Tag Archives: Books of Wonder Bookstore

Day Ninety Seven: Walking the Streets of the Upper Upper West Side from West 110th-West 94th Streets October 21st-November 25th, 2017

It is amazing the changes that happen in just a month! The weather changed but not the way you would think. It went from being in the 80’s in the beginning of October to the 40’s and 50’s in November. Now you might say that is normal for this time of year but the temperatures have been all over the place.

People were dining outside as late as the day after Thanksgiving. It was 52F on the 25th of November. Nippy yes but eating outside? In the sun, it really was warm. As I walked the streets of the Upper Upper West Side, it was a pleasant and warm day.

The nice part is that it has been so warm outside lately that the leaves did not change as fast as they normally do this time of the year. The leaves did not start to change in the New York City area until about five days before Halloween. Everything was greener than it normally has been in the past. As of my last day on this part of the West Side, the trees still have changing foliage in Riverside Park, so when the sun hit some of the trees they still cast a glow of golds and reds.

I have seen a distinct change in the make up in the city as you cross over the 100th Street on the West Side. Once you pass the Douglass Houses, the residential area starts to change along with the stores and restaurants around it.  The bodegas and cheaper restaurants  start to disappear. The rents have been going up in this area and there is a lot of empty retail space in the Upper Upper West Side. What there is a lot of restaurants where the price of a burger will run you around $16.00. The Upper West Side is becoming a lot more like the Upper East Side.

What I have also have found is many beautiful pocket parks, unusual architecture with creative details and some wonderful restaurants and shops that show that the chain stores do not dominate a city. I never realized that it would take so long to finish the area. A little thing called Halloween came into play and then the weather got colder (See all the activities you can get involved with for the Halloween holidays for next year on this blog).

I started my first day at surprising enough 127th Street. I got on the C subway train by mistake ( I should have gotten on the A Train) but it gave me a chance to see what changes have come about in Morningside Heights. I swear as the new buildings at Columbia University are ready to open soon between 125th-134th Streets, the area is quickly changing around it. All over the area surrounding the 125th subway stop on the A subway line is being ripped apart and being rebuilt.

All the buildings around 125th Street are being sandblasted and gutted back to life or are being knocked down and rebuilt. This will just be an extension of Morningside Heights within the next five years. It will be more college campus than Harlem or the traditional Harlem that people know.

I had lunch that afternoon at West Place Chinese Restaurant at 1288 Amsterdam Avenue, a small hole in the wall Chinese restaurant that I passed several times (See review on TripAdvisor) and had wanted to try for a long time. The food was wonderful and the portion sizes were plentiful. I had an order of General Tso’s chicken with rice and Wonton Soup with a Coke for $8.00. It could have fed two people easily. The food was as good as anything in Chinatown and the quality was great.

West Place Chinese restaurant

After lunch, I walked down Broadway to 96th Street, passing through the campus that I had walked months earlier. The Columbia Campus is another part of the city that just keeps changing with new buildings being built on old ones or old buildings being sandblasted back to their original beauty. This area is becoming more desirable to live in again and as Morningside Park keeps improving, everything that surrounds it does as well. Even the parks surrounding the campus keep improving with Morningside Park receiving new plantings and Riverside Park getting a spruce up. I got to my destination, West 96th Street and Central Park West by the early afternoon.

I started my day on West 96th Street on the corner of West 96th and Central Park West where some of the trees were still green even this late into the season. I swear Central Park is never not busy. Families were playing in the playgrounds and tourists still walking through the park getting a taste of the real New York. The weather has been so unusually warm this year that it is a pleasure to just walk around.

For the most part, the blocks closer to the both parks, Central Park and Riverside Park, the streets are lined with beautiful brownstones. Most of the side streets between Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue are lined with some of the most elegant architecture from the turn of the last century. It is hard to believe that up to twenty years ago, parts of this area had been bombed out.

I was able to see the last of the Halloween decorations give way to fall themes decorating the brownstones. Like their suburban counterparts, people like to decorate their buildings. Pumpkins and haystacks lined the elegant brownstones and occasionally there was a ghost or witch motif decorating the front.

halloween in Washington Heights

Brownstones decorated for the holiday

Some of the most beautiful buildings outside of the Central Park district were the homes between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive right next to Riverside Park. Old elegant mansions and gracefully carved apartment buildings line the streets between both Avenues. Look up at the craved stone sculptures that line the building. Graceful animals, fierce gargoyles and lattice work line the tops of these buildings. It is time to put down those silly cellphones and really notice how beautifully built these homes were and the care put into them.

Their is a lot of artwork on the Riverside Drive especially around this section of the Upper West Side. The Joan of Arc statue on 95th Street and Riverside Drive gives a description of her life and who she really was in the time of war. I didn’t realize how threatened they were by her that they had to accuse her of being a witch to get rid of her power of persuasion. The statute which was created in 1915 is in a small park within a park, “Joan of Arc Park”, that stands above Riverside Park above the paths. If you want to know more about her life, stop here and read the plaques.

Joan of Arc Park

Joan of Arc Statue in the small park

What stands out between 95th to 94th Streets off West End Avenue is the ‘Pomander Walk’, a small alley behind a large apartment building which contains a series of eight two story Tudor homes with gardens in front. This is hidden behind a gate off 94th Street.

This whimsical little treasure was build between 1920-1922 by nightclub owner, Thomas Healy. He was creating income for a large hotel that he wanted to build on the property. He died in 1927 before he could find funding for the hotel and that’s why it exists today. I have read that today it is hard to find a home in this little strip and a recent two bedroom apartment building sold for $700,000. Pretty good for a dolls house.

Pomander Walk II.jpg

Pomander Walk

The outside of the homes can be seen in on 95th Street and look like a Swiss or German Chalet in the Alps. The detail work was under scaffolding when I first passed it and I wondered if it was a restaurant being fixed up. When you discover the gate entrance, it almost looks like a hidden ‘Land of Oz’. I could see the flowers and plants from the street. It reminded me of some of the small developments in Harlem where a small set of row homes creates its own neighborhood. You have to really look for it or you will miss it.

I was able to walk Riverside Park and enjoy that late foliage. The view of the Hudson River is just spectacular especially from the buffs of the neighborhood. I don’t think too many tourists appreciate this park with it beautiful vistas of the river and its great parks for kids. The trees were a combination of golds and oranges when the sun hit them.

The Upper Upper West is a combination apartment buildings built in the 1970’s and 80’s with more newer buildings being developed along Broadway but here in there in the commercial district some things do pop out at you. This is true of the former ‘Little Plantation Restaurant’ that recently closed on the corner of 93rd Street and Columbus Avenue. Attached to an apartment building, this space looks like a Southern plantation mansion fitted even with a porch swing. I am not sure how long this will last without being a restaurant but make a special trip to the building just see the detail work.

Sol Bloom Playground

Sol Bloom Playground

As I rounded the corners back to Central Park West, I stopped at the Sol Bloom Playground on 92nd Street near the local school to look for a bathroom. This whimsical park on a nice day attracts kids from all over the place and their parents running all over and playing on a the equipment. The park was named after Sol Bloom, a self-made millionaire. He had made his money in his music and real estate businesses. He had built several apartment buildings and both the Apollo and Music Box theaters.

Sol Bloom.jpg

Sol Bloom

I ended the day at the 86th Station totally exhausted having walk the area between 96th Street to 90th Street. The one thing that differs the Upper Upper West Side from Manhattan Valley/Bloomingdale to the north is how much newer it has gotten at the core. So many more newer apartment buildings in this area and more businesses catering to a higher end client. It just seems more like the old Upper West Side above 96th Street.

My second day walking the neighborhood I started after a long day at the Soup Kitchen. Working the Bread station all afternoon with the homeless asking you for pastries all morning long can be wearing. I got through it all. I started this part of the walk with lunch in Yorkville, wanting to try East Garden Chinese Restaurant at 1685 First Avenue again to see if it made the cut for my blog, ‘Dining on a Shoe String in NYC’. It did!

East Garden Chinese Restaurant really blows my mind on how good this place is for lunch. Their lunch specials run $5.95 and you get a very large entrée with a side of rice. Add in a Coke for an extra dollar and you have lunch and dinner. The place is really clean too.

East Garden Chinese Restaurant.jpg

East Garden Chinese Restaurant is excellent!

I had the Chicken with Broccoli with white rice and it was a very large portion. Both the chicken and the broccoli were perfectly and they do give you a nice amount of chicken. The sauce is flavorful and delicious (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.wordpress.com as well). It was both lunch and dinner for me.

After lunch, it was across the street to Glaser’s Bakery at 1670 1st Avenue for dessert (See reviews on both TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC-NOW CLOSED). They make a peach Danish that is out of this world ! ($3.00). I swear this is one of the best bakeries in the city! So much for the places with the $10.00 cookies, Glaser’s is the real thing. Every bite of that Danish was like heaven!

Glazer's Bake Shop

Glaser’s Bakery

I decided to walk across the park this afternoon to get some real exercise and work off that lunch. The park in the late fall is glorious with the gold and yellow leaves and the cool but still warm breezes. I walked along the reservoir and watched the joggers pass me by. I had more than a few tourists ask to take pictures for them but it is so much fun to see the park so alive with people and happy to be there. The park is so graceful in its own way and the fact that so much of it is being renovated by the Conservatory shows that people believe in it.

I love the winding paths and the quietness of the park. Even though these paths have been traveled many times, I felt as if I had seen them for the first time. I had never been to this part of the park before and walking these paths felt like a new adventure. It amazes me that I have been in this park a million times since I was a kid but I still wonder at the parts of it that I have never seen. I walked along the back paths of the lake by the low 80’s and ended up walking to West 82nd Street and Central Park West in the mid-afternoon. The trees were still brilliant with colorful leaves as November was still gripping. We had had such a warm fall that many of the trees turned late much to the benefit of those who like to walk around the neighborhood.

I walked up to 84th Street and Central Park West to resume my walk of the neighborhood. I really like the stores in this neighborhood. They have character. I walked into West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue and West 84th Street, to look at the toys and games. It is one of the classic stores of the city and still holds on to the tradition that kids are not all glued to their cellphones. It has a nice array of games and stuffed animals and assorted pocket knick knacks. It is a place I would have liked to shop at when I was a kid.

John Koch Antiques at 201 84th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) has unique window displays and in the short visit I had there had many wonderful pieces to decorate the office or your home. I liked the sailboats in the window. There was a turn of the last century feel about the place.

John Koch Antiques

John Koch Antiques

Books of Wonder at 217 West 84th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) was enjoyable except they were going through a floor move when I was there and I only got to see the front of the store. It has an excellent selection of classic and contemporary children’s books.

Books of Wonder.jpg

Books of Wonder Book Store

As you turn the corner onto West 85th Street, take time to admire 101 West 85th Street. The building has the most beautiful architecture and beautiful details and built in the 1880’s. The Red House Apartment building at West 85th Street and West End Avenue near Riverside Drive has unique details to it as well. You really have to stop and look up to admire the design of the building. I rounded West 85th Street around West 86th Street and then to West 87th Street.

101 85th Street

101 West 85th Street; look at the details of the building

When walking up the block and turning onto West 87th Street, take time to admire the foliage at Central Park West. The park is truly beautiful on this part of block. The trees are really ablaze with color.

When I arrived at P.S. 166 on 132 West 89th Street, the Richard Rodgers School, is the Manhattan School of Art & Technology. I read the plaque that was dedicated in 2003 to the famous composer. The school was built in 1897 and is one of the few terra cotta gothic designs in the New York Public School system. It is such an honor to a famous composer of musicals such as ‘The Flower Drum Song’ and ‘The King and I’.

The Playground 89 next to P.S. 166 adds a little life to the quiet neighborhood. Even on a slightly warm November day, there were loads of kids running around while their parents relaxed and chatted on the benches surrounding the park. It was nice to see so many families out that afternoon.

As you round the neighborhood on West 89th Street, I walked into the West Side Community Garden at 123 West 89th and Columbus Avenue. This little gem of a park is located behind an office building and is across from P.S. 166. Though not in the full bloom that I saw from the pictures posted in the park from the Summer Opera Program, the trees still held on to their golden hue and some of the plants had some greenery to them. It looks like the community really backs and maintains the park. In warmer months, there is a lot of special events here.

West Side Community Garden.jpg

West Side Community Garden in the Summer

Down the street from the school and the parks is Ballet Hispanico at the corner of 167 West 89th and Amsterdam Avenue. Some of the holiday shows had been posted and looked rather interesting. The building was closed the day I was there.

The last part of my journey of the streets of the neighborhood was crossing West 90th Street for a second time and exploring the avenues. I stopped at the St. Gregory’s Playground near the corner of West 90th Street and Columbus Avenue. this little pocket park on the other side of the West Side Community Garden is in dire need of a face lift. I can see this is something the neighborhood needs as a parent yelled out to me if I was from the NYC Parks Department (I have no clue why I look so important to people when walking around the city. Either I look like a policeman or a city official).

There is another small park behind the Wise Houses, a small public housing project, in this very quickly gentrifying and updated neighborhood.  As I had read online and seen by walking though it (more stares from the residents), the small park has some unique fixtures yet is falling apart when you really look at it. The benches and some of the equipment is in need of repair but I could tell is well used by the residents by the kids running around. Like the St. Gregory playground, it could use a facelift.

The last part of the walk took me back to West End Avenue on West 90th Street and the most elegant row of brownstone homes that lined the avenue. I have noticed on my walk of this neighborhood that the individual homes along the streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue and Riverside Drive and West End Avenue have some of the most unique architecture in the neighborhood.

It must have been something when the whole neighborhood must have looked like this but that is progress. In the middle of the neighborhood, the area keeps updating, modernizing and changing. It seems that the neighborhood is morphing into something a little more upscale like its southern neighbors and less like Manhattan Valley to the north. For now, not quite the traditional Upper West Side but still homey and welcoming to people moving in. I enjoyed my afternoons here.

Take the A or C or 1 subway trains to the Upper Upper West Side. The A train will be express from 59th Street to 125th Street.

Places to eat:

West Place Chinese Restaurant

1288 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10027

(212) 932-9390/9376

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5065901-Reviews-West_Place-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

DiningonShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/591

 

East Garden Chinese Restaurant

1685 First Avenue

New York, NY

(212) 831-5900

http://www.eastgardenchinese.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12860202-Reviews-East_Garden_Chinese_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/489

 

Glaser’s Bake Shop (now closed)

1670 1st Avenue

New York, NY 10128

(212) 289-2562

http://www.glasersbakeshop.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d930552-Reviews-Glaser_s_Bake_Shop-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/409

 

Places to Shop:

West Side Kids

498 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10024

(212) 496-7282

http://www.westsideskidsnyc.com

 

John Koch Antiques

201 West 84th Street

New York, NY  10024

(212) 799-2167

http://www.kochantiques.com

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/20

 

 

Books of Wonder

217 West 84th Street

New York, NY

(800) 207-6968

http://www.booksofwonder.com

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/42

 

Places to Visit:

West Side Community Garden

123 West 89th Street

(212) 316-5490

http://www.westsidecommunitygarden.org

 

Ballet Hispanico

167 West 89th Street

(212) 362-6710

http://www.ballethispanico.org

 

Playground 89

West 89th Street

New York, NY  10024

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/playground/eighty-nine

Open: Varies with the school

 

Joan of Arc Park

Riverside Drive Between West 96th-West 91st Streets

New York, NY 10025

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-1:00am

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/joan-of-arc-park

 

 

 

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