Tag Archives: Exploring Manhattan

Day One Hundred and Fifty-Eight: Walking the Streets of Central Park South from West 58th to West 55th Streets from Eighth to Fifth Avenues December 6th, 2019-January 8th, 2020

The darker days of the Fall have come and it is starting to get dark at 4:30pm in the afternoon. It gets so depressing sometimes. Still this part of the City is dressed up for the Christmas holidays so all is still cheerful with sparking lights and window displays. The hotels and department stores in the neighborhood are in full swing and everyone is getting ready for the holidays.

Putting the Sinterklaas Parade behind me and visits to decorated mansions in New York and New Jersey for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com”, I was able to concentrate on finishing Central Park South. Even though it is a smaller neighborhood it still takes time to walk these busy streets. There is a lot to see and do in Central Park South. Between admiring the hotels decorated for the holidays and attending a show at Carnegie Hall for Christmas (I love my research), it was a lot of walking around admiring buildings and street art as well as watching the tourists rush around the area. Central Park keeps everyone busy no matter what the temperature.

According to the history of the area, Central Park South has transformed itself over the last fifty years from a fashionable residential area to a commercial neighborhood and now back to fashionable residential area with some of those very same buildings that were turned to office space and now back to expensive condos.

My walk started on a rather cool afternoon in December. I miss those days in December in 2015 when El Nino was affected the weather and it was 60 degrees. It was a cool 40 degrees and rather cloudy. Still it was a brisk day for a walk.

I started to walk the interior streets from the borders from West 55th to West 58th Streets dodging office workers and tourists. The character of the streets changes from Eighth Avenue to Fifth Avenue. The more classic elegant stone townhouses still surround Fifth Avenue whereas by Eighth Avenue and Broadway, new office buildings dominate.

After a morning of working at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (we had no extra bread in the Extra Bread station), I went to see the early silent horror film, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” at the Museum of Modern Art. It was an interesting film with a lot of twists and makes you aware of who is really crazy in this film. It is interesting to note how this film has held up in almost 90 years. After the movie, I walked out the back door to West 55th Street and started walking.

My start point was West 55th Street,  walking under scaffolding all over the place and noticing reminders of the City when it was on the verge of bankruptcy. When I was kid the New York City Center was on the verge of being knocked down and it was a group of artists that saved the complex. The theater at 131 West 55th Street was built in 1923 designed by architect Harry P. Knowles from the firm of Clinton & Russell.

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The New York City Center at 131 West 55th Street

The building was designed in the ‘Neo-Moorish style’ with interesting terra cotta tile work and murals. The building was originally called the “Mecca Temple” and was used by the Shriner’s for their meetings but its purpose changed after the Crash of 1929 and it became City property. Mayor La Guardia turned it into the performing arts center in 1943. Having faced two bouts with demolition in both the 40’s and 70’s, it has now been landmarked in 1984 and is home to Encores Off-Center (Wiki).

Across the street from the City Center, I came across Myzel’s Chocolates at 140 West 55th Street. Now, I have been walking around this area all my life and could not understand how I missed this wonderful little candy shop. It is such a tiny space but packed with lots of character and a lot of delicious candy.

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Myzel’s Chocolates at 140 West 55th Street

The shop was opened in 1990 by Kamila Myzel and her mother, Alina and is known for their handmade chocolates and cookies plus an array of licorice, chocolates and decorative gift items. When she opened the shop in 1990, Ms. Myzel was noted in saying “I love any nuts, chocolate with nuts, almond bark and marzipan. My chocolate is good quality for ordinary people.” (NYT 2009).

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Kamila Myzel minding the store at Myzels Chocolates

This love of her product shows not just in her merchandising (See review on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) but in the customer service she gives. Even though I was only in to look I could see her eyeing me to see what I would buy while she chatted with a customer she knew. I loved the size of the store, which is tiny, in comparison with the ten people squeezed into the space jocking for her attention. I loved the festive atmosphere as the store was decorated for Christmas.

As I continued down West 55th Street, I almost missed the historical Rockefeller Apartments at 24 West 55th Street that was hiding under that neighborhood scaffolding. The complex was built in 1936 by Rockefeller family architects Wallace Harrison and Andre Fouilhoux and was designed in the ‘International Style” and was noted for changing our perspective in light and air in building design (HMdg.org).

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Rockefeller Apartments 24 West 55th Street

At the end of the block on the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 55th Street is the Peninsula Hotel. This elegant hotel was built in 1905 in the Neo-Classic style as the Gotham Hotel and was bought from bankruptcy in 1988 to the Peninsula Group as their New York property.

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Christmas at The Peninsula Hotel

I was able to walk for a bit inside the hotel which was lavishly decorated for the Christmas holidays with all sorts of trees, lights and Santa’s. I could barely walk around with all the tourists taking pictures.

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The entrance to the Peninsula Hotel at Christmas

The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 7 West 55th Street is across the street from the Peninsula and was also decorated with lights and garland for the holidays. There was music playing inside as mass was going on at that time of the day. The Church had been built in 1875 by architects George B. Post and finished by Carl Pfeiffer. You really have to look up at the elegant details of this church that was designed in the Victorian Gothic design (Wiki).

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Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 7 West 55th Avenue

On my way back down West 55th Street, I stopped for some lunch at the Star Stage  Deli at 101 West 55th Street (see review on TripAdvisor). In all the times I had been in this neighborhood over the years, I had never noticed the restaurant before. It is a little hole in the wall that is a throwback to the restaurants that used to dot Manhattan all through the 70’s and 80’s until they were pushed out for the expensive ‘revolving door’ restaurants that keep opening and closing in the area.

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Star Stage Deli at 101 West 55th Street

At first I was going to have a Cheeseburger platter but when I saw the guy behind the counter throw an already cooked burger on the grill I quickly changed my mind and had the Chicken Parmesan and Baked Ziti platter ($8.95) with a Coke because it looked much fresher. It was delicious and I highly recommend it. You got two big pieces of breaded chicken breast in a delicious tomato sauce with several nice sized scoops of baked ziti. The meal could have fed two people and was enough food to re-energize me. There are all sorts of specials that run under $10.00.

When walking back to Eighth Avenue, there is a series of hotels that you will pass all them decorated for the holidays. The Wellington Hotel at 871 Seventh Avenue was decked out for the holidays with lots of white lights and garlands all over the street level Park Cafe windows.  This 27 story hotel was built in 1911 and designed by architect Robert T. Lyons. The entrances and facade of the building are done in polished granite and bronze.

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The Hotel Wellington at 871 Seventh Avenue

On the corner of West 55th Street and Broadway is the Dream Hotel at 210 West 55th Street which was lavishly decorated in and out for Christmas. Garland, trees and lights are all over the exterior of the building making it very festive. The hotel is housed in a series of renovated buildings with the main one on the corner of Broadway which was built in 1895 in the Beaux-Arts style (Dream Hotels Bio).

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The Dream Hotel at the corner of Broadway and West 55th Street

At the end of the block is the well known McGee’s Pub at 240 West 55th Street. McGee’s has been known to be the inspiration for MacLarsen’s Bar in the popular CBS sitcom “How I met your Mother”. The restaurant has been around for years and reflects the changes in time by the whole neighborhood begin knocked down around it. It almost reminds me of PJ Clarks on the Westside of Manhattan with a modern skyscraper surrounding it.

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McGee’s Pub at 240 West 55th Street

As I turned onto West 56th Street, I came across another iconic restaurant that I have eaten at many times, Patsy’s at 236 West 56th Street (see reviews on TripAdvisor). I love the food here. The pastas are all freshly made and their Fried Mozzarella is so well prepared and their Mariana sauce is so flavorful. The service is excellent and I always enjoy eating there.

Patsy’s was founded in 1944 by Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo and has been in its current location since 1954 serving locals, celebrities and tourists alike. There has only been three chefs at Patsy’s, Patsy himself, his son, Joe and Joe’s son Sal (Patsy’s history).

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Patsy’s Restaurant at 236 West 56th Street

The last time I had dinner there before the theater the food was amazing (see my review on TripAdvisor). I had the Mozzarella in Carrozza ($24.00) for two which I finished on my own. It is basically a breaded mozzarella sandwich with their fresh Mariana sauce which were pan-fried perfectly and melted in the middle.

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The Mozzarella in Carrozza at Patsy’s is excellent

For the entree I had the Lobster with Linguine Oreganata, which I had seen prepared on the Travel Network and feeling generous to myself at the holidays, I treated myself. It was excellent. Perfectly cooked pasta with almost a half of sweet lobster topped on the dish.

The best part of the evening was that I got to meet Sal, the chef on the way out and I told him about my meal and how I ordered it because of the Travel Network show. Then I added how much I loved the meal. He was so nice and gave me a jar of his Mariana sauce and told me to enjoy it at home. I thought he was a great guy and good businessman.

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Chef Sal Scognamillo of Patsy’s Restaurant

On the back part of the City Center is The Writers Room plaque dedicated the writers of Sid Caesar’s “The Show of Shows”. Some of the most famous writers and comedians had worked on this show and went on to their own famous careers.

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This plaque is located on the back of The City Center on the West 56th side of the building

In the corridor of The Malborough Building at 40 West 57th Street which runs to West 56th Street is an exhibition of artist Tom Otteness’s work. Don’t miss this open air art exhibition on the artist’s work.

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The Malborough Building open air exhibition of Tom Otteness works

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Each of the works is very interesting

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Artist Tom Otteness

The artist studied at the Arts League of New York and is well known for his work on public art. He art has graced many parts of New York City including an exhibition of “Tom Otteness on Broadway” which ran from Columbus Circle to 168th Street. Don’t miss this interesting open air exhibition that stretches from West 56th to West 57th Streets.

On the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 55th West 56th Streets at 881 Seventh Avenue is Carnegie Hall which is all decked out for the holidays. This palace of entertainment was designed by architect William Burnet Tuthill and built by industrialist Andrew Carnegie. It is one of the biggest buildings in New York built entirely of masonry without a steel frame Wiki).

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Carnegie Hall at Christmas is beautiful

At the last minute I got the last ticket to “New York Pops with Frank and Ella” on Friday December 20th and off I went to enjoy the concert. It was a really cool night that evening and it was nice to see so many people dressed for the occasion. I even saw a few mink coats out.

I really enjoyed the concert and talk about putting you in the Christmas spirit. I had not been Carnegie Hall since the concert last year. The stage was so tastefully decorated and the New York Pops entertained us first. We started with a round of traditional Christmas songs before the show started and ‘Deck the Halls’ was one of the songs on the schedule.

 

The New York Pops performing “Deck the Halls”

The concert “A Frank and Ella Christmas” starred Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins sang the songs of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Essential Voices USA provided the background singing and backup and they were excellent.

Tony DeSare singing “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

What I love about this concert is one of the events at the holidays I look forward to as it always puts me in the holiday mood. Carnegie Hall is always sold out for both nights of the concerts as I think everyone else feels the way I do.

Last year, the only seat left was on the aisle and Santa himself was standing next me when he entered the concert hall to start the sing a long. For a split second, I really believed. That’s how much this concert puts you in to the proper holiday spirit. What I loved the most about the concert was the sing a long at the end of the concert and I mean everyone sings! It is really something. That’s the wonderful memory I have when I walk past Carnegie Hall.

As I headed back to Eighth Avenue, I passed one of the best McDonald’s (see my reviews on TripAdvisor) in the City at 946 Eighth Avenue on the corner Eighth Avenue and West 55th Street. I have eaten at this McDonald’s so many times in the series of walks for this project that I can’t even count them on my finger. The food here is really good and the service is very quick. When there is no alternative before the movies or theater, this is the go to place for a McDouble or Premium Chicken sandwich.

Sitting at the head of the neighborhood is the Hearst Publishing Building at 300 West 57th Street between West 56th and 57th Streets. This impressive building was built in two stages. The first part of the building was built in 1928 by architect Joseph Urban as the headquarters of Hearst Publications for William Randolph Hearst. The rest of the building was not completed due to the Great Depression (Wiki).

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The original part of the building by architect Joseph Urban

The newer part of the building was completed eighty years later and was finished in 2006. This 46 story tower was designed by architect Norman Foster and is designed in triangle grid called a “diagrid” and won many awards as one of New York’s first ‘green buildings’ (Wiki). Look up at this unusual design and the contrasts of the two parts of the building.

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The Hearst Tower designed by architect Norman Foster

I rounded West 57th Street and walked past many familiar buildings from crossing the neighborhood but there are many well known restaurants and stores on this block. There is a lot of excitement with the new Nordstrom department store that opened on the corner of Broadway and West 57th Street at 225 West 57th Street.

The store is one of the largest and single project investments in Nordstrom history. There is seven levels of merchandise, six restaurants and an extensive list of services for the customers. The store forms the base of one of the largest residential buildings in the Western Hemisphere and is the combination of old and new. It is the first department store to open in New York City since the 1920’s. With a facade of large windows and lots of natural light you can see the happenings in the store from street level (Nordstrom Press Release).

During the three times I walk through the store is was indeed busy with lots of hipster employees walking around but most were on their cellphones and the customers seemed to be looking around. The restaurants were mostly full the nights I was there but the one thing I did not see was shopping bags leaving the store. I did not see one Nordstrom bag on the streets in the neighborhood. It is going to be interesting to see how the store does during its first Christmas especially with the Lord & Taylor flagship closing on Fifth Avenue and West 38th Street and Barney’s on Madison Avenue.

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The new Nordstrom at 225 West 57th Street

Further down the street I passed the Osborne Apartments at 205 West 57th Street. These iconic condos were built between 1883-1885 by architect James Edward Ware in a rusticated brownstone outside to the building and an ‘American Renaissance’ in the detailed foyer and public rooms (Wiki). The building is truly one of kind and its apartment structure a time of ‘Gilded Age’.

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The Osborne Apartments at 205 West 57th Street

The elaborate lobby is something to see. It has stuccoed and mosaic tiled floors with use of Italian marble. The walls are covered in glazed terra-cotta panels and the ceilings are covered in different colored hues (Wiki).

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The details of the Osborne Apartment’s lobby

Near the Osborne Apartments at 200 West 57th Street at the corner of Seventh Avenue is the Rodin Studio Apartments. This beautifully detailed building was built in 1917 by architect Cass Gilbert, who had designed the Woolworth Building downtown.  The building was designed as studios for artists and combination studio/living spaces thus the name Rodin after the artist Auguste Rodin. The building had been the brainchild of a groups of established artists (Daytonian Manhattan).

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The Rodin Studios building at 200 West 57th Street

The building, like the Woolworth Building, is designed in ‘white terra-cotta Gothic Revival’ with lots of windows to let in the natural light. You will have to look up from the other side of the street to see the interesting details of the building. The exterior of the building just went through a full renovation.

Another well-known iconic restaurant is located in the neighborhood that has always catered to the theater and business crowd alike, the Russian Tea Room at 150 West 57th Street right next to Carnegie Hall. I have been in this restaurant many times over the years and the renovations twenty years ago made it a little ‘glitzy and over the top’ in design.

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The entrance to the Russian Tea Room at 150 West 57th Street

The restaurant had opened in 1927 by a group of Russian Ballet expatriates as a gathering place and it then got the reputation as a place for the entertainment industry to gather for lunch and dinner. The restaurant had a series of owners but when Warner LeRoy bought the restaurant in 1996 and when he closed it he took a very nice elegant restaurant and turned it into another “Tavern on the Green” with garish decor.

The food and atmosphere was never the same both to many New Yorkers, who left it for the tourists and in many meals I have had there in recent history, the last one being in April of 2011 for my father’s birthday/Christmas present one month before he got sick. That evening has special meaning to me now.

In the years that I ate at the restaurant during the holidays in the early 90’s, my brother and I would see celebrities all the time in the other booths. Our last meal there before it closed for renovations in 1996, we sat next to Sylvia Miles, who recently passed away in the summer of 2019. But that night she held court in the restaurant and our attention especially to my brother who kept nudging me that she was there. This was when dining there was a special event and the food was really good. Today you get a ‘watered down’ version of Russian cooking. (I would not recommend it in this blog.)

Many movies were shot there but this scene from Tootsie in 1982 captured the mood of the restaurant in the 1980’s.

 

One of the funniest scenes of a movie shot in the Russian Tea Room from “Tootsie” in 1982

There was more interesting apartment buildings to see in the neighborhood another located at 130 West 57th Street. This elegant building was built between 1907-08 by architects Pollard & Steinam in the ‘Art Deco style”. This building was also created as artists studios/residences when this was a creative residential district.

130 West 57th Street

130 West 57th Street

At the end of the block, I revisited Bergdorf Goodman at 754 Fifth Avenue that runs from West 57th to 58th Streets opposite of the Plaza Hotel. This palace of luxury was founded in 1899 by Herman Bergdorf and later owned by Edward Goodman. The store when you look at it was designed as a series of buildings that could have been broken into shops had the business not done well. During the Depression, the store thrived and Edward Goodman bought up the remaining parts of the building to reconfigure the store into its present form (Wiki).

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The Palace of Luxury Bergdorf Goodman at 754 Fifth Avenue is fun to visit

It is a fun way to spend the afternoon taking the escalator to the various floors and look at how the clothes are displayed and examine the beautiful jewelry and handbags. It also had one of the nicest perfume departments in the county with items found no where else in the United States. Having worked there in 2004, I found it a unique experience to my retailing career and I still enjoy talking to James, the doorman who works there.

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The new Jewelry Salon at Bergdorf-Goodman

Right down the road from Bergdorf-Goodman at 35 West 57th Street is the loneliest looking stone mansion that new houses a deli. This magnificent mansion is the Schieffelin-Bowne  Mansion that was built in 1891 by Margaret Vanderbilt Shepard for her daughter, Maria Louise Vanderbilt Shepard for her marriage to William Jay Schieffelin, a member of a drug manufacturing family and the grandson of John Jay, the first Chief Justice. The house was a few steps from the large mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, which was one the location of Bergdorf-Goodman (Daytonian 2012).

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The Vanderbilt Mansion at 35 West 57th Street sits lonely now

The house was sold to millionaire Samuel Bowne in 1898 when the Schieffelin’e moved to East 66th Street. Mr. Bowne suffered a stoke around 1909 and died a year later. His widow sold the house and moved to Florida and died in 1930. Since 1930, the mansion has been used for commercial purposes and sits next to a construction site as a sad reminder of how fashionable the neighborhood was once (Daytonian 2012). It could used a good cleaning.

At 57 West 57 Street on the corner of West 57th and Seventh Avenue is a beautiful Art Deco office/apartment building that was built in 1928. The building has interesting details from the gilded facial imagines on the cornices to the marble front and lobby inside. Really look at the artwork carved into the outside of the building. Der Scott, the architect of Trump Tower renovated the building in 1988 and added many of the details to the building.

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57 West 57th Street is a gilded Art Deco Building

Another beautiful building at 123 West 57th Street #3 is the Calvary Baptist Church which stands guard amongst its more modern neighbors. This interesting church is an example of a ‘skyrise church’ as it is a sixteen story building. It was built in 1929 by architects Jardine, Hall & Murdock and the building was dedicated in 1931 (Wiki). Take a look up at the stone carvings and intricate design of the stone work.

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Calvary Baptist Church at 123 West 57th Street

I started my third afternoon in the neighborhood back at the Turnstyle Underground Market at 1000S 8th Avenue which is in the subway station under the Time Warner Building. This surprising little food court has some innovative and very reasonable restaurants. Last time I ate here was at Daa! Dumplings, the Russian dumpling restaurant and this time I ate at Champion Pizza at the end of the court after eyeing a Mac & Cheese Pizza in the display window.

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Champion Pizza in the Turnstyle Underground Food Court

After deciding on that and a Coke (see Review on TripAdvisor), I sat down at one of the busy tables with high school students and tourist staring into their phones. The pizza was delicious and tasted like Kraft Mac & Cheese topped with mozzarella on the top. After my lunch, I was ready for a long walk.

I rounded the corner and entered the more commercial West 58th Street in the early afternoon. This is an interesting block as you head past Seventh Avenue the street is lined with the back of the New York Athletic Club, the Park Lane Hotel and the Plaza Hotel.

One of the more interesting buildings is the Central Park Mews at 117 West 58th Street. This interesting brick apartment building was built in 1900 and show a lot of character with its marble and brick facade. Look at the stone details around the building and interesting windows towards the top.

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Central Park Mews at 117 West 58th Street really stands out

At the end of West 58th Street towards Bergdorf-Goodman is the now closed Paris Theater at 4 West 58th Street, which was once a major art movie theater and noted for its edgy releases. Now Netflix has reopened it for their releases to the public before they start screening films on TV. The 71 year old theater is seeing new life and a lot of new patrons (NYTimes 2019). The theater is the last single screen theater in New York City.

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The Paris Theater at 4 West 58th Street is now leased by Netflix

Just outside theater and in front of 9 West 58th Street, the Solow Building,  is an unusual and very strange statue standing guard on the street. This is “Moonbird” by artist Joan Miro. This strange fourteen foot abstract sculpture had replaced an Alexander Calder sculpture that had been once stood here.

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‘Moonbird’ by Joan Miro from 1966 in front of the Solow Building

The sculpture was created in smaller forms in 1966 and was noted as having a cosmic connection to nature. The sculpture was derived from a connection the artist had in the world of birds and the terrestrial and celestial worlds (Artworld 1988).

Joan Miro was a Spanish born painter, sculptor and ceramicist whose art gravitated towards Surrealism,  whose goal it is to liberate thought, language and human experience from the boundaries of rationalism (Artworld).  The artist had studied at the Cerle Artistic de Sant Lluc and held is first solo show in 1918 (Wiki).

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Artist Joan Miro in his later years

When crossing the street into the Plaza Hotel and know the hotel of its heyday, it is a much smaller and more compact hotel. When enter from the back of the Plaza Hotel you will come across The Shops at the Plaza Hotel and the Plaza Hotel Food Hall inside the basement area of the hotel at Central Park South and Fifth Avenue.

There is a selection of expensive stores and small restaurants inside the Food Hall. You can choose from bakery items, Chinese, Italian and sandwiches. The Shops has an exclusive Plaza boutique and an Eloise shop that even has a tea room for children’s tea parties. There is a nice selection places to visit if money is not the object.

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The Shops at the Plaza Hotel and the Plaza Hotel Food Hall are interesting to visit

When exiting the back of the Plaza Hotel, you will see the service areas and backs of some of the most famous hotels facing Central Park. As you head back down West 58th Street, there are two side by side buildings you might miss under all the scaffolding all over the block.

Tucked behind scaffolding is 213 West 58th Street, now the Unity Center of New York but when it was built was the stables/garage of Helen Gould Miller. The structure was built in 1910 by architects York & Sawyer in the ‘French Renaissance style’ for the daughter of financier Jay Gould. This was the home of her carriages and then cars with apartments for the coachman and then chauffeur. Even in the shadows of all the construction you can see the detailed stone work and carved details of the building.

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213 West 58th Street, The Helen Gould Miller Stables

Next door at 215 West 58th Street is Engine 23, “The Lion’s Den” a FDNY Firehouse that was established on October 6th, 1865 as one of the oldest companies in New York City and two months after the department became paid. The original company had been established in 1810 as Equitable Company 36 then as Harry Howard Volunteer Company named after the Department Chief Engineer.

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Engine 23 at 215 West 58th Street “The Lion’s Den”

The building was designed by architect Alexander H. Stevens between 1905-06 in the ‘Beaux Arts style’ (New York YIMPY).

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Engine 23, “The Lion’s Den”

I ended the walk at the Museum of Art & Design at 2 Columbus Circle on the very edge of the neighborhood. This unique museum I have written about many times in my VisitingaMuseum.com site. The museum was opened in 1956 to celebrate American craftsmanship and in it’s current incarnation established at its present site in 2008, the museum studies the art and design process dealing with many art forms including movies, music, painting, jewelry and clothing & textiles (See my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com)

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The Museum of Art & Design at 2 Columbus Circle on the very edge of Central Park South

I went to a walking tour of the museum highlights and then visited the Anna Sui exhibition of her clothing, accessories and cosmetics. Her clothing is an interesting art form itself with each season it gets more interesting.

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Designer Anna Sui

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The collections of Anna Sui at the Museum of Art & Design at 2 Columbus Circle

The walk of the neighborhood ended with dinner at China Gourmet, a tiny hole in the wall restaurant at 877 8th Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) that I had passed walking up to the neighborhood. This is a big restaurant with the office workers in the area and had been packed for lunch. I had a Sweet & Sour Pork combination platter with an egg roll and Coke ($10.95).

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China Gourmet at 877 8th Avenue is in Hell’s Kitchen

Even though the portion size was large and the food fresh it tasted like the wok had not been cleaned or the oil was old. The meal was okay but still the place bustled and the most interesting characters walked in and out of the restaurant. There was no lack of entertainment in the customers here at 9:00pm at night.

To end the evening, I went to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree which was surprisingly still up on January 8th. Much less crowded than the week before, I was able to walk around the rink and watch the skaters and admire the tree from afar with the gaping tourists taking ‘selfies’ all over the place. I will tell you that tourists spend more time in Manhattan taking pictures than actually admiring what is around them. That is such a pity as I think you miss more if you don’t actually look at what is surrounding you as you walk around.

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The Rockefeller Christmas tree January 8th, 2020

 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2020!

 

Places to Eat:

Star Stage Deli

101 West 55th Street

New York, NY  10019

(212) 541-4650

http://www.stagestardeli.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4369641-Reviews-Stage_Star_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Patsy’s Restaurant

236 West 56th Street

New York, NY  10019

(212) 247-3491

https://www.patsys.com/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 12:00pm-9:30pm/Friday & Saturday 12:00pm-10:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d478026-Reviews-Patsy_s_Italian_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

McDonald’s

946 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY  10019

(212) 586-6676

https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/full-menu.html?cid=RF:YXT_LS:SI::MGBM

Open: 24 hours, 7 days a week

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4468379-Reviews-McDonald_s-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Champion Pizza

1000 South 8th Avenue

New York, NY  10019

(212) 315-3335

http://www.championpizzanyc.com

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12849399-Reviews-Champion_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

China Gourmet

877 8th Avenue

New York, NY

(212) 246-8181/8191/Fax: (212) 246-2124

http://www.chinagourmet8ave.com

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3385484-Reviews-China_Gourmet-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

The Shops at the Plaza Hotel/Plaza Hotel Food Court

Fifth Avenue at Central Park South

New York, NY 10019

(212) 759-3000

plazareservation@fairmont.com

Open: Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm/Monday-Saturday 10:00am-8:00pm

Shops

The Plaza Food Hall

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3643072-Reviews-Food_Court-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

The Turnstyle Underground Market

1000S 8th Avenue

New York, NY  10019

(646) 768-9222

Open: 24 hours (not every restaurant)

https://www.turn-style.com/

https://www.turn-style.com/food-hall

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d11888820-Reviews-Turnstyle-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Museum of Art & Design

2 Columbus Circle

New York, NY  10019

(212) 229-7777

https://madmuseum.org/

Open: Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Wednesday 10:00am-6:00pm/Thursday 10:00am-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d524927-Reviews-Museum_of_Arts_and_Design-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2998

All the interesting buildings in the neighborhood I have mentioned by address and you should take the time to really look up at these beautiful structures. There are coming down too fast to make way for new things.

 

 

 

Day One Hundred and Seventeen Walking Governors Island in New York Harbor July 3rd and August 30th, 2018

My aunt called me out of the blue and said that she had an extra spot on a trip to Governors Island with her Retired Teachers Association group and I jumped at the chance. I had never been to the island before only having seen it from a distance so it was a chance to visit the island with a tour group. The nice part of the tour was that we could walk independently around the island, which my cousin, Bruce and I decided to do.

When going to Governor’s Island during the week, there is a $3.00 round trip fee to travel to the island, which is now open seven days a week. On the weekends, the ferry is free so it is a treat to go to the island as a type of ‘Staycation’. For people living in New York City, it is an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the island of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs.

Governor’s Island has been a public space since 1996 when the US Coast Guard left the island and  part of the island reverted to the National Park system.  Since then, twenty-two acres of the park where the forts are located have been part of the National Park system and the remaining one hundred and fifty acres of the landfill area are part of the Trust of Governor’s Island, which is an entity of the City of New York.  Governor’s Island is now part of Manhattan. Since 2001, the island has reinvented itself and in 2012, Mayor Bloomberg broke ground on the master plan for the island. In the next six years, the island has developed into the park is has now become with more developments in the future (Wiki).

Governors Island II.jpg

Governor’s Island

On a nice day, there is nothing like a boat ride out to the island. It only takes about ten minutes to leave from the Battery to the dock of the island. It’s a nice ride over to the island with the most spectacular views of Lower Manhattan, Jersey City, NJ, Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. These are all ‘must sees’ when you are visiting New York. The views of Lower Manhattan are most breathtaking when you reach the area around Castle Williams, one of the two forts on the island.

Once you arrive on the island, the gift shop and information booth is to your left up the hill and the public bathrooms are to your right. Make sure to make pit stops at both before venturing further on the island. At the gift shop you can get a map of the island to know where to walk and the public bathrooms at the dock is the best place to go on the island.

We started our walk of Governor’s Island on the path to Castle William, one of the two forts of the island and one of the last relics of ‘Old’ New York. Castle William is fort that protected New York Harbor for the War of 1812 and after that was used during the Civil War as a jail for prisoners of war and then during World Wars for training base.

The fort is made of red sand stone quarried in New York area and was designed by Lt. Colonial Jonathan Williams, who was the Chief Engineer of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The fort was designed in a innovative circular pattern, which protected the fort from all sides and was considered a prototype for a new form of coastal fortification (US National Park System).

The tour was very interesting as we started in the court yard, which had once been a training ground for the troops. They took us on a tour of the jail cells on the first floor, solitary confinement on the second floor and then took us to the roof to see where the cannons were located that protected the harbor during the War of 1812. The views were breathtaking of Lower Manhattan and Jersey City, NJ. One a clear day, the view is amazing with all the soaring towers, pleasure boats and helicopters above.

The tour took us all over the building and the guide told the story of how the fort supported the City during The War of 1812 and its use in later years for other military service. Since the City was surrounding by forts on the various islands protecting New York Harbor, the British did not venture to New York during the war.

As we left the Castle William, we walked the path toward Fort Jay, which is located in the middle of the island. The fort is currently being renovated and some of the walls were crumbling around us. The interior of the fort is open and there are rocking chairs around the porches that line the insides of the fort while the outside walls of the fort are being renovated and repaired.

Castle William

Castle William

Fort Jay has been altered and rebuilt since its inception around 1775, when defenses were made on the island by the Continental troops during the Revolutionary War. This fort and Governor’s Island was held by the British during the war and surrendered  after the war in 1783. With renewed tensions abroad, the New York Legislature and United States Congress reconstructed the fort in 1794 as part of the First American System of Coastal Fortifications. The fort was called Fort Jay in 1798 for New York Governor John Jay (US National Park Services).

The fort went through extensive renovations between 1855-1921 with the brick barracks being replaced, interior remodeling and the addition of officer’s apartments and a golf course. Fort Jay has sat vacant with minimal upkeep since closure of the Coast Guard base in 1997 and you can see the current renovation going on now (US National Parks Services). There is also an art installation in this fort that is on view.

Fort Jay.jpg

Fort Jay

Both forts do close early for tours and viewing. Make sure you get to the island early so that you can take the tours or visit on your own to admire the architecture. They are interesting examples of early harbor defenses not just in New York but of the coastal cities that were established before the Revolutionary War.

Exiting the old fort, look up to see the statuary going through a renovation. The soft stone of the fort have been damaged by the sea air over the years and the eagle statues need extensive repairs.  The pathway then leads to Nolan Park, home of the Officers Homes when they lived on the island. These are currently being renovated for non-profit organizations. I had a nice walk through of one of the homes on a second trip to the island and it is now part of the NY Audubon Society. There are a lot of interesting displays that the Society shows on both floors/

Most of the homes are still going through a renovation and are not open to the public but it is interesting to see the Victorian architecture and how the officers and their families must have lived when they were stationed here. Even when walking through the homes you can see that a lot of work is needed in these buildings with the sagging porches and peeling paint.

Leaving Nolan Park you head to the South Battery, where their is an active school and it leads to one of the three piers on the island. To the north of this is the Parade Ground where they were setting up for one of the summer movies that was going to be shown on the lawn with the last one being in mid-September.

We walked along the Yankee Pier on the southern part of the island and looked over the views from Brooklyn, which are not that exciting and then walked to Liggett Terrace to cool down and grab some lunch.

On the weekends in the warmer weather is there are a lot of food trucks on this side of the island and we stopped at Fauzia Jamaican Food truck stand right near the building for some Jerk Chicken sandwiches. This was an experience. I felt like I was sitting in a little restaurant in Kingston. They had the tables set up just so with colorful chairs and decorations and they were playing music by Luciano, a well known singer from Jamaica.

fauzia's food truck.jpg

Fauzia’s Jamaican Food Truck

The food at Fauzia’s is really good. Their Jerk Chicken sandwich($8.00) has some kick to it and when you add their hot sauce,  it ‘sets fire’ in your stomach. The sandwiches are a rather large so be prepared to have an appetite. The ladies are really nice and engaging to talk to and bring a warm island hospitality to the dining experience.

After lunch, we sat by the fountains near the building and I amused a bunch of ten year olds by taking off my shoes and socks and walking around the shooting fountains. The temperature had hit 98 degrees and was really humid and I could not take the heat. So I splashed around the fountain. The jumping and shooting of the fountains felt really good on my legs and feet and my cousin could not stop laughing.

The rest of the afternoon we explored the southern part of the island which is all landfill (from building the first subway system in the City and the island grew an additional 150  acres). Once you leave Liggett Terrance, you follow the paths to the southern (or western) part of the island which is all divided up park land by a series of paths.

We walked through the Hammock Grove and relaxed in the hammocks that are always in demand. It is a nice place to relax on a hot day but do spray yourself as the bugs can bite here. All along the paths there are local wild flowers and trees so that paths can be very colorful in season. The hammocks are a nice place to just lie back and relax. On a hot, humid day they were not as much fun but nice for a break. My second time to the island was after a rain storm and the bugs were biting me so I did not venture long.

The Play Lawn area around the south part of the island was booked for an event called “Pinknic”, a picnic where everyone wore pink and drank rose wines. On a 94 degree day with the humidity hitting almost 100 degrees drinking rose wine in that heat was the last thing I would want to do but my cousin and I watched as each wave of ferry riders became pinker in color in their dress and the place filled up.

We walked up The Hills section just below the Play Lawn and that is some exercise. Climbing up the rocks on the ‘Outlook Hill’, can be trying but the views are well work it. When the two of use reached the top neither of us took the time to notice that there was a path leading up the hill that was paved. When you reach the top of the hill, there are the most interesting and beauty views of the island and of the harbor region. Since Governor’s Island is in the heart of the harbor, you can see everything around the surrounding islands and Lower Manhattan.

Picnic Point was closed for private events on both trips I made to the island and the area surrounding The Hills is being developed for a future hotel or inn on the island from what one of the tour guides I over-heard talking to a group of tourists.

We traveled up the northern part of the island and noticed a tent village. The Collective Governor’s Island was having a soft opening the day we were there and just starting to receive guests. The Collective is an eco-friendly resort concept and the tents are hardly ‘roughing it’ with gourmet treats and meals, 1000 thread sheets and plush Turkish towels and some of the tents have private baths. The day were there was no one on the property yet and the second time I visited the island, it was not yet check in time and the place looked like a ghost town with no one there. I will have to revisit before it closes for the season.

On my second trip to explore the island, I attempted to slide down the two slides found in the ‘Slide Hill’ section of The Hills. Good luck on that. At 6:4, I had to push myself down the slides while the little kids slide down with no problems. The slides are hidden by trees on this part of the hill but just look for the little and big ‘kids’, who are laughing hard at each other.

Slide Hill.jpg

Slide Hill

As we traced out steps back to the Manhattan Ferry landing, we passed various restaurants that were open for the season. The Oyster House has a nice menu and the bar area was packed that afternoon and Taco Beach, a slightly more casual place was full of guests enjoying Mexican food. Those I will have to try on future trips.

I would like to point out the various public arts works on the island by in the Chapel of St. Cornelius, which is an old church on the island near the South Battery and the Liggett Archway in the middle of the Liggett Terrace. These sculptures are by artist Jacob Hasimoto, who currently lives in Queens, NY.

Mr. Hasimoto was born in 1973 in Greeley, CO and is a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Having shown in museums and galleries all over the world, this is the first major installation by the artist (Artist Bio)

Using sculpture and installation, the artist creates worlds from a range of modular components: bamboo and paper kites, model boats and even AstroTurf-covered blocks. His accretive, layered compositions reference video games, virtual environments and cosmology, while also remaining deeply rooted in art-historical traditions notably, landscaped-based abstraction, modernism and handcraft (Artist Bio).

In the historic Chapel of St. Cornelius which closed in 2013, the artist reopened it with a sculpture of 15,000 bamboo and paper kites done in white and black named ‘The Eclipse’. To me it looked more like a sunrise/sunset pattern in the sky than a full eclipse but the artist really captured the progressiveness of the color and light of the movement of the sun and moon. It blew me away of the intricate detail work the artist had to figure to get the placement just so to get this effect. It takes over the whole church and you have to see it from all sides to fully appreciate it.

In the Liggett Hall archway, his sculpture ‘Never comes Tomorrow’ contains hundreds of wooden cubes and two massive steel funnels which showcases the artists interest in architecture. To me I found it whimsical and fun showing a combination of a work straight out of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’. It looked like a series of trumpets with the communication devise in the middle of the structure.  Hurry though, these sculptures I read online will only be up until Halloween.

After a hot and sticky day on the island both times, it is a pleasurable trip back to Lower Manhattan. The breezes are really nice and the view unbelievably beautiful. When you hear the words “New York” this is what you would imagine it to be.

Governor’s Island is from May 1st until October 31st during the season from 10:00am-6:00pm Monday-Thursday and on Friday’s and Saturday’s there are late hours until 10:00pm but only until September 14th. The island is open on Sunday from 10:00am-7:00pm. The ferries run on the hour except extended on the weekends. The last ferry departs the island 6:00pm Monday-Thursday and 7:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The island closes after Halloween night.

Depending on the part of the season you visit, there is loads to do on the island from just walking around, biking, skate boarding, touring or just relaxing.

All restaurants and historical sites are located on Governor’s Island and you can see it all by accessing their website at http://www.govisland.com.

https://govisland.com/

Day Twenty One: October 30, 2015 Walking the Avenues in Washington Heights

On a beautiful sunny day in Washington Heights,  I finally finished my travels up Amsterdam Avenue from 181st Street to the corner of Fort George Avenue. My first stop was McNally Plaza as I crossed the street to start the walk up Amsterdam Avenue. The park and its fall foliage was beckoning. McNally is a small park right by the Washington Bridge leading to the Bronx.

McNally Plaza Park is named after World War I Corporal Richard J. McNally, who lived in the neighborhood and was killed at the end of the war in September of 1918 (NYCParks.com).

McNally Plaza Park.jpg

McNally Plaza Park

I don’t recommend taking a walk on this busy bridge but for a short distance it offers the most amazing views of the East River and of the foliage in High Bridge Park below. You can see the few joggers and bicyclists below that had finished their day at work. The rolling hills remind me of my travels in Inwood.

As I walked up Amsterdam Avenue, I passed by the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (Wheels), that was letting out for the day. There is the most amazing street vendor just out side the school who makes freshly fried pastilitos  and croquet’s filled with beef, cheese or chicken. She is located just outside the door to the school at 182nd Street and try to catch her before she leaves the school area. You can pick up a nice lunch for about $3.00 and her beef pastilitos are the best.

As the kids were leaving for the day, there was a superhero performance that some outside vendor was putting on for the kids and they were truly engaged by the performance. They had the kids singing and dancing right on the street to the amusement of all the parents who looked happy for the distraction. I forgot what is was like to be in elementary school and have time to just relax and have fun. It may not have been the best performance but the actors  knew how to relate to the kids and it was fun to watch.

The George Washington School at the tip of Amsterdam Avenue was letting out for the day, so when I reached the top of the avenue there was a swirl of activity. The students swarmed all the local businesses to socialize with their friends and have snacks. When school let out for the day, this is a very busy area. Their are about five public and three private schools in the area and after school the kids keep themselves occupied with hanging out at the local parks or outside popular businesses in the neighborhood.

My first stop in the neighborhood was an ice cream parlor that is a popular hangout Rincocito Ice Cream at 1650 St. Nicolas Avenue that I had passed many times in this part of the neighborhood. It is located by the convergence of all the avenues starting points to the north. I had a delicious ice cream named ‘Perry’s Birthday’ which you have to try when you visit this neat little shop. I had it in a fresh waffle cone and it is a combination of birthday cake and cotton candy ice creams. For $2.50 for two large scoops, it was quite the deal and hit the spot on this unusually hot day.

After my snack started my long day of walking down the streets, starting at 193rd Street, one of the shortest streets in the walk to all the way down to 181st Street. It was walking on both sides of the streets criss-crossing the avenues. There was quite a view of High Bridge Park from Laurel Hill Terrance that abuts Yeshiva University. The fall foliage is in full glory in the park at this time and try to get into the park before the array colors is gone. Many of the students from Yeshiva and the local schools were using the park and the playgrounds in droves, enjoying the last warm days of the summer that crept into fall. Lauren Hill Terrace gives you such a nice view of the park.

High Bridge Park III

High Bridge Park

As I criss-crossed most of the streets, they are lined with beautiful pre-war buildings with less activity then in the past. As the weather has cooled, I don’t see as many people on the street either playing dominoes or conversing in fold-up chairs. Still there were lots of kids milling around talking to their friends.

On 182nd Street, there was a small grouping of brownstones that were out of place with the rest of the block. The residents had them beautifully decorated for Halloween with all sorts of spider webs, skeletons and hay/corn stalk displays. They did a good job putting me into the Halloween spirit. They were entertaining a group of people who were dressed like they were getting ready for a party.

By the time I reached my goal of 181st Street, it was nightfall with the bustle of a street teaming with activity. Since this is a major shopping block, the stores were bustling with activity. There are loads of interesting street vendors to choose from selling all sorts of hot snacks, from roasted pork, hot soup, pastilitos, croquettes, ices and soft tacos there is a never ending choice of freshly cooked food that is made right in front of you. These vendors line 181st Street between Amsterdam and Broadway.

My day ended at the Morgan Library at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street for a screening of ‘Nosferatu’, the silent German version of ‘Dracula’ made back in 1922. The screening was packed on this pre-Halloween night with patrons who enjoyed the musical performance during the film. Between the foliage in the park, the decorations around the city and the movie, it put me into the spirit of Halloween.

 

Places to Visit:

High Bridge Park

Washington Heights, NYC

 

Morgan Library

 

My review on TripAdvisor:

 

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

 

Places to Eat:

Rincocito Ice Cream

1650 Saint Nichols Avenue

New York, NY  10033

Open:

My review on TripAdvisor:

Day Eighteen: West Side of Broadway Washington Heights October 9th, 2015

I’m back in Washington Heights again traveling on the West side of Broadway and exploring all the side streets. I started my day walking along the length of 187th Street. I swear I find some great bakeries and restaurants in the neighborhood.

I started with a snack at the Grullon Bakery II at 575 West 187th Street. This local bakery has a wonderful selection of Dominican pastries and meat pies. The pastilitos here are really good. The chicken filling is spiced well and fried crisp. Their cubanos stuffed pastries are wonderful as well. They are similar to the pastilitos but a different dough and a sweeten outside. All of their meat pastries run around $1.00 so it makes a nice travelling snack. Also check out some of their sweetened pastries as well. I have to say one thing, the staff   seemed very amused by me eating there. I figured they don’t see too many customers who are not Dominican.

I was able to walk the whole distance of Wadsworth Avenue before nightfall. Now that the days are getting shorter, its harder to walk the distance before it gets too dark. Wadsworth is lined with many beautiful pre-war apartments but one section that is really nice is by Fairview Avenue with buildings that are shaped by the curvature of the road. Take a good look up and really look at this building. Its design is really unique and the look of the apartments inside must be interesting.

Walking down Fort George Avenue it seemed to me that everyone is obsessed with washing their cars. All up and down the street, everyone was power washing their cars and trucks so be on the look out for streams of water. This is quite a walk up and down the hill passing the upper part of High Bridge Park which is loaded with trash in this part of the park. Even though this part of the park is loaded with interesting rock formation, it isn’t well taken care of and loaded with weeds.

I walked through Gorman Park off Wadsworth Avenue, which is unusual as the park starts on Broadway and you walk up the steps to the sitting area up above. It offers a nice view the surrounding area and the parks on the other side of the island. When you walk up the many flights of stairs, you will notice this park is also filled with weeds. The sitting area at the top of the park offers many benches and just as many nice views.

The park is dedicated to Gertie Amelia Gorman, a real estate investor at the request of her family. It is a nice place to relax after a long day of walking. Her daughter, Gertie Emily Webb gave the City Parks system $25,000 for the establishment of the park and a $50,000 trust to maintain it (NYCParks.com).

Gorman Park II

Gorman Park

I walked the whole length of Wadsworth Avenue and back and then I started the length of St. Nicholas Avenue when night fell. I just walked one side of the road on the way back to the subway station. There is a lot of hustle on the avenue with street vendors hawking their wares and small food vendors selling ices, juices, pastilitos and fresh fruit. The stores that line this section of the block are loaded with life as everyone is rushing around either looking or buying.

For dinner that evening, I stopped at El Malecon Restaurant at 4141 Broadway. I passed the restaurant many times on the walk up and down Broadway and it offers a very interesting menu of Dominican, Caribbean and Spanish dishes. I had their chicken quesadilla there was served with fresh guacamole, which were freshly fried and bursting with flavor and then had the Shrimp with Garlic Sauce with a mound of rice and a side of beans.

The portion sizes are very big so come prepared with a big appetite. The service can be a little rough if you don’t speak Spanish that well but they will try to help you with the menu. The place should not be missed when travelling up this way.On the way back to the subway, I noticed that people are still outside in the cool night air playing dominoes and cards. Even in the cool weather, the island way of life still rings true in this neighborhood and it feels a whole lot safer.

Places to Visit:

High Bridge Park

Washington Heights, NYC

 

Gorman Park

Washington Heights, NYC

 

Places to Eat:

El Malecon Restaurant

4141 Broadway

New York, NY 10033

(212) 927-3812

http://maleconrestaurants.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d479178-Reviews-El_Malecon_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Grullon Bakery 1#

575 West 187th Street

New York, NY 10033

(212) 740-1190

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10424741-Reviews-Grullon_1_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Day Twelve: Washington Heights 177th Street & West of Broadway September 8th, 2015

I finished the remainder of the my walk of the lower part of Fort Tyron Park today. What a scorcher of a day at 95F and the humidity was not great either. The initial part of this walk started at the middle of the park at the 190 Street station. Take the elevator from the subway station to the top floor and exit through the park. You will be in front of the Margaret Corbin Circle, a beautifully landscaped cul-de -sac at the lower end of the park, where the buses drop everyone off. In season, the flowers are a colorful bouquet of different varieties with the green of the trees in the background.

I walked around the Stan Michels Promenade past the Heather Gardens. It is such a great place to stroll and look at the various plantings. I was floored when I saw crocuses blooming this time of year when they are a Spring flower. The Heather Gardens to the side of the promenade was in full bloom and I took the time out to see what was planted. All sorts of birds, butterflies and bees make this their home so be on the look out for things flying around.

I stopped for lunch at the New Leaf Café at 1 Margaret Corbin Drive. This pretty little restaurant is as you enter the park and a short walk from the subway terminal. I have to admit that the restaurant is just beautiful with a great location and the view from the patio is pretty spectacular but the food doesn’t match it. The cheeseburger I ordered nicely cooked with no flavor, the fries were standard and the dessert menu was pretty boring. It can be pricey on the lunch menu so stick to the sandwiches.

The service is friendly and attentive. The waiter I had, Sarah, was explaining to me how she was training in some new people and was a little distracted. I thought she was perfectly fine. I told her I loved the view and the restaurant but the meal did not match the atmosphere. She explained that they are still working on the dessert menu and new things are being added. It is a place to visit for the view alone. (Note to readers: You can see all my restaurant and attraction reviews on TripAdvisor)

I relaxed after lunch on the Linden Terrace, a stone terrace that has views of the park and in the distance, the Hudson River. It is a great place to relax in the shade on a hot day and read a book or the paper. I plotted my game plan of the neighborhood and took the elevator back down to Broadway and walked from 190th Street to 177th Street. It was a nice walk on a hot day.

Fort Tyron Park has an interesting history. The park is named after Sir William Tyron, the last British Governor of the Providence of New York. It was donated to the City by John D. Rockefeller Jr in 1935 after buying the old C. K. G. estate and employing the firm of the Olmsted Brothers, who created Central Park, to redesign it into a park. The Battle of Fort Washington was fought here during the Revolutionary War and the first women to fight in Battle here, Margaret Corbin (who the road is named after) was wounded here. The park had fallen in hard times in the 70’s and 80’s and has now received a full restoration (Wiki).

Fort Tryon Park I

Walking under the George Washington Bridge is something new for me. You never realize how busy that bridge is until you walk under it and around it. I was surprised by all the construction around the bridge. It seems that they are building retail space under the bridge. Who knew you could develop upscale shopping under the George Washington Bridge.

As I walked around 177th Street on the west side of Broadway the one thing I noticed was the classic housing stock around Cabrini and Haven Avenues. It is really beautiful with elegant entrances and pillared fronts. The buildings do need some work but this area has interesting housing stock.

I took an interesting detour around the playground and under the bridge off Haven Avenue. When you walk up the crumbling steps to the walk way around the entrance and exit to the George Washington Bridge, it takes you around a spiral path around the streets through mountains of household garbage that the homeless must discard, places where these people must sleep or gang members meet and the worst part is when you finish following the path, you must turn around and go back the way you came because the path is blocked off at the other end by a wooden door as the stairs on the other side is being repaired. This little side trip is not for the faint hearted as you do not have much room to walk around and to any passerby by car, they would have their own thoughts of why you are up there.

The street art around the playground at 177th Street is very interesting and if you decide to take the walk around the bridge area, check out the painting along the cement rail of the three faces. It really is a unique piece of art work. Walking up the hill on 181st Street, there are some great shops and restaurants and the view walking up the hill is quite a site. It looks like a street in San Francisco.

My path took me up Carbrini Avenue past the Castle Village Apartment complex, a series of buildings with a spectacular view of the Hudson River and nicely landscaped yards around the buildings. The details along the buildings really make the complex seem like a series of medieval buildings and from what I could see from the street level a very nice place to live. The path up the road lead me right back to Fort Tyron Park, fitting from what I saw on the way up the road.

castle hill apartments

Castle Hill Apartments and park

On my way back down the avenue, I criss-crossed the side streets at 190th, 187th, 181st, 180th and 179th, looking over the various restaurants and stores in the area. All around me I can see signs that the neighborhood is in the process of changing as the smaller low scale establishments are being replaced with more updated restaurants, shops and coffee bars. Some of the true neighborhood stores you can tell are keeping up by changing their signs and frontage displays to cater to the new comers. There is a real change going on in this part of the area and local merchants are starting to cash in on their new clientele while keeping the old ones happy. I stopped by a vendor selling shaved rainbow ice for $1.00. These little ice vendors are a pleasure on a hot day.

I double backed on Broadway and walked up Overlook Terrace and believe me, there is a reason why they call it that. You really have to walk up a hill and by time you reach the top by the hospital, you really have a nice view of the neighborhood. I took this to 190th Street right back up to Fort Tyron Park. You’ll find that all the roads on this side of Broadway lead back to the park. I walked the side streets back down and made the turn making Bennett Avenue my final part of the day.

Bennett Avenue  like the other streets in this part of Washington Heights is dominated by natural rock formations that line pockets of the streets. Bennett Avenue is no exception as there are beautiful formations of rocks and trees that line the sides of the road on the western part of the street. Half way up make sure to stop at the Bennett Rest, a pocket park near the rock formations  to take a rest. It was a long day of the walking and this little park is right near a Gothic looking Lutheran Church that was having a Farmers Market. A nice distraction from looking at all the apartment buildings.

This part of upper Bennett Avenue must cater to the families working and attending Yeshiva University on the other side of Broadway as many Jewish families were walking around the neighborhood after work and relaxing in the parks in the neighborhood. The street is filled with classic looking pre-war apartments, some with doorman and chandelier foyers.

I complete my walk today walking back down Bennett Avenue. Note the beautiful rock formation that faces you walk down 192nd Street from Broadway. It is quite the site and reminds you that not all of Manhattan was blasted away to build things. I criss-crossed all the side street from the edge of Bennett to the beginning of 181st Street, noting all the businesses that faced Broadway and the restaurants that started to fill up for the evening. Note to walkers, there are some interesting restaurants around the 187th Street between Cabrini and Fort Washington Avenues to check out as well as some nice stores.

By nightfall, I was walking up the west side of Broadway from 179th Street to the Dyckman Street A Train entrance passing Fort Tyron Park for one last time that day. People still walk in this park at night and I saw joggers exiting. It is obviously an active park at all hours of the day. Ann Loftus Playground was still going strong even in the dark with little kids running around at 8:30pm.

Note: Avoid the McDonald’s on Broadway and 180th Street. The service is terrible and they mix up your order.

For all the things people say about Washington Heights, you have to see it to believe it. It really is a nice neighborhood.

Places to Visit:

Fort Tryon Park

On Dyckman Street & Broadway

Heather Gardens & Linden Terrace & Ann Loftus Playground

Fort Tryon Park

 

Places to Eat:

New Leaf Cafe (In Fort Tryon Park

One Margret Corbin Drive

New York, NY  10040

(212) 568-5323

http://www.newleafcafe.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d478282-Reviews-New_Leaf_Restaurant_Bar-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Avoid the McDonald’s in the neighborhood. The food and service are horrible.

Day Ten and Eleven: Visiting Inwood Parks going up and down hills September 15th, 2015

I  wanted to get off the beaten track of the streets today, especially since it was so hot out and explore the paths of the parks in the area. Inwood has so many beautiful parks, rock formations, valleys and peaks that when you walk the remote paths to the middle of Inwood Hill Park, with the exception of a train passing by, you would never know that you were in Manhattan and not in the middle of the wilderness.

I started the day at 218th Street and started my walk of Inwood Hill Park (See review on TripAdvisor).  I walked the Moscota Marsh (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com) part of the Columbia campus, again at low tide and observed the many birds that call the marsh home. More people were enjoying their day at the park and all over the ball fields and lawns people were enjoying baseball games, soccer and picnics. There was a lot of activity at the upper end of the park and as you start the walk up the hill into the paths leading to the woods, you really are transported to another world.

As I walked the paths to the upper reaches of the park, I was reminded that once upon a time when Manhattan was all wooded and what the Dutch must of thought of Manhattan when they arrived. It is quite the experience walking around the park in the middle of the afternoon and no one is around this part of the park. For the all the ballgames and soccer games below, it is peaceful, relaxing and a sense of tranquility  is the feeling you get as you walk along the hills and valleys of the park. These are things that you don’t see from the apartment buildings and streets below.

The upper paths of the park offer logs to sit and relax on, the view of Indian Caves, beautiful rock formations and dozens of types of wildflowers along the paths. When walking this part of the park, wind down multiple paths before reaching street level. There is lots to see in the middle of the park and if you want to be by yourself this is the part of the park you want tot be in.

As you exit the park by Dyckman Street, make a left and head back to the pier and little beach at the end of the street. It is a nice place to relax after a long walk around the park. Enter the park from the lower side of Dyckman Street and enter the ball fields. On a busy Saturday, I watched a soccer game that had the intensity of an Olympic match. It was the Mexicans vs the Mexicans and you could feel the pressure from the fans. There were loads of families watching the game and picnicking by the river. What was nice was the food carts offering all sorts of Mexican food choices at very reasonable prices.

A special note when walking this section of Inwood is that there are lots of choices of places to go to the bathroom. You have the public bathrooms under the bridge, you have the public bathrooms in the playground on the corner of Dyckman Street and Payson Avenue and at the local library by the corner of Dyckman Street and Broadway.

I crossed Dyckman Street and walked into the Fort Tyron Park. At the beginning of the park is Lt. William Tighe Park Triangle. This park was open today and offered much relief from walking around Broadway. The park was named after William Tighe, a decorated veteran of two wars and a local resident (NYCParks).

william tighe park

William Tighe Park

This little gem of a park reminds us of the positive benefits when a neighborhood of volunteers ban together to create a little park so magical and polished. There is a little pool full of golden fish to the back of this little pocket park, colorful flowers and small benches perfect to relax and read a book.

I walked through the extremely busy Anne Loftus Playground again. It was some afternoon trying to avoid all the kids running all over the playground, splashing in the fountain area and chasing one another up the jungle gym while parents chatted amongst themselves or read books. This well-laid out playground is very popular with the locals at all times of the day because as I passed it one night late in the evening, the kids were still running around the park. Kids of all ages, shapes and sizes play together and they show real neighborhood unity by watching out for one another.

The Anne Loftus playground was named after the District Manager and Community Board Leader for District 12, who tirelessly fought for improvement in the parks and the neighborhood. The park was name after her in 1990 when it opened. It has currently received a face lift and is being enjoyed by children and families from all over the neighborhood.

Ann Loftus Park

Ann Loftus Park

I was able to tour the Cloisters and walk around the upper reaches of the park before nightfall. The Cloisters (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com) is a small medieval museum located in the Fort Tyron Park on Park Drive and is run by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you like this type of art, it is one of the best of its kind. Do not miss the courtyard area to sit and relax amongst the flowers and the patio area to overlook the park. One of my favorite exhibits is the ‘Hunt of the Unicorn’ tapestries. These world renown tapestries show the pursuit and capture of the  mythical unicorn. The artwork and detail is breathtaking considering the age of these works. You can spend as little or a lot of time here but it is a small museum.

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

I ended my day back in Inwood Hill Park and stopped at the Indian Road Café at 600 218th Street #3 (See review on TripAdvisor) a farm to table concept restaurant for dinner and a history lesson. First off, this restaurant is amazing. It is small and cozy and I was lucky to snag a table by the screen on ‘History Night’.

The speaker from the Museum of Natural History, who had just given us a talk on Inwood Hill Park, was there talking about the history of the neighborhood and you would be floored by the number of adults hanging on every word. The gentleman discussed the history of the area with details on the amusement parks that were once here, the trolley and bridge systems and the progression of development in Inwood. The food was fantastic.

I had the Cuban Panino sandwich with an ice tea that I really enjoyed. The restaurant is a ‘farm to table’ concept and you can see it in the taste and freshness of the entrée. The pork was perfectly cooked and sandwich combination worked. The salad was the right amount with a light dressing. For dessert, I had a Blueberry Cobbler that was more of a dump cake with fresh blueberries baked inside. The whole meal was wonderful and the service was friendly and not rushed. I sat back, ate my dinner and enjoyed my lesson on the history of Inwood. Check out the restaurants website for other special events and I have read many reviews on their wonderful weekend brunch.

It was a nice way to end my evening touring the parks.

Places to go:

Inwood Hill Park

Dyckman Street

New York, NY 10004

 

Fort Tyron Park

Riverside Drive to Broadway

New York, NY  10004

 

The Cloisters-The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fort Tryon Park)

99 Margaret Corbin Drive

New York, NY 10004

(212) 923-3700

Open: Sunday-Saturday-10:00am-4:45pm

http://www.metmuseum.org

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d106609-Reviews-The_Met_Cloisters-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VistingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/680

 

Ann Loftus Playground (Fort Tyron Park)

New York, NY 10004

 

William Tighe Triangle

 

Fort Tyron Park

New York, NY  10004

 

Moscato Marsh (Columbia University)

218 Indian Hill Road

New York, NY  10034

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1214

 

Places to eat:

 

Indian Road Cafe

600 218th Street #3

New York, NY  10034

(212) 942-7417

http://www.indianroadcafe.com

Open: Sunday: 8:00am-10:00pm/Monday-Friday: 7:00am-10:30am/Saturday: 7:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d1894637-Reviews-Indian_Road_Cafe_Market-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Day Two: Independence Day in Inwood July 4th, 2015

Taking the number One subway back uptown, I continued my travels to 215th Street station right next to the Columbia complex and sports center. My journey took me to 10th Avenue from the tip of the island to West 220th Street to West 207th Street. For you folks out there they think the island of Manhattan is completely gentrified with upscale housing and businesses, you must visit this part of Manhattan. There is hardly a Gucci store on every corner.

This has got to be the most commercial area of Manhattan I have seen so far. Home to Time Warner repair trucks, the NYC Sanitation Department, the MTA Headquarters and the Knightsbridge Terminal it made for  interesting walk. Between 9th and 10th Avenue from 218th Street to 216th Streets is the Knightsbridge Bus Terminal, which is the center of much action throughout the day.

The New York Sanitation Department is located from 216th Street to 214th Streets and it is best to avoid this area most of the day. It was quiet on the 4th of July. The only person I saw was a security guard and his dog, who was so happy to see someone he jumped up and down. When I went back to tour the area later in the month, it was a whirlwind of action with garbage trucks going in and out of buildings and the place really smelled. It is not exactly an area I would recommend to tourists unless they want to see how the city really runs.

All along 9th Avenue are places to get your car repaired and washed. At the end of every street, there is a nice view of the river but I would suggest holding your nose. From 214th Street to 207th Street, The MTA has their building behind high walls and barbed wire. 208th Street has a parking lot and a few truck vendors. Not much to see here and the operation is behind closed doors.

Parts of lower 10th Avenue are being gentrified as some of the former parking garages and repair shops are giving way to small more upscale restaurants. The area around the subway station at 207th Street is a bustling shopping area catering to the large Dominican population living on the Broadway side of Inwood with everyday stores, very reasonable and good restaurants specializing in Dominican and Spanish cuisine and several clothing stores. This area is slowly going through a transition as the neighborhood is starting to change to a younger, more arty crowd.

The best part of this part of 207th Street is the local street cart vendors selling everything from Pastelitos (a kind of empanada) to fresh mango juice and shaved ice all for around a dollar. It is a nice way to have a reasonable to go meal while you are walking around. One restaurant for delicious Pastelitos is El Lina at 500 207th Street. Their fillings are generous and the service is very friendly. It is one of the many restaurants that line the ‘restaurant mile’ on 207th Street. From the subway station to Broadway, it is interesting to look at the menus and peak in the windows of the many shops and dining establishments that line both sides of the street.

This vibrant section of the neighborhood hustled every day that I visited it and the subway stop is always busy. If you are looking for tourist spots and excitement, it’s not for you. If you want a true experience in Dominican culture and food, a trip to this part of Inwood is for you. It is not just the restaurants and shops that make the neighborhood, it is the interaction of the people in the neighborhood, the music, the conversations and debates and the overall life of the streets that make this neighborhood a neighborhood.

Places to Visit:

Inwood Park

Very tip of Manhattan from Dyckman Street to 220th Street

Don’t miss the street bazaar at 207th Street with the carts of merchandise and food.

 

Places to Eat:

El Lina

500 207th Street

New York, NY  10034

(212) 567-5031

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-11:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

 

The many street vendors along 207th Street

My Walk in Manhattan: my walking experience around the whole island. I started this project on Father’s Day, June 2015

Happy Father’s Day!

(This project is dedicated with much love to my father, Warren George Watrel, who still inspires me!)

Hello and Welcome to ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, an extensive  project to walk the entire island of Manhattan. My name is Justin Watrel and I will be your guide in exploring the island of Manhattan, searching every nook and cranny of the island for the unusual, the usual and the in between. ‘Walking the Island of Manhattan’ may not be terribly original as there are about four other people doing the project at the same time, but this project is different in the way I see the island. Not rushing through to prove I have walked it but to see what these neighborhoods are all about and what is there to discover and enjoy.

For all you ‘Manhattanites’ who think you know your island, I will show you things that you have never seen and places you have never gone, restaurants you have never tried and historical sites and museums you never knew existed. Maybe just a few blocks from where you live. As the son of two “Brooklynites’, I have traveled around the city a lot since 1969, my first time in the City when my parents took me to Chinatown to Hunan Gardens, a Chinese restaurant on Mott Street. I ended up there for eight birthdays until it closed in the early 2000’s.

“My Walk in Manhattan” is a  project to walk the entire island of Manhattan in New York City from top to bottom from the beginning of the Summer of 2015 until I finish the walk. Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide and covers a total area 23.7 square miles.  Along the way of walking the streets of Manhattan, I will be walking into parks, museums, restaurants and looking at the architecture of the neighborhoods and the buildings in them.

The Island of Manhattan

My soon to be path around the Island of Manhattan

I have found that people miss a lot when they walk with their cellphones and only look down at it. When you look up, you see the true beauty of the City. You see the stone work of old brownstones, you see small boutiques off the beaten track and can indulge in those hole in the wall restaurants that are usually found by foreign tourists.

This project was inspired by many things. My major inspiration for this project follows the recent passing of my father, Warren George Watrel. My dad and I loved to walk around the city and spend the day at various museums, walking around Central Park and the Conservatory, taking the subway to try new restaurants in Chinatown or Little Italy or any new place I had read about in the Village Voice (my Bible when looking for things to do on weekends).

Columbus Circle.jpg

Columbus Circle on the West Side

My father was a ‘Brooklynite’ from Williamsburg (long before it was ‘Hipster Central’, he would have been amused) and loved the city, so this voyage is dedicated to him. Having watched the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen, we look for inspiration in our travels  and try to find the answers to why something happens the way it does. Walking to explore does that.

I was my father’s caregiver after his illness hit him and I continued my trips into Manhattan as my father got better. It was the inspiration to this site’s sister site, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver.com’. After he passed in 2014, I wanted to spend Father’s Day doing something different yet do something that we would have done together. Thus started the first walk in Marble Hill.

Another inspiration was a recent article in New York Magazine entitled “Which New York is Yours? A Fierce Preservationist and a Pro-Development Blogger Debate” in which the author Justin Davidson asks about the disappearance of New York’s Character. “What does that character actually consist of? If we did make an all-out effort to preserve it, how would we know what to protect?” How much is the city changing? I have worked off and on in New York City since 1988 and the answer is in some parts of Manhattan it is night and day. Could you imagine walking in Bryant or Tompkins Square Parks in 1990?

I did and they were very different places back then. With the changing Zoning Laws and gentrification of many neighborhoods, its not the city of 1970’s movies. What I am looking for are those unique little pocket parks that we pass, those statues of people we have no clue who they are and those historic plaques of places gone by and people we don’t know.

Astor Row Houses

Astor Row Houses in Harlem

Another are the books, ‘Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost its Soul’ by Jeremiah Moss and ‘The Death and Life of the Great American City’ by Jane Jacobs. How do cities keep progressing and changing? How does change effect a city and what direction are we going in? Does the Island of Manhattan have to be all luxury or can it be mixed to help keep the creativity alive and keep innovation going? Do we want the big bad 70’s again or the luxury brand of the 2010’s? How is it impacting and changing the city? How much has Manhattan and the rest of the boroughs changed with the rezoning of the city under the Bloomberg Administration. This can also be looked at in the documentaries “Gut Renovation” and “My Brooklyn”.

The last inspiration was my doctor. He said I have to lose ten pounds. I am hardly over-weight but like many people he feels that I will be healthier if I lose the weight and keep it off. I want to see how a walk like this tones the body.

Bowling Green Park

Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan

I know many people before have walked the entire length of Manhattan while others have or are attempting to walk the every  block in the city, mine has a more personal reason. To really see the city I love from the ground up and explore parts of the island that I have never ventured to and see what I find there. Along the way, I want to see how the city changes while I am taking the walk.

My project also includes stops at various points of interest and to get a better feel for all the neighborhoods, I am walking both sides of the street to get a better look at the buildings in each neighborhood and what defines the character of a neighborhood. I get the impression from some of the readers of Mr. Davidson’s article and from comments on the Internet that Manhattan is some “playground of the wealthy that is being gentrified to the hilt and soon no one will be able to afford any part of Manhattan”. Like in any place, there are people struggling everyday to survive in New York and like every city in the country, people are moving back in droves and want a quality of life for them and their families.

Delacorte Clock.jpg

Delacorte Clock in Central Park

I have now expanded this site to three other blogs, ‘VisitingaMuseum’ (VisitingaMuseum..com), which features all the historical sites, community gardens and small museums and galleries I find in not just Manhattan but throughout the rest of the NYC and beyond in the suburbs.  ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ (DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.wordpress.com), where I feature wonderful little restaurants, bodegas and bakeries that I find along the way. The one requirement is that the meal is $10.00 and under (for us budget minded people). “LittleShoponMainStreet” (LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) where I find unique and creative stores in Manhattan and locally whose merchandising, displays, merchandise and service stand out in an age of Amazon. This harks back to a time when shopping was enjoyable and not a chore.

So to readers who will be following me on the journey walking through Manhattan, I hope you enjoy trip walking by my side!

Red Hook Trip IV

Me in Red Hook, Brooklyn with Street Art

This project is dedicated to my father, Warren George Watrel, with lots of love and many wonderful adventures and memories to keep me company as I take “My Walk in Manhattan”.

Dad & I

My dad, Warren and I at lunch