Tag Archives: High Bridge Park

Day Forty-One: Walking Dykman Street through Harlem River Drive & FDR Drive 207th Street to 155th Street March 23, 2016

The weather finally broke and it was a nice day to continue the walk. It has been a mild winter but it is hard to find time to do much with work and my volunteer activities plus the job search to keep me busy. Wednesday brought a sunny, warm day to New York City and I was going to take full advantage of it. After a busy morning at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, I took the A Train up to 207th Street and was about to complete the last leg of Washington Heights. I walked the entire stretch of Dyckman Street leading to Harlem River Drive to FDR Drive which covers the whole east side of the river. This part of my walk took from 1:45pm to 7:15pm. I walked fifty-two blocks both ways with stops in all parts of High Bridge Park.

First off, there are many changes going on all over Washington Heights since I started the walk in June. There is scaffolding all over the place and many businesses are starting to change hands. There have been more upscale looking restaurants opening up all over the neighborhood, more renovations in the parks and more white residents jogging in the parks and walking their dogs is telling me that the neighborhood is transitioning. So many apartment buildings and brownstones are being renovated that the whole look of the neighborhood is changing.

I started the walk on Dyckman Street walking by the very top of High Bridge Park by Fort George Hill right across from the Dyckman Houses. This part of the park could be quite pretty if it were not so full of trash. The beautiful rolling hills and trees are loaded down with garbage. It’s sad in that this part of the park is in such bad shape since it gives the impression of what Manhattan must have looked like when the Dutch arrived with rock formations and hanging trees. If cleaned up and properly landscaped, it could be breathtaking.

I walked down Harlem River Drive making stops inside High Bridge Park along the way. It is sad that most of the park is full of trash and not well maintained. All along the highway though interesting rock formations and flowering trees enhanced what you really saw by walking next to it.

By the time you get to 175th Street, you can’t walk any farther and you have to make your way into the park, which I had been through many months before the Fall. The parks system is working on the pathway from 175th Street to about 170th and then it stops again. You will have to walk down Amsterdam Avenue to about 166th Street where the park meets the local school parks and then take the path extension through High Bridge Park.

During the day, I would trust this path but I would not venture through it after twilight. As you wind down the paths, go off the beaten track around 170th Street and you will see all the natural cliffs that overlook the Bronx. This winding pathways can be rugged so make sure you have comfortable walking shoes when venturing off the paths. The natural rock formations are unusual and there are many places to view the surrounding area.

What was fascinating was the graffiti art work by the overpass at 175th Street. This form of tagging is all over Upper Manhattan and rather than a hindrance, the artists (or ‘taggers’) have an interesting display of faces and animals that would belong in any inventive gallery. The ‘x’ed out eyes on some of the cartoon like work hark back to the work of Keith Haring in the 80’s. Since these band of ‘gangs’ often paint over each other’s work, these pieces of art are in a constant state of flux and are ever changing.

The famous High Bridge Water Tower that is located in the park between West 173rd and 174th streets was built in 1866-72 to help meet the increasing demands on the city’s water system. The 200 foot octagonal tower was designed by John B. Jervis in a mixture of the Romanesque Revival and neo-Grec styles and was accompanied by a 7-arce reservoir. The High Bridge system reached its full capacity by 1875. With the opening of the Croton Aqueduct, the High Bridge system became less relied upon; during World War I it was completely shut down when sabotage was feared. In 1949, the tower was removed from service and a carillon was installed in 1958. The tower and the cupola were rehabilitated and restored in 1989-90 and the tower was designated a NYC landmark in 1967. Located behind the Highbridge Play Center, it is fenced off and you can only see it from a distance. (Wikipedia).

Water Tower High Bridge Park

The Water Tower in High Bridge Park

The Highbridge Play Center located at West 172nd and West 174th Streets was built between 1934-36 in the Art Moderne style. It was built on the site of the reservoir and features a very large swimming pool that has been closed since the Summer. It was designated a NYC Landmark in 2007. (Wikipedia).

These two landmarks are located once you exit the path off Harlem River Drive and take some time to walk around this part of the park. Another landmark you should not miss is the High Bridge, which is the oldest standing bridge in NYC. Built in 1848, it was built to carry the Old Croton Aqueduct over the Harlem River. (Wikipedia).

The bridge is fun to walk over and offers the most beautiful views of the river and the surrounding park. On a clear day, you can see for miles around and once the foliage comes back a nice view of the park.

The pathway brought me back to the Morris-Jumel Mansion park, which I had visited right after the holidays and to the end of the park at 155th Street. I exited the park at 158th Street and walked down the Historic Brush Staircase. Named after John T. Brush, the owner of the New York Giants baseball team that used to play in the Polo Grounds, the stairs were built in 1913 and were used to go from the ticket booth that was located on the top of Edgecombe Avenue to the stadium below. When the Giants moved out and the stadium was knocked down in 1967 to be replaced by a public housing project in 1968, the stairs were in a state of disrepair. (Google).

Brush Staircase

Brush Staircase

Renovated in 2014 and rededicated, the stairs takes you from the top of the park at 158th Street back down to Harlem River Drive. The stairs are a steep walk so remember to hold onto the rail on the way down. At the bottom of the stairs is a very scary vendor selling Spanish food that looks like it has not passed inspection so avoid it and maybe grab a coke like I did that afternoon. Make sure to look at the inscription on the stairs as it harks back to a time when this was a major sports area and a footnote in NYC sports.

I ended the afternoon by crossing 155th Street and walking down the stairs by the bridge into the lower part of 155th Street where the public housing was located. I have to say that I was pretty naïve to walk through this area with my ‘CIA’ hat on (Culinary Institute of America where I am an Alumni).

The Polo Ground Towers are a 15.5 acre parcel of land in which four 30 story towers were built on the site of the old stadium. It was a scary part of the walk as even the cops that were located by the Community Center would not get out of their car. It was funny though in that no one looked at me weird or even bothered my but I could see that the firemen on the fire truck exiting the projects and the police looked at me strange.

Polo Grounds Apartment

Polo Grounds Apartments

Everyone who lived there just went upon their business without even noticing me and I just walked around the projects down 155th Street and up and around Fredrick Douglas Drive and around Harlem River Drive West. There is a series of supermarkets, convenience stores and small restaurants. The area is isolated and pretty self-contained. I have to admit it is not the most pleasant place to live and looks plagued with problems.

The funny part is that when you cross the street onto 154th Street, you can see where the buildings are starting to renovate and it looks like new residents are moving into the area just one block away. I made my rounds down Fredrick Douglas Boulevard around the block and headed around the projects on my way back to Harlem River Drive and then crossed over to the overpass where the sidewalk started to go back up Harlem River Drive across from the end of the projects. That was another interesting part of the walk.

As you walk up the left side of the highway facing the river, you will realize the true beauty of Manhattan island by way of the river. Many pleasure boats, rowing teams and flocks of birds habitat this area. It has a whole culture just based on the river and from across the street you don’t see the faults of High Bridge Park. Just the visuals of the park and the rock formations jutting out.

As I finished the walk at Dyckman Street and crossed over Broadway, all the upscale outdoor cafes were open and loaded with customers signaling that the warm weather was back and winter might finally be over. Mother Nature has a way of toying with us but it looks like the cold days are behind us and we are looking forward to a warm Spring ahead.

Day Twenty-Five and Twenty-Six: November 15 & 16, 2015 Crossing Washington Heights from 181st to 155th Streets

Well I finally finished my tour of Washington Heights. I had spent so much time in the neighborhood that I felt like I lived there. This part of Manhattan took a long time to tour as there is so many interesting things to see and places to visit. It has also been tough with the time change and the days getting shorter. It is now getting dark at 5:00pm.

This part of  Washington Heights I started on Sunday afternoon walking from 181st Street from Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue to 167th Street just at dusk. I was also able to tour some parts of High Bridge Park.

I started the long journey at Quisqueya Playground at 180th Street. It’s a nice little part of the park for small children with a pleasant playground and a nice view of the bridge. It is also a good place for a pit stop for the  bathroom, which finding a public bathroom can be a chore off the beaten track.

Quisqueya means “cradle of life” and it was named after one of the two aboriginal names for the island of Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic). This was named by Christopher Columbus for the “la Isla Espanola”. The park was created in 1934 and was renovated in 1998. The park is very popular with local children (NYCParks.com).

I criss-crossed the streets back and forth looking at classic pre-war apartments with brownstones tucked in here and there. In some parts of the neighborhood, you might even find a lone wooden home, a through back to a time when this was a more rural area as late as the 1930’s. In the six months that I have been doing this walking project, I am amazed by the number of changes I keep seeing in such a short period of time.

So many merchants along the 180th Street and St. Nichols Avenue shopping districts have either closed or in the process of changing hands. Many of merchants along St. Nichols Avenue have been upgrading their businesses improving the look of their interiors and their selection of products. It is reflected in the way the neighborhood is changing.

All over the streets and avenues, scaffolding is going up around apartment buildings and brownstones. Much work is being done between 187th Street to 183rd Street around Yeshiva University as the school keeps expanding and more students are moving into the surrounding buildings. The area around Columbia Medical Center is going through a major change as the facility expands around Broadway to Audubon Avenue. Not just in the buildings themselves but the surrounding apartment buildings and brownstones as more people working at the hospital move in as well as the businesses that cater to them. Don’t be fooled though the area still has a rich Dominican flair with lively music being played and great restaurants and bakeries that cater to everyone.

I continued my walk to the corner of St. Nichols and 178th Street where a very busy street vendor was making fresh pastilitos, which were some of the best I had eaten so far. Her chicken pastilitos were filled with a generous portion of well-spiced chicken and beef and were still steaming hot from the fryer. She seemed surprised that I was so enthusiastic about eating them. Her version was really good!

As I munched my way down the various streets, I peeked in stores and restaurants and looked over many of the wares being sold on the street. There is such a great selection of items to buy at very reasonable prices. One woman on St. Nichols Avenue was selling dolls and doll carriages at half the price of the stores. It was the Dominican version of the Lower East Side.

Water Tower High Bridge Park

Water Tower in High Bridge Park

It was one of those unusually warm days where the temperature went up to 68 degrees making it a perfect day to walk around High Bridge Park. The park was so beautiful and relaxing on a warm day. The leaves were still on the trees with a warm yellow and gold hue to them and I walked past the empty pools by the Water Tower, which was closed off to touring. The tower was built in 1842 and used to transport over 47,000 gallons of water to Midtown from the Croton Aqueduct (NYCParks.com). The tower is currently closed off for renovation by the Parks service.

You could see the High Bridge from the top of the buff. These cliffs really prove that Manhattan is not flat. It still has its rustic look from the Ice Age. The view of the river is just spectacular.

High Bridge Park II

High Point Bridge and Tower

The best part was there were a lot of people out enjoying the day, so you could see how much the population up here uses and appreciates the park. There were a few heated soccer and baseball games going on Sunday and the playgrounds were in full swing both on the weekend and after school. Where the kids are the food vendors are as well. I had my selection of ice creams, meat pies, croquettes and soups to choose from. I made a second trip to El Manantial Bakery at 1220 St. Nichols Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) for Guava pastries and sugary doughnuts.

I ended my Sunday tour at 167th Street touring around the Mirabel Sister’s School, which is home to a whole new school complex and apartment dwellings. This is where IS 90 is located, which was quiet on Sunday but bustling the next day after school. There are four schools in this complex which is right next to the police station, which means security is very good in this area. The kids had the playground and the park to stretch out in.

On Monday afternoon after a long day in the Soup Kitchen working on prep for the upcoming week, I started my walk on the border of Washington Heights and Harlem at 155th Street. This area is bustling with traffic that is coming in and out of the Macombs Dam Bridge.

I criss-crossed the streets between 155th to 170th Streets. The most impressive housing outside the Upper West Side is located between 157th and 163rd Streets. I have never seen such beautiful apartment buildings and brownstones that have had so much care put into them. So many of the them were still decorated for Halloween and upcoming Thanksgiving. There is so much impressive stonework on the buildings you must remember to look up and really see these buildings from both sides of the street.

halloween in Washington Heights

Halloween in Washington Heights

Still one of the most beautiful sections of this part of the neighborhood is around the Morris-Jumel Mansion and Jumel Terrace with its well-tended brownstones with potted plants and decorations around the doors of these two impressive blocks surrounding the mansion. White lights adorn some of the trees and there is even a Community Garden at 162nd Street that must be nice to plant and sit in on a Spring or Summer day. The grounds of the mansion were closed that day for a private function but I had been on them before and it is a nice place to just sit and relax and enjoy the view of the river.

Morris-Jumel Historic District

Morris-Jumel Historic District

I walked around the Sugar Hill Luminary Park which needs a good mow and some new landscaping but must have been something in its day when the Harlem elite lived in this area. Pretty much all the brownstones in this area have been snatched up and renovated.

For lunch, I had a slice of pizza at Slice Pizza of Amsterdam at around 180th Street and Amsterdam. The pizza is terrible, warmed over from the morning and no flavor in the sauce. There was no taste to it. It’s a pretty restaurant catering to the changes going on in upper Amsterdam Avenue but everything in the cases looked like it had been sitting since the early morning, so they obviously are not getting that much business in the early morning or afternoon until school lets out. Walk by the schools when they let out and eat at one of the street vendors. At least you will know the food is fresh (Yelp reviewers have said that the pizzeria has now closed down for business February 2019).

I walked the entire length of Edgecombe Avenue which lines High Bridge Park and talk about an area in transition. All the apartment buildings  that line the park are going through what I call the ‘new window complex’. It s when a building is being renovated for new residents and high rents. The entire area by the park is being refinished and sandblasted. This little gem of a neighborhood has the most spectacular view of the park and the river.

On my way back to the subway I stopped Estrella Bakery Corp. at 3861 Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) and had the most amazing snack. A potato croquette called a ‘Renelito’, which is mashed potatoes filled with a spicy beef and then breaded and fried. These melt in your mouth and they are so flavorful. I could not believe how fresh and delicious they were to eat. I also had one of their Cinnamon roll pastry called a ‘Quesito’ which is a puff pastry rolled with lots of cinnamon sugar and then baked. Both were a bit of heaven and great way to end today’s walk. This is a bakery you should not bypass when in the neighborhood.

Estrella Bakery

5 Estrella Bakery

Places to visit:

Water Tower at High Bridge Park at 173rd Street

Washington Heights, NYC

Places to Eat:

Slice of Amsterdam Pizza (Closed)

5 Estrella Bakery

3861 Broadway

New York, NY 10032

(212) 795-5000

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4416394-Reviews-5_Estrella_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/407

El Manantial Bakery

1220 St. Nichols Avenue

New York, NY  10032

(212) 795-0045

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4987781-Reviews-El_Manantial_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

McNally Plaza Park.jpg

McNally Plaza Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

High Bridge Park III

High Bridge Park

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

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

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

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

Places to Visit:

High Bridge Park

Washington Heights, NYC

Places to Eat:

Rincocito Ice Cream

1650 Saint Nichols Avenue

New York, NY  10033

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gorman Park II

Gorman Park

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

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

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

Places to Visit:

High Bridge Park

Washington Heights, NYC

Gorman Park

Washington Heights, NYC

 

Places to Eat:

El Malecon Restaurant

4141 Broadway

New York, NY 10033

(212) 927-3812

http://maleconrestaurants.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

Grullon Bakery 1#

575 West 187th Street

New York, NY 10033

(212) 740-1190

My review on TripAdvisor:

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