Tag Archives: Exploring East Harlem

The Great Saunter Walk

Day One Hundred and Sixty-Seven: Walking the Entire Rim of Manhattan-32 miles: ‘The Great Saunter Walk’ on my own-Father’s Day June 21, 2020

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 last week 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 for Business

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’ (ie 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.

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.

The Great Saunter Walk III

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

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? 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 II

The Circle Line is where I spent last year’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 you walk up past the Piers, 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

The Intrepid Sea-Air Museum is currently closed

http://www.intrepidmuseum.org/

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.

Private Passage

Private Passages in Hudson River Park

Malcolm Cochran artist

Artist Malcolm Cochran

About

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).

New York Central Transfer Bridge

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.

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.

Riverside Park South

Riverside Park South

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d548731-Reviews-Riverside_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

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 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 NYCParks 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.

Harlem Pier Park

West Harlem Piers Park is a picturesque park

My review on TripAdvisor:

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).

Artist Nari Ward

Artist Nari Ward

https://www.nariwardstudio.com/

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.

Voice One

Voice I

Voice II

Voice II

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).

Sisyphus Stones

The Sisyphus Stones on the Hudson River

Artist Uliks Gryka

Artist Uliks Gryka

https://www.linkedin.com/in/uliks-gryka-a76071171

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.

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.

Little Red Lighthouse

The Little Red Lighthouse

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/fort-washington-park/highlights/11044

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d2368581-Reviews-Little_Red_Lighthouse-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/visitingamuseum.com/300

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).

Little Red Lighthouse II

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!

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.

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.

Englewood Cliffs, NJ

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.

Cloisters III

Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters Museum

Fort Tryon Park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/fort-tryon-park

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d2305249-Reviews-Fort_Tryon_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/visitingamuseum.com/4350

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”.

Tyron Hall entrance

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.

Tryon Hall Estate

The “Tryon Hall” estate of C.K.G. Billings.

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.

Dyckman Beach Picture

Don’t miss this tiny beach and the pier. It is so relaxing!

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.

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.

Columbia C

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.

Inwood Hill Park

The pathways in Inwood Hill Park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/inwood-hill-park

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d3598044-Reviews-Inwood_Hill_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

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 Shorrakopoch 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.

Shorakkopoch Rock

The Shorakkopoch Rock in Inwood Hill Park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/inwood-hill-park/monuments

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d21055143-Reviews-Shorakkopoch_Rock-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/visitingamuseum.com/1240

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 NYCParks 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.

Muscota Marsh

The Muscota Marsh on the edge of Inwood Hill Park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/highlights/muscota-marsh

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d21055137-Reviews-Mucota_Marsh-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/visitingamuseum.com/1214

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.

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.

Park Terrace Deli

Park Terrace Deli at 510 West 218 Street

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Fast-Food-Restaurant/Park-Terrace-Deli-115609725127285/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4636946-Reviews-Park_Terrace_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

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.

Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich

The Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich at Park Terrace Deli is excellent!

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. 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.

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.

Dyckman Street Vendors

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.

High Bridge Park IV

High Bridge Park in Washington Heights

https://www.nycgovparks.org/park-features/highbridge-park/planyc

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.

Water Tower at High Bridge Park

High Bridge Water Tower

https://www.nycgovparks.org/planning-and-building/capital-project-tracker/project/5937

My review on TripAdvisor:

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/block-edtor/post/visitingamuseum.com/4467

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.

Polo Ground Towers

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 crossed the street and walked down Edgecomb Avenue on the upper side of Jackie Robinson Park. 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.

Jackie Robinson Park I

Jackie Robinson Park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/jackie-robinson-park_manhattan

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 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).

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.

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.

369 Infantry Regiment Memorial

The 369th Infantry Regiment Memorial

https://www.nycgovparks.org/about/history/historical-signs/listings?id=19562

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 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.

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.

Wagner Houses

The Wagner Houses

Robert Wagner Sr. Statue

The Robert Wagner Sr. sculpture in the Wagner Playground by artist Georg John Lober

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/wagner-playground/monuments/1642

Georg Lober

Artist Georg John Lober

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_J._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.

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 for a snack and a Coke. On a 84 degree day there is nothing like an ice cold Coke.

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

MywalkinManhattan.com-Day Eighty-Four

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/5980

I stopped for lunch at Blue Sky Deli at 2135 First Avenue for a Chopped Cheese. I swear I make any excuse to come up here and have that sandwich.

Blue Sky Deli

The Blue Sky Deli has a cult following

https://www.instagram.com/hajjis110/?hl=en

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12328617-Reviews-Blue_Sky_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/74

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.

Chopped Cheese

The Chopped Cheese Sandwich

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.

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 Randalls-Ward  and Roosevelt Island. The whole riverfront changes every year.

Roosevelt Tram

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.

Carl Schurz Park IV

Carl Schurz Park on East End Avenue

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/carl-schurz-park

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d312015-Reviews-Carl_Schurz_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/visitingamuseum.com/2714

I stayed at the park for about a fifteen minute. 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.

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’.

East River Roundabout

East River Roundabout at East 60th Street

Alice Aycock

Artist Alice Aycock

https://www.aaycock.com/

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.

24 Sycamore Park

Twenty-Four Sycamores Park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/twenty-four-sycamores-park

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.

Sutton Place

Sutton Place has a quiet elegance about it

Sutton Place Park

Sutton Place Park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/sutton-place-park

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.

UN Building II

The United Nations Complex

I 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

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.

Stuyvesant Cove Park

Stuyvesant Cove Park

Home

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.

John V. Lindsay East River Park

John V. Lindsay East River Park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/east-river-park

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d5961005-Reviews-John_V_Lindsay_East_River_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

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

 

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.

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. I passed through the Seaport by 6:48pm.

South Street Seaport

South Street Seaport

Homepage

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g28953-d532147-Reviews-South_Street_Seaport_Historic_District-New_York.html?m=19905

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.

New York Harbor

New York Harbor in all its glory

My review of Battery Park:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d15614732-Reviews-Battery_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

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.

I left Battery Park at 7:30pm and followed a crowd of people out of the park. 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.

South Cove Park Battery City

Don’t miss the twists and turns of the South Cove of Battery Park City

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.

North Cove Battery Park

North Cove in Battery Park City

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d109950-Reviews-Rockefeller_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

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.

Jersey City at Sunset

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.

Serpentine Sculpture by Marc Gibian

‘Serpentine Sculptures’ in Hudson River Park

My review of Hudson River Park on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d4545669-Reviews-Hudson_River_Park-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

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).

Mark Gabian artist

Artist Mark Gabian

http://www.markgibian.com/

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.

Hudson River Yards

The Hudson Yards in Chelsea

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. 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.

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!

I dedicate this walk to my father, Warren Watrel, as my Father’s Day Gift of Remembrance.

Happy Father’s Day to all Fathers!

Dad and I

Justin Watrel with his father, Warren Watrel

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

With much love from your son Justin!

 

Make & Bake Pizza 1976 3rd Avenue New York, NY 10029

In honor of Small Business Saturday, I am featuring wonderful reasonable restaurants in New York City.

Pizza Town USA III

The pizza here is delicious.

 

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

Make & Bake Pizza

1976 3rd Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(646) 490-8355

Hours:

Monday-Sunday: 11:00am-12:00am

Cash Only

Delivery in the area

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12437257-Reviews-Make_Bake_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

I came across Make & Bake Pizzeria when I was visiting East Harlem for my walking project, “MywalkinManhattan” and I needed a snack. I had already visited Moe’s Grocery a few doors down for a ‘Chopped Cheese’ and I needed a slice of pizza.

I followed the school kids from the two schools across the street into the pizzeria and they really seemed to like the pizza here. Because the kids are from the housing projects that surround the school and this part of Second and Third Avenues, the prices at the restaurants in the area are very reasonable. Here the prices are more than reasonable, they are cheap.

A slice of cheese pizza here is $1.00, a soda and water are $1.00…

View original post 263 more words

Harlem Taste/Blue Sky Deli

The Harlem Taste (Blue Sky) Deli (Haiji’s) 2135 1st Avenue &110th Street New York, NY 10029

Don’t miss the home of the “Chopped Cheese sandwich” at Blue Sky Deli mentioned on my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com”.

Chopped Cheese II

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

The Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s)

2135 1st Avenue & 110th Street

NYC, NY  10029

(646) 632-7488

Open 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12328617-Reviews-Blue_Sky_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

The Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s) is becoming a cult favorite in the restaurant industry as the home of the ‘infamous’ chopped cheese sandwich, otherwise known as a ‘ghetto’ sandwich. I have been coming into New York City for fifty years and had never heard of this sandwich. The one thing I can tell you is that a trip to the Blue Sky Deli is interesting.  It is located in East Harlem and surrounded by housing projects on almost all sides.  It is a destination place for anyone from other parts of the city.

There is a big debate now online of where it originated but most people will tell you it was created here on the corner of 1st Avenue & 110th Street and more rappers…

View original post 716 more words

Street Art in Spanish Harlem

Day Seventy-Eight: Walking the streets of Spanish Harlem from 110th to 96th Streets from Fifth to First Avenue and the Third Anniversary of “MywalkinManhattan” June 17th-21st, 2017

I started walking the streets of East Harlem after a long day in the Soup Kitchen. They keep me very busy there and I had to work the busy bread station. It can very harried if there are any sweets such as pastries and doughnuts to give out. I was worn out but still carried on.

I took the number six subway uptown to 110th Street and started my day with lunch at the Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s) again for another chopped cheese sandwich. I am beginning to love these things. For five dollars and my budget on the project, it just makes sense. Plus it is nice to sit in Jefferson Park and just relax and watch the kids play soccer while I am eating. I don’t know if it was the sandwich or all the walking but I had stomach craps for the rest of the day. It was a long day of walking.

Blue Sky Deli.png

Blue Sky Deli is now known as Harlem Taste Deli

I started the day by retracing my steps on 110th and looking over all the housing projects that line this part of First Avenue. I looked along the long line that is First Avenue and made sure to walk this part of the street as quick as possible. It does not start to get sketchy until about 105th Street but still you want to get through as fast as possible.  Walking eight blocks across and back is impossible to do in one day even walking fast so I broke it up into two and a half separate days.

East River Houses.jpg

East River Projects at 105th and First Avenue

Along most of these blocks I was retracing what I saw along the Avenues and there is a lot of new construction and renovating along the way. A lot of buildings are being sandblasted to their original beauty and along the way there are little surprises along the way to discover. I just wanted to let readers know that since I had already walked First Avenue and the side streets on both sides, when I reached First Avenue when walking the streets, I did not cross the street and stayed on the west side of the avenue.

Most of the side streets I had walked already in some form along the way of walking the Avenues and took time out revisit many of the parks and restaurants that I had traveled previously. There are still many gems in this neighborhood that you should take time to visit. In some parts of the neighborhood, I would suggest going during the day when many other people are around. Even as safe as Manhattan has gotten over the years, I still look over my shoulder all the time and watch everyone no matter what neighborhood I am in.

I made several walks through the housing projects all over the neighborhood. You can really understand the complexity of the projects by walking through them as many as times as I did. It really is a different life. Sometimes I get the impression that being piled up in one complex is not good for anyone. The yards are not properly taken care of and playgrounds that are not kept in great shape.

Yet there are signs that residents have made it their own though. I walked through the Dewitt Clinton, Franklin, Lehman and Washington Carver Housing complexes and here and there are raised beds for fruits, vegetables and flowers. Some residents have taken it upon themselves to clean up the garbage in the playgrounds and paint the equipment and benches. Some make their own repairs in the play areas and then stand guard, watching what the kids are doing. I discovered this as I walked through the Washington Houses three times to complete 108th, 107th and 106th by criss-crossing the open air park in between the complex. People kept looking at me walking through park.

Dewitt Clinton Houses

Dewitt-Clinton Houses

Along the way, I discovered many small community gardens tucked between buildings such as the Neighbors of Vega Baja Garden at 109th between First and Second Avenues and the Humaniano Community Garden at 108th between First and Second Avenues. These small patches of green make the block. Hidden behind fences, I can see that the neighborhood puts a lot of pride into landscaping them and planting them. Some times they are open to the public but I just walk by because no one is there.

Community Garden East Harlem.jpg

Community Garden in East Harlem

I was back at Make & Bake Pizza at 108th and Third Avenue for lunch again (See my review on TripAdvisor). For a dollar this is great pizza and they give you a nice size slice. The restaurants in this are around the three local schools offer menus with reasonable prices catering to the kids and their families so take time to explore them. Mr. Moe’s is right down the road and I can still taste that chopped cheese sandwich.

Make & Bake Pizza.jpg

Make & Bake Pizza

I also saw some of my favorite ‘street art’ murals on these blocks. Between 109th and 107th there are several that I saw. This ‘Spiritual Art’ work has almost an Aztec/Mayan look to it and its use of color and motion are so detailed. Take time to look at these works of art. Some are ‘tags’ while others the artist was trying to tell a story. Look to the side of the buildings and the sides of schools. You might see some on the sliding doors of businesses. There is a lot of talent here. If there was only a gallery for these kids.

Spiritual Art in East Harlem.jpg

Art at East 104th Street

As you travel to the corner of Lexington and 107th, the neighborhood starts to change again once you pass the Franklin Housing Project. The buildings around this area are being fixed up and sandblasted back to their original beauty and new restaurants and shops are opening bringing a little life back to the area. By Hope Community Inc., there is are interesting portraits of Latino Cultural leaders. The detailed portrait of Pedro Pietri by James de la Vega is interesting and take time to admire the work.

Perdo Pietri by James de la Vega

Pedro Petri.jpg

My first day walking the streets, I made it to the corner of 105th and First Avenue by the beginning of nightfall and decided to stop there. I was passing the East River Houses again and there were some shady characters walking around so I decided to finish 105th and rounded 104th Street for my next stop in the neighborhood and relaxed in the Central Park Conservatory on 104th and Fifth Avenue for the rest of the evening. My feet were killing me at that point.

Central Park Conservatory Garden II.jpg

Central Park Conservatory

My next trip up to the neighborhood was June 21st, the third Anniversary of ‘MywalkinManhattan’. I can’t believe it has been three years since I started walking the island of Manhattan. I still remember my first day walking in Marble Hill on Father’s Day 2015. I honestly thought I would finish in one summer and here I am at 96th Street on the East Side with the rest of the island ahead of me.

I started at 96th Street and walked the length of it again from the park to the river. It was sad that the tulips along the river had died by the time I got back. They had been a colorful display by the path entering the river. Even the flowers at the Park Avenue Mall at Park and 97th Street started to change. Spring was giving way to the summer months and you could see the difference in the plants and trees. Between the plantings on the streets and second stage of flowers in Central Park, June was here.

You begin to notice distinctions in the grid pattern of the neighborhood block by block. By East 97th Street, you will see a real change. The Metropolitan Hospital, the Department of Sanitation and the Washington Housing projects set almost a border between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem once you pass Third Avenue.

Along the border of 97th Street on the grounds of the projects, the residents have set up a series of vegetable and fruit gardens and have done some landscaping that have some character to the lawns of the housing complex. I give the residents credit for their creativity and I will have to revisit the site over the summer months to see how it turns out. Also along the street is the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Catholic Church, which is the only one of its kind in NYC. Stop and look at the detail of the church.

By 99th Street, the Washington Carver Houses start to dominate the middle of the neighborhood and Mt. Sinai cuts the neighborhood between the Upper East Side from Spanish Harlem to the east to Park Avenue. I tried once again to visit the Martha Stewart Garden in the Washington Carver complex but again the gate was locked. At this point, it looked like it could have used a gardener to touch it up.

Martha Stewart Garden.jpg

Martha Stewart Garden

I continued the zig-zag through the streets having criss-crossed again through the projects that I had walked a couple of times before. Between Park and Lexington Avenues as you round 101st Street, you can find some beautifully maintained brownstones and landscaped stairs with potted plants. It looks like something you would see in the village downtown.

This small break in the grid pattern shows what the neighborhood once was before the city leveled it for public housing. People are really moving back in this pocket of the neighborhood and fixing up the buildings. Here is where you will find the street art on the walls and fences. I saw a lot of the yarn art I saw uptown but am not sure if this was the same artist.

I had a funny incident with a young police officer at the 23rd Precinct on the corner of 102nd and Third Avenue. He was making a phone call and had just finished and really must have wondered what I was doing in the neighborhood. He took the time to yell a ‘hello’ to me and I just looked at him for a minute and said ‘hello’ back and waited for him to say something. I guess my progressive glasses must have given me a professional look and he did not say anything else. He watched me walk through the Washington complex and strangely enough waited for me to come back and then watched me walk back up 102nd on my way back up to Fifth Avenue. I saw him staring at me again and I just nodded and smiled and kept walking. I didn’t know that me walking around was so interesting.

Between Park Avenue and Third Avenue up to where the projects start again by 109th Avenue and Madison and Fifth Avenue is where you are seeing where the neighborhood is starting to gentrify and people are starting to fix up the buildings and the new restaurants and shops are starting to pop up. There is a pizzeria on Lexington Avenue that I have on my bucket list.

Thank God I did not have to venture past 105th Street as it was getting darker. Between Second Avenue and First Avenue after 101st Street, I always felt that the people in the housing complexes were watching me. More like staring at me yet I could not catch them actually doing it. I guess I really stood out.

As I rounded 104th onto 105th Streets on First Avenue, I must have made quite the impression walking down the street. A group of guys,  I swear to God,  looked like they jumped when they saw me round the corner. When I had to walk back up the opposite side of the southern part of 105th Street and First Avenue to complete this part of the neighborhood, they completely disappeared. I swear I thought that they were going to gang up on me and jump me. They also gave me the strangest looks. It reminded me of walking on 155th Street by the river and what I saw up by the Dyckman Houses. I just don’t blend in.

I walked pass the parks along 103rd and 105th Streets and brought a quick snack into the White Playground on 105th Street and relaxed for a bit just watching the parents watch the kids playing on the park equipment. I really like this park. They keep it in good shape and the parents in the neighborhood really seem to enjoy coming here. I walked past Maggie’s Garden again on 101st Street but the gate was locked on this day.

Maggie's Garden.jpg

Maggie’s Garden

I ended the afternoon walking through Central Park and walking around the length of the reservoir and watch the joggers pass me by. If they only knew how much I had already walked that afternoon.

It really made me think, looking at the crowd of joggers in the park and the people walking around the Central Park Conservatory that early part of the evening,  how many of the people I passed that day venture past their part of neighborhood. These blocks have really been an eye-opener in urban planning gone wrong and how a neighborhood can be affected by the wrong decisions in building efforts. I saw a lot of people in the neighborhood trying to improve things on their own terms and take matters in their own hands.

I just don’t think that this part of Manhattan has to worry about getting too ‘hipster’ or ‘Yuppie’ unless the city sells off the projects and knocks them down. Even if they did, the neighborhood has its own character and I credit the people living there for making it that way. There is no real way to explain it  without you, the reader walking these streets yourself and soaking up the culture that is East Spanish Harlem. Do yourself a favor though, don’t dress like me

Happy Third Anniversary and a very Happy Father’s Day to my Dad!

Thank you for inspiring this walk around Manhattan!

 

Places to Eat:

 

Make & Bake Pizza

1976 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(646) 490-8355

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12437257-Reviews-Make_Bake_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/661

 

Blue Sky Deli-Haiji’s

2135 First Avenue & 110th Street

New York, NY 10029

Open: 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12328617-Reviews-Blue_Sky_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/74

 

Places to Visit:

Central Park Conservatory

1233 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 310-6600

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-8:00pm

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

 

Maggie’s Garden

1576 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY  10029

https://www.nyrp.org/green-spaces/garden-details/maggies-garden/

For hours, please check the website.

 

For checking out the street art and the community gardens in the neighborhood please walk the area. Things are changing so fast that you never know when something can disappear. The Community Gardens have their own hours depending on the season.

Street art in East Harlem

Day Seventy-Five: Walking the Avenues in Lower Spanish Harlem from 110th to 96th Streets between Fifth Avenue and FDR Drive May 10th-May 15th, 2017

Whew! This was a two day affair. I had already walked 5th and 1st Avenues and then all of FDR Drive and the Esplanade on other days. This left for me to walk the length of Madison, Park, Lexington, 3rd and 2nd Avenues from 96th Street to 110th Street. This meant 14 blocks back and forth, up and down the streets of the neighborhood. It was a long day of walking. I never realized how long it would take.

This part of Manhattan is a real mish-mush of everything. It transitions from East Harlem into the Upper-Upper East Side into Yorkville. Some others call it Carnegie Hill. It has it all. Housing projects, schools, a business district on Lexington, expensive brownstones, luxury apartments and hospitals that create the border between the two very different neighborhoods.

96th Street is the true border between the two areas but even that transitions as you get closer to the East River. A you get closer to 98th Street, you will see luxury housing complexes right across the street from some sketchy housing complexes right across the street (some people want the authenticity of the city). This changes from block to block and if you follow the grid pattern, be prepared to walk through some housing complexes. I would only recommend that while the kids are exiting from after-school. Then the neighborhood is teeming with kids with their parents picking them up. Public or Private, adults are all over the place at the schools and it makes any neighborhood safe to walk around in as the police are out in many of these neighborhoods watching everyone.

Where you really see the difference in the neighborhood is between 97th Street and 99th Street on the East Side of Central Park. Some of the blocks are lined with beautiful and graceful brownstones and apartment buildings and then right across the street you can see where they leveled the neighborhood to building the housing projects that line long avenues and streets.

You start to see the changes as you walk down 97 Street and you reach the end of the Park Avenue Mall, a grassy knoll between the uptown and downtown grid which in the lower part of Park Avenue is planted with flowers and trees during the year. This gives way to the elevated railroad tracks after 97th Street and Park Avenue. As you get further up into the 100’s streets, Park Avenue is lined with housing projects. This is the failure of city planning where whole blocks in this neighborhood were leveled for public housing that never worked. This ‘slum clearance’ of the 1960’s would now be a fully gentrified neighborhood by now.

George Washington Carver Houses

George Washington Carver Houses

Walking  the Avenues , one sees how the neighbor changes. Every block is so different in this neighborhood. You can go from luxury housing to a public housing project just by walking the street. Also, if you walk while school is in session and when it gets out for the day, you should have no problem walking around the housing projects. Pretty much everyone ignored me or just looked at me in the corner of their eyes and then put their heads down. It was such a strange attitude. In my opinion, people are people but the site of 6:4 preppie white guy walking around in a blue polo must have panicked people.

Along the way, there is so much so see and experience in this neighborhood. Small hole in the wall restaurants at very reasonable prices, great street art, small community gardens tucked between buildings, beautiful brownstones in a row and interesting views of Central Park and the East River as way of sidewalks. It is a diverse neighborhood that is getting harder to define as the whole island changes. Even in the short time I walked around Spanish Harlem, things were being knocked down and rebuilt.

It seems that every block had something to offer in some small way. Since I had done the borders of the neighborhood already and wanting to avoid First Avenue again (scary) with all the public housing, I started my trip up and down Second Avenue.

Hospitals seem to dominate in this section of the city with Mt. Sinai dominating the borders of Fifth to Madison from 96th to 101st and Metropolitan Hospital from 97th to 100th Street along Second Avenue. These large facilities create a wall on the neighborhood borders almost sheltering the Upper Upper East Side from Spanish Harlem. The neighborhood around them reflects the role the hospital plays around it with ever expanding buildings in the neighborhood and housing for the residents. I saw this up in Washington Heights with Columbia as they expand in the neighborhood.

Located off Second Avenue, the Marx Brothers have a small park named after them and it was busy after school with kids playing tag. The Marx Brothers were a famous team of brothers, Harpo, Groucho,  Chico, Zeppo and Gummo, who were raised at 179 East 93rd Street. The brothers had many hits in the 1930’s and 40’s. The park has been recently part of a debate in the City on what connotates a park as a developer wants to build a tower here.

As you walk up Second Avenue, the area is dominated by a mix of brownstones and public housing. This is dominated by the huge Washington Housing complex that stretches from 97th Street to 104th from Second Avenue to Third Avenue. After school, this are was very lively with kids but boy did they give me looks when I walked through later in the week when I was doing the streets. Because of the way the grid works, you have to walk through the same paths. So the same people kept seeing me walk through the complex.

Marx Brothers Park.jpg

Marx Brothers Park

Between Third Avenue and Lexington, there is a nice place to sit and relax at the Marketplace Plaza. This small pocket plaza was created between to newish buildings and provides a comfortable place amongst the flower beds to sit and relax and people watch. There are benches and rows of flower beds to admire and rest your legs on the long walks up the Avenues.

Third Avenue is the most commercial section of the neighborhood dominated by stores and restaurants along the way. It is again a street of extremes as new buildings dominate until you reach the Lexington Houses at 98th Street and then the street is juxtaposed again with a series of public housing, luxury buildings tucked away and commercial buildings that are in the process of renovation.

I reached the Poor Richards Playground outside the Tag Young Scholar School and Junior High 117 by mid-afternoon and the kids were letting out for the day. The place was mobbed with children and parents from the neighborhood. Poor Richard’s Playground was named after Benjamin Franklin as this was one of his alias’s, Poor Richard Saunders of which ‘Poor Richard’s Almanac’ was named. He has so many accomplishments to his name it is hard to pin-point one (NYCParks.org).

Kids were playing basketball and tag on the school’s playground and I got quite the looks from the teachers as I watched the kids play basketball especially when I had to throw the ball over the fence when it flew over to me. I just smiled and continued the walk.

Poor Richards Playground.jpg

Poor Richard’s Playground

Across the street from the school and the surrounding blocks there are some really nice reasonable restaurants for lunch. These are places that the kids and their parents were eating at after school. Make & Bake Pizza at 1976 Third Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) has terrific pizza at $1.00 a slice and it is so fresh because the place is so busy. Another great place to eat is Mr. Moe’s Deli at 2001 Third Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). They make a terrific chopped cheese sandwich that competes with Blue Sky Deli up on 110th Street. The nice part about Mr. Moe’s is that their chopped cheese sandwich comes with a Coke for $3.50. It is a great bargain and it is delicious.

Make & Bake Pizza.jpg

Make & Bake Pizza

The best part is on a nice day take your lunch to the White Playground on 106th between Third and Lexington Avenues and relax on the benches. It is such a nice playground and is beautifully landscaped and I thought very safe with all the parents and grandparents around watching the kids play.

White Playground in East Harlem
The White Playground is located in East Harlem.

The park was named after author and activist Walter White.

Walter White

Activist and author Walter White

Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue are also the land of extremes as well.  Walking up Lexington Avenue to about 98th Street is an extension of the Upper East Side until you hit the Lexington Houses at 98th Street and those go on for a block until you reach between 101st and 102nd Streets, where you will see the most beautiful set of brownstones with art work from local Harlem artists on the west side of the road across from the gas station. The is also a few outdoor cafes that are very nice in the area so you can see the area is getting gentrified.

Spiritual Art in East Harlem

Lexington Avenue at 104th Street

The street art in this neighborhood is varied and very unique. On 106th Street off Lexington Avenue, there is a painting dedicated to Puerto Rican Poet Julia de Burgos entitled ‘Remembering Julia de Burgos’ that has excellent detail and you should take the time to see. Also along 110th Street and Lexington Avenue on the wall of the Success Academy, there is another interesting mural that is very colorful. The art work featured on this blog was my favorite piece of street was the man dressed in animal costumes that I saw on 106th Street. I was not too sure if it was a Central American theme to it or just tagged. Whatever the story to this artwork, who ever did it I thought was extremely talented.

Julia de Burgos Painting.jpg

Julia de Burgos Painting in East Harlem

Travelling back down Lexington Avenue, there is all sorts of architecture to admire. There is a beautiful row of brownstones between 106th and 107th Streets. A small private gated park by Bean Y Vino is at Lexington Avenue and 104th Street that I could only see from the outside is nicely landscaped.

Between 100th and 101st Streets on Lexington Avenue, there is Maggie’s Magic Garden, which is a whimsical little oasis of trees, flowers and plants with imaginative statuary all over this little space tucked between two buildings. I was lucky that the garden was open that day and met Maria ‘Maggie’ Amurrio herself who created the garden over a decade ago from a weed ridden lot to this little piece of paradise that is perfect for kids to visit.

Maggie's Garden.jpg

Maggie’s Garden

She and I talked for about a half hour and she explained that she was sick and tired of this lot looking like this and wanted to do something about it. Like many of the Community Gardens and their creators whom I have met along my travels, she took matters into her own hands and with the help of other volunteers started to clean the lot up and plant it. She told me that later the Parks Department recognized this effort and now she has the seal from the city. Not only does she grow flowers here but is also growing fruits and vegetables and took me on a tour to show me where birds live in the trees. It is amazing how the determination of one New Yorker and a group of volunteers shows in creating this creative piece of landscape. Try not to miss  this little oasis on your travels up and down Lexington.

Traveling up Park and Madison is interesting because when you get past 98th Street, it is pretty much public housing complexes from 98th to 110th Streets, stretching from Park Avenue to Madison Avenue. This is dominated by the Washington Carver Houses from 99th Street to 106th Street, the Lehman Houses from 107th Street to 110th Street, the Governor DeWitt Houses on the Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue from 110th to 108th and then to 106th to 104th Streets and  the Lexington Houses from 98th to 99th Streets. So walking through this area of Park and Madison Avenues make sure to go through while school is out and people are outside. I never felt unsafe but there will moms and kids all over the playgrounds in the projects and everyone ignored me.

Dewitt Clinton Houses.jpg

Dewitt Houses

The projects also cut the neighborhood into sections as you have to keep walking through them to get to the extension of the street. So as I was finishing the Avenues on my way to starting the streets, you have to make several trips especially on 107th Street through the projects to complete the grid.

Martha Stewart has been involved in helping Mt. Sinai Hospital and built a beautiful garden across the street between 99th and 100th Streets that was locked both times I tried to visit it. Her and her staff did a nice job landscaping and planting this part of the Washington Carver Houses gardens and the playground. Many of the staff from the hospital use this area to relax on their lunch breaks and the kids are very active here.

Martha Stewart Garden.jpg

Martha Stewart Garden

Mt. Sinai creates the border between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem on this side of the neighborhood and the campus spreads two blocks over. Between this and the Park Avenue train creates the border on this side of the neighborhood. The between the west side of Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue are the most expensive housing in the neighborhood that faces Central Park. Even here the housing is being updated and renovated. You have also some of your nicest stone buildings with elegant carved entrances. Businesses also dominate this side of Madison Avenue.

There are some good options to eat at in the neighborhood. On the corner of 97th and Madison Avenue at 1398 Madison Avenue there is Famiglia Pizza. This has some of the best pizza by the slice in the city and their prices are fair. Their plain and sausage pizzas are really good. For a quick snack, I also like Tu Casa Grocery at 29 East 104th Street right next to the Museum of the City of New York. For a dollar, they have excellent chicken and beef pastilitos and they sell soda and candy for a reasonable price. I took a couple of pastilitos and a Coke and went into Central Park to relax after finishing the Avenues.

Familigia Pizza in East Harlem

Famiglia Pizza on the border of the Upper East Side and East Harlem

I finished the Avenues on May 15th by relaxing at the Conservatory Garden at 104th and Fifth Avenue. It was an interesting and tiring day and it was just nice to relax.

 

Places to Eat:

 

Mr. Moe’s Deli

2001 Third Avenue

New York, NY

(917) 388-2379

Open: 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12437268-Reviews-Mr_Moe_s_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/324

 

Make & Bake Pizza

1976 Third Avenue

New York, NY

(646) 490-8355

Open: Sunday 11:00-9:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-10:00pm/Friday 11:00am-11:00pm/Saturday 11:00am-10:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12437257-Reviews-Make_Bake_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/661

 

Tu Casa Grocery

29 East 104th Street

New York, NY

(212) 360-7372

Open: 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12437256-Reviews-Tu_Casa_Deli_Grocery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Famous Famiglia Pizzeria

1398 Madison Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 996-9797

http://famousfamiglia.com/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 10:00am-11:30am/Friday & Saturday 10:00am-2:30am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3699329-Reviews-Famous_Famiglia-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Maggie’s  Magic Garden

1576 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY  10029

https://www.nyrp.org/green-spaces/garden-details/maggies-garden/

Open: Varies by season

 

White Playground

170 East 106th Street

New York, NY  10029

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/white-playground

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-9:00pm

 

Poor Richard’s Playground

240 East 109th Street

New York, NY  10029

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/poor-richards-playground

Open: Check Website, depending on the season

 

Marx Brothers Playground

East 96th Street

New York, NY  10029

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marx-brothers-playground

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-9:00pm

The Central Park Conservatory Gardens

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.

Empire Corner II

Empire Corner II at 1415 Fifth Avenue

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.

Sweet and Sour Pork

The Sweet & Sour Chicken was okay

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).

Taft Houses

The Taft Houses

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).

Schomberg Plaza

Schomberg Plaza is on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 110th Street across from Central Park

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.

Stanley Isaacs Playground III

The Stanley Isaacs Playground has nice bathrooms to stop at while walking around

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.

Esplande Upper East Side

The Esplanade during the Summer

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.

Stanley Isaacs Playground II.jpg

Stanley Isaacs Playground

Stanley Myer Isaacs

Stanley Isaacs was a former Borough President and advocate of the people of New York City

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.

Ward-Randall Island II.jpg

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.

Esplande Harlem.jpg

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

Open: Hours vary by season; please check the website

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: Sunday-Saturday 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:  Sunday-Saturday 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

Street Art in East Harlem

Day Seventy-One Walking: Walking SoHA in East Harlem (Upper Spanish Harlem) from 125th Street to 110th Street from Park Avenue to FDR Drive & the River April 7th-13th, 2017

I finished walking East Harlem and it was an interesting experience. It took two weeks to crisscross the whole neighborhood and I was lucky that I double-backed on several streets so I got a more detailed experience. There was a lot of interesting architecture and some wonderful restaurants, bodegas and bakeries along the way to experience. I got to walk the parks at different times of the day and I finished the walk when the schools were closed for Spring Break, so I got to see the neighborhood come to life with families out and about.

My first day of the walk, I could not have asked for beautiful weather. It was clear, sunny and in the 60’s. It was perfect outside weather. After a busy morning at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (they had me working the hurried bread station and you would think that the homeless were at Starbucks with all of their requests), I took the number 6 subway to 110th Street to start the walk of East Harlem, now known as ‘Upper Spanish Harlem’. I have never seen so much renovation and building going on in one area which is changing the face of the neighborhood.

I started my walk up the Avenues and traveled on the north to south part of the neighborhood the first afternoon. I walked 3rd Avenue, 2nd Avenue and 1st Avenue and revisited Pleasant Avenue and the surrounding streets. It’s an interesting mix of commercial and housing space that houses a diversity of businesses.

Before the area was known as ‘El Barrio’, a Spanish neighborhood of Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Dominicans, it had the city’s first ‘Little Italy’ from the turn of the last century to about the late 1950’s to early 60’s when people moved out to the suburbs. There are still traces of the neighborhood left with some churches, businesses like Rao’s and Patsy’s still going strong and the streets named after famous Italians.

East Harlem III Pleasant Avenue

Pleasant Avenue off 120th Street in East Harlem

The area around Pleasant Avenue is going through a tremendous renovation as all the brownstones look like they are getting snatched up and being updated and a much younger crowd is beginning to move in. The biggest change that I saw that was attracting this crowd is the new Target Mall that was refitted into an old factory space between 118th-116th Streets. This mall has attracted everyone from the housing projects to the college students from the other side of the island. On a late Friday afternoon the place was mobbed.

In 2019, the area gained designation as a National Historic Landmark district. The new district is centered between East 114th and East 120th Streets near First and Pleasant Avenues, covers roughly two dozen blocks. The area contains some of the oldest buildings in the district includes churches such as Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on East 115th Street. This district has some of the most important designs of tenement housing in New York City.

The area is concerned with the coming of the extension of the Q subway line to 125th Street of losing these sights. This area has seen its share of immigration from being an Italian to a Puerto Rican community and wanted to preserved this culture. This area has been designed as the “East Harlem Historic District and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places (The Spirit Westsider 2019).

East Harlem II.jpg

The Historic district of East Harlem

I started the afternoon at the Blue Sky Deli (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) on the corner of 1st Avenue and 110th Street (2135 1st Avenue), home of the now cult-like ‘Chopped Cheese Sandwich’, which has become the rave of the internet as the hipsters enter Harlem. I have never seen such a debate over a sandwich so I saved my appetite from my morning at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (another busy day)and dove into the experience.

Blue Sky Deli

Blue Sky Deli (Haijj’s) at 110th Street and First Avenue; ‘Home of the Chopped Cheese’

The ‘Chopped Cheese Sandwich’ is basically a double cheeseburger that is chopped up. It is two hamburger patties cooked on a flat grill with two slices of American cheese on top, cooked with onions and peppers and topped with chopped lettuce and tomato. It is then tucked into a hoagie roll and then pressed. With ketchup and mayo to finish the sandwich, it is heaven on earth. I took my sandwich and a Coke into Jefferson Park on 111th Street and watched the neighborhood kids play soccer and do track.

Chopped Cheese

The famous ‘Chopped Cheese Sandwich”

The sandwich is a great blend of flavors and for $4.25 is a great deal. I know that comment gets a debate and rebuttal on the internet but when you are on a budget it is well worth it. Blue Sky Deli, also known in the neighborhood as ‘Hajji’s’, is known as the ‘home of the chopped cheese sandwich’ and is well worth the trip to this part of Harlem.

On the first day in the neighborhood, kids were just getting out of school and the streets were mobbed with children and parents or grandparents picking up their kids. After a relaxing lunch, I walked through the commercial district of 1st Avenue ending up back at the Wagner Houses at the edge of the neighborhood between 120th and 124th Streets.

The one thing I can tell you about walking around the Wagner Houses is that there are police there all the time. In the courtyards, by the schools and in the commercial district. I don’t know who was watching me more, the guys that looked like gang-bangers or the police trying to figure me out. Between them and the bodega owners with the wondering looks on their faces, it seemed to me that people were just trying to ‘figure me out’. I just keep quiet and smile a lot.

Wagner Houses.jpg

Wagner Houses at 120th Street

Talking about commercial real estate, I have discovered that developers will build anywhere to make money. One developer is in the middle of construction of a luxury building on the corner of 1st Avenue and 120th Street right on the edge of Wagner House complex. Its almost as if they are mocking the residents that live in the projects. That and who would want to buy these things. As I walked by the construction site, one senior resident said to me “They are not even that well built.” I commented that living in the Wagner Complex was safer than these homes that are put up quickly and that it will last longer. She just smiled and gave me a funny look.

I even went back to visit the Pleasant Finest Deli at the corner of Pleasant Avenue and 120th Street (see review on TripAdvisor) as the kids were getting out from school again across the street. I guess the tinted glasses through them off as they gave me strange looks as well like ‘what was I doing back?”. They were polite but in a formal way as I was buying a bag of chips. Maybe I was just picking up on it.

Walking on 1st Avenue has its advantages as you start to pass the last of the Italian businesses in the neighborhood. Pasty’s Pizzeria at 2287 1st Avenue (See Review on TripAdvisor) being the most famous. This is worth the stop. The pizza is excellent and at $1.75 a slice is a great deal. I haven’t tasted that fresh of a tomato sauce in a long time. There is a sit down place but stop in for a slice and just walk with it. On sunny day there is nothing better. Everyone else must have thought the same thing as I saw slices walking down the street.

Patsy's Pizza Harlem.jpg

Patsy’s East Harlem

I took a break and relaxed again in Thomas Jefferson Park on 114th Street and watched the soccer teams play. This is a nice park that I misjudged the first time I walked through it. Yes, the park does need some work but it is used by the whole neighborhood. From the hoopsters to the hipsters, I saw all types in the park playing sports, working with team competitions and parents of all sorts just relaxing with their kids. Over the three day period that I walked the neighborhood, residents just spread out, brought their lunches and snacks and relaxed.

Thomas Jefferson Park.jpg

Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem

To save some time and the fact that the kids were out, I walked the length of 1st Avenue down to 96th Street to the new Q subway line and doubled back and walked 102nd, 105th, 106th and 110th again to the Harlem River. This is scary stuff and a word of advice to readers, please avoid this section of the city. All along 1st Avenue in this section by the river are all housing projects especially the very dangerous East River Projects.

East River Houses

Avoid walking around the East River Houses on First Avenue

As I walked down both 105th and 106th Streets (the side streets on either side), I did notice that Citybike was located on both sides as well as luxury condos were across the street and next door to the projects. That’s well and good but when you glance into the parking lots at 106th, you see what is happening and I swear that I may have stopped a drive-by shooting from a guy who was watching the basketball players a little too closely. Either during the day or night, avoid these two side streets as they are considered two of the most dangerous blocks in the city (along with Lexington Avenue from 123rd to 124th Streets). Please stay away!

As I walked back up First Avenue, I noticed that surrounding these projects are many luxury condos and new stores. It is a strange mix in the same neighborhood as you can see that the neighborhood is transitioning. Still it is not the safest part of the city.

Needing to walk off a sandwich, a slice of pizza and two bags of chips, I crossed 110th on the way to 2nd Avenue. As you walk up 2nd Avenue, you pass the rows of brownstones and prewar housing that in some cases is falling apart mixed in with sliver luxury homes and new restaurants. The lower part of 2nd Avenue is quirky until you hit 112th Street and then you are back in the Jefferson projects. To cover 113th Street, which is two small cul-de-sacs, you have to walk through the projects.

This is when I really discovered how short-changed people in the housing projects are by living here. Talk about being treated like caged animals. All the lawns are fenced in, the parks are sterile with little life due to the equipment in them, garbage that is piling up in dumpsters or in the grassy area flying around in the wind and sitting areas that are damaged.

Because 114th Street stops at Lenox Avenue by the Martin Luther King Houses and does not start again until you exit from the Thomas Jefferson Houses by the Jefferson Park, you have to walk through the heart of the housing projects and you begin to see a lot. Maybe it is home to a large portion of the population up here but by the designs, they are almost warehousing people in this section of the city.

Thomas Jefferson Projects.jpg

Thomas Jefferson Projects in East Harlem

There is some light to this with pocket parks off to the side of 112th Street and the Robert Wagner Playground at 120th Street. There was some life from the kids in the community as well as you see it in droves in Thomas Jefferson Park. There was some sunshine in that when you walk through the housing projects in that some residents have set up raised vegetable gardens and have planted flowers along the borders of some of the playgrounds. Kudos to these residents for bringing a personal touch to a sterile environment.

Walking both 2nd and 3rd Avenues you may have to really look but community pride does exist in these small gardens and in the community gardens on the side streets all over the area.

Between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, as you walk to the 120’s, this area is also in a state of transition with a branch of the SUNY campus and housing, most of East 125th Street being knocked down and eco-friendly housing between 124th and 125th Streets across from the Wagner Houses. As you get closer to 125th Street, the whole area is being knocked down and rebuilt as is the whole shopping corridor of 125th Street. If it has not already been knocked down or renovated, it is about to be or planned to be. In about five years the whole block will look like Times Square.

The biggest renovation that I saw was the Taino Towers around 122nd Street. The whole place is being ripped apartment and renovated. It is considered Section 8 housing but after the renovation I can see it will go mixed-use and change the neighborhood again. It is a nice complex and will interesting to see one they renovate the theaters and add a health club.

Tiano Towers

The Taino Towers under renovation

Like most of this section of the neighborhood above 120th Street, the area is mostly commercial and from previous walks in the neighborhood above 125th Street is where the bus stations are, dealerships are located and more City buildings are rising.

My second and third day in the neighborhood, I walked the side streets. Since I had already covered 125th, 124th, 120th,116th, 114th and 110th at length, I walked the rest of the blocks in one afternoon. Who knew it was take six hours and all the interesting things I saw along the way. I started the afternoon rounding 110th Street and stopping once again at the El Chevere Cuchfrito at 2000 3rd Avenue this time visiting the bakery (See review on TripAdvisor).

El Cheve Cuchifrios

El Chevere Cuchfrito at 2000 3rd Avenue

Unlike some of their counterparts around the neighborhood, El Cheveres bakery is really good and very reasonable. I had a glazed filled doughnut for $1.00 and it really hit the spot. The glaze was so thick you could cut it with a knife and there was a large selection of baked goods. A definite spot to stop when visiting the neighborhood just for the pastilitos alone. The food here is really good and cheap. Just come knowing a little Spanish. They appreciate it even if its bad.

I walked the side streets this afternoon to finish the neighborhood. There are a lot of interesting sites along the way in East Harlem. I started on 115th Street and I seemed to hit every bakery in the area. My first stop on the journey was the market under the Park Avenue underpass, La Marqueta, at Park Avenue and 115th Street to try Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor-Now Closed for Business), which had been written up many times but was never open when I visited the market.

Hot Bread Kitchen.jpg

Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery

I tried two of their Mexican Chonco’s, which is a buttery-brioche type of muffin with either a vanilla or chocolate topping. Needing my carbs for the long walk I brought one of each ($2.00 each). Well worth it. The best part is your helping the bakery train people for a new profession and they do an excellent job.

I left the market to explore the rest of 115th Street and there are some interesting sites along the way. You have the Rodale Pleasant Community Garden at 437 114th Street that stretches to 115th by the church is an active community garden with flowers and vegetable beds. I could only see it from a distance at a distance as the gate was locked but great care I could tell went into maintaining it.

Rondale Pleasant Community Garden

The Rodale Pleasant Community Garden at 437 114th Street in the Summer months

Across the street, the famous Italian church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is located. This church is noted for the famous dance each August when the Giglio Society does their famous “Dancing Giglio” dance carrying a giant statue of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders (along with a band). That is enough for another trip up to the neighborhood in the summer.

Dancing of the Giglio East Harlem II

Dancing of the “Giglio” in East Harlem every August

I had also wanted to visit the National Museum for Catholic Art History which was on 115th Street in part of the church complex but it had closed a few years earlier for lack of attendance and funding. So I criss-crossed back to Park Avenue making various stops to look at churches and note menu’s on restaurants I wanted to try in the future.

I revisited 116th Street to look over restaurants I had seen on previous days. The street is the main shopping and restaurant drag for this part of SoHA and runs pretty much the whole length of the island. It has an interesting places to eat so if you have the time take the time to walk around.

I spent most of the afternoon snacking around the neighborhood wanting to try many of the bakeries and small restaurants I came across. There are loads of reasonable places to eat for under $10.00 and if you are visiting remember to have about $10-$20.00 in ones as most of the these places do not take credit cards.

One of my stops lead me to Bermudez Bakery at 1875 Lexington Avenue right off 116th Street (See review on TripAdvisor). I don’t know what I do that freaks people out so much but one of the guys who was inside called his friend from around the counter who was speaking jovial Spanish to everyone else took one look at me and spoke in more formal English. He could not have been nicer but when I turned around, all the other men inside had left the bakery. I thought that was weird.

Bermudez Bakery.jpg

Bermudez Bakery at 1875 Lexington Avenue

The baked goods are excellent though. I has a flaky pastry with a mango jelly but the best was their apple turnovers. They are so good and they melt in your mouth. This bakery is a must go to. It may look dumpy on the outside but the product speaks for itself.

Bermudez Bakery II.jpg

The pastries here are really good!

I crossed over to 117th Street and walked from Park Avenue to the river. Outside St. Paul’s Roman Church just off Park Avenue you will find an Altar to the Virgin Mary that is very interesting. Take some time to read the plaque and look over the building. It is such a beautiful church.

St. Paul's Church II

St. Paul’s Church in East Harlem

Walking further down the street at the corner of 117th Street and the corner of 3rd Avenue there is an interesting mural on the side wall of a Payless Shoes store dedicated to the Island of Puerto Rico. This colorful artwork shows the strong roots of the neighborhood in the island as well as the pride these residents feel. Really look at the detail work.

Look for the Street art in the neighborhood

The neighborhood around Pleasant Avenue, which was the former Italian enclave is changing again as all the brownstones and apartment buildings are being sandblasted and renovated back into shape. Home to Rao’s Italian restaurant and Patsy’s original pizzeria, these blocks are still visited by tourists and residents looking for authentic Italian food. Pretty much outside these two business and the relationship to the churches most of the Italian heritage of the neighborhood is gone.

Between 118th and 119th Streets along Pleasant Avenue the neighborhood has created the Pleasant Valley Community Garden with a large flower garden and raised vegetable gardens in this full block garden. Many people were out that afternoon working in the garden and waved over when I was looking it over. The residents take immense pride in the garden and it will be interesting to see what it looks like in the middle of the summer.

Pleasant Valley Community Garden.jpg

Pleasant Valley Community Garden

As you turn the corner on 119th Street, on the wall of River East Elementary School, the kids have painted the most interesting mural that lines the wall of the back of the school. Look over the colorful interpretation of robots. The kids painted a very whimsical mural as only kids can do.

The kids were out in full force that afternoon playing games and doing sports as they off for the spring break and I guess the parents needed to keep them occupied. All sorts of activities were keeping the kids busy and I noticed a large police presence in the neighborhood while all of this was going on. I made another pit stop for a Coke at the Pleasant Finest Deli on the corner of Pleasant Avenue. I swear those owners are always giving me funny looks when I walked in like I am going to bust them or something.

The last part of the walk I covered 121st to 123rd Streets which is lined mostly with businesses, schools and many new apartment buildings that are going up around the new SUNY College. Most of 124th Street in this area has been rebuilt with a new eco friendly apartment building across from the Wagner Houses, so new businesses are opening to cater to those residents as well as the whole area from 2nd Avenue to river is being ripped up and rebuilt with a renovation of he park and the extension of the esplanade along the river (the esplanade currently stops at 124th Street and is closed off with fencing). When this park is done, it should look spectacular with new lawns and the pool opened.

Word of advice if you are going to walk near Lexington Avenue between 123rd and 124th Streets, this is considered one of the two most dangerous blocks in Manhattan with two rehab clinics and a shelter on the same block. There were three police officers hidden in a doorway in between the block and when I stopped for a Coke in a bodega on the corner of 123rd and Lexington Avenue, there were some pretty shady characters hanging out on the corner. This block is best avoided at anytime of the day.

I double backed down 123rd Street and cut down 1st Avenue and 120th Street to the Wagner House Playground and saw the impressive statue of Robert Wagner Sr., who the houses were named after. Frankly, I don’t think anyone notices it or knows how important the man was in New York politics helping with housing and social security. That and being the future Mayor of New York’s father.

The statue was created by artist Georg John Lober and dedicated in 1959. Mr. Lober was originally from Chicago and studied Beaux-Arts sculpture at The Institute of Design and the National Academy of Design (Wiki).

Georg Lober

Georg John Lober, the Executive Secretary of the New York City Municipal Arts Commission

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_J._Lober

He started working the New York City Municipal Arts Commission in 1942 until 1960 just before his death in 1961 (Wiki).

Robert Wagner Sr. Statue.jpg

Robert Wagner Sr. Statue by the Wagner Houses by Georg John Lober

My last stop was for a snack at the Jamaican restaurant, Jam Hut at 2327 1st Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) for a beef patty. These large beef patties are freshly made and rather large. Again the owners gave me a rather odd look when I ordered my food.

You think no one had ever seen a 6:3 white male in the neighborhood before. I have now spent over a month in East Harlem. I had walked every block, park and set of Housing Projects.

You think they would be used to seeing me walking around at this point.

 

Places to Visit:

 

Thomas Jefferson Park

2180 First Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/thomas-jefferson-park

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

 

Rodale Pleasant Community Garden

437 East 114th Street

New York, NY  10029

https://www.nyrp.org/green-spaces/garden-details/rodale-pleasant-park-community-garden

https://greenthumb.nycgovparks.org/gardensearch.php

 

Pleasant Valley Community Garden

342 Pleasant Avenue

New York, NY 10035

https://livinglotsnyc.org/lot/1016220050/

 

Urban Garden Center

1640 Park Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 872-3991

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-9:00pm

https://www.urbangardennyc.com/

https://www.facebook.com/urbangardennyc/

 

La Marqueta Marketplace

1590 Park Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 534-4900

Open: Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm

https://edc.nyc/la-marqueta

https://www.facebook.com/lamarquetanyc/

 

 

Places to Eat:

 

The Taste of Harlem-Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s)

2135 1st Avenue & 110th Street

NYC, NY  10029

(646) 632-7488

Open 24 hours

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12328617-Reviews-Blue_Sky_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/74

 

El Chevere Cuchifrito

2000 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 427-9352

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-7:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12179355-Reviews-El_Chevere_Cuchifrito-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery (Now Closed)

1590 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10029

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4921122-Reviews-Hot_Bread_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Bermudez Bakery

1875 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 427-2877

Open: Sunday 5:00am-5:00pm/Monday-Friday 5:00am-6:00pm/Saturday 5:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12331283-Reviews-Bermudez_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1693

 

Pleasant Finest Deli

375 Pleasant Avenue

New York, NY 10035

(212) 348-6666

Open: Sunday-Saturday 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

 

Patsy’s East Harlem

2287 First Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 534-9783

https://www.thepatsyspizza.com/

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d457168-Reviews-Patsy_s_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Jam Hut

2327 First Avenue

New York, NY  10035

(212) 860-2253

Open: Sunday-Saturday 12:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12331273-Reviews-Jam_Hut-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

The Harlem Meer in Central Park

Day Sixty-Seven: Walking SoHA (South of Harlem: Morningside Heights, South Harlem & Spanish Harlem) from 125th Street to 110th Street from river to river February 22, 2017

I started the day walking 125th Street again on a beautiful sunny February day. It must have been 62 degrees out, sunny and glorious.  The kids in the city like in the suburbs were off from school for the winter break, so everyone was outside in the parks enjoying the warm weather. The streets were crowded with people walking their dogs, students from Colombia walking around between classes and neighborhood children playing football and baseball in the parks.

With all the area above 125th finally complete, I have started to walk the neighborhoods below traditional Harlem and above the Upper East and West sides. Morningside Heights is the area bordered by Morningside Avenue to 110th to 125th to Riverside Square Park, South Harlem is from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, South Harlem is bordered again from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard to Fifth Avenue from 110th to 125th Streets and Spanish Harlem from 5th Avenue to FDR Drive  from 110th to 125th Streets. So this time to make it easier I have broken it up into three sections to do the walk.

I started the walk today at 125th Street at Morningside Avenue walking shoppers and tourists milling around the shopping district at 125th Street. The whole shopping district is going through a transformation from old cut-rate stores and family businesses to a series of chain restaurants, stores and gyms. Every business you find in a suburban strip mall are coming to Harlem from TJMax and Rainbow to Red Lobster and Olive Garden. It is pretty shocking how fast it has changed but even more how the flavor of the area is being adjusted to tourism.

Apollo Theater

The famous Apollo Theater is surrounded by Red Lobster and Whole Foods now

Another surprising aspect of the neighborhood is how nice it has gotten. Gone are the days that Colombia University had to practically erect walls to keep the neighborhood out. Colombia students like their fellow SUNY students thirty blocks up are starting to move in and take over this neighborhood. The South Harlem area is awash with scaffolding of people renovating the buildings and new restaurants and shops.

Morningside Park, which pretty much is the traditional border between the university and Harlem has been renovated over the past twenty years and is no longer the dismal overgrown park that you would get mugged in if you entered. My dad went to Colombia in the 60’s and my cousin in the 80’s and in those years, you would never enter the park. In 1993-95, the park was renovated and had new plantings and equipment installed in the park, giving it the same cheerful appearance of any other park in the city. Does it have it’s share of problems still? Like any park in New York City after dusk, you have to watch yourself.

Morningside Park.jpg

Morningside Park near Columbia University

Because of the weather being so warm at this time, the park was being spruced up with park employees raking and cleaning up the beds and lawns. The garbage was being picked up as well and the park looked clean and well planted. With it being February, not much is in bloom but you can see where tulips and daffodils are starting to pop up in the soil. Lots of people were jogging in the park, walking with baby carriages or playing sports. A far cry from the needle and crack cocaine days in the 80’s. You can see the new landscaping and water features that have been created in the park and at dusk the lights actually work.

I traveled down the road planning on visiting the park again in more detail. I turned at 110th Street and walked the entire length of 110th from west side to east side and talk about a street of extremes. As you walk towards Riverside Park, you have Colombia to the north and the very top of the Upper West Side to the south. The buildings on this side of West 110th have been sandblasted back to their original elegance and from what I can see of the residents had never really gone down hill with the rest of the neighborhood.

Riverside Park 110 Street

Riverside Park by 110th Street

Amsterdam Avenue north of 110th Street has some interesting restaurants that I will need to try and I am discovering the holes in the wall that must cater to the students. Many have reasonable lunch specials and some have creative menus. I stopped in Riverside Park for a bit to relax before the long walk and the park was busy with nannies and mother’s with their kids in the 110th Street Tot Playground. The place was teaming with toddlers having a good time. The park still has not had the hint of Spring but having traveled this area last summer, it is a beautiful park when in bloom.

I walked down to Columbus Avenue and walked around the newly planted park area and discovered Hunan Chen’s Kitchen, a tiny hole in the wall restaurant at 1003 A Columbus Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor and on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).   This little restaurant has only one table and is so small you can barely turn around. What is lacks in atmosphere, it makes up in food and service.

Hunan Chen's Kitchen.jpg

Hunan Chen Kitchen off 110th Street at 1003A Columbus Avenue

The lady who works the counter could not have been friendlier and accommodating. The prices were so cheap that you can order a nice meal for under $10.00 that could feed two people and for $5.00 you can buy a nice snack in their appetizer and soup section. I ordered an eggroll and a pint of Roast Pork Lo Mein. I must have gotten a pound of Lo Mein that was steaming hot and loaded with roast pork. It was delicious and well seasoned. The eggroll could have had more roast pork in it but was still plump and well-cooked. I was able to eat in on the benches in Morningside Park at the entrance at 110th Street. It was nice to people watch on a warm day and fun to see the students finally utilizing the park for pleasure.

roast-pork-lo-mein.jpg

Roast Pork Lo Mein with egg roll

After lunch, it was a the long walk to the northern stretches of Central Park and the Harlem Meer. This section of the park was packed with people. Seniors were fishing in the Meer (lake) and the kids were playing in the playground by the Lenox Avenue entrance. This area had been replanted and fixed in the late 90’s and again in the early 2000’s by the city with the help of the Central Park Conservatory. People were taking pictures of the ducks or chasing the pigeons around the park.

Harlem Meer.jpg

The Charles A. Dana Discover Center and the Harlem Meer

I had an interesting afternoon at the Charles A. Dana Discover Center located on the Meer and reading how the area was so influential in the Revolutionary War. Much of the battles had taken place in this area and the forts were located right in the park boundaries. The Battle of Harlem was not far from this spot and it was amazing how the area went back to nature once the war was over. The panels tell the story of the area and you should take about an hour and really read about the areas part in the war. On such a beautiful day the park really sparkled and it looked like a lot of adults were playing hooky on such a nice day.

Crossing Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue is the start of the extremes of 110th Street. You will pass what was once public housing but looks like it is going ‘market rate’ with renovations and once you pass the border of Madison Avenue, you will enter Spanish Harlem and a series of public housing projects. Again this area was alive with people but the mood of the area is completely different.

The Spanish influence was all over the place. On the walls of the stores and in the restaurants and signs as well as the music. There must be at least four or five housing projects in this area in various degrees of maintenance. Some were well maintained like by the Lehman Houses. By the  Houses, it got a little scary. I would not venture in that area at night. At the end of 110th Street, you have the East River Houses, that look like a more pleasant middle-class looking development.

Lehman Houses

Lehman Houses (be careful walking around them)

I walked around Thomas Jefferson Park, a space of green that needs a serious renovation. The park could use a little sprucing up from what I could see. I did not want to enter the basketball grounds due to a scary looking group of teens and walked around the edges of the park.  Just south of the park on New Street, Zip Car seems to have their headquarters and the whole lot is lined with cars.

Thomas Jefferson Park II

Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem

The funny part about 110th street in this area is that it is dotted with new housing, bars and restaurants. The 20 year old set is starting to move into this area. On a rather seedy stretch of 110th, I was always looking over my shoulder until I saw some 20 year old ‘hipster’ with shorts on and an expensive IPhone playing that I felt like a jerk. Either I was the one worrying or he was putting himself at risk.

I stopped for a snack at El Chevere Cuchifritos, a Spanish restaurant, take-out place and bakery at 2000 Third Avenue for some pastilitoes. I ordered them with my broken Spanish which seemed to pass fine as the woman waiting on me understood what I said. I ordered a chicken and beef but got a cheese and they were good but not as good as some I have had in Washington Heights. They are reasonable at $1.50 each and very fresh. They have a nice selection of reasonable hot foods to take out and I just munched on them on the trip back up 110th to Fifth Avenue.

El Cheve Cuchifrios.jpg

El Cheve Cuchifrito Bakery at 2000 Third Avenue

Fifth Avenue from 110th to 125th Streets was where I was lining my walk to concentrate in this area. I walked up and down Fifth Avenue to Marcus Garvey Park and walked around the park which was packed with people walking their dogs by the dog park and kids playing in the playground. Even though the avenue is lined with public housing, the area is dotted with new developments  especially on the north and west parts of the park.

marcus-garvey-park.jpg

Marcus Garvey Park (Mount Morris Park)

The west side of Marcus Garvey Park is the Mount Morris Historical Area. This stretches from about 124th Street to 118th Street and has the most beautiful and graceful brownstones the line the side streets by the park. This area like the rest of Harlem is being sandblasted and renovated back to an earlier era and people are snatching up these homes.

mount-morris-historical-district.jpg

Mount Morris Historical District

I finished this park of the walk by walking down Fifth Avenue through the Taft Homes that line the streets and back down 110th and back up Morningside Avenue and then down Manhattan Avenue to finish off the walk for this part of the visit to the area.

This is a huge area to cover so I will be breaking the visit down into three sections to really see what the neighborhood has to see and offer. I have already walked the boarders of 125th Street and 110th Street and will continue on to do the avenues first and then the side streets. So join me as we explore the newest in ‘hip’ areas, SoHA.

Places to Visit:

 

Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)/Historic District

120th to 124th Street by Madison Avenue

New York, NY  10029

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marcus-garvey-park

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Morris_Park_Historic_District

 

Thomas Jefferson Park

2180 First Avenue

New York, NY  10029

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/thomas-jefferson-park

 

Harlem Meer/Charles A Dana Discovery Center

Central Park North

New York, NY  10029

(212) 860-1370

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/harlem-meer.html

https://www.centralpark.com/things-to-do/attractions/harlem-meer/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d291434-Reviews-Harlem_Meer-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d4563063-Reviews-Charles_A_Dana_Discovery_Center-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Places to Eat:

Hunan Chen’s

1003 Columbus Avenue Store A

New York, NY  10025

(212) 222-1118

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-10:30pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-10:30pm/Friday & Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4980909-Reviews-Hunan_Chen_s_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/24

 

El Chevere Cuchifritos

2000 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 427-3952

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-4:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12179355-Reviews-El_Chevere_Cuchifrito-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905