Tag Archives: Central Park Conservatory Park

Day Ninety-Three: Walking the borders of the Upper Upper West Side from 96th Street to 84th Street from Riverside Drive to Fifth Avenue October 11, 2017

Happy Birthday to me!!

I always try to spend part of my birthday doing some form of community service. So I spent the morning of my birthday cutting vegetables for the next few days meals at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

I spent the morning cutting three big bags of potatoes, a crate of sweet potatoes and several heads of lettuce for salads plus cleaning up the kitchen after everyone. We need to prepare prep for several dishes in advance and several cases of fresh vegetables were coming in so the old ones had to be used first. Needless to say, I was exhausted as usual when I left for the afternoon.

My afternoon was spent walking the ring of the neighborhood, the Upper part of the Upper West Side. Since this area runs from 96th Street to 59th Street, I will be breaking it up into two parts. Years ago, one did not dare venture over 86th Street on the West Side. Then it became 96th Street in the 90’s. Today though, the whole Upper West Side from 59th is really nice all the way to the tip of Inwood. There are some patches above 145th Street as I have mentioned in the blog that are still a little on the rough side but every month seem to get better.

Now that I have finished walking around Yorkville/Carnegie Hill and Manhattanville/Bloomingdale neighborhoods, it now time to tackle the Upper West and East Sides. This stretches from 96th to 59th Streets on both sides of Central Park and line both the East and Hudson Rivers. It will be a lot of walking.

My day starting by taking the subway back up to Morningside Heights for lunch. I had passed several restaurants along the way on Broadway on my days walking this neighborhood and there were still a few I had wanted to try. My choice was Bettolona at 3143 Broadway between LaSalle & Tiemann Streets (See review on TripAdvisor). The food is wonderful and very reasonably priced.

The beauty of Bettolona is the exposed walls and the open air windows that face a quiet side of Broadway to cars but noisy once the Number One subway passes. It was one of the warm, sunny October afternoons at 82 degrees so it was nice to sit by the windows and enjoy lunch. What impresses me about the restaurant is the unusual art up on the walls by the local artists, the calm jazz music and the laid back service. Everyone was so nice without knowing it was my birthday.

Bettalona.jpg

Bettalona Restaurant

I had the Linguine Bolognese, which was excellent. Fresh pasta with a generous portion of a veal ragu on top. The sauce, the owner explained, was made with fresh tomatoes and spices. It had such a nice rich flavor to it. You could taste the red wine in the sauce.

For dessert, I had the  Crepelle with nutella and banana, which I highly recommend. The dessert was two freshly made crepes filled with nutella hazelnut spread and freshly sliced bananas. A sweet light treat and the perfect way to end the lunch. I enjoyed it while watching students and members of the Columbia community walk by. I highly recommend the restaurant if you are in the area.

After lunch, I wanted to walk off my fullness and turned the corner onto the extension of 125th Street to the St. Clair turn into Riverside Park to the West Harlem Piers Park to look over the Hudson River and enjoy the beautiful sunny day. The West Harlem Piers is a small park inside Riverside Park that faces New Jersey and offers the most spectacular views of the Hudson River and the Cliffs of Englewood Cliffs and Alpine on the New Jersey side. It is a nice place to just sit, relax and think. I do some of my best writing here.

After I rested and digested, it was off to walk the fringe of the Upper Upper West Side. This encompassed 5th Avenue along Central Park to Riverside Drive facing Riverside Park from 96th Street to 84th Street. It was a large area but packed with interesting pre-war apartments, two large popular parks, loads of small local businesses and a few pocket parks along the way. This area unlike Manhattanville to the north of 96th, is starting to get a little more upscale as people with money are beginning to move above 86th Street, the traditional border of the Upper West Side. The area like the rest of Manhattan just keeps morphing quickly. You will never know when you turn the corner when another business will close and one replace it.

On the way down Broadway, I passed on the Columbia Campus a memorial plaque dedicated to General Garret Hopper Sticker, who lead the New York City defense during the War of 1812. This was the location of the McGowan Pass in Manhattanville, which was a major travel artery on the Post Road to the Northern parts of New York and New England. Fearing invasion by the British, the city rebuilt old Revolutionary forts and this area was home to the Barrier Wall to protect the travel route. It saw no action during the War of 1812 but this important piece of history is noted on the Columbia campus as the McGowan Pass still sits at the northern end of Central Park.

The one thing that I can note about both Central Park and Riverside Park that day is that all the leaves were still green. The vestiges of the fall had not turned color yet and with the unseasonable warm weather still felt like summer. Central Park was crowded that day with people playing Frisbee and walking their dogs. Many tourists were still in the city wondering around the park. It leads me to ask, are any of us still working full time? I wonder.

I had already walked all of 96th Street already, passing the artist Joy Brown statues on Broadway at the subway stop  (which run from West 117th Street to West 72nd Street until February 17, 2018) and the now familiar McDonald’s that has been my haunt for snacks and drinks when walking up here. I proceeded to walk down Riverside Drive through Riverside Park to enjoy the foliage and walk through a park still locked in the summer. It was so nice to pass couples walking their dogs or biking through the park. There is so much life going on here and people just enjoying nature.

Joy Brown Statue Kneeler.jpg

Joy Brown’s work “The Kneeler”

The homes and apartment buildings that line Riverside Park are from sign from the turn of the last century. There are still some mansions that line the park in the lower 90’s that are currently being refurbished. These you really have to look over for the 1880’s architecture. The loop around 84th Street will either take you to 83rd or 85th Street so opt for the lower one. Take your time and really walk through Riverside Park and see the foliage and the view of the Hudson River.

Between 90th and 89th Streets, take time to explore the Soldier’s & Sailors Monument on Riverside Drive and look over the monument. It was built to honor the Union Army & Navy during the Civil War. The monument was designed by the firm of Stoughton & Stoughton for the City in 1900. It was dedicated on Memorial Day of 1902 with President Theodore Roosevelt overseeing the event. The monument has seen better days and like Grant’s Tomb, could use a refurbishing.  Check out the detail work and the statues. It was well-designed and detailed.

Soldier and Sailor Monument.png

Soldiers & Sailor’s Monument

Rounding 84th Street leads you into the former edge of the Upper West Side. Back in the 90’s, one did not venture higher than 86th Street and then it became 96th Street. Now it is all the way up the west side of the island to the very tip. This whole area is being polished up and new chain stores are being opened along the Broadway corridor.

On the corner of 84th and Amsterdam Avenue this is a patch of green in the way of the Urban Green Space Garden run by The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers. The students run this urban garden where tomatoes, cucumbers and root vegetables are grown next to one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city. The kids take a lot of pride in this stand so try to stop in and look over their produce. They are a welcoming bunch and the teachers are very encouraging as well.

I walked the remaining parts of the border of the neighborhood along Fifth Avenue and then crossed over the park to the East Side where I ended up at the 96th Street exit. I ended my walk at the El Museo del Barrio a, a Latino themed museum at the edge of the Museum Mile at 1220 Fifth Avenue to see visit the museum for the first time (See reviews on TripAdvisor & my blog VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com).

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El Museo del Barrio

What an interesting museum. I visited all the exhibitions as the museum is rather small and the displays are very intimate. The Nkame exhibition was very interesting dealing with a local religion on the island that it pays great respect. It is interesting in the use of black and white used in the art. Another exhibition that really hit the economic attitude of the island was the ‘Debtfair” exhibition that explained how the island got into its financial straits and how it can be worked out. They also have a nice restaurant and gift shop that you should visit.

I took a quick tour around the Central Park Conservatory at 1230 Fifth Avenue (See TripAdvisor review & my blog ‘VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com). The garden was still in bloom with early fall flowers and green trees. Even at this time of night the conservatory was still busy. I really like the formal gardens to the south of the garden and the fountain.

Central Park Conservatory Garden II.jpg

 

Central Park Conservatory

My evening ended with a lecture on ‘Rising Waters around NYC’, a discussion of how the raising sea levels affected the city during Hurricane Sandy and in the future. This discussion was at the Museum of the City of New York at Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street across the street from the Central Park Conservatory  at 1220 Fifth Avenue & 103rd Street (See review on TripAdvisor). Don’t miss their ongoing exhibition on ‘Core New York’ on the history of the city through the ages. It is really interesting and needs several trips to really see the exhibition in full.

Overall a very nice day and a great way to spend my 52nd Birthday.

Happy Birthday to me!!

Places to Eat:

Bettolona

3143 Broadway

New York, NY  10027

(212) 749-1125

http://www.bettolonanyc.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3140758-Reviews-Bettolona-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Visit:

Sailors & Soldiers Monument

Riverside Park@ 90th Street

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riversidepark/highlights/12871

 

Joy Brown Statues (now closed)

From West 117th to 72nd Streets

Until February 17th, 2018

All Along Broadway

http://joybrownstudio.com/

 

Central Park Conservatory

402 5th Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 310-6600

http://www.centralpark.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d272517-Reviews-Conservatory_Garden-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/831

 

El Museo del Barrio

1230 5th Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 831-7272

http://www.elmuseo.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d116228-Reviews-El_Museo_del_Barrio-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1600

 

Museum of the City of New York

5th Avenue & 103rd Street

New York, NY  10029

(212) 534-1672

http://www.mcny.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d116229-Reviews-Museum_of_the_City_of_New_York-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Urban Green Space Gardens

All over the neighborhood

 

West Harlem Piers Park

By West 132nd Street

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/west-harlem-piers

 

 

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Day Seventy-Three: Walking the rim of lower Spanish Harlem from 110th-96th Streets from 5th Avenue to FDR Drive April 27th, 2017

The weather finally broke today and I got a chance to get some more walking time in. It has been gloomy for the better part of a week and it was nice to see the sun finally peaking out. It didn’t last all day but at least it was not that cold out.

After another day in the Soup Kitchen (they had me working the door today so you get to talk to all the characters outside and hear their stories), I took the 6 subway train to 110th Street and walked to find a place to eat lunch. I was going to go back for another ‘chopped cheese sandwich’ but I walked in the wrong direction and ended up at 5th Avenue.

Wanting to start my ring walk of the area (walking all of the outside streets of the neighborhood, I decided to find a place around here. I ate Empire Corner II at 1415 5th Avenue at 116th Street, a restaurant I had passed many times when walking this area (see review on TripAdvisor). It was good but not great. I had a sweet & sour chicken with a generous portion of roast pork rice that had no roast pork in it. Just some onions. For $6.00 with a Pepsi included it was not a bad lunch. They gave me a large amount of chicken so I could not complain. The takeout place is a dump but being across the street from the housing projects, I did not see anyone who came in for their orders complain. If you are in the area, it is a nice place to stop for a reasonable meal.

I started my walk down 5th Avenue past all the projects first, Taft Houses on one side and the Martin Luther King Jr. Houses to the other which gives way to 112th Street and the renovating of the brownstones and prewar apartment buildings that run from 112th Street to other parts of the neighborhood all around 110th and below as the Upper East Side is beginning to creep up into this area. Within a few years, you will see an extension of luxury high rises start to be built in this area due to the proximity of Central Park. You are seeing this at 116th Street up to Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park).

Once you pass the circle where The Heritage 5th Avenue a Schomberg Plaza Circle is currently undergoing a renovation to mixed housing, you walk past buildings that you would imagine belong on 5th Avenue with the traditional doormen apartments that face Central Park (for many who remember the ‘Central Park Jogger’ case back in the 80’s, these apartments are where the supposed ‘Central Park Eight’ came from and started their rampage. That seems like a million years ago now).

The walk down 5th Avenue took me past Central Park on one side and the start of the ‘Museum Mile’ on the other. What was nice is that the trees are in the beginning stages of budding and spring is here finally. Fifth Avenue along the park is quite a site especially when the tulips and daffodils are out in full bloom. What is unusual about Fifth Avenue residences is that one block from Fifth Avenue from 110th to 96th Streets leads into public housing complexes sometimes one or two blocks away. Almost everything below 96th Street on the East Side has been gentrified.

I passed the Q subway line on the way to FDR Drive (see previous discussion on the new Q line in an earlier blog) and will have to use this on future trips uptown. It is such a pleasure to travel on the Q line instead of the over-crowded 6 line.

My first part of the travels took me down Fifth Avenue to 96th Street and crossing 96th Street to FDR Drive. Watching the students leave school that afternoon was like a microcosm of the city. The closer you are to the park, you see all the preppie kids who go to the local private schools and are being picked up by the equally preppie nannies and moms. The closer you get to FDR Drive, you see the public schools and the kids who live above 100th Street closer to the housing complexes.

This part of Manhattan is very diverse but is ever changing. Kids are kids though and they all make a lot of noise as they run out of their schools to meet their friends, play in the local parks and run to the local pizzerias.

There is a very diverse crowd of kids at the Samuel Seabury Playground at Lexington and 96th Street, with kids, parents and babysitters running all over the place. I have never seen a park with so much energy. Kids were all over the place, chasing one another and on the play equipment. When I reached the end of 96th Street, another group of kids were playing at the Stanley Isaacs Playground at the corner of 96th and 1st Avenue. It was a slightly seedier bunch.

The Isaacs Playground though is a good place to stop to go to the bathroom as it is very clean and the tulips were up in full force both along the rim of the park, on the street leading into FDR Drive and at the entrance of the East River Esplanade on the corner of FDR Drive and 96th Street. Watch both ways when crossing the street as there is serious traffic here and the people drive like maniacs.

Walk along the corridor that is the Esplanade. Since I did not know this existed and that your could walk FDR Drive in this section of the island, I walked along the East River from 96th Street to 124th Street where is abruptly stops as they are renovating that whole park area. You will find that the first thing you are hit by is the smell of salt air. It smells like you are at the shore. It was such a rich salty smell and is a nice change from all the fumes of the cars.

Walking the Esplanade is such a beautiful walk on a sunny day but you will notice one thing, the further you get from 96th Street the less the Esplanade is taken care of by the city. Either a private group planted by 96th Street or there is a group of gardeners who took it amongst themselves to clean up the Isaacs Park, the Esplanade and that part of the pathway to about 100th Street. After that, the Esplanade is somewhat over-grown by weeds and the beds are not that well maintained.

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Stanley Isaacs Playground

 

The views are spectacular though. It is such an amazing walk on this side of the river. At around 102nd Street is the walkway to Wards Island off the coast of Manhattan with ball fields and recreation facilities. All sorts of kids were running over the walkway to go to lacrosse and soccer practice dragging their equipment with them. Ward-Randall’s Island Park stretches from about 101st Street all the way up to about 128th along the river so I got to see the island come into bloom.

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Ward-Randall Island

At about 116th Street exit, stop and admire the colorful totem pole someone created out of an old stone pillar. The faces painted on in colorful colors is quite amusing and very creative. I am not sure if it means anything but who ever painted it did a good job. It is an unusual piece of art.

The Esplanade ends abruptly at 124th Street as they are renovating the whole park area around the Wagner Houses. The area was fenced off and a very scary looking homeless guy was playing with his pants so I turned around and went back down the path.

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Esplanade in East Harlem

I crossed over the 120th Street walkway and doubled backed to the Pleasant Finest Deli at the corner of 120th and Pleasant Avenue. I love the owners. They always give me such a strange look. The best part of this deli is that the prices are so reasonable that it makes it a pleasure to stop for a snack.

From here I walked FDR Drive the rest of the way down from 121st Street to 96th Street. Not the most exciting walk and a little dangerous with people speedy by and racing to get off the various exits. Its not a place I recommend walking down.

I had to pass the East River Houses again, this time on the FDR Drive side where thank God they are building a park so the whole area is fenced off from the rest of the complex. When they finish, hopefully it will be a very active park and keep the problems away. Even when I was crossing the street at 102nd, I caught a glimpse of someone watching me hidden in one of the doorways of the complex. I just kept walking.

East River Houses.jpg

East River Houses on East 105th Street (AVOID)

I finished the side streets between 1st Avenue and FDR Drive from 102nd to 96th. The whole area is dominated by the local schools and playgrounds and the kids were out in full force, playing basketball and gossiping with their friends. The Metropolitan Hospital is the border of the neighborhood from Spanish Harlem to the Upper East Side/Yorkville. This is the way it is by 5th Avenue with Mt. Sinai Hospital dominating the area between 5th Avenue and 103rd Street.

I ended the day relaxing in the Central Park Conservatory Garden, which was in full bloom ablaze with daffodils and tulips and the fountains going in full force. The lawns and trees were all green with the early spring budding in full form. Spring is here and the warm weather is coming. Don’t miss the Conservatory Garden now as its beautiful this time of year. It was just such a nice place to sit back and relax after along day.

Central Park Conservatory Garden II

Central Park Conservatory

Places to Visit:

Central Park Conservatory

1233 5th Avenue & 105th Street

New York, NY  10029

(212) 310-6600

http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/conservatory-garden.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d272517-Reviews-Conservatory_Garden-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/831

 

Ward-Randalls Island

Just off the Island of Manhattan in the East River

New York, NY

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/wards-island-park/history

 

The East River Esplanade

Along the Harlem Waterfront from 125th Street to 145th Street

 

Samuel Seabury Playground

Lexington Avenue & East 96th Street

New York, NY  10128

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/samuel-seabury-playground

Open: 6:00am-9:00pm

 

Stanley Isaacs Playground

East 95th to East 97th Streets

New York, NY  10128

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/stanley-isaacs-playground

Open:  7:00am-9:00pm

 

Places to Eat:

Empire Corner II

1415 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10029

(212) 410-5756

Open: Sunday 11:30am-11:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-11:00pm/Friday-Saturday 11:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4480058-Reviews-Empire_Corner_II-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Pleasant Finest Deli

375 Pleasant Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 348-6666

Open: 24 Hours

My Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12379766-Reviews-Pleasant_Finest_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905