After all the running around of the holiday season (and I ran from one part of the state to another), I finally got back into New York City to resume my walk of the Garment District. With a new variant spreading around the City, you would think the Manhattan would be quiet but that did not stop the tourists from coming to the museums and seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree that was still up into the first week of January. It was business as usual just more people wearing masks outside.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was still packing them in after Christmas was over
Manhattan is resilient when it comes time for the pandemic. More restaurants, stores and businesses have opened up and like everyone else, you wear your mask to stay safe. I don’t mind showing my ID and my vaccination card if it means I can still enjoy doing the things I want to do, stay safe and support New York City businesses that desperately need the money.
I have to say one thing, everyone from stores to streets took down their Christmas decorations in record time. When I was in the City at the MoMA for a “The Contender’s Night” movie, I saw department store display windows being changed, the decorations outside Cartier being taken down on Fifth Avenue and most outdoor decorations gone even before the Epiphany. I thought that was strange but I guess it is time to move to Valentine’s Day and to Chinese New Year. Hope fully things will get better as it gets warmer in three months.
When I started my walk of the Avenues of the Garment District, some streets were busier than others. The core of the Garment District is still so quiet with most of the manufacturing that still goes on in the area shut down and even some of the hotels that have now been built in the area had a lack of guests. When I moved to the side streets in the afternoon, talk about no people and this is in the afternoon.
The thing about this part of Manhattan is that these buildings were built in post-war years and replaced most of the turn of the century buildings that I saw when you walk below 34th Street. These were built for the growing clothing businesses for manufacturing and showrooms which are now being refitted for offices of Tech and Advertising firms with most of the manufacturing being zoned out of the area during the Bloomberg Administration.
Even so some of these buildings have been torn down for new office and apartment buildings that are changing the whole Times Square/Garment District area. It is more of an extension of Midtown stretching down to 34th Street and then the historic older Midtown section begins with NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park) and the Flatiron District. Still here and there tucked into corner of the streets and avenues, there are architectural gems and interesting artwork.
Another thing that the Garment District is known for is the bevy of reasonable restaurants that cater to the garment and office workers in the area. This has really been affected by COVID and several have closed for business, while others have finally reopened from their months of slumber. It is nice to see these businesses reopen and bring vibrance back to the area again.
I started my walk on Eighth Avenue exiting the Port Authority onto a crowded street with cars and cabs all over the place. For all the problems with COVID, New York City still seems very alive to me. From walking down Broadway to visiting the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, there are tourists all over the place.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal is the main artery for people from New Jersey and Pennsylvania at 625 Eighth Avenue
As I was exiting the building to West 40th Street, I took a long look at the Ralph Kramden statute that sits just outside the Port Authority. I passed this sculpture many times over the years but when you really stop and admire it, you can see the detail work of the statute. The statue was dedicated in August of 2000 and was a gift from TV Land to the City of New York. It was thought at the time this would be the perfect spot as the character was a bus driver (CBS News 2000).
The “TV Land” sculpture of Jackie Gleason as ‘Ralph Kramden’ by artist Lawrence Nowland
Lawrence Nowland is an American born artist from Philadelphia, PA and was a graduate of Millersville University in Pennsylvania and did his graduate work at the New York Academy of Art School of Figurative Art and was known as a Figurative artist.
Walking down the block from the Port Authority, you will find one of the only branches of the Philipine based Jollibee fast food restaurant at 609 Eighth Avenue, one of five in the tri-state area. You can hooked on their Fried Chicken sandwiches and their peach/mango pie. The place has been crowded since its opening and made one of the quickest comebacks after everything opened up last June.
Walking down Eighth Avenue is a little gloomy during the week since COVID hit. This used to be such a bustling area with the manufacturers and showrooms in full swing. Now most of the streets are quiet from the offices being closed down. I can see how it is affecting the small clothing and fabric shops that still dot the side streets. Even with Fashion Institute of Technology reopening, it is still quiet.
Although not architecturally exciting, there are still a few gems located in the corners of the block. There are many small buildings in the neighborhood that I have passed for years on my way to work at Macy’s and I never really looked at them closely. You might miss them if you don’t look up and look at the details.
The first one is 301 West 37th Street which has the most unusual carvings of gargoyles all over the sides and inside the window ledges. It gives the building almost a creepy, demonist look to it. The building was built in 1915 and is currently going under a gut renovation.
Just off Eighth Avenue is Non Solo Piado, a wonderful little Italian restaurant that specializes in Roman street food. Every time I have eaten here the food is terrific. The restaurant specializes in a type of calzone/turnover called a “Cassoni” and crisp pizzas called a “Piadizze”. I have tried the Cassoni Napolento filled with sausage and potatoes in a pastry crust and the Piadizze Margherita with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella. The food and service are excellent and so reasonable.
The other building that is grand in detail but has been sadly neglected over the years is 557 Eighth Avenue. The Beaux-arts’ designed building was built in 1903 by architect Emery Roth who was part of Stein, Cohen & Roth. It was run as a residential hotel for most of its history and now houses commercial space in the upper floors and fast-food restaurants on the bottom (DaytonianinManhattan.blogspot/Loopnet.com).
At the end of the block stands the Hotel New Yorker like a Grande Dame guarding the Garment District. The Hotel New Yorker on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 34th Street at 481 Eighth Avenue. The hotel was designed by architects Sugarman and Berger and designed in the Art Deco style. The hotel was constructed in 1928 and opened in 1930. The hotel now managed by Wyndam Hotels put the hotel through a full renovation in 2006 to bring it back to its glory years now reflected the resurgence of the neighborhood (Hotel New Yorker History website/Wiki).
This is where I am noticing that the neighborhood is changing during COVID. They are knocking down a lot of the West 34th corridor and rebuilding it especially around Madison Square Garden. This area really needed it. When I was working at Macy’s, this was not the safest area to walk around in. This was an area of cut-rate stores and depressing office buildings. It still amazes me how the City reinvents itself and the area is now a desirable for office workers and residential living. Being right near the subways, LIRR and shopping, it is showing the changes in the old Midtown district.
Walking back up Eighth Avenue, the architecture is mostly older loft buildings that are still used for light manufacturing and showrooms but on this avenue is a stretch of great restaurants that cater to the workers that are so reasonable.
Grilled Chicken at 230 West 36th Street is a great little hole in the wall that caters to many of the Garment workers and the delivery guys speeding all over the City with other restaurants orders. The food is plentiful and reasonable. They make the best Fried Shrimp and rice and their Banh Ma sandwiches with Fried Shrimp and Grilled Pork are just excellent. This places really surprises you when you dine here.
Another great place to eat is the original Upside Pizza at 598 Eighth Avenue. On many a cold night I have been warmed up by their Pepperoni Detroit pan pizza and their regular cheese slices are so rich and flavorful. They really loaded on the cheese and the pepperoni on to their slices and then bake them to a gooey delight.
COVID has really changed this part of Eighth Avenue around where the New York Times building is located and Times Square since the shutdown. Many restaurants and stores have closed but slowly new ones are opening or reopening. Traffic in this area is pretty consistent so businesses change hands a lot now.
As the movie theaters slowly open again and Broadway is opened on a limited basis show by show, the area is beginning to get busy again but not to the levels pre-Pandemic. During the week when I am walking these blocks, I see a difference in the number of tourists and residents walking around the Port Authority area.
Seventh Avenue is still always busy. This area has changed a lot in the twenty-five years since I worked in the area. When I worked on 34th Street, the buildings were filled with showrooms and designer headquarters. It is a more diverse group of businesses today and I swear much better restaurants and stores. It has gotten more upscale.
Sitting at the top of Seventh Avenue like a guardian is the Times Square Building at 1 Times Square or 1475 Broadway. This building is known to many New Year’s Eve revelers as where the ball drops.
One building that stands tall in Times Square is One Times Square known as 1475 Broadway. Once the home headquarters for the New York Times was opened in 1904. The building was designed by architect Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz. The original façade was of stone and terra cotta but this has been mostly stripped and is now home for mostly advertising. The ball still drops from the top of the building every New Year (Wiki).
It is amazing to see the radical changes in this area of Manhattan since I started to work there in 1988. It is almost night and day in its appearance of not just the buildings but the parks and businesses that line Seventh Avenue. When I had worked there twenty-five years ago, you really did not choose to walk on Seventh Avenue after 8:00pm when most office workers went home. It was not the safest or well-lit avenue especially below Times Square. How thirty years and a whole development of the area change things.
When I walked down Seventh Avenue today, it is like walking through a haunted house that is less scary. I remember my years as a young executive in the City trying to maneuver around the area and sometimes feeling safer walking down the old 42nd Street with the porn theaters and head shops. At least I knew there were police milling around. Today, there has been such an improvement in the cleanliness of the area and the more expensive stores and restaurants that has spread to Broadway as well but even this is being upended by COVID. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Again, most of the buildings in this area were built after the WWII for the Garment industry and have that loft-box look to them but like Eighth Avenue, there are still a few standouts that have survived the wrecking ball or renovation. One being the elegant 488 Seventh Avenue.
488 Seventh Avenue was built as the Hotel York in 1903 by brothers James and David Todd, who had an interest in building luxury hotels. They commissioned architect Harry B. Mulliken, who had designed the Hotel Aberdeen on West 32nd Street for the brothers, with his new partner, Edger J. Moeller, who formed the firm of Mulliken & Moeller. The York Hotel was their first commission together. The hotel was designed in the Beaux-Arts style with elaborate carved decorations (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The Hotel York was a residential and transient for most of its existence attracting the theater crowd when 34th Street was the Theater District of the time. As this moved uptown, the hotel was bought in 1986 and was renovated for residential and commercial use (Dayton in Manhattan). The Tokian Group now owns the building and it is luxury apartments.
Towards the edge of the neighborhood is one of my favorite deli’s and known to thousands of Macy’s Alumni, Al’s Deli at 458 Seventh Avenue. I have been eating at Al’s Deli since 1988 and only recently in the last two years since exploring this section of Manhattan again have come back.
Al’s Deli at 458 Seventh Avenue is a Macy’s favorite
It still makes some of the best hamburgers and cheeseburgers in the City and their breakfast sandwiches are still oversized and delicious. Their Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a hoagie is still something that warms and fills me up in the mornings. Don’t miss their Chicken Parmesan Sandwich as well.
Across the street from Al’s Deli on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 34th Street is the Grande Dame of the department store industry and my home away from home for seven years in the beginning of my career, R.H. Macy at 151 West 34th Street. When I started working at the store in 1988 it was funny but the locker rooms and cafeteria featured in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” had not changed one bit, at least as I remembered it.
Macy’s New York on the Seventh Avenue side of the store in Art Deco Style (Wiki)
The Seventh Avenue side of the building was added in 1931 making Macy’s the world’s largest store. The building was designed by architect Robert D. Kohn in the Art Deco style that was popular in the day (Wiki). The entrance is still iconic to shopping enthusiasts who are looking for the perfect gift.
Walking up Seventh Avenue, also known as the Fashion Mile to many in the retail industry, is the Fashion Walk of Fame plaques that line the avenue from 35th Street above Macy’s up to 42nd Street. You have to look at the sidewalk to see some 30 plaques honoring some America’s most celebrated designers including Halston, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
The honor was started by the Fashion Center Business Improvement District and these are chosen by a group of fashion panelist each year since 2000 (The Vintage Traveler.Wordpress.com).
I stopped at Zeppola Bakery at 499 Seventh Avenue for a quick snack. Everything looks so inviting from the fluffy doughnuts to the stuffed sandwiches. The bakery for all its visuals is on the expensive side and a small heart doughnut filled with raspberry jelly cost $3.95. Delicious but a little pricey.
When arriving at the corner of West 39th Street and Seventh Avenue in front of the Chase Bank at 551 Seventh Avenue is the very iconic sculpture of the Needle Threading the Button that is part of the Welcome Booth on Seventh Avenue.
The Button and Needle Sculpture is actually part of the information booth (NYPL.org)
According to the New York Public Library, the sculpture of the needle and button is actually part of the Fashion Center Information Kiosk that has been closed for a few years. The sculpture was designed by Pentagram Architectural Services in 1996 and was inspired by artist Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures. The district is currently looking into replacing this kiosk (New York Public Library Research Department).
Artist Claes Oldenburg was a Swedish born American artist. He was born in Stockholm and moved to the United States with his parents. His father was a Swedish Diplomat who was stationed in Chicago and he studied art at Yale University and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was known for his large art installments. Even though this was not designed by him, the work was inspired by his sculptures (Wiki).
The other sculpture next to the kiosk is of a garment employee working on a sewing machine. This sculpture by artist Judith Weller was of her father who worked in the Garment Industry entitled “Garment Worker”. The sculpture was created by the artist in honor of her father, a machinist in the garment trade and to Jewish garment workers who were the backbone of the community. It was created in 1984-85 for the Public Art Fund (Public Art Fund).
The “Garment Worker” by artist Judith Weller
The Mission of the Public Art fund that was funded in 1977, is to bring dynamic contemporary art to a broad audience in New York City and offer powerful public experiences in art (Public Art Fund).
Artist Judith Weller is an Israel born New York artist who is known for her genre of work dedicated to the laboring people all over the United States (Ask Art.com).
Crossing over to Broadway from the busy 42nd Street Mall I was greeted by the recently reopened Knickerbocker Hotel at 6 Times Square. For most of the recent history of this property it had been falling apart and was offices in the times I worked in Manhattan.
The Knickerbocker Hotel was built by John Jacob Astor IV and it opened in 1906. The hotel was designed by the firm of Marvin & Davis in the Beaux-Arts style. The outside of the hotel was built in red brick with terra cotta details. The hotel was fully renovated in 2015 (Wiki).
In front of the Chase Bank at 1411 Broadway is Golda Meir Square with an open plaza. Tucked into a garden almost hidden from view by the plants is a bust of Golda Meir by artist Beatrice Goldfine. It looked like from old pictures the original pedestal is now beneath the planter. It was unveiled in 1984 (Wiki).
The bust of Golda Meir by artist Beatrice Goldfine in Golda Meir Square is now hidden in a garden.
Artist Beatrice Goldfine is an American artist born in Philadelphia and studied at the Barnes Foundation and the Pennsylvania Institute of Fine Arts.
Walking down Broadway most of the buildings are relatively new or been built after WWII but two really do stand out. One being the Haier Building at 1356 Broadway. The Haier Building was built by architects from York & Sawyer in the Neo-Classical Revival style. The building was completed in 1924 and was the headquarters for Greenwich Savings Bank. The building is built with limestone and polished granite and features Roman Corinthian Columns (Wiki).
1352 Broadway-The Haier Building (Former Greenwich Savings Bank-Wiki)
The Haier Building stretches from Broadway to Sixth Avenue and is impressive on both sides of the building. The building was used by Greenwich Savings Bank from 1924 until 1981 when the bank went out of business (Wiki).
The other impressive building on this side of Broadway is the Macy’s New York Broadway building facing Herald Square. The store was built between 1901-1902 by architects Theodore de Lemos and A. W. Cordes of the firm of De Lemos & Cordes in the Palladian style a form of classic Roman and Greek temple style (Wiki).
Macy’s New York at 151 West 34th Street on the Broadway side of the building
Herald Square has dramatically improved since I worked at Macy’s. When I worked at Macy’s in the early 1990’s, Herald and Greeley Squares were places to avoid until about 1994 when the parks were renovated and new plantings and French metal café tables were added. Now it is hard at lunch time to find a table.
In the process of the renovations, the City also restored the statues dedicated to James Gordon Bennett and Horace Greeley.
The statue dedicated to James Gordon Bennett and his son James Gordon Bennett II
The statue is to Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom and Invention and two blacksmiths who flank a bell that once topped the Herald Building where the New York Herald, which was founded by James Gordon Bennett in 1835. The statue was dedicated in the park in 1895 (NYCParks.org).
Antonin Jean Carles was born in France and was a student of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Toulouse. He was known for his monument sculptures.
Walking back up Broadway, it started to get colder as the afternoon went on but I came across an unusual sculpture that had just been put up entitled “Passage” by artist Serge Maheu. This interesting piece of street art you could actually walk through and as you walked through it, the colors changed.
“Passages” by Artist Serge Maheu (Artist’s bio)
It was like walking through a tunnel of hula hoops. The artist was going for a “transformative, playful experience” during an otherwise gloomy time in winter (Patch.com).
According to the artist, “Passage” explores the emotional connections between light and sound (Serge Maheu bio).
Artist Serge Maheu
Artist Serge Maheu is from Quebec, Canada and graduated with a degree in Computer Engineer, he has taken a path down the creative route to become a multimedia director. He specializes in film, animation, photography, sound and music (Serge Maheu bio).
By the time I reached Bryant Park, the sun started to come out again and it cleared up slightly. The park was filled with people ice skating or eating. The tables were mostly filled on this cool day which I was surprised at considering the weather. It does not take long to see how the changes in the park have led to change in the building here.
Standing guard at the edge of the neighborhood is the new Bank of America building. This innovative building was designed by architect Rick Cook from the firm of Cookfox Adamson Associates. The building was designed with a clear ‘Curtin wall’ and several diagonal planes for wind resistance. The building was also awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for sustainable ‘green’ architecture (Wiki/Durst website).
Bryant Park is another interesting park. In 1988, you would never go into this park unless you wanted drugs or wanted to get mugged. The park was surrounded by bushes and it was in extremely bad shape. When the New York Public Library was going through a renovation, money was allocated to fix the park. It is night and day from when I passed the park in the early 1990’s. Talk about a difference that twenty-five years makes.
Bryant Park in all its glory
The original park opened in 1870 as Reservoir Square after the Croton Distributing Reservoir that was once located on the eastern side of the park. In 1884, the park was renamed for New York Evening Post Editor William Cullan Bryant (Wiki).
The park has suffered from neglect in the past including times in the 1930’s and the 1960’s and 70’s and had been through past renovations but in 1980 the Bryant Park Restoration Group was founded and took over park services. Since then, the park was fully renovated in 1992 and continues to improve with continued maintenance. Now there are events like ‘Movies in the Park’ and ‘Winter Village’ with a skating rink, rows of boutiques and the Christmas tree (Wiki).
Bryant Park in Christmas past
Lining the park on Sixth Avenue side of the park is a series of interesting statuary that I think most people miss when walking by the park. The first one is the statue called the “Andrada Monument” or also known as the statue of Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva, the Brazilian statesman. Every September, the Consulate General of Brazil commemorates Andrada and Brazilian Independence Day by hosting a small ceremony at the monument (Wiki).
The statue was created by artist Jose Otavio Correia Lima. The artist was born in Brazil and attended the National School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro. He taught and ran the college until 1930 (Wiki).
Jose Bonifacio de Andrada was a Brazilian Statesman who was also a college professor and naturalist who was one of the most important mentors of Brazilian independence (Wiki/Britannica).
The other statue on the opposite side of the park is of Benito Juarez, the former President of Mexico and its first indigenous President serving twice. The statue was created by artist Moises Cabrea Orozco and is the first Mexican to be commemorated in the park system.
Benito Juarez was a lawyer and statesman who served as the President of Mexico twice. He also served on the Mexican Supreme Court.
In between these two statues at the western side of the park as you walk up the steps to enter the park is the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain, one of the most beautiful pieces of art in Bryant Park. This fountain is one of the nicest places to sit by on a sunny warm day and there is not a time that I do not make a wish in the fountain.
Artist Charles A. Platt was born in New York City and studied at the National Academy of Design and the Students Art League. He was known as a landscape designer, artist and architect of the American Renaissance Movement (Wiki).
The fountain was designed by architect Charles A. Platt in granite and bronze and has the most interesting details to it. It is the first major memorial dedicated to a woman in New York City. The fountain was dedicated to activist Josephine Shaw Lowell (Wiki).
Josephine Shaw Lowell was born in Massachusetts and moved to New York with her family in the 1840’s. She was committed to social charities and was named the Commissioner of New York State Board of Charities, the first woman to hold the position. She also founded many charities (Wiki).
This time of the year Bryant Park is taken up by the skating rink and the restaurants that surround it. Most of the Christmas Village was closed and it looked they were going to take it down. The Christmas tree was surprisingly still up and lit and at night makes the park festive.
Across from Bryant Park to its south are a grouping of beautifully designed buildings. On the corner of West 40th Street and Sixth Avenue is 80 West 40th Street, ‘The Bryant Park Studios’. The building was built in 1910 as showrooms for artists. The building was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by architect Charles A. Rich (Daytonian in Manhattan).
Further down Sixth Avenue is where one of the first Chick-fil-A in Manhattan opened at 1000 Sixth Avenue in 2015. It was also their largest outlet at the time with three floors. The place had lines wrapped around the block during its first several months until more outlets opened around the City. I hate to say it but for all the controversy about the restaurant, I really do love their chicken sandwiches.
Another interesting building that stands out is an old home at 966 Sixth Avenue which is the former J. E. Winterbottom Funeral Home. The business moved in 1885. Before that the post-Civil War house was constructed in the Second Empire style with a Mansard roof. It was once a private home before the business moved in (Daytonian in Manhattan). According to current records, it is going to be Manhattan’s first Sonic restaurant. It will be the first urban Sonic to open outside the one on Staten Island (Patch.com).
At the very edge of the neighborhood on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 35th Street is the most interesting piece of artwork on a building that once housed the Desigual flagship store. The work is by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel and entitled “Multicultural Freedom Statue” and was created in 2019. It is a tribute to multiculturalism in New York City (Artist Bio). The store has since closed.
The painting at Sixth Avenue at West 35th Street by artist Okuda San Miguel
Artist Okuda San Miguel was born in Spain and known for his colorful geometric styles in painting. He graduated from the Complutense University of Madrid with a BFA and has shown his work all over the world (Wiki).
The last building I noticed for its beauty was on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 34th Street, 47 West 34th Street (1378 Broadway or 2 Herald Square) the Marbridge Building. The Marbridge Building was by architects Townsend, Steinle & Haskell in 1909 in the Classical Beaux Arts style and has been used as an office building since its opening (Wiki/Photo/Street).
For dinner on the way back up Sixth Avenue, I ate at the Kyoto Spot Mochinut at 1011 Sixth Avenue. They had the most unusual combination of a Potato Half and Half ($7.95), which was half a hot dog and half a mozzarella stick rolled in rice flour and chopped potatoes and then deep fried and they served it with a spicy type of duck sauce. I also had one of their Ume Mochinut doughnuts which were made out of rice flour but tasted like a funnel cake. It was utterly amazing.
On my second trip exploring the avenues, I had dinner at Main Noodle House at 1011 Sixth Avenue. The food and the service were excellent. I had a traditional eggroll and it was one of the best I have had in a long time. For the entree, I had the Cantonese Wonton Soup ($10.95) with roast pork, wontons and lo mien noodles. It was the perfect meal on a cool winter night. It was a meal within itself.
It was late when I finally arrived back at Bryant Park in time to see the Christmas tree in full blaze and hear the music and laughter of the skating rink. Across the street I saw the green and red lights blinking of the new Bank of China building at 1045 Sixth Avenue (or 7 Bryant Park). This building is interesting for its shape and its ongoing light show.
The building was completed in 2016 and was designed by architects Henry N. Cobb and Yvonne Szeto from the firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and it was interesting on why they designed the building in an ‘hourglass’ design. The firm stated that “they wanted to enrich the experience of the park while at the same time make its relationship to the park a clear expression of its identity (Pei Cobb Freed & Partners). The building is the New York home of the Bank of China.
Bank of China Building at 1045 Sixth Avenue (7 Bryant Park)
Being right across the street from the Bryant Park Studios at 80 West 40th Street shows the contrast that this neighborhood is going through now with a combination of the old and the new and showcasing its beauty. These buildings are adding character to an area of Manhattan that was not so nice just twenty years ago.
This part of the Garment District is the reason why we are seeing less of a Garment District but more of a commercial core that surrounds Times Square and promotes how a City can change for the better with a game plan. All around the core of a park that you would not dare set foot in for almost thirty years.
Talk about transformation!
Check out my other blogs on the Garment District:
Day Two Hundred and Three: Walking the Borders of the Garment District:
*I wanted to let readers know that this blog is a combination of all four of my walks around the perimeter of the Island of Manhattan and I have kept it in order by section of the island. This way you can experience all the wonderful things to see, do and eat at along the way. Never do this walk in the rain! That was tough.
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 in 2020 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’ (i.e. 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.
On my walk in 2021, the weather was just as spectacular as it was in 2020 but the mood of the City was different as things in Manhattan had been opened now for a year and the mask mandates were giving way to better days ahead. I saw so much interesting ‘public art’ all along my walk and ate at restaurants new and revisited from other blogs in the past six years. I felt like I was seeing old friends. I also took more time to look over artworks, explore parks and admire the views more on this beautiful day. There are better days ahead for New York City as it continues to morph and change.
In May of 2022, I did the official walk with the Shorewalkers Inc., the people that run the walk every year. This was the first time since 2019 that the group held the walk and I wanted to be part of it with all the other walkers. Initially the walk was sold out three weeks before the day of the walk, but I got on the waitlist and when the weather report said rain all day, a lot of people dropped out. It ended up raining (and I mean raining) the whole time of the walk with just a few lulls and the sun did peak out for about five minutes up by the Carl Schulz Park. I wish it had been longer. I was drenched by the time it was over.
We started the morning of 2022 with an early report to the Frances Tavern at 54 Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan, the start and finish of the walk. I had not been there in years and missed the beauty of the building and its historical value. Since I signed up for the walk at the last minute, I did not want to be late. I had started at West 23rd and West 42nd Street in the past so I knew how to pace myself and once I was all signed in at 7:30am, I started the walk. Many others had started before me so I passed many people along the way, wondering how many of us would finish.
The Frances Tavern at 54 Pearl Street is the official start point for the Great Saunter in May every year
The “Great Saunter” was done exclusively in the rain this year. Usually, I pick a sunny day during the Summer Solstice which honors my dad on Father’s Day but since the official walk is the first Saturday in May, off I went. It poured and was gloomy the whole time of the walk. I endured it in good spirits meeting others along the way that kept me going.
In July of 2022, I decided to do the perimeter walk one more time because the weather had been so horrible in May of 2022 that I wanted to see the whole island again when the weather was nice. The walk had started out nicely with it being overcast and in the 70’s but once the clouds broke and it cleared up, it was in the 80’s and got humid. Still it was a beautiful day for walking.
Walking around the Island of Manhattan is no easy task. In 2020, 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?
So, in 2020 for my first walk, I started my walk around the Island of Manhattan at the Circle Line Boat Pier where I celebrated last year’s birthday. In 2022, this is where I started again. It made it easier for when I needed to get back to Port Authority.
The Circle Line is where I spent 2019’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. It was the same in 2022.
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.
In 2022, the Circle Line had opened for business, but the first ride was not until around 10:00am so the area was quiet as well. When I finished the walk at 8:55pm, fourteen hours after I had started, the Circle Line had just returned from a ride around the island and people were flowing off the boat. Talk about a huge change in just two years.
When I decided to do the walk for a second time on June 25th, 2021, I put together a different game plan. With all the problems happening all over the City (shootings and harassments had been going up all over the City), I decided that I wanted to start earlier then I had the previous year and decided to spend the night before in Manhattan so I could get an earlier start.
I stayed at the Moxy Hotel in Chelsea at 105 West 28th Street in the heart of the Flower District and I have to say that the hotel has excellent views of the City. I received a room on the tenth floor facing Sixth Avenue and at night I have to say it was one hell of a view. When the lights came on in the evening, the whole neighborhood twinkled.
I got up at 5:00am that morning as the sun shined through the floor to ceiling windows (I wanted to get up early so I pulled the curtains back to see the sun) and got ready then checked the luggage, checked out and started my walk the second time at 6:15am.
The mood of the City was much different from the previous year with more businesses opening up and more people milling around the parks. Still the City was pretty quiet for most of the day especially as I reached uptown.
In 2022, I signed up for the official walk a few days before the walk started knowing that it was going to rain all day that year. That’s why I was able to join in because so many people dropped out (and kept dropping out along the route with all that rain).
I started the walk in 2021 with a good breakfast at Chelsea Papaya at 171 West 23rd Street #1. I have passed this small hole in the wall restaurant for years on my walks around the neighborhood but had never eaten there. I had passed it the night before on my way back to the hotel and thought it would be a good to have breakfast before I started the walk in Riverside Park.
It was an amazing and filling breakfast of three pancakes, two scrambled eggs and three slices of bacon with a medium papaya drink for $11.00. The food was excellent and the guys working they’re at 6:15am could not have been nicer. The seating was not so hot with two small tables outside the restaurant where the tables and street could have used a good cleaning. Still, it was a carb laden meal that prepared me for the long walk.
Don’t miss the wonderful and filling breakfasts at Chelsea Papaya
I started the walk in 2021 on West 23rd Street, so I got to visit this side of the park during the day with it sweeping views of Jersey City and the Hudson River. When I started walking in the park at 6:30am, it was a beautiful sunny day but as the morning grew and I got to around West 42nd Street, the clouds started to roll in and it got cooler.
That did not last long. In 2022, I was not so lucky as it was a misty rain when I started the walk at 7:30am in the morning but it was bearable. I started at Staten Island Ferry terminal and then off I went with the other walkers who were up for the challenge.
The first thing you will see when entering the park is the Monarch Waystation Garden that is one of many that have been planted around the rim of Manhattan. I have seen this also in east side parks as well.
The Monarch Waystation Garden is as you enter Riverside Park
As I entered Hudson River Park, I noticed many works of art displayed on the fences and walls of the surrounding buildings. The 2021 NY Salt Exhibition was being displayed and I took some time to look over the works while walking through the park. I made may way from West 23rd Street and proceeded north walking near the river.
The NY Salt Exhibition at Hudson River Park in 2021
When you walk up past the Piers along Riverside Park in the 40’s, the first thing you will see in the next Pier over is the Intrepid Sea-Air Space Museum which was closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. Pier 86 where the ship was docked was really quiet that morning with only two people eating their breakfast on one of the tables in the little park near the ship. There were sweeping views of New Jersey across the river of Weehawken and West New York.
The Intrepid Sea-Air Museum is just reopened after being closed for almost a year
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.
In May of 2022, as I walked around the southern tip of the island, I could not believe how many works of art in the parks that I missed on the previous two walks. I guess I just wanted to finish the walk by that point. During the July 2022 walk, I started at the same point as 2020 and when I saw my first piece of artwork, it was like seeing an old friend.
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.
As I was walking up through Riverside Park, I noticed a lot of artworks displayed in Riverside Park that were part of the ‘Summer 2021-Re: Growth’ art display that stretched from the West 40’s to 100’s at various points in the park. Some were interesting in design, and it was nice to see a lot were from local New York Artists.
These lined the length of Riverside Park and you had to really look for them. These were the works of art I viewed on the way up Riverside Park. I included the work and a short biography on each artist that I saw:
Ms. Amezkua is American born New York City based artist living in Bronx. A graduate of Cal State Fresno with a BA and also attended the Academia de belle Arte in Florence she is formally trained as a painter (Artist Bio).
Ms. Letven is an American born artist raised in Philadelphia with a BFA from the Tyler School of Art and a MFA from Hunter College and currently teaches at Parsons School of Design and Art and Design at New York University. She is a multidisciplinary artist in sculpture, installation and painting (Artist Bio).
Ms. Mattingly is an American born artist currently living in New York City. She has a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art from Portland, OR and attended Parsons School of Design. She is known for creating photos and sculptures representing futuristic and obscure landscapes (Wiki).
Mr. Goode is an American born artist from Texas. He has a MFA from Boston University and has worked as an archaeologist on several digs Artsy Bio).
These works are on display until August 2021 and try not to miss this interesting display of art in this ‘open air museum’.
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 (7:43am in 2021) 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 NYC Parks 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.
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. The artwork was still there in 2021 and it looked like the artist was still updating it.
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! In both 2021and July 2022, the lighthouse and the park were really quiet, so I got to enjoy the views on my own this time.
In 2022, the rain had turned to mist, and it was not so bad by the time I got to the lighthouse. I noticed that most people did not stop to look at the lighthouse. They just passed it to keep walking. I stopped because I love seeing this interesting landmark.
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. In 2021, I could not believe how in much better shape I was that I handled it better.
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. The museum reopened in July of 2020.
Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters Museum in the park
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 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!
In 2021, the beach area was busy with a local high school graduation going on in the restaurant right next to the beach. There was much cheering and celebrating going on and it was good to see that. All along the harbor deck, people were relaxing and fishing. In July of 2022, it was quiet with a few people fishing so I had the whole place to myself. This was when I took my first break. The heat was starting to get to me.
In 2020, 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.
In 2021, the fields were very quiet which I was surprised by. Usually, this area is very crowded with people even when COVID was at its height. It was better to be outside than inside. It was earlier in the morning.
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 Shorakkopoch 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 NYC Parks 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.
In 2020, 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.
This has become a tradition as I came back for the same sandwich in July of 2022 and enjoyed my breakfast on the benches of Muscato Marsh, enjoying the breezes and watching the row teams. It is a great place after you grab a snack to sit and enjoy the views.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich at Park Terrace Deli is excellent!
In 2021, I was still full from my breakfast at Chelsea Papaya and stopped in Twin Donut at 5099 Broadway (now closed) for a donut. I have been to this shop many times when walking in the neighborhood and their donuts are delicious. I had one of their Blueberry jelly filled ($1.50) and that hit the spot. The owner said that they were selling the business after sixty years and it would soon be a twelve-story building. In July of 2022, the building still sits empty.
Twin Donut was at 5099 Broadway for almost 60 years
In 2022, I stopped in Inwood Park to meet up with other walkers for snacks and go to the bathroom. The rain stopped for a bit, and we were able to stand and talk to one another. People were playing soccer nearby and residents were shopping at the Farmer’s Market close by. Even though the snacks were nice you can’t make a meal out of Pringles and Goldfish. So, I packed up a few of the snacks to take with me and went on my way.
In 2021, I stopped at G’s Coffee Shop for the same breakfast sandwich and as usual, the food and service was excellent, feeding my weary body. Every meal that I have had at G’s has been good.
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
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. Even in this busy area of car repair shops, small restaurants and the Dyckman Houses, everyone pretty much ignored me as if I was not there. Not one person looked at me. Many people looked down as I passed which I thought was strange.
In 2020, 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.
In 2021, the Sherman Creek part of the park was open for walking through, and I took the time to walk the path to the river through the winding woods and streams. It is a nice break from the busy City and it a very underrated part of Highbridge Park. The views of the East River were spectacular, and the breezes were so nice and cool. It was nice to have the park to myself that morning.
Sherman Creek Park/Swindlers Cove is at 351 West 205th Street
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 walk around quickly in this neighborhood.
I crossed the street and walked down Edgecombe Avenue on the upper side of Jackie Robinson Park. On the corner of the edge of the street is the John Hooper Fountain at 155th Street and Edgecombe Avenue. The fountain was designed by architect George Martin Huss and is a ornamental horse fountain and lantern. It was dedicated in 1894 and donated to the park by businessman John Hooper (NYCParks.com/MichaelMinn.net). It was used by the horses for drinking when carriages and horse riding at that time.
The John Hooper Fountain is at the corner of Edgecombe Avenue and 155th Street
As I walked past the fountain and entered the edge of Jackie Robinson Park, I could hear music and kids screaming from the sidewalk. 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. In July of 2022, the pool had opened up again and there were kids screaming and yelling as they played in the pool. This is also a good place for a bathroom break.
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 in 2020 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). In 2021, there were more bathrooms open but not in great shape. In 2022, I would not have ventured into them.
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.
In 2021, I stopped for a quick lunch at Sweet Mama’s Soul Food Restaurant at 698 Malcolm X Boulevard on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 145th Street. It was a little too hot for such heavy food, but I thought why not? I had not had Southern food in a long time.
I tried the Fried Chicken wings, Mac & Cheese, Sweet Potatoes and a biscuit with a Coke. The food is served buffet style and bought by the pound. My ‘little’ meal with beverage was $9.00 and I thought that was a bargain for all that food. The fried chicken tasted delicious but had been sitting in the steamer too long, but the biscuit, sweet potatoes and mac & cheese were all excellent and full of flavor. Refreshed from my lunch, I carried on down Malcolm X Boulevard (Lexington Avenue). Don’t bother with the public bathrooms at Carl Young Park across the street. They are not clean.
During the walk in May of 2022, to get out of the rain, warm up and get away from these annoying people who started to walk with me from Alabama, I stopped in King Pizza of Harlem at 110 West 145th Street for a snack. I knew that I wanted a chopped cheese for lunch, but I was starved and needed to eat something. I also needed a break from the walking.
For a little hole in the wall pizzeria in not the greatest part of the neighborhood, the cheese pizza is excellent. The sauce is so well spiced and topped with loads of mozzarella cheese. The slice was rather large and made a great snack. It was just pleasant to sit down and relax.
As I made my way down Fifth Avenue from 143rd Street, 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 made a turn into the courtyard of the Lincoln Houses to see the statute of Abraham Lincoln with Child statute at 2120-2122 Madison Avenue. With all the statutes being torn down in 2020, I was surprised that not only was this statute up but in good shape.
Lincoln and Child at 2120-2122 Madison Avenue in the Lincoln Houses
The statue was designed by artist Charles Keck. Mr. Keck was an American born New York artist who studied at the National Academy of Design and the Arts Students League of New York. He was best known for his work on statues and monuments.
In 2022, as I admired the statute for a second time in the rain, some crazy homeless guy got right into my face and started talking about Lincoln and slavery. I walked away as fast as I could. How come I attract all the crazies? Everyone I was walking with walked faster down the street away from me.
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. The park was pretty busy in both 2020 and 2021 with kids playing baseball or running around the park.
While walking around Harlem River Park, I came across the artwork “Dream Fulfilled”, which was unveiled in August of 2011 as a partnership between the Harlem CDC, their State and City Partners, East, Central, and West Harlem Committees and the Creative Arts Workshop for Kids (CAW) (Empire State Development).
The project “Dreams Fulfilled” in 2011
As I walked down Second Avenue from 125th Street, I noticed interesting artwork on the side of the Taino Towers at 221 East 122nd Street. The towers had been going through a major renovation the last time I had visited the neighborhood and parts of the complex were still under scaffolding.
Artist Don Rimx painted a mural of Nuyorocan poet Jesus ‘Tato’ Laviera. The painting had been unveiled in 2017 (long after my visit to the neighborhood) and 123rd Street was renamed after the poet (Street Art NYC).
The mural of Jesus ‘Tato’ Laviera at Taito Towers at 122nd Street and Second Avenue
Mr. Rimx was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and in 2009 moved to Brooklyn and then in 2014 to Florida. He graduated from Central High School of Visual Arts and Escuela Des Arts Plasticas. He is known for his use of styles in art and culture and known for his murals (Artist Bio).
As I passed the towers and its new artwork, I crossed Second Avenue to the Wagner Houses complex. 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.
As I walked around the Wagner Complex, little had changed from my various trips in this part of the neighborhood except they finished a lot of the luxury housing across the street. The complexity and diversity of the neighborhood was changing fast right before COVID hit and in the 2021 trip, it is still changing.
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 in both 2020 and 2021 for a snack and a Coke. On an 84-degree day there is nothing like an ice-cold Coke. This is my ‘go-to’ place when I am in the neighborhood for snacks.
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.
In 2021, I wanted to make up for time and ate it when I got to Carl Schulz Park near East 84th Street. I figured I had eaten enough by that point and could save it for later. I had to have a chopped cheese that day.
The Chopped Cheese Sandwich at Blue Sky Deli (Harlem Taste Deli)
In May of 2022, I had to get out of the rain and stopped in the deli for about a half hour while my order was cooking. The rest of the customers at the deli did not know what to make of a six-foot drenched white guy who looked starved and angry. I was just wet and tired. The sandwich was terrific as usual, but I had to eat it quickly in the park again to continue the walk. When I digested it a few blocks later it gave me a lot more energy to walk.
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.
When I did the walk in May of 2022, it was pouring rain when I got to the deli and sitting in Blue Sky Deli was the only time that I really warmed up. Because there is no place to sit down in the deli, I had to eat my sandwich in the park during the drizzling rain. Not the best conditions to eat but it really warmed me up and gave me energy to continue the walk down the esplanade from East 110th Street.
Before I left Thomas Jefferson Park, I came across another piece of art that I had not noticed on my many visits to the park. The sculpture located in the middle of the park is entitled “Tomorrow’s Wind” by artist Melvin Edwards. The sculpture is made of welded steel and is tilted so that it reflects the sun. The piece was placed in the park in 1995 (NYCParks.org).
Mr. Edwards is an American born artist from Texas. He is known for his known for his abstract steel sculptures. He graduated with a BFA from University of Southern California and studied at the Los Angeles Art Institute.
I exited the park at West 111th Street and followed the overpass over FDR Drive 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 Randall’s-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 and New York City water tastes good especially at these water fountains. In all of my trips around the island and even when I was walking around the Upper East Side for this blog, Carl Schulz Park has the best facilities for its visitors.
In 2020, I stayed at the park for about fifteen minutes. 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.
In 2021, I just relaxed in the park, ate my chopped cheese sandwich (which I could tell people around me envying) and watched the boats and jet skiers pass by. I also had a direct view of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island, so I got to watch everyone visit the little lighthouse at the tip of the island. Outside of Bryant Park in Midtown, I find Carl Schulz Park one of the best parks in the City to relax and just people watch and let nature encompass you.
In May of 2022, when I arrived at Carl Schulz Park it was the only time of the day where the sun peaked out giving me hope that the weather would break. It did not happen and that was the joke Mother Nature played on us. It was not raining as badly but it continued to misty and light raining.
In July of 2022, I stayed at the park for a half hour just relaxing and watching the water flow by and looking at the people at the tip of Roosevelt Island across the river. The benches by the water are the best place to relax on a nice day.
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.
In May of 2022, they had finished renovating the bathrooms at the park and they were open. The best part was that they were really clean and were heated. I was able to relax for a minute, go to the bathroom and get warm. I understand the plight of the homeless on a cold night.
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. Please check out my walk of the Sutton Place/Beekman Place neighborhood on my blog:
Day One Hundred and Thirty-Four: Walking Sutton Place
In July of 2022, it had gotten so hot, and the humidity was getting to me that I had to stop for some ice cream, and I remember A la Mode Shoppe at 360 East 55th Street. I had the most amazing ice cream there years ago when I was blogging about Sutton Place and even checked the Internet the day before to make sure that they were open.
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
The two flavors that I love are Pink Sprinkles (Strawberry Ice Cream with layers of colorful sprinkles and Cloudy Weather (Blueberry Ice Cream with tiny marshmallows). I was looking forward to going there on this whole trip down this side of the island. I knew I was going to need something to cool myself down. It is such a great little store that also sells gourmet sodas, candy and toys.
A la Mode Shoppe is such a whimsical store
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 artwork all over the country.
The United Nations Complex
The complex was completely quiet on this gloomy day, and I did not see a sole anywhere near the complex. Even the security booths seemed quiet when I passed. You can no longer walk around the on the grounds, so I peered from the gate and admired the statute ” Good defeats Evil” by artist Zurab Tseretelli. This interesting statue I found out later was made of old United States and Russian missiles to commemorate the signing of the ‘Treaty of the Elimination of Intermediate’. The statue was to represent peace (United Nations Gifts).
Good defeats Evil by artist Zurab Tseretelli (United Nations Gifts)
Artist Zurab Tseretelli is a Russian born artist who is noted for his sculptures all over the world. He graduated from Tbilisi State Academy of Arts and was a visiting professor at SUNY in New York State on top of other teaching and academic honors (Wiki).
I stopped in Ralph Bunche Park at First Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Street. I just needed to sit for a bit, and I admired a sculpture that I had not noticed before when walking the park.
Ralph Bunche Park at First Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Streets
Mr. Johnson was an American born artist from California. He studied at the Chouinard Art Institute and then studied in Paris. He was known for his abstract paintings and steel sculptures.
Another interesting piece of art was on the wall of 777 First Avenue, the Church Center for the United Nations. The work was created by artist Benoit Gilsoul and is entitled “Man’s Search for Peace” (Wiki).
The Church Center for the United Nations at 777 First Avenue
Mr. Gilsoul was a Belgium born artist who immigrated to the United States in 1967 and became an American citizen. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux Arts in Belgium. He was noted for his abstract works (IstDibs.com).
I then 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 in 2020) so it was an adventure to see new views of the island. I stayed on this pathway until I got to the Battery.
In May of 2022, the rain began to let up when I got to the esplanade, and it was just a light mist. I was just hoping that it would stop soon. While everyone else was racing down the walkway to finish the walk, I took the time and admired the buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront. It is getting more impressive every year.
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 in 2020, 6:30pm in 2021 and 4:30pm in 2022. I took more time to explore the parks and artwork in 2021 and was walking slower because of the rain in 2022.
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. Don’t miss the giant anchor facing the river near the entrance to the park.
Don’t miss the “Anchors Away” sculpture in John Lindsey Park
Once I left the park in 2020 and 2021, 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
In May of 2022, the rain was really getting to me, and I was not sure if I could keep going. My muscles in my legs were really getting to me because of the cold. It went from 54 to 45 degrees by the time I got to Lower Manhattan. I just happened to meet up with a businessman from Fort Lee, NJ who I had seen hours earlier on the other side of the island. He asked if he could walk the rest of the way with me and I said yes. It was nice to have someone to talk with for the rest of the trip.
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. I passed the Peck Slip Park at 6:30pm on my way to the South Street Seaport.
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 downtowns in city’s that needed revitalizing. Since its development, South Street Seaport was their most successful venture.
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. In 2021, the mood had changed, and it was much busier. I passed through the Seaport by 6:48pm.
As I was leaving the South Street Seaport in 2021, I was watching fire trucks leave in a hurry from one of the local firehouses. It caught my attention so much that I lost my footing for some reason and fell flat on my face. It was almost as if someone had tripped me. In May of 2022, the only thing we did was race by the place because of the weather but in July of 2022, the Seaport was alive with people having dinner and drinks.
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 motorboats enjoying the early evening. It was now 7:15pm and I had been travelling since noon.
In 2020 and 2021, 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. It still is one of the most picturesque places in New York City.
In May of 2022, the rain and clouds got so bad that I could barely see things in the harbor. It looked like it was trying to clear and by 5:00pm it finally stopped raining. We had been walking under the highway underpass by South Street Seaport and the two of us started to dry out.
In July of 2022, this is where I took my longest break of forty-five minutes. I just needed to relax before I made the last leg of the journey back to West 34th Street. Similar to the walk I did in 2020, it took a lot of effort to complete this part of the journey and I wanted to build my strength.
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.
When finishing ‘The Great Saunter’ in 2022, this was our last stop before heading back to Frances Tavern. Myself and my walking partner for the last four miles of the trip had talked most of the time about our careers and families and about why we took the walk. The time just flew from there. I learned that his wife and her friend had made it all the way to Inwood Park before they took the subway back downtown and then home.
Justin Watrel completing “The Great Saunter” officially in May of 2022
We walked to the registration desk in front of the Frances Tavern and collected our certificates that we completed the walk. We then took our picture with our certificates and then said our goodbyes. He then told me that probably could not have finished the walk without me and I felt the same way. I need someone to keep pace with me and help me finish this difficult day. I warmed up in the restaurant for a bit and then took the subway back uptown and then the bus home. Everything had to go in the dryer when I got home and air out. I finished the walk by 5:45pm taking me almost eleven hours to finish, a personal best.
In 2020 and July of 2022, 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. It is a decent amount of time even though it doesn’t look it on the map. You just have to distract yourself by looking at the coves and the artwork along the way.
In 2022, I walked past Fort Clinton, also known as Castle Clinton, where you buy tickets for the Statue of Liberty. The fort has had an interesting history. Built between 1809 to 1811, it has served as a fort in the early wars of the country, then an entertainment spot, an immigration outpost before Ellis Island was built, then the home of the New York Aquarium and now home to the start off point and history discussion on the Statue of Liberty (Wiki).
In 2021, I was much better prepared and had more walking time under my belt. I was in much better shape, so it did not tire me so much at this point of the walk. I was rearing to go after a half hour break.
I left Battery Park at 7:30pm and followed a crowd of people out of the park. Before I left the park for Battery Park City and its beautiful parks, I came across the sculpture “American Merchant Marines Memorial” at the edge of the Battery. The statue commemorates the thousands of merchant ships and crews that fought since the Revolutionary War (NYCParks.org).
The “American Merchant Marines Memorial” by artist Marisol Escobar
Ms. Escobar was born in Paris and raised in Venezuela and moved to New York in the 1950’s. She is known for her highly stylized boxy sculptures (NYCParks.org). She studied art at the Jepson Art Institute, the Ecole des Beaux Arts and Art Students League of New York (Wiki).
Another sculpture I missed on my first two walks around the island was the New York Korean Memorial by artist Mac Adams.
The statue is one of the first monuments to the Korean conflict built in the United States and the void in the sculpture represents the absence and loss of the war and a metaphor for death (NYCParks.org).
Artist Mac Adams is a British born artist who now lives in the New York area. He holds an MFA from Rutgers University. He is known for his large public works and for the use of ‘space between images’ (Wiki/Artist Bio).
I left Battery Park and entered into the newer extension of Robert Wagner Jr. Park next to Battery Park City. In the front part of the park, I came across these unusual musical instrument sculptures that graced the entrance of the park.
The art entitled “Resonating Bodies” were created by British born artist Tony Cragg, whose work I had seen uptown many times. The sculptures resemble a lute and a tuba. The work is based on the concept that all physical bodies including ourselves are constantly enveloped by various energy forms (NYCParks.org).
“Resonating Bodies” at Robert Wagner Jr. Park in Battery Park City
Mr. Cragg is a British born artist from Liverpool and studied at the Gloucestershire School of Art, received his BA from the Wimbledon School of Art and his MA from the Royal School of Art. He has been showing his works since 1977. He is best know for his contemporary sculptures (Artist Bio/Wiki).
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
Another piece of art that I missed and saw in 2022 was ‘Ape and Cat at the Dance’ by artist Jim Dine. The sculpture of a cat and ape dancing cheek to cheek like humans had been inspired by the Henry James story of “The Madonna of the Future”. The Parks Department describes it as a ‘human like and asks us to reflect on ourselves”. (NYCParks.org/Downtown Alliance).
“The Ape and the Cat at the Dance” in Battery Park
Artist Jim Dine is an American born artist who studied at the University of Cincinnati, School of Fine Arts in Boston and graduated with a BFA from Ohio University. He is known for his many different mediums of sculpture, printmaking and drawing (Wiki).
Mother Cabrini was born in Italy as Maria Francesca Cabrini in 1850. She took her vows and founded the Missionary of the Sacred Heart. She immigrated to the United States in 1889 and continued her charity work, founding organizations and was the first naturalized citizen to be canonized (NYCbio/MotherCabrini.org/Wiki).
The work was created by artists Jill Burkee and Giancarlo Baigi.
Jill Burkee is a sculpture and draftswoman who studied at the Arts Students League of New York and the University of Washington and has studied in Italy. Giancarlo Baigi is a sculptor and multi-media artist. He also studied at the Arts Students League of New York and has a MA from Stagio Stagi in Peitrasanta in Italy (Arts Students League bio).
Another piece of art that I came across that I missed in the last two trips is “Apple” by artist Stephen Weiss. The piece was part of the ‘Larger than Life” series of the artist and symbolized the heart and core of life in New York City (Hudson River Park)
“The Apple” by artist Stephen Weiss in Hudson River Park
Artist Stephen Weiss was a New York born artist who had attended the Pratt Institute. He had worked for his family company and was the husband of designer, Donna Karan. He was known for his sculpture works (RoGallery).
When I walked the parks both North and South Coves in 2021, people were still having Graduation parties, small picnics and the restaurants had reopened both indoors and outdoors without masks. The parks, restaurants and lawns were really hopping that night.
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.
I was pretty surprised as I walked through the park with more daylight time to spare that I came across what looked like an Egyptian Temple sitting in Battery Park. The sculpture building is entitled “The Upper Room” designed by artist Ned Smyth. This self-contained sculptural environment suggests a contemporary reimagining of an Egyptian temple offering a stylized sanctuary from the surrounding city (BPCA-NYC).
Mr. Smyth is an American born artist who born in NYC and works in NY. He has a BA from Kenyon College in Ohio. He is part of the Pattern and Design Movement of the 1970’s and known for his large-scale public works (Artist Bio/Artist Profile Bio).
As I started to pass some of the open air restaurants, I saw another piece of art that stood out which was a series of colored rings but could not get close enough to see the artist who created it. For another trip to the park.
The last piece of art that stood out to me on this trip through Battery Park was entitled “Days End” by artist David Hammons. It looked like the shell of an empty building and struck a nerve as the sun started to set on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. It is an ‘Open Air’ sculpture that explores the history of the neighborhood (Whitney Museum).
Mr. Hammons is an American born artist who studied at the Chouinard Art Institute (CalArts) and at Otis Art Institute. He is known for his Body Prints and sculpture work (Wiki/Artnet.com).
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 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. In 2020, 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 did the same thing on the walk in July of 2022, but this time I made it at 8:55pm exactly fourteen hours after I stated.
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.
In 2020 and July of 2022, 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 than 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!
In 2021, I arrived back at Hudson River Park at West 23rd Street just as the sun started to set over New Jersey and got to see the multi colors that were created in the sky. Mother Nature’s work of art for everyone to see.
I was not as tired on this trip as I had the year before. All that walking and training in Midtown Manhattan neighborhoods plus an overnight stay in the City to get an earlier start helped out tremendously. I finished the perimeter walk of the island in exactly fourteen hours, one hour more than 2020 but I stopped more times to admire public artworks, snack at restaurants and snack shops and walk through more parks and neighborhoods to see what was there. It was a more interesting trip where I did not rush it. I finished at 8:20pm in 2021.
For dinner that night, I stopped at Lions & Tigers & Squares at 268 West 23rd Street, where I had eaten many times for lunch after working at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (which I had mentioned many times in this blog). The restaurant features Detroit style pizza where the cheese and sauce are baked into the sides of the pizza and there is no crust. It is a type of Sicilian pizza with a twist to it.
I treated myself to a sausage pizza which was loaded with fried sweet sausage, caramelized onions and they put a dash of maple syrup on top to add to the complexity. God was that delicious! There is so much flavor in each bite. I was not even planning on eating there but the pizza cook waved me inside and then sold me on it. I was lucky that he did!
Do not miss the Sausage Slice at Lions & Tigers & Squares
It was another great trip around the Island of Manhattan trying new restaurants and visiting old ones, viewing wonderful public art in the open-air art museum that New York City is, touring interesting parks and feeling like part of the neighborhood.
In both 2020 and July of 2022 because I had to start at West 42nd Street and it was so late, I just dragged myself home. Even going from the Circle Line to the Port Authority took its efforts. I was so stiff both times that it took some effort just to walk those blocks. In May of 2021 since we started at the Frances Tavern, I took the subway back to Port Authority and dragged my wet body home. In 2021, I had a lot more spring to my step and walked to the Port Authority.
I think spending the night in the City and starting at West 23rd Street was the best way of doing the walk. You are in the City to start and do not have to start so far uptown. It seems that the walk goes quicker when you start further downtown. You have a lot more energy in the morning and get the West Side done when you have the energy to finish it. You are not exhausted by the time you reach Battery Park.
For people who say that New York City is going downhill during COVID, I say to you walk the whole island and you will see the heart of the City is in the people who live here and the contributions they make to keep the City as great as it is. Remember there is more to Manhattan than just Midtown and Times Square. There is so much more to see!
For all its troubles, in 2022 I can see that the City is slowly starting to come back and there are more tourists visiting than before. Will it ever get back to 2019? Yes, but it will take some time. We will just have to learn to accept that COVID will be part of our lives and we will have to adapt to it. I am not going to let it dictate my life.
I dedicate these walks to my father, Warren Watrel, as my Father’s Day Gift of Remembrance. To my dad for all the wonderful afternoons we spent in New York City on Father’s Day. I felt you by my side that afternoon.