I continued my visit to Kips Bay on a unusually warm but a mix of clouds and sun afternoon. I sometimes can’t tell whether is will rain or not. The walking of the Avenues in Kips Bay was not as extensive as other neighborhoods that I have visited before. Since I had already all of Lexington Avenue and FDR Drive and parts of First Avenue, all I had to cover on this trip was Third, Second and parts of First Avenue that I had not visited before.
FDR Drive in this part of the neighborhood is bounded by impassible sidewalks and closed off roadways by the schools and hospitals. You are pretty much visiting dead end streets with loads of security protecting them. These guys travel in packs and with COVID spreading around New York City there is a reason why they are there. They have to control the number of ambulances that are coming into the Bellevue Hospital complex.
Still there are lots to see and do on all the Avenues and you have to walk them slowly to appreciate the life that is coming back not just to the neighborhood but to the City was well. I am seeing more people on the streets as people are venturing out of their homes, masks and all and returning to work. With so many hospitals and colleges in the neighborhood, street traffic has increased since I started walking around Kips Bay in October.
Walking the Avenues, I have seen how the neighborhood continues to change as the smaller low rise buildings are being replaced in the northern section of the neighborhood as the hospitals and colleges expand. To the west of the neighborhood, the expansion of Midtown is changing the buildings on the border of Kips Bay resembling more the commercial districts of Uptown. Still there is a lot of charm in the small businesses that populate this neighborhood and there are many small ‘gems’ that stand out.
I started on Lexington Avenue first and then walked my way north and south along the avenues as I headed towards the East River again. It is nice to see people on the sidewalks again and dining in restaurants still enjoying the last bits of warm weather.
When walking the borders of the neighborhood, I got caught up in the sites and smells of “Little India/Curry Hill” between East 29th and 26th Streets around Kalustyan’s at 123 Lexington Avenue and decided to explore it further.
The store is such an exciting place for the senses with products of different smells and complexities. I enjoyed picking up the various bags on the shelves and trying to figure out what they were before I looked at the labels. After two years at culinary school, it was lesson in new spices for me.
The racks of spices have the most amazing aroma
Bring around all those spices and interesting frozen foods again made me hungry for Indian food. So across the street I tried Lahori Kabab at 106 Lexington Avenue, a small take out place that had a few tables your could sit down (socially distanced of course).
They have the most reasonable food and a very diverse menu. I just wanted a snack so I had a Chicken Samosa ($2.00) that was so spicy that it cleared my sinus out and a Allo Tiki, which is a type of potato cake with a yogurt sauce that had a nice pinch to it. Everything on the menu is under $10.00 and attracts a very interesting crowd of customers.
After that nice little snack, I walked back down Lexington Avenue to East 23rd Street and proceeded east to Third Avenue. This is where you see the transitions in the neighborhood. Most of the buildings between East 23rd to East 30th is still dominated by smaller buildings with a lot of independent businesses. As you pass East 30th Street, the high rises are dominating and newer construction is changing the look of the the upper parts of Kips Bay.
As I headed north up Third Avenue, I needed something sweet after the spicy snack and found La Delice Pastry Shop at 372 Third Avenue. What I loved about the bakery is that it has been around since 1935 and it is nice to see these old time businesses still exist in the ever changing fabric of a neighborhood. They carry all sorts of pies, cakes, cookies and pastries.
La Delice Pastry Shop at 372 Third Avenue has been there since 1935
I just went in for a jelly doughnut ($1.50) and it was well worth it. The chewiness of the dough and the sweetness of the sugar outside along with the tanginess of the current jelly gave it that old fashioned feel of what a doughnut should be. Beats the hell out of Dunkin!
La Delice Pastry Shop has a selection of old-line baked goods
Third Avenue is a juxtapose of architecture as you walk up and down the Avenue. A couple of buildings do stand out amongst the tenement and apartment buildings starting to sprout up along the border of the neighborhood.
One building that had some beautiful features was 497 Third Avenue. This five story building was built in 1930 and offers some beautiful brownstone features around the roof and windows. The Flying Cock restaurant at its base gives it an interesting look from street level.
Another interesting building is 384 Third Avenue. This picturesque building was built around 1900 by architects Howells & Stokes by the neighboring Madison Square Presbyterian Church as the Madison Square Church House that was used by the church for nightly services. A cast iron base supported the red brick architecture and the ornamented cast iron window lintels. The cornice at the top is made of cast iron (Daytonian in Manhattan).
When heading back down to East 23rd Street, I admired the Gem Saloon building that was just opening for lunch at 375-377 Third Avenue. These buildings were built in 1910 and was once the old Rodeo Bar that had been a staple in the neighborhood for 27 years.
The Gem Saloon at 375-377 Third Avenue was built 1910
As I turned the corner back onto East 23rd Street, I passed the now very quiet Baruch College campus. Part of East 25th Street is now being converted into a college walkway for the students and the construction workers were swarming the place.
Second Avenue is going through the same transformation as Third Avenue with much of the Avenue being knocked down and replaced by new apartment complexes. Much of the west side of the street is still intact with the east side of Second Avenue being rebuilt as part of the hospital complex and now new developments.
The only interesting building I saw was at 453 Second Avenue which was built in 1910 and is now a single family home. The building is now going through another renovation. This small brick building looks like it was once a fire station or a stable.
Across the street is the large Kips Bay Court complex at 490 Second Avenue, that stretches from East 26th to East 29th Streets and when you walk through the complex you will find the oasis of Bellevue South Park. As Fall was progressing, the park was ablaze with what was left of the gold and reds of the leaves of the trees that surrounding the park.
Kips Bay Court Apartments stretch from East 26th to East 29th Streets on the east side of Second Avenue
Bellevue South Park is a nice break for all the people working in the area and for people living in the apartment complex. The park was created in 1966 when this whole part of the neighborhood went through urban renewal in the 1950’s that ran from East 23rd to East 30th between First and Second Avenue. The park is full of playground equipment and long paths and has some interesting artwork.
Mr. Milkowski is an American born artist from Illinois but moved to New York City as a child and is a graduate of Kenyon College and Hunter College in New York. He started to get involved with art in the early 1960’s and started to create contemporary pieces. The work was donated to the Parks system through the Association for a Better New York whose goal it was to enliven parts of the City. The work moved around until places in Bellevue South Park in the mid-1970’s (NYCParks.org).
All that walking was making me hungry again and I saw the sign for Joey Pepperoni Pizza at 493 Second Avenue for dollar slices that are now $1.25. Inflation the sign stated. The place was pretty busy for a mid-afternoon and the pizzas were coming out fresh. It was okay. The sauce was pretty good and the slice was pretty large for the price.
Across the street from the Kips Bay Court complex, I crossed the street to another small pocket park, the Vincent F. Albano Jr. Playground at 523 Second Avenue, that is tucked into a corner of Second Avenue and East 39th Street. This quaint little park is full a charm with a small playground and shade trees all around it. It was rather quiet the afternoon I was there as it looked like they were limiting the number of people coming here.
The park was designed by architect M. Paul Friedberg in the late 1960’s and has gone through several renovations since that time. The park was named after Vincent F. Albano, a Republican district leader who lived in the neighborhood until his passing in 1981. He helped preserve the park when the neighborhood was going through all the construction changes (NYCParks.org).
Dominating the neighborhood just to the north of the neighborhood is the Kips Bay Towers complex that stretches up Second Avenue from East 30th to East 33rd Streets. This along with the colleges and the hospital complexes replaced all the tenement housing and factories that were once located here. The complex is pretty much self-contained with a movie theater, supermarket and shops. The complex was designed by renowned architects I. M. Pei and S. J. Kessler in the ‘Brutalist style’ (Wiki).
As I walked back down Second Avenue towards East 23rd Street, I realized how much the urban renewal project of the 1950’s changed this part of the City similar to what the Lincoln Hill project did to the Upper West Side when Lincoln Center was built. It just changed the complexity of the neighborhood.
First Avenue is dominated mostly by NYU College campus and Bellevue Hospital and NY Langone Hospital. When I walked up First Avenue when walking the borders of the neighborhood I never noticed how new all the buildings seemed. Seeing the results of the Urban Renewal project, the area is similar to a big box complex.
Still there are little gems here and there that standout. On the corner of East 27th and First Avenue is the sculpture “Sentinel” by artist Theodore Roszak. It was designed and dedicated to all people involved in public health. The sculpture is somewhat hidden now under scaffolding during a current renovation of the building next to it.
“Sentinel” site at the corner of East 27th Street and First Avenue
Mr. Roszak was an Polish born American artist who grew up in the Polish section of Chicago. He was mostly self-taught. He studied both at the Chicago Art Institute and in Europe. He created this sculpture in 1968 and it studied the struggle between man and nature (Art@Site).
Another interesting piece of architecture is the original Bellevue Hospital Building that now has the new entrance of the hospital surrounding the original building. You can try to sneak in to the hospital but there are guards all over the entrance. I was able to walk in during one of their breaks and see the lobby. It once had a beautiful entrance but modern architecture has taken over. Take some time to see this interesting stonework and carvings.
The original Bellevue Hospital entrance by McKim, Mead &White
The original building which was designed by architects McKim, Mead & White in 1930 housed the oldest continuous public hospital in the United States founded in 1794. The hospital was built on the original Belle Vue farm (thus its name) and today is one of the most innovative hospitals in the world. It still have the stigma though of being a “nut house” when it is far more doing so much innovative work in medicine (Bellevue Hospital History).
The original Bellevue Hospital built by McKim, Mead & White in 1930
The new entrance to the Bellevue Hospital Center Ambulatory Center by architect firm Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners designed between 2000-2005
I finally reached the corner of First Avenue and East 34th Street by the NY Langone Hospital and relaxed in the plaza across from the hospital and then walked to the East River Esplanade again to enjoy the sun and salt water air. it was fun to just relax for a bit before heading back around the neighborhood.
The East River Esplanade is a nice place to relax and watch the boats go by
I made my way back around the neighborhood walking to East 23rd Street to enjoy the sites and smells of Lexington Avenue and “Little India” again. It still amazes me all the sites and smells you can experience in a small neighborhood in Manhattan in one afternoon.
This is what I love about New York City!
Please enjoy my blog on ‘Walking the Borders of Kips Bay’ on MywalkinManhattan.com:
It has been a while since I was able to get back into the City to continue my walk around Manhattan. Between work, trips up to the Hudson River Valley and Upstate New York for Fall events and then the Halloween holidays, it has been a busy time and a real balancing act.
I started the walk around Kips Bay, a small Manhattan neighborhood that borders Murray Hill from the North, Peter Cooper Village and Gramercy Park to the South and the Flatiron and Midtown districts to the West. The neighborhood runs from East 34th to East 23rd Streets from Lexington Avenue to the West and FDR Drive and the East River to the East.
Kips Bay has a very interesting history. Kips Bay was once an inlet of the East River running from what is now East 37th to East 32nd Streets and the bay extended into Manhattan island to just west of what is now First Avenue and had two streams that ran from it. The bay was named after New Netherland Dutch settler, Jacobus Hendrickson Kip, the son of Hendrick Hendrickson Kip, whose farm ran north of present day East 30th Street along the East River. The bay became reclaimed land but the name “Kips Bay” still remains in the area (Wiki).
An early British map of Manhattan showing “Kepps Bay”
The Kip family built a large brick and stone house near the modern intersection of Second Avenue and East 35th Street. The house stood from 1655 to 1851 and when it was demolished was the last farmhouse from New Amsterdam remaining in Manhattan. Iron figures fixed into the gable end brickwork commemorated the first year of its construction. Its orchard was famous and when first President George Washington was presented with a sip of Rosa gallica during his first administration when New York City was serving as the first National Capital (Wiki).
Kips Bay was the site of the Landing at Kip’s Bay, an episode of the American Revolutionary War (1175-1783) and part of the New York and New Jersey campaign. About 4000 British Army troops under General William Howe landed in Kips Bay on September 15, 1776 near what is now the foot of East 33rd Street off the East River. This was from a Royal Fleet which first landed earlier at Staten Island then Long Island for the pivotal Battle of Brooklyn (also known as the Battle of Long Island).
The previous month General Howe’s troops defeated about 500 American militiamen stationed at Kips Bay but General Washington and commanded by Colonel William Douglas. The American forces immediately retreated and the British occupied New York Town at the south point of the island soon afterward forcing General Washington to retreat northward to the Harlem River (Wiki).
The British Landing at Kips Bay in 1776
The neighborhood now sits just below Murray Hill East 42nd to East 34th Streets) to the north and just south above Peter Cooper Village (East 23rd to East 20th Street). Kips Bay like the rest of this section of the Eastern side of Manhattan is going through a make over. The small apartment buildings are slowly coming down almost creating a patchwork in the neighborhood between the high rises and office buildings above East 30th Street and the low rises that still dot parts of Lexington, Third and Second Avenues. Little by little everything is giving way as Midtown creeps into these neighborhoods.
Still Kips Bay has loads of charm, a slew of interesting restaurants, beautiful buildings and nice little parks to relax in and a breathtaking view of the East River and Long Island City. There is a online discussion about the eastern border of the neighborhood, Third to Lexington Avenues, which some consider part of the “Rose Hill” neighborhood, which itself labels itself “NoMAD” today (North of Madison Park). Even within the neighborhood there are subsections including “Curry Hill” or “Little India” along Lexington Avenue from East 29th to East 26th Streets which is lined with Southeast Asian provision and retail stores and great Asian restaurants where the scents of curry and cumin are in the air.
This is why I love walking in Manhattan is how you can go from one world to another in just a block. It shows the cultural richness and the diversity that makes Manhattan so complex and interesting. There is always something new to experience from block to block.
I started my walk in my usual headquarters for this part of Manhattan in Bryant Park. The Christmas Village and Skating Rink have been set up way in advance of the holidays and people were out skating, masks and all, and having a wonderful time on the first sunny day in a long time. The village stores are about a third of the amount from previous years but still stocked and ready to go. I think the City in the era of COVID “needs a little Christmas now”.
The Christmas Village got an early start Bryant Park this year
This is something I noticed when I walked down East 42nd Street towards Madison and Park Avenues when I passed office buildings. Christmas Trees and wreaths decorated lobbies all over the avenues much earlier than I have ever seen. Usually the Christmas decorations don’t come out until after Thanksgiving but the holidays are getting more rushed this year. Still even in the 60 degree days in November it really does cheer you up.
Park Avenue Office Building Christmas decorations
Arriving at East 34th Street and FDR Drive, I reached the border of Murray Hill and Kips Bay in the mid afternoon and it felt so familiar to me after so many afternoons exploring Murray Hill just that the weather had gotten cooler. There just seemed to be more people out as the City is getting back to normal after a trying summer.
When you do arrive here you are greeted by a playful piece of art just outside NYU Langone Children’s Hospital. “Spot” is a dalmatian balancing a taxi on his nose is located just outside the Children’s Hospital’s doors. “I wanted to make something so astounding to distract to even those arriving with the most serious procedures” (Artist Bio) the artist was quoted as saying when the piece was unveiled. It sits four stories in front of the hospital. It is a very playful piece of art that stopped me in my tracks.
“Spot” by artist Donald Lipski
Artist Donald Lipski is an American born artist who is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cranbrook Academy of Art. He is best known for his large scale works in public places (Artist’s Bio).
It was nice to see most of the restaurants in the area had finally opened up and with the warm weather still holding its grip, there was a lot of outdoor dining to choose from. Even before the pandemic, some parts of the neighborhood were being knocked down for new construction and work continued as I visited taking down many of the smaller buildings that used to house small restaurants. Still there are some great independent restaurants in the area that needed support.
I had lunch at Pizza & Pita at 344 East 34th Street right across the street from the small park that faces the hospital. I just wanted a slice of pizza and when I walked in a fresh pie had just come out. The pizza looked as good as it tasted.
The sauce has an amazing rich flavor and the loaded with cheese for a gooey consistency. It was so good that I stopped back later for a quick snack of their garlic knots. These pillowy delights came with a side of their delicious marinara sauce that was a pleasure to dunk them into and enjoy each bit.
The pizza here is great!
I just relaxed and ate my lunch in the small public plaza across the street from the hospital and watched as the hospital staff came out from their frustrating days and ate their lunches beside me. It seemed to do them well. The plaza has gotten busier since the late summer and it is nice to see people coming back to work and bring some life to the area.
While at lunch I admired another interesting art piece entitled “Stemmer” by New York City born American artist David Fried.
“Stemmer” at the plaza at East 34th Street and First Avenue
The artist grew up in New York City and attended the School of Art & Music and was accepted into the Arts Students League of New York. The “Stemmers” sculptures is one of his trademark pieces.
After lunch, I continued my walk down East 34th Street to the border of Kips Bay at Lexington Avenue. The neighborhood is very ‘old New York’ especially between First and Lexington Avenues with the small buildings and high rises from the 1960’s and 70’s. The area is currently going through a make over with new buildings but it still has that “Woody Allen” feel of New York. Everything is not gleaming and new.
Tucked here and there by buildings and courtyards on East 34th Street is a bevy of interesting street art. The block is almost an ‘open air museum’ of creativity. The statue “Thinking Big” which was formally in Central Park South on Sixth Avenue last year has found a home in front of 222 East 34th Street.
Jim Rennert is an American born artist known for his large bronze sculptures depicting the everyday man. Mostly self-taught, his works are seen all over the country and really do make a statement.
Walking further down East 34th Street just outside a little courtyard of one of the apartment buildings is artist John Sewart Johnson’s II sculpture “The Right Light”, a bronze sculpture of an artist and his easel. The sculpture is located just outside a building between Third and Lexington Avenues at 150 East 34th Street.
‘The Right Light’ by artist John Sewart Johnson II
Artist John Seward Johnson II was an American artist who attended the University of Maine and he is known for his ‘familiar man’ sculptures and icons paintings.
Located on the wall near this art piece is an interesting painting on the wall outside another apartment building by artist Colette Miller from her “Global Wings Project” which she created in 2012. She paints these ‘to remind humanity that we are the angels of this earth’ . With this graceful painting of giant ‘wings’, the artist hopes that there are a symbol of peace (Colette Miller’s Bio).
Artist Colette Millers “Global Angel Wings Project” 2020
Ms. Miller is a American born artist from Richmond, VA. She is graduate of the Art School at Virginia Commonwealth University and Film Studies at UCLA. As well as an artist, she is a film maker and musician. Her work has been exhibited all over the world.
Turning the corner onto the bustling Lexington Avenue, you see that the border of the neighborhood is a bustling commercial district with a combination of office buildings and apartments and as you cross East 30th Street a restaurant district with an international flair to it. The avenue is also lined with interesting architecture where many buildings stand out.
The New York Design Center Building at 200 Lexington Avenue stands out for its detailed beauty and its embellishments that accent the outside of the building. It was built in 1926 and designed by architect Ely Jacques Khan as the New York Furniture Exchange. The building was to cater to furniture and department store buyers. It now caters to the full interior design experience with furniture, lighting and textiles.
200 Lexington Avenue-The New York Design Center
Tucked to the residential side of the avenue is 170 Lexington Avenue an Italianate brownstone building that stands out for it yellow exterior. The brownstone was part of three building complex built in the early 1850’s. The house was owned by George and Elizabeth Youle, a wealthy couple with two married daughters. The address was originally 158 Lexington Avenue and then changed to 170 Lexington Avenue in 1866. Sometime in the 1940’s the yellow clapboard veneer was added in a renovation of the building (Daytonian 2020).
170 Lexington Avenue was built in the early 1850’s
Another building that had beautiful detail work carved into it is 160-164 Lexington Avenue, The Dove Street Marketplace, which offers floor after floor of high end goods.
The detail work is amazing on 160-164 Lexington Avenue-The Dove Street Market
The building has the most beautiful detail work on all sides. It was built in 1909 as the New York School for Applied Design for Women. It was designed by one of the school’s instructors, architect Wiley Corbett, to resemble a Greek Temple (Forgotten New York).
Across the street from the Dover Street Market at 154 Lexington Avenue is the First Moravian Church. The building was started in 1849 and finished in 1852 at the Rose Hill Baptist Church designed in the Lombardian Romanesque style. In 1869, the church was sold to the First Moravian Church which had been located at Sixth Avenue and 34th Street (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The First Moravian Church at 154 Lexington Avenue was built in 1854
As I crossed over East 29th Street, I was greeted by the sights and smells of curry and cumin in restaurants as I entered “Little India” or “Curry Hill” as some locals call it, a stretch of restaurants and stores that cater to the Southeast Asian population as well as locals and tourists alike. This stretch of businesses extends from East 29th to about East 26th Streets created by the catalyst for the street, Kalustyan’s at 123 Lexington Avenue, a specialty food market specializing in Indian and Middle-Eastern spices and food items.
Kalustyan’s Specialty Market at 123 Lexington Avenue
Kalustyan’s has an interesting history. The market was started in 1944 by Kerope Kalustyan, an Armenian immigrant from Turkey, when his steel importing business failed. He turned to foods and spices that catered to the large Armenian population who lived in the neighborhood in the 1920’s. By the 1960’s and 70’s, are large Indian and Southeastern Asian population started to move to the City and Kalustyan’s was the meeting spot as they started to carry Indian spices as well. “Little India/Curry Hill” grew up around the store as immigrants opened their own businesses around the store (Wiki). Now Kalustyan’s carries foods and spices from all over the world (Kalustyan).
It is really an experience to walk around all the shelves and shelves of spices and see what is available. Then to turn the corner and see all the fresh and frozen foods from all over the world. it can be overwhelming.
Kalustyan’s is located in the historic Chester A. Arthur home
What is interesting about the store is that is was once the home of President Chester A. Arthur, who took office as 21st President of the United States after President James Garfield was shot in 1881. He was sworn in as president here in September 1881. President Arthur moved to New York City in 1848 and lived here for most of his adult life and continued living here after his Presidency. He died in the house in 1886 (Wiki).
President Chester A. Arthur taking oath in his home in 1881
The house is a five story masonry designed in the Romanesque Revival styling and has gone through many renovations over the years. The neighborhood went from a fashionable district to the home of one of the largest Armenian populations in the United States then to an Southeast Asian neighborhood to another gentrifying area of Manhattan.
The Chester A. Arthur house when he lived in it
After a quick tour around Kalustyan’s admiring all the spices and looking over their frozen food department with all its pastry and meat dishes, I was in the mood from some Indian food. I stopped at the corner at Curry in a Hurry at 119 Lexington Avenue. I needed a quick snack to keep me going so I ordered a chicken samosa ($2.45) and it was so good I went back for a beef samosa that had just gotten out of the oven. Both were extremely well spiced and full of flavor. I could taste the hot pepper and cumin for the rest for the afternoon (see my review on TripAdvisor).
Curry in a Hurry at 119 Lexington Avenue
Refreshed from a quick snack, I continued exploring Lexington Avenue peeking at all the menus of the restaurants as I walked down the road. The aroma from the kitchens reached the sidewalks and I had to make an mental note of the place I wanted to try in the future.
By East 26th Street, I passed “Little India” and was in front of the 69th Regiment Building at 68th Lexington Avenue. This beautiful building is the home to the New York Army National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, known as the “Fighting Irish” since the Civil War (Wiki).
The building was designed by architects Hunt & Hunt in the Beaux Arts style and was completed in 1906. It has been home to many events and show including the controversial 1913 Armory Show of contemporary art (Wiki). You really have to walk around the building to admire its beauty and history.
Just across the street is another beautiful building covered with snakes, skulls and dragons carved along the side of it at 130 East 25th Street.
Someone had a warped sense of humor
The former B. W. Mayer Building which now houses the Friends House in Rosehall was built in 1916 by architect Herman Lee Meader (Wiki). You really have to walk around the building to see all the unusual carvings that line the building.
130 East 25th Street, the former B. W. Mayer Building
The street art is also interesting on this part of Lexington Avenue. One the corner of East 24th Street & Lexington Avenue is the Friends House New York, a housing unit. Painted on the wall is a very unique painting by Italian street artist, Jacopo Ceccarelli.
Painting by artist Jacopo Ceccarelli
The mural is on the corner of East 24th & Lexington Avenue-The St. Francis Residence Building
The Milan born street artist, who goes by the name “Never 2501” hones his skills after moving to San Paolo, painting murals with an edge that got global recognition. He uses geometric forms in his work with circles and lines creating the abstract(Do Art Foundation).
I was getting hungry again with all this criss crossing across Lexington Avenue and I had two choices for a snack, DiDi Dumpling at 38 Lexington Avenue or Pick & Pay Pizza at 30 Lexington Avenue both having reasonable snacks. Since I would be stopping for Dim Sum later that afternoon, I chose the pizza. For a $1.25 a slice, the pizza was not bad in this tiny little hole in the wall that also served Indian food as well. The sauce had a lot of flavor and that is what makes the pizza.
Pick & Pay Pizza at 30 Lexington Avenue
DiDi Dumpling at 38 Lexington Avenue
I noticed on the wall right near the doorway near the Starbucks was another wall mural “Urban Ocean” by artist Yuki Abe that is off to the side of the building on the corner of Lexington & 25th, Look at the interesting color and design of the work.
Surrounding this area of Lexington & 25th Street starts the campus of Baruch College which is part of the SUNY system and I could see students who were taking live classes walking around enjoying the day. I am sure it is much different when classes were in full swing and the students were hanging around the restaurants and coffee shops in the area.
Another building that stands out in its beauty and design is on the corner of the neighborhood on Lexington Avenue between 24th and 23rd Streets, the Freehand Hotel at 23 Lexington Avenue. The hotel was originally built as the Hotel George Washington in 1928 and designed by architect Frank Mills Andrews in the French Renaissance style.
The Freehand Hotel (the former George Washington Hotel) at 23 Lexington Avenue
While still a apartment building and a dorm in the 1990’s, several famous New Yorkers lived at the hotel including artist Keith Haring and musician Dee Dee Ramone. Playwright Jeffery Stanley also lived at the hotel for a period of time.
The entrance to the Freehand Hotel is very elegant but still remains closed
I crossed East 23rd Street which is the edge of the neighborhood shared with Gramercy Park, Rose Hill and Peter Cooper Village further down the block. This busy thoroughfare is lined with a lot stores, restaurants and many interesting buildings that leads to the East River.
I stopped for lunch at a new Dim Sum restaurant name Awe Sum Dim Sum that had just opened on at 160 East 23rd Street and it was just excellent. I took my friend, Maricel, here for lunch after my birthday for lunch and we ate through most of the menu (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
The Awe Sum Dim Sum at 160 East 23rd Street
The restaurant has the most amazing appetizers to choose from that are all made in house and served fresh to you either at your table inside or one of the many tables outside (while the weather holds out). On my trip with Maricel, we ate our way through the Fried Dumplings, the Chicken Siu Mai, the Spring Rolls, the Baked BBQ Pork Buns, the Scallion Pancakes and the Soup Dumplings. On my trip today, I ordered the Soup Dumplings, Crispy Shrimp Rolls and the Siu Mai with pork and shrimp.
The Soup Dumplings here are the best
With the cost for each running between $4.00-$6.00, I could eat my way through the menu. The nice part is what a nice contemporary designed restaurant the place is to dine in. Everyone is kept ‘socially distanced’ so it is a nice place to eat.
The inside of Awe Sum Dim Sum
After a nice relaxing lunch, I was ready to continue down East 23rd Street. Criss crossing the street again, I noticed the beauty of 219-223 East 23rd Street. The building has all sorts of griffins and faces glaring out. When you stand across the street, you can admire the beauty of all the carvings on the building along the archways above and the faces staring at you from the tops of windows.
Another building that stands out is 304-310 East 23rd Street. This former factory building was built in 1900 and now is the “The Foundry”, a converted condo complex. The amazing detail on the building stands out and you have to admire the stonework and details in the carvings along the building.
Reaching the end of East 23rd Street, you will see the planned middle class complex of Peter Cooper Village, which has gone market rate and is now getting very upscale and seems to have a younger resident walking around then the usual middle aged residents who used to be on the list to get one of these very desirable apartments.
The entrance to Peter Cooper Village at First Avenue
Across from Peter Cooper Village is the Asser Avery Recreational Center and Playground 392 Asser Avery Place with the famous baths and pools that have been part of the neighborhood for generations.
The Asser Levy Recreation Center and Park at 392 Asser Levy Place
When the baths opened in 1908, the facility was called the East 23rd Street Bathhouse. It was by architects Arnold W. Brunner and William Martin Aiken. Based on the ancient Roman Baths, the architecture was inspired by the “City Beautiful” movement, a turn of the century effort to create civic architecture in the United States that would rival the monuments of the great European capitals (NYCParks.org). The playground next to it opened in 1993.
The architecture by Arnold Brunner and William Martin Aiken resembled a Roman Bath
The Baths and Park was named for Asser Levy, a Jewish trailblazer in colonial times when Mr. Levy and 23 Jews fled from Brazil in 1654 to seek refuge in New Amsterdam. He challenged Governor Peter Stuyvesant when he tried to evict the Jews from the colony. He was the first Jew to serve in the militia and own property in the colony (NYCParks.org).
The border to the east of the neighborhood is combination of the East River Esplande, FDR Drive and First Avenue. Since First Avenue and FDR Drive are surrounded by a combination of college campus and hospital space, it makes walking around the neighborhood tricky.
When you walk across East 23rd Street to FDR Drive, you have to cross over FDR Drive at East 25th Street behind the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System Hospital complex and the CUNY/Hunter College campus and then cross over the bridge to the Waterside Plaza complex.
The Waterside Plaza complex and the Greenway walkway
This series of apartment buildings faces the East River and FDR Drive that leads to the East River Greenway walkway and the Waterside Plaza walkway both surround the complex. The views are breathtaking on a sunny afternoon of the East River and Long Island City.
The East River Greenway and the view of Long Island City
On the way up the Waterside Plaza walkway, I passed the famous Water Cafe at 500 East 30th Street that is currently closed because of COVID. This famous restaurant has been around since the 1980’s and offers some of the most spectacular views. It was one of the best known restaurants at the time when “Restaurant Madness” hit the City in the mid-1980’s as the City went through its first wave of gentrification under the Koch Administration.
The Water Club at 500 East 30th Street is currently closed
I walked all around the Waterside Plaza complex and saw where all the joggers and walkers can exercise all around the complex. The walkways both lead back to East 34th Street and the beginning of the walkway and where Kips Bay once was located. I walked around the NYU Langone Hospital when I crossed East 34th Street and walked down the FDR Drive extension around the hospital until I reached East 26th Street and crossed to First Avenue.
This part of FDR Drive passes behind the Langone complex and the Bellevue Complex and be careful as there are security guards all over the place. They totally avoided me because with the tinted glasses I think they thought I was there to check them out. The side streets of East 30th to East 28th Streets are closed off to the public and you can’t walk down them without security looking you over. There is not much to see here but a parking lot and the back of the hospital complex.
I walked back down East 26th to East 25th Street and crossed back over to where the bridge was located and walked back around the Asser Levy Park and walked through the park. The three times I was in the park no one was there and the park seemed a little depressed with the homeless camping out.
The City Opera Thrift Shop at 222 East 23rd Street
I made my way back down East 23rd Street and stopped in the City Opera Thrift Shop at 222 East 23rd Street. They have the most interesting artwork and books, couture clothing for women and children and some decorative items on the second floor that have been donated to the store to help support the charity. Don’t miss shifting through the store and all the racks to find that perfect outfit.
Walking around the first floor of the City Opera Thrift Shop is an adventure
As I walked back up East 23rd Street passing the historic buildings and restaurants I walked through the Baruch College complex to see that campus was being renovated and was really quiet. It is spooky to walk through a college campus and see no one. It was one of the cooler days when I visited the neighborhood and no one was around.
Before I finished my walk of the border of neighborhood, I stopped back in “Little India” and had dinner at Anjappar, a South Indian restaurant at 116 Lexington Avenue at 28th Street. I had not had Indian food for a long time and thought it would be a nice way to end the evening.
Anjappar at 116 Lexington Avenue
I was the only person eating in the restaurant that evening so all the attention went to me. The waiter gave me her great recommendations and we were able to talk about the best dishes to try. Since all NYC restaurants are only at 25% capacity, not too many people can eat there anyway. It was a quiet night with just a few to go orders while I was there.
The food and the service were excellent. With the recommendations for the waiter, I ordered the Anjappar Chicken Marsala, which was in a spicy chili and curry sauce served with a side of white rice and a side of Parotta bread, which is a buttery spiral bread that is a specialty of the region. The entree was so spicy that it cleaned my sinuses out and added a little spring to my step. For dessert, I order a house specialty, the Pineapple Ravakesari, which was fresh crushed pineapple in a polenta type of grain with a sugary top. It was served warm and was the perfect combination of sweet and tart. It was the perfect dessert to end the meal and cap off the afternoon of adventure (see my review on TripAdvisor).
The wonderful curries and Parotta bread of that dinner
When I reached the point of the beginning at Lexington Avenue and East 34th Street, I thought back to the wonderful sites and views from the island that Kips Bay offers . From the interesting open air art museum to the views along the river to the historic buildings and sites and smells of “Little India/Curry Hill”, there is so much to see and do in the neighborhood it even took me several trips to see just the border of the Kips Bay.
What would the British think today if they landed here? It would be more than Mrs. Murray’s punch and cake to keep them distracted.
Mrs. Murray entertaining the British in here home when they landed in Kips Bay.