I swear that Chelsea Papaya has been part of this neighborhood since the 1970’s. I have passed this place a million times and never stopped in to eat. Recently when I was walking around the rim of Manhattan for ‘The Great Saunter” walk, I needed an early start and this place opens at 5:00am (please check their website for the changing hours).
Chelsea Papaya at 171 West 23rd Street
For breakfast that morning I knew I would need to load up on carbohydrates so I ordered a Breakfast platter. I had two very large pancakes with a side of bacon and two scrambled eggs ($7.95) with a medium Papaya drink. It was the best breakfast on this rare cool summer morning.
As New York City is just beginning to reopen during the COVID-19 Pandemic and trying to return to normal, I have been wondering Manhattan to see what changes have happened in those three months. It is still incredible how much of the City is beginning to remind me of the mid-1970’s.
My trip in 2020 into lower Manhattan revealed a City looking circa 1980 with boarded up stores and graffiti all over the place. Walking around the neighborhoods in Midtown and Downtown last week were a real eye-opener on how pent-up frustration can almost destroy the fabric of a City and the underpinnings of human nature. It really showed just how frustrated everyone is with being sick, unemployed and broke.
Fifth Avenue boarded up on June 15th, 2020
Even when the stores windows get fixed and the stores restocked, I don’t think people will forget that quickly. When you finally let people ‘out of their cages’ (i.e. their apartments) though you can see that compassion come back. This is what I saw on my thirty-two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan.
On my walk in 2021, the weather was just as spectacular as it was in 2020 but the mood of the City was different as things in Manhattan had been opened now for a year and the mask mandates were giving way to better days ahead. I saw so much interesting ‘public art’ all along my walk and ate at restaurants new and revisited from other blogs in the past six years. I felt like I was seeing old friends. I also took more time to look over artworks, explore parks and admire the views more on this beautiful day. There are better days ahead for New York City as it continues to morph and change.
Walking around the Island of Manhattan is no easy task. I had planned this since last year and made it my goal to do the walk on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. The problem was I had a ton of yard work to do on the first day of the summer and I had to get it done knowing that I would be tired after a walk like this. So after a day of trimming bushes and weeding the lawn, I put my game plan together for the next morning.
Since it was Father’s Day Sunday, I wanted to do something different and special to honor my father more than just sitting at a cemetery looking at an inscription. This is not something my father would want me to do. So my honoring him was to remind myself of all the wonderful Father’s Day’s we spent in Manhattan visiting museums, parks and going to see independent movies at the MoMA and the Angelica. After which we would dine at whatever restaurant I had seen in the Village Voice. Those were the days I wanted to remember.
My inspiration “The Great Saunter” by Cy V. Adler
‘The Great Saunter Walk’ had been cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and would be held at a later date. The walk was started in 1984 by Mr. Cy A. Adler, who founded The Shorewalkers Inc., a non-profit environmental and walking group whose group was fighting for a public walkway since 1982. The first Saturday in May was designated as ‘Great Saunter Day’ (Wiki and Company founding) and has been recognized by most current Mayors of New York City.
Cy V. Adler
I got the map of the walk off the internet and tried to figure out where to start. The walk starts at Frances Tavern in Lower Manhattan but I thought that was too far away. I thought of starting at 110th Street so I could get through Harlem faster but then I would be travelling back to 110 Street late at night so I nixed that. Then I thought, I have to get off at 42nd Street for the Port Authority anyway and that is where I am at now with my walking project plus when I finish I will only be a few blocks away from the bus station so why not start there?
So in 2020 for my first walk, I started my walk around the Island of Manhattan at the Circle Line Boat Pier where I celebrated last year’s birthday.
The Circle Line is where I spent 2019’s birthday touring Manhattan by rivers
I took the 6:35am bus into New York to start early. During the week, the first bus comes at 5:30am and I would have liked to get more of head start but I wanted to do the walk on Father’s Day so into the City I went that morning. I got to the Pier by 7:07am and started the walk around the island.
The Circle Line was closed also because of COVID-19 so the Pier was quiet that morning. I looked over my map of Manhattan and started the walk along the pathways along the Hudson River going up the Joe DiMaggio Highway to the Henry Hudson Highway. I had not been to this part of the Manhattan in about two years.
When I decided to do the walk for a second time on June 25th, 2021, I put together a different game plan. With all the problems happening all over the City (shootings and harassments had been going up all over the City), I decided that I wanted to start earlier then I had the previous year and decided to spend the night before in Manhattan so I could get an earlier start.
I stayed at the Moxy Hotel in Chelsea at 105 West 28th Street in the heart of the Flower District and I have to say that the hotel has excellent views of the City. I received a room on the tenth floor facing Sixth Avenue and at night I have to say it was one hell of a view. When the lights came on in the evening, the whole neighborhood twinkled.
I got up at 5:00am that morning as the sun shined through the floor to ceiling windows (I wanted to get up early so I pulled the curtains back to see the sun) and got ready then checked the luggage, checked out and started my walk the second time at 6:15am.
The mood of the City was much different from the previous year with more businesses opening up and more people milling around the parks. Still the City was pretty quiet for most of the day especially as I reached uptown.
I started the walk in 2021 with a good breakfast at Chelsea Papaya at 171 West 23rd Street #1. I have passed this small hole in the wall restaurant for years on my walks around the neighborhood but had never eaten there. I had passed it the night before on my way back to the hotel and thought it would be a good to have breakfast before I started the walk in Riverside Park.
It was an amazing and filling breakfast of three pancakes, two scrambled eggs and three slices of bacon with a medium papaya drink for $11.00. The food was excellent and the guys working their at 6:15am could not have been nicer. The seating was not so hot with two small tables outside the restaurant where the tables and street could have used a good cleaning. Still it was a carb laden meal that prepared me for the long walk.
Don’t miss the wonderful and filling breakfasts at Chelsea Papaya
I started the walk in 2021 on West 23rd Street, so I got to visit this side of the park during the day with it sweeping views of Jersey City and the Hudson River. When I started walking in the park at 6:30am, it was a beautiful sunny day but as the morning grew and I got to around West 42nd Street, the clouds started to roll in and it got cooler. That did not last long.
The first thing you will see when entering the park is the Monarch Waystation Garden that is one of many that have been planted around the rim of Manhattan. I have seen this also in east side parks as well.
The Monarch Waystation Garden is as you enter Riverside Park
As I entered Hudson River Park, I noticed many works of art displayed on the fences and walls of the surrounding buildings. The 2021 NY Salt Exhibition was being displayed and I took some time to look over the works while walking through the park. I made may way from West 23rd Street and proceeded north walking near the river.
The NY Salt Exhibition at Hudson River Park in 2021
When you walk up past the Piers along Riverside Park in the 40’s, the first thing you will see in the next Pier over is the Intrepid Sea-Air Space Museum which was closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. Pier 86 where the ship was docked was really quiet that morning with only two people eating their breakfast on one of the tables in the little park near the ship. There were sweeping views of New Jersey across the river of Weehawken and West New York.
The Intrepid Sea-Air Museum is just reopened after being closed for almost a year
Most of the West Side is pathways along the river with views of New Jersey until you hit about West 50th Street when you get to the lower part of the new Hudson River Park that has been built on fill to create a new riverfront.
When I reached the park by Pier 96, I came across Malcolm Cochran’s artwork “Private Passage” again. I came across this sculpture when visiting the park two years earlier. The piece is a giant bottle and when you look in the port hole you will see a state room of the former Queen Mary. It is an interesting piece of artwork that is not hard to miss and take time to look in the port holes.
The artist is originally from Pittsburgh, PA and is graduate of Wesleyan College who specializes in large sculptures.
Further up the park, I came across the old New York Transfer Station piece in Riverside Park. This is a relic of the old West Side Railroad tracks that were once part of the New York Central Railroad that the park and buildings behind it are built on. This transfer bridge once was used to attach railroad cars to the freight tracks that once ran up and down this part of the island (Forgotten New York).
The New York Central Transfer Station
It is interesting to see this now as a piece of art instead of a functioning part of the railroad but it is fascinating to see how we use the parts of the past as a piece of art in the present. This shows the current park visitor how we have made new uses of the riverfront for recreation and pleasure which was not true during the early parts of the last century.
As I was walking up through Riverside Park, I noticed a lot of artworks displayed in Riverside Park that were part of the ‘Summer 2021-Re: Growth’ art display that stretched from the West 40’s to 100’s at various points in the park. Some were interesting in design and it was nice to see a lot were from local New York Artists.
These lined the length of Riverside Park and you had to really look for them. These were the works of art I viewed on the way up Riverside Park. I included the work and a short biography on each artist that I saw:
Ms. Amezkua is American born New York City based artist living in Bronx. A graduate of Cal State Fresno with a BA and also attended the Academia de belle Arte in Florence she is formally trained as a painter (Artist Bio).
Ms. Letven is an American born artist raised in Philadelphia with a BFA from the Tyler School of Art and a MFA from Hunter College and currently teaches at Parsons School of Design and Art and Design at New York University. She is a multidisciplinary artist in sculpture, installation and painting (Artist Bio).
Ms. Mattingly is an American born artist currently living in New York City. She has a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art from Portland, OR and attended Parsons School of Design. She is known for creating photos and sculptures representing futuristic and obscure landscapes (Wiki).
Mr. Goode is an American born artist from Texas. He has a MFA from Boston University and has worked as an archaeologist on several digs Artsy Bio).
These works are on display until August 2021 and try not to miss this interesting display of art in this ‘open air museum’.
Hudson River Park and Riverside Park South blend into one another with the housing complexes behind them are a shining example of the uses of urban renewal and reclaiming our riverfront for pleasure and conservation. It is also one of the nicest new complexes built in Manhattan in recent years.
What I love about this park is the nice pathways and lawns just to sit back and relax and enjoy the views. There are a lot of places to stop and rest. Since I had been to this side of the island two years ago, I continued my walk up to West 72nd Street when I got to the southern border of Riverside Park which runs much of this side of Manhattan.
I made it up to West Harlem Piers Park by 8:46am (7:43am in 2021)and made my first stop of the morning. The park was a mess. People must have been having parties in the park the night before and did not clean up after themselves because I could see a NYC Parks worker in the picking up the garbage and she did not look happy about the mess. Usually this park is pristine and I was not used to seeing it such a mess. I guess these are the things you see in New York City parks early in the morning. The efforts to keep them clean.
The park is down the road from the new extension of the Columbia University campus extension so this park gets a lot of use during the school year. This early in the morning there were just a few joggers and one homeless guy who was throwing more garbage around. I did not want to be near the Parks worker when she had to deal with that.
What I had not noticed on my trips to the park in the past were some unusual sculptures by artist Nari Ward, a New York based artist who likes to use objects found in his own neighborhood (artist website).
These unusual silver sculptures I almost interpreted as people trying to speak and it was interesting that the sculptures were called Voice I and Voice II. I was not sure of what the artist was trying to communicate with his artwork but it does stand out in the park. The unfortunate part of it was that there was so much garbage in the park you could not get up close to see them.
I really enjoy this park. It has wonderful breezes and excellent views and plenty of places to sit down and relax. It offers such nice views of the river and as the morning progressed I started to see more sailboats and water boats out cruising up and down the Hudson River.
I reached the bottom of the George Washington Bridge by 9:36am and watched an artist putting a display of layered rocks along the Hudson River shore. Uliks Gryka the artist behind the “Sisyphus Stones” that line this part of the park was carefully layering stones one on top of another and fixing and creating new formations. It was interesting to watch how he balanced each of the stones into a new work. The artist is originally from Albania and has no formal art training (Artist website).
The work reminded me of the Moai on Easter Island, the famous statues that faced the sea. It made me think how the artwork looks to the river and how maybe it is nature communicating with land and sea. I was not sure the message the artist was trying to portray and he looked too busy working to ask him. The artwork was still there in 2021 and it looked like the artist was still updating it.
I continued on into Fort Washington Park to see the Little Red Lighthouse, which I had not visited in almost three years since my last walk in the neighborhood. Many tourists were by the site just under the George Washington Bridge, taking pictures by the lighthouse and enjoying the sunny weather.
The Little Red Lighthouse had been constructed in 1889 and moved from Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1917 and moved here in 1921. It was decommissioned in 1948 after the construction of the George Washington Bridge in 1931. What had saved the lighthouse from destruction was the book “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge” by author Hildegarde Swift in 1942 (Wiki).
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift
I didn’t stay long by the lighthouse because it was loaded with tourists taking pictures but I did stay by the tables and enjoy the view of the George Washington Bridge. It was making quite the racket as more cars are travelling over it again and on a sunny day offered some dazzling views. The breezes were amazing! In 2021, the lighthouse and the park were really quiet so I got to enjoy the views on my own this time.
Walking up the stairs to get to the upper level of the park is not for the faint hearted and I saw many people much younger than me get out of breath on their way up. One guy had to be about twenty and he looked like he needed oxygen. To me it was just a walk up and I continued to walk through the lower part of Fort Washington Park. In 2021, I could not believe how in much better shape I was that I handled it better.
This part of the park faces Englewood Cliffs, NJ and the Palisades Park Highway on the other side of the river. There is no construction on that park of the river so it offers views on the cliffs and the woods that line it.
The view of Englewood Cliffs, NJ
As I walked further up into the park, it was mostly wooded highway and further up the hill was Fort Tyron Park and the home of The Cloister Museum which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum has been closed since March but I had taken one of the last of the guided tours on religious flora in art of the Middle Ages before it closed on March 13th.
Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters Museum in the park
When you reach Fort Tyron Park by foot along the Henry Hudson Parkway, you will see two large stone columns that look like the entrance to an estate and then across the street there is a pillared overlook to the Hudson River. These are remnants of the former C.K.G. Billings estate, “Tryon Hall”.
The old entrance to the estate is covered with brush
Mr. Billings, the Chairman of Union Carbide, owned most land of which the park is located and theses small relics are the remains of the great estate. I had never been in this part of the park before and thought it interesting that these pieces of the estate were left.
The archway and drive are still part of the park and you can see them closer to The Cloisters Museum. The old driveway to the estate is still used inside the park.
I travelled up further and arrived at the Dyckman Beach Park located at the end of Dyckman Avenue in Inwood. This tiny little beach is hidden from the road and is located next to the pier. Every time I have visited the park, this little section is in high demand for picnickers and you have to get there early. The pier is a nice place to relax and soak of the sun and admire the view.
Don’t miss this tiny beach and the pier. It is so relaxing!
In 2021, the beach area was busy with a local high school graduation going on in the restaurant right next to the beach. There was much cheering and celebrating going on and it was good to see that. All along the harbor deck, people were relaxing and fishing.
In 2020, I walked around one side of the park that contains the soccer field where a very heated match between two teams was taking place. I could tell there was a heated discussion in Spanish that these two teams were in major competition. While the men were playing soccer, the ladies were cooking up a storm, making skewers of meat, cutting fresh fruit and stirring lemonade for a makeshift concession stand. This was a very organized league.
I walked around the field and watched the game as the families settled in for a long afternoon. These guys really took the game seriously and were going back and forth side to side for the twenty minutes I watched the game. The pathway to the park ends in a semi-circle and on the side is a walkway bridge over the railroad tracks which will take you around Inwood Hill Park to the lower pathways that overlook the Hudson River and to the Henry Hudson Bridge that leads to the Bronx.
In 2021, the fields were very quiet which I was surprised by. Usually this area is very crowded with people even when COVID was at its height. It was better to be outside than inside. It was earlier in the morning.
When you follow the path, it leads to the Spuyten Duyvil, a man-made canal that was created during the Dutch era for shipping and trade. It cuts off a small section of Manhattan that is now on the Bronx side of the City. Here you will see the giant blue “C” for Columbia University, whose stadium is on the other end of the park.
The Columbia “C” from Inwood Hill Park
The paths lead down wooded areas that are some of the last of the ‘virgin’ forest left on the island of Manhattan and one of the few true wooded areas.
When you exit the pathways into the lawn area of the park, you are greeted by a giant boulder which is one of the most historic objects on the Island of Manhattan, the Shorakkopoch Rock. The rock is the legendary location of where Peter Minuit bought Manhattan from the Reckgawawang Indians for what is today $24.00 of household goods and trinkets.
On the other side of the small cove is the natural cove, Muscota Marsh where the Columbia Rowing Team has their sheds. The Muscota Marsh was created in a joint partnership between the NYC Parks system and Columbia University. This one acre marsh is located in the Spuyten Duyvil creek and is part freshwater and part salt-water marsh. It is home to many native birds who use it as a nesting and watering site.
I sat and relaxed while birds flew in and out of the marsh that morning. It was the most beautiful sunny morning and you could feel the cool breezes coming off the creek while small boats passed by. The Muscota Marsh is one of those hidden treasures in Manhattan that tourists rarely visit. It was nice to just sit and relax. I had reached the northern most part of Manhattan by 11:11am four hours after the start time.
In 2020, I had eaten a light breakfast at the house and had gone through my snacks while walking up to Inwood Hill Park. Most of the places I had gone to in the past while up walking the neighborhood or going to the Columbia/Cornell football games were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic or went out of business. I ordered breakfast from Park Terrace Deli at 510 West 218 Street.
I had the most amazing Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a Hero that hit the spot. I was starved and this large sandwich fit the bill. It was loaded with freshly cooked bacon and the hero roll was toasted and then pressed when the bacon, cheese and eggs were loaded inside. I sat down with a much needed Coke in the benches by Isham Park further down Broadway. I enjoyed every bite and the ice cold Coke gave me the burst of energy I needed to continue the walk down the western part of Manhattan.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich at Park Terrace Deli is excellent!
In 2021, I was still full from my breakfast at Chelsea Papaya and stopped in Twin Donut at 5099 Broadway (now closed) for a donut. I have been to this shop many times when walking in the neighborhood and their donuts are delicious. I had one of their Blueberry jelly filled ($1.50) and that hit the spot. The owner said that they were selling the business after sixty years and it would soon be a twelve story building.
Twin Donut was at 5099 Broadway for almost 60 years
After breakfast, I travelled down 10th Avenue from 218th Street and followed the path of the original footprint of the island until I arrived at the cross streets of Dyckman Street and Harlem River Drive at the beginning of Highbridge Park and Sherman Cove. Even in this busy area of car repair shops, small restaurants and the Dyckman Houses, everyone pretty much ignored me as if I was not there. Not one person looked at me. Many people looked down as I passed which I thought was strange.
In 2020, most of this part of Highbridge Park was still closed off to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because it was Father’s Day, people were barbecuing along the thin path and patch of land between the park and the highway. It amazes me how creative these residents are with the use of space.
In 2021, the Sherman Creek part of the park was open for walking through and I took the time to walk the path to the river through the winding woods and streams. It is a nice break from the busy City and it a very underrated part of Highbridge Park. The views of the East River were spectacular and the the breezes were so nice and cool. It was nice to have the park to myself that morning.
Sherman Creek Park/Swindlers Cove is at 351 West 205th Street
Before I took the long trip down Harlem River Drive along the rim of High Bridge Park, I walked along Dyckman Street, one of the three big retail corridors for the Dominican community in Washington Heights. The other two being 207th Street and the other 181st Street and Broadway.
Dyckman Street on the west side of Broadway is so alive on the weekends with street vendors selling food and wares, music playing and people socializing with their neighbors. I love coming here for the bakeries and to get fresh pastilitoes and freshly squeezed juice from the street vendors who have to listen to my broken Spanish. It was a little tougher to visit the places as social distancing let less people into the stores that were open.
On warm weekends Dyckman Street is alive with shoppers
After I walked a few blocks of Dyckman Street to see what was available, I started the long trek down the path along Harlem River Drive with High Bridge Park across the street. The long curves of the park, the lush woods and rock formations show what was once the former shoreline of this part of the island. From this location it looks alike Inwood Hill Park with clean paths and virgin plantings.
The reality of the park is that if you walk through the park you are faced with the over-grown paths, the graffitied rocks and garbage that parts of the park suffer from. When you walk through the paths on the other side of the park, you see how far the park has gone down and the work that still needs to be done. Abandoned cars and garbage still plaque parts of the park from the park side paths. Still the City is doing a lot to improve the park.
I passed the old High Bridge Water Tower that was being renovated and was covered in scaffolding. The water tower and the bridge are the lasting remnants of the way water used to travel into New York City from upstate in the late 1800’s. The tower was built in 1872 and was part of the old Croton Aqueduct system of moving water into Manhattan. The tower and the surrounding area is currently going under renovation and the pool is closed because of COVID-19.
This part of the park had no activity and on the path leading down to the old Polo Grounds there was not much activity. What always makes me nervous is walking around the Polo Ground Houses that run from West 165th Street to about West 155th Street. The complex is a tired looking set up public housing with one building looking exactly like the other and a small patch of green in the middle. I could see from the hill over-looking the lawns that there were some small parties going on.
The Polo Ground Tower Housing Complex
All I kept thinking about is the activities that go on there and I zig-zagged my way down the sidewalk until I hit the part of the fence that was covered with trees and vines. Out of site from the prying windows. Ever since I read about the complex on the internet, I have never felt comfortable in this part of the City. This was before I walked all around the complex four years ago when I walked Harlem and didn’t think much about it. I walk around quickly in this neighborhood.
I crossed the street and walked down Edgecombe Avenue on the upper side of Jackie Robinson Park. On the corner of the edge of the street is the John Hooper Fountain at 155th Street and Edgecombe Avenue. The fountain was designed by architect George Martin Huss and is a ornamental horse fountain and lantern. It was dedicated in 1894 and donated to the park by businessman John Hooper (NYCParks.com/MichaelMinn.net). It was used by the horses for drinking when carriages and horse riding at that time.
The John Hooper Fountain is at the corner of Edgecombe Avenue and 155th Street
As I walked past the fountain and entered the edge of Jackie Robinson Park I could hear music and kids screaming from the sidewalk. The park was alive with people using the playground or setting up parties for Father’s Day. It was also a mixed crowd of people who were conversing amongst themselves about recent events and I heard many lively debates.
The one thing I discovered about this section of the park is that everything across the street or closer to the park is brand new housing, a lot catering to CUNY students. Much of Bradhurst and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard have been knocked down and rebuilt with new housing and much of West 145th Street is new stores and restaurants. It changes as you get closed to Lenox Avenue and Young Park.
I find Jackie Robinson Park very nice. The park has always been well maintained and the place was clean and well-landscaped. During the warmer months of the school year, a lot of CUNY students can be seen on the hill as you enter the park on West 145th Street sunning themselves and studying. Now families were setting up barbecues unfortunately many of them without masks.
The worst thing I found about travelling in these blocks of the City in 2020 is how the Parks system treats the patrons of the parks. There was not one open bathroom in the four parks that I visited. High Bridge Park had no bathrooms on the Harlem River Drive part of the park, both Jackie Robinson Park’s bathrooms were shut tight and Young Park’s were also closed. Thomas Jefferson Park further down only had Porto toilets (and I will not mention in this blog the condition they were in. COVID-19 would not even survive in those). In 2021, there were more bathrooms open but not in great shape.
After a rest in Jackie Robinson Park, I ventured down West 145th Street to Young Park and then crossed down Malcolm X Boulevard to West 143rd Street. There were no open bathrooms here so I headed down Fifth Avenue before making the connection on to Harlem River Drive.
In 2021, I stopped for a quick lunch at Sweet Mama’s Soul Food Restaurant at 698 Malcolm X Boulevard on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 145th Street. It was a little too hot for such heavy food but I thought why not? I had not had Southern food in a long time.
I tried the Fried Chicken wings, Mac & Cheese, Sweet Potatoes and a biscuit with a Coke. The food is served buffet style and bought by the pound. My ‘little’ meal with beverage was $9.00 and I thought that was a bargain for all that food. The fried chicken tasted delicious but had been sitting in the steamer too long but the biscuit, sweet potatoes and mac & cheese were all excellent and full of flavor. Refreshed from my lunch, I carried on down Malcolm X Boulevard (Lexington Avenue). Don’t bother with the public bathrooms at Carl Young Park across the street. They are not clean.
As I made my way down Fifth Avenue from 143rd Street, I stopped for a moment to look at a obelisk that I had not noticed the last time I had visited the area. The obelisk is located on a tiny triangle near the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 142nd Street. The Monument is the 369 Infantry Regiment Memorial dedicated to the all black unit that fought so valiantly in World War I with the Fourth French Army. It was in such an obscure place that I must have just passed it when I visited Harlem. The drunk homeless guy sitting next to it was a deterrent from really looking at it.
I crossed over the triangle and continued to follow the river to West 135th street ( the river walk ends at West 135th Street and continued down Madison Avenue. I had to walk through the Lincoln Houses Public Housing and again pretty much everyone avoided me. I was surprised that there was so much garbage on the lawns and in the parks. I could not believe that none of the residents would have picked this up. As I walked down Madison Avenue, I noticed another homeless guy trying to solicit money from people coming off the highway and almost getting hit a few times. I was going to yell at him but I thought I better mind my business walking in this section of the City.
I made a turn into the courtyard of the Lincoln Houses to see the statute of Abraham Lincoln with Child statute at 2120-2122 Madison Avenue. With all the statutes being torn down in 2020, I was surprised that not only was this statute up but in good shape.
Lincoln and Child at 2120-2122 Madison Avenue in the Lincoln Houses
The statue was designed by artist Charles Keck. Mr. Keck was an American born New York artist who studied at the National Academy of Design and the Arts Students League of New York. He was best known for his work on statues and monuments.
I walked south down Madison Avenue until I reached West 128th Street and walked towards the river towards Second Avenue. I stopped in Harlem River Park and Crack is Wack Playground and again no open bathrooms and I passed the Tri-Boro Plaza Park nothing there either so I just continued down Second Avenue to East 120th Street and walked down Pleasant Avenue towards Thomas Jefferson Park. The park was pretty busy in both 2020 and 2021 with kids playing baseball or running around the park.
While walking around Harlem River Park, I came across the artwork “Dream Fulfilled”, which was unveiled in August of 2011 as a partnership between the Harlem CDC, their State and City Partners, East, Central, and West Harlem Committees and the Creative Arts Workshop for Kids (CAW) (Empire State Development).
The project “Dreams Fulfilled” in 2011
As I walked down Second Avenue from 125th Street, I noticed interesting artwork on the side of the Taino Towers at 221 East 122nd Street. The towers had been going through a major renovation the last time I had visited the neighborhood and parts of the complex were still under scaffolding.
Artist Don Rimx painted a mural of Nuyorocan poet Jesus ‘Tato’ Laviera. The painting had been unveiled in 2017 (long after my visit to the neighborhood) and 123rd Street was renamed after the poet (Street Art NYC).
The mural of Jesus ‘Tato’ Laviera at Taito Towers at 122nd Street and Second Avenue
Mr. Rimx was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and in 2009 moved to Brooklyn and then in 2014 to Florida. He graduated from Central High School of Visual Arts and Escuela Des Arts Plasticas. He is known for his use of styles in art and culture and known for his murals (Artist Bio).
As I passed the towers and its new artwork, I crossed Second Avenue to the Wagner Houses complex. People were having all sorts of picnics and barbecues inside and outside the Wagner Houses and people were celebrating Father’s Day in full force. It was all I could do from walking through the complex again. The last time I did that the residents looked at me like I was a Martian who just set down.
The Wagner Houses
The Robert Wagner Sr. sculpture in the Wagner Playground by artist Georg John Lober
Georg John Lober was an American artist from Chicago who studied at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design and worked for the New York City Municipal Art Commission for seventeen years.
As I walked around the Wagner Complex, little had changed from my various trips in this part of the neighborhood except they finished a lot of the luxury housing across the street. The complexity and diversity of the neighborhood was changing fast right before COVID hit and in the 2021 trip, it is still changing.
Pleasant Avenue was once home to the East Harlem “Little Italy” and the ‘Dance of the Giglio’ takes place here every August outside the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (See Day Eighty-Four The Feast of Our Lady of Carmel and the Dancing of the Giglio). Now it is becoming a gentrified neighborhood and I saw many people eating in outdoor cafes or shopping at the local mall. I stopped at Pleasant Finest Deli at 375 Pleasant Avenue in both 2020 and 2021 for a snack and a Coke. On a 84 degree day there is nothing like an ice cold Coke. This is my ‘go-to’ place when I am in the neighborhood for snacks.
The ‘Chopped Cheese’ is a cult sandwich made up of two chopped hamburgers topped with American cheese, chopped lettuce and tomato with salt, pepper and spices and then pressed. It is like heaven with every bite. I took my sandwich into Thomas Jefferson Park, which is currently under renovation and ate my sandwich. After I was finished, I had the energy to continue the walk downtown.
In 2021, I wanted to make up for time and ate it when I got to Carl Schulz Park near East 84th Street. I figured I had eaten enough by that point and could save it for later. I had to have a chopped cheese that day.
The Chopped Cheese Sandwich at Blue Sky Deli (Harlem Taste Deli)
After I finished my lunch I felt refreshed and ready to go but still had to find a bathroom. Since the park was under renovation, there were only Porto bathrooms and trust me, STAY AWAY! They were so dirty that COVID-19 could not survive these things. After eating a big lunch, I ended up nauseous for the rest of the afternoon and lost my appetite for anything else. I left the park at 3:48pm and thought I was making good time.
Before I left Thomas Jefferson Park, I came across another piece of art that I had not noticed on my many visits to the park. The sculpture located in the middle of the park is entitled “Tomorrow’s Wind” by artist Melvin Edwards. The sculpture is made of welded steel and is tilted so that it reflects the sun. The piece was placed in the park in 1995 (NYCParks.org).
Mr. Edwards is a American born artist from Texas. He is known for his known for his abstract steel sculptures. He graduated with a BFA from University of Southern California and studied at the Los Angeles Art Institute.
I exited the park at West 111th Street and followed the overpass over FDR Drive and and walked down the esplanade from West 111th Street to West 60th Street in Sutton Place. The views of the Harlem and East Rivers are ever changing with new construction in Queens and Brooklyn and the developments on Randall’s-Ward and Roosevelt Island. The whole riverfront changes every year.
The Tram to Roosevelt Island
Between the sunny skies and cool river breezes, it is an amazing walk if you take your time like I did and just soak up the sunshine. I never realized how easy this part of the walk would be. I just walked others walk by enjoying their afternoons and looked at all the buildings going up and the boats and jet skiers passing by. It was one busy river.
I relaxed when I arrived at Carl Schurz Park to enjoy the views of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island and look at the flower beds in the park. Carl Schurz Park has its own Friends group and they do a great job taking care of the park. The flower beds are so colorful and vibrant and the playground is full of active screaming kids. There were finally some decent OPEN bathrooms and the water fountains here work and the water is good. The fountains dispense cold water and New York City water tastes good especially at these water fountains.
In 2020, I stayed at the park for about a fifteen minutes. Any longer and I would not have left. Carl Schurz Park is one of my favorite parks in Manhattan. I love the views, the sights and sounds of this park and love how lively and calm it is at the same time. It is a true neighborhood park.
In 2021, I just relaxed in the park, ate my chopped cheese sandwich (which I could tell people around me envying) and watched the boats and jet skiers pass by. I also had a direct view of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island so I got to watch everyone visit the little lighthouse at the tip of the island. Outside of of Bryant Park in Midtown, I find Carl Schulz Park one of the best parks in the City to relax and just people watch and let nature encompass you.
I continued down the river front walk until I had to stop at West 60th on the border of the Upper East Side and Sutton Place and proceeded up the ramp. This is where the sculpture by artist Alice Aycock is located and one of my favorite ‘street art’ sculptures ‘East River Roundabout’.
From here I travelled up the ramp which surrounds Twenty-Four Sycamores Park which borders both neighborhoods and is extremely popular with the neighborhood children and their babysitters and parents. The park was closed though because of the COVID-19 pandemic but will be reopened soon. This park was start and stop point when I was visiting this side of town for the blog. I like the shade trees and it has good bathrooms.
I walked down Sutton Place past the old mansions and stately apartment buildings. This area of the City was really quiet as the residents here were probably out of town with all that was going on. The streets were pretty much deserted and I saw a few people in Sutton Place Park. Please check out my walk of the Sutton Place/Beekman Place neighborhood on my blog:
Day One Hundred and Thirty-Four: Walking Sutton Place
Watch taking the turn on East 53rd Street to First Avenue. The cars and cabs will not stop for you when you try to cross the street so be careful. I always take a mad dash across the road.
From here you have to walk on First Avenue from East 53rd Street until East 37th Street as the United Nations dominates this area. The United Nations looked like it was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic with just a few guards on duty and not much traffic. It also looked to me like they removed a lot of their statuary because of all the vandals destroying art work all over the country.
The United Nations Complex
I stopped in Ralph Bunche Park at First Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Street. I just needed to sit for a bit and I admired a sculpture that I had not noticed before when walking the park.
Ralph Bunche Park at First Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Streets
Mr. Johnson was an American born artist from California. He studied at the Chouinard Art Institute and then studied in Paris. He was known for his abstract paintings and steel sculptures.
Another interesting piece of art was on the wall of 777 First Avenue, the Church Center for the United Nations. The work was created by artist Benoit Gilsoul and is entitled “Man’s Search for Peace” (Wiki).
The Church Center for the United Nations at 777 First Avenue
Mr. Gilsoul was a Belgium born artist who immigrated to the United States in 1967 and became an American citizen. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux Arts in Belgium. He was noted for his abstract works (IstDibs.com).
I then exited East 37th Street and continued to walk down the esplanade along the East River. I had never travelled to this section of the City before (I have currently not passed 42nd Street on my current walk of Manhattan) so it was an adventure to see new views of the island. I stayed on this pathway until I got to the Battery.
Along the way between East 37th Street and East 11th Streets, you tend to see the backs of a lot of buildings on the Manhattan side life Bellevue and the Tisch Hospital. You then pass Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and then the Con Ed Power Plant so there is not much to see on this side but from the other side you will see the skyline of Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn.
Downtown Long Island City keeps changing
On the turn before you get to the larger East River Park is the smaller Stuyvesant Cove Park which was once the site of an old cement plant and has now been reclaimed for a riverfront park. The park runs from about East 22nd Street to East 18th Street. The park is planted with native plants of New York City and has become a haven for birds and butterflies (Stuyvesant Cove Park Association). I left Stuyvesant Cove by 5:45pm in 2020 and 6:30pm in 2021. I took more time to explore the parks and artwork in 2021.
Around East 12th Street its best to the follow the path signs to John V. Lindsay East River Park. The park was created in 1939 by then Parks Director Robert Moses on reclaimed land from the waterfront and piers and is a 57.5 acre point of relief to the residents of the Lower East Side (Wiki).
The park has many recreational facilities and the afternoon I was walking through countless parties and barbecues were going on. With meats sizzling on the grills and water gun fights and the sound of music throughout the park, people were enjoying their Father’s Day celebrations in every corner of the park. I found open bathrooms that were clean and a water fountain that worked and I was happy. Don’t miss the giant anchor facing the river near the entrance to the park.
Don’t miss the “Anchors Away” sculpture in John Lindsey Park
Once I left the park, I was on my way to South Street Seaport. This part of the walk meant walking under overhangs, bridge over-passes and the housing was a combination of new and old construction. On the other side of the river, there is a difference on the riverfront on the Brooklyn side. The growth of DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn has changed the whole look from this side of the river.
Downtown Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Bridge
This is now becoming some of the most expensive housing in New York City with warehouses and old factories becoming expensive lofts. Things just changing on that side of the river and the riverfront even this far down keeps changing. I passed the Peck Slip Park at 6:30pm on my way to the South Street Seaport.
South Street Seaport is some of the original structures of Lower Manhattan many dating back to the Civil War when this was a major shipping area. The home of the Dutch West Indies Company in the early 1600’s, this port area has seen many changes. The most modern ones when the Rouse Corporation turned this into a dining and shopping entertainment area setting up concept for many downtown’s in city’s that needed revitalizing. I had never seen it so quiet in the time of COVID-19. There was no one walking around this busy area but a few tourists and residents. In 2021, the mood had changed and it was much busier. I passed through the Seaport by 6:48pm.
As I was leaving the South Street Seaport in 2021, I was watching fire trucks leave in a hurry from one of the local firehouses. It caught my attention so much that I lost my footing for some reason and fell flat on my face. It was almost as if someone had tripped me.
From here it was again more overhangs from the highway until I got to the Ferry stations for Staten Island and Governors Island and then rounding the corner to make it to Battery Park where the sites of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island loomed in the distance. All over the harbor were sailboats and motor boats enjoying the early evening. It was now 7:15pm and I had been travelling since noon.
I spent about a half hour relaxing and enjoying the views on a sunny early evening. Being the day after the Summer Solstice it was one of the longest days of the year and I got to enjoy the extra sunshine. I needed to cool down and this was the place to do it. It still is one of the most picturesque places in New York City.
I have to say that I never get tired of seeing Lady Liberty. I still can’t believe that I am seeing the same statute that both of my grandfathers’ saw when they arrived in this country. It puts it all into perspective to me how powerful of a symbol it is to this country as a way of welcoming people to the United States.
I had just walked the entire east side of Manhattan and I have to tell you I was stiff by this point. I was ready to throw in the towel here and rest but I pressed on wanting to get home at a decent time. I really misjudged how long it would take to get from the Battery to West 42nd Street.
In 2021, I was much better prepared and had more walking time under my belt. I was in much better shape so it did not tire me so much at this point of the walk. I was rearing to go after a half hour break.
I left Battery Park at 7:30pm and followed a crowd of people out of the park. Before I left the park for Battery Park City and its beautiful parks, I came across the sculpture “American Merchant Marines Memorial” at the edge of the Battery. The statue commemorates the thousands of merchant ships and crews that fought since the Revolutionary War (NYCParks.org).
The “American Merchant Marines Memorial” by artist Marisol Escobar
Ms. Escobar was born in Paris and raised in Venezuela and moved to New York in the 1950’s. She is known for her highly stylized boxy sculptures (NYCParks.org). She studied art at the Jepson Art Institute, the Ecole des Beaux Arts and Art Students League of New York (Wiki).
I left Battery Park and entered into the newer extension of Robert Wagner Jr. Park next to Battery Park City. In the front part of the park, I came across these unusual musical instrument sculptures that graced the entrance of the park.
The art entitled “Resonating Bodies” were created by British born artist Tony Cragg, whose work I had seen uptown many times. The sculptures resemble a lute and a tuba. The work is based on the concept that all physical bodies including ourselves are constantly enveloped by various energy forms (NYCParks.org).
“Resonating Bodies” at Robert Wagner Jr. Park in Battery Park City
Mr. Cragg is a British born artist from Liverpool and studied at the Gloucestershire School of Art, received his BA from the Wimbledon School of Art and his MA from the Royal School of Art. He has been showing his works since 1977. He is best know for his contemporary sculptures (Artist Bio/Wiki).
I walked behind them as I travelled through the South Cove of Battery Park City. Not a lot of tourists know that this whole area is fill in of old piers on the fillers from the building of the original World Trade Center. Now the area sits apartment buildings with breathtaking views and well-landscaped parts. The South Cove was filled with small groups of people who were also not social distancing and very few masks. I think people were just throwing caution to the wind.
Don’t miss the twists and turns of the South Cove of Battery Park City
Another interesting piece of sculpture I came across was the Mother Cabrini Memorial that was dedicated to the park in 2020.
Mother Cabrini was born in Italy as Maria Francesca Cabrini in 1850. She took her vows and founded the Missionary of the Sacred Heart. She immigrated to the United States in 1889 and continued her charity work, founding organizations and was the first naturalized citizen to be canonized (NYCbio/MotherCabrini.org/Wiki).
Jill Burkee is a sculpture and draftswoman who studied at the Arts Students League of New York and the University of Washington and has studied in Italy. Giancarlo Baigi is a sculptor and multi-media artist. He also studied at the Arts Students League of New York and has a MA from Stagio Stagi in Peitrasanta in Italy (Arts Students League bio).
When I walked the parks both North and South Coves in 2021, people were still having Graduation parties, small picnics and the restaurants had reopened both indoors and outdoors without masks. The parks, restaurants and lawns were really hopping that night.
From here it was following the path up to the North Cove of Battery Park City and the views of Jersey City. Each of the parks had unique landscaping and walkways that accented the buildings of the World Financial Center. It is hard to believe how damaged these were after the long days after 9/11. You would have never known with boats docked for dinner and people having picnics and wine in the shadows of these buildings.
I was pretty surprised as I walked through the park with more daylight time to spare that I came across what looked like an Egyptian Temple sitting in Battery Park. The sculpture building is entitled “The Upper Room” designed by artist Ned Smyth. This self-contained sculptural environment suggests a contemporary reimagining of an Egyptian temple offering a stylized sanctuary from the surrounding city (BPCA-NYC).
Mr. Smyth is an American born artist who born in NYC and works in NY. He has a BA from Kenyon College in Ohio. He is part of the Pattern and Design Movement of the 1970’s and known for his large scale public works (Artist Bio/Artist Profile Bio).
As I started to pass some of the open air restaurants I saw another piece of art that stood out which was a series of colored rings but could not get close enough to see the artist who created it. For another trip to the park.
The last piece of art that stood out to me on this trip through Battery Park was entitled “Days End” by artist David Hammons. It looked like the shell of an empty building and struck a nerve as the sun started to set on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. It is an ‘Open Air’ sculpture that explores the history of the neighborhood (Whitney Museum).
Mr. Hammons is an American born artist who studied at the Chouinard Art Institute (CalArts) and at Otis Art Institute. He is known for his Body Prints and sculpture work (Wiki/Artnet.com).
As the light started to fade in the evening as the sunset over Jersey City across the river, I started to fade too. I just singing to myself and kept encouraging myself to keep moving. I really wanted to finish even though my thighs were getting stiff and my fingers looked like sausages. I was determined even though I wanted to stop. Every time I asked that question of myself I then said ‘then why did I start the walk if I was not going to finish it?’
I stopped for a second to look at the sun setting in the backdrop of Jersey City and watched in wonder the beauty of it all. It is almost a reminder how much bigger the world is than us.
The Jersey City Waterfront at sunset
While I was walking through the parks, a few pieces of park sculpture stood out to me as I reached Hudson River Park in Chelsea. The long trek up Joe DiMaggio Highway made me more aware of my surroundings as I had to stop again. I came across the ‘Serpentine Sculptures’, these large twisting metal concoctions that graced the riverfront walkway.
These interesting twisted sculptures are by American artist Mark Gabian who holds a BA in Art History and BFA in Sculpture from Cornell University (my Alma Mater!). Mr. Gabian’s sculptures can be seen all over the world. The artist has been quoted as saying he created monumental site-specific commissions in two or three dimensions’ (the artist’s website).
The last leg of the journey loomed in the distance as I saw the lights of the Hudson Yards in the distance like a mythical ‘Oz’ waiting for me. I saw the heliport and observation deck glittering in the distance and knew I had to reach it.
The Observation Deck and the glittering buildings are just a few blocks from the Port Authority Bus Terminal where my journey started and I knew I was there. In 2020, I reached the Circle Line Pier again at 9:11pm in the evening and I celebrated by sitting on a boulder outside the ticket booth for fifteen minutes watching the security guard play on his cellphone.
I was not tired Per Se but I was stiff all over. I could feel my thighs tighten up and my fingers and hands I had to shake several times to get proper circulation back into them. Still I was not out of breath and was able to walk back to the Port Authority and make the 9:50pm bus out of New York City for home. I got home by 10:10pm almost sixteen hours later.
In 2020, I walked the entire rim of Manhattan from top to bottom in fourteen hours. Not the twelve hours the Great Saunter Walk guide says but there is a lot more to it then just walking. You will need many bathroom, water and rest breaks along the way. Drink lots of water too. Still it was a great walk and one for the blog!
In 2021, I arrived back at Hudson River Park at West 23rd Street just as the sun started to set over New Jersey and got to see the multi colors that were created in the sky. Mother Nature’s work of art for everyone to see.
I was not as tired on this trip as I had the year before. All that walking and training in Midtown Manhattan neighborhoods plus an overnight stay in the City to get an earlier start helped out tremendously. I finished the perimeter walk of the island in exactly fourteen hours, one hour more than 2020 but I stopped more times to admire public artworks, snack at restaurants and snack shops and walk through more parks and neighborhoods to see what was there. It was a more interesting trip where I did not rush it. I finished at 8:20pm in 2021.
For dinner that night, I stopped at Lions & Tigers & Squares at 268 West 23rd Street, where I had eaten many times for lunch after working at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (which I had mentioned many times in this blog). The restaurant features Detroit style pizza where the cheese and sauce are baked into the sides of the pizza and there is no crust. It is a type of Sicilian pizza with a twist to it.
I treated myself to a sausage pizza which was loaded with fried sweet sausage, caramelized onions and they put a dash of maple syrup on top to add to the complexity. God was that delicious! There is so much flavor in each bite. I was not even planning on eating there but the pizza cook waved me inside and then sold me on it. I was lucky that he did!
Do not miss the Sausage Slice at Lions & Tigers & Squares
It was another great trip around the Island of Manhattan trying new restaurants and visiting old ones, viewing wonderful public art in the open air art museum that New York City is, touring interesting parks and feeling like part of the neighborhood.
For people who say that New York City is going downhill during COVID, I say to you walk the whole island and you will see the heart of the City is in the people who live here and the contributions they make to keep the City as great as it is. Remember there is more to Manhattan than just Midtown and Times Square. There is so much more to see!
I dedicate these walks to my father, Warren Watrel, as my Father’s Day Gift of Remembrance. To my dad for all the wonderful afternoons we spent in New York City on Father’s Day. I felt you by my side that afternoon.