I finally was able to get back into New York City to resume my walk of the Upper West Side. It is amazing how fast the summer went. I haven’t been on this side of the island for months. Walking the lower part of the Upper East Side took many days and there was so much to return to in way of galleries, parks and restaurants that I had wanted to take my time. I hope to see the same on the lower part of the Upper West Side.
I really lucked out and it was a spectacular day, sunny and warm with blue skies. It had been a very difficult summer with the rain and the humidity and it was nice to see a pleasant fall day.
I started my day taking a seminar of the changes that will be going on with the editing system at WordPress.com (where this is printed through). It seems that they will be introducing a new editing system to our blogs that will help make them better and I look forward to improving my sites.
After class was over I visited the Museum at FIT (see reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com) which is located at the corner of Seventh Avenue at 27th Street on the main campus to see some of the new exhibitions. Don’t miss their “History of Pink” exhibition on the use of the color in fashion with some clothing items dating back to the 1700’s and their “Reconstruction” exhibition of the components of fashion.
From FIT, I took the number 1 subway up to West 79th Street to continue my walk of the lower part of the Upper West Side. My first stop in the neighborhood was to join other Alumni from Michigan State University at Blondie’s Sports Bar at 212 West 79th Street to watch the Michigan State versus Western Michigan football game (we won 31-20). Even though the score was not that high I have to admit our coach does have class and does not run up the score like other coaches do when playing a smaller school. Over a plate of chicken tenders ($8.99 for six), which were delicious (see review on TripAdvisor) I got to hear all the noisy Alumni in the back go nuts at every play. I had gotten there after half time so I had to sit through all the play by plays of the game.
After the game it was the late afternoon but sunny, gorgeous and warm, the perfect day for a walk around the City. My starting point was West 72nd Street and Central Park West corner near The Dakota Apartments where tourists were all snapping pictures. They had just finished the outside renovation on the building and the apartment complex looks elegant and you can see all the architecture elements of the building shine. The iron work around the Dakota is interesting with all its twists and faces looking out at you.
I walked down West 72nd Street like I was visiting an old friend. I had not been on this side of the island since the beginning of the summer and there have been quite a few changes on the road. A few more of the businesses have closed and more of the buildings on the street are under scaffolding. So much is being renovated in the neighborhood.
As I rounded West 72nd Street onto Riverside Drive, I came across the very busy Little Engine Playground at West 67th and Riverside Drive. This whimsical playground is part of the NYC Parks Department and the main feature of the park that the small children enjoy the is the small train that they can climb inside and on top of in the middle of the park. This popular park is on the corner of West 67th Street and Riverside Boulevard and it one of the popular parks for kids in the Riverside Park Conservatory. The afternoon I was there the kids running all over the park while the parents talked amongst themselves.
Riverside Drive and Riverside Park end at West 72nd Street but the park continues with the new Hudson River Park that currently lines the river below the Henry Hudson Parkway which itself ends at West 57th Street. This stretch of riverside is the newly landscaped park with benches, running and biking paths and a cafe, Cafe Pier One. The park is a new addition to the City that stretches down to Battery Park City.
It is a pleasure to walk along the newly reclaimed waterfront which I think was what Robert Moses wanted in the first place. This highway was needed at the time to open up the whole area to cars and now is being reclaimed as parkland. The park was conceived in the mid-90’s but construction started on parts of the park starting in the Bloomberg Administration in 2003 and still continues today to reclaim river side land and rotting piers for parkland and it the largest riverfront park in New York City and one of the largest in the country.
As I walked down Riverside Boulevard, you can see all the new sidewalks, plantings and small pocket parks that line the Boulevard from West 72nd Street to West 57th Street and the Boulevard is now lined across the street from the park with series of luxury office and apartment buildings. Everything is so new that you can see the deep green of the new sod in the park from parts of the Boulevard above.
To get a full view of the park, I walked along both the Boulevard and the inside the parks paths to see what the vision of the Hudson River Park Trust is trying to achieve. What the park does so well it that it combines the river with the park and it blends the natural beauty of both. It also protects the park goers with large boulders so that people don’t fall into the river from the side of the park. It’s a sloped effect where the river shines on a sunny day.
Both from the street and from the paths, you get beautiful views of the cliffs on the New Jersey side of the river but still engage it via the various piers that you can walk on that jut out into the river. When you reach West 59th Street, Pier 96 and the Hudson River Pier and the boat basin giver great views of the Hudson River.
I walked around the park and saw an unusual sculpture in the shape of a bottle. The public art piece ‘Private Passage’ by artist Malcolm Cochran is a unique sculpture in that what appears to be a ship in a bottle is actually a replica of a stateroom in the Queen Mary all done in metals. At night and in bad weather I read that the piece is illuminated.
Malcolm Cochran is an American artist and former Art Professor at Ohio State University. A graduate of Wesleyan College, Mr. Cochran has had many solo and group shows since the 70’s and has created numerous works all over the world. ‘Private Passage’ was created for Hudson River Park in 2005 and is an engaging piece of art where the visitors have to look inside the port holes to see the art inside the bottle. It is very clever.
Another piece of art that stands out in the park is actually part of the original park when the train tracks dominated the area. At the West 63rd Street section of the park is a section of the New York Central Transfer Station elevated above the side of the park. This is all that is left of the celebrated rail line that had been built in the 1800’s. It sits majestically above the park on what is left of a rotting pier.
As part of the Hudson River Park is ‘Linda’s Lawn’, a piece of the newly landscaped park named after Linda Stone Davidoff, a champion of the City and one of the city planners and a member of the Parks Council who fought to have this 27 acre park as part of the West Side landscape (NYParks.org). Now this patch of green is enjoyed by all New Yorker’s due to efforts to protect the river front of over-development.
As I walked the park up and down from West 72nd Street back to West 59th Street, I crossed the rather difficult street path and walked down West 59th Street. Near the local school is Gertrude Ederle Playground which sits next to the Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center. This park stretches from West 59th to West 60th Street and is a very popular park with the areas families offering many whimsical playground jungle gyms and swings and a very nice field for soccer and baseball. It also offers a very nice public bathroom that is nice to have when walking around the area.
Gertrude Ederle was a champion Olympic and distance swimmer, who was a member of the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. She set over twenty world records in swimming in the early 1920’s and won a gold medal for the 400 meter freestyle relay. She swam the 22 mile harbor swim from Battery Park to Sandy Hook, NJ in a record that stood for 81 years. She also set the record for crossing the English Channel as the first American woman and received a ticker tape parade when she returned. She also appeared as herself in the 1927 romantic comedy ‘Swim, Girl Swim’. She continued to swim by teaching deaf children to swim (she had lost her hearing at this point) and lived to ripe age of 98 passing in 2003 (NYCParks.org).
Across the street from the park is the former IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) Powerhouse. This ornate building was built in 1904 and takes up the entire area from West 59th to West 58th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. Designed by architect Stamford White, the building is used by Con Ed of New York to supply the New York Steam system. It is designed in the ‘Renaissance Revival’ and really walk around the building you can see the beautiful details of the building especially around the building . It was recently declared a Landmark Building in New York (Wiki).
I walked both sides of West 59th Street past John Jay College which stretches from 11th to 10th Avenue and then past a branch of Mt. Sinai Hospital which stretches from 10th to 9th Avenues. These buildings take up the entire city blocks between West 58th and 59th Streets and stop at the intersection of West 59th Street where Columbus Avenue turns in 9th Avenue. This leads to the back section of Columbus Circle and the new building that houses the headquarters of TimeWarner and the Mandarin Hotel. This complex stretches from 9th Avenue to Columbus Circle from West 58th to 60th Streets so there is a lot of crossing streets in this area that is loaded with tourists.
I stopped in Columbus Circle Park roundabout and sat watching skateboarders who took over the southern part of the park filming their antics of flying over benches. Tourists stopped here to take pictures and film movies of the guys skateboarding.
The Statue of Christopher Columbus has been part of a recent controversy that has since calmed down. There were some New Yorker’s that said that the statue should be taken down for the way Columbus exploited the Native Americans. Honestly, I don’t think they thought that way in 1492 and it shouldn’t be related to in 2018.
The statue was designed in 1892 as part of the 400 hundred anniversary of Columbus discovering America by Italian artist Gaetano Russo. Russo was an artist from Messina, Sicily who studied at the Academia de Belle Arti in Rome. In the inscription it says “To the world he gave a world”. The statue and the circle had recently been renovated in 1992 for the 500th Anniversary of the crossing and again in 2005 adding the new fountains and benches which everyone relaxes on (Wiki).
The traffic circle had been part of the original plan by Frederick Olmstead design for the park in 1857 for a ‘Grand Circle at the Merchants Gate’ and the entrance to the park and 8th Avenue (NYCParks.org).
The roundabout is where traffic enters the Upper West Side from Midtown Manhattan and is the half way point of the island of Manhattan. I still can’t believe that I have gotten here.
From Columbus Circle, I doubled back around the TimeWarner Building and made my way back down West 60th Street crossing Columbus Avenue to West 59th with a second pit stop at the bathroom at Gertrude Ederle Park, which at this point was loaded with families climbing the jungle gyms and playing softball.
I made my way back up through Hudson River Park to enjoy the sunshine and walked from West 59th to 72nd Street passing familiar businesses that I had seen the last time I was in the neighborhood.
This took me to my last leg of rounding the neighborhood by crossing the West 72nd Street border to Central Park West and making my way down past the still green trees of Central Park. There was a free concert going on in the park at the time so there was security all over the place.
I walked past the many families walking around the park at twilight and thinking to myself how it had all changed in thirty years when you would not be caught dead in the park after sunset. Now there are free concerts and walking tours after dark.
I relaxed in Columbus Circle for the remainder of the evening and watched the skate boarders do their routine and this lady dressed as a ballet dancer or could have been a ballet dancer in a tutu with Christmas lights in her dress dancing around the circle. Half way through her routine she bumped into a guy walking around the park and then they danced together.
What was amusing was when the skate boarder collided into her as she danced and the two of them bumped one another. Both of their reactions were priceless but they both got a laugh out of it. Funny for a park that could have torn a city apart that people can still laugh at their differences and find a common ground. They both talked and she continued to do her ballet around the park and the group of skate boarders continued to do their flip routines on the benches.
That’s true New Yorker’s for you!
Places to Eat:
Blondie’s Sport Bar
212 West 97th Street
New York, NY 10024
Open: Sunday-Tuesday-11:30am-12:00pm/Wednesday- until 1:00am, Tuesday-until 2:00am and Friday and Saturday-until 3:00am
Pier One Cafe
Hudson River Park
500 West 70th Street
New York, NY 10023
Places to Visit:
The Museum at FIT
227 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
Little Engine Playground
Riverside Park at West 67th Street
Hudson River Park
From West 72nd Street to Battery Park City
Gertrude Ederle Playground
232 West 60th Street (through 59th Street)
Hudson River Park at 66th Street