I swear that Chelsea Papaya has been part of this neighborhood since the 1970’s. I have passed this place a million times and never stopped in to eat. Recently when I was walking around the rim of Manhattan for ‘The Great Saunter” walk, I needed an early start and this place opens at 5:00am (please check their website for the changing hours).
Chelsea Papaya at 171 West 23rd Street
For breakfast that morning I knew I would need to load up on carbohydrates so I ordered a Breakfast platter. I had two very large pancakes with a side of bacon and two scrambled eggs ($7.95) with a medium Papaya drink. It was the best breakfast on this rare cool summer morning.
There are just some restaurants and shops that are institutions in their neighborhoods and the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is one of them. I have been coming to the store since the 1990’s when I fell in love with their Lychee and Fortune Cookie Ice Creams. What I have loved about the flavors here is that they follow a Chinese-American theme with flavors based on fruits and desserts popular here in the states.
The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory logo
Since the first time I ate there, I have tried their Almond Cookie, Banana, Mango and Passion Fruit flavors over the years along with some of their seasonal flavors like Pineapple and Strawberry. Since then they have added flavors like Durian, Black Sesame, Green…
I have stopped in at the Hotel Chocolat a few of times over the last couple of months and have found that the store has the most amazing candies, chocolates and ice cream creations. The store had been closed during the COVID pandemic but reopened with a nice manager with a big smile and hearty greeting. I have never been so warmly welcomed to a store before.
I had been staying in Manhattan over the Spring Break, working on updating my blog on ‘Midtown East’ for my sister site “MywalkinManhattan.com” and revisited the store again. There were all sorts of beautifully boxed chocolates for sale for the upcoming Easter holidays as well as every day candies.
The candies here are creatively made and packaged with all sorts…
Here it is Father’s Day and the Summer Equinox again and I have reached Day Two Hundred. I have walked much more than half the Island of Manhattan, neighborhood’s in the surrounding boroughs, and historical towns and destinations in New Jersey, New York State, Pennsylvania and beyond. It is hard to believe that I have come this far and that I have been doing this for six years. It does take a lot of work to really see these neighborhoods in detail and research all the wonderful things to do and see. This is best part of the blog is sharing it with all of you!
I have recently completed another walk down the entire length of Broadway for the fifth time (Day One Hundred and Thirty Nine: Walking the Entire Length of Broadway) and a second walk around the perimeter of Manhattan (Day One Hundred and Sixty Seven: The Great Saunter Walk), the 32 mile walk that felt much better this time (being in better shape for walking by exploring Kips Bay, Rose Hill, NoMAD, Koreatown, Midtown South, Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen and Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton before this year’s walk. If you had read the blogs from last summer the City had just opened up on June 10th, 2020 but with the riots and security reasons, I did not enter the City again until June 15th, 2020). I wanted to update both blogs with new things to see and things that I might have missed, which was a lot.
I love walking through the new Riverside Park on my way uptown for “The Great Saunter Walk”. I started at West 23rd Street this year.
The Core of Manhattan and the Perimeter of Manhattan:
Day One Hundred and Thirty Nine: Walking the Length of Broadway from 242nd Street to the Bowling Green:
As I am finishing my walk of the streets of Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton between 10th and 12th Avenues, I am also revisiting neighborhoods that I have walked before adding new restaurants, stores and artworks to the blogs. So much changes but then again you notice things you did not see on the first few trips to that section of Manhattan.
In all my time walking around Manhattan, I never realized that is was itself an ‘open-air museum’ with lots of artwork along all the streets and parks and with that, I have also credited all the artists with their bios and a little history of their careers as well. Even the ‘street tagging’ has gotten interesting again and you really have to look along the walls to admire the ‘taggers’ work.
Don’t miss the Tom Otterness Playground on West 42nd Street. He gives new meaning to the word “Jungle Gym” in his park in Hell’s Kitchen
With the COVID pandemic slowing (it is not over everyone and I still carry two masks and sanitizer with me just in case), the City is opening back up and with the last of the graduations behind us for this year, more people are wondering the streets of the five boroughs and it looks like people are moving back in with more restaurants and hotels reopening. By September, we will hopefully see the Theater District (one neighborhood I will not walk until it reopens for a fair view of it) reopen and the shows start again.
Since last June, most of the bigger museums have reopened but this time only with timed tickets and limits on the people who are attending the shows. This has made for a better experience. If you plan on visiting the museums more than a few times, I would suggest becoming a member and saving the money on the entrance fee. Plus a lot of the museums really need the membership income.
Look over my sister blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” for ideas of small museums and historical sites that I am revisiting:
I have also been taking many trips up to the Hudson River Valley on outdoor walking tours, patio lectures and farmers market visits. Just driving through these small towns will give you a touch of nostalgia and a wanting for the past. Trust me, all that turn of the last century architecture and quaint storefronts are being brought back to life from the displaced ‘Brooklynites”, who have scattered all over the Tri-State area and are bringing their creativity to small towns in four states, New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Here and there tucked into these small downtowns, old Victorian homes and storefronts are being renovated and reviving communities that needed support to their downtown cores.
Downtown Catskill, NY was interesting to visit recently
So as I update my long walks around the Island of Manhattan and to the small towns in the Hudson River Valley, I hope everyone has a chance to read my older blogs starting with Day One in Marble Hill in June of 2015 and walk your way through Manhattan with me. COVID has changed so much all over the City but has not ruined the true hearts of New Yorkers and especially the Manhattanites I see everywhere.
Everyone is watching the City heal and will watch it go through a rebirth again. Trust me, it looks far better now then it did in the 1970’s and 80’s when I was growing up and the times I worked in Manhattan. You did not want to see West 34th Street in 1988 when I started at R.H. Macy.
I am also now on my sixth pair of sneakers since starting ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’.
Lastly to my father, Warren George Watrel, whom this blog is dedicated to I want to wish a very Happy Father’s Day! I miss our walks around Manhattan at this time of year but I always feel you in spirit!
I love you Dad and Happy Father’s Day!
Blogger Justin Watrel with his father, Warren Watrel in 2013
Walking around Manhattan on a regular day can be challenging but when it is 93 degrees outside it can be daunting. Thank God most of Hell’s Kitchen was shaded or else I would never have made it. For such a warm day, it was not as humid as I thought it would be or else I just did not notice. I knew by the end of the day I was exhausted. I did walk over a hundred city blocks.
I started my morning at the Museum of Modern Art at 11 West 53rd Street for a private members morning reviewing the new “Cezanne Drawings ” exhibition. It was interesting to see how progressed his works from sketchbook to the final painting. What I liked about the exhibition is how the curators mounted it. Each of the set of drawings lead up to the finished work so you got to see the different perspectives that the artist was trying to achieve with each of his paintings.
The Cezanne Drawing Exhibition at the MoMA at 11 West 53rd Street
What I like best about being a member of the Museum of Modern Art is that it gives you time to see all these interesting exhibitions with a limited crowd. When you are with other members, you can tell that they really want to be there and have the same open-minded approach to the works whether they like them or not.
Some of the sketches I could see where the artist, Paul Cezanne, was trying to go with the work and the changes he made along the way to the finished painting. You could see the movements and detail in each page and how he adjusted it. It was nice to be in the mind of an artist who died over a hundred years ago.
One of the unfinished sketches from the pages of the Cezanne’s sketch book
Mr. Cezanne was a French Artist who influenced in Post-Impressionism who studied at the Free Municipal School of Drawing and the University of Aix studying Law and Drawing.
After I toured the exhibition, I visited a few others that were going to close soon. I walked through the “Embodied Sensations” exhibition and admired the modern graphics along the walls and floor. Then I just wondered around the museum cooling off.
I started my walk of the border of Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton at the corner of West 59th and Ninth Avenue at Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street. Even though I had a large breakfast, I was starved by the time I got here (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). Because it was the weekend and most of the calzones and pizza rolls are made ahead of time, the choices were limited. I was surprised they would not make one fresh.
Amore Pizza Cafe at night at 370 West 58th Street at Ninth Avenue
I settled on a Pepperoni Roll ($5.95), which was an excellent choice. This version of a rolled personal pizza was studded with layers of spicy pepperoni and baked with a garlic butter topping and then served with a spicy tomato sauce. I have not had one of these in years and it was delicious (see my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). Each bite into those layers of pepperoni had a salty/savory flavor and was the perfect lunch for a long day of walking.
The Pepperoni rolls here are amazing!
After lunch was over, I traveled down West 59th Street to the Hudson River. It had been months since I had walked in this part of the neighborhood. I visited here in September of 2018 to finish the Borders and Streets of the lower part of the Upper West Side. In that time, several buildings had been completed and new playgrounds had opened up.
The Border of the Lower Part of the Upper West Side Day One Hundred and Twenty-One:
Since I was walking within the shade, the heat was not as bad as I thought it would be. Plus the breezes off the Hudson River were a pleasure. As I walked down West 59th Street, it was like visiting old friends.
As I walked back down to West 59th Street, I crossed the street to a popular park. Near the local school is Gertrude Ederle Playground which sits next to the Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center. This park stretches from West 59th to West 60th Street and is a very popular park with the areas families offering many whimsical playground jungle gyms and swings and a very nice field for soccer and baseball. It also offers a very nice public bathroom that is nice to have when walking around the area.
Gertrude Ederle was a champion Olympic and distance swimmer, who was a member of the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. She set over twenty world records in swimming in the early 1920’s and won a gold medal for the 400 meter freestyle relay. She swam the 22 mile harbor swim from Battery Park to Sandy Hook, NJ in a record that stood for 81 years. She also set the record for crossing the English Channel as the first American woman and received a ticker tape parade when she returned. She also appeared as herself in the 1927 romantic comedy ‘Swim, Girl Swim’. She continued to swim by teaching deaf children to swim (she had lost her hearing at this point) and lived to ripe age of 98 passing in 2003 (NYCParks.org).
Across the street from the park is the former IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) Powerhouse at 840 12th Avenue. This ornate building was built in 1904 and takes up the entire area from West 59th to West 58th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. Designed by architect Stamford White, the building is used by Con Ed of New York to supply the New York Steam system. It is designed in the ‘Renaissance Revival’ and really walk around the building you can see the beautiful details of the building especially around the building . It was recently declared a Landmark Building in New York (Wiki).
Walking across the street, I was greeted by the beauty and elegance of the new complex, One Waterline Square, which was behind fencing the last time I visited the neighborhood. The finished complex was simmering in the sunlight and in the middle of the complex is the energetic Waterline Square Park.
The tiers of the park were very interesting as stairways lead to different levels of the park with fountains and trees and water features that shot up every few minutes with loads of kids and their parents screaming at each plug of water. This is when it is fun to be a kid.
The park was designed by the New York architect group, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. This creative women-owned firm who uses a cumulative and holistic image for each project using designs that are insightful and artful as well as performative (MNLA Mission Statement)
Waterline Square Park is one of the most unusual parks that I have seen in the City since walking Battery Park City. The park has almost a Dr. Seuss effect to it with its interesting plantings, bridges and water features in all directions. It also has plenty of seating to relax and enjoy the cool breezes. All this packed in between three elegant buildings. It was fun just watching everyone have a good time.
I sat in the park for a while just trying to cool off myself as the weather got warmer that day. It was nice to sit under a tree and relax. I could believe how this whole area of the City had transformed itself from just a couple of months ago. From behind the fencing came this magical city of glass and green space.
I walked down to the extension of Riverside Park and walked the paths along the Hudson River. I had not been here since I did the Great Santier Walk. I love the cool breezes and views of the river from the park. The City did a good job on this extension of the park giving the West Side of the island the green space it needed.
Both from the street and from the paths, you get beautiful views of the cliffs on the New Jersey side of the river but still engage it via the various piers that you can walk on that jut out into the river. When you reach West 59th Street, Pier 96 and the Hudson River Pier and the boat basin giver great views of the Hudson River.
I walked around the park and saw an unusual sculpture in the shape of a bottle. The public art piece ‘Private Passage’ by artist Malcolm Cochran is a unique sculpture in that what appears to be a ship in a bottle is actually a replica of a stateroom in the Queen Mary all done in metals. At night and in bad weather I read that the piece is illuminated.
‘Private Passage’ by Malcolm Cochran
Malcolm Cochran is an American artist and former Art Professor at Ohio State University. A graduate of Wesleyan College, Mr. Cochran has had many solo and group shows since the 70’s and has created numerous works all over the world. ‘Private Passage’ was created for Hudson River Park in 2005 and is an engaging piece of art where the visitors have to look inside the port holes to see the art inside the bottle. It is very clever.
Turning back to Twelve Avenue, I stopped to stare at another new favorite building of mine, Via 57th on the corner of West 57th and Twelfth Avenue. This glimmering pyramid of glass stands out amongst the box structures in the neighborhood with it triangular shape and reflections of the sun and the river. It brings an elegance to the newly planted park and changes the makeup of the buildings by the river giving it futuristic look to the Hudson River.
Via 57th along the new Hudson River Park at 625 West 57th Street (Via 57)
This residential building is in the shape of a pyramid or “tetrahedron” looking ‘almost like a sailing vessel going across the river’. The tiered gardens and slopped space integrates with the surrounding park and river. The building was designed by Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group and by its founding architect Bjarke Ingels (Wiki).
I walked past the back of Dewitt Clinton Park at West 54th Street to West 52nd Streets where the whole back of the park was under reconstruction.
I made my way down the greenway past all the piers where there were people sunning themselves on the grassy lawns. There was not a lot of people gathered around Pier 86 where the Intrepid Museum was located. I was not sure if it was open yet or not. Pier 83 where the Circle Line rode off from also looked quiet. In a normal year, these Piers were really busy.
Because tourism was just coming back to the City since the reopening of most activities, there were no lines or crowds of people around and the few people walking around we walking up to gates to ask what the status was of the activity. It was very different when I took the Circle Line for my birthday present to myself and saw the island of Manhattan from the water. It is just as beautiful and interesting from the water as it is from the land.
Day One Hundred and Forty Seven-Touring the Circle Line on my Birthday 2019:
I exited out of the park to West 42nd Street and Twelfth Avenue and the foot traffic was light. There were those few people milling around the neighborhood that lived there but with the lack of tourism this part of Manhattan is quiet during the day.
I had not walked down this part of West 42nd Street in a long time and had not noticed the changes that have had happened over the years. I had missed River Place at 650 West 42nd Street and Silver Towers at 620 West 42nd Street when I last walked around this part of the neighborhood. These large apartment complexes do break up the once warehouses and office buildings that dominated the area.
What stood out to me was right smack in the middle of these two complexes and that was Tom Otterness Playground at 630 West 42nd Street. This space of green reminded me of the creativity in playground design that I had seen earlier in Waterline Square Park. Combining small space with creative design to produce a whimsical park for families. It was such a nicely landscaped park and a relief from the heat. I loved the beautiful and artsy playground which is a testament to Tom Otterness’s approach to playground design.
Tom Otterness Playground jungle gym structure is whimsical
Tom Otterness is an American artist who studied at the Art Student League in New York. His work is known as ‘whimsical and fun’ but also sends a message and tells a story.
The Silver Towers is a twin residential set of towers that stand tall in the neighborhood and set the tone for the new residential section of this side of the West Side. Their brilliance in design and reception of sun light is interesting. The buildings were designed by architect Costas Kondylis and were finished in 2009.
Just a little further and across the street is the sculpture of an unusual polka dot pumpkin in the front of the Sky Building at 605 West 42nd Street by artist Yayoi Kusama. The sculpture sits in front of this elegant glass residential tower in the ever changing neighborhood by the Hudson River. The Sky is a mixed use luxury residential building that was designed by architectural firm Goldstein, Hill & West and was completed in 2016 (Wiki/Moinian Group).
Artist Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese born artist who studied at the Kyoto School of Arts & Crafts and is known for her installments and sculptures but also works in film, performance art and fashion among other mediums and is known for influence in ‘Pop Art’ (Wiki/Artist Bio).
As I walked back up Tenth Avenue (the border of this side of Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton), I could see that in the time since my last visit to the neighborhood that more restaurants have reopened and there was more life outside. As the weather has gotten warmer, more outdoor cafes have opened up bringing life to the quiet streets. I reached the border of the neighborhood by the late afternoon.
On the way back up, I stopped at Seguidilla Empanadas at 465 West 51st Street for a snack twice first for a Chicken Empanada ($2.99) and the second time for Country Club soda, a specialty Dominican soda ($1.95). The empanadas here are really good and served with a nice spicy sauce that brings out the flavor of the chicken. The owners kept looking up at me with stares and I kept wondering what they were thinking especially when I came back for the soda.
Seguidilla Empanadas at 465 West 51st Street is a nice cafe
Turning the corner on West 59th Street at Tenth Avenue, you will face the beauty of the John Jay College of Criminology Haaren Building at 899 Tenth Avenue. The building is home to many classrooms and the library for the college. The building was designed by Charles B.J. Snyder and was completed in 1903 (Wiki and John Jay College). The building was originally the Dewitt Clinton High School.
John Jay College Haaren Building at 899 Tenth Avenue
Since it was still early in the afternoon when I finished the borders of the neighborhood, I decided to explore the length of Eleventh Avenue from West 59th to West 42nd Street. I was floored by how many auto showrooms are located on this stretch of the avenue from all different manufacturers.
Still here and there are traces of the old neighborhood before all the rebuilding and a few new standouts that add to the Eleventh Avenue fabric. As I headed south down the avenue, I came across the Juan Alonso Community Gardens on the corner of Eleventh Avenue and West 51st Street.
Juan Alonso Community Gardens on the corner of West 51st Street and Eleventh Avenue
The Community Garden was named after a local resident and community activist , Juan Alonso, who tired of seeing an empty lot and drug dealers in the area. The vacant lot is now a network of small gardens throughout the neighborhood run by the Clinton Housing Development Company (CHDC).
The garden is attached to an old tenement housing 565 West 51st Street with the interesting carving “St. Mary’s 1887” on the top. This is now affordable housing.
565 West 51st Street
Another hold out of the neighborhood is the Landmark Tavern at 626 Eleventh Avenue. It was opened by Patrick Henry Carly in 1868 and has been a staple since. It is one of the oldest continuing restaurants in New York City (Landmark Tavern History). What is so fascinating about the bar is that at one time it stood on the water’s edge of the Hudson River. It shows how Manhattan has reclaimed land around the island. The restaurant has an interesting bar menu.
When walking back up Eleventh Avenue passing more auto dealerships and showrooms, I came across the Gotham West Market at 600 Eleventh Avenue, a series a small independent restaurants catering to the crowd of residents living in the building and the surrounding neighborhood. The first time I ventured in only three restaurants were open now about half are open but still you can see by the empty or closed spaces that the City still has a ways to go.
I finished my touring of the neighborhood at Dewitt Clinton Park, which runs along Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues between West 52nd to West 54th Streets and is the biggest patch of green on this part of the neighborhood.
Dewitt Clinton Park at the Eleventh Avenue and West 52nd Street entrance
The park is a haven for joggers and sports enthusiasts and the Erie Canal Playground is really big with the kids. When I was walking around that afternoon I could not believe the language these kids were spewing at each other. These kids must have been between eight and ten years old and they sounded like truck drivers.
As I walked around the park, I saw from when I was walking around Twelfth Avenue that the back part of the park is being reconstructed and renovated with what looks like new lighting , sidewalks and stairs to be followed by new landscaping. One great attribute is that there are open clean bathrooms later in the evening.
The front part of the park is very welcoming with flower beds, nice signage, comfortable benches to relax under the trees and nice paths. When you enter the park, you are greeted by the statue of a Doughboy from WWI.
The Doughboy State greets you at Dewitt Clinton Park (Clinton War Memorial)
The statue was designed by artist Burt W. Johnson. Mr. Johnson is an American born artist who studied under noted sculptors James Earle Fraser and Augustus Saint Gaudens. The artist died shortly after the statue had been modeled (NYCParks.org). He studied at Pomona College and the Art Students League of New York (Wiki).
The park was name after politician and philanthropist Dewitt Clinton from the prominent Dewitt and Clinton families. Mr. Clinton was the former Mayor of New York, Governor and Senator of New York State. He ran for President in 1812 losing to James Madison and was influential in the building the Erie Canal (Wiki).
I just relaxed in the park for about 45 minutes watching the parents play with their kids and people walking their dogs. It was nice to see people up and about without masks on. The park had some cool breezes from the Hudson River and it was nice to sit under a tree and review my notes. All the large shade trees made it bearable.
I walked back up Eleventh Avenue to West 59th Street early in the evening and tried to figure out where to go for dinner. I had not seen much in the neighborhood and the restaurants close by I was not in the mood for so I decided to go back to Amore Pizza Cafe. So I walked back to Ninth Avenue and ordered dinner and relaxed.
I relaxed over dinner of Linguine with Meat Sauce and a half a loaf ($9.95) and a Coke. If there was ever a dinner I enjoyed more it was that. The meat sauce was incredible and had such a rich flavor (see my review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). It was so nice to just sit back and relax. I sat by the window and watched the City go by. It is amazing to watch people walk by and see the world going back to normal. The overload on carbs was helpful after a long walk.
The Meat Sauce at Amore Pizza Cafe is excellent
It is nice to walk around Manhattan and see the City I love so much returning to form to a ‘new normal’. It seems to me that “Hell’s Kitchen” is now just another name of a neighborhood and put its past behind it.
Even in the era of COVID, it is nice to see stores still hold their creativity and vitality in such a hard time. While I was walking around the Midtown West/Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen section of Midtown Manhattan I came across this wonderful little store, Domus at 413 West 44th Street. Sometimes there are little things that set a store apart from another like the window displays or the sign that directs you in the door. Domus has both. The first time I visited the store it was closed for the day but I would visit it another day.
Domus at 413 West 44th Street has eclectic window displays
As I finished by Borders and Avenue walk of the Midtown West/ Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”…
I finally got back to the West Side of the Island since before the Christmas holidays of 2019. I could not believe it had that long since I had visited that part Island. Like the rest of Manhattan, this area just keeps changing. COVID has changed the rest of the country but in New York City, it has shuttered and changed whole neighborhoods.
Unlike the Midtown South neighborhood that had been built as Midtown business district during the “City Beautiful Era” of cities between the Civil War and WWI with its classic Beaux Arts and French Renaissance style buildings, Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton was filled with tenements and smaller commercial buildings that catered to the working class living there who were employed in the factories and the docks in Chelsea and the Garment District. Up until the early 1990’s, this was still a pretty tough area. As the City has gentrified, this is one of the last frontiers for people to move into reasonably. Up until COVID hit the City, the area had been fully gentrified and the corridors of Ninth and Tenth Avenues had become ‘restaurant rows’ for the theater district . Now Tenth Avenue is retrenching with a lot of empty storefronts.
I started my walk at the Port Authority which is the southern part of the neighborhood. This is the main port of transportation for thousands of workers from New Jersey and in pre-COVID times, this area was filled with active restaurants and theaters. Things have opened back up slowly but most of the restaurants for now closed. The 42nd Street Corridor from Eight to Sixth Avenue has not fully recovered from the lost of the Theater traffic. As I walked up Eight Avenue from West 42nd to 59th Streets, some restaurants were fully opened and some were take out and delivery so the foot traffic was pretty quiet that day. Even some of the hotels have not opened back up for business. This area has been hit very badly since the closure of the Theater District.
Since Midtown West had been rezoned eight years ago, the area is in the process of being knocked down and rebuilt with new office buildings and apartment houses. The area around Eight Avenue from West 42nd to 50th Streets has changed a lot in the last ten years. COVID has closed most of the restaurants on the street as well. Looking on the side streets many of the theaters in the Theater District are either chained closed or boarded up with the hotels in the neighborhood. It can be a scary ghost town at night.
The area has had an interesting past. During Colonization by the Dutch, the neighborhood was known as “Great Kill” due to three streams that used to empty into the Hudson River and was home to many large farms and estates of the wealthy . The area was dominated by family names such as Hopper and Clinton, the latter being the former Vice-President and New York State Governor George Clinton, whose family owned a villa around where present West 46th Street is now. All that is left of that part of the neighborhood’s history is the carriage house from the estate in an alleyway at 422 West 46th Street (Wiki).
Former Vice-President and New York Governor George Clinton
In 1849, the railroad reached the neighborhood and it started to form its Industrial stage with tanneries and docks being built along the shore and shanty towns for workers forming along the waterfront. Later tenements were built to house the workers of the industries filling with recent Irish immigrants after the Civil War and the area had a notorious reputation for gang violence until gentrification started in the 1980’s. The neighborhood has been transforming since that time with new construction along the West 42nd to 59th corridor along Eighth Avenue (Wiki).
The area is still in a state of transformation even during the Global Pandemic. Many of the restaurants around the neighborhood have closed partially due to the closing of Broadway theaters that dominate the neighborhood and the empty office buildings that line Eighth Avenue. The ‘Theater District’ that lies just east of the neighborhood is still mostly boarded up as well as the hotels are still all closed. It makes it spooky at night to walk through almost similar to those years in the 1980’s and early 1990’s when you had to run down Eighth Avenue to get to the Port Authority.
The edges of this neighborhood have changed a lot in the past twenty years. Between the redevelopment of the area under the Koch and Giuliani Administrations and the rezoning under the Bloomberg Administration, the Eighth Avenue corridor and streets from West 40th to 45th have all been rebuilt. I have never seen so much change in an area in the last twenty years.
Pre-COVID the Port Authority between West 42nd to West 41st Streets from Eighth to Ninth Avenues was going through a face-life renovation and the facility started to move out all the older stores and restaurants for higher end takeout places and an art gallery. It looks now that it has been put on hold until people start to return.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal at 625 Eighth Avenue
Since I returned to Manhattan to resume this project last June, the traffic going through the Port Authority has not changed much even though there are more people on the bus. The afternoon I came into the City it was sunny and 66 degrees. More outdoor dining was in play and more people were outside enjoying the weather.
I started my walk exiting the Port Authority at the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 42nd Street, a corner that still needs a lot of work. Pre-COVID this was a bustling area of theaters, shops and restaurants and one of the biggest McDonald’s in the country. Most of it is closed down now and the homeless have taken back over this area. Surprisingly though, it still remains clean a result of the Partnerships established in the mid-1990’s. This area is swept all day long.
As I walked along the eastern border of Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton, there is a distinct change in the area. Even if many of the hotels and theaters are closed, slowly the restaurants in the Theater District have reopened to outdoor dining giving this area a much needed boost.
One of the most interesting buildings in the Times Square area is the Westin New York at Times Square at 270 West 43rd Street which stretches from West 42nd to West 43rd along Eighth Avenue. This hotel (which is currently closed during COVID) was considered one of the most innovative designed buildings in New York City when it was built.
Westin New York at Times Square at 270 West 43rd Street
The hotel was so innovative at the time when it was built and was considered a key in the redevelopment of the West 42nd Street district. The hotel was commissioned by the architectural firm of Arquitectonica to design the building. The 863 room hotel is actually two towers merged together with a ten story midsection for retail and hotel suites. The large scale abstract design has the look of a multi-dimensional gigantic origami (Arquitectonica website). The building was designed by HKS architects and was finished in 2002.
Further up Eight Avenue is the well-known Row NYC Hotel at 700 Eighth Avenue. This hotel opened in 1928 as the Hotel Lincoln and was the largest hotel in Manhattan when it opened with 1331 rooms. In 1957, the hotel was sold and remodeled and open again as The Hotel Manhattan. It was closed in the 1960’s as the rest of the area declined. It reopened again as the Milford Plaza Hotel in 1978 and was a big theater going hotel. In 2013, the hotel was sold once again and went through another renovation and opened as the currently Row NYC Hotel (Wiki).
Passing now closed hotels and restaurants that line this part of Eighth Avenue that border the theater district, I passed the now closed Smith’s Bar, which has been a fixture in Times Square for over sixty years opening in 1954. The bar had been sold to new owners in 2009 and then closed in 2014 to reopen a year later. The bar is now closed again due to the COVID pandemic.
This bar has seen Times Square go through a major transition over the years and was once located in one of the worst areas during the 1990’s. It survived all of that and closed a few months ago due to the COVID pandemic.
Further up the avenue on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 46th Street is the West 46th Street SRO. This interesting building that I thought was an elegant Victorian is actually a combination of three former tenement buildings and two residences to make one building. Architects Oaklander, Coogan & Vitto PC created this interesting building with an additional shared floor topped with a mansard roof and tower. It used to house many trendy restaurants and bars but since the pandemic has been empty (OCV Architects PC).
I reached West 48th Street and I passed Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9, which I used to pass all the time when I worked down the road at the Java Shop on the corner of Broadway and West 46th Street at 782 Eighth Avenue. These companies were hit hard a year after I left my job on 9/11 when the Brothers of this house lost 15 members that day, their entire shift. The memorial they have to their members is really touching and the guys that work there always seem so friendly to all the tourists that pass by.
Engine 54/Ladder 4/Battalion 9 at 782 Eighth Avenue
Pay respects to the Engine 54/Ladder 4 Memorial on the front of the building
I made a detour back to West 55th Street for lunch. I stopped at Stage Star Deli at 105 West 55th Street for a sandwich before I continued the walk around the neighborhood. The deli is so reasonable and has so many choices (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
Stage Star Deli at 105 West 55th Street
I chose a Chicken Salad sandwich with Pesto combination lunch ($8.95) which was excellent. The chicken salad was so fresh and the pesto had such a nice flavor. The sandwich was served on a hero roll and could have fed two people. The food here is consistent and excellent.
The Chicken Salad with Pesto here is excellent
After lunch I headed down the road to Myzel Chocolate at 140 West 55th for dessert. I had not been there in over a year since the shutdown of the City last March. I had to have one of their Chocolate Chip cookies and they still had Cadbury Creme Eggs from Easter (See reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). I was shocked when the bill came to $4.10. For a cookie and a piece of candy that must have been a month old?
Myzel’s Chocolate at 140 West 55th Street
I talked with the owner, Mrs. Myzel and she was talking about the lack of business since the shut down and all the problems the City was facing with the homeless and the lack of office workers. I told her it would be about a year until things started to get to the new normal. Still the store had so much of its magic to it with all the decorations and displays. It is a store to visit to forget your troubles.
Mrs. Myzel greets all her customers with a smile
I double backed to Eighth Avenue after lunch and walked up the avenue to West 59th Street. As I continued up Eighth Avenue and circled Columbus Circle, I saw the familiar sites of the statue of Christopher Columbus and the Time-Warner Complex in the background. It has been almost two years since I finished the Upper West Side of Manhattan and even as I walk those streets again I always feel like I missed something. In the era of COVID, it keeps changing so much.
Columbus Circle has changed over the last twenty years
Columbus Circle was always busy day and night with street vendors, bicyclists, performers and just people sitting and reading or enjoying the weather and people watching on a warm day. Now because of the ‘Cancel Culture’ crowd dominating the headlines and the idiots knocking down statues, the area is fenced off with police cars around it. It used to be such a nice area to sit down and talk.
The 76 foot statue was designed by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo as part of a plan to honor Columbus’s discovery of the Americas as part of the 1892 commemoration of the 400 year anniversary of the event. If you look closely at the pillar, you will see the reliefs of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria ships on the memorial (Columbus Memorial and Wiki).
Columbus Circle itself was part of the great plan of Central Park in 1857 by Fredrick Law Olmsted, the designer of many parks in New York City as having four rotary entrances to the park. The other rotary in the neighborhood is Grand Army Plaza by The Plaza Hotel.
The Time Warner Center on the other side of the circle represents the massive change in the Upper West Side from a liberal working class area to the new luxury of Manhattan. The Time Warner Center is a mixed use building containing office space, the Mandarin Hotel, many exclusive restaurants and shops and entertainment. The building was designed by David Childs and Mustafa Kemel Abadan of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. This modern palace of luxury replaced the old New York Coliseum and opened in 2003 (Wiki). Don’t miss just wondering around the building.
On the other side of the Circle is the new Museum of Art & Design that opened in 2008. The building was the former home of the Gallery of Modern Art designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1969. The building was modernized by architect Brad Cloepfil (Wiki) and the museum shows interesting aspects of art from media, video, painting and photography.
Museum of Art and Design at 2 Columbus Circle
As I crossed the street, the neighborhood is full of Post War architecture but one building stands out with its modern twist. The Hearst Tower at 300 West 57th Street.
The first six floors of the original Hearst Tower were built in 1928 by architect Joseph Urban for the headquarters of the Hearst publishing empire. The building was originally supposed to have an office tower on top but the Great Depression put a stop to the construction. Take a look at the statuary, stone work and details of the original building before admiring the new addition (Wiki).
Admire the detail work of the original 1928 building
Architect Norman Foster designed the 46 story addition to the building which was completed in 2006. The addition of glass and steel is designed in the ‘Diagrid’ pattern and was the first ‘green building’ with environmental features in New York City (Wiki).
I then walked across that street to the Time Warner Building right off the subway station under Columbus Circle (it is amazing where they put this stuff) to the food court in the subway station. The Turnstyle Underground Market is located at the West 59th Street entrance at the Time-Warner Building. Just take the escalator down.
The Turnstyle Underground is in the subway station at the Time Warner Building at 59 Columbus Circle
The food court market had just reopened a few months ago and the place was more than half empty. All the great little restaurants that were independently owned were gone. VIctims to the COVID pandemic and the lack of tourists and office workers. I had read that my favorite, Daa Dumplings had closed about four or five months ago due to lack of traffic (See Day One Hundred and Fifty-Walking the Borders of Central Park South):
If I saw four people sitting down there, it was a lot. Most of the restaurants were empty and almost all the small stores were gone as well. Even the bar that was so popular at the end of the food court and the small independent pizzeria were shut down. It was really spooky because just a year and a half earlier your could not get a seat here.
I walked towards the back of the Time Warner Building and walked past the back entrance to the Time Warner Building and I noticed a piece of street art that I had not noticed on my last few trips in the neighborhood. That statue is called “Asaf and Yo’oh” by artist Boaz Vaadia and is tucked into the entrance of the building at 25 Columbus Circle-1 Central Park West.
The artist was born in Israel and came from a farming background. He studied at the Avni Institute of Fine Arts in Tel Aviv and was sent to the United States on a grant from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation and then studied at Pratt. His works are made of varies mediums of stone (Artist Bio).
It was surprising how quiet the hotel looked as the Mandarin Hotel was one of the few uptown hotels that are still open during the pandemic. No one was around so it gave me a chance to peak inside the building which looked empty. With most people still working from home I did not expect to see a lot.
West 59th and 58th Streets are disrupted in their flow by the Time Warner Building and I continued my walk across West 58th Street and then crossed back over to West 59th behind the complex. This area of the City was part of major urban renewal project back in the 1960’s when the Lincoln Center complex and the Colleges were built so most of the construction up here is new or been updated. I have seen a lot of changes since I walked this neighborhood in when walking the area in 2018 (See Day One Hundred and Twenty-Five-MywalkinManhattan).
Day One Hundred and Twenty-Five: Walking the Streets of the lower part of the Upper West Side:
Still here and there are gems of architecture from another era. Walking down West 59th Street there are still structures that survived urban renewal of the area. I passed the the Parish House of the Church of St. Paul at 415 West 59th Street. The building was built in the late Victorian Gothic Revival style by architects Jeremy O’Rourke and the Rev. George Deshon between 1876 to 1884. The structure was construction used stones from various historical buildings (Church of St. Paul and Wiki).
The Parish House of the Church of St. Paul at 415 West 59th Street
The other building not to miss is the Williams J. Syms Operating Theater at 338 West 59th Street right behind the Time-Warner Complex. It was built in 1892 as a medical hospital and is the last remaining piece of the old Roosevelt Hospital by architects William Wheeler Smith and surgeon Charles McBurney. Made with marble and mosaic floors as not to harbor bacteria, it was considered state of the art when it opened. It is now being renovated for a school (Wiki and HDR Org).
Turning the corner on West 59th Street at Tenth Avenue, you will face the beauty of the John Jay College of Criminology Haaren Building at 899 Tenth Avenue. The building is home to many classrooms and the library for the college. The building was designed by Charles B.J. Snyder and was completed in 1903 (Wiki and John Jay College). The building was originally the Dewitt Clinton High School.
John Jay College Haaren Building at 899 Tenth Avenue
The walk down Tenth Avenue was very different from other neighborhoods I had been recently. NoMAD, Rose Hill and Kips Bay were filled with historical architecture and embellished office buildings while this part of Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen is filled with tenement housing, small theaters and restaurants. Unlike Ninth Avenue with its vibrant restaurant scene, Tenth Avenue is full of empty storefronts and closed restaurants with ‘For Rent’ signs. This is a sign of the times during the era of COVID.
One of the few patches of green in the neighborhood is the Hell’s Kitchen Park at thew corner at Tenth Avenue and West 48th Street. This park was created from a parking lot in 1966 when the neighborhood demanded green space for residents who lived here (NYCParks.org). The park was packed with families and kids playing basketball and running around the playground.
Hell’s Kitchen Playground at Tenth Avenue and West 48th Street
It was strange to be in a neighborhood with such small buildings. Not just small buildings but so many ‘For Rent’ signs on the windows. I know this neighborhood will bounce back to the vibrant place it once was but it will take time. The traffic changed again when I got to West 42nd Street. There were most people walking around the streets.
A lot of the businesses on West 42nd Street heading back to the Port Authority have started opening up again. Sidewalk cafes were out with the warmer weather and customers were milling around.
One of my favorite Chinese restaurants from the 1990’s, Ollies at 411 West 42nd Street had not just opened their dining room but their outside cafe dining. Ollies had once been a popular restaurant in the Theater district at the corner of West 46th Street off Broadway and one of my favorite places to eat after work. It is still popular but the chef has since changed.
One building that stood out amongst the smaller tenement buildings of West 42nd Street was the Holy Cross Church at 329 West 42nd Street, which was decorated by plantings of many flowers that gave it a festive appearance.
The building has a interesting history. The parish was established in 1852 and the original building was built in 1852 but it was outgrown so a new building was built in 1854. This building was hit by lightning in 1867 and the current building was built in the same spot in 1870. It was built by architect Henry Englebert and is the oldest building on 42nd Street (Wiki and Holy Cross History).
Once I got back to Port Authority is was back for a bathroom break as there are not many public toilets in the neighborhood. Then I made the walk around the second time around the perimeter admiring the buildings and businesses for a second time. I could see by the traffic that the east side of Eighth Avenue was very quiet near the now closed theaters. This area was hit hard by COVID pandemic and it is rumored that Broadway theaters should open between September and December (we all hope) and the district will once again open.
When I reached West 58th again, I stopped at Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street for a quick slice. The pizza was pretty good and it was a nice sized slice of pizza. I had passed the place for years but never went into so it was another dining adventure (see review on TripAdvisor).
After my snack, I continued the walk back down Tenth Avenue and stopped in Hell’s Kitchen Park to take some more notes. I swear the park got busier since visiting a few hours before. I made the turn on West 42nd Street and decided to walk up the length of Ninth Avenue and explore the Avenues of the neighborhood as well.
Just like Tenth Avenue, Ninth Avenue is filled with smaller tenement buildings, restaurants and small theaters and shops but being the heart of the Gay community, Ninth Avenue is much more vibrant. Most of the restaurants and outdoor cafes were filled the afternoon I visited the neighborhood. Being later in the evening, many people filled the bars and tables of the establishments and I noticed how many people were on top of each other and were not wearing masks. I thought this is a recipe for disaster but still it has a very vibrant restaurant scene.
In the midst of all the restaurants and bars on Ninth Avenue, there were only two that I have tried, Mom’s Kitchen & Bar at 701 Ninth Avenue for breakfast a few years before and Saccio Pizza at 819 Ninth Avenue for pizza one afternoon and it was pretty good.
Mom’s Kitchen & Bar at 701 Ninth Avenue
Sacco Pizza at 819 Ninth Avenue
The one thing I remember about eating at Mom’s Kitchen & Bar that morning was the unusual menu they had for brunch. A friend and I shared an order of their Fruity Pebble Pancakes and their Mac & Cheese Pancakes and they were strange combinations but really tasted good especially the Mac & Cheese Pancakes with a honey syrup. It was an interesting breakfast.
The Mac & Cheese Pancakes at Mom’s Kitchen & Bar are amazing
This is a neighborhood in a big transition now that the theaters are closed but I know brighter days are ahead as things open up soon. With the warmer weather and more vaccine coming, it will revert back to the neighborhood it was becoming. You can see this on a busy night at dinner time with restaurants filling up and people walking around with and without masks.
I am still wearing my mask around the City for now.
Sometime you just pass by a restaurant many many times and never stop in. This was the case with Stage Star Deli. It was one of those restaurants that I just ‘passed by’ on my way to another one until someone put out a sandwich board with specials on it and that peaked my interest. There were all sorts of wonderful specials all priced around $8.50. That made me walk in to see what was on the full menu.
Stage Star Deli at 105 West 55th Street
The restaurant is a small deli with about four tables now due to COVID. Pre-COVID there were about seven small tables around the deli. One one side there are all the cold foods, salads and sodas and then on the other…
Each neighborhood in New York City has its share of bodegas and delis that supply everything from grocery items, cleaning supplies and in some cases hardware items for last minute touch ups in apartments.
Where these stores differ from one another is their prepared food sections. This is where you can get your all day Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich on a hero roll to a Chopped Cheese (Two hamburgers chopped with spices and topped with American Cheese, chopped lettuce and chopped tomato) to the classic Bacon Cheese Burgers, Grilled Cheese and a variety of wraps.
I came across Catherine’s Deli & Bagels when touring Chinatown and I just stopped in to look around. I saw the sandwiches that were being made and what was on the grill…
There have been many changes in the Little Italy section of Manhattan and I have been watching slowly disappear over the last ten years. When I was growing up, Little Italy went from Mott Street to Center Street and then from Houston Street to the north and just below Canal Street to the south. Chinatown in the 1970’s was pretty much relegated to Mott Street and the side streets below Canal Street. Then the 1980’s came with the explosion of immigration from all parts of China and then Hong Kong after the Chinese take over of the City in 1997.
Meanwhile most of the people in Little Italy started to move out by the mid to late 1980’s as the second and third generation of Italians went to college and…