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.
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.
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
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 1769, Abram Demaree 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 (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 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
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. During the holiday season, there were all sorts of wreaths, cemetery blankets and Christmas trees to choose from.
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!
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
The Creation of the shop “Bud N’ Mud” a Coffee/Flower Shop:
Every semester when I am teaching ‘Introduction to Business 101’ at Bergen Community College, I have my class create a major class project in which the whole class becomes part of an Executive team of a mythical company. This way the class benefits from getting to know one another and starting to form their connections with each other both professionally and as a student body. As a commuter campus, you don’t get to know each other too well.
In the past we created Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc., my main company that I have used for the last three semesters, Orion Malls Inc., a Mall design firm and Buscomonzefi.com, my tech company. Each was an example of how a business team needs to interact with one another and create their part of the business. It was a real chore last semester when the College shut down because of the COVID pandemic and we had to do finish both projects virtually.
The Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. logo from last semester
This semester because the classes were all virtual and stayed virtual, I had to create an individual project that each student could do and had to be consistent with the rest of the class. Inspired by a real life store, Remi Flower & Coffee in the Turtle Bay section of Manhattan, at 906 Second Avenue, I created the a similar store, “Bud N’ Mud”. “Bud” coming from the part of the flower that blooms and “Mud” which is slang for coffee.
One of my student’s “Bud N’Mud” logos
From here as we covered Chapter by Chapter of the textbook “Understanding Business” by Nickels and McHugh covering such subjects as job creation, small business creation, customer service, hiring and job descriptions, store design and flow, ad creations and promotions and Mission Statements for a firm. I also got the students to think less as students and more as new entrepreneurs. I wanted this project to be a stepping stone in creating a new business which many of them put as one of their goals in class.
Another great “Bud N’ Mud” logo created my one of my students
First I assigned the project. I had just finished walking the Turtle Bay neighborhood for my blog project, “MywalkinManhattan.com” and passed Remi Flower & Coffee when I was walking around the neighborhood.
I thought what a clever idea it was to combine the two totally different products and thought that the students would come up with some interesting ideas if I let their creativity run wild. It was to be an interesting semester in watch the project unfold.
So chapter by chapter we built the store from ground up. First I had each student create a logo for their store, then we moved on to the menu of the items that they each wanted to carry in their store, then we moved to store design and layout, where they had to show me how the flowers were going to combine with the food and beverages.
Their menu’s got very creative with various beverage and pastry options
We moved next on creating a Mission Statement for their store. I asked them what their business was all about and who did they want to be in the community. I had them then create a job description to hire employees as their business grew and the last thing I had them do was design an ad for a Bundling idea to promote sales in their store (Bundling is a business concept when you promote various items with one price like a two for one or a combination meal).
The store designs got very creative
The ideas flowed out of these students as if they were currently running the business and I saw many different approaches on how to run a business. When I wrapped the project up at the end of the semester, I heard from all the students on what they learned from the project and how they felt about the business they created.
What I enjoyed was that many of them thought they were really running the business as we were creating it and how much they took each part of the project personally especially when I questioned them on how they would do what they were doing and how it would make a profit. Some of them didn’t realize that you can do just what you want to do precariously. You had to have reasons and think it through. I saw a lot of students grow in this class without ever meeting them.
Some of the students even created flower menus
This was the interesting part, I felt like I was teaching blind. I had no idea who these students were or what they looked like because when I offered the optional lecture twice a week so few students (especially many who needed it) did not take advantage of it. When they did, I never got to see what they looked like because they hid behind the computer. It did add an air of mystery to it but still I like to have that one on one with my students. This is something that COVID has robbed from most in the teaching profession.
One of my favorite “Bud N’ Mud” logos
Still the project was a complete success for the class in general and I saw quite a few students really put their all into their work. They really did run their own business for three months. This is what makes being a CEO & an Consultant fun as a Professor. You get to live out your own dreams while watching others do the same. I credit my Fall Semester students with their creative and ingenuity of the above work.
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.
I continued my visit to Kips Bay on a unusually warm but a mix of clouds and sun afternoon. I sometimes can’t tell whether is will rain or not. The walking of the Avenues in Kips Bay was not as extensive as other neighborhoods that I have visited before. Since I had already all of Lexington Avenue and FDR Drive and parts of First Avenue, all I had to cover on this trip was Third, Second and parts of First Avenue that I had not visited before.
FDR Drive in this part of the neighborhood is bounded by impassible sidewalks and closed off roadways by the schools and hospitals. You are pretty much visiting dead end streets with loads of security protecting them. These guys travel in packs and with COVID spreading around New York City there is a reason why they are there. They have to control the number of ambulances that are coming into the Bellevue Hospital complex.
Still there are lots to see and do on all the Avenues and you have to walk them slowly to appreciate the life that is coming back not just to the neighborhood but to the City was well. I am seeing more people on the streets as people are venturing out of their homes, masks and all and returning to work. With so many hospitals and colleges in the neighborhood, street traffic has increased since I started walking around Kips Bay in October.
Walking the Avenues, I have seen how the neighborhood continues to change as the smaller low rise buildings are being replaced in the northern section of the neighborhood as the hospitals and colleges expand. To the west of the neighborhood, the expansion of Midtown is changing the buildings on the border of Kips Bay resembling more the commercial districts of Uptown. Still there is a lot of charm in the small businesses that populate this neighborhood and there are many small ‘gems’ that stand out.
I started on Lexington Avenue first and then walked my way north and south along the avenues as I headed towards the East River again. It is nice to see people on the sidewalks again and dining in restaurants still enjoying the last bits of warm weather.
When walking the borders of the neighborhood, I got caught up in the sites and smells of “Little India/Curry Hill” between East 29th and 26th Streets around Kalustyan’s at 123 Lexington Avenue and decided to explore it further.
Kalustyan’s at 123 Lexington Avenue
The store is such an exciting place for the senses with products of different smells and complexities. I enjoyed picking up the various bags on the shelves and trying to figure out what they were before I looked at the labels. After two years at culinary school, it was lesson in new spices for me.
The racks of spices have the most amazing aroma
Bring around all those spices and interesting frozen foods again made me hungry for Indian food. So across the street I tried Lahori Kabab at 106 Lexington Avenue, a small take out place that had a few tables your could sit down (socially distanced of course).
Lahori Kabab at 106 Lexington Avenue in Kips Bay
They have the most reasonable food and a very diverse menu. I just wanted a snack so I had a Chicken Samosa ($2.00) that was so spicy that it cleared my sinus out and a Allo Tiki, which is a type of potato cake with a yogurt sauce that had a nice pinch to it. Everything on the menu is under $10.00 and attracts a very interesting crowd of customers.
After that nice little snack, I walked back down Lexington Avenue to East 23rd Street and proceeded east to Third Avenue. This is where you see the transitions in the neighborhood. Most of the buildings between East 23rd to East 30th is still dominated by smaller buildings with a lot of independent businesses. As you pass East 30th Street, the high rises are dominating and newer construction is changing the look of the the upper parts of Kips Bay.
As I headed north up Third Avenue, I needed something sweet after the spicy snack and found La Delice Pastry Shop at 372 Third Avenue. What I loved about the bakery is that it has been around since 1935 and it is nice to see these old time businesses still exist in the ever changing fabric of a neighborhood. They carry all sorts of pies, cakes, cookies and pastries.
La Delice Pastry Shop at 372 Third Avenue has been there since 1935
I just went in for a jelly doughnut ($1.50) and it was well worth it. The chewiness of the dough and the sweetness of the sugar outside along with the tanginess of the current jelly gave it that old fashioned feel of what a doughnut should be. Beats the hell out of Dunkin!
La Delice Pastry Shop has a selection of old-line baked goods
Third Avenue is a juxtapose of architecture as you walk up and down the Avenue. A couple of buildings do stand out amongst the tenement and apartment buildings starting to sprout up along the border of the neighborhood.
One building that had some beautiful features was 497 Third Avenue. This five story building was built in 1930 and offers some beautiful brownstone features around the roof and windows. The Flying Cock restaurant at its base gives it an interesting look from street level.
497 Third Avenue with the interesting accents
Another interesting building is 384 Third Avenue. This picturesque building was built around 1900 by architects Howells & Stokes by the neighboring Madison Square Presbyterian Church as the Madison Square Church House that was used by the church for nightly services. A cast iron base supported the red brick architecture and the ornamented cast iron window lintels. The cornice at the top is made of cast iron (Daytonian in Manhattan).
384 Third Avenue-The Madison Square Church House
When heading back down to East 23rd Street, I admired the Gem Saloon building that was just opening for lunch 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 Gem Saloon at 375-377 Third Avenue was built 1910
As I turned the corner back onto East 23rd Street, I passed the now very quiet Baruch College campus. Part of East 25th Street is now being converted into a college walkway for the students and the construction workers were swarming the place.
Second Avenue is going through the same transformation as Third Avenue with much of the Avenue being knocked down and replaced by new apartment complexes. Much of the west side of the street is still intact with the east side of Second Avenue being rebuilt as part of the hospital complex and now new developments.
The only interesting building I saw was at 453 Second Avenue which was built in 1910 and is now a single family home. The building is now going through another renovation. This small brick building looks like it was once a fire station or a stable.
453 Second Avenue
Across the street is 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.
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).
All that walking was making me hungry again and I saw the sign for Joey Pepperoni Pizza at 493 Second Avenue for dollar slices that are now $1.25. Inflation the sign stated. The place was pretty busy for a mid-afternoon and the pizzas were coming out fresh. It was okay. The sauce was pretty good and the slice was pretty large for the price.
Joey Pepperoni Pizza at 493 Second Avenue
Across the street from the Kips Bay Court complex, I crossed the street to another small pocket park, the Vincent F. Albano Jr. Playground at 523 Second Avenue, that 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. It was rather quiet the afternoon I was there as it looked like they were limiting the number of people coming here.
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).
Dominating the neighborhood just to the north of the neighborhood is the Kips Bay Towers complex that stretches up Second Avenue from East 30th to East 33rd Streets. This along with the colleges and the hospital complexes replaced all the tenement housing and factories that were once located here. The complex is pretty much self-contained with a movie theater, supermarket and shops. The complex was designed by renowned architects I. M. Pei and S. J. Kessler in the ‘Brutalist style’ (Wiki).
As I walked back down Second Avenue towards East 23rd Street, I realized how much the urban renewal project of the 1950’s changed this part of the City similar to what the Lincoln Hill project did to the Upper West Side when Lincoln Center was built. It just changed the complexity of the neighborhood.
First Avenue is dominated mostly by NYU College campus and Bellevue Hospital and NY Langone Hospital. When I walked up First Avenue when walking the borders of the neighborhood I never noticed how new all the buildings seemed. Seeing the results of the Urban Renewal project, the area is similar to a big box complex.
Still there are little gems here and there that standout. On the corner of East 27th and First Avenue 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.
“Sentinel” site at the corner of East 27th Street and First Avenue
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
I finally reached the corner of First Avenue and East 34th Street by the NY Langone Hospital and relaxed in the plaza across from the hospital and then walked to the East River Esplanade again to enjoy the sun and salt water air. it was fun to just relax for a bit before heading back around the neighborhood.
The East River Esplanade is a nice place to relax and watch the boats go by
I made my way back around the neighborhood walking to East 23rd Street to enjoy the sites and smells of Lexington Avenue and “Little India” again. It still amazes me all the sites and smells you can experience in a small neighborhood in Manhattan in one afternoon.
This is what I love about New York City!
Please enjoy my blog on ‘Walking the Borders of Kips Bay’ on MywalkinManhattan.com:
Every October my neighbors decorate their home to the hilt on Halloween and every year they drag out this strange scarecrow out among their other decorations. I tease my neighbor that it looks like it wants to “rape and pillage the neighborhood”. I just think the thing looks mischiefest. She just laughs at me.
So over the years I have named this decoration “Giggles the Scarecrow” and created a story line for him:
“The Legend of Giggles the Scarecrow”:
“When bad boys and girls come to our neighborhood on Halloween Night ready to perform more tricks then treats, Giggles will come to life and grab’em. He will then take’em away to his haunted home in the woods. Hee, Hee, Hee.”
Okay, I had a lot of time on my hands to think on Halloween Night. It is the era of COVID.
What do you think? Do you want to test the “Legend of Giggles the Scarecrow”?
“Giggles the Scarecrow” on Halloween day in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
I have put “MywalkinManhattan” project on hold to get ready for the holidays again! Here comes Christmas!
The holidays are always zipping by and Christmas is no different. We went right from Halloween night and the Halloween Parade to Christmas. The moment it was over, all the Christmas decorations went up. It seems that we no longer bother with worrying about Thanksgiving. I swear that Christmas starts with the July Christmas sale at all Hallmark stores and does not stop until Three Kings Day in January.
Myself and John at the old Christmas tree lot in 2002 when I returned home
The Saturday before Thanksgiving is when we set the lot up for business. We rake the entire property, put together our Christmas shed and then the stands to hold the trees. We have had a lot more help with new members over the past three years.
It has been a while since I was able to get back into the City to continue my walk around Manhattan. Between work, trips up to the Hudson River Valley and Upstate New York for Fall events and then the Halloween holidays, it has been a busy time and a real balancing act.
I started the walk around Kips Bay, a small Manhattan neighborhood that borders Murray Hill from the North, Peter Cooper Village and Gramercy Park to the South and the Flatiron and Midtown districts to the West. The neighborhood runs from East 34th to East 23rd Streets from Lexington Avenue to the West and FDR Drive and the East River to the East.
Kips Bay has a very interesting history. Kips Bay was once an inlet of the East River running from what is now East 37th to East 32nd Streets and the bay extended into Manhattan island to just west of what is now First Avenue and had two streams that ran from it. The bay was named after New Netherland Dutch settler, Jacobus Hendrickson Kip, the son of Hendrick Hendrickson Kip, whose farm ran north of present day East 30th Street along the East River. The bay became reclaimed land but the name “Kips Bay” still remains in the area (Wiki).
An early British map of Manhattan showing “Kepps Bay”
The Kip family built a large brick and stone house near the modern intersection of Second Avenue and East 35th Street. The house stood from 1655 to 1851 and when it was demolished was the last farmhouse from New Amsterdam remaining in Manhattan. Iron figures fixed into the gable end brickwork commemorated the first year of its construction. Its orchard was famous and when first President George Washington was presented with a sip of Rosa gallica during his first administration when New York City was serving as the first National Capital (Wiki).
Jacobus Kip’s Home in Kips Bay
Kips Bay was the site of the Landing at Kip’s Bay, an episode of the American Revolutionary War (1175-1783) and part of the New York and New Jersey campaign. About 4000 British Army troops under General William Howe landed in Kips Bay on September 15, 1776 near what is now the foot of East 33rd Street off the East River. This was from a Royal Fleet which first landed earlier at Staten Island then Long Island for the pivotal Battle of Brooklyn (also known as the Battle of Long Island).
The previous month General Howe’s troops defeated about 500 American militiamen stationed at Kips Bay but General Washington and commanded by Colonel William Douglas. The American forces immediately retreated and the British occupied New York Town at the south point of the island soon afterward forcing General Washington to retreat northward to the Harlem River (Wiki).
The British Landing at Kips Bay in 1776
The neighborhood now sits just below Murray Hill East 42nd to East 34th Streets) to the north and just south above Peter Cooper Village (East 23rd to East 20th Street). Kips Bay like the rest of this section of the Eastern side of Manhattan is going through a make over. The small apartment buildings are slowly coming down almost creating a patchwork in the neighborhood between the high rises and office buildings above East 30th Street and the low rises that still dot parts of Lexington, Third and Second Avenues. Little by little everything is giving way as Midtown creeps into these neighborhoods.
Still Kips Bay has loads of charm, a slew of interesting restaurants, beautiful buildings and nice little parks to relax in and a breathtaking view of the East River and Long Island City. There is a online discussion about the eastern border of the neighborhood, Third to Lexington Avenues, which some consider part of the “Rose Hill” neighborhood, which itself labels itself “NoMAD” today (North of Madison Park). Even within the neighborhood there are subsections including “Curry Hill” or “Little India” along Lexington Avenue from East 29th to East 26th Streets which is lined with Southeast Asian provision and retail stores and great Asian restaurants where the scents of curry and cumin are in the air.
This is why I love walking in Manhattan is how you can go from one world to another in just a block. It shows the cultural richness and the diversity that makes Manhattan so complex and interesting. There is always something new to experience from block to block.
I started my walk in my usual headquarters for this part of Manhattan in Bryant Park. The Christmas Village and Skating Rink have been set up way in advance of the holidays and people were out skating, masks and all, and having a wonderful time on the first sunny day in a long time. The village stores are about a third of the amount from previous years but still stocked and ready to go. I think the City in the era of COVID “needs a little Christmas now”.
The Christmas Village got an early start Bryant Park this year
This is something I noticed when I walked down East 42nd Street towards Madison and Park Avenues when I passed office buildings. Christmas Trees and wreaths decorated lobbies all over the avenues much earlier than I have ever seen. Usually the Christmas decorations don’t come out until after Thanksgiving but the holidays are getting more rushed this year. Still even in the 60 degree days in November it really does cheer you up.
Park Avenue Office Building Christmas decorations
Arriving at East 34th Street and FDR Drive, I reached the border of Murray Hill and Kips Bay in the mid afternoon and it felt so familiar to me after so many afternoons exploring Murray Hill just that the weather had gotten cooler. There just seemed to be more people out as the City is getting back to normal after a trying summer.
When you do arrive here you are greeted by a playful piece of art just outside NYU Langone Children’s Hospital. “Spot” is a dalmatian balancing a taxi on his nose is located just outside the Children’s Hospital’s doors. “I wanted to make something so astounding to distract to even those arriving with the most serious procedures” (Artist Bio) the artist was quoted as saying when the piece was unveiled. It sits four stories in front of the hospital. It is a very playful piece of art that stopped me in my tracks.
“Spot” by artist Donald Lipski
Artist Donald Lipski is an American born artist who is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cranbrook Academy of Art. He is best known for his large scale works in public places (Artist’s Bio).
It was nice to see most of the restaurants in the area had finally opened up and with the warm weather still holding its grip, there was a lot of outdoor dining to choose from. Even before the pandemic, some parts of the neighborhood were being knocked down for new construction and work continued as I visited taking down many of the smaller buildings that used to house small restaurants. Still there are some great independent restaurants in the area that needed support.
I had lunch at Pizza & Pita at 344 East 34th Street right across the street from the small park that faces the hospital. I just wanted a slice of pizza and when I walked in a fresh pie had just come out. The pizza looked as good as it tasted.
Pizza & Pita at 344 East 34th Street
The sauce has an amazing rich flavor and the loaded with cheese for a gooey consistency. It was so good that I stopped back later for a quick snack of their garlic knots. These pillowy delights came with a side of their delicious marinara sauce that was a pleasure to dunk them into and enjoy each bit.
The pizza here is great!
I just relaxed and ate my lunch in the small public plaza across the street from the hospital and watched as the hospital staff came out from their frustrating days and ate their lunches beside me. It seemed to do them well. The plaza has gotten busier since the late summer and it is nice to see people coming back to work and bring some life to the area.
While at lunch I admired another interesting art piece entitled “Stemmer” by New York City born American artist David Fried.
“Stemmer” at the plaza at East 34th Street and First Avenue
The artist grew up in New York City and attended the School of Art & Music and was accepted into the Arts Students League of New York. The “Stemmers” sculptures is one of his trademark pieces.
After lunch, I continued my walk down East 34th Street to the border of Kips Bay at Lexington Avenue. The neighborhood is very ‘old New York’ especially between First and Lexington Avenues with the small buildings and high rises from the 1960’s and 70’s. The area is currently going through a make over with new buildings but it still has that “Woody Allen” feel of New York. Everything is not gleaming and new.
Tucked here and there by buildings and courtyards on East 34th Street is a bevy of interesting street art. The block is almost an ‘open air museum’ of creativity. The statue “Thinking Big” which was formally in Central Park South on Sixth Avenue last year has found a home in front of 222 East 34th Street.
Jim Rennert is an American born artist known for his large bronze sculptures depicting the everyday man. Mostly self-taught, his works are seen all over the country and really do make a statement.
Walking further down East 34th Street just outside a little courtyard of one of the apartment buildings is artist John Sewart Johnson’s II sculpture “The Right Light”, a bronze sculpture of an artist and his easel. The sculpture is located just outside a building between Third and Lexington Avenues at 150 East 34th Street.
‘The Right Light’ by artist John Sewart Johnson II
Artist John Seward Johnson II was an American artist who attended the University of Maine and he is known for his ‘familiar man’ sculptures and icons paintings.
Located on the wall near this art piece is an interesting painting on the wall outside another apartment building by artist Colette Miller from her “Global Wings Project” which she created in 2012. She paints these ‘to remind humanity that we are the angels of this earth’ . With this graceful painting of giant ‘wings’, the artist hopes that there are a symbol of peace (Colette Miller’s Bio).
Artist Colette Millers “Global Angel Wings Project” 2020
Ms. Miller is a American born artist from Richmond, VA. She is graduate of the Art School at Virginia Commonwealth University and Film Studies at UCLA. As well as an artist, she is a film maker and musician. Her work has been exhibited all over the world.
Turning the corner onto the bustling Lexington Avenue, you see that the border of the neighborhood is a bustling commercial district with a combination of office buildings and apartments and as you cross East 30th Street a restaurant district with an international flair to it. The avenue is also lined with interesting architecture where many buildings stand out.
The New York Design Center Building at 200 Lexington Avenue stands out for its detailed beauty and its embellishments that accent the outside of the building. It was built in 1926 and designed by architect Ely Jacques Khan as the New York Furniture Exchange. The building was to cater to furniture and department store buyers. It now caters to the full interior design experience with furniture, lighting and textiles.
200 Lexington Avenue-The New York Design Center
Tucked to the residential side of the avenue is 170 Lexington Avenue an Italianate brownstone building that stands out for it yellow exterior. The brownstone was part of three building complex built in the early 1850’s. The house was owned by George and Elizabeth Youle, a wealthy couple with two married daughters. The address was originally 158 Lexington Avenue and then changed to 170 Lexington Avenue in 1866. Sometime in the 1940’s the yellow clapboard veneer was added in a renovation of the building (Daytonian 2020).
170 Lexington Avenue was built in the early 1850’s
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.
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 crossed over East 29th Street, I was greeted by the sights and smells of curry and cumin in restaurants as I entered “Little India” or “Curry Hill” as some locals call it, a stretch of restaurants and stores that cater to the Southeast Asian population as well as locals and tourists alike. This stretch of businesses extends from East 29th to about East 26th Streets created by the catalyst for the street, Kalustyan’s at 123 Lexington Avenue, a specialty food market specializing in Indian and Middle-Eastern spices and food items.
Kalustyan’s Specialty Market at 123 Lexington Avenue
Kalustyan’s has an interesting history. The market was started in 1944 by Kerope Kalustyan, an Armenian immigrant from Turkey, when his steel importing business failed. He turned to foods and spices that catered to the large Armenian population who lived in the neighborhood in the 1920’s. By the 1960’s and 70’s, are large Indian and Southeastern Asian population started to move to the City and Kalustyan’s was the meeting spot as they started to carry Indian spices as well. “Little India/Curry Hill” grew up around the store as immigrants opened their own businesses around the store (Wiki). Now Kalustyan’s carries foods and spices from all over the world (Kalustyan).
Kalustyan’s has shelves of spices and mixes
It is really an experience to walk around all the shelves and shelves of spices and see what is available. Then to turn the corner and see all the fresh and frozen foods from all over the world. it can be overwhelming.
Kalustyan’s is located in the historic Chester A. Arthur home
What is interesting about the store is that is was once the home of President Chester A. Arthur, who took office as 21st President of the United States after President James Garfield was shot in 1881. He was sworn in as president here in September 1881. President Arthur moved to New York City in 1848 and lived here for most of his adult life and continued living here after his Presidency. He died in the house in 1886 (Wiki).
President Chester A. Arthur taking oath in his home in 1881
The house is a five story masonry designed in the Romanesque Revival styling and has gone through many renovations over the years. The neighborhood went from a fashionable district to the home of one of the largest Armenian populations in the United States then to an Southeast Asian neighborhood to another gentrifying area of Manhattan.
The Chester A. Arthur house when he lived in it
After a quick tour around Kalustyan’s admiring all the spices and looking over their frozen food department with all its pastry and meat dishes, I was in the mood from some Indian food. I stopped at the corner at Curry in a Hurry at 119 Lexington Avenue. I needed a quick snack to keep me going so I ordered a chicken samosa ($2.45) and it was so good I went back for a beef samosa that had just gotten out of the oven. Both were extremely well spiced and full of flavor. I could taste the hot pepper and cumin for the rest for the afternoon (see my review on TripAdvisor).
Curry in a Hurry at 119 Lexington Avenue
Refreshed from a quick snack, I continued exploring Lexington Avenue peeking at all the menus of the restaurants as I walked down the road. The aroma from the kitchens reached the sidewalks and I had to make an mental note of the place I wanted to try in the future.
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.
Just across the street is another beautiful building covered with snakes, skulls and dragons carved along the side of it at 130 East 25th Street.
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
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 was getting hungry again with all this criss crossing across Lexington Avenue and I had two choices for a snack, DiDi Dumpling at 38 Lexington Avenue or Pick & Pay Pizza at 30 Lexington Avenue both having reasonable snacks. Since I would be stopping for Dim Sum later that afternoon, I chose the pizza. For a $1.25 a slice, the pizza was not bad in this tiny little hole in the wall that also served Indian food as well. The sauce had a lot of flavor and that is what makes the pizza.
Pick & Pay Pizza at 30 Lexington Avenue
DiDi Dumpling at 38 Lexington Avenue
I noticed on the wall right near the doorway near the Starbucks was another wall mural “Urban Ocean” by artist Yuki Abe that is off to the side of the building on the corner of Lexington & 25th, Look at the interesting color and design of the work.
Surrounding this area of Lexington & 25th Street starts the campus of Baruch College which is part of the SUNY system and I could see students who were taking live classes walking around enjoying the day. I am sure it is much different when classes were in full swing and the students were hanging around the restaurants and coffee shops in the area.
Another building that stands out in its beauty and design is on the corner of the neighborhood on Lexington Avenue between 24th and 23rd Streets, the Freehand Hotel at 23 Lexington Avenue. The hotel was originally built as the Hotel George Washington in 1928 and designed by architect Frank Mills Andrews in the French Renaissance style.
The Freehand Hotel (the former George Washington Hotel) at 23 Lexington Avenue
While still a apartment building and a dorm in the 1990’s, several famous New Yorkers lived at the hotel including artist Keith Haring and musician Dee Dee Ramone. Playwright Jeffery Stanley also lived at the hotel for a period of time.
The entrance to the Freehand Hotel is very elegant but still remains closed
I crossed East 23rd Street which is the edge of the neighborhood shared with Gramercy Park, Rose Hill and Peter Cooper Village further down the block. This busy thoroughfare is lined with a lot stores, restaurants and many interesting buildings that leads to the East River.
I stopped for lunch at a new Dim Sum restaurant name Awe Sum Dim Sum that had just opened on at 160 East 23rd Street and it was just excellent. I took my friend, Maricel, here for lunch after my birthday for lunch and we ate through most of the menu (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
The Awe Sum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street
The restaurant has the most amazing appetizers to choose from that are all made in house and served fresh to you either at your table inside or one of the many tables outside (while the weather holds out). On my trip with Maricel, we ate our way through the Fried Dumplings, the Chicken Siu Mai, the Spring Rolls, the Baked BBQ Pork Buns, the Scallion Pancakes and the Soup Dumplings. On my trip today, I ordered the Soup Dumplings, Crispy Shrimp Rolls and the Siu Mai with pork and shrimp.
The Soup Dumplings here are the best
With the cost for each running between $4.00-$6.00, I could eat my way through the menu. The nice part is what a nice contemporary designed restaurant the place is to dine in. Everyone is kept ‘socially distanced’ so it is a nice place to eat.
The inside of Awe Sum Dim Sum
After a nice relaxing lunch, I was ready to continue down East 23rd Street. Criss crossing the street again, I noticed the beauty of 219-223 East 23rd Street. The building has all sorts of griffins and faces glaring out. When you stand across the street, you can admire the beauty of all the carvings on the building along the archways above and the faces staring at you from the tops of windows.
219-223 East 23rd Street
Another building that stands out is 304-310 East 23rd Street. This former factory building was built in 1900 and now is the “The Foundry”, a converted condo complex. The amazing detail on the building stands out and you have to admire the stonework and details in the carvings along the building.
304-310 East 23rd Street is a former factory
The stone work is a standout on this building
Reaching the end of East 23rd Street, you will see the planned middle class complex of Peter Cooper Village, which has gone market rate and is now getting very upscale and seems to have a younger resident walking around then the usual middle aged residents who used to be on the list to get one of these very desirable apartments.
The entrance to Peter Cooper Village at First Avenue
Across from Peter Cooper Village is the Asser Avery Recreational Center and Playground 392 Asser Avery Place with the famous baths and pools that have been part of the neighborhood for generations.
The Asser Levy Recreation Center and Park at 392 Asser Levy Place
When the baths opened in 1908, the facility was called the East 23rd Street Bathhouse. It was by architects Arnold W. Brunner and William Martin Aiken. Based on the ancient Roman Baths, the architecture was inspired by the “City Beautiful” movement, a turn of the century effort to create civic architecture in the United States that would rival the monuments of the great European capitals (NYCParks.org). The playground next to it opened in 1993.
The architecture by Arnold Brunner and William Martin Aiken resembled a Roman Bath
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 border to the east of the neighborhood is combination of the East River Esplande, FDR Drive and First Avenue. Since First Avenue and FDR Drive are surrounded by a combination of college campus and hospital space, it makes walking around the neighborhood tricky.
When you walk across East 23rd Street to FDR Drive, you have to cross over FDR Drive at East 25th Street behind the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System Hospital complex and the CUNY/Hunter College campus and then cross over the bridge to the Waterside Plaza complex.
The Waterside Plaza complex and the Greenway walkway
This series of apartment buildings faces the East River and FDR Drive that leads to the East River Greenway walkway and the Waterside Plaza walkway both surround the complex. The views are breathtaking on a sunny afternoon of the East River and Long Island City.
The East River Greenway and the view of Long Island City
On the way up the Waterside Plaza walkway, I passed the famous Water Cafe at 500 East 30th Street that is currently closed because of COVID. This famous restaurant has been around since the 1980’s and offers some of the most spectacular views. It was one of the best known restaurants at the time when “Restaurant Madness” hit the City in the mid-1980’s as the City went through its first wave of gentrification under the Koch Administration.
The Water Club at 500 East 30th Street is currently closed
I walked all around the Waterside Plaza complex and saw where all the joggers and walkers can exercise all around the complex. The walkways both lead back to East 34th Street and the beginning of the walkway and where Kips Bay once was located. I walked around the NYU Langone Hospital when I crossed East 34th Street and walked down the FDR Drive extension around the hospital until I reached East 26th Street and crossed to First Avenue.
This part of FDR Drive passes behind the Langone complex and the Bellevue Complex and be careful as there are security guards all over the place. They totally avoided me because with the tinted glasses I think they thought I was there to check them out. The side streets of East 30th to East 28th Streets are closed off to the public and you can’t walk down them without security looking you over. There is not much to see here but a parking lot and the back of the hospital complex.
I walked back down East 26th to East 25th Street and crossed back over to where the bridge was located and walked back around the Asser Levy Park and walked through the park. The three times I was in the park no one was there and the park seemed a little depressed with the homeless camping out.
The City Opera Thrift Shop at 222 East 23rd Street
I made my way back down East 23rd Street and stopped in the City Opera Thrift Shop at 222 East 23rd Street. They have the most interesting artwork and books, couture clothing for women and children and some decorative items on the second floor that have been donated to the store to help support the charity. Don’t miss shifting through the store and all the racks to find that perfect outfit.
Walking around the first floor of the City Opera Thrift Shop is an adventure
As I walked back up East 23rd Street passing the historic buildings and restaurants I walked through the Baruch College complex to see that campus was being renovated and was really quiet. It is spooky to walk through a college campus and see no one. It was one of the cooler days when I visited the neighborhood and no one was around.
Before I finished my walk of the border of neighborhood, I stopped back in “Little India” and had dinner at Anjappar, a South Indian restaurant at 116 Lexington Avenue at 28th Street. I had not had Indian food for a long time and thought it would be a nice way to end the evening.
Anjappar at 116 Lexington Avenue
I was the only person eating in the restaurant that evening so all the attention went to me. The waiter gave me her great recommendations and we were able to talk about the best dishes to try. Since all NYC restaurants are only at 25% capacity, not too many people can eat there anyway. It was a quiet night with just a few to go orders while I was there.
The food and the service were excellent. With the recommendations for the waiter, I ordered the Anjappar Chicken Marsala, which was in a spicy chili and curry sauce served with a side of white rice and a side of Parotta bread, which is a buttery spiral bread that is a specialty of the region. The entree was so spicy that it cleaned my sinuses out and added a little spring to my step. For dessert, I order a house specialty, the Pineapple Ravakesari, which was fresh crushed pineapple in a polenta type of grain with a sugary top. It was served warm and was the perfect combination of sweet and tart. It was the perfect dessert to end the meal and cap off the afternoon of adventure (see my review on TripAdvisor).
The wonderful curries and Parotta bread of that dinner
When I reached the point of the beginning at Lexington Avenue and East 34th Street, I thought back to the wonderful sites and views from the island that Kips Bay offers . From the interesting open air art museum to the views along the river to the historic buildings and sites and smells of “Little India/Curry Hill”, there is so much to see and do in the neighborhood it even took me several trips to see just the border of the Kips Bay.
What would the British think today if they landed here? It would be more than Mrs. Murray’s punch and cake to keep them distracted.
Mrs. Murray entertaining the British in here home when they landed in Kips Bay.
Join me as I walk the Avenues of Kips Bay on MywalkinManhattan.com: