I love it when I can eat at a restaurant on its first week open and get to enjoy the excitement with the owner as they establish their dream. That is what myself and my best friend felt when we ate at AweSum Dim Sum the first time. The restaurant is on my Advantage Dining Program and was recommended. So I tried it for the first time and loved it and then I took her and she agreed.
Everything on the menu was excellent. All the Dim Sum on the menu is fresh and cooked to order. When it arrives, it is sizzling hot and busting with flavor. The tough part is knowing what to order because everything on the menu is so good.
As I have mentioned since the reopening of New York City, people are trying to write the City off as ‘dead’ and that is far from true. I see a City that is quieter, adapting to conditions around it and slowly coming back to life.
I spent my third day exploring in the Murray Hill neighborhood and I am beginning to see more and more people feel the same way I do. They are joining the world again by walking through parks, jogging on the sidewalks and partaking in the outdoor dining that is popping up all over the City streets and sidewalks. Restaurants and bars are doing their best to cater to their customers while still maintaining social distancing and keeping everyone safe.
No where did I see this more in play than in Bryant Park, which has become my headquarters for this part of the walk. When I got into the park that afternoon, people had taken over the lawn even after the overnight rain storm and were lying all over the grass (socially distanced of course) reading, laughing and conversing with friends. The chairs and tables around the park were filled with people eating their lunches, talking and reading. The park was pretty well filled.
Bryant Park Grill, the main restaurant of the park, was filled to capacity during the lunch hour. People were having business meetings over lunch and slowly out of towners are coming back to the City missing the vibrancy of the City. You would never know there was a pandemic going on from all the people in the park enjoying the sunshine on a nice warm sunny day.
Bryant Park is amazing on a sunny afternoon
I had gotten tickets through the Members Website at the Morgan Library & Museum that afternoon at 2:30pm with timed tickets so I knew how to pace my day. I wanted to walk all the streets between East 41st and East 35th Street from Fifth Avenue to FDR Drive. It would be several hours of interesting walking. What I saw all over the neighborhood that afternoon is life coming back.
I started my walk at the New York Public Library entrance admiring the fountains and the gardens planted up front. Most of the tables in front of the New York Public Library were full of people eating their lunches, reading or sleeping.
I threw a coin into the fountain of ‘Beauty’, made a wish and started my walk. This graceful and elegant fountain was designed by artist Frederick MacMonnies. In the background is the words written, “Beauty, old yet ever new, Eternal Voice, and Inward word”.
“Beauty” the fountain in front of the New York Public Library
Frederick MacMonnies is an American born artist whose specialty was “Beaux-Arts style” design. The artist was trained at the National Academy of Design and Arts Student League of New York. The artist continued his training in Paris (Wiki).
I started my afternoon by walking down East 41st Street on a glorious sunny day. With the temperature being around 83 degrees, it was the perfect day to walk around Murray Hill. It was also really quiet being Labor Day Weekend and the streets were deserted for most of the afternoon.
The ‘Library Walk’ starts at Fifth Avenue and ends at Park Avenue
I like to talk a lot about looking up and not missing anything that you might miss by looking ahead. Here on East 41st Street you have to look down to see the “Library Walk” from Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue by artist Gregg Lefevre.
The artist was commissioned by in 1998 to create plaques with words and sayings from some of our greatest authors from Mark Twain to Ernest Hemingway. These plaques line both sides of the street so you will need time to look at each one carefully and be able to read the ones you want.
As I followed the plaques down East 41st Street toward Park Avenue trying to read everyone, I walked past the Library Hotel again at 299 Madison Avenue and East 41st Street. Their outdoor restaurant “Madison and Vine” was set up for lunch and was already getting busy. I spent time admiring the menu and the festive place-settings on the tables. It looked like a fun place to eat.
Madison & Vine is at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 41st Street
Further down from the Library Hotel is the Dylan Hotel at 52 East 41st Street. This boutique hotel is housed in the historic Chemist’s Building once the home of the American Chemical Society and the Society of Chemical Industry as their club headquarters. The building was designed by architectural firm York and Sawyer and was completed in 1911. The building was designed in the ‘French Renaissance style’ and was home to the club into the 1980’s. It became the Dylan Hotel in 1988 (Dylan Hotel History).
Walking down East 41st Street leads you through mostly office and large apartment buildings until you get to the end when you reach Tudor City, one of the first planned and most important examples of middle class housing . It was designed in the Tudor Revival style and was the creation of the Fred French Company by architect H. Douglas Ives. In the design of the complex you can see the arches, bay windows, gables and towers that make up the design (Wiki).
Tudor City is one of the first planned middle class communities in the United States
What is nice is the parks that line the complex are a nice place to sit and relax. The landscaped paths and the flower beds are a nice reprieve from all the traffic. They are a calm place to relax.
The Gardens at Tudor City are a nice place to relax
One of my favorite little shops in Manhattan is in the Tudor City complex, Azalea & Oak at 5 Tudor City. This unique little store has the most interesting window displays and nicest selection of children’s clothing and toys and customer jewelry.
Azalea & Oak at 5 Tudor City
When walking back through the complex I noticed tucked into the complex but not in the complex is 337 East 41st Street, a small brownstone building that survived the wrecking ball when the complex was built.
337 East 41st Street brownstone
This little brownstone has a survivalist history. Built in 1870 by developer S. S. Stevens, this home and eighteen other like it, were built on the northern side of the street to match similar brownstones that had just been built. Architectural firm Hubert & Pirsson were commissioned to design them in the Italianate style with small yards in the back. Somehow this home was the only one in 1925 that survived the wrecking ball when Tudor City was built. It is now a private home (Daytonian). It’s so interesting the cool things that are tucked in the corners of the this neighborhood.
As I walked back I noticed a Chemical Bank sign on a building considering the company has not existed since the 1990’s. It’s quiet beauty stopped me. The bottom of the building is done in polished black granite and silver details. The former Johns-Manville Corporation leased 14 floors of it originally but the Chemical Bank (which is now part of J.P. Morgan/Chase) sign still shows prominently on the building (NewYorkitecture).
275 Madison Avenue-The John-Manville/Chemical Bank Building
The building was designed in 1931 by architect Kennith Franzheim in the ‘Art Deco style’ and the lower part of the building is done in polished black granite and silver and the geometric design gives it a unique look (NewYorkitecture). The building was leased by the John-Manville Corporation having a large presence on the lower floors but the Chemical Bank sign (now part of J.P.Morgan Chase) still proudly stands.
The beautiful details of the former John-Manville/Chemical Bank Building at 275 Madison Avenue
One of big surprises was discovering the AKC Museum of the Dog at 101 Park Avenue. The American Kennel Club (AKC) founded this museum in 1982 at 51 Madison Avenue, the former headquarters of the American Kennel Club and in 1987 it moved to Queeny Park in Missouri. In 2017, the museum and its collection moved to the new Park Avenue headquarters of the AKC.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) Museum of the Dog at 101 Park Avenue
The museum contains a collection of 1,700 pieces of art that preserves, interprets and celebrates the role of dogs in society and educates the public about human-canine bond (AKC Museum of the Dog history).
The American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog exhibition space
Tucked here and there in between buildings that are some small gems that just stand out amongst the more modern buildings. The small firehouse building at 148 East 40th Street I found out later on was actually a stable.
148 East 40th Street-The John W. Allen Stables
John W. Allen was a successful stockbroker and had a home at 14 East 42nd Street and these stables were a status symbol of the times. It meant that you could stable your own horse and carriage in your own building. At this time many stables for the wealthy were located on the side streets of the Avenues. This little building was designed and built by Charles E. Hadden. The building is made of brick with a slated Mansard roof and the top floors were accommodations for the groom or stable boy (Daytonian).
Sitting just outside 300 Madison Avenue, the PricewaterhouseCoopers Building is the sculpture “Stamen” by artist Rodney Carroll. This unusual sculpture caught my attention because of its twist and turns and I could not believe I missed it when I was walking the Avenues of the neighborhood. This unusual piece of art was created in 2009.
Rodney Carroll is noted for his large scale sculptures in public spaces and private collections. He studied sculpture at Old Dominion University and received his BS in Fine Arts and studied sculpture at Norfolk State (The Virginian Pilot).
As I finished walking East 40th Street, I made my way to the Hunan Manor Restaurant at 339 Lexington Avenue between East 39th and 40th Streets only to discover that it was closed. I talked with the deli next door and discovered the restaurant had closed. Disappointed I made my way to my second choice in the neighborhood, Madison & Vine at the Library Hotel at 299 Madison Avenue by East 41st Street. I was not disappointed.
Madison & Vine Restaurant at the Library Hotel at 299 Madison Avenue
What an amazing experience! I have been very leery about eating in restaurants or even take out for that matter since COVID-19 has set in. You never know what is going on in the kitchen. It was such a nice dining experience especially since it is so quiet in the City.
All the tables were spread out by more than six feet and the sidewalk that is outside the hotel has all sorts of planters and flowers to block the street. With the views of the library across the street and the excellent service it was very relaxing. I had a Shrimp Po Boy (see review on TripAdvisor) that was delicious. The hoagie roll was so fresh and the shrimps were fried perfectly with fresh tomatoes and shredded lettuce. The fries were freshly cut and seasoned perfectly. It was just nice to eat a quiet, relaxing lunch and just watch the world go by with all this chaos going on. For an hour, you just forget it is all going on and I think that was the feeling of my fellow diners. I do hope though that Hunan Manor reopens because their reviews and food looked really good.
Relaxed and refreshed from lunch, I continued to tackle and explore the neighborhood. I walked down Fifth Avenue from the restaurant and made a left down East 39th Street when I noticed faces staring at me from 4 East 39th Street. They stared down at me from the entrance of the local Berkshire Bank.
The Keppel & Company building at 4 East 39th Street
The building was originally part of a complex of stables for the wealthy and was knocked down by Frederick Keppel, a art dealer. He commissioned architect George B. Post to design a new building for his business, Keppel & Co. The building was designed in the ‘Gothic style’ and the two figures that stare down at you are artist James McNeil Whistler and the other is artist Rembrandt Van Rijn (Daytonian). You could tell by the details that this did not start as a bank.
The Frederick Keppel & Company building
The rest of East 39th Street is a combination of office and apartment buildings and a lot of closed restaurants. It gets spooky to see so many closed businesses but still at night it will surprise you how many restaurants are opening just for dinner and how alive it will become again. At the end of the block you see a large empty lot overlooking the Queens skyline.
The East River Skyline of Long Island City
East 38th Street is lined with more brownstones on both sides and this shows the beauty of the side streets of the Murray Hill Historical District that stretch within the boundaries of the neighborhood. Each of these homes on the side streets are unique in their own way.
The brownstones on the side streets of Murray Hill are very unique
Passing through the core of the neighborhood, you exit at the end of East 38th Street with the most amazing views of the Queens skyline. On a sunny day these views of the river are really spectacular.
The bulldogs stare back at you
Almost like an insert between two apartment complexes is this unique little building that I thought might be a firehouse but turned out to be a stable. The ‘Bowdoin Stable’ was built in 1902 for clothing and real estate executive William R. Martin by architect Ralph Samuel Townsend in the ‘Flemish Revival Style’. The stables were sold to George C. Bowdoin in 1907 as his carriage house for his carriages, horses and groomsmen to live (ArtNerd & 6SqFt).
The George Bowdoin Stable house at 149 East 38th Street
When walking back from the views of the East River, you will notice the plaques and dedications at the Bide A Wee House at 410 East 38th Street dedicated to the building’s builder art patron John Gellatly.
The Bide A Wee plaque located outside the old Bide A Wee Building at 410 East 38th Street
This elegant plaque was designed by Laura Cardin Fraser, the first woman to design a coin for the U.S. Treasury (Read a Plaque). Ms. Cardin Fraser was an American born artist who studied at the Art Students League in New York City under her soon to be husband, James Earle Fraser. She is known for her sculptures of historical figures and for designing coins for the U.S. Government (Wiki).
Bide A Wee is a ‘no kill’ animal shelter and refuge for dogs founded by Mr.s Flora D’Auby Jenkins Kibbe after seeing this work at a shelter in Paris (Bide A Wee history).
Mrs. Flora D’Auby Jenkins Kibbe, the founder of Bide A Wee, the ‘No Kill’ Shelter
In 1982, they established one of the first ‘Pet Therapy’ programs in the United States. This was extremely innovative at the time.
The plaque dedicated to art patron John Gellatly, a great contributor to Bide A Wee
Patron John Gellaty, whose contributions helped build the building
When walking down East 37th Street you will see the beginnings of the N.Y. Langone Hospital complex where there is a nice public area to sit and relax and watch the neighborhood walk by. This must be very relaxing to the hospital workers. It has some nice chairs and tables to relax
The public square at NY Langone Hospital
If you look to the corner wall of the public square, you will see the art work of artist Daru-Jung Hyang Kim in his mosaic “Sun Feast” that was created in 2013. This beautiful geometric mosaic is such an interesting work. The colors are so vibrant that they pop right out at you.
Sun Feast by artist Daru-Jung Hyang Kim
Artist Daru-Jung Hyang Kim is a Korean born artist who studied at the Seoul National University where she got her BS and then moved to New York City where she got her Masters at Pratt. The works she did for NYU Langone Hospital are some of the large artworks she has created around the world (Artist bio).
I looked up from my walk back from the river to see the unusual top of the building next to me to see a mansard like top to both sides of the building. It almost looked like port holes on the top of the building looking out. This is the Kips Bay Brewery Building that is in two parts. The older section was built in 1904 and the other part of the building was built in 1910.
650 First Avenue-The Kips Bay Brewery Building
When heading back down East 38th Street towards Madison Avenue you reach two unique mansions that are part of the ‘Gilded Age’ architecture of the neighborhood. First is the De Lamar Mansion which is now home to the Consulate of Poland on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 37th Street at 233 Madison Avenue.
This beautiful mansion was designed by architect C. P. H. Gilbert in the ‘Beaux Arts style’ in 1905 for millionaire Joseph R. De Lamar. Mr. De Lamar was a Dutch merchant seaman who made his money in mining and metallurgy. He built this home for his family and by the time it was finished he was divorced and lived here with his daughter until his death eight years later. The mansion was sold to the Consulate in 1973.
The De Lamar mansion at 233 Madison Avenue now the Consulate of Poland
Jan Karski Statue outside the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland/De Lamar Mansion
The statue is of Jan Karski who was a courier who served as part of the Anti-Nazi Resistance in German occupied Poland during WWII. The statue was created by Polish artist Karol Badyna. The statue was dedicated in 2007 (Big Apple Secrets).
Karol Badyna is a Polish born artist who has studied at the Post-Secondary School of Conservation of Works of Art and Sculpture at Monuments Conservation Studio in Krakow, Poland. He currently serves a Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts (Artist bio).
The Isaac Newton Phelps Mansion was home to J.P.Morgan II is at Madison and East 37th Street
The first part of the building was the Italianate brownstone on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 37th Street that was built by Isaac Newton Phelps in 1854 who left it to his daughter upon his death. It was bought by J.P. Morgan for his son, J.P. Morgan II who lived there from 1905-1943. It houses the Morgan Dining Room and the gift shop (Wiki).
I arrived at the Morgan Library & Museum in time for my 2:30pm tour of the museum that I had scheduled. Because of COVID-19, all the museums that have opened up in the City have timed tickets and limited amounts of people are allowed in at one time. As I walked the galleries i realized that there were only about ten of us in the museum. I know this is not the busiest museum in Manhattan but this was really quiet.
The Morgan Library & Museum at 255 Madison Avenue
The afternoon in the museum was nice and I got through the two main exhibitions in about an hour. I saw the “Drawings of Al Taylor” and the “Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect” exhibitions. Neither really grabbed me. The one thing I did like about the Al Taylor exhibition was his works when he lived in the Hawaiian Islands. They were colorful and vibrant. The rest was interesting but not quite my taste.
Al Taylor’s “Duck Bondage” I thought was clever
Al Taylor was an American artist who liked the playful and whimsical look on art. He liked to experiment freely with materials and techniques (Morgan Exhibition). He graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1970 with a BFA.
After my afternoon at the Morgan Library & Museum, I continued to explore Murray Hill by walking down the rest of East 37th Street until I reached the East River Esplanade again and then just sat and enjoyed the cool breezes and the sunshine.
On the way back from the Esplanade, the one thing you will encounter is the exit from the Queens Midtown Tunnel, which is where all the noise and traffic will be coming from. All over the fence on the way back is a series of medallions from looks like various states. Check out the details on these.
Be careful when crossing the street on this part of the block as it can be dangerous or just stay to one side of the road. These cars will zoom by you. The street is really treacherous so look both ways when you are crossing the road. The Tunnel Approach Road which runs from East 40th to East 34th Streets can be hairy so watch the lights.
The Union League Club at 38 East 37th Street
The continued walk on Park Avenue brought me to the Union League Club at 38 East 37th Street. The club was founded in 1863 by former members of the Union Club who did not like the Pro-Southern activities of club members and created their own club with the Union League Club. The current clubhouse was designed by member Benjamin Wistar Morris and opened in 1931.
I was exhausted from all the walking the first day and broke this trip up into a second day. Before I left the City for the evening, I stopped at Upside Pizza, a new pizzeria in the Garment District that has been gaining a cult following for their “Detroit Pizzas”, a square pizza with the sauce and cheese baked into the crust. The pizzeria is at 598 Eighth Avenue. What it lacks in charm, it makes up in flavor.
Upside Pizza at 598 Eighth Avenue in the Garment District
The pizza is so good. The pepperoni square slice I had was loaded with cheese and pepperoni and the edges of it were crisp and chewy. The flavors were spicy and intense with lots of different cheeses and the char flavor from the baking. The pizza is not cheap at $5.00 a slice but it is nice to sit in their outdoor cafe and relax and watch the world go by.
The Pepperoni pizza at Upside Pizza is excellent
It is starting to get dark early now and as I watch the last days of summer go by, I am watching the City slowly come back to life with more people coming outside and enjoying the last of the warmer days of the later summer.
My next day back in the lower 30’s in Murray Hill gave me more time to relax and not rush the neighborhood. I started by walking East 37th Street to make sure that I did not miss anything and the traffic coming out of the Queens Midtown Tunnel seems to be getting busier. I had to dodge more cars today than I did the previous day.
Walking down Tunnel Street between East 42nd and East 34th Streets can be daring especially when traffic is coming so be careful. This narrow strip of sidewalk lines both sides of the entrance and exit of the tunnel.
The other side of the Morgan Library & Museum’s J.P. Morgan Library lines the side of East 36th Street and Madison Avenue as you start to stroll down the East 36th Street. The library, which is now part of the Morgan Library & Museum was built as Mr. Morgan’s private library next to his home on Madison Avenue. The library was designed in the “Italian Palazzo style” by architect Charles Follen McKim in 1906 (Morgan Library & Museum history website).
The J.P. Morgan Library which is part of the Morgan Library & Museum
This part of the neighborhood is chock full of history and famous residents living in the neighborhood. At 125 East 36th Street is the former home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt before their move to their more famous twin home on East 65th Street which is now part of Hunter College. They moved to this brownstone to be closer to his mother’s home in Manhattan a few blocks away.
125 East 36th Street-the former home of FDR and Eleanor
The brownstone complex on this side of East 36th Street was built by architects Kennedy & Haw in 1856 and had had a series of interesting residents until the future President and First lady came to live here from 1905 to 1908 and where their children James and Ana were born (Daytonian).
Hidden like a secret garden behind a locked gate is the Sniffen Court Historic District from 150-160 East 36th Street. Sniffen Court is named after John Sniffen, who built his complex of carriage houses in 1864.
The secret gardens of Sniffen Court is tucked behind an elaborate gate
The district encompasses the entire alley, between Third and Lexington Avenues, of 10 two story brick stables that were built in the ‘Romanesque Revival style’. When they were no longer used for stables they were converted to homes.
Sniffen Court is like a little ‘fantasy land’ behind the gate
One of the most famous residents was artist Malvina Hoffman who lived at 157 East 35th, the back part of the complex. The well known American sculptor lived here until her death in 1966.
Artist Malvina Hoffman
Passing this delightful little garden complex is another unusual building with vines snaking down and faces staring at you. The building at 220 East 36th Street was built in 1910 and look up at the details when you pass. Mysterious faces will stare back at you.
220 East 36th Street has some amazing details to it.
When you reach the end of East 36th Street, there is a wonderful little public square next to the American Copper Buildings at 616-626 First Avenue. These unusual buildings are built almost on a tilt and have a playful appeal to them. What is nice is the public space where you can just relax and talk to people. The neighborhood residents use this as an escape from the confinement of their apartments due to COVID and go out to talk to people.
The American Copper Buildings at 616-626 First Avenue
On a beautiful day, there is nothing like this delightful little park on the extension of First Avenue near FDR Drive. People really enjoy relaxing here and it is nice to see the neighborhood out and about.
The public square at the American Copper Buildings
Another nice place to stop and relax is St. Vartan Park, which is located between East 35th and East 36th Street between First and Second Avenue. The park is extremely popular with the neighborhood families so expect to see the place crowded all the time. The one thing I like about it there are public bathrooms that usually stay open until dusk.
Check out the plaques dedicated to the Murray Hill Post 59 who dedicated the flag post and the lights to the park. The playgrounds are a little worn but the kids and their parents don’t seem to mind.
St. Vartan Park with the namesake Church in the background St. Vartan Armenian Church
There is always so much action going on in the park from pick up basketball games, to jungle gym climbing to who is chasing who around the playground. It is fun even in the days of COVID that people will just throw on a mask and have some fun.
On a beautiful sunny day St. Vartan Park really shines
On the way back from walking the park and enjoying the shine just be careful when walking the south side of East 36th Street as the traffic coming from the Queens Midtown Tunnel funnels out very quickly and some of the drivers really don’t watch.
The site of the famous Henry Lewis Stimson House is at 120 East 36th Street, which is now an apartment building simply known at the Stimson House. Henry Louis Stimson was a influential lawyer and statesman in the United States serving under several presidents.
Henry Lewis Stimson
Here also marks the plaque of Murray Hill Historic District that covers most of the neighborhood. The central part of the neighborhood especially between Park and Third Avenues are lined with brownstones each with their own flair to them.
The commercial district once had two of the great department stores of the era and even today as Lord & Taylor closes it doors for the final time in the next few months after being in business since 1826, the building stands as a testament to the former lower Fifth Avenue corridor. As you enter East 35th Street, you see the grandeur of the former B. Altman department store building built by retail great Benjamin Altman.
The B. Altman building at 361 Fifth Avenue on the corner of Fifth Avenue between East 35th and 34th Streets
This elegant building was designed in the 1906 by architects Trowbridge & Livingston in the “Italian Renaissance style’ to fit into the then fancier residential district it was then located in at the time. The area between 34th and 42nd Street had replaced the ‘Ladies Shopping Mile’ along Sixth Avenue as the retail section of the City marched uptown.
On the next block at Madison Avenue and East 35th Street is the elegant Church of the Incarnation at 209 Madison Avenue. The historic Episcopalian church was built between 1864-65 by architect Emil T. Littel with the church rectory designed by Robert Mook in 1868. The extension of the church was built in 1882 by architect David Jardine (Wiki).
The Church of the Incarnation at 205-209 Madison Avenue
The beautiful plaque honoring this church
On the corner of Park Avenue, I passed the James Robb House. The now apartment building was once the home of James Hampden Robb and his wife, Cornelia Van Rensselaer Robb. The mansion was built by Stamford White from McKim, Mead & White for the couple in the ‘Italian Renaissance style’ in 1892 (Wiki).
James Robb House at 23 Park Avenue
Further down East 35th Street another famous New Yorker lived at 111 East 35th Street. Illustrator Charles Dan Gibson lived in this house. The famous American artist was best known for his illustrations of the ‘Gibson Girl’ inspired by his wife and daughters. He studied at the Art Student League in New York City (Wiki).
111 East 35th Street the former home of Illustrator Charles Dana Gibson
Tucked to the side of the residential neighborhood is another amazing little church. The New York New Church at 114 East 35th Street is a quiet, tranquil little church with another interesting garden that lies another iron fence. The church was built in 1858 and was finished in 1859 and was designed in the ‘neo-Renaissance style’.
The New York New Church at 114 East 35th Street
Further down the street is the Stein College for Woman which is part of the larger Yeshiva University which houses the University’s Arts & Sciences Department. This beautiful building was built in 1911 as the Packard Commercial School. It was taken over by Yeshiva University in 1954. The building was donated to the University by industrialist Max Stern (Wiki).
The Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University at 245 Lexington Avenue
Tucked to the side at 142 East 35th Street is another unique brownstone that was built in 1901. This triplex has the most interesting details in the grill work and almost looks like something seen in New Orleans.
142 East 35th Street has almost a New Orleans feel to it when you walk by
I ended my walk back at the East River Esplanade reading up on the British attack of Manhattan during the Revolutionary War with the landing at Kips Bay (then called Keps Bay) which stretched from East 35th to East 34th Streets. The views of Long Island City were just spectacular at twilight. It amazes me how much change still keeps going on in the East River area.
I stopped by to admire the St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral at 630 Second Avenue which the park was named after. This interesting church sits on the border of the Murray Hill and is the first Cathedral Armenian Apostolic Church to be constructed in North America (Wiki).
St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral at 630 Second Avenue
What I thought was interesting that I had not noticed before was a painting that sits on the side of Profit Chinese Restaurant is a painting of Salvador Dali that was somewhat exaggerated. The painting was painted by Brazilian artist Sipros.
The Salvador Dali painting by @Sipros by the Bushwick Collection
Heading back to Fifth Avenue I came across another interesting brownstone with the most unusual brownstone with the most interesting stonework, The Frances Key Pendleton House which was built in 1853 by Henry H. Butterworth who had architects Washington and Samuel Cronk build four brownstones on what had been Henry Murray’s old estate. The house was bought by Frances Key Pendleton, the grandson of Francis Scott Key the author of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Thought he loved the home, the house had seen much sadness when he lived there (Daytonian).
105 East 35th Street got it’s current look in the 1930’s
The home got its current appearance in the 1930’s when the home was sold to a realty company and they gave it a more Mediterranean look to it with the stucco and statuary.
The last interesting piece of history the walk in the neighborhood which wrapped up the walk of Murray Hill was the plaque for the site of Inclenberg at the corner of Park Avenue and East 35th Street which was the site of the Henry Murray Mansion.
The plaque of the location of “Inclenberg” the Murray family mansion
“Inclenberg” the Murray family mansion where history was made
I thought it was a fitting way to wrap up my walk in Murray Hill then to pay homage to the family who the neighborhood was named. If they could take a time machine and see what their farm and estate has turned into or even experiencing the effects of COVID would have the family wondering.
Sarges Delicatessen & Diner at 548 Third Avenue
Keeping with the spirit of celebrating the past, I went to Sarges Delicatessen and Diner that night for dinner. The deli was founded by former NYPD officer Abe Katz in 1964 who wanted to bring the best of Jewish cooking to the public (Sarges History).
They had set up a small cafe outside the restaurant for patrons to dine and I had a half of a pastrami sandwich and a bowl of Matzo Ball Soup ($18.95) and it was the best dinner after a long walk. The soup hit the spot on a cool evening with the rich chicken broth and the sandwich was piled high with salty meat and hot mustard.
The pastrami sandwich at Sarges is excellent
For dessert, I went to Holey Ice Cream & Doughnut at 522 Third Avenue for dessert. I had to walk around the block a few times to convince myself that I wanted it. I just said I am still hungry and will walk it off and went in.
I had a doughnut filled with Cookie Dough, Maine Blueberry and Birthday Cake ice cream with a glazed doughnut with fruit loops on top. I loved the intense sweetness of the dessert. The sugar high put a smile on my face and the energy to continue walking.
The Ice Cream is excellent but they could work on the doughnuts
I finished my walk this evening by relaxing back in Bryant Park and just walking people converse and have a nice time talking and laughing (socially distanced of course). It was nice to see things calm down and be a little normal for a change.
I came back to Murray Hill a few days later just to confirm some addresses and brownstones that I liked and walked to the neighborhood starved. I first stopped off at Pizza & Pita Halah Food at 344 East 34th Street for some Garlic Knots and sauce on the side ($2.00) and after I confirmed everything I wanted to see, I had dinner at Profit Chinese Restaurant at 643 Second Avenue for dinner. The Beef with String Beans in Garlic Sauce was really good ($11.00) but the eggrolls here are just okay. The best part was I took my dinner back to St. Vartan Park and ate dinner.
Profit Chinese Food at 643 Second Avenue
Even in the age of COVID we all have to adapt but eating a nice Chinese meal on the picnic table in a New York City park in the sunshine is a nice way to finish a visit to Murray Hill.
I have recently been reading articles about New York City and how ‘dead’ it has become and how ‘it will never come back this time’. It’s funny when people who did not come into New York in the 1970’s and early 80’s or were even born remember what we went through when visiting Manhattan. Some residents who came into the City in the last ten years see a much different place than what I remembered in all my years working on Macy’s on 34th Street. It was ‘no miracle in 1990’s when I started in the Buying offices and Seventh Avenue after 6:00pm was no better when left the store for home.
That famous cover from so many years ago
Still by doing this walking project I don’t see a ‘dead city”. I see a City going through another transition and adaption. New York City is unique in the way it changes over time. When I walked the streets of Manhattan at Christmas just nine months ago, I saw a City again in the process of changing. I had never seen so many homeless out on the streets and saw the streets and avenues get dirty again. This started the last two years under Mayor Bloomberg and continued under the current mayor. I was not too sure what was happening or why it was changing considering all the building going on and renovations in parks, squares and pathways around the City.
Still as I started to walk the Avenues of Murray Hill, I did not see a ‘dead city’. I saw vibrancy and energy on each block. I saw adaption in restaurants with outdoor dining and delivery. I saw stores open to limited people but still open and display their wares with zest. I saw hopelessness next to enthusiasm but the one thing I didn’t see was everyone giving up.
From the delivery guys from GrubHub piling up orders to the men and women meeting their friends socially distanced at outdoor cafes all over the neighborhood to the little girl who was shooting hoops (and hitting every basket) in St. Varta Park park that afternoon. There is still resilience and things to do and get done in Murray Hill and all over New York City.
I really had a nice time walking around Murray Hill the other day and started today with a plan to walk all the Avenues of the neighborhood. Again I was amazed how quiet the City was this afternoon but more people are starting to sit in Bryant Park and the lines for the bathrooms there (the public bathrooms there are still the best in NYC) are getting longer.
The Bryant Park bathrooms; they should all be like this
I am starting to see tourists slowly coming back as I am seeing more selfies in Midtown. Not like Christmas (not at all) but still slowly coming back in. There are still a lot of people (masks included) walking around the City taking pictures, searching for an open restaurant and sunning themselves in the park.
Bryant Park is still alive with people and flora
I started the walk today walking down Eighth Avenue to see if some of the restaurants on my ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com site were still open. Restaurants have been closing like crazy but the small places still have staying power.
I stopped for an early morning snack at Fu Xing at 273 West 38th Street for some roast pork buns ($1.20) which they make homemade and when they come fresh out of the oven are amazing. They are soft and sweet on the outside and filled with freshly chopped roast pork. I ordered two and munched on them on the walk around Bryant Park. I was just happy that all the places in the Garment District are still open.
The assorted buns at Fu Xing are available in the mornings and late afternoons
I took these wonderful little treats on my walk around the Garment District and back up to West 42nd Street and then cut across town back to the borders of Murray Hill. I started my walk again at the front of New York Public Library admiring the architecture of Fifth Avenue and passing it on my way to Madison Avenue.
When I was walking Fifth Avenue, even after all these years, it feels like I am seeing it for the first time. With not many people walking on the sidewalks, you have more time to look up and admire what is right in front of you. I never realized how from 34th to 42nd Streets was such a prominent shopping district before the move further up Fifth Avenue. The buildings reflect how retailers took themselves more seriously about setting up shop and how the exteriors should match the importance of the interiors. They were merchants that were there to stay (now mostly gone with the closing of Lord & Taylor).
The former Lord & Taylor Department Store headquarters on Fifth Avenue
Madison Avenue is still an important advertising and communications business neighborhood with many current office building renovations to workers who may or may not come back after the pandemic. It was really creepy to not see more than ten people walking down the Avenue.
I could not believe how many restaurants had closed and stores that have not reopened. The problem is that with all the office workers gone, the foot traffic during lunch went with it. So many restaurants that were packed just a few months packed up and closed. Still there are many bright spots that make Madison Avenue so unique.
The Library Hotel at 299 Madison Avenue at 41st Street is a beautiful spot on the Avenue with music drifting from the main lobby and outdoor tables from the cafe spilling on to the sidewalk with a few people dining in the early afternoon.
The Library Hotel at 299 Madison Avenue
Their outdoor restaurant, Madison & Vine is a beautiful little cafe with an interesting menu and the few people dining there looked like they were having a nice time. I will have to try it in the future.
Madison & Vine at the Library Hotel
The hotel is housed in a former office building designed in the ‘sliver design’ facing East 41st Street across the street from the New York Public Library. The hotel is designed in the ‘Neo-Gothic style’ in 1912. Many of these historic office buildings have been turned into hotels while historic hotels like The Plaza and The Waldorf-Astoria are being turned into condos.
Madison Avenue in the East 40’s is mostly office buildings but here and there are architectural gems tucked here and there left over from the Gilded Age. At 205-209 Madison Avenue is the Church of the Incarnation, an Episcopal church that was built in 1896. The original church had been built in 1865 but was destroyed by fire in 1882.
The Church of the Incarnation
The original design for the church was designed by architect Emlen T. Littel and after the fire all that survived were the walls and the tower. The redesign of the church was built by architect David Jardine and added many of the features seen today. Many prominent ‘old families’ of New York were parishioners here like the Sedgwick’s, Delano’s and Roosevelt’s. Take time to look at the church’s details and stained glass windows (Wiki).
The church is now an historic landmark
Further down Madison Avenue are reminders of the ‘Gilded Age’ in the form of the Morgan and De Lamar mansions built at a time when money was no object and there were no income taxes. These palaces of gracious living were a reminder of people who wanted to show their place in the world and Society welcome them with open arms (if Mrs. Astor allowed it).
The De Lamar Mansion, which is now the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland of New York since 1973. was built by C. P.H. Gilbert in the ‘Beaux-Arts style’ for millionaire Joseph Raphael De Lamar, a Dutch born sea merchant who made his fortune in mining and metallurgy. The home was completed in 1905. By the time the mansion was finished, he and his wife divorced and he lived in the house for another eight years until his death in 1918. The mansion was sold by his daughter shortly after on her move to Park Avenue (Wiki).
The De Lamar Mansion (now the Polish Consulate) at Madison Avenue & East 37th Street
Jan Karski Statue outside the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland/De Lamar Mansion
The statue is of Jan Karski who was a courier who served as part of the Anti-Nazi Resistance in German occupied Poland during WWII. The statue was created by Polish artist Karol Badyna. The statue was dedicated in 2007 (Big Apple Secrets).
Karol Badyna is a Polish born artist who has studied at the Post-Secondary School of Conservation of Works of Art and Sculpture at Monuments Conservation Studio in Krakow, Poland. He currently serves a Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts (Artist bio).
The Morgan Library & Library is at 225 Madison Avenue is a wonderful little museum that holds the art and library collection of J.P. Morgan, the famous banker. The museum is made up of three buildings, the original library that J.P.Morgan built before he died, the annex building where the bulk of the museum collection is located and the brownstone mansion where the Morgan Dining Room and gift shop are located.
The first part of the building was the Italianate brownstone on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 37th Street that was built by Isaac Newton Phelps in 1854 who left it to his daughter upon his death. It was bought by J.P. Morgan for his son, J.P. Morgan II who lived there from 1905-1943. It houses the Morgan Dining Room and the gift shop (Wiki).
The Morgan Library & Museum-The Phelps Mansion and the Annex
The Morgan Library’s Annex building in the middle of the Museum was built on top of the original family mansion and was built by Benjamin Wistar Morris. This is where the exhibition hall and theater is located (Morgan Library Museum).
The last part of the building is the Morgan Library that houses the manuscript collection and artworks. The building was designed in the ‘Classic Revival Style’ by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead & White. The building was finished in 1907 (Wiki).
The former J. P. Morgan mansion is now the Morgan Library Museum.
The Morgan Library Museum Annex and Library buildings
The inside of the Morgan Library Museum Annex
On the corner of Madison Avenue and East 34th is the old B. Altman Department store, the final location for the iconic department store that closed in 1989. The store was the brainchild of merchant Benjamin Altman. The store was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston in 1906-1913 expanding from Fifth to Madison Avenues. The store was designed in the ‘Italian Renaissance style’ (Wiki).
The former B. Altman & Company at the Fifth Avenue entrance
The store was known for its exclusive designs, Couture clothing, it’s elegant wooden interiors, Christmas window displays and the famous Charleston Gardens Restaurant.
The Charleston Gardens Restaurant at B. Altman & Company
Walking back up Madison Avenue, I notice another sculpture that popped out at me. The sculpture of “Eight” by artist Robert Indiana located in front of 261 Madison Avenue.
Eight by Robert Indiana
Artist Robert Indiana was an American born artist who was involved with the ‘Pop Art’ Movement. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and Edinburgh College of Art (Wiki). He looked at art with images of small town America with the visual image of High Art. The result was what he called an “verbal visual forms’ (MIA).
I rounded the corner from Madison Avenue to the open blocks of lower Park Avenue seeing Grand Central guarding over the Avenue. This beautiful ‘Beaux Arts Style’ building seems to define the elegance that is Park Avenue.
Grand Central Station defines Park Avenue with its elegance
Just walking down Park Avenue you can see the difference in the way the Avenue portray’s itself with its elegant office buildings, Gilded Age mansions tucked here and there, private clubs and interesting pieces of street art creating an ‘open air’ museum to walk through.
Just outside of 90 Park Avenue is the interesting artwork “The Couple” by artist Arthur Carter. Mr. Carter’s extraordinary life took him from the military to Wall Street to publishing to farming to art. A Brown and Dartmouth graduate from a financial background is pretty much self-taught. His works are very impressive and this work does stand out.
On the corner of Park Avenue and East 37th Street on the side of a building is the plaque for the home of the Murray family mansion (which the neighborhood is named after) ‘Inclenberg’, that once stood on the site.
The plaque to the Murray home “Inclenberg”
The Murray family were merchants and prominent business people at the time of the Revolutionary War. Robert Murray’s wife, Mary Lindley Murray, had delayed General Howe’s troops by several hours letting the Patriots escape by serving wine, tea and cake to the British soldiers and entertaining them with music and conversation (Wiki and Untapped Cities).
Mary Lindley Murray entertaining the British at her home
The Murray Mansion ‘Inclenberg’ now the site of Park Avenue and East 37th Street
The continued walk on Park Avenue brought me to the Union League Club at 38 East 37th Street. The club was founded in 1863 by former members of the Union Club who did not like the Pro-Southern activities of club members and created their own club with the Union League Club. The current clubhouse was designed by member Benjamin Wistar Morris and opened in 1931.
The elegance of the Union League Club at 38 East 37th Street
At 23 Park Avenue, another elegant mansion graces the beauty of Park Avenue and a reminder of its Gilded Age past. The home was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White with architect Stanford White leading the design. The home was built in 1890 for retired Senator James Hampden Robb and his wife Cornelia Van Rensselaer Robb. The mansion is now a co-op (Street Easy & Wiki).
23 Park Avenue-The Cornelia Robb House.
Another Gilded Age mansion is now the Guatemala UN Mission at 57 Park Avenue was once the Adelaide T. Townsend Douglas mansion. She had been the wife of William Proctor Douglas, a Capitalist and rumored to be the mistress of J.P.Morgan, the banker. Never divorcing her husband, she continued on as a New York Socialite (Untapped Cities).
The mansion was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer in the ‘French Classical style’ and it was completed in 1911. In 1978, the house was sold after several owners to the Guatemala UN Mission as their headquarters to the United Nations (Daytonian).
57 Park Avenue-Guatemala UN Mission & the former Townsend Mansion
One of the little treasures I found on Park Avenue though was the alleyway of the Church of our Savior at 59 Park Avenue. This beautiful church has hidden off to the side of the building a tiny alleyway with a garden with statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. It is such a nice tranquil place to relax and think that I did not want to leave. It was a relaxing reprieve from the hustle of the City.
The Church of Our Savior at 59 Park Avenue-Check out the garden alleyway
Another building that stands out is 41 Park Avenue owned by the Stonehenge NYC. This beautiful and elegant building was built in 1950 and has all the pre-war details.
41 Park Avenue
I was in a mood most of the morning because of some past events of the week and as I passed a small cafe on the corner of Park Avenue and 40th Street I heard a familiar song from the 1980’s that reminded me of college and immediately put me back in a good mood. It is amazing the power of the memories of songs.
‘Once in a Lifetime’ by Talking Heads
I was humming all the way to Lexington Avenue. The rest of the day just seemed so much better. The song brought me back to my wonderful college years.
Lexington Avenue was quiet for most of my walk down to East 34th Street. Lexington Avenue between it and Park Avenue has some of the most beautiful brownstones on the side streets. It looks like a classic New York neighborhood. That runs between about East 40th to East 36th Streets and then gets more commercial as you get closer to 34th Street.
Murray Hill Brownstones
What I was surprised by is the amount of restaurants that closed their doors on Lexington Avenue. I never saw so many for rent signs on buildings before. Some well known neighborhood places like House of Lasagna are now shut. One restaurant going strong with outdoor dining with a creative menu is Hunan Manor at 339 Lexington Avenue. I saw some of the patrons eating outside and their Soup Dumplings and Chicken dishes that I saw people eating for lunch looked really good. Another restaurant for the bucket list.
Hunan Manor Restaurant at 339 Lexington Avenue
Walking down Lexington Avenue was very different from Fifth, Madison and Park Avenues with their unusual architecture, interesting parks and street art. It was more of a combination of low rise buildings and commercial spots. There was one standout though and that was the Sailors Club at 283 Lexington Avenue.
283 Lexington Avenue-The Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club
The Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club is the only private club of its kind to provide accommodations at a subsidized rate for service men and women and retirees, veterans and their families visiting New York (Club website). The club was founded in 1919 by Cornelia Barnes Rogers and Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt with General John J. Pershing. The club is housed in two 1880 twin brownstones that once served the area as upper middle class housing (Club website and Wiki). Towards 34th Street you will enter the midtown campus of Yeshiva University.
Walking back up Lexington Avenue, you can see how both Lexington and Third Avenue are quickly changing. Gone are all the low rise and smaller buildings and their businesses giving way to large office high rises and commercial spots. The small rise buildings are being razed for larger buildings.
Here and there on Third Avenue are pockets of the old neighborhood below East 38th Street but the neighborhood is changing to a more modern commercial area. There are more smaller businesses as you get closer to 34th Street. One older restaurant, Sarges Delicatessen & Diner at 548 Lexington Avenue has been around since 1964. It offers traditional deli items such as Matzo-ball Soup and over-sized sandwiches. The restaurant was the idea of retired NYPD Sargent Abe Katz, who who loved Jewish style cooking and wanted to open a deli when he retired. The family has been carrying his tradition for all these years offering many dishes made from scratch in-house (Meat & Poultry-Fox 2019).
Sarges Delicatessen & Diner at 548 Lexington Avenue
All around Sarges though the neighborhood continues to morph into a commercial neighborhood where skyscraper office buildings are becoming the norm. Here and there tough are little touches of artistic creativity.
The sculpture “Windward” is sitting just outside an office building at 655 Lexington Avenue by artist Jan Peter Stern.
“Windward” at 655 Third Avenue
Jan Peter Stern was a German born American artist who specialized in contemporary, politically influenced artist of the Post-War era. He graduated from Syracuse with a degree in Industrial Design and married to artist Irene Stern.
The changes of Lexington and Third Avenues in the East 40’s is also changing the complexity of Second Avenue as well. In the upper parts of the neighborhood, the small buildings and brownstones that set the character as one of the last bastions of ‘old New York’ are giving way to office buildings and apartment high-rises. Second Avenue to me from 100th to 34th Streets still represent ‘old New York’ to me with the smaller buildings with character and the ‘mom and pop’ stores that still line the Avenue.
In the East 30’s there are still the quintessential small brownstone and low rise buildings with many ‘for rent signs’. A lot of the smaller ‘mom and pop’ have closed with the ravages of COVID-19 or just have not reopened. Some of the smaller restaurants have opened outdoor cafes and with the NYU Langone Hospital around the corner, there is a small lunch business when I visited but most workers take their lunches to the open garden courts and then get back to work. Still there is a lot of character to this part of the neighborhood.
One of the standouts in the lower part of the Murray Hill between Second and First Avenues is St. Vartan’s Park. This small oasis of green is very popular with families in this part of the neighborhood.
St. Vartan Park is between Second and First Avenues at East 35th Street
The park is named after the Armenian Orthodox Church nearby, St. Vartan Cathedral which is a nod to the neighborhood’s Armenian heritage (NYCParks). The park has a wonderful basketball court, playground and lawn space to run around on. The bathrooms were shut which was not helpful but still a nice place to just relax under a tree.
St. Varta Armenian Church at 630 Second Avenue
It was just nice to sit and relax both when I was walking Second and First Avenues. The shade trees blocked the sun and there was nice benches to sit down on and watch everyone playing basketball and paddle ball.
What really caught my attention was at the other end of the basketball court was this little girl who could not have been older than four throwing the basketball into the adult hoop. What was amazing was that she made it every time! I could not believe it. She would just throw it and it went right into the basket with no problems. I was mystified by it all how she did it.
St. Varta Park between First and Second Avenue
After some rest in the park, it was time to finish the walk with a stroll down First Avenue which I made on my border walk of the neighborhood a few days earlier. The upper parts of First Avenue like everything between Lexington and Second Avenue is going through a big transition and must have been before the COVID-19 pandemic with the upper sections of the neighborhood. The low-rise buildings are giving way to new office and apartment buildings that offer views of the river and the changing Brooklyn and Queens skylines.
Just like the rest of the City during the Pandemic, the Murray Hill is quietly changing and morphing into a new neighborhood. It will be interesting to see what will develop here in the future. Like a flower in the Spring, it will show its ‘true beauty’ in the future.
My walk of the Borders of Murray Hill on August 13th, 2020:
Fee: Adults $22.00/Seniors (over 65) $14.00/Current Students with ID $13.00/Free to Members and Children under 12 accompanied by a parent. Free on Friday Nights from 7:00pm-9:00pm. Discount for people with disabilities $13.00-Caregiver Free. review
When I finally finished walking Sutton and Beekman Places, I finally decided to take the long walk down Broadway that I had planned for two years. As you can see by the blog, I like to take one neighborhood or section of the City at a time and concentrate on getting to know it. What is the history of the neighborhood? What is there now? Who are the shop keepers and the restaurant owners? What is the neighborhood association doing to improve the area? I like to become part of the neighborhood when I walk around it.
But recently I have noticed people on the Internet have been posting that they walked the entire length of Broadway and bragged about it like they were ‘performing brain surgery’. So I put aside my next walk and decided to see what the fuss was about walking up and down Broadway. I am…
As New York City is just beginning to reopen during the COVID-19 Pandemic and trying to return to normal, I have been wondering Manhattan to see what changes have happened in those three months. It is still incredible how much of the City is beginning to remind me of the mid-1970’s.
My trip last week into lower Manhattan revealed a City looking circa 1980 with boarded up stores and graffiti all over the place. Walking around the neighborhoods in Midtown and Downtown last week were a real eye-opener on how pent-up frustration can almost destroy the fabric of a City and the underpinnings of human nature. It really showed just how frustrated everyone is with being sick, unemployed and broke.
Fifth Avenue boarded up on June 15th, 2020
Even when the stores windows get fixed and the stores restocked, I don’t think people will forget that quickly. When you finally let people ‘out of their cages’ (ie their apartments) though you can see that compassion come back. This is what I saw on my thirty-two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan.
Walking around the Island of Manhattan is no easy task. I had planned this since last year and made it my goal to do the walk on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. The problem was I had a ton of yard work to do on the first day of the summer and I had to get it done knowing that I would be tired after a walk like this. So after a day of trimming bushes and weeding the lawn, I put my game plan together for the next morning.
Since it was Father’s Day Sunday, I wanted to do something different and special to honor my father more than just sitting at a cemetery looking at an inscription. This is not something my father would want me to do. So my honoring him was to remind myself of all the wonderful Father’s Day’s we spent in Manhattan visiting museums, parks and going to see independent movies at the MoMA and the Angelica. After which we would dine at whatever restaurant I had seen in the Village Voice. Those were the days I wanted to remember.
My inspiration “The Great Saunter” by Cy V. Adler
‘The Great Saunter Walk’ had been cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and would be held at a later date. The walk was started in 1984 by Mr. Cy A. Adler, who founded The Shorewalkers Inc., a non-profit environmental and walking group whose group was fighting for a public walkway since 1982. The first Saturday in May was designated as ‘Great Saunter Day’ (Wiki and Company founding) and has been recognized by most current Mayors of New York City.
Cy V. Adler
I got the map of the walk off the internet and tried to figure out where to start. The walk starts at Frances Tavern in Lower Manhattan but I thought that was too far away. I thought of starting at 110th Street so I could get through Harlem faster but then I would be travelling back to 110 Street late at night so I nixed that. Then I thought, I have to get off at 42nd Street for the Port Authority anyway and that is where I am at now with my walking project plus when I finish I will only be a few blocks away from the bus station so why not start there? I started my walk around the Island of Manhattan at the Circle Line Boat Pier where I celebrated last year’s birthday.
The Circle Line is where I spent last year’s birthday touring Manhattan by rivers
I took the 6:35am bus into New York to start early. During the week, the first bus comes at 5:30am and I would have liked to get more of head start but I wanted to do the walk on Father’s Day so into the City I went that morning. I got to the Pier by 7:07am and started the walk around the island.
The Circle Line was closed also because of COVID-19 so the Pier was quiet that morning. I looked over my map of Manhattan and started the walk along the pathways along the Hudson River going up the Joe DiMaggio Highway to the Henry Hudson Highway. I had not been to this part of the Manhattan in about two years.
When you walk up past the Piers, the first thing you will see in the next Pier over is the Intrepid Sea-Air Space Museum which was closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. Pier 86 where the ship was docked was really quiet that morning with only two people eating their breakfast on one of the tables in the little park near the ship. There were sweeping views of New Jersey across the river of Weehawken and West New York.
Most of the West Side is pathways along the river with views of New Jersey until you hit about West 50th Street when you get to the lower part of the new Hudson River Park that has been built on fill to create a new riverfront.
When I reached the park by Pier 96, I came across Malcolm Cochran’s artwork “Private Passage” again. I came across this sculpture when visiting the park two years earlier. The piece is a giant bottle and when you look in the port hole you will see a state room of the former Queen Mary. It is an interesting piece of artwork that is not hard to miss and take time to look in the port holes.
The artist is originally from Pittsburgh, PA and is graduate of Wesleyan College who specializes in large sculptures.
Further up the park, I came across the old New York Transfer Station piece in Riverside Park. This is a relic of the old West Side Railroad tracks that were once part of the New York Central Railroad that the park and buildings behind it are built on. This transfer bridge once was used to attach railroad cars to the freight tracks that once ran up and down this part of the island (Forgotten New York).
The New York Central Transfer Station
It is interesting to see this now as a piece of art instead of a functioning part of the railroad but it is fascinating to see how we use the parts of the past as a piece of art in the present. This shows the current park visitor how we have made new uses of the riverfront for recreation and pleasure which was not true during the early parts of the last century.
Hudson River Park and Riverside Park South blend into one another with the housing complexes behind them are a shining example of the uses of urban renewal and reclaiming our riverfront for pleasure and conservation. It is also one of the nicest new complexes built in Manhattan in recent years.
What I love about this park is the nice pathways and lawns just to sit back and relax and enjoy the views. There are a lot of places to stop and rest. Since I had been to this side of the island two years ago, I continued my walk up to West 72nd Street when I got to the southern border of Riverside Park which runs much of this side of Manhattan.
I made it up to West Harlem Piers Park by 8:46am and made my first stop of the morning. The park was a mess. People must have been having parties in the park the night before and did not clean up after themselves because I could see a NYCParks worker in the picking up the garbage and she did not look happy about the mess. Usually this park is pristine and I was not used to seeing it such a mess. I guess these are the things you see in New York City parks early in the morning. The efforts to keep them clean.
West Harlem Piers Park is a picturesque park
My review on TripAdvisor:
The park is down the road from the new extension of the Columbia University campus extension so this park gets a lot of use during the school year. This early in the morning there were just a few joggers and one homeless guy who was throwing more garbage around. I did not want to be near the Parks worker when she had to deal with that.
What I had not noticed on my trips to the park in the past were some unusual sculptures by artist Nari Ward, a New York based artist who likes to use objects found in his own neighborhood (artist website).
These unusual silver sculptures I almost interpreted as people trying to speak and it was interesting that the sculptures were called Voice I and Voice II. I was not sure of what the artist was trying to communicate with his artwork but it does stand out in the park. The unfortunate part of it was that there was so much garbage in the park you could not get up close to see them.
I really enjoy this park. It has wonderful breezes and excellent views and plenty of places to sit down and relax. It offers such nice views of the river and as the morning progressed I started to see more sailboats and water boats out cruising up and down the Hudson River.
I reached the bottom of the George Washington Bridge by 9:36am and watched an artist putting a display of layered rocks along the Hudson River shore. Uliks Gryka the artist behind the “Sisyphus Stones” that line this part of the park was carefully layering stones one on top of another and fixing and creating new formations. It was interesting to watch how he balanced each of the stones into a new work. The artist is originally from Albania and has no formal art training (Artist website).
The work reminded me of the Moai on Easter Island, the famous statues that faced the sea. It made me think how the artwork looks to the river and how maybe it is nature communicating with land and sea. I was not sure the message the artist was trying to portray and he looked too busy working to ask him.
I continued on into Fort Washington Park to see the Little Red Lighthouse, which I had not visited in almost three years since my last walk in the neighborhood. Many tourists were by the site just under the George Washington Bridge, taking pictures by the lighthouse and enjoying the sunny weather.
The Little Red Lighthouse had been constructed in 1889 and moved from Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1917 and moved here in 1921. It was decommissioned in 1948 after the construction of the George Washington Bridge in 1931. What had saved the lighthouse from destruction was the book “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge” by author Hildegarde Swift in 1942 (Wiki).
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift
I didn’t stay long by the lighthouse because it was loaded with tourists taking pictures but I did stay by the tables and enjoy the view of the George Washington Bridge. It was making quite the racket as more cars are travelling over it again and on a sunny day offered some dazzling views. The breezes were amazing!
Walking up the stairs to get to the upper level of the park is not for the faint hearted and I saw many people much younger than me get out of breath on their way up. One guy had to be about twenty and he looked like he needed oxygen. To me it was just a walk up and I continued to walk through the lower part of Fort Washington Park.
This part of the park faces Englewood Cliffs, NJ and the Palisades Park Highway on the other side of the river. There is no construction on that park of the river so it offers views on the cliffs and the woods that line it.
The view of Englewood Cliffs, NJ
As I walked further up into the park, it was mostly wooded highway and further up the hill was Fort Tyron Park and the home of The Cloister Museum which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum has been closed since March but I had taken one of the last of the guided tours on religious flora in art of the Middle Ages before it closed on March 13th.
When you reach Fort Tyron Park by foot along the Henry Hudson Parkway, you will see two large stone columns that look like the entrance to an estate and then across the street there is a pillared overlook to the Hudson River. These are remnants of the former C.K.G. Billings estate, “Tryon Hall”.
The old entrance to the estate is covered with brush
Mr. Billings, the Chairman of Union Carbide, owned most land of which the park is located and theses small relics are the remains of the great estate. I had never been in this part of the park before and thought it interesting that these pieces of the estate were left.
The “Tryon Hall” estate of C.K.G. Billings.
The archway and drive are still part of the park and you can see them closer to The Cloisters Museum. The old driveway to the estate is still used inside the park.
I travelled up further and arrived at the Dyckman Beach Park located at the end of Dyckman Avenue in Inwood. This tiny little beach is hidden from the road and is located next to the pier. Every time I have visited the park, this little section is in high demand for picnickers and you have to get there early. The pier is a nice place to relax and soak of the sun and admire the view.
Don’t miss this tiny beach and the pier. It is so relaxing!
I walked around one side of the park that contains the soccer field where a very heated match between two teams was taking place. I could tell there was a heated discussion in Spanish that these two teams were in major competition. While the men were playing soccer, the ladies were cooking up a storm, making skewers of meat, cutting fresh fruit and stirring lemonade for a makeshift concession stand. This was a very organized league.
I walked around the field and watched the game as the families settled in for a long afternoon. These guys really took the game seriously and were going back and forth side to side for the twenty minutes I watched the game. The pathway to the park ends in a semi-circle and on the side is a walkway bridge over the railroad tracks which will take you around Inwood Hill Park to the lower pathways that overlook the Hudson River and to the Henry Hudson Bridge that leads to the Bronx.
When you follow the path, it leads to the Spuyten Duyvil, a man-made canal that was created during the Dutch era for shipping and trade. It cuts off a small section of Manhattan that is now on the Bronx side of the City. Here you will see the giant blue “C” for Columbia University, whose stadium is on the other end of the park.
The Columbia “C” from Inwood Hill Park
The paths lead down wooded areas that are some of the last of the ‘virgin’ forest left on the island of Manhattan and one of the few true wooded areas.
When you exit the pathways into the lawn area of the park, you are greeted by a giant boulder which is one of the most historic objects on the Island of Manhattan, the Shorrakopoch Rock. The rock is the legendary location of where Peter Minuit bought Manhattan from the Reckgawawang Indians for what is today $24.00 of household goods and trinkets.
On the other side of the small cove is the natural cove, Muscota Marsh where the Columbia Rowing Team has their sheds. The Muscota Marsh was created in a joint partnership between the NYCParks system and Columbia University. This one acre marsh is located in the Spuyten Duyvil creek and is part freshwater and part salt-water marsh. It is home to many native birds who use it as a nesting and watering site.
I sat and relaxed while birds flew in and out of the marsh that morning. It was the most beautiful sunny morning and you could feel the cool breezes coming off the creek while small boats passed by. The Muscota Marsh is one of those hidden treasures in Manhattan that tourists rarely visit. It was nice to just sit and relax. I had reached the northern most part of Manhattan by 11:11am four hours after the start time.
I had eaten a light breakfast at the house and had gone through my snacks while walking up to Inwood Hill Park. Most of the places I had gone to in the past while up walking the neighborhood or going to the Columbia/Cornell football games were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic or went out of business. I ordered breakfast from Park Terrace Deli at 510 West 218 Street.
I had the most amazing Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a Hero that hit the spot. I was starved and this large sandwich fit the bill. It was loaded with freshly cooked bacon and the hero roll was toasted and then pressed when the bacon, cheese and eggs were loaded inside. I sat down with a much needed Coke in the benches by Isham Park further down Broadway. I enjoyed every bite and the ice cold Coke gave me the burst of energy I needed to continue the walk down the western part of Manhattan.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich at Park Terrace Deli is excellent!
After breakfast, I travelled down 10th Avenue from 218th Street and followed the path of the original footprint of the island until I arrived at the cross streets of Dyckman Street and Harlem River Drive at the beginning of Highbridge Park and Sherman Cove. Most of this part of Highbridge Park was still closed off to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because it was Father’s Day, people were barbecuing along the thin path and patch of land between the park and the highway. It amazes me how creative these residents are with the use of space.
Before I took the long trip down Harlem River Drive along the rim of High Bridge Park, I walked along Dyckman Street, one of the three big retail corridors for the Dominican community in Washington Heights. The other two being 207th Street and the other 181st Street and Broadway.
Dyckman Street on the west side of Broadway is so alive on the weekends with street vendors selling food and wares, music playing and people socializing with their neighbors. I love coming here for the bakeries and to get fresh pastilitoes and freshly squeezed juice from the street vendors who have to listen to my broken Spanish. It was a little tougher to visit the places as social distancing let less people into the stores that were open.
On warm weekends Dyckman Street is alive with shoppers
After I walked a few blocks of Dyckman Street to see what was available, I started the long trek down the path along Harlem River Drive with High Bridge Park across the street. The long curves of the park, the lush woods and rock formations show what was once the former shoreline of this part of the island. From this location it looks alike Inwood Hill Park with clean paths and virgin plantings.
The reality of the park is that if you walk through the park you are faced with the over-grown paths, the graffitied rocks and garbage that parts of the park suffer from. When you walk through the paths on the other side of the park, you see how far the park has gone down and the work that still needs to be done. Abandoned cars and garbage still plaque parts of the park from the park side paths. Still the City is doing a lot to improve the park.
I passed the old High Bridge Water Tower that was being renovated and was covered in scaffolding. The water tower and the bridge are the lasting remnants of the way water used to travel into New York City from upstate in the late 1800’s. The tower was built in 1872 and was part of the old Croton Aqueduct system of moving water into Manhattan. The tower and the surrounding area is currently going under renovation and the pool is closed because of COVID-19.
This part of the park had no activity and on the path leading down to the old Polo Grounds there was not much activity. What always makes me nervous is walking around the Polo Ground Houses that run from West 165th Street to about West 155th Street. The complex is a tired looking set up public housing with one building looking exactly like the other and a small patch of green in the middle. I could see from the hill over-looking the lawns that there were some small parties going on.
The Polo Ground Tower Housing Complex
All I kept thinking about is the activities that go on there and I zig-zagged my way down the sidewalk until I hit the part of the fence that was covered with trees and vines. Out of site from the prying windows. Ever since I read about the complex on the internet, I have never felt comfortable in this part of the City. This was before I walked all around the complex four years ago when I walked Harlem and didn’t think much about it.
I crossed the street and walked down Edgecomb Avenue on the upper side of Jackie Robinson Park. The park was alive with people using the playground or setting up parties for Father’s Day. It was also a mixed crowd of people who were conversing amongst themselves about recent events and I heard many lively debates.
The one thing I discovered about this section of the park is that everything across the street or closer to the park is brand new housing, a lot catering to CUNY students. Much of Bradhurst and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard have been knocked down and rebuilt with new housing and much of West 145th Street is new stores and restaurants. It changes as you get closed to Lenox Avenue and Young Park.
I find Jackie Robinson Park very nice. The park has always been well maintained and the place was clean and well-landscaped. During the warmer months of the school year, a lot of CUNY students can be seen on the hill as you enter the park on West 145th Street sunning themselves and studying. Now families were setting up barbecues unfortunately many of them without masks.
The worst thing I found about travelling in these blocks of the City is how the Parks system treats the patrons of the parks. There was not one open bathroom in the four parks that I visited. High Bridge Park had no bathrooms on the Harlem River Drive part of the park, both Jackie Robinson Park’s bathrooms were shut tight and Young Park’s were also closed. Thomas Jefferson Park further down only had Porto toilets (and I will not mention in this blog the condition they were in. COVID-19 would not even survive in those).
After a rest in Jackie Robinson Park, I ventured down West 145th Street to Young Park and then crossed down Malcolm X Boulevard to West 143rd Street. There were no open bathrooms here so I headed down Fifth Avenue before making the connection on to Harlem River Drive.
I stopped for a moment to look at a obelisk that I had not noticed the last time I had visited the area. The obelisk is located on a tiny triangle near the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 142nd Street. The Monument is the 369 Infantry Regiment Memorial dedicated to the all black unit that fought so valiantly in World War I with the Fourth French Army. It was in such an obscure place that I must have just passed it when I visited Harlem. The drunk homeless guy sitting next to it was a deterrent from really looking at it.
I crossed over the triangle and continued to follow the river to West 135th street ( the river walk ends at West 135th Street and continued down Madison Avenue. I had to walk through the Lincoln Houses Public Housing and again pretty much everyone avoided me. I was surprised that there was so much garbage on the lawns and in the parks. I could not believe that none of the residents would have picked this up. As I walked down Madison Avenue, I noticed another homeless guy trying to solicit money from people coming off the highway and almost getting hit a few times. I was going to yell at him but I thought I better mind my business walking in this section of the City.
I walked south down Madison Avenue until I reached West 128th Street and walked towards the river towards Second Avenue. I stopped in Harlem River Park and Crack is Wack Playground and again no open bathrooms and I passed the Tri-Boro Plaza Park nothing there either so I just continued down Second Avenue to East 120th Street and walked down Pleasant Avenue towards Thomas Jefferson Park.
People were having all sorts of picnics and barbecues inside and outside the Wagner Houses and people were celebrating Father’s Day in full force. It was all I could do from walking through the complex again. The last time I did that the residents looked at me like I was a Martian who just set down.
The Wagner Houses
The Robert Wagner Sr. sculpture in the Wagner Playground by artist Georg John Lober
Georg John Lober was an American artist from Chicago who studied at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design and worked for the New York City Municipal Art Commission for seventeen years.
Pleasant Avenue was once home to the East Harlem “Little Italy” and the ‘Dance of the Giglio’ takes place here every August outside the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (See Day Eighty-Four The Feast of Our Lady of Carmel and the Dancing of the Giglio). Now it is becoming a gentrified neighborhood and I saw many people eating in outdoor cafes or shopping at the local mall. I stopped at Pleasant Finest Deli at 375 Pleasant Avenue for a snack and a Coke. On a 84 degree day there is nothing like an ice cold Coke.
The ‘Chopped Cheese’ is a cult sandwich made up of two chopped hamburgers topped with American cheese, chopped lettuce and tomato with salt, pepper and spices and then pressed. It is like heaven with every bite. I took my sandwich into Thomas Jefferson Park, which is currently under renovation and ate my sandwich. After I was finished, I had the energy to continue the walk downtown.
The Chopped Cheese Sandwich
After I finished my lunch I felt refreshed and ready to go but still had to find a bathroom. Since the park was under renovation, there were only Porto bathrooms and trust me, STAY AWAY! They were so dirty that COVID-19 could not survive these things. After eating a big lunch, I ended up nauseous for the rest of the afternoon and lost my appetite for anything else. I left the park at 3:48pm and thought I was making good time.
I exited the park at West 111th Street and followed the overpass over FDR Drive and and walked down the esplanade from West 111th Street to West 60th Street in Sutton Place. The views of the Harlem and East Rivers are ever changing with new construction in Queens and Brooklyn and the developments on Randalls-Ward and Roosevelt Island. The whole riverfront changes every year.
The Tram to Roosevelt Island
Between the sunny skies and cool river breezes, it is an amazing walk if you take your time like I did and just soak up the sunshine. I never realized how easy this part of the walk would be. I just walked others walk by enjoying their afternoons and looked at all the buildings going up and the boats and jet skiers passing by. It was one busy river.
I relaxed when I arrived at Carl Schurz Park to enjoy the views of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island and look at the flower beds in the park. Carl Schurz Park has its own Friends group and they do a great job taking care of the park. The flower beds are so colorful and vibrant and the playground is full of active screaming kids. There were finally some decent OPEN bathrooms and the water fountains here work and the water is good. The fountains dispense cold water.
I stayed at the park for about a fifteen minute. Any longer and I would not have left. Carl Schurz Park is one of my favorite parks in Manhattan. I love the views, the sights and sounds of this park and love how lively and calm it is at the same time. It is a true neighborhood park.
I continued down the river front walk until I had to stop at West 60th on the border of the Upper East Side and Sutton Place and proceeded up the ramp. This is where the sculpture by artist Alice Aycock is located and one of my favorite ‘street art’ sculptures ‘East River Roundabout’.
From here I travelled up the ramp which surrounds Twenty-Four Sycamores Park which borders both neighborhoods and is extremely popular with the neighborhood children and their babysitters and parents. The park was closed though because of the COVID-19 pandemic but will be reopened soon. This park was start and stop point when I was visiting this side of town for the blog. I like the shade trees and it has good bathrooms.
I walked down Sutton Place past the old mansions and stately apartment buildings. This area of the City was really quiet as the residents here were probably out of town with all that was going on. The streets were pretty much deserted and I saw a few people in Sutton Place Park.
Watch taking the turn on East 53rd Street to First Avenue. The cars and cabs will not stop for you when you try to cross the street so be careful. I always take a mad dash across the road.
From here you have to walk on First Avenue from East 53rd Street until East 37th Street as the United Nations dominates this area. The United Nations looked like it was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic with just a few guards on duty and not much traffic. It also looked to me like they removed a lot of their statuary because of all the vandals destroying art work all over the country.
The United Nations Complex
I exited East 37th Street and continued to walk down the esplanade along the East River. I had never travelled to this section of the City before (I have currently not passed 42nd Street on my current walk of Manhattan) so it was an adventure to see new views of the island. I stayed on this pathway until I got to the Battery.
Along the way between East 37th Street and East 11th Streets, you tend to see the backs of a lot of buildings on the Manhattan side life Bellevue and the Tisch Hospital. You then pass Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and then the Con Ed Power Plant so there is not much to see on this side but from the other side you will see the skyline of Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn.
Downtown Long Island City keeps changing
On the turn before you get to the larger East River Park is the smaller Stuyvesant Cove Park which was once the site of an old cement plant and has now been reclaimed for a riverfront park. The park runs from about East 22nd Street to East 18th Street. The park is planted with native plants of New York City and has become a haven for birds and butterflies (Stuyvesant Cove Park Association). I left Stuyvesant Cove by 5:45pm.
Around East 12th Street its best to the follow the path signs to John V. Lindsay East River Park. The park was created in 1939 by then Parks Director Robert Moses on reclaimed land from the waterfront and piers and is a 57.5 acre point of relief to the residents of the Lower East Side (Wiki). The park has many recreational facilities and the afternoon I was walking through countless parties and barbecues were going on. With meats sizzling on the grills and water gun fights and the sound of music throughout the park, people were enjoying their Father’s Day celebrations in every corner of the park. I found open bathrooms that were clean and a water fountain that worked and I was happy.
Once I left the park, I was on my way to South Street Seaport. This part of the walk meant walking under overhangs, bridge over-passes and the housing was a combination of new and old construction. On the other side of the river, there is a difference on the riverfront on the Brooklyn side. The growth of DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn has changed the whole look from this side of the river.
Downtown Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Bridge
This is now becoming some of the most expensive housing in New York City with warehouses and old factories becoming expensive lofts. Things just changing on that side of the river and the riverfront even this far down keeps changing.
South Street Seaport is some of the original structures of Lower Manhattan many dating back to the Civil War when this was a major shipping area. The home of the Dutch West Indies Company in the early 1600’s, this port area has seen many changes. The most modern ones when the Rouse Corporation turned this into a dining and shopping entertainment area setting up concept for many downtown’s in city’s that needed revitalizing. I had never seen it so quiet in the time of COVID-19. There was no one walking around this busy area but a few tourists and residents. I passed through the Seaport by 6:48pm.
From here it was again more overhangs from the highway until I got to the Ferry stations for Staten Island and Governors Island and then rounding the corner to make it to Battery Park where the sites of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island loomed in the distance. All over the harbor were sailboats and motor boats enjoying the early evening. It was now 7:15pm and I had been travelling since noon.
I spent about a half hour relaxing and enjoying the views on a sunny early evening. Being the day after the Summer Solstice it was one of the longest days of the year and I got to enjoy the extra sunshine. I needed to cool down and this was the place to do it.
I have to say that I never get tired of seeing Lady Liberty. I still can’t believe that I am seeing the same statute that both of my grandfathers’ saw when they arrived in this country. It puts it all into perspective to me how powerful of a symbol it is to this country as a way of welcoming people to the United States.
I had just walked the entire east side of Manhattan and I have to tell you I was stiff by this point. I was ready to throw in the towel here and rest but I pressed on wanting to get home at a decent time. I really misjudged how long it would take to get from the Battery to West 42nd Street.
I left Battery Park at 7:30pm and followed a crowd of people out of the park. I walked behind them as I travelled through the South Cove of Battery Park City. Not a lot of tourists know that this whole area is fill in of old piers on the fillers from the building of the original World Trade Center. Now the area sits apartment buildings with breathtaking views and well-landscaped parts. The South Cove was filled with small groups of people who were also not social distancing and very few masks. I think people were just throwing caution to the wind.
Don’t miss the twists and turns of the South Cove of Battery Park City
From here it was following the path up to the North Cove of Battery Park City and the views of Jersey City. Each of the parks had unique landscaping and walkways that accented the buildings of the World Financial Center. It is hard to believe how damaged these were after the long days after 9/11. You would have never known with boats docked for dinner and people having picnics and wine in the shadows of these buildings.
As the light started to fade in the evening as the sunset over Jersey City across the river, I started to fade too. I just singing to myself and kept encouraging myself to keep moving. I really wanted to finish even though my thighs were getting stiff and my fingers looked like sausages. I was determined even though I wanted to stop. Every time I asked that question of myself I then said ‘then why did I start the walk if I was not going to finish it?’
I stopped for a second to look at the sun setting in the backdrop of Jersey City and watched in wonder the beauty of it all. It is almost a reminder how much bigger the world is than us.
The Jersey City Waterfront at sunset
While I was walking through the parks, a few pieces of park sculpture stood out to me as I reached Hudson River Park in Chelsea. The long trek up Joe DiMaggio Highway made me more aware of my surroundings as I had to stop again. I came across the ‘Serpentine Sculptures’, these large twisting metal concoctions that graced the riverfront walkway.
These interesting twisted sculptures are by American artist Mark Gabian who holds a BA in Art History and BFA in Sculpture from Cornell University (my Alma Mater!). Mr. Gabian’s sculptures can be seen all over the world. The artist has been quoted as saying he created monumental site-specific commissions in two or three dimensions’ (the artist’s website).
The last leg of the journey loomed in the distance as I saw the lights of the Hudson Yards in the distance like a mythical ‘Oz’ waiting for me. I saw the heliport and observation deck glittering in the distance and knew I had to reach it.
The Hudson Yards in Chelsea
The Observation Deck and the glittering buildings are just a few blocks from the Port Authority Bus Terminal where my journey started and I knew I was there. I reached the Circle Line Pier again at 9:11pm in the evening and I celebrated by sitting on a boulder outside the ticket booth for fifteen minutes watching the security guard play on his cellphone.
I was not tired Per Se but I was stiff all over. I could feel my thighs tighten up and my fingers and hands I had to shake several times to get proper circulation back into them. Still I was not out of breath and was able to walk back to the Port Authority and make the 9:50pm bus out of New York City for home. I got home by 10:10pm almost sixteen hours later.
I walked the entire rim of Manhattan from top to bottom in fourteen hours. Not the twelve hours the Great Saunter Walk guide says but there is a lot more to it then just walking. You will need many bathroom, water and rest breaks along the way. Drink lots of water too. Still it was a great walk and one for the blog!
I dedicate this walk to my father, Warren Watrel, as my Father’s Day Gift of Remembrance.
I never thought I would see the day that Manhattan would look like Beirut.
Author Dominick Dunne wrote a book years ago entitled “Another City, Not My Own” about his return to Los Angeles after years of being away. It has been four months since the Membership Night at the Met Breuer and I swear it was almost surreal going back into New York City for the first time in over four months. I felt like I was in exile.
First barely anyone was on the bus into New York. I was one of about seven people on the bus that had to stop in Union City, NJ first before getting into Manhattan. It was strange to see everyone with masks on. It was a real eye opener. I felt like I was entering a different world and you could feel it when we arrived in Port Authority Bus Terminal. I had never seen the terminal so quiet in all my years coming into the City. Even late at night when I used to take the 12:20am or 1:20am buses out of Manhattan, there will still people all over the place at night.
When you get into Port Authority Terminal, there is not a lot of people hanging around anymore. All the stores and restaurants are closed except for a few fast food coffee places as not everything has opened up yet. Coming out of the terminal, there are no longer the crowds hanging out outside the terminal like there used to be. Everyone is on their way to where they have to go.
I started my walk up Eight Avenue past all the bodegas, fast food restaurants and many closed hotels. This stretch of Avenue was very quiet and because of the recent protesting and looting due to the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis, the Theater District was completely fenced off. You could not walk through that section of the neighborhood. There were a few fast food places open for take out and the popular Shake Shack, the upscale hamburger restaurant, was open for take out and going strong with the few tourists and business people in the area.
Some businesses were still closed and boarded up due to the nights of looting the first week of June during the protests. Plywood covered some of the smaller stores and hotels while most everything else was either starting to open up or opened. This was a very different scene from a week ago.
When I arrived at Columbus Circle, my end point for the project on the West Side, Columbus Circle Park has fencing and guard rails around it. They were trying to protect the statue of Christopher Columbus that stands tall atop a pedestal.
Columbus Circle in its better days
All over the county, people are vandalizing statues of what they conceive as ‘controversial’ historical figures and Christopher Columbus seems to now be a major target. The statue, created by artist Gaetano Russo, was donated by Americans of Italian decent and lead by publisher Carlo Barsotti, was dedicated in 1892 on the 400th Anniversary of Columbus arriving in the New World.
Now the statue, fountain and park are behind fencing to keep vandal from defacing the statue. It is a sad day in this Country when people try to ‘erase’ history because they do not agree with it. Trust me, the police were all over Columbus Circle.
The Christopher Columbus Statue at Columbus Circle
It was even stranger as I walked down 59th Street toward Fifth Avenue. All the hotels were boarded up on the lower levels, the apartment buildings had guards inside and out and to see plywood across the Plaza Hotel and the Park Lane Hotel it almost makes me wonder what Leona Hemsley, who once owned the hotel, would say? The guards and the doorman were standing tall in front of the hotels trying to direct people.
Turning the corner to Fifth Avenue was very calming. All over Fifth Avenue merchants were either taking down the plywood or had taken it down by Monday afternoon when I started my walk. Just six days earlier, businesses were scrambling to put the boards up and now they were taking them down. The guards were still there but there was security inside and out in stores up and down Fifth Avenue.
Bergdorf-Goodman with plyboards (has since come down)
The new Nordstrom Department Store that opened on Broadway was just taking the last of their plyboards down when I took a quick on Broadway to see the store. By the time I passed The Plaza Hotel, Bergdorf-Goodman and the Apple Store had either taken their boards down or were just finishing. Walking further down Fifth Avenue, the condition of the shopping area went block by block.
Fifth Avenue boarded up (still up at the time of this writing)
The exclusive stores on one side of St. Patrick’s Cathedral were still boarded up and Saks Fifth Avenue had taken all the plyboards down but still had guards all around the store. Even Rockefeller Center which just five and a half months ago was mobbed with people for the holidays was fenced off with guards and police all around it. You could only see the fountain in the distance.
Fifth Avenue north of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (still up at the time if this writing)
Saks Fifth Avenue had been really closed off with plywood on the doors and windows and barbed wire against the building. Armed guards with watch dogs monitored the store for several days. When I got there on Monday, the guards and dogs were still there but the boards were taken down but the store still looked eerie.
Saks Fifth Avenue boarded up (has since come down)
The guards did not look like anyone’s fools and I walked by quickly on my way down Fifth Avenue to East 44th Street. The Cornell Club which is where I work when I am in Manhattan working on the blog, was closed tight and would not be opening according to the sign until July 1st. Across the street from the club, the headquarters for Brooks Brothers Men’s store, which just declared bankruptcy, was still boarded up tight like that whole section of Madison Avenue. Madison Avenue also was just opening up the afternoon I was in Manhattan.
From East 44th Street, I walked down Fifth Avenue through the old shopping district below East 42nd Street and it was sad to see the old Lord & Taylor building being torn apart for an office building. A company that has been in business since 1826 declared bankruptcy and will be liquidated as soon as stores are allowed to fully open. This was a company that was once one of the best women’s stores in the world reduced to closing because of bad management.
Even Lord & Taylor could not get a break from all this
I rounded the corner at West 34th Street to see Macy’s Herald Square, where I had worked for four years back in the 1990’s when the neighborhood was not that great. The store had just taken the plywood off the store and the windows that were damaged on the night of the looting a week ago had been replaced. There was security and guards all around the store and strangely enough people were eating their lunch in the plaza by Herald Square like nothing had happened a few days earlier.
Macy’s Herald Square boarded up ( has since come down)
I could not believe what I saw on TV the night it was being looted and their were small fires outside the store. I had been working at the store during the Rodney King riots, the first attack on the World Trade Center and the problems in Crown Heights but I never thought I would see anything like this as the neighborhood is far better today then it was back then.
Macy’s the night of the looting a week ago
I never thought I would live to see this at a store I worked at for four years
As I walked by the store filled with colorful displays and ‘reopening soon’ signs you would have never known any of this had just happened a week earlier. People were just walking along the sidewalks like it was a regular day.
My walk continued down Seventh Avenue past the Fashion Institute of Technology, which was all boarded up since the campus is closed for classes and guards were all over the place. Here and there small restaurants and shops had now opened for curve side business and deliveries.
I crossed over to West 23rd Street to Ninth Avenue and again small take out places had reopened and drug stores were buzzing with people. There was a lot of people walking around in the neighborhood, taking to one another or walking their dogs. I walked past Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen which was gated at that time as service ended at 1:00pm and there was newsletters and posts on the fence that dated back to March 13th when the Soup Kitchen closed for business.
I walked up Ninth Avenue and crossed over again onto West 38th Street to where all the reasonable restaurants and take out places who cater to the Garment District are located. Most were closed for business but there were still a few Chinese places still open to the workers in the area.
I walked back into Times Square and took the subway to Chinatown. Now that was unusual. The platform had about four other people on it and it was spotless. There were no homeless people hanging around and the everything was very clean. I took the N Subway downtown and the car was spotless as well. I had never seen such a clean subway car. There was only two of us on the car and he was about ten feet away from me. We got to Chinatown the quickest I ever had in all the time I took the subway. Another eerie thing was all the posters on the walls of the subways were dated back from either February or March. By Chinatown, there is still a poster for a failed Christmas film.
Chinatown in lower Manhattan is usually a bustling neighborhood where you can barely walk the streets because there are so many people on the sidewalks. The sidewalks are usually lined on all sides by fruit and vegetable vendors and people selling prepared foods. I had not seen the neighborhood this quiet ever. Even when I visited Chinatown after 9/11 for my birthday dinner it was not this quiet. Almost all the businesses were still closed.
Mott Street which is the heart of Chinatown was deserted. Most of the popular restaurants and take out places were closed. Wonton Noodle Garden, my go to place for Cantonese Wonton Soup, was just doing take out and delivery. It is hard to believe the last time I had eaten there was March 9th and it was almost empty then.
Most of Mott Street and the side streets were closed for business.
It was strange to walk down a street of closed restaurants and stores. Unlike Little Italy located across Canal Street, they have never closed Mott Street down for outside dining. There were a few restaurants opened here and there and I was surprised that Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Bayard Street was open that afternoon and they looked busy.
I walked all over the neighborhood and one after one of my favorite spots to eat where either closed down or were in the process of opening up again. There were not too many choices to eat at in the late afternoon. Still I walked to Chrystie Street and my old standby, Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street A, for some fried pork and chive dumplings ($2.00). I swear that just cheered my up after everything I saw.
Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street
I sat in Sara Delano Roosevelt Park and just enjoyed the warm sunny day. The food at Chi Dumping House could put a smile on anyone’s face. These plump pork and chive dumplings are perfectly fried and crisp and crackle when you bite into them. With a little hot sauce, it was the perfect meal.
The dumplings here are so good
The people who were walking around seemed happy to be outside and that there was calm in the air. It was a beautiful sunny day and people were sitting and talking, jogging around the park and talking to their kids. There was some normalcy in the world that afternoon.
As I traveled back down Canal Street, I needed something sweet to finish off the meal and everyone one of my favorite bakeries was closed so I tried New Cameron Bakery at 242 Canal Street.
New Cameron Bakery at 242 Canal Street
The selection was pretty small that afternoon and I chose one of their Sweet Topped Buns ($1.35). A couple of bites of that and it really made the afternoon.
The sweet topped bun
Before I took the E Subway back up town to leave the Manhattan, I took a quick stroll through SoHo (South of Houston), which once upon a time when I was growing up was a manufacturing district and then was an artist enclave in the late 70’s and through the 80’s. By the 2000’s, it had become an extremely expensive and exclusive neighborhood. After a night of looting and stealing, the whole neighborhood boarded up.
SoHo boarded up
I had not seen the neighborhood look like this since the 1970’s and I can’t believe it looked the same when I was a kid. I have to admit the graffiti on the plywood was interesting but not something I really wanted to see here now.
This was truly pathetic
It is a sad day when you see human nature at its worst but I am still convinced that there are more good people in this world then bad and I still think we are winning!
I had the most interesting semester for Spring Term at the college where I work. Everything started off fine. We had classes in the the afternoon, good discussions on Marketing and had a very successful Team Project marketing the Lyndhurst Snack Shop, the new Bulldog Cafe, for business (See Day One Hundred and Fifty-Nine in MywalkinManhattan.com):
I had just handed out the next Team Project, “From Revolution to Renewal: Exploring the Historic Bergen County”, a major tourism project I wanted to the students to work on for the remainder of the semester the week before the break. I had the students to break up into groups and get to know one another and get their game plans in order before the Midterm. We had only one class to introduce the project and they set their group chats up and introduced themselves. The next week I gave the Midterm and then left for the Spring Break.
This project had been inspired by a couple of things. One was the fact that many of these students did not know their own County. They knew nothing of its history let alone had ever really explored it. It amazed me how many of them did not know the history of the towns they lived in and if there was a well-known cultural site in the town they lived in they never visited it. A few students said to me when I asked had they visited this or that in their town the answer always seemed to be “well I passed it but never really noticed it.”
Another thing that inspired the project was the Northwest Bergen Historical Coalition. Every year this historical group runs a “History Day” for the historical sites of northwest Bergen County. When I asked a friend who worked for the County why they did not have a weekend with all the sights in Bergen County, she said that it would be too difficult to put together. That was what I needed to hear to put this project together. To prove that it could be done.
It wasn’t just that. Many of the these sites were never visited and some were only open once or twice a year to visitors because their volunteers were getting too old. Many people were not taking these sites seriously in the role they played in not just the formation of the County but the United States. When you really read the history of the people who lived there or what the site meant, it was interesting to see what role it played in the history of Bergen County.
As I said in my previous blog on my Introduction to Business class creating the Ambassador Program, it was a harder go with my Essentials in Marketing class. They were a younger group who did not know much about the history of Bergen County let alone their own towns. I had poised the question many times in class about where they had visited in the County and mentioned many historical sites in towns which they lived in. Only a few had ever visited them or if they had had been way back in elementary school when it was considered part of a school field trip.
This is when I created “From Revolution to Renewal: A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”. This would be a two day weekend with an opening private cocktail party of the Arts Community and VIP’s followed by a two day tour of all of Bergen County’s historical sites with side trips to our wonderful historical restaurants and a scavenger hunt to wrap it all up.
I had started to arrange a series of field trips that we were going to take over the last week of school and the first week of Spring Break. I had planned a trip to Downtown Hackensack, NJ to see the Courthouse, visit two Dutch Reformed Churches and the cemeteries and then visit White Mana, a very well-known hamburger place that has been around since the 1940’s.
The Bergen County Courthouse, The Green and the Dutch Reformed Church in Downtown Hackensack, NJ
Another field trip that I started to look into was the Aviation Hall of Fame in Teterboro, NJ and then a tasting at Spindler’s Bakery and Lovey’s Pizzeria in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and then on to Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge, NJ.
I was doing this while running in and out of New York City for the Restaurant Show and a Michigan State University Alumni Night for the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State University. I was just getting everything organized and then planning a quick trip to visit my mother when all hell broke loose and the government started to shut everything down. From a Wednesday Membership Night at the Met Breuer to a Thursday morning shut down of New York City and all air travel to Europe, the world changed.
Our Spring Break was extended a week to see what the State of New Jersey was going to do with the educational system and with that at the end of the week we were informed that we would not be returning to school. Not only did that mean no field trips it meant no more live class and I would not be seeing my students again. I was not sure how like my other class we were going to pull this project off.
None of my students had visited practically any of these sites or been to any of the restaurants on the project. Almost everything was closed. You could see some of the sites like the churches and memorials from the street but everything inside was closed. Everything would have to be done online.
The one thing I did have was belief in the class that they could do the work. I had been so impressed by their work on the Snack Shop project that I knew they could do the work. It was the intense research that would have to be done online. A crisis is when you see the best in people. I did.
While my other class had a better head start of the Student Ambassador Project, my Historic Bergen County Team had a lot of ingenuity. The one thing they didn’t know was the history of Bergen County, NJ. I could have asked them to visit some of the sites around the County which would not have been hard as the Reformed Dutch churches could be seen from the sidewalks as well as the cemeteries that surrounded them.
Places like the Camp Merrill Memorial and the Baylor Massacre site were open to the public in obscure areas and not in big parks that would have been closed during the pandemic so it would have been no problem visiting them. I did not want to put anyone at risk of anything at this time so I nixed them leaving their homes. I just did not want to be responsible for anyone getting sick.
Once we realized that we were not returning, I started to contact the President and Senior Vice-President of Operations who I chose for the project and started to get underway. Just like my other class, the students all had their own situations. Some students got sick, some just did not communicate with me, some had changes in their family situations and some had communications problems with me. On top of all of this, the Teams of Student Consultants regrouped and really worked their butts off to make it work.
The Talent Team who was responsible for for setting up the salaries and benefits for the three month Division formation had already started doing their work. They had found the location for the office before the break and had a lot of ideas they were contemplating during the break. Since the two Teams of students from Paramus and Lyndhurst would not be meeting up as I had originally planned, I had the Lyndhurst Team develop their own unique plan for their Division of the company.
The Talent Division set up their office design, created a Wrap Up party for the Division, created a set of ‘perks’ for the Division staff and developed a very fair package of benefits for the staff (see their website below).
The Marketing Division I created for the Team Project had the bulk of the work. I broke the Division down into three sections:
The Historical Museums/Parks/Homes & Zoo Division was responsible doing the research on every historic tourist site in the County. This included the historical homes, churches, parks, cemeteries, monuments and the zoo. They had to do the research on each and then for the website put together a small bio on them so that tourists could find them when using the website on their smartphones. This also included a Scavenger Hunt in the buildings that they had never been inside of before.
They also had to set up a cocktail party opening event at The Gallery Bergen, our on campus art gallery at Bergen Community College. The cocktail party was being created for Museum Curators, Historians, members of the Arts Community, Artists and VIP’s from the County.
The second Division was the Historical Restaurant Division whose job it was to find restaurants all over the County that predated 1980. We were looking showcase well-known restaurants with years of longevity in the County that were well-known not just in the community but around the country with foodies. Places like White Mana in Hackensack, NJ and Hirim’s Hot Dogs in Fort Lee, NJ.
The Third Division of the Marketing Team was the History Division whose job it was to research Bergen County’s History from the Lennape Settlements with the Dutch to the Revolutionary War to World War II. Bergen County played such a huge role in all the wars from setting up and training troops to munitions being developed here to battle grounds between the wars.
They were also responsible for researching a list of the ‘first family’s’ of Bergen County. People like the Zabriskie’s, the Demerest’s, the Terhune’s and the Haring’s played a big part not just in the development of Bergen County but in the formation of the United States especially during the Revolutionary War.
The Marketing Division itself was responsible for for creating the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. websites for the client that were eventually merged into one. The Marketing Team would be gathering information from the three Teams that made up the Division and create the site for tourists and residents who were going to attend the three day History Event.
They were also responsible for filming two commercials. One commercial would be on the role of Bergen County in the United States foundation from the Revolutionary War to World War II.
The Team’s commercial on the ‘History of Bergen County’ for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
The second would be inviting people to come to visit Bergen County and all it has to offer:
The Team’s commercial on “Welcoming people to Bergen County, NJ” in many languages for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
This was a very extensive project and I could not wait to come back to school after the break and start the project. When I took my students ‘out into the field’ (ie field trips) to the location, these projects made more sense to the class. The field trips to Paterson, NJ and to the Snack Shop on the Bergen Community College Lyndhurst, NJ campus resulted in extremely creative work and the students being able to see first hand what it was they were marketing. This would be put to the test when we did not return to the college.
I have to say of all my classes, I have never seen a collective of students regroup and get the job done. The Talent Team was very diligent and got their work done on a timely basis. My senior executives for that division lead their Team and created a game plan to get their job accomplished.
It was much harder in our Historical Division in that there was a lot of research to do with each site, restaurant and family that had to be carefully explored and researched in detail. It was not so easy with no access to certain books as all libraries were shut down and not everything was on an Ebook.
Almost all the restaurants on the list were not open at the time of the project (a lot of them have since opened for take out only) and since this was a younger group of students, they did not know a lot of the restaurants that had been opened for years. Here I was able to assist as a CEO and be able to add to the project. With the help of my aunt, who had lived in Bergen County since the 1950’s, we were able to create a list of about thirty five restaurants, candy and ice cream stores and bakeries all over Bergen County that tourists and residents alike would enjoy when they were touring on the Historical Weekend.
Since all the cemeteries and churches were off limits for the duration of the project (they have now started to open), everything had to be done online by the help of Google. All the wonderful historic cemeteries that we were going to tour in Ridgewood, Hackensack, Dumont and Bergenfield were closed to us and I would not be able to show the significance of the families and how they intertwined with marriage.
The Dutch Reformed Church and cemetery on the Green in Hackensack, NJ
It was a rough first two weeks as communication was limited to just campus email but as things like Zoom and WebEx video conferencing started to be introduced then we were raring to go. My students were already group chatting and video conferencing with each other before my training was over and then it was ‘Zooming’ in meetings for the rest of the semester.
Some of my students needed to learn how to time prioritize and some of them needed to take their work much more seriously but when I read their final papers on the project, I realized that was not always so easy.
Some students were taking care of loved ones who were sick or had been sick themselves, some had multiple classes and not much access to computers and had professor’s like myself emailing them all the time so they got over-whelmed. It was a real challenge but I knew this Team of Student Consultants was up for the sense of self-accomplishment.
For the next three weeks before the Monday, April 27th presentation, I have never emailed so many people so many times answering questions, trying to find information and trying to guide people to doing their best work.
One of the attributes I let the students use was my blog site, VisitingaMuseum.com:
This way it would save them time in their research. I had found when I was putting the site together that many of these smaller historical sites in Bergen County did not even have their own websites. We also discovered as a Team that there was no site in the County or in the State that showed off all of Bergen County attributes.
To add to the historical sites and the historical restaurants, I had all the students in both classes do research on every town in Bergen County to add to the website. This way it would tie everything you needed to know about the County with the families, where they lived, who they were, how they played a role in the development of the County, the towns that they lived in and by the way when you are visiting all the great long service restaurants to dine at for the weekend.
All of this was a major challenge as the Team had never put a website together and the one that the mythical client, the New Jersey Historical Guild of Bergen County, had wanted had an interactive map. This all had to be created from scratch.
I am not sure what went on behind the scenes as I was not privy to the Group Chat but I could tell there was a lot of conversation back and forth on everything. I was lucky that I created an Executive Team who saw this as a challenge themselves. Nothing like this had ever been attempted by the County or the State of New Jersey Tourism that I knew of in past history.
On Monday, April 27th at 11:00am, the students presented me their Power Point Presentation and their commercials. If ever there was a Professor that was prouder of his students, it was me. The Team took all the proposed ideas that I came up with plus adding the history of every town in Bergen County (all 70 of them) and came up with a very creative website not just for the Historical Sites, History of the Country and Historic Restaurants but the Talent Division created their own website as well.
The Power Point presentation was attended not just by myself but with other members of the Historical Community of Bergen County and that made the presentation really special that the students would get that feedback.
I have to say that I was totally blown away by not just the Power Point Presentation but by the commercials and the websites that they created. The one thing I knew is that the global pandemic did not stop this Team of students from accomplishing the task.
Both of my classes exceeded and impressed me with all of their ideas. Hats off to all the students involved in both projects. You should be proud of yourselves!
Here is the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. Historical Website of Bergen County, NJ:
I had the strangest semester this quarter at Bergen Community College where I work. The semester started off normal and was the typical night class. I would get in about an hour and a half early and prepare for class. Then it was lecture, class participation and then quizzes and exams. I had just given my midterm exam and then we left for Spring Break. I knew the outside issues that were surrounding us but the problems of the COVID-19 seemed so far away.
Even so in the back of my mind I knew this was going to be a problem experiencing what I did at the New York Restaurant Show and at the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown in the same time frame. Even Groundhog’s Day and the Big Ten Championship seemed subdued. I guess I just waited for someone to finally pull the plug and did they EVER IN A BIG WAY!
Two weeks before we left for Break, I reopened the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. concept for my Introduction to Business class and gave out the Team Project and went over the guidelines of the project. I have to say that the students seemed pretty excited about the prospect of running a company. My President and Senior Vice-President were raring to go and the next two classes, the last one being the night of the Midterm, we were able to meet and it gave the students time to meet up and get to know one another. I knew it would be a successful project.
The Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. logo
I had thought about this semester’s Team Project for the class while we were presenting the Paterson Project last semester and thought about what many students had told me about their experiences at the College. Most seemed alienated from the other students. Others who had attended bigger four year colleges in the past felt their was no cohesiveness to the school, no connection because it was a commuter school. Others told me that they did not know anyone at the school until they did their group project. The one thing was true was there was no school spirit.
This gave me the idea this semester to do something to focus on the students and their experience at the college. While my Marketing class created a project for tourism in Historical Bergen County, I had my Introduction to Business class create a Student Ambassador Program that would welcome students to the college starting with the student getting accepted in high school and then take them on the whole experience of welcoming them once they got to Bergen Community College.
I decided to expand the “Welcome Week” project I did two years ago (see ‘Day One Hundred and Twenty Seven’ in MywalkinManhattan.com) that welcomed students and alumni back to the college and create an ambassador program as another part of welcoming students to campus. The Welcome Week project gave the students an opportunity to be involved with the campus when they graduated but I wanted to see something when they first got the letter of acceptance. So I created a Team Project that would combine the whole experience.
The Welcome Week Project-“Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College-Welcome Week 2019”:
My questions was ‘How do we engage students when they are accepted to the college and then when they get here?’ ‘How are we sure that they do not get lost in the crowd?’ Since it is a commuter campus, how do we keep them engaged once they start classes? This was the challenge for the students to tackle with this Team project. We used the last two classes of the semester to meet and get everyone acquainted and have the Teams start the project. It started very smoothly.
Here was the inspiration for the Ambassador Program:
Here was the welcome to the college from the “Welcome Week” Team!
While on Spring Break, I got a memo from the college while attending the Restaurant Show that the college was going to extend the Spring Break a week to see what the State of New Jersey was going to do to handle the COVID-19 situation.
So I just continued on with the first week of break, attending the Restaurant Show, going to Blondie’s on the West Side to the Alumni Night for the Big Ten Championships, attending a 90’s Tech retrospect at the Anthology Archives and going to the Members night at the Met Breuer. All of this while I felt that everyone I was with at these events with were looking over their shoulders wondering what would happen next (See Day One Hundred and Sixty-“On Leave from “MywalkinManhattan.com” in MywalkinManhattan.com).
I was planning on visiting my mother on Thursday of first week of break so after the Restaurant Show closed I got my car serviced, my haircut, my dry cleaning and banking done and finished my housework in anticipation of my upcoming trip. Still everything loomed in the distance. The next morning all hell broke loose and the borders were shut in the United States and the stock market went wild! The market was dropping like crazy.
So in between talking to my mother, my broker and other family members everything was cancelled and I stayed home and by March 13th, the whole country started the lock down. I could not go into the City and continue my walk of the Theater District or work in the Soup Kitchen as everything in the City immediately shut down. I just wondered how this would play out with the College. Even before the break many of my students had been asking questions about this that I could not answer.
While we were on break a lot of my students kept in touch with one another and we were working on the project during the second week of the break. I was only allowed to email students if they emailed me (they were still on their break) but I would CC everyone on my emails to keep the lines of communication open. It was only at the end of the second week that we knew we would not be going back to school and all the classes would go virtual. It was then I was emailing my students and going over what we needed to do to proceed with the project. This is when the project got interesting.
Some of the students had kept in touch over the break and had gotten the framework done for their sections and had some ideas of what they wanted to do. So we were better prepared than the other class I had who had one afternoon to get their game plan together. When we realized we would not be going back to class and everything would have to be virtual, it made the class even more interesting and a big challenge. Most of the students had a good handle on the work and many parts of the project had been started.
The project was broken down into sections. Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. (an acronym for Bergen Community College-Paramus Campus) is a hierarchy in company form. I set up my Executives and broke them down into different divisions. My President and Senior Vice-President ran the show. They would report to me and let me know how the project was progressing. They were in charge of putting the Power Point presentation together and finding our headquarters.
The slogan that the Team came up with for the project.
My Talent Division was in charge of setting up salaries, the benefits package and the office space design for a three month period that we would be working on the proposal for the client. Once the President and Senior Vice-President of Operations found the location for the offices, it would be the Talent Team’s responsibility to design and furnish the office. They would also set up a series of ‘perks’ for the office, things like snacks for the office, team building projects and employee relation items like Daycare and transportation reimbursement.
My Marketing Team was responsible for setting up the Corporate Website (based on the one that had been set up for the Paterson Project) and expand it to include all Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. projects from the past, shoot commercials welcoming students to campus and what it is like to attend Bergen Community College and set up the logos along with the Spirit Division and then find ways to ‘market the college’ to the incoming students. They were also in charge of designing the new “Ambassador” uniforms for the Student Ambassadors to wear when attending events.
My Spirit/Special Events Team was responsible for all the ‘spirit’ related projects. They were responsible for setting up our Spirit Welcome’s to incoming high school students and once they got to campus, organizing a series of events to get the students involved in the campus. They were also assigned to set up the special events to welcome parents and students to campus.
On the High School Level, the Spirit/Special Events Division was to create a “Spirit High School Welcome” that entailed the Student Ambassadors visiting each high school in the are where students had been accepted to Bergen Community College along with some students athletes and hold a “Meet & Greet” over a pizza lunch with the incoming students to welcome them to campus.
Here is the commercial that welcome’s new students to campus!
On the College Level, the Spirit/Special Events Division was to create a series of events for when the incoming students arrived as well as events that current students could attend called it the “College “Bulldog” Spirit Welcome” and this included:
*A formal Campus Tour that each student was to take when they arrived on campus. This way each student knew where things were located on campus and become acquainted with what services were available to them.
*A Parent’s of Athletes Reception and Pep Rally which was to be an evening exclusively catering to student athletes coming to Bergen Community College and their parents which included a light dinner and pep rally that included the cheerleaders, the dance team and other student athletes that was to be held the night of our rival Men’s Basketball game with Passaic Community College.
*A Parent/Student Barbecue which was to be held the weekend of the first home Men’s Soccer game that invited all incoming students and their parents plus the members of the Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams and their parents. The barbecue was to have an extensive menu of all sorts of fall favorites.
*A First Night at the College that was to be held the First Friday after the College resumed that included a night in the gym getting to know the clubs and organizations on campus. This also included snacks provided for the evening and then the evening ended with a concert for all the students.
The Spirit/Special Events Team was also responsible for designing a new School Mascot, Spirit Shirts for the the Men and Women’s Basketball Teams and create a School Fight Song. I know it would be a lot of work but it is fun to see the creativity of the students when put under pressure.
Here is the commercial that promotes the college when students come to campus!
It was even more pressure when we did not return to campus and the whole project had to be done by email and then Zoom meetings. I would not see my students again for the rest of the semester and because of school policy I could not speak to them over the phone. Until I learned what Zoom was and was allowed to have video conferences with them toward the end of the semester, I have never written so many emails before in my life. I swear I was on the computer everyday all day especially on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I never left my home office the whole day.
It got even more confusing when a few of my students disappeared at the beginning of the semester, a few students got sick and then it was the disagreements and misunderstandings you have when emailing people. I had never worked so hard pulling a project off before. Communication was limited until the use of Zoom videoconferencing came into play. Even then that was toward the end of the project so everything was being done through long lengthy emails.
Then for about two weeks I heard nothing from the team as members of the Executive Team had not been in contact with me. We were at the height of the COVID-19 crisis and I was worried about my students. Some just stopped answering emails and I would find out later that some of them or their family members were sick. It was a trying time in the trenches.
Then I sent out an email about two and a half weeks before the presentation and everyone started to contact me. What floored me was how far the students had come along with the project with little assistance from me. Some of them took me ideas and just ran with them.
Some of them came up with their own version of my ideas which I liked. They created home and away shirts for the basketball games, set up spirit sections, came up with new ideas for food venues like having Boston Market take out meals for the ‘Parent’s of Athletes Reception’ and the Team’s creative ideas on a new school fight song. The Team even developed a new school mascot, “The Bulldog”.
The new Bulldog Mascot Costume
We ended up having both a WebEx meeting and a Zoom Meeting before the presentation on Friday, April 24th at 8:00pm. It was so nice to see everyone again. I had not seen my students since the Midterm exam and it was good to see that everyone was doing okay. Their lives like my own were turned upside down but we all had to make the best of it.
On the night of presentation was interesting. It was not the most pleasant weather and I was afraid that the computer would go down. We lucked out that everything went by smoothly and the presentation went by fine. What was nice was our Head of Athletics and our Head of Public Relations for the college were able to join us for the presentation.
Here is the new Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc Website:
Here you can see the full Power Point Presentation and the Commercials.
I could not have been prouder of a group of students who under all the pressure of not being in class, people suffering from the illness. family situations at home, job issues and personal stress made the project work.
As part of my tour of Historic Bars and Pubs on Day One Hundred and Thirteen with the Cornell Club on May 9th, 2018, we toured the famous ‘Stone Street’ one of the original paved streets of Manhattan. You will not find architecture or pavings like this left in New York City. Here and there are streets or buildings that represent these times during the early to mid-1800’s but they are few and scattered in remote spots all over the island. Here the street still represents a different era of Manhattan.
The stores in the 90’s had been either boarded up or were used but in horrible shape. During the business hours not too many people inhabited this area of Lower Manhattan and it was ignored. The neighboring South Street Seaport was being transformed in the mid 80’s into a type of historic theme…