Tag Archives: Finding niche neighborhoods in NYC

Day Fourteen: Walking in Southern Washington Heights September 16th, 2015

I finally finished the area on the western side of Broadway from 178th Street to 164th Street. It was a long day of walking. I also covered the entire lengths of Haven Avenue and Fort Washington Avenue past Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, which pretty much dominates over this area. There is a pretty distinct line in the neighborhood once you cross over 180th Street and you get to 165th Street, which is the border of the ever-changing Dominican neighborhood and the Hospital neighborhood. Things become much more commercial and a little upscale below 165th Street as it caters to the hospital staff.

Even the housing stock changes. The area around the hospital you can tell caters to the staff and the guests and once over the 168th Street border, it goes back to Dominican neighborhood. Between Yeshiva University and the hospital, this area you can see is going through a rapid flux. The streets are full of such beautiful, classic housing stock and if it were in the lower 90’s on both sides would be snatched up for more than double the price. The stone work along on some of the buildings with pillars and statuary brings almost an European feel to this area. I call the changes the ‘new window’ theory. When ever you see new window frames in an older building, you know the area is changing. The gentrifying cliché of white people walking their dogs or jogging rings so true around here. I see the looks in the faces of the guys playing dominoes in the park and their eyes roll.

I got up today as classes were letting out at PS 173 across from J. Hood Wright Park. The streets were lined with well-dressed students yelling and screaming at one another all over the street. The school is very impressive looking almost like an Ivy League school with its beautiful stonework and pillared entrance. It compliments the park very nicely.

J. Hood Wright Park, the former estate of banker and financier, J. Hood Wright is located between 176th Street to 173rd Street and has gone through an over two million dollar renovation. The park was full of action this afternoon. People were walking their dogs, sunbathing by the rock formations and reading on the backside park with the most spectacular  views of the George Washington Bridge. The park has a dog walk in the back, a baseball and basketball court and walking paths that wind the whole park.

The best was all the street vendors outside the school. You had your choice of soft serve ice cream, shaved flavored ices, freshly fried Pastelitos (meat pies) and fresh fruit. The shaved ice is the best on a humid day. I had a mango-strawberry ice that was so refreshing. You can also get three very sweet peaches for a dollar.

It was nice to just sit in the park and relax, watching kids chase each other around the playground and eating their snacks while dog walkers compared notes. I stopped by Mambi Steak House at 4181 Broadway at 177nd Street, a Dominican restaurant that is very popular in the neighborhood. The fresh Pastelitos are great and there is a nice selection of other take out items as well. On the hot line, there are all sorts of lunch specials such as beef, chicken and codfish stew, pepper steak, eggplant and lasagna. Wonderful smells wafted through the entire restaurant. With two Pastelitos and a coke in hand, I walked the lengths of Haven Avenue and Fort Washington Avenues and the side streets from 164th Street to 178th Street. The streets were lined with the most amazing pre-war apartment buildings and a lot of rebuilding and renovations especially around the hospital.

I concluded my walk at La Dinastia Restaurant at 4181 Broadway on the corner of Broadway and 171st Street, a Dominican-Chinese restaurant. This restaurant is great. The pictures on the window of the place don’t do it justice. I had a boneless chicken crackling with a special fried rice. The chicken cracklings had a breading that was a cross between a tempura and fried chicken with spices and the special fried rice was full an array of ingredients such as shrimp, ham, chicken, sausage and vegetables. The meal was huge. They gave me about eight large pieces of chicken with almost a pint of fried rice. It was a meal you cannot finish  at one sitting and it made almost three meals. The restaurant is well worth the trip with the combination of flavors and fusion of Spanish and Chinese cuisine. It will be worth a second trip.

The walk concluded the area from 164th Street to 178th Street west of Broadway. The next part will be the area east of Broadway from 193rd on down. I hope for good weather.

Places to visit:

Don’t miss the view of 181st Street toward the George Washington Bridge

J. Hood Wright Park

173rd Street at Haven Avenue and Fort Washington Avenue

 

Places to Eat:

La Dinastia Restaurant

4059 Broadway at 171st Street

New York, NY  10032

(212) 928-6605

http://www.ladinastiany.com

http://www.ladinastiany.com/

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d534262-Reviews-La_Dinastia_II-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Mambi Steak House

4181 Broadway

New York, NY  10033

(212) 928-9796

Open: 24 hours a day

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3605814-Reviews-Mambi_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

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Day Thirteen: Lower Washington Heights September 13th, 2015

I continued my walk in Washington Heights in the middle of the neighborhood west of Broadway when the heavens opened up. Thank God it did not last forever. The sun did come out later that afternoon and did cool down a lot. It was the perfect weather to walk around the neighborhood.

I took the subway back up to 181st Street and walked past the rock formation again that abuts the surrounding buildings. I can’t believe that someone would want to blast this away to build something but it looks like its under construction. This is such a focal point in a neighborhood filled with pre-war apartments.

My first part of the walk took me down the 181st Street shopping area and maybe I missed it the first time but there is a Starbucks on the corner of 181st Street and Fort Washington Avenue. This is the tale tell sign that the neighborhood is changing again. This part of Washington Heights west of Broadway is really beautiful with its rolling hills, pocket parks and tree-lined streets and the most amazing view of the George Washington Bridge from the corner of 181st Street and Pinehurst Avenue.

The street slopes  down and you have a view of Riverside Park in the distance, a tree lined street and the pocket park next to the dead end of Pinehurst Avenue. This is a perfect place to take pictures and climb the stairs to relax on one of the many benches that line the walkway. Toward the top of the stairs, the fence is lined with modern art that is festive and unique. As I said on a previous day, this part of the neighborhood reminds me of the marina area in San Francisco.

When you climb the stairs at Pinehurst Avenue, you are greeted by the Hudson View Apartments, a mixture of stone and Tutor apartments landscaped to match the adjoining parks. This attractive apartment complex lines the streets of the west side on Pinehurst Avenue, across the street from James Gordon Bennett Park, a staple that attracts families from all over the neighborhood. The courtyards of the complex are colorfully planted and match the stonework of the buildings. The whole affect with the park across street is quite striking.

James Gordon was a newspaper publisher who launched the New York Herald in 1835. He donated this land which was part of his property. The land sat on the site of the original Fort Washington that had been part of the Revolutionary War battles. The park opened in 1929 and the unique aspect of the park is that is that the west side of the park site an outcropping of the ‘Manhattan Schist’, the layer of bedrock in which is the core of the island and how all the skyscraper’s are built on the island. This part of the schist is the highest point of Manhattan (Wiki).

I spent time in Bennett Park watching kids climb rocks, frolic around the playground and play with their parents, who were enjoying the park just as much as the kids. It gives me faith that raising children in New York City has changed over the last twenty years. I am seeing more and more young parents in the city staying put and bringing life back to New York establishing their roots here and not in the suburbs.

Bennett Park offers a lot. There is lots of equipment in the playground to keep any child occupied. There is a area for soccer, kite flying, rock climbing and even a cannon to climb on. Kids were flying planes, throwing balls with their parents or chasing one another without a cellphone in sight. That gives me faith in the next generation.

Leaving Bennett Park and walking up the length of Pinehurst Avenue, I stopped at the little triangle park to rest and take a phone call. The Paterno Trivium, at the corner of Cabrini Boulevard, Pinehurst Avenue and West 187th Street is another small pocket park run by the NYC Park system. It was a perfect place to converse with local seniors on the current status of New York City, happenings in the neighborhood and recommendations of restaurants on the small restaurant row on 187th Street. There is a little bit of everything in this area.

The park was named after Charles V. Paterno, a developer who was responsible for developing most of the Fort Washington section of Manhattan. He developed the Hudson View Garden Apartment complex, the Gothic apartment buildings near Fort Tryon Park in 1923-24. The park opened in 2000 and has become a Greenstreet site (NYCParks.org).

After walking both sides of Fort Washington Street and finished the upper western part of Washington Heights, I walked down 181st Street towards Broadway and made my way down Broadway to 165th Street following the western perimeter of the neighborhood and walked around the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital complex with dominates the 165th Street from Broadway to the Hudson River. All the housing surrounding the complex has been updated obviously for the staff of the hospital and in the later evening staff from the hospital was walking all over the neighborhood, conversing, walking their dogs and eating out.

There is a distinct change in the neighborhood once you cross 169th Street on Broadway. It goes from a Dominican neighborhood to a more college oriented one, lined with chain stores, upscale restaurants and gourmet shops and businesses catering more to the college and hospital staff then to the neighbors slightly to the north. Honestly though, I see plenty of young Hispanic professionals in the restaurants.

I had enough time to walk all the side streets between Broadway and Haven Avenue and the first three blocks up, the housing looks strictly for the hospital staff changing again around 172nd Street. I ended my walk for the evening walking the edges of J. Hood  Wright Park, watching everyone walk their dogs through the park and the last playground stragglers leaving the park for the evening.

J. Hood Wright was a wealthy banker and financier who owned a mansion on the site and donated heavily to the local Washington Heights branch of the library (NYCParks.org).

I stopped at La Nueva Empanadas Monumental at 3772 Broadway for some empanadas to munch on way back to the subway station. I had the chicken and cheese and the chicken. Not bad but a little doughy and be prepared to speak your broken Spanish if you unless you speak the language. Most everyone is a Spanish speaker in the restaurant and some of the patrons seemed a little shocked that I walked in. To me, its a nice place for a quick, reasonably priced snack.

I will be finishing the rest of this side of Broadway in the coming days.

Places to Visit:

James Gordon Bennett Park

At Pinehurst and Fort Washington Avenues between 183rd and 185th Streets

J. Hood Wright Park

At 173rd Avenue between Haven Avenue and Fort Washington Avenue

Paterno Trivium

At the corners of Cabrini Boulevard, Pinehurst Avenue and West 187th Street

New York, NY  10040

 

Places to eat:

La Neuva Empanadas Monumental

3772 Broadway

New York, NY  10032

(646) 559-2502

Open: Monday-Thursday-9:00am-11:00pm/Friday, Saturday and Sunday-9:00am-12:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fort Tryon Park I

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

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

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

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

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

castle hill apartments

Castle Hill Apartments and park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places to Visit:

Fort Tryon Park

On Dyckman Street & Broadway

Heather Gardens & Linden Terrace & Ann Loftus Playground

Fort Tryon Park

Places to Eat:

New Leaf Cafe (In Fort Tryon Park

One Margret Corbin Drive

New York, NY  10040

(212) 568-5323

http://www.newleafcafe.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

william tighe park

William Tighe Park

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

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

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

Ann Loftus Park

Ann Loftus Park

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

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

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

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

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

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

Places to go:

Inwood Hill Park

Dyckman Street

New York, NY 10004

Fort Tyron Park

Riverside Drive to Broadway

New York, NY  10004

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

99 Margaret Corbin Drive

New York, NY 10004

(212) 923-3700

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

http://www.metmuseum.org

Review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on VistingaMuseum.com:

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

Ann Loftus Playground (Fort Tyron Park)

New York, NY 10004

William Tighe Triangle

Fort Tyron Park

New York, NY  10004

Moscato Marsh (Columbia University)

218 Indian Hill Road

New York, NY  10034

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

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

 

Places to eat:

Indian Road Cafe

600 218th Street #3

New York, NY  10034

(212) 942-7417

http://www.indianroadcafe.com

Open:

Sunday: 8:00am-10:00pm

Monday-Friday: 7:00am-10:30am

Saturday: 7:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

 

Day Nine: Between the Parks on Dyckman Street August 24th, 2015

When you walk south on Dyckman Street you will be reminded they you are in a very hilly section of the neighborhood. I walked Broadway to Hillside Avenue and I have to say I got my exercise today. Hillside Avenue and the surrounding streets are all up and down hills. Hillside Avenue as you are walking up has unusual rock formations and small patches of wooded area which is unfortunately filled with  garbage.

The neighborhood should really rally around this because it is quite beautiful. It is even nicer toward the end of the street with the large rock formations and the trees growing out of them.

I covered the lower parts of Sherman Avenue, Nagle Avenue, Bogardus Place and then traveled west to cover Ellwood Street, Sickles Street,  Arden Street, Thayer Street and Dongan Place. These blocks were filled with pre-war apartment buildings and local family businesses. The one thing I noticed on a lot of these blocks is that many families set up tables and chairs and sit outside in the afternoon and night and play domino’s and cards and talk to their neighbors. I felt like it was a throw back to the days when my mom, who lived in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn back in the 50’s, would talk about everyone sitting outside because there was no air-conditioning and you would converse with your neighbors because everyone was in the same boat.

What’s nice about this neighborhood environment is that these families watch what is going on and know the comings and goings of the people in their neighborhood. For all the talk about Inwood not being a safe place, I never felt nervous. The one thing I will remember after today is that Manhattan is not flat.

I walked around the Dyckman Street Houses and into the park area between the buildings. Word of advice, when walking around public housing. Never wear a ‘9/11 Remembers NYPD and FDNY’ shirt. At 6:4 with a thick mustache, I could see that some of the people on the park benches assumed I was a cop walking through to inspect what was going on and I saw a few small groups of people actually get up and leave when I looked at them. That was strange.

After a long walk on a hot day, head over to the corner of Nagle and Dyckman Street. There is a woman who sells the most refreshing mango and strawberry ice for $1.00 and it will cool you down immediately. Before leaving this section of Inwood, double back to Bogardus Place and Hillside Avenue and watch the sunset. It is a pretty amazing sight.

Places to Eat:

Stop by the vendors on 207th Street from Broadway to 10th Avenue. There are all sorts of street cooks making everything from Pastilitos to fried breads and doughnuts.

Day Eight: Touring the Dyckman Farm House and the surrounding neighborhood August 20th, 2015

I had some extra time today to double back to some of the sites that either were not open the day I walked this part of Inwood or did not have time to visit. The Dyckman Farm House tour (See TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com) is defiantly something you should tour while you are in the neighborhood. Sitting on the top of a hill overlooking Broadway at 4881 Broadway, you have to be sure to visit the house when it is open. It’s hours are from 11:00am-3:00pm Thursday-Sunday. It is worth the visit to step back to the 18th Century and see how people lived in comparison to today. It’s a small island into the past in a bustling neighborhood.

The tour is self-guided and free. The house was built in 1785 by William Dyckman in the Dutch Colonial style on what was once a 250 acre farm estate that he inherited from his grandfather who had come to the New World in 1661. The original house had been further in the estate and it was destroyed during the Revolutionary War.  The house left the family in 1868 and was bought again by Mr. Dyckman’s granddaughter’s in 1915 and was restored (Wiki).

Dyckman Farm House I

Dyckman Farm now sits above the neighborhood.

The house was donated to the City of New York in 1916 and is now part of the Parks system. The nice part is that the house has a self-guided tour and you can take your time to look over the rooms and the gardens. It really is a simple house as the Dyckman’s, who owned most of the land in this part of Inwood were farmers.  They owned the house for several generations and it was the last family member living there grandchildren who invested in the house to open it up to the public.

It amazes me of how many people lived in this house at one time with the amount of space in which they had to work. The bedrooms are pretty small and take time out to see the downstairs kitchen. It makes us appreciate today. The gardens in the back are a nice place to roam and relax. The beds are set up with both flowers and vegetables and are maintained by their Friends group. Sit back under one of the trees and just enjoy the view. It really is a time capsule to our rural past in an extremely busy section of Inwood. Watch their events calendar too as there are many activities at the Dyckman House.

I double backed and covered Payson Avenue, Cummings Street, Academy Street and walked down Dyckman Street to Nagle Avenue. I made a quick pit stop at Nagle Bakery at 121-B Nagle Avenue, which is pretty good. I had a Pastilito, a type of Dominican beef or chicken turnover, which they make really good and they are only a dollar. I also had a fruit filled Cococino, a type of flaky pastry with mango filling that was a little dried out but not bad. This was the unfortunate part of most of the bakeries I tried in Inwood. By the time I got to the bakeries, everything seemed stale like it had been sitting since the morning. Nagle Bakery though is not bad and if you are in the neighborhood, it’s worth the stop.

On my back to the subway at 207th and Dyckman Street, I stopped at Tony’s Pizza and Pasta at 4771 Broadway for a quick slice before the ride downtown. You have to watch them here. On the outside sign, they advertise a $1.00 slice but when you go in it’s $1.50. Then when you order the slice you have to designate that you want the $1.50 slice or they will try to bait and switch you with a larger slice that is $2.50. The $1.50 slice is not bad and the sauce is pretty good but the more expensive slice is much bigger. Not a good business practice but the pizza was pretty good so I forgave them for that and it is close to the subway station.

It was a quick afternoon in the city but a nice walk for the day.

Places to Visit:

Dyckman Farmhouse

4881 Broadway

New York, NY  10034

(212) 304-9422

Open: Thursday-Saturday-11:00am-3:00pm/Saturday-11:00am-4:00pm/Closed Monday-Wednesday.

http://www.dyckmanfarmhouse.com

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d108018-Reviews-Dyckman_Farmhouse_Museum-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/771

Places to Eat:

Nagle Bakery

121-B Nagle Avenue

New York, NY  10040

(212) 304-4801

Open: Hours vary

Tony’s Pizza & Pasta

4771 Broadway

New York, NY  10034

(212) 544-7476

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5104514-Reviews-Tony_s_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Day Seven: Visiting Lower Inwood Park Neighborhood August 15th, 2015

My walk today took me all over the lower park of Inwood. My all day walk took me from the northern border of 207th Street to the Harlem River covering both side of Dyckman Street to Inwood Park and the Marina area covering Payson Avenue and the lower part of Seaman Avenue. My legs were killing me at the end of the day but the sites I saw were amazing.

I started at the 207th Street stop and walked up 207th Street walking both sides and peeking into the small businesses that lined the street. There are still a lot of Mom & Pop stores in this area catering to the local clientele. I walked both sides up and down Seaman Avenue lined with pre-war apartments and sprinkled in with some small houses. Then I back tracked to walking the side streets of 204th Street, Cooper Street,  Academy Street, Beak Street and Cumming Street admiring all the buildings and pocket parks along the way. I doubled back to Seaman Avenue and walked Payson Avenue which lines Inwood Hill Park.

The apartment buildings that face the park are offered spectacular views of the flora and fauna of the park and paths leading into the park are just steps away. It is interesting that taking some of the paths off Payson Avenue lead you right into the interior of the park and takes you into the interior of a forest right on Manhattan Island.

Once you exit Payson Avenue to Dyckman Street, walk the stretch of Inwood Hill Park to the end. You will pass a very active playground which on the weekend seems to be one long birthday party. At the end of Dyckman Street on the Hudson River side you will find the very edge of Inwood Park that leads to La Marina Restaurant at 348 Dyckman Street on one side that offers sweeping views of Hudson River and the Palisades on the New Jersey side.

The other side of the street leads to the soccer fields and to the Dyckman Street pier and next to it a small picturesque beach and rock formation. It offers some of the best views of the Hudson River and who knew that there was a beach in this part of Manhattan. On a sunny day, it is the most relaxing place to relax on the benches and just look at the view of the Hudson River and the cliffs across the river.

Dyckman Beach Picture

This little beach is interesting in warm weather.

After a long rest, I walked back down Dyckman Street to cover the area between that and Riverside Drive which opens to Fort Tryon Park. These streets have a row of pre-war apartment buildings that offer great views of the park and as you exit, more small pocket parks and playgrounds are on both sides. Dyckman Street between Payson Avenue and Broadway is lined with upscale eateries making it the ‘Restaurant Row’ of Inwood with more on the way.

I took the walk to the other side of Dyckman Street that lead to Fort Tyron Park and from the hill offers another view of the Hudson. I relaxed in two smaller parks that are part of this sea of green on Dyckman Street. The very active Ann Loftus Playground, named after a local neighborhood leader,  had all the rambunctious charm that a playground should have with kids playing on the swings, jumping through an active fountain and climbing on the jungle gym, which I thought had been outlawed since the 80’s. Parents chatted with one another while kids ran all over the park.

Ann Loftus Park.jpg

Ann Loftus Park

Another park across the street, the Lt. William Tighe Park Triangle, which is named after a prominent Inwood resident and veteran of two World Wars, was locked for the day but I could see the colorful plantings and small benches that lined the park. This park sits across from the Dyckman Street ‘Restaurant Row”. I made my first pit stop of the day at McDonald’s for one of their new frozen Strawberry Lemonade ($2.00). I have been swearing off McDonald’s for a while but this is something so perfect and wonderful to have on a hot humid day. It is so sweet and tart it will quench your thirst while you are walking around the area. It is the perfect fast food drink.

I made my way down Dyckman Street on the other side, passing many family owned businesses catering to the neighborhood and a few national chains proving that this area is very up and coming. I covered the lower parts of Sherman, Post and Nagel Streets lined with their apartment buildings and businesses until I passed  Fort George Avenue and the start of High Bridge Park. Along the stretch of Dyckman Street the park while rustic was full of trash. It wrecked the effect of the high hills and large boulders with their small paths. Once passing 10th Avenue, I reached the entrance of Harlem River Drive and the beginning of High Bridge Park with the lush greenery and small parks and gardens within the larger park.

High Bridge Park is unique in itself that there are many smaller parks that are part of it. As I walked into the park on a busy weekend day, it seemed that every family in the area was either having a barbecue or a birthday party as people were cooking in every part of the lawn that was open. As you enter the park and walk down the path off Harlem River Drive you find the quiet and secluded Swindler Cove Park with its well-tended paths and natural preserve appearance along with beautiful views of the Harlem River. These winding paths will take you through the back woods and offers nice places to sit and chat.

I then walked up 10th and 9th Avenues crisscrossing the side streets up to 207th street. At the end of each side street from 201st through 207th there is a small park at the end of the block that the park system runs. Again these parks, as small as they were filled with families having small parties. Each little park was called Sherman Cove Park and all offered nice views of the Harlem River.

It was a nice place to rest after a long day of walking. I finished my walk on this side of Inwood with a grape soda at the Community Food Store at 2893 Broadway. This bustling store offers everything you need for a day in the park or to run a small business.

My last stop of the day when I doubled back down 207th Street was a snack at Dichter Pharmacy and Soda Shoppe at 4953 Broadway. This Pharmacy is a throw back to the old Woolworth stores with the things you need to buy in the front and an ice cream parlor and lunch counter to the side. I saw their sign for ‘the best ice cream sundae’s in New York’, so I had to test their claim. I was not disappointed. I had a vanilla and blueberry sundae that hit the spot after a hot day and was tempted with an order of Mozzarella sticks but decided to be good.

They have a full menu of lunch and dinner items and it is worth checking out this unique spot. It is worth it just to sit back and chat with the soda jerk. So many great things to see today though my feet were killing me.

Places to Visit:

Places to Eat:

Dichter Pharmacy and Soda Shoppe

4953 Broadway

New York, NY 10034

(212) 569-1230

Open: Monday-Saturday-9:00am-7:00pm/ Sunday-Closed

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d8439353-Reviews-Dichter_Pharmacy-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

McDonald’s

208 Dyckman Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 569-2909

http://www.mcdonalds.com

Open: 24 hours

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5065796-Reviews-McDonald_s-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

La Marina

348 Dyckman Street

New York, NY  10039

(212) 567-6300

http://www.lamarinanyc.com

Open: Monday-Thursday-3:00pm-12:00am/Friday-3:00pm-1:00am/Saturday-11:00am-1:00pm/Sunday-11:00am-12:00am

Community Food & Juice

2893 Broadway

New York, NY 10025

(212) 665-2850

Open: Monday-Friday-8:00am-9:00pm/Saturday-9:00am-10:00pm/Sunday-8:00am-9:00pm

 

Places to Visit:

Ann Loftus Playground

Off Dyckman Street

Fort Tyron Park

Riverside Drive & Broadway

Lt. William Tighe Park

Dyckman Street & Riverside Drive

Inwood Park

Off Payson Avenue & Dyckman Street

Swindler’s Cove Park

Highland Park of Harlem River Drive

Sherman Cove Park

In Inwood Park at the Dyckman Street

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

Happy Father’s Day!

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

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

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

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

The Island of Manhattan

My soon to be path around the Island of Manhattan

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

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

Columbus Circle.jpg

Columbus Circle on the West Side

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

Another inspiration was a recent article in New York Magazine entitled “Which New York is Yours? A Fierce Preservationist and a Pro-Development Blogger Debate” in which the author Justin Davidson asks about the disappearance of New York’s Character. “What does that character actually consist of? If we did make an all-out effort to preserve it, how would we know what to protect?” How much is the city changing? I have worked off and on in New York City since 1988 and the answer is in some parts of Manhattan it is night and day. Could you imagine walking in Bryant or Tompkins Square Parks in 1990? I did and they were very different places back then. With the changing Zoning Laws and gentrification of many neighborhoods, its not the city of 1970’s movies. What I am looking for are those unique little pocket parks that we pass, those statues of people we have no clue who they are and those historic plaques of places gone by and people we don’t know.

Astor Row Houses

Astor Row Houses in Harlem

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

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

Bowling Green Park

Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan

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

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

Delacorte Clock.jpg

Delacorte Clock in Central Park

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

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

Red Hook Trip IV

Me in Red Hook, Brooklyn with Street Art

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

Dad & I

My dad, Warren and I at lunch