fried Dumplings and they were fried. They tasted as if someone had deep fried them. They were crisp! They still tasted good but they were really well-done. The Lemon Chicken had a nice sauce but again the chicken breasts were over cooked. The Lemon Sauce was delicious and tasted really good. The Mixed Fried rice was the best part of the meal. It was loaded with all sorts of meats, seafood and vegetables and they make it so good.
The Fried Dumplings at Little Bear
The biggest problem that I have with Little Bear as a restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor) is the service. The family who runs the restaurant always seem so overwhelmed. At Christmas time, it was one of two restaurants that were open in Woodstock and the surrounding areas so it was mobbed and the phone would not stop ringing with take out orders. It was chaos! The people that run the restaurant are really nice but it gets to be too much for them when it is busy.
The Fried Rice at The Little Bear was the best part of the meal
After dinner, put the leftover fried rice in the car and headed over to the concert. This is when the State of New York needs to get their protocols together. I had to take a COVID test to go inside the building because I did not have my vaccine card on me. So I had to spend another $15.00 to be tested (negative of course) again. Thank God I have had all my vaccine shots. The concert started late because a lot of people had to take the test. Still it was worth it as the concert was excellent and the best part was that no one had to wear a mask.
The concert was of course excellent! I had not seen the band play live since 2014 and a lot of good things have happened to them since including a number one song. This is not the concert from that night but the songs you can enjoy just the same.
The Concert has not yet made it to YouTube but this concert from Daryl’s House is close:
The Lindsey Webster Band
What made the concert so special to all of us was not just the excellent vocals and music but it was the first time everyone was allowed to the Bearsville Theater without masks. It was nice to see people dancing and just enjoying themselves. It had been such a long time for everyone. It makes you appreciate life more.
The drive from Woodstock to Hyde Park was not that long and I got one of the best nights sleep in a long time. The hotel was so relaxing after a long drive. What I love about staying up in the Hudson River Valley is the quiet of it all. That and people do not seem that much of a rush (unless you get those City visitors).
The next day I started to explore the surrounding area and visit the small towns that make up the character of the Hudson River Valley. There has been much talk about the “Brooklynization” of the Hudson River Valley and I wanted to see those changes. In retrospect of the towns I visited, it depends on a couple of things: how close is the town to a train station to the City, how closed it is to Route 9, the corridor on both sides of the Hudson and how close to a college is the town.
What I like about so many of these towns is that the classic turn of the last century architecture that makes up the character of these towns. Also how carefully the new owners go to renovating these buildings back to their former glory. Town by town a lot of work has been done to refit these buildings and bring life back to downtowns that may have been forgotten by tourism.
My first stop was Rhinebeck, NY just above Hyde Park about a half hour up Route 9 depending on how fast you drive. Rhinebeck has changed a lot from I went to the Culinary Institute of America in the late 1990’s. It has transformed from a town of local stores and restaurants to a high end town of more expensive stores and restaurants. A lot of the mom & pop stores I remembered and galleries in the first wave of development are now gone. Still it is a very vibrant town with lots of activities.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY is always fun to walk around in
I love to walk around the town and admire the stores. There is such a nice collection of businesses that cater to every taste. I still have my favorites that have been around for a long time and are staples in Downtown Rhinebeck. Many of these can be found on my websites:
The stores I love to visit are Pause Dog Boutique at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3 in the Montgomery Row Shopping Complex. This store formerly of Red Hook carries all sorts of pet products to pamper your pooch with from collars to snacks (see my review on LittleShopOnMainStreet@Wordpress.com). There is a unique merchandising approach to their items that showcases all the things that your dog could desire.
Pause Dog Boutique at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3
Another great store I love to visit is Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street, a wonderful little candy and dessert store (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). I love the way they merchandise the store with all sorts of colors and displays. When I was walking around the store, admiring the shelves of candies and sweets, I eyed a glazed doughnut under one of the glass domes ($2.00) and had to have one. God with was soft, chewy and had a nice sugary glaze. Talk about waking you up!
I walked the Farmer’s Market which is held in the municipal parking lot and I have to say that their wares are much more expensive than the surrounding towns. When a pastry is $5.00 or homemade soap or jelly is over $10.00 you are pricing yourself out of the local market. When I used to stop at the Farmer’s Market in Hyde Park, NY, the prices of everything were very fair. I guess post COVID people are trying to make their money back.
After finishing my walk around Rhinebeck, I drove further north to Red Hook, NY which is a quaint little downtown that I love. What I enjoy about the town of Red Hook is that it is not geared towards tourists as opposed it is a place that locals do their shopping. On a Sunday afternoon, it is really quiet as by the late afternoon a lot of things are closed.
Downtown Red Hook, NY
Check out my blog on Exploring Downtown Red Hook for more information on the town:
One store that was open and I was able to visit was Petals & Moss at 6 East Market Street. This wonderful little flower shop treats its plants and flowers with such respect and they are merchandised like a piece of art. I was talking with the owner and she said that even though she goes into the flower markets to buy things, when in season she will grow flowers in her own year for the store.
Another store I love to visit and it is such a whimsical and well decorated place is Little Pickles at 7505 North Broadway. This delightful little toy and clothing store has everything a child could desire from jars of candy and balloons to wooden toy and experiments to clothing and shoes all in a playhouse environment. It is what you would expect a toy store catering to the Lilliputian set to look like.
Some of my other favorites such as Equis Gallery and Village Pizza III were closed that day but I was able to have another snack at Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop at 7501 North Broadway (right next door to Little Pickles) and I had a jelly doughnut that said to me “buy me”! They know how to make a good doughnut. The jelly was so tangy and the doughnut was soft and fresh. The store has that classic bakery look almost like you are visiting an old General Store.
Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop at 7501 North Broadway
Since a lot of the stores and restaurants were closed that Sunday morning, I headed up Route 9 to Tivoli, NY. Tivoli has a very small but quaint downtown in the middle of an area with large farms. Since visiting a few years ago, more restaurants and shops have opened and there is a good arts representation with the Tivoli Artists Gallery at 60 Broadway.
In the last three years, I have seen a change in the quality of the restaurants and again they have gotten pricey. Creative but pricey. I ate lunch at a local restaurant, Tivoli Broadway Pizza at 49 Broadway. The pizza and the service were really good and it was nice to sit back and relax and read the local paper.
What I love about Tivoli is the charm of the village. It is such a nice little town to walk around and just admire the farms and the woods. You can walk the downtown quickly but it is fun to take your time and let it all soak in.
After leaving Tivoli, it was time to cross the river at the Kingston Bridge and explore the other side of the river. I have written about Kingston , NY many times over the years so it was time to explore other towns. I headed up Route 9 for my next destination, Catskill, NY.
Catskill, NY on the other side of the Hudson River. I had only driven through Catskill about seven years ago when I explored the towns surrounding Rhinebeck and it was the other side of the river that I visited. Downtown Catskill is pretty amazing when it comes to architecture and I can tell that other people think so as well as all the buildings seemed to being snatched up and renovated.
Downtown Catskill, NY
Most of the businesses in Downtown Catskills were closed on a sunday with the exception of a few gift stores and a couple of restaurants. Even walking around the downtown after crossing the bridge there were maybe a handful of people.
The downtown is absolutely beautiful and it was interesting that the urban renewal that hit so many of these towns in the late 60’s and early 70’s did not come to Catskill so all the 19th and early 20th century architecture still dominates the main street.
Weaving in and out of a lot of the stores and provision shops I was most impressed by Cat on the Corner, a tiny store dedicated to everything cats at 362 Main Street. I was impressed by the variety of merchandise starting with items for everyone’s favorite feline to gifts and decorative items for the home.
Among all the objects I found was a magnetic with a lot of dirty words on it that I had to get for my mom (who loves cats) and to spend the $10.00 credit card minimum, I also got her a cat cookie by a local baker from the area, which I thought was really cleaver. She ended up loving both. What I also like about the business is that the owner was helping a lot of small women owned cottage businesses with their wares and I found that good business.
These clever cookies are baked locally
Another business that stood out to me was a Left Bank Ciders at 150 Water Street. What made me walk into the Tap Room was the sign and location. It was down a alleyway and then tucked into an above ground basement area. The inside of the Tap Room was exposed walls and ceilings. The selection of ciders looked terrific as well.
Left Bank Ciders at 150 Water Street’s Tap Room here is so unique
After walking the entire downtown both sides and the local park plus the entire other side of the creek area, I just relaxed by the car. I can tell they are starting to renovate the other side of the creek as well as some of the homes. It will take time to bring life back to this part of the neighborhood.
My last stop was Saugerties, NY, a quirky little downtown right by the Hudson River and again another downtown with a lot of charm and interesting architecture. It had not changed much since I visited and had lunch here seven years ago. The prices of everything have gone up significantly though over the years.
Downtown Saugerties has a interesting vibe
I drove through the downtown last when I went up to Cooperstown, NY back in October for my birthday and saw that there had been changes in several of the buildings. After my trip to Catskill, I made this my final stop of the day.
Before I stopped in downtown to walk around, I made a detour to see the Saugerties Lighthouse at 168 Lighthouse Drive, which I had always seen signs for but never stopped to see. It is nice when you have the time on your hands to detour to all these special places.
I have to say it was a drive off the main road of Route 9 down several hills and winding roads. When you come to the small parking lot, there is not a lot of space to park on a busy day but it was the late afternoon when I got here so it was quiet.
The pathway to the lighthouse is surrounded by woods and flowers and a few streams so in the Spring and Summer months, it is very beautiful to walk down the path. Many flowers were in bloom and it was very colorful. You have to stay on the path though as there is water everywhere.
The lighthouse sits on the end of the path with a small dock on one side and a small beach at low tide. I did not realize that it is being used as a B & B and you should check out the Friends website for details if you want to stay there. The lighthouse was built in 1869 and was decommissioned in 1954. It is an elegant old building with the Hudson River in the backdrop which makes it very impressive. (There are tours available by appointment). After my tour around the lighthouse and park, it was back to downtown.
A slice of pizza at Slices at 71 Partition Street went up to almost $4.00 and an ice cream cone at several places will set you back over $5.00. I know these things are gourmet but not when they are more than New York City prices. The rents must have really gone up over the years. Even my favorite restaurant, Miss Lucy’s Kitchen at 90 Partition Street was more than I remember. Their food was mind-blowing the last time I ate there years ago.
Miss Lucy’s Kitchen at 91 Partition Street was a favorite of mine years ago
I was able to walk the entire downtown and it was also slowly changing as well as buildings were being renovated all over the downtown and homes were getting a facelift. I had never seen so many potted plants and wreaths on doors. A younger crowd was moving downtown with many bars opening and an increase in nightlife that I did not remember on my last few visits.
Before I left that evening, I took a walk down by the river to the Saugerties Village Beach Park at 47 South Partition Street and watched all the kids running around the park and some people actually taking a dip in the water (I thought it was too early). It was so nice to watch the sun shine and sit back under a tree and just watch the world go by. It is such a relaxing park.
Saugerties Village Beach Park at 47 South Partition Street is a the bottom the downtown area
Don’t miss taking a trip to any of these small towns lining the Hudson River. COVID has driven people out of the City and it has brought a new vibe and built on improvements made to these once small manufacturing and shipping towns. New restaurants, art galleries and stores have brought not just new customers but new ideas on ways to reach customers. It is so nice the times of good service and a friendly local atmosphere have not given way in the Amazon era.
There is still a relaxed and creative buzz to these towns that was always there but now being added to with new members of the community. COVID did not kill this spirit in the Hudson River Valley.
*Bloggers Note: In fairness to stores, restaurants and parks I visited on my journey are mentioned below. The others I have added their links so that you all can choose the places you want to go. I will keep adding to this blog with more small towns.
I have visited the Philipsburg Manor House and Estate many times over the years. During the “Headless Horseman” Halloween activities, the house is open for tours. You are able to tour the rooms and see the home in a spooky environment. The house was lit by candles and the tour guides lead you through the house.
During a special event at the holidays, the house had seasonal decorations, lit by a combination candles and open hearth fires in the fireplace and tour guides explained a Colonial holiday season.
The Manor House as it was explained to me was a place where the Philipse family stayed when they were away from the…
I love coming to Demarest Farms and visiting the farm store and the grounds. It is like a step back into time. When I was a young child, I used to come down to the old farm stand that was across the street and pick up corn and tomatoes with my aunt who lived around the corner from the stand. In the 1990’s, the family opened the farm store across the street which used to be the old cornfields right next to the Garden State Parkway and a new tradition was born.
In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
Well, Christmas is finally officially over for me. It was one for the books. The holiday season just came and went without much fanfare or activities. Nothing like last year which was a lot of running around visiting decorated homes or running to the next cocktail party or dinner. Those things just did not exist this year. This season was all about the outside walking tours and small get togethers.
The whole holiday season became a blur and I started to attend a lot of outdoor activities that became available. Anything to get out of the house and see people or go do something out of the ordinary. I really had to search things out.
They started closest to home. I was trying to split my time between places that were just a drive away, going back and forth to the Hudson River Valley, which gave me a change of scenery and walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan, which gave me a sense of purpose as I felt I was supporting the City by being a cheerleader for all it had to offer even in the era of COVID.
My holiday journey started with the delivery of 375 Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. It was a big undertaking for a major charity that supports graduating high school seniors with scholarship money for college. I sometimes wonder if these students know what we go through to get the funds.
The trees were really nice this year
I have never seen so many Christmas Trees fly off a lot so fast. The membership of the Men’s Association got there at 9:00am and the truck arrived at 10:15am. We sold our first tree at 11:30am as we were tagging them. I stayed the entire day from 9:00am to 10:00pm when we closed the lot down for the evening. In the three shifts that I was there with the other guys, we sold 45 trees which we have never done our first day of sales.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at set-up 2020
We were completely sold out by December 11th which I have never seen before. It seemed in the era of COVID everyone reverted back to the 1970’s and wanted a fresh Christmas tree for their home. I thought this was wonderful and people could not have been more supportive to our organization.
Please read my blog on “Christmas tree sales in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ”:
Please watch the commercial I did in 2015 to sell our trees
The first week of December means “Open Houses” at some of our merchants in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas merchandise being offered, all the bouquets created for the event and the beautiful Christmas windows that our florists in town have done.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist at 231 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ always has a nice gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year was like no other but it did not keep a nice crowd of residents from coming out and looking over ideas for floral displays, house decorating ideas and listening to festive holiday music all while nibbling on prepackaged treats and bottled drinks.
Bill O’Shea’s has some of the nicest displays at the holidays
In a normal year, it would be hot chocolate and coffee with freshly baked goods but COVID has changed the way these businesses are run. Everything had to be prepackaged and most people at it outside as juggling and shopping with a mask on was tough.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, the same weekend we set up the Christmas Tree lot for the Men’s Association, Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ had their Open House and that was equally as nice.
Heights Flower Shoppe is housed in a turn of the last century home that dates back to the original founding of our downtown and has a very classic boutique look to it. The store was stocked with all sorts of Christmas decorations, homemade candies, decorative household gifts and beautiful floral displays as well as outside had decorated wreathes and grave blankets.
The homemade candies and Christmas decorations adorn the store
Like Bill O’Shea’s, there was all sorts of packaged holiday treats to enjoy including Italian sodas, small bags of homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Last year they had a nice assortment of cookies and small sandwiches with coffee, tea and punch so there are always holiday treats to nibble on too here as well.
All of Downtown Hasbrouck Heights was beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths on all our lamp posts, Christmas lights on the trees, merchants display windows decorated to the hilt and Christmas music playing.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so nicely decorated for the holidays
This year because of COVID, the Annual Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting were cancelled in town but they did have a small get together at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights to light the town Christmas tree. It was lit from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany on January 6th. It is always a beautiful site when entering town from the west side of town.
The Christmas Tree on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Even the little Neil Parrot playhouse, a local landmark in Hasbrouck Heights, was decorated for the holidays and was lite up at night as well.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights awaiting Santa
There were several nights of my aunt and I exploring the town and driving block by block to see all the decorated homes. Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns of Lodi and Wood Ridge always do a wonderful job decorating for the holidays but with everyone being home and COVID hitting the area hard, people wanted to really decorate and make this year even more festive. Between the merchants and home owners, they made this time of year in Hasbrouck Heights very festive.
Please read my blog on Visiting Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:
I did not just celebrate Christmas in Hasbrouck Heights. I ventured into other parts of New Jersey, to New York City and my usual haunts in the Hudson River Valley but like New Jersey, New York State was on a lock down as well and all the decorated mansions and holiday gatherings were all cancelled as well. So everyone did their best to celebrate outdoors and have all sorts of tours and small get togethers. You had to move fast when reserving these events as they did fill up because everyone wanted to get out of the house and see things.
The Sinterklaas Parade that I have participated and volunteered at for so many years was cancelled because of COVID but like the Halloween Parade, the committee put together a video of the parade to share with the world. Still it did not compare to the excitement of walking down the hill with stars and music lighting up Downtown Rhinebeck, NY.
The noble Frog was to be our mascot for this year’s Sinterklaas Parade
It was not the same as the year before where the crowds kept getting larger and larger every year. The whole town came to life with activities, songs, lights and laughter but was silent that weekend except for people having dinner in town. I was able to sneak up during the week. The entire town was decorated with white lights and beautifully decorated store windows. Rhinebeck is one of those towns in the Hudson River Valley that looks straight out of a Currier & Ives woodcut.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Since all the Christmas parties and get togethers were cancelled, it gave me more time to look into other outdoor events. I went to a special “Historical walking tour at the Holidays” at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, NJ. The tour was lead by Historical singer and lecturer, Linda Russell, who explained the traditions of the Dutch Christmas all while singing Colonial Christmas songs in between the talks at each historical house on the property.
The Steuben House at Christmas
Actors dressed in costumes (and masks of course-COVID is still going on) danced in the Steuben House ballroom as colonialists celebrating the holiday, Dutch housewives putting their children to bed while awaiting Sinterklaas. There was a Dutch wooden shoe with carrots for his horse outside the door and mistletoe on the ceiling.
Linda Russell performing and lecturing at the Bergen County Historical Society
There was a discussion on the Pagan traditions of bringing ‘greens’ from outside inside to have a bit of ‘live nature’ into the home. So mistletoe, pine and holly adorned homes during the winter months as these things were green and brought a bit of life into the dead of winter.
The last part of the lecture was done in front of the Campbell-Christie House with a visit from Sinterklaas himself. We had a short talk about who Sinterklaas was and his part in the holiday season. Then all the members of the tour enjoyed refreshments and got a goody bag when we left with holiday sweets. The lecture and songs were a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.
My favorite song by Linda Russell “I saw Three Ships”
As I was finishing up the semester at the College, I was getting holiday preparations done at the house, having small gatherings of family and friends and trying to be COVID safe. I was also running in and out of the City finishing my blog on Kips Bay before the holidays started getting busier. I learned a lot of New York’s Colonial past from walking around this area of the City.
My blogs on the Walking the neighborhood of Kips Bay:
The next weekend I made my last trip of the season to Long Beach Island to visit Beach Haven and the tour the rest of the island one last time before winter set in. It had really closed down since Halloween. I expected it to be much busier with more people moving down there on a permanent basis. Driving up to the lighthouse, I saw more dark homes then lite ones.
I wanted to take one more tour of Long Beach Island to see how they celebrate Christmas at the shore. They do things very quietly in Beach Haven. I went to the Surflight Theater to see the only play I had seen since I attended Carnegie Hall last Christmas to see the play “We need a little Christmas” which I had seen advertised at the theater over the summer.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, NJ
After the theater, it was surprisingly warm that afternoon hovering around 58 degrees so I walked to the beach one block away and walked on the Jersey shore for my only time that year and for the first time on Beach Haven beach since 1975. It has been a long journey since that time.
The Beach Haven beach was beautiful that afternoon
The town’s Christmas trees were across the street from the theater on the square just off the downtown. Even they had a subdued Christmas at the shore and the whole event welcoming in the season was done virtually.
Christmas in Beach Haven, NJ adapted like the rest of the world
My holiday dinner was spent at the Chicken or the Egg that evening and it was really good. The menu is so extensive and innovative. It was hard to make choices.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich at Chicken or the Egg
Their fried chicken sandwiches are really good and their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream sandwich should not be missed.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven
I was able to tour the whole island that afternoon before it got dark and even at twilight here and there were signs of Christmas in small trees lit in the shopping areas and decorated homes. It is an interesting place at the holidays with the waves crashing in the background.
My blog on “Exploring Downtown Beach Haven and Long Beach Island, NJ”:
The next week was finals week at the College and I had to give my final exam. The students also finished work on their case study, “Bud N’ Mud”, a simulated flower/coffee shop I had the students develop. It was interesting to see how a group of student entrepreneurs would create a store with their own ideas on how to grow the business. This project ended the Fall semester.
One of my favorite logo’s from the “Bud N’ Mud” project
With the Christmas trees selling out by December 11th, we held our annual Christmas party at the Christmas tree stand site for the Men’s Association. It was a cool not cold night and we all huddled around the fire taking alternate turns hitting the makeshift buffet table and enjoying good conversation. It was a great way to end the year successfully and there will lots of scholarships being given out at the end of the school year.
The last big event before Christmas came was the Sunday before Christmas with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department holding our Annual “Santa Around Town”. Because COVID was growing, the event was revamped from previous years and instead of stopping at sites all over town, we drove down each street in town slowly, having Santa wave and greet people who were on their lawns, driveways and porches. The residents of Hasbrouck Heights seemed touched by it and I could tell from the safety of the fire truck that the kids got a kick out of seeing Santa. People really needed the pick me up in holiday spirit at the time.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020
On the Tuesday before Christmas after I finished work with my other job I needed a break and wanted to go on a road trip to the Hudson River Valley again. I was nostalgic for Christmas’s past and decided to visit some of the towns Upstate.
I explored Downtown Woodstock first seeing their very unusual Christmas tree in the square. I have to say one thing about Woodstock, they do pick out the most interesting tree to sit in the square. It always looks more surreal than traditional. Their annual “Santa Parade” was cancelled this year as well and they did a drive by with Santa at the Woodstock Fire Department who runs the parade.
Downtown Kingston, NY was next on the list. Talk about a town in transition. In the almost three years since I have been visiting Kingston, I have never seen a downtown change so rapidly. The businesses there have gone from all this ‘hippie granola’ businesses to all these antique furniture stores and art galleries and some really expensive restaurants. One of the locals told me the new residents are “Brooklynizing” Kingston.
Still the downtown was nicely lit for the holidays and their Christmas Tree while small is nicely lit for the holidays on the edge of the downtown “Stockade” district. The Dutch Reformed Church on the other end of downtown was nicely lit with wreaths on the doors.
I crossed the river and drove to Red Hook, NY which I love. Their downtown looks like an old fashioned shopping district straight out of another Currier & Ives print. All the little stores were decorated with garland and white lights and the merchants decorated their windows to the hilt.
My last stop on my search for the perfect picturesque Hudson Valley River town was returning to Rhinebeck, NY for the day. Rhinebeck was quiet on this Tuesday evening as most of the restaurants were closed and the shops had closed for the evening. Still it was nice to walk around and admire the while lights on the trees and admire the display windows.
The Christmas lights and windows of Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
Even the way I celebrate Christmas changed this year. Instead of spending time with my family, I spent three days in Manhattan with my best friend, Maricel, at a hotel in Times Square. Neither of us had the time to travel and we both had to work in the City, her at her hotel and me working on my blogs so both of us needed the rest.
AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street
We stayed at the AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street. What the room lacked in size, it made up in the view and in the location. We were one block from Port Authority, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance from all the Christmas attractions from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
While Maricel worked on Christmas Eve, I walked around the City. I saw the tree at Rockefeller Center which was loaded with people not keeping socially distanced. I admired the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which had a New York City theme with Christmas scenes from around the City “This is how we Celebrate”.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Themed window “Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods to Grandfather’s House We Go”
Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree was even more special this year
I thought the windows at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf-Goodman really lacked in creativity. Bloomingdale’s was having a bad year and Bergdorf’s had just gotten sold again (forth time since I worked there in 2004) so I did not expect much. With Lord & Taylor declaring bankruptcy earlier in the year and closing the main store on Fifth Avenue and B. Altman’s long gone and Macy’s going mechanical for the last few years, the excitement of seeing the windows has been less than enthusiastic.
Still it was nice to walk around Midtown after leaving the Rockefeller Center area and just walking around Third, Park and Madison Avenues. By 7:00pm, everything had shut down for the night and the streets were really quiet. What was eerie was when walking down Park Avenue and looking up and seeing so many dark buildings. The area looked abandoned with so many apartment lights out. I wondered where everyone went?
When Maricel got off work, I brought in dinner 9th Avenue Deli at 769 Ninth Avenue. I brought in a juicy cheeseburger and chicken fingers which we shared and then dug into. The perfect comfort food on a cool night. Christmas Eve was a mild 59 degrees and it was nice to walk around.
9th Avenue Deli at 769 9th Avenue
We just hung out the whole night and watched movies in the hotel room. I went to bed early and sunk into the wonderful Marriott hotel bed. Marriott had the best hotel beds and every time I stay at one of their hotels, I slept like a log.
Christmas Day we just relaxed in the room and I called many members of my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. While Maricel went to work, I decided to start touring neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Rose Hill and NoMAD in preparation in my walks there. It started out being a cold, cloudy day and there was barely anyone on the street. I saw a few people walking their dogs and that was about it until about 3:00pm. It them cleared up and was a mild 55 degrees until it got dark and then cooled down.
What really shocked me about Times Square was how dirty it was on the streets. They had not picked up the garbage on Christmas Eve day and did not pick it up until after Christmas Day so between the theaters being boarded up and the ply boards filled with graffiti, hotels closed and restaurants shut, the whole Theater district looked like NYC circa 1975. It was creepy how the pandemic was affecting the business of this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Murray Hill, Rose Hill, NoMAD and the Flatiron District were really quiet that morning and early afternoon. All the restaurants and stores were dark, three hotels had closed in the district and I saw just a few people milling around. Things changed as I got closer to Macy’s Herald Square.
When walking around Koreatown, which runs between Sixth and Fifth Avenues between 35th to 32nd Streets, the side streets were teeming with Korean couples and groups of family members dining in the outdoor restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood was really jumping and full of life.
As the day wore on by 5:00pm, the rest of the City came back to life and more restaurants and stores opened up. Christmas morning and afternoon were now over and I could tell that people wanted to get out of the house (probably to get away from the family celebrations). When Maricel returned, I ordered in dinner from Golden City Chinese Restaurant at 423 Ninth Avenue, one of the few neighborhood restaurants open and we our dinner in the room. The food was okay. It was nice to just eat in the room and relax.
Christmas dinner was Lemon Chicken and Fried Rice from Golden City Chinese Restaurant
We checked out at noon on the 26th and she left for work that afternoon, I headed into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. Both were really quiet that day. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was mostly dormant for the winter and most of the garden was closed off because of COVID. The “Studio 54” exhibition had long closed at the Brooklyn Museum so I just wondered the halls and looked at some of the changes in the permanent exhibitions that they had. I left the City for home early that evening.
The last week of the holiday, I entertained family at a Lasagna and Champagne dinner I had a the house. Since I was not able to spend time at home during the holidays, my aunts came over to my house and we had a three course meal with champagne and wine. We spent the whole night laughing and enjoying the evening.
New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening at home alone talking with other friends who were staying home alone as well. Times Square was empty that evening with the exception of the 350 first responders who were invited to the ball drop. When I watched it on TV it was eerie to see it so quiet. There was no one for blocks except police guarding Times Square.
I headed back up to the Hudson River Valley again on New Year’s Day to go on two walking tours in Staatsburgh, NY at the Mills Mansion. It was the Annual “First of the Year” walking tours and it was a cool, crisp morning for a walking tour of the property. There were two tours that morning, one was on “Winter Activities in Victorian Times” with us learning about all the winter activities that the residents here enjoyed like skating , sledding, ice boating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Staatsburgh, the Mills Mansion in the winter
The other tour later that afternoon was on “Ice Harvesting in the Hudson River Valley” , where we learned about how the ice harvesting of the Hudson River was a big business before the advent of refrigeration. Large slabs of ice were cut from the river, floated down stream and then packed in straw awaiting sale over the metropolitan area for peoples ice boxes throughout the year. It just gave me anther excuse to visit the region I love so much.
My blog on the Mills Mansion on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Another local event that was COVID safe was a driving tour through the “Holiday Lightshow” at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. This was the first time that the farm opened the apple and peach orchard across the street from the farm stand. I saw this display the last week it was open and even after the holidays, it was a special treat as we awaited the Epiphany.
Driving through the display only took about forty minutes but was a delight in the senses and sounds. I played the classical music station as I drove through and admired all the colorful lights on the now dormant trees while Santa’s and Snowmen winked and waved and toy soldiers lit the way through the dark field. Even the Demarest homestead was ablaze with lights.
Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Drive in Hillsdale, NJ
My blog on “Visiting the Farms of Bergen County, NJ at Christmas”:
Don’t miss this holiday lights ride through the orchard in 2021
The holiday event I visited was the Bronx Zoo for their “Holiday Lights” event at the zoo. It was the last night of the event and I arranged for the tickets that afternoon. The zoo gave me a 30% discount to go that evening and I was on the subway ride up to the Bronx.
The Bronx Zoo Light Show
I was really impressed by the display. The entire park was decorated with white lights, with different sections of the park decorated with different themes such as jungle animals, aquatic mammals and all sorts of assorted elephants, seals, penguins, lions, tigers and bears (oh my haha). There were costumed characters to take pictures with and they even had the Bug Carousel open that evening. I got a kick out of riding this since I had not done this since I was a little kid.
The Bronx Zoo musical Christmas Tree in the old part of the zoo
In the older section of the park, they had zebras on stilts and a musical Christmas trees that had an interesting soundtrack of contemporary Christmas songs. Even though Christmas had been over now for almost two weeks, it me back into the Christmas spirit.
So there was the Christmas holidays in the era of COVID. Lots of outdoor activities in hot and cold weather. Many walking tours and more subdued events. Gone were the cocktail parties and big formal dinners and in their place were many more smaller outdoor events and communicating with nature.
Maybe we all needed to take a break from the more formal traditions and go back to the basics of family and friends. I think this was a reflective year and realizing what is important. It had not changed that much for me. I just adjusted to the times, wore a mask and got going. Staying safe and keeping others safe is what is all about.
Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.
Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.
I finished Kips Bay right before the holidays and the comings and goings of the holidays took up a lot of time. I still can’t believe the Christmas holiday season is over. It was so surreal from previous holidays. In the era of COVID, it has really been a crazy time in history. I told my students before we finished the semester, that they were living through a Business case study in which people will be talking about for years.
I have had a chance since the City reopened in June through the holidays to revisit many of the neighborhoods that I have walked previously and it is shocking the number of places that have gone out of business since just Christmas. In just two weeks, I have seen more storefronts empty out than since the end of the summer. Many restaurants especially have not been able to survive the Christmas holiday season with them being closed to indoor dining and then the colder weather setting in earlier. I see more people eating outside huddled next to a lone pool heater. At least Christmas Eve and Day were really warm and the restaurants were able to keep busy outside.
I was finally able to visit the MoMA this morning. It was the first time since March 10th that I was able to visit the museum. The last time I had been there was to see the ‘Jack Lemon Retrospect’ and saw the film “The Odd Couple”. Than just a few days later everything closed. I was able to see the ‘Judd Exhibition’, with its colorful large sculpture installments and then explored the new extension of the museum that had opened up since the COVID pandemic. It was strange to see so few people in the museum.
Donald Judd was an American born artist who studied art and phlosophy at Columbia University and had been an art critic for years while dabbling in paining. In the 1960’s, he started he started to create three dimensional works of art and known for his wide scale installations (Artist bio).
After the visit to the museum, I traveled down Fifth Avenue to East 42nd Street and then crossed over to Lexington Avenue and this is where the shocking part was to see how many businesses have closed since Christmas alone. There were so many small stores that just were open and many more restaurants and delis that are now empty or closed until further notice. Even when entering Rose Hill, there were at least three more hotels that are now boarded up for closure. These neighborhoods look from the outskirts seem vibrant but walking on the streets tells another story.
Even the streets on a Friday afternoon seemed quiet. It had been busier closer to Rockefeller Center to see the tree and Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows but all those things are now gone. I would have expected to see the Christmas tree still up until at least this Sunday but everything was gone. The Epiphany was on January 6th and I would have thought to keep it up with a little holiday cheer until the weekend.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2020
I got to Kips Bay by 1:00pm and started the walk by visiting Curry Express again at 130 East 29th Street for some more of their Curry Chicken Patties ($3.00). I needed a quick snack and these are really good. The ground well seasoned chicken is filled with the aroma of curry and spices and accented with fresh peas in a puff pastry. They are truly delicious and have a nice crunch in every bite.
Curry Express at 130 East 29th Street has the most delicious Chicken Curry Patties
“Rose Hill” is the name of a farm that used to sit on the site of this neighborhood. Like “Murray Hill” and “Kips Bay”, this name is rooted in the Colonial Period of Manhattan and New York City. The neighborhood is now part of two other neighborhoods, “Kips Bay” extends from East 34th to 23rd Streets and from Lexington Avenue to the East River and “NoMAD” (North of Madison Square Park) extends from Lexington to Sixth Avenue from East 30th to East 25th Street.
That with the “Flatiron District” extending from Sixth to Lexington Avenue from West to East 26th to West and East 20th Street, so there is a lot of overlapping neighborhoods especially between West to East 26th to 25th Streets. Even with “Kips Bay”, part of Rose Hill extends into that from Lexington to Third Avenues from East 30th to 25th Streets. Confused yet? It must be interesting for people who want to be part of one neighborhood association.
“Rose Hill Farm” has an interesting history. According to a historical genealogical source, the first “Rose Hill” was a farm acquired from James DeLancey, a prominent New Yorker who was also a Loyalist (Loyal to the Crown of England during the Colonial Period) in November 1747. John Watts Sr. was married to Ann DeLancey, the youngest daughter of Stephen DeLancey (Wiki).
John Watts Sr.
Ann DeLancey Watts
The Honorable John Watts, who represented the City for many years in the Colonial Assembly bought the farm that contained over 130 acres which lay on the East River between what were to become East 21st to 30th Streets between the future 4th Avenue and the river. Watt’s residence at the time was at 3 Broadway facing the Bowling Green Park, which itself at the time was one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in Downtown Manhattan. This area above Wall Street was still mostly rural (Wiki).
The main house on the farm burned during the British occupancy in 1779 and the couple left for England after the war. Parts of the property were sold off between 1780 and 1790 and the rest of the farm was inherited by their son, John Watts Jr. The farm went on the market again in 1790 (Wiki).
John Watts Jr.
Revolutionary War General, Horatio Gates, acquired the farm in 1790 and established an country seat in the mansion at the present corner of Second Avenue and East 22nd Street. He and his wife, Mary Valens Gates lived here are were part of New York Society until his death on the estate in 1806. After the planning of the ‘Commissioner’ Plan of 1811′, the site was divided into building parcels and streets following the Manhattan grid (Wiki).
General Horatio Gates
The southwest corner of the estate became Gramercy Park. Nothing exists of the farm today but just the name and is considered to be part of the NoMAD neighborhood (North of Madison Square Park), that was coined in the late 1990’s (Wiki).
Gramercy Park is all that is left of the original Rose Hill Estate
I started my walk of the neighborhood on a rather cold and gloomy afternoon. The sun would peak out at different times but it got colder as it got dark. My trip to “Curry Hill” warmed me up though. Between the smells of the neighborhood of cumin and curry and the warmth of the chicken patty, it boosted me up.
I walked past the now closed restaurants on the stretch between East 29th to East 26th Streets. The closing of indoor dining in New York City restaurants was really killing business for everyone. A few had ‘for rent’ signs on them now. Others had altered their hours. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out as the next three months get colder.
I turned the corner at East 25th Street and headed towards Madison Avenue. I passed one of my favorite buildings that I saw when I was walking around Kips Bay 130 East 25th Street. The building is covered with snakes, skulls and dragons carved along the side of it.
Someone had a warped sense of humor
The former B. W. Mayer Building which now houses the Friends House in Rosehall was built in 1916 by architect Herman Lee Meader (Wiki). You really have to walk around the building to see all the unusual carvings that line the building.
130 East 25th Street, the former B. W. Mayer Building
The doorway arch really stands out
Across the street at 68 Lexington Avenue is the 69th Regiment Building. The building had a little action going on when I passed by with an ambulance outside and guys in their uniforms running around. This beautiful building is the home to the New York Army National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, known as the “Fighting Irish” since the Civil War (Wiki).
69th Regiment Building at 68 Lexington Avenue
The building was designed by architects Hunt & Hunt in the Beaux Arts style and was completed in 1906. It has been home to many events and show including the controversial 1913 Armory Show of contemporary art (Wiki). You really have to walk around the building to admire its beauty and history. The building stretches from East 25th to East 26th Street and back towards Park Avenue. You really have to walk around the building to admire its beauty.
Walking down East 25th Street, you realize as you start to border the Midtown area that the buildings take up more of the blocks and there are less smaller brownstones and tenements in the area. The dominate building on the block by Madison Square Park is 11-25 Madison Avenue, the Metropolitan Life Buildings. The building that lines this part of East 25th Street is the Metropolitan Life North Building (or 11 Madison Avenue).
Metropolitan Life North Building at 25 Madison Avenue
This beautiful building was the extension of the main headquarters next door on Madison Avenue. The building was designed by the architectural team of Harvey Wiley Corbett and D. Everett Waid in the Art Deco style in the late 1920’s as the tallest building in the world but the Great Depression changed the plans and it was built in three stages. The first finished in 1932, the second in 1940 and the third in 1950 (Wiki).
The archways ‘Loggias’ on each side of the building
What stands out about the building is the arched vaults on each corner of the structure called ‘loggias’ and the features were made in limestone and pink marble. When you stand under them you can see the colors and details of the marble carvings (Wiki). Just walking around the building the features are impressive and standout.
Across the street from the Metropolitan Life North Building at 27 Madison Avenue is the Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State and one of the most beautiful and detailed buildings I have seen on my walks. The building was designed by architect James Lord Brown in 1896 in the Beaux Arts Style and is adorned heavily in sculpture (Wiki). You really have to step back and walk across the street to see the details on the building.
27 Madison Avenue The Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State
Looking up close, you can see that the building resembles a Greek Temple and was considered one of the best examples of the “City Beautiful Movement” that occurred during the 1890’s and 1900’s to enhance cities with monumental grandeur and beauty (Wiki).
The historical beauty of the architecture continued up the border of the neighborhood as I walked up Madison Avenue towards East 30th Street. You have to walk both sides of Madison Avenue to appreciate the designs and details of the buildings that line the avenue.
You have to look close to the building or you will miss it is the sculpture by artist Harriet Feigenbaum. It is a memorial to victims of the Holocaust and is very powerful in its work showing the concentration camps.
“The Memorial to the Injustice of the Victims of the Holocaust”-“Indifference to Justice is the Road to Hell”
Harriet Feigenbaum is an American sculptor and environmentalist. Her works cover sculpture, film and drawings that are seen all over the world (Wiki and artist bio).
I passed 50 Madison Avenue and noticed how the buildings blended in design. The bottom level of the building was built in 1896 as the headquarters of the ASPCA (American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals). The building was designed by architects Renwick, Aspinwell & Owen and had a classic ‘club like’ design to it. The building was refitted and added to in 2005 by the firm of Samson Management with a six story addition to luxury condos (CityRealty.com).
50 Madison Avenue-The former ASPCA headquarters
Another ornamental building that stands out in the neighborhood is 51 Madison Avenue which is the home of New York Life Insurance Building. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1926 in the Art Deco style with Gothic Revival details along the sides and was finished in 1928. The structure is topped with a gilded roof (Wiki & New York Life Insurance history). This is another building that you have to see from all sides.
51 Madison Avenue-The New York Life Insurance Building
Continuing my walk up Madison Avenue while admiring the architecture of the neighborhood is The James NoMAD Hotel, the former Seville Hotel, on the corner of East 29th Street at 88 Madison Avenue. This interesting hotel has gone through several name changes and renovations since it was built in 1904. The hotel was designed by architect Harry Alan Jacobs in the Beaux Arts style and the annex to the hotel was designed by Charles T. Mott in 1906 (Wiki).
88 Madison Avenue-The James NoMAD Hotel (formerly The Seville)
The outdoor dining was open for the restaurant the first afternoon I had visited the neighborhood even though I thought it was a little cool to eat outside. Even though you can’t go inside unless you are a guest, I could see the holiday decorations and lights from the street and it looked very elegant inside.
Across the street from this elegant hotel is 95 Madison Avenue the former Emmett Building. The structure was designed by architects John Stewart Barney and Stockton B. Colt of Barney & Colt for Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet in 1912 when the area was a wholesale district. The building is designed in the French Neo-Renaissance with Gothic style ornamentation (New York Landmark Preservation Commission and Wiki).
95 Madison Avenue-The Emmet Building
Another building that had beautiful detail work carved into it is 160-164 Lexington Avenue at the corner of East 29th Street and Lexington Avenue, The Dove Street Marketplace, which offers floor after floor of high end goods.
The detail work is amazing on 160-164 Lexington Avenue-The Dove Street Market
The building has the most beautiful detail work on all sides. It was built in 1909 as the New York School for Applied Design for Women. It was designed by one of the school’s instructors, architect Wiley Corbett, to resemble a Greek Temple (Forgotten New York).
160-164 Lexington Avenue
Across the street from the Dover Street Market at 154 Lexington Avenue is the First Moravian Church. The building was started in 1849 and finished in 1852 at the Rose Hill Baptist Church designed in the Lombardian Romanesque style. In 1869, the church was sold to the First Moravian Church which had been located at Sixth Avenue and 34th Street (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The First Moravian Church at 154 Lexington Avenue was built in 1854
As I walked past both these elegant buildings, I was stuck by how quiet the neighborhood was that afternoon. There was no one else but myself walking around and there was very little road activity. As I rounded the corner to walk down East 30th Street (the border of the neighborhood with Koreatown and Midtown), not just how empty the sidewalks were but the there was barely any traffic for a weekday. The City has really quieted down since the holidays.
The only section of the neighborhood that still looked residential at this point was a small section of East 30th Street towards Lexington Avenue where some small townhouses and brownstones are located. Many of the doorways and railings were still decorated for the holidays and it did have that festive feel as it got darker and residents turned their lights on.
As I walked back down Madison Avenue and was able to take a full look of the buildings on both sides of the street, I was stuck by the beauty and elegance of the once ‘race to the skies’ by trying to build these buildings taller and taller with the advent of elevators. In their quest to the top, these architects never lost site that not only should a building be functional but have a detail in design that should make it distinct.
I decided to walk up the only Avenue that dissects the neighborhood which is Park Avenue and it was a very eerie trip from East 25th to East 30th. You could see the back section of most of the above buildings from their Madison Avenue homes but tucked here and there were closed hotels, restaurants and stores lined with for rent signs. The Royalton Hotel, Blue Smoke and Sarabeth’s Restaurant were just three of the well-known names that were either boarded up or had ‘for rent’ signs on their windows.
For dinner, I traveled back to the edge of Kips Bay to try Kips Bay Deli at 545 Second Avenue. This small little deli seems very popular with the locals and I have to say has the best sandwiches. I had an Italian hero sandwich ($8.95) that was loaded with cold cuts and fresh lettuce and tomatoes and just a splash of vinegar and oil. I ate it in the park watching the sun set. There is nothing better.
Kips Bay Deli at 545 Second Avenue
I had time that Sunday to complete walking the Streets of the neighborhood as well from East 30th to East 24th Streets. Because of the commercial nature of the area, most of the buildings stretch the entire block and you can see more of the details of the buildings on the side streets. Between Madison and Park, many newer buildings have gone up and the historic character of Madison Avenue changes.
Another scary point when walking around this part of Madison Avenue is how many businesses have closed. There are more ‘for rent’ signs on the side streets than I have seen in other neighborhoods. This has probably been a result of the closing of the office buildings in the neighborhood and the loss of foot traffic.
The result of the COVID pandemic and the lack of office workers working in the area is the result of parts of this neighborhood being a ghost town. Like walking in Times Square and the Theater District when I was in Manhattan for Christmas, these businesses are on hold until people start traveling and working in the area again. Being more commercial of a neighborhood, I could see the results of the lack of foot traffic and closed indoor dining.
The only standout I saw on the side streets was the building at 29 East 28th Street which looked like an old home tucked in between several new office buildings. The building was the former clubhouse of the Delta Psi Society fraternity. It was built in 1879 by reknown architect at the time James Renwick Jr. The building was built with cream colored brick and terra cotta details with a mansard roof. It was later renamed the St. Anthony’s Club in 1889. Today it is an apartment complex (Daytonian).
29 East 28th Street
Still when I got back to Madison Square Park, which runs from East 23rd to East 26th Streets. there was a lot of action in the playground with kids yelling and screaming and playing on the jungle gyms and swings while parents who looked cold talked amongst themselves.
When I walked into the park to take a break, it must have been the busiest section of the neighborhood between the playground and the original Shake Shack that were serving food to a crowd clung to their cellphones.
I stopped to look at the statue of our 21st President Chester A. Arthur, who had taken oath just two blocks away in his New York townhouse where the Kalustyan’s Specialty Foods is located at 123 Lexington Avenue. I thought about what was going on in our government today and what they must have gone through with this transition.
The Statue of Chester A. Arthur in Madison Square Park
The statue of our 21st President was designed by artist George Edwin Bissell and the pedestal by architect James Brown Lord.
George Edwin Bissell was an American born artist from Connecticut whose father was a quarry-man and marble carver. He studied sculpture abroad in Paris in the late 1870’s and was known for his historical sculptures of important figures of the time (Wiki).
Madison Square Park is an interesting little oasis from all the traffic and office space. It has an interesting history since it was designated a public space in 1686 by British Royal Governor Thomas Dongan. It has served as a potters field, an arsenal and a home for delinquents. In 1847, the space was leveled, landscaped and enclosed as a park. It became part of the New York Park system in 1870. There are many historical figures featured in the park (NYCParks.org).
The park today is a major meeting spot for residents and tourists alike with a dog track and the original Shake Shack restaurant.
Madison Square Park in the Summer months
As I left the neighborhood, I thought of what Rose Hill Farm had become and if its owners could see what it looked like today. I think they would flabbergasted by the growth and change and even into today with what the COVID era has done to the neighborhood currently.
Even I am shocked at the changed in barely a year and what a pandemic can do to a City. Still the Christmas tree in the park cheered me up.
The Madison Square Park Christmas tree was still up on my last visit
That evening to continue keeping Christmas going I visited the “Holiday Lights” event at the Bronx Zoo and spent the evening walk along the paths admiring the lights and displays. It gives me hope that the City has fallen somewhat but not totally out.
*Special Note: I wanted to give a special thanks to Wiki, StreetEasy, Daytonian and NYCParks.org for all the historical information and facts. There was so much to know and cover in this neighborhood).
When you think of the words ‘rural’ and ‘farmland’ these are not terms you hear a lot in Bergen County, NJ, one of the heaviest populated counties to surround New York City. Yet the county has a rich history in farming and agriculture from the late 1600’s up into the 1970’s when development pressures got too strong and most of what was left of the farms of the area got plowed over for development.
Early in our county’s history, the Dutch and then the English supplied much of the fruits and vegetables for the New York City markets. Much did not change until the suburban expansion after WWII and many strawberry, celery and potato farms were plowed under for shopping malls and housing developments. Since that time and with the help of the Right to Farm Act, The Open Space Act and Farmland Preservation of the State of New Jersey, it is helping many small farmers in the state preserve their land for agriculture.
“From Revolution to Renewal” our Historical Bergen County project
This is why in Bergen County we revere our farms and our agricultural past. Last semester when I taught Marketing at Bergen Community College, I had my students create an extensive project describing and promoting our Colonial Heritage and our agricultural past. This included promoting many of our remaining farms.
Our small farms in Bergen County do more than just provide fruits and vegetables for our tables. They are open air classrooms to our agricultural past, places to buy fresh produce and baked goods to support local family farm stores and for interesting special events and outings for families. During the holiday season, some of these farms have haunted hayrides, turkey pardons and visits from Santa all while selling Christmas trees and wreaths.
This lead me to explore many of the small farms that make up the fabric of Bergen County all while seeing how the owners are reinventing the way they do business with today’s consumer. How do we react with nature and the great outdoors? So I walked through farm stands and fields and across parking lots looking for our rural past in the year 2020.
I drove to Closter, NJ on my first stop to Old Schraalenburgh Farm and Farm Stand at 40 Old Hook Road and the Abram Demaree Homestead at 110 Schraalenburgh Road on the corner of Schraalenburgh Road. For years I had passed this farm and never gave it much thought until two summers ago I noticed the sign for the ‘farm burger’ and had to stop to see what it was all about. What a burger! (see my review on TripAdvisor).
Old Schraalenburgh Farm in the warmer months of Spring
I have since have had lunch here many times mostly when the weather is warmer. What I love about the Old Schraalenburgh Farm is that it is under the radar from most of the commercial farms in the county like Abma and Demarest farms which have all the family activities like hayrides and pumpkin and apple picking events. Old Schraalenburgh has a smaller restaurant and bakery and in the summer months tables outside to eat breakfast and lunch while admiring the fields of flowers and the barns and chicken coops.
What I love about their restaurant is the quality of the food here. The ‘Farm Burger’ which they tout so much is much worth the ride here. This juicy burger loaded with cheese and fresh vegetables and a mayo type sauce and is a mouthful in each bite. Bring your appetite because this burger is large! (see review on TripAdvisor).
The “Farm Burger” at the Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand restaurant
Their chicken pot pie is another lunch item I would recommend. They make them fresh here and bake them with a golden crust and when you let it cool is a mouthful of creamy sauce, hunks of chicken and fresh vegetables. You won’t need dinner after this entree.
I recently stopped at the Farm Cafe for breakfast after an appointment and their well known Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich ($5.95). It was amazing. The eggs used on the sandwich were fresh from their chicken coops and picked up daily. Topped with crisp bacon and American cheese on a toasted brioche bun it was heaven.
It was nice to just take my sandwich and eat it on one of the picnic tables overlooking the fields that were in the process of beginning to grow this seasons crops. On a sunny morning, there is nothing like this.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese here is excellent
For dessert though, even with the options of their fresh brownies and homemade ice cream, you have to try their freshly baked fruit pies and pie cookies. The chocolate and fruit filled pie cookies resemble small fruit filled deep dish pies and are a delight in every bite.
The blueberry pie cookies
The bakery also has something called “Burnt Cookies” (.50 cents) that are in jars near the register. I thought someone made a mistake and overcooked them. The woman at the counter said “Oh no. People like a crisper cookie.” I still say they were selling a mistake but they were really good! I had the sugar, chocolate chip and an oatmeal cookies and they were really crisp. To tell you how popular they are I dropped a piece at the chicken pen and the chickens and roosters got all excited and ran out of their pen to eat the piece that had fallen on the ground. That’s an endorsement.
During the summer months, it is fun to walk through the fields and admire all the beautiful rows of flowers growing and visiting the barn and chicken coops. During the holiday months, the store and restaurant were decorated for Christmas and were stocked with handmade gifts and artwork. The bakery section had a selection of meat and fruit pies for the holidays.
The bakery case at the farm
Walking across the street to the Abram Demaree Homestead and Farm across the street from the farm stand, the main house and barn were also decorated for the holidays. All the tables, counters and shelves were stock with all sorts of decorative objects, antiques, furniture and artwork. These treasures can decorate any home contemporary or historical.
The antiques and holiday decorations at the Abram Demaree Homestead
Off to the side of the main building, they were selling Christmas trees and holiday decorations for the home. The buildings with Christmas retro items and tree ornaments really put me into the holiday spirit. The homestead is fun to walk around in to see how our Colonial past played a part in the growth of Bergen County.
History of the Old Schraalenburgh Farm and the Abram Demaree Homestead:
In 1677, David Des Marest, a French Huguenot, purchased a large tract of land from the Tappan Native American tribe. This land passed from Dutch control to British rule and through the American Revolution, which produced an uncertain concept that became the United States.
In 1769, Abram Demaree, David Des Marest’s grandson, bought the house and ran it as a General Store and Tavern at the crossroads of one of the busiest intersections of colonial roads in Bergen County. His son, David, added to the house in 1809. The conjoined Demaree house along with a colonial Dutch-style barn, servants house and blacksmith shop form the original Abram Demaree Homestead (Farm History website).
The Abram Demaree Homestead in the Summer months
In the 1970’s, the house and property was falling apart and a group of citizens fought to get the homestead on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, the home and farm have been part of a non-profit, The Demaree Homestead & Farm, with all the proceeds going to restoring and maintaining the home and farm. The farm and farm stand cafe are open to the public and the profits go to maintenance of the property. The Farm Stand Cafe features in season items grown right on the farm (Farm History website).
Across Old Hook Road from the Demaree Homestead is their working farm, The Old Schraalenburg Farm, which has been continuously farmed since the 18th Century. Every Spring, the farm plants corn, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, apples, blueberries and pumpkins, among other fruits, vegetables and flowers (Farm History website).
Leaving the Old Schraalenburgh Farm, I headed down Old Hook Road on my way back to Westwood and stopped at the Old Hook Farm Stand for a look at their Christmas trees. The Old Hook Farm Stand is at 650 Old Hook Road in Emerson.
The Old Hook Farm at 650 Old Hook Road in the summer months
What I like about the Old Hook Farm is the selection of grocery products in their General store. They have an assortment of organic meats, dairy products, vegetables and baked goods that include delicious looking freshly baked pies, breads and cider doughnuts.
Their shelves are stocked with all sorts of jellies, jams and condiments along with dry and snack goods that are accented by antiques and farm paraphernalia. This gives the store a feel of a turn of the last century General store that used to dot the towns of rural Bergen County.
The Old Hook Farm grocery section of the General store
In the Spring and Summer, the greenhouse stocks all sorts of decorative plants, flowers and garden supplies and I am sure is better stocked in the summer months for lawn care and landscaping. In the Spring, the tables are stocked with all sorts of seedlings for gardens, decorative plants for the home and gardening supplies and landscaping decorations including stones and layerings.
During the holiday season, there were all sorts of wreaths, cemetery blankets and Christmas trees to choose from. The perfect assortment to ‘deck the halls’ for the holidays.
Like everyone else in the County, when I got there, there was only a few trees to choose from. They had sold out early in a year when everyone wanted a fresh tree. Still the atmosphere with the atmosphere of fresh pine and snow gave the farm that old fashioned ‘1970’s feel’ when I used to visit the farms in Bridgewater, NJ growing up. Things seemed a lot slower then and you could just relax and enjoy the sites and smells of a farm.
The Christmas trees were pretty much sold out when I visited
From a distance behind the greenhouse, you could see under the snow that had just fallen, the fields where the crops are grown in the warmer months. The old farmhouse on the property was decorated for Christmas as well and looked like a home out of a Currier & Ives print.
History of the Old Hook Farm:
The town of Emerson did not exist during the Native American origin. The name ‘Old Hook’ on the east side of the town came from the Dutch word ‘Hoek’ meaning ‘angle’ or ‘corner’. The angle of the land was created by the three connecting water ways, the Hackensack River, the Pascack Brook and the Musquapsink Brook. The first person to make their home here was William Rutan, who settled on a parcel of land just west of today’s ‘Old Hook Farm’ sometime around 1748 (Emerson Town History).
The current ‘Old Hook Farm’ was bought by current owner, Bruce Marek’s grandfather in 1925 as a weekend getaway. He rented the farm and the farm house to a local resident for 35 years and the family had a large garden on the property until about 1948. Then his father took over the land and cleared the fields and had Soil Conservation come in and do contours and started to grow in the greenhouse. When his father died in 1973, he took over the farm and within eight years, reopened the garden store and started to experiment and grow organic crops (Bruce Marek’s interview with ‘Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network’).
I next ventured to Hillsdale, NJ, two towns away to visit one of the most beloved farms in Bergen County, Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Road, right off the Garden State Parkway. I have been visiting the farm since the early 1970’s when I used to visit my family who lived just two blocks away. Back then it was just a small farm stand just outside the family homestead. In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
The Demarest Farm Store at 244 Werimus Road
The farm stand building is always a buzz with people coming and going. People buying sandwiches, soups, hot entree items and baked goods for lunch and dinner. There is a large selection of in season produce (which is a little pricer than most supermarkets) as well as jams and jellies. Where the market really shines is their bakery filled with cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and their well-known cider doughnuts. They also have great potato pancakes that taste good hot or cold (in the era of COVID the food has been toned back a little from the past).
Demarest Farm store carries an array of fruits and vegetables at all times of the year
The stand also has a nice garden section during the Spring and Summer seasons with everything you need for lawn care and for landscaping your home or decorating inside. During the Fall, there is all sorts of decorative items for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
During every season, Demarest Farms is always full of activities. During the Summer months (Pre-COVID), there was the big barbecues that the farm sponsored that got so popular that they had to have the police direct traffic into the complex. These ‘All You Can Eat” affairs were so much fun. It was like a throw back to the 1970’s when families used to dine out together in the Summer months. You could listen to a local band play while chomping on endless hot dogs, barbecue chicken, fresh corn on the cob, baked beans, salad and watermelon for dessert. There were also be chests of ice full of Coke, Sprite and Bottled waters (see reviews on TripAdvisor).
During the Fall months, there would be Hayrides through the orchards, Pumpkin and Apple Picking that are so popular you need a reservation and Haunted Halloween events that have people driving from all over Northern New Jersey to attend.
This Christmas, in the era of COVID, the farm really outdid itself ringing in the holiday season. The farm stand sold an array of Christmas trees, wreaths and cemetery blankets, all sorts of holiday treats in the store including cookies, pies and jams and jellies. There was also a nice selection of holiday decorations. By the last week before Christmas, most everything was sold out.
What I thought was fun and it was the first time the farm had done this was the “Holiday Light Show” through the Demarest Farm orchard which is across the street from the farm stand. This show was sold out every night for almost three weeks ending on January 3rd.
Demarest Farm Store decorated for Christmas
The tour started at the farm stand where you could buy S’ mores to roast at the fire pit next to the nursery ($6.50). I thought it was a little expensive for two graham crackers, two marshmellows and a small bar of chocolate but people scooped them up and were roasting away. There were also cut outs from the holidays to take pictures and there was a small light show of singing reindeer performing all the classic Christmas songs.
Then it was time to take the drive through the orchard. We started the tour at farm stand and then drove across the street to the family homestead which was ablaze with colorful lights on the house and the surrounding trees. I took a slow drive through the orchard carefully following the cars in front of me to keep pace.
The apple and pear trees were decorated with multi color lights, Santa’s and Snowmen winked and greeted you at every turn. The barns were decorated with white lights and there was a tunnel of flashing lights to greet you and exit from. All along the way I listened to the Classical music channel to enhance the mood of the trip. It may have only been a half an hour but it was mesmerizing trip through a fantasy land of lights that put me back into the Christmas spirit. Demarest farms seems to have that effect at the holidays.
The History of Demarest Farms:
The Demarest family has been present in the New York area since David DeMarest arrived to New Amsterdam in 1663. The current farm has been in the Demarest family from Bergen County since 1886. In the 1970’s, Peter Demarest and his wife, Marsha introduced the pick your own apples and pumpkin business and eventually added peaches to the mix.
In 1991, the family opened the current farm store on what had once been corn fields. The store today has evolved into a selection of fresh produce, prepared foods, baked goods, apple cider, jams and jellies and homemade crafts (Demarest Farm website).
In 2014, Peter Demarest decided to retire and the sold the farm stand and farm to longtime employees Jason DeGise and Jim Spollen. The farmland had been preserved under the Farmland Preservation Fund and by the Open Space Trust Fund. The 27 acres are to be preserved as farmland and can only be used for agriculture (NJ.com).
Demarest Farms put out this wonderful promotional video on the event
Leaving Demarest Farms, I headed north taking the turns on Route 17 and Route 208 and headed up to Wyckoff. My first stop was the Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road. The farm which once must have taken up much more area has been reduced down to a few acres with chicken coops and hatcheries and the farm store.
The parking lot was a mob scene of people trying to get in and out of the driveway and being directed by one man in a mask. When I finally was able to get out of my car and park, I asked him if they were giving money away. He just laughed and said, “I wish”. He quickly said to me it was busier at Thanksgiving and they had lines going down Goffle Road.
Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road
I just walked in the store to look around passing all the people in line who were waiting to pick up their pre-orders. The store is stocked with all things poultry with fresh eggs. whole roasters and butchered chicken parts. In the freezer there were crab cakes, chicken nuggets and chicken and turkey pot pies, all of which they are known for and sought out.
Here there are no hayrides or special events although they told me Santa had already visited the farm. Just high quality food and excellent service done by a staff that looked very over-whelmed at the holidays.
History of Goffle Road Poultry Farm:
The Goffle Road Poultry Farm has been a family owned and operated business for four generations. Joseph and Rose Silvestri came over from Italy in 1920 and started Belmont Poultry in Paterson, NJ in the 1930’s. In 1948, Joseph and Rose’s son, Dominic, started Goffle Road Poultry Farm of Wyckoff, NJ. To this day, the Goffle Road Poultry Farm is operated as a family owned business by the current owner and grandson, Joseph Silvestri and great grandson, Brian Silvestri. The family has found it hard to keep up with demand on such a small plot and is now partnering with Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who share the same standards of raising animals (Goffle Road Poultry Farm website).
My last stop on this journey was the largest farm of them all, Abma’s Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff, NJ. Abma’s is an impressive working farm with many greenhouses, large fields, a gift shop, nursery, and a farm store. They also have a large petting zoo to amuse children and adults alike.
The Abma Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff
I have to admit that I have only visited the farm in the cooler months and with COVID going on, the petting zoo was closed the day I was there and it looked like you needed a reservation to get in. The price is $3.00 unless you join their Barnyard Loyalty Program by accumulating 30 points from their farm store and nursery.
The greenhouses were pretty empty the afternoon I visited. What was left of wreaths and Christmas trees dotted the the nursery area. I am sure it was totally stocked with all sorts of items to decorate the house. There was still a nice assortment of wreaths to choose from and garland to decorate the banisters and hallways with for Christmas. The Christmas tree selection was down to about ten trees and they were very sad looking. Being right before Christmas, the selection was limited.
In the Summer months, the greenhouses were full of flowers and decorative plants and the fields are ablaze with colors. It will be about four months before we see that again but Spring is not that far away.
The farm store was buzzing with people and it was hard to find a parking spot after the snow storm we had just had. Some of the drifts made parking tough but there was someone in the lot who made it easy to park.
The farm store at Abma Farm is full of fresh vegetables and fruits, a whole selection of bakery products including cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and cider doughnuts. The prepared food section has all sorts of salads and sandwiches available and there is a selection of soups. There are also crafts available for sale.
The Abma Farm Store stocked with delicious foods
Though some of the special events on the farm have been cancelled because of COVID, they did have a socially distanced “Story with Santa” program and “You Pick” events for strawberries, potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes during the different seasons. Events like pony rides and Easter themed events have been put on hold for the time.
What I really enjoy about visiting Abma Farm is just walking around the farm itself. I was able to walk through some of the greenhouses and see the trees and decorative items, look at the vast field and can’t wait to return in the Spring when we can see the fields of growing produce and greenhouses full of flowers and plants.
The History of Abma Farm:
First generation of the family, Barney Abma, was born on April 25th, 1901. He came to America for the first time in 1917 when he was 17 years old searching for a new beginning. After spending a few years out west, then a short stay in Pennsylvania, he went back to Holland to marry. Barney and his new wife, Anna, settled in Wyckoff at the present location of Abma’s Farm in the late 1920’s (Abma Farm History website).
The couple began working for the ‘Yeoman Farm’ and rented out part of the original farmhouse from owner, Daniel Yeoman. The farm was next passed on to Mr. and Mrs. George Fox (nee Yeoman). Barney Abma bought the farm from the couple in 1932 for $6,000. Part of the 50 acre farm was sold off and it is now the current 32 acre farm that it is today (Abma Farm History website).
The farm is now under the ownership of the forth and fifth generations of the Abma family under Barney and Anna’s son, James and his family.
I love this video on the family and about the farm.
There are also a few smaller farms in the County I was not able to visit before they closed for the season. Also most farm stands have closed for the Winter so there will be a lot to visit in the warmer months.
Still the holidays at the farms in Bergen County, NJ have a special place in our lives and have become part of the traditions of many families.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and look forward to updates in the Spring!
Spring and Summer of 2021:
As the weather has gotten warmer, I have been revisiting the farms that were closed right after the holidays . As the warmer months have come upon us, April has ushered in warmer weather and the bounty of Spring has arrived. The greenhouses are starting to fill with plants and shrubs and the farm stands.
I made my first trip to Stokes Farm at 23 DeWolf Road in Old Tappan, NJ. The farm stand has just opened since it has closed up shop right after Christmas. The shelves of the farm were starting to fill with fresh produce from the warmer states and there were all sorts of colorful fruits and vegetables.
The farm stand also has a bakery that has pies, cookies and cider doughnuts. The problem is that because of COVID all the items were prepackaged in large packages and you could not buy individual pieces. The woman at the counter said things will go back to normal business once all of this passes.
The Stokes Farm Stand in Old Tappan, NJ
Still the refrigerator cases are lined with fresh eggs, Amish butter, honey and cheese from the Amish Country in Pennsylvania and the shelves are full of jellies, jams, salsas and pickles that are made for the farm. The farmstand is just opening and there will be more to come as we move into the warmer months.
I made my way out to the greenhouse in the back where plants are being grown for planting and for decorating the house. Most of the plants are still so small but as May and June arrive, these greenhouses will burst of all sorts of plants.
Though the part of the farm that you can visit is small, you can see that the farm is lined with greenhouses going back many acres and next to the stand is a farmhouse that was built in 1890. It is nice to just walk around and enjoy the fresh air at the farm.
The History of Stokes Farm:
In 1873, Isaiah Stokes headed out on a ship to America from his home in England. When he arrived, he purchased 40 acres of land in Old Tappan, NJ where he started a farm. He thought this would be a good location for selling produce, as Old Tappan is very close to New York City, as well as many established towns along the Hudson River.
His products included chickens, eggs, milk, hay, asparagus, beets and other assorted vegetables. As time went on, his son, Joseph Stokes took over the farming. The Stokes family continued sowing and growing into the early 1900’s. Joseph Stokes and his wife, Anna, worked very hard and soon developed a produce route through Piermont, Nyack and points further north along the river. They were one of the first farms to have a truck in the area when farms were still powered by men and horses.
Joseph Stokes had one child, Madeline, who married Ernie Binaghi in 1927. Madeline ran the farm and Ernie was a carpenter. The farm carried on through WWII. Madeline and Ernie had one child, Ronald, who after dropping out of NYU Music School in the early 1950’s , came home to help out with the chores. Ron married Jean and she moved into the farmhouse to become a farmer too.
In 1955, they opened a roadside farm stand, which was a four post open air shed. The stand did well, selling from the five acres of strawberries, five acres of tomatoes, in addition to peppers, eggplant and asparagus. As the years went on, Ron and Jean started selling produce at the Paterson Farmers Market. It was here that a farmer could sell his produce directly to the consumer or to wholesalers. The farm stand was rebuilt in 1966.
In the early 1970’s, the energy crunch started and the farm stand began to flounder. It was then that Bob Lewis came to visit Ron and Jean with a proposal. He asked them to participate in the first NYC Greenmarket at 59th and Second Avenue. So in 1976, Ron and his sixteen year old son, Ron Jr. ventured into the big city. Their lives changed that day. After the people bought everything on the truck, Ron Sr. was heard to say, “Is there a famine in this City?” Ron Jr., then sixteen started selling produce at the now famous Union Square market on 17th Street and it seemed that this type of market suited the farm quite well. Greenhouses were built in the 1980’s and the bedding plant business started to thrive.
High tech growing coupled with practical family values, helped the farm to grow steadily into the 1990’s. Ron Jr. and his wife, Jeanine, took over the day to day operations of the farm and the Greenmarket stands, while Ron Sr. and Jean continued to run the farm stand.
In 2000, Ron Jr. was named “Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year” for the State of New Jersey. This award is given to a farmer who has made his farm better over the years and also is active in his community. Ron went to Indiana to the national competition, where he placed fifth in the nation.
Ron Binaghi Jr. at Stokes Farm in Old Tappan, NJ
Today the farm is seventeen acres with 40,000 square feet of greenhouses. It is the goal of the farm to grow the best possible product to keep the customers healthy and happy and to keep the land as a farm for future generations.
(Stokes Farm website)
Another farm that I missed during the holiday season was Depiero’s Farm at 156 Summit Avenue in Montvale, NJ. I have been coming to Depiero’s Farm for years at the old farmstand where the current Wegmans Supermarket and mall now stands. Here used to be the large farm stand building that had everything from produce and baked goods to arts and crafts items and gardening equipment. That was torn down in the early 2000’s. I thought that they had closed for business until I rediscovered it again.
Depiero’s Farm Stand at 156 Summit Avenue
When I visited recently, I asked the woman who was working the counter about the history of the farm. She said that she had worked for the Depiero family for years and told me that this was the original farm stand until the family built the larger one down the road. When that was torn down to make way for the market strip mall, they moved the operations back to the original stand on the original farmland. I thought that was interesting.
The original farmstand building is currently being renovated and expanded. The tables around the store are ladened currently with fresh produce from the Hunts Market (until the summer when local produce will be offered), there is a small bakery area with fresh pies ($18.00-$20.00), fresh pickles and peanut butter from the Amish Country. The shelves are lined with honey and fresh jellies that are made for the farm.
Outside the farmstand, there is a large greenhouse with rows of tables lined with all sorts of flowering plants and small vegetable plants growing. The larger greenhouse is surrounded by smaller greenhouses growing more plants. It is a large operation.
What amazes me is how the farm has survived with all the suburban sprawl surrounding it. On land that was once the farm, all sorts of new condos are going up, the second farmstand is now a mall and office buildings surround the whole small patch of farm.
The History of DePiero’s Farm:
The DePiero Farm has been an owned and operated farm since 1924. The original farm was about 250 acres that stretched from Montvale, NY to New Paltz, NY. In 1987, the opened the original farm store that was popular for years. That facility closed in 2015 and has since been replaced with a new shopping complex anchored by a Wegmans.
The family has since reopened the original farmstand which is farmed on limited basis where they sell farm products, baked goods and Christmas items like wreaths and Christmas trees.
(NJ.com-Myles Mia 2015-“Longtime Montvale Farm closes its doors”)
My last farm that I did not have a chance to visit during the Christmas holidays but had opened on April 1st was Secor Farms at 85 Airmont Avenue in Mahwah, NJ. I would consider Secor Farms more like a giant nursery. Both on the outside and inside the greenhouses, you can walk around rows of flowers, decorative plants and seedlings for the vegetable gardens. The greenhouses are fun to walk in as you can see plantings at different stages of growth. It will be interesting to come back towards the summer to see how many of these plants progress to full form.
Secor Farms greenhouse is laden with flowers and plants
There is also a small shop to make your purchases. Here they sell gardening supplies, decorative objects for the home, hand creams and soaps, honey and candies and their homemade cider doughnuts that are unfortunately only packaged in bags of six ($5.95). Still they smell so good and the girl working the counter said that they are made fresh daily. I could see by the signs when the fresh produce starts to come in during the summer and fall that they sell this in the gift shop as well.
Outside the gift shop, the parking lot is laden with bags of mulch and soil for garden beds awaiting their Spring cleaning. The lot is well stocked as we are just starting the gardening season.
Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
All of these farms in Bergen County, NJ have their own attributes so try to visit them all when you are visiting the area.
The History of Secor Farms:
Begun by Darryl Secor’s great grandfather when he moved to the area from Paterson nearly 80 years ago, the farm originally consisted of 50 acres in Upper Saddle River. In 1973, the family expanded into Mahwah.
Secor Farms not only has been a famous landmark passed down through three generations: The Secors themselves have been extremely active in supporting the town (Mahwah-Ramsey Daily Voice 2017).
Fall at Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
Farms to Visit:
Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand and Abram Demaree Homestead
177 Schraalenburgh Road
Closter, NJ 07624
Open: Farm Stand Cafe: Wednesday-Friday 11:00am-5:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm
As the warmer days of the Fall are coming to a close, the Christmas decorations are starting to come out and I can see that the City is really gearing up for the holidays. The office buildings and stores decorated far earlier than they normally do. It is like Thanksgiving is just a way station for Christmas once Halloween was over. Halloween was a bigger deal this year but the activities had to be done on a smaller scale with less people. That still did not prevent groups of people from running around that night and the COVID situation has gotten worse. Even New York and New Jersey are bracing to see what the results of Thanksgiving and Christmas will be in the upcoming weeks.
I noticed this as I continued to walk Kips Bay on this sunny Thursday afternoon. The City seemed much more quiet as the cooler weather was upon us. I was surprised that the City was so empty since the beginning of December. When it had been warmer in November there were more people around. I also noticed how clean the streets were that day. I mean really clean. I had never seen them like this.
I had started my day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is the one museum that I have been visiting a lot since the museums opened back up since June. I went into the museum to see the “About Time: Fashion and Duration” which was extremely popular and had long lines when it first opened and I revisited the “Making of the Met-150 year Anniversary”. I had gone on a quiet day during the mid-week so there were no lines to get in.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue
This was the third time I had seen the “Making of the Met” exhibition and everytime I see it, I either learn something new or see something in a different light. This shows you the complexity and the size of these exhibitions in that you continue to notice new aspects of the exhibition.
“Making of the Met” exhibition
The “About Time” exhibition compared fashions through the ages with contemporary fashion of recent years and the exhibit showed me how much fashion does not change or comes back into style over time. Most of the displays showed “black on black” fashions where all the clothes comparisons were in black. A lot of morning clothes. It was an interesting way to look at fashion.
“About Time” exhibition
It boggled my mind how quiet the museum was that afternoon so close to Christmas. The Christmas tree was up in but it had been moved from the Medieval Galleries to Petrie Court section of the museum where there would be more ‘social distancing”. It was a better move safety/health wise but did not have the same effect. I thought we were lucky that the Met is still open as museums around the country are closing fast.
The Christmas Tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in its usual home in the Medieval Galleries
After I visited the museum, I walked around the Upper East Side neighborhood for a bit and realized how much was changing here too. Some old time buildings have come down to be replaced by more luxury condos/co-ops. Many small businesses were gone and there was a lot of empty retail space even before the pandemic. I will have to revisit these neighborhoods in the future to see the changes. For now, there was a lot of decorating going on for the holidays and that put me in the Christmas spirit.
I took the Number 6 subway back downtown to Park Avenue and East 34th Street and started my walk again of the Streets of Kips Bay. I was lucky that the weather broke and it was a crisp but sunny day and a real pleasure to walk around the neighborhood. It is amazing the transformation that the neighborhood is still making before my eyes. So many buildings are coming down or being renovated. Closer to the First Avenue my thoughts were that this was accommodating the expansion of the hospital complex and the colleges.
I started my journey on East 33rd Street walking from Lexington Avenue to as far on FDR Drive as I could go. By First Avenue, either the NYU Langone or Bellevue Hospital complexes will stop you from walking any further to FDR Drive and the East River. That complex of hospitals pretty much stretches the neighborhood from East 34th to East 23rd Streets. If you want to tour the river, you would have to walk along the ‘East River Greenway’ walkway.
East 33rd Street has a lot of charms and transitions to it. As I had discussed in many of my blogs on my walks on the East Side of Manhattan Island, most of these neighborhoods are being knocked down and rebuilt with office buildings sharing the borders with Midtown and between Third Avenue and First Avenue you will see the traces of “Old New York” with the brownstones and low rise commercial buildings on the side streets.
Even in Kips Bay like the lower parts of Murray Hill, First and Second Avenues are making way for bigger buildings and the character of these neighborhoods are changing. Here and there are those ‘little gems” tucked on side streets and in between buildings that you will have to walk past to really appreciate what Kips Bay has to offer.
I started my walk on Seventh Avenue and West 34th Street at the giant Macy’s Herald Square store. After five years at working at this store in the early 90’s, it is still home to me. I wanted to see the Christmas decorations at the store. First I started with another old Macy’s tradition, having breakfast at Al’s Deli at 458 Seventh Avenue. I had not eaten here in almost twenty-five years. I needed a breakfast sandwich to start the day of walking.
Al’s Deli & Catering at 458 Seventh Avenue
I had one of Al’s Sausage and Egg sandwich’s on a roll. There was nothing like it on a cool morning. Two soft scrambled eggs with a spicy sausage patty on a fresh hard roll. Each bite was like heaven with the complexity of flavors warming me up inside. Nothing had changed in twenty-five years. Even the price at $3.00 had not changed much.
I then cut through Macy’s Herald Square to look over the Christmas decorations and admire the displays. Things had been toned down in the store for various reasons but it was still elegantly decorated for the holidays and people were shopping in the store. That’s the one thing about Macy’s. People do still shop there and bags do leave the store.
Macy’s Herald Square decorated main floor
“Santaland” on the Eighth floor was closed because of COVID but the giant Christmas department on the Ninth Floor was decorated to the hilt. After I toured the store and admired the decorations and display windows, I walked down West 34th Street to Lexington Avenue and started my walk along the streets of Kips Bay at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 33rd Street. It really is an interesting neighborhood.
The Streets of Kips Bay like Murray Hill is a combination of residential and commercial buildings with the more historical buildings being closer to the Midtown border and whats left of the tenement housing closer to First Avenue near the hospital complex.
On the corner of East 33rd Street and Third Avenue there is an interesting mural by street artist Smufo of the customers at the Stickey’s Chicken Joint that faces Third Avenue. The mural must have been commissioned by the restaurant and I thought was very clever.
Smurfo is an American born, native New Yorker from Brooklyn who works out of his hometown borough and specializes in ‘street art’. His vibrant colorful art is not just featured on the streets of New York but in independent galleries as well.
While walking around this part of Kips Bay, I was noticing what I had discovered when I was walking the Avenues and Border of the neighborhood, that the urban renewal project of the late 50’s and early 60’s really did change the complexity of this neighborhood. The side streets between parts of Third Avenue and the blocks between Second and First still have that small brownstone charm to them. After that, most of the blocks are changing fast with new office towers and hospital and school extensions.
Tucked into the block between Second and First Avenues at 242 East 33rd Street between two brick apartment buildings is a unique little brownstone with a sunken stairs and a small court yard that shows how different the neighborhood must have been in the early 1900’s as the home was built in 1901. With its small garden and flower potted line stairs, it shows such character.
242 East 33rd Street earlier in the year
Heading back to Lexington Avenue, I also passed P.S. 116, the Mary Lindley Murray School named after the prominent Murray family member who stopped the British troops in their tracks with song, entertainment and pleasantries while the Patriot forces escaped (Murray Hill Neighborhood Association and Wiki).
Mary Lindley Murray entertaining the British troops at her home
The elementary school that bears her name has quite a good reputation with parents and the neighborhood. It is a progressive elementary school with good test scores and advancement for children. The school also has a strong PTA and the parents seem to care at the school.
As I made my way back down the street, I noticed how quiet the block was that afternoon. The school must be closed for now since the increases of COVID in the City. Usually you would see lots of children running around and yelling and screaming in the playground but there was no one around.
East 32nd Street was almost similar but the neighborhood starts to change with the large Kips Bay Tower complex that was built during the urban renewal changing the configuration of the area. The classic look of this section of the City especially between Third and Second Avenue starts to change.
Kips Bay Towers was part of the 1950’s Urban Renewal project
Those small tenement buildings start to end by Second Avenue. One unique building does stand out is an old brownstone that sits alone in the back of the playground like a lost sole. It looks like what was previously an old mansion when the neighborhood was once fashionable. With its beautiful detail work, it stands out amongst the plainer buildings.
One unique feature of East 31st Street once I rounded the corner was the painting of the logo of the now closed Vino Tapa at 201 East 31st Street. The restaurant had been opened for outdoor dining when I first started to walk the neighborhood and was going strong but by my second trip the restaurant had shut its doors during the pandemic. It’s logo sits proud on the wall near the entrance.
The Vino Tapa Logo outside the restaurant at 201 East 31st Street
The standouts on both East 31st and East 30th Streets are the brownstones and tenement buildings that sit between Second and Third Avenues. Many people decorated their homes early for the holidays and all the wreaths and garland with lights on coming on in twilight really put you in the festive spirit.
Another building that had beautiful detail work carved into it is 160-164 Lexington Avenue, The Dove Street Marketplace, which offers floor after floor of high end goods. This building sits on the corner of East 30th and Lexington Avenue.
The detail work is amazing on 160-164 Lexington Avenue-The Dove Street Market
The building has the most beautiful detail work on all sides. It was built in 1909 as the New York School for Applied Design for Women. It was designed by one of the school’s instructors, architect Wiley Corbett, to resemble a Greek Temple (Forgotten New York).
Across the street from the Dover Street Market at 154 Lexington Avenue is the First Moravian Church. The building was started in 1849 and finished in 1852 at the Rose Hill Baptist Church designed in the Lombardian Romanesque style. In 1869, the church was sold to the First Moravian Church which had been located at Sixth Avenue and 34th Street (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The First Moravian Church at 154 Lexington Avenue was built in 1854
When I rounded the corner again down Lexington Avenue at East 29th Street, I found myself back in “Curry Hill” and all the wonderful South Asian restaurants and stores. I ate at Curry Express at 130 East 29th Street for a late lunch. They kept advertising a lunch special for $6.99 for lamb kebobs and Naan Bread and it sounded really good.
The food was really good but the only problem was that they microwaved the kebobs and that made them a little hard. Still they had a nice garlicy taste to them with a combination of ground lamb and spices. The naan bread was freshly baked and very good (see review on TripAdvisor). What really stood out at lunch was the Chicken Patties that they had. They are delicious. Ground spicy chicken wrapped in a flaky pastry. They make a great snack while walking around.
Curry Express at 130 East 29th Street
The one thing I enjoyed about the restaurant is that the customers with me were not boring. They were an interesting bunch of characters that reminded me of why Manhattan and New York City in general was so interesting. They dressed usually, made the strangest comments to the owners and complained about nothing.
Walking back through East 29th, you will see impressive wooden home at 203 East 29th Street which is one of the oldest homes in the City. The house sits on what was once the “Rose Hill Farm” that dated back to 1747 (The Rose Hill section of Manhattan overlaps between Third and Lexington Avenues with Kip’s Bay). The house itself is not part of the original estate but must have been moved to this location when the street grid was laid out in the mid-1800’s. The house is said to have been built around 1790 (Wiki & Manhattan Sideways).
203 East 29th Street is one of the oldest houses in Manhattan
I also journeyed into Vincent Albano Jr. Playground again. I was able to relax on the benches while I was watching a few of the neighborhood kids play in the playground. I guess the parents needed to get out of the apartments as well during the week. This small park has an interesting history.
The Vincent F. Albano Jr. Playground at 523 Second Avenue is tucked into a corner of Second Avenue and East 39th Street. This quaint little park is full a charm with a small playground and shade trees all around it.
Vincent F. Albano Playground at 523 Second Avenue
The park was designed by architect M. Paul Friedberg in the late 1960’s and has gone through several renovations since that time. The park was named after Vincent F. Albano, a Republican district leader who lived in the neighborhood until his passing in 1981. He helped preserve the park when the neighborhood was going through all the construction changes (NYCParks.org).
On my three trips to Kip’s Bay, I was able to see the park at different times of the seasons, with the last stages of the warmer months giving way to the holiday season. The park has its own Friends organization so the park is well maintained and very popular with the residents.
When walking towards First Avenue, you will run into the historical and massive Bellevue Hospital complex. The side streets between East 30th and 26th Streets is pretty much monitored by the security of the hospital and there is not much to see. On East 30th Street where the Men’s Shelter is located there is a lot of people walking around at all hours of the day.
The Bellevue Hospital complex runs from East 30th to 25th Street
As I rounded the corner to East 28th Street, I noticed how dark it was getting and I decided to stop for my first day. It is hard to walk the streets of the neighborhood when you can’t see much. Since it was getting dark, I stopped at a unique clothing store whose display windows captured my attention, Vintage India at 132 Lexington Avenue.
Vintage India at 132 Lexington Avenue
Vintage India is a clothing store that carries all sorts of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories. There are many traditional clothing choices both vintage and modern and there are some contemporary outfits with a British influence. The men’s clothing selection has some colorful jackets with interesting designs and patterns. The jewelry selection for weddings is extensive and I love the designs of the items.
Vintage India has an amazing selection
I started walking Kip’s Bay again about a week later after I had given my last quiz and the last two research papers for my class were distributed out to the students.I had some time to break away from school and it was nice to just wonder the streets of New York again.
I started where I had left off at the corner of East 28th Street and Lexington Avenue admiring the windows of Vintage India again. The store is pretty amazing and it is worth the visit to see the beautifully designed clothes.
Walking East 28th Street is a neighborhood again in transition by the time you reach Second Avenue. The big Kip’s Bay Court complex dissects the street from old tenement housing to the glossy new complex. The one attribute is Bellevue Park South that is hidden away in the middle of the complex. By this point all the leaves were gone and the park seemed pretty barren with not that many people in the park. There were a few playing basketball but outside that not much action.
The large Kips Bay Court complex at 490 Second Avenue, that stretches from East 26th to East 29th Streets and when you walk through the complex you will find the oasis of Bellevue South Park. As Fall was progressing, the park was ablaze with what was left of the gold and reds of the leaves of the trees that surrounding the park.
Kips Bay Court Apartments stretch from East 26th to East 29th Streets on the east side of Second Avenue
Bellevue South Park is a nice break for all the people working in the area and for people living in the apartment complex. The park was created in 1966 when this whole part of the neighborhood went through urban renewal in the 1950’s that ran from East 23rd to East 30th between First and Second Avenue. The park is full of playground equipment and long paths and has some interesting artwork.
Bellevue South Park
What really caught my eye when walking around the park was the sculpture “Scagerrak” by artist Antoni Milkowski. The three interlocking steel blocks was created by the artist for the park in 1970.
‘Scagerrak’ by Antoni Milkowski
Artist Antoni Milkowski
Mr. Milkowski is an American born artist from Illinois but moved to New York City as a child and is a graduate of Kenyon College and Hunter College in New York. He started to get involved with art in the early 1960’s and started to create contemporary pieces. The work was donated to the Parks system through the Association for a Better New York whose goal it was to enliven parts of the City. The work moved around until places in Bellevue South Park in the mid-1970’s (NYCParks.org).
Walking back through the neighborhood a few unique buildings stood out. The brick apartment between 218-225 East 28th Street was built around 1900 (Daytonian/Cityrealty.com) and has faces staring back at you in all directions with a beautiful geometric looking cornice. You have to walk on the other side of East 28th Street to admire its beauty.
219-225 East 28th Street detail work
Another interesting building is The Epiphany School at 141 East 28th Street. The building dates back to 1888 and the new building was built in 1902 by architect Elliott Lynch in the Beaux-Arts style (Daytonian). You have to walk on the opposite side of the street to admire the true beauty of the stone carvings and the multi layer designs. I wondered if the students that go to the school ever stop to admire it.
The Epiphany School at 141 East 28th Street
Turning the corner at East 27th Street the architecture on this block starts to get interesting so remember to look up and around or you might miss something. The first building that stands out is the brick building at 218-222 East 27th Street with its faces that follow you and their devilish looks.
218-222 East 27th Street
I am not sure if the architect was trying to scare the residents at 218 East 27th Street
I was struck by the sculpture on the corner of East 27th Street in the courtyard across from Bellevue Hospital. Here is the sculpture “Sentinel” by artist Theodore Roszak. It was designed and dedicated to all people involved in public health. The sculpture is somewhat hidden now under scaffolding during a current renovation of the building next to it.
Mr. Roszak was an Polish born American artist who grew up in the Polish section of Chicago. He was mostly self-taught. He studied both at the Chicago Art Institute and in Europe. He created this sculpture in 1968 and it studied the struggle between man and nature (Art@Site).
Another interesting piece of architecture is the original Bellevue Hospital Building that now has the new entrance of the hospital surrounding the original building. You can try to sneak in to the hospital but there are guards all over the entrance. I was able to walk in during one of their breaks and see the lobby. It once had a beautiful entrance but modern architecture has taken over. Take some time to see this interesting stonework and carvings.
The original Bellevue Hospital entrance by McKim, Mead &White
The original building which was designed by architects McKim, Mead & White in 1930 housed the oldest continuous public hospital in the United States founded in 1794. The hospital was built on the original Belle Vue farm (thus its name) and today is one of the most innovative hospitals in the world. It still have the stigma though of being a “nut house” when it is far more doing so much innovative work in medicine (Bellevue Hospital History).
The original Bellevue Hospital built by McKim, Mead & White in 1930
The new entrance to the Bellevue Hospital Center Ambulatory Center by architect firm Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners designed between 2000-2005
On the way back down street, I passed the Gem Saloon again on the corner of Third Avenue at 375-377 Third Avenue. These buildings were built in 1910 and was once the old Rodeo Bar that had been a staple in the neighborhood for 27 years. The restaurant was still offering outdoor dining even though it was getting cool out.
I stopped by La Delice Pastry Shop at 372 Third Avenue again. There is a reason why this bakery has been around since 1935 is the consistency of their baked goods. I got a black and white cookie and munched on it on the way back to Lexington Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor).
La Delice Pastry Shop at 372 Third Avenue has been there since 1935
I was getting tired when walking down East 26th Street and had to stop in Bellevue South Park again. This time of the afternoon there were more people in the park, sitting on the benches talking and there were a few people walking their dogs around the park. It really is a nice place to relax and just people watch.
I was tempted to stop at Tipsy Scoop at 217 East 26th Street for alcohol infused ice cream sandwiches so I stopped on another visit to Kips Bay to try it (see review on TripAdvisor). I had one of their Confetti Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches ($7.00), which were two rather large Confetti Cookies with Cake Batter Vodka Martini Ice Cream in the middle. I did not get much of a buzz but felt it later.
Booze infused ice cream at Tipsy Scoop at 217 East 26th Street
When I got to First Avenue again it was tough to walk the side streets between First Avenue and FDR Drive because they were either closed off access or loaded with security so I had to walk around them. There is not much to see on these side streets.
On the way back I passed 226-228 East 26th Street and noticed more faces staring back at me. This building was constructed in 1900 and you have to look up at the detail work to appreciate all the stonework and multiple looks you get from the carvings.
226-228 East 26th Street stares back at you
Walking by the glassed in hospital entrance, the building was really busy that afternoon. People were milling around the lobby and rushing off to where they had to rush off too. I decided to stop staring in the lobby as I could tell that security was watching the tall guy with the tinted glasses.
By East 26th Street, I passed “Little India” and was in front of the 69th Regiment Building at 68th Lexington Avenue. This beautiful building is the home to the New York Army National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, known as the “Fighting Irish” since the Civil War (Wiki).
69th Regiment Building at 68 Lexington Avenue
The building was designed by architects Hunt & Hunt in the Beaux Arts style and was completed in 1906. It has been home to many events and show including the controversial 1913 Armory Show of contemporary art (Wiki). You really have to walk around the building to admire its beauty and history.
As I rounded Lexington Avenue towards East 25th Street, I stopped off to the side to admire the mural of artist Yuki Abe “Urban Ocean”, a colorful painting that sits on the wall opposite next to the entrance of Jenna Optical at 50 Lexington. The colorful portrait has a whimsical look to it.
As I walked along the blocks on East 25th and East 24th Streets I noticed a distinct change in the neighborhood getting closer to the commercial district of East 23rd Street. Baruch College which is part of the CUNY system is starting to take over this section of the street and NYU is building up their campus closer to First Avenue. The older buildings of the area are giving way to modern glassy administration and classroom space for the college.
The one stand out on East 25th Street will have even more faces staring at you at 208-214 East 25th Street. Between the glaring looks and the mansard roof on part of the building it gives it almost an eerie look to it. Even though it has a Victorian look to it the building was constructed in 1930 (Realty.com).
208-214 East 25th Street also looks back at you
I took another walk through the Asser Levy Park watching the few people working out on the track. The park was pretty much empty and closed at this time of the day.
Asser Levy Park tract on East 25th Street
The Baths and Park was named for Asser Levy, a Jewish trailblazer in colonial times when Mr. Levy and 23 Jews fled from Brazil in 1654 to seek refuge in New Amsterdam. He challenged Governor Peter Stuyvesant when he tried to evict the Jews from the colony. He was the first Jew to serve in the militia and own property in the colony (NYCParks.org).
The street art is also interesting on this part of Lexington Avenue. One the corner of East 24th Street & Lexington Avenue is the Friends House New York, a housing unit. Painted on the wall is a very unique painting by Italian street artist, Jacopo Ceccarelli.
Painting by artist Jacopo Ceccarelli
The mural is on the corner of East 24th & Lexington Avenue-The St. Francis Residence Building
The Milan born street artist, who goes by the name “Never 2501” hones his skills after moving to San Paolo, painting murals with an edge that got global recognition. He uses geometric forms in his work with circles and lines creating the abstract(Do Art Foundation).
I ended my walk reaching the new Student Plaza being constructed at Baruch College and relaxing in a small park by the East Midtown Housing complex that sits between East 23rd and East 24th Street between Second and First Avenues. On a cool winter evening there were only a few residents milling around but it is a nice place to relax and catch you breath.
I can only imagine the area is like when school is in session and the place is swarming with college students but for now the few CUNY and NYU students who are walking around get to where they are going with masks on as the campus building look shut for the semester.
The future “Baruch College Clivner-Field Student Plaza at East 25th Street off Lexington Avenue
The afternoon ended with lunch and a much needed break at Awesum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street. It was one of the last times I was able to eat inside a restaurant before the City shut indoor dining down again due to COVID in early December 2020.
I had their Fried Rice Dumplings and their Roast Pork Buns with a Coke and that was more than enough after a long walk. The food was excellent as usual (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). The restaurant has been my new ‘go to’ place since visiting this neighborhood and Murray Hill and will probably carry on into exploring “Rose Hill” and “Gramercy Park”.
Awesum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street
The restaurant has also been discovered by the Baruch and NYU students who were dining both inside and outside on the cool but crisp evening. Nothing stopped anyone from having their Dim Sum.
The Baked Roast Pork Buns here have a sweet dough when you bite into them
After having to fight off everyone in the restaurant for a seat “socially distanced” I ended my evening with a much needed back massage in Chinatown. (I will discuss the fact the Chinatown looks like a ‘ghost town’ now with its blocks of ‘for rent’ buildings and empty restaurants in a later walk. I don’t want to have to describe how bad things have gotten down here.)
All the selling of Christmas trees, yard work and snow shoveling did a number on my back and I needed an hour of work of them pulling and pushing into my lower back to get it back to normal. It would take two weeks for it to heal.
I stopped in Little Italy to end the evening for a couple of slices of pizza at Manero’s Pizza at 113 Mulberry Street. The pizza here is amazing (see review on TripAdvisor) being crisp on the outside and on the crust and the most delicious tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella. The pizza here is like heaven.
Manero’s Pizza at 113 Mulberry Street
A nice way to spend a few days before Christmas!
Please enjoy my blog on ‘Walking the Borders of Kips Bay’ on MywalkinManhattan.com:
In keeping with a long time tradition of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and in the era of COVID, we decided to run our Annual “Santa Around Town”. This has been held every Sunday before Christmas for over twenty years. It is one of the biggest outreaches to the town of goodwill that the Department holds each year.
The event started much earlier than in previous years and we gathered for breakfast and set up at 9:00am and started the event at 10:00am. This was a much bigger ride that in previous rides as for years before when we stopped in about twenty locations all over town, handing out candy canes and Santa greeting people.
Because of COVID, we decided to take Santa on a longer trip to every street in Hasbrouck Heights, up and down roads and avenues, greeting families from their doorways and front yards, watching excited children jump up and down. So many families greeted us on their front porches, at the front doors and windows. They were in their yards waving and cheering us. So many children were so happy to see Santa as were their parents. This really was the year that we all needed to believe in Santa.
We passed houses that were decorated to the extreme with residents trying to add normalcy into their lives and Christmas cheer to their families. It really was a pleasure to pass all this holiday excitement.
I know that a lot of people are struggling right now but if we brought a little Christmas cheer to them and their families than we accomplished our role as fire fighters. Our goal is to help and assist our communities and if spreading a little Christmas cheer is as important as putting out a house fire or saving a life (which we have done a lot lately) than we accomplished our goal.
This is why I love being a fireman.
Firefighter Justin Watrel decorating Engine One at the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department 2015
Someone sent this to me via the Internet and I want to credit author Shawna Hickling for this wonderful poem (someone just sent me her name via the Internet when asked by another blogger) and I wanted to share it with all of your readers and bloggers all over the world as it was shared to me a week ago. I think this describes all of us:
“Twas a few weeks before Christmas 2020” by Shawna Hickling
*Thank you Ms. Hickling for sharing this with all of us bloggers all over the world. We appreciate it!
Twas a few weeks before Christmas
And all through the town,
People wore masks,
That covered their frowns
The frown had begun
Way back in the Spring,
When a global pandemic,
They called it corona
But unlike the beer,
It didn’t bring good times,
It didn’t bring cheer.
Contagious and deadly,
This virus spread fast,
Like a wildfire that starts
When fueled by gas.
Airplanes were grounded,
Travel was banned,
Borders were closed
Across air, sea and land.
As the world entered lockdown
To flatten the curve,
The economy halted,
And folks lost their verve.
From March to July
We rose the first wave,
People stayed home,
They tried to behave.
When summer emerged
The lockdown was lifted,
But away from caution,
Many folks drifted.
Now it’s December
And cases are spiking,
Wave two has arrived,
Much to our disliking.
Doctors and nurses,
Try to save people,
From riding in hearses.
It’s true that this year
Has had sadness a plenty,
We’ll never forget
This year 2020.
And just ’round the corner’
the holiday season,
But why be merry?
Is there even one reason?
To decorate the house
And put up the tree,
When no one will see it,
No-one but me.
But outside my window
The snow gently falls,
And I think to myself,
Let’s deck the halls!
So, I gather the ribbon,
The garland and bows,
As I play those old carols,
My happiness grows.
Christmas ain’t cancelled
And neither is hope.
If we lean on each other,
I know we can cope.
Author: Shawna Hickling
*I was sent this from another blogger and I want to give Ms. Hickling full credit for her work. Another blogger found her name for me and we all wanted to say ‘thank you’ for cheering us up! Bloggers all over the world want to thank this author for sharing this with us as a group of bloggers shared this with me. It really brings out the spirit of the holiday.
To all my fellow bloggers, have a good holiday and let’s hope for a better and safer New Year!
This whole situation let’s all know to appreciate what we have in life.