Tag Archives: Morningside Heights

Day Ninety Seven: Walking the Streets of the Upper Upper West Side from West 110th-West 94th Streets October 21st-November 25th, 2017

It is amazing the changes that happen in just a month! The weather changed but not the way you would think. It went from being in the 80’s in the beginning of October to the 40’s and 50’s in November. Now you might say that is normal for this time of year but the temperatures have been all over the place.

People were dining outside as late as the day after Thanksgiving. It was 52F on the 25th of November. Nippy yes but eating outside? In the sun, it really was warm. As I walked the streets of the Upper Upper West Side, it was a pleasant and warm day.

The nice part is that it has been so warm outside lately that the leaves did not change as fast as they normally do this time of the year. The leaves did not start to change in the New York City area until about five days before Halloween. Everything was greener than it normally has been in the past. As of my last day on this part of the West Side, the trees still have changing foliage in Riverside Park, so when the sun hit some of the trees they still cast a glow of golds and reds.

I have seen a distinct change in the make up in the city as you cross over the 100th Street on the West Side. Once you pass the Douglass Houses, the residential area starts to change along with the stores and restaurants around it.  The bodegas and cheaper restaurants  start to disappear. The rents have been going up in this area and there is a lot of empty retail space in the Upper Upper West Side. What there is a lot of restaurants where the price of a burger will run you around $16.00. The Upper West Side is becoming a lot more like the Upper East Side.

What I have also have found is many beautiful pocket parks, unusual architecture with creative details and some wonderful restaurants and shops that show that the chain stores do not dominate a city. I never realized that it would take so long to finish the area. A little thing called Halloween came into play and then the weather got colder (See all the activities you can get involved with for the Halloween holidays for next year on this blog).

I started my first day at surprising enough 127th Street. I got on the C subway train by mistake ( I should have gotten on the A Train) but it gave me a chance to see what changes have come about in Morningside Heights. I swear as the new buildings at Columbia University are ready to open soon between 125th-134th Streets, the area is quickly changing around it. All over the area surrounding the 125th subway stop on the A subway line is being ripped apart and being rebuilt.

All the buildings around 125th Street are being sandblasted and gutted back to life or are being knocked down and rebuilt. This will just be an extension of Morningside Heights within the next five years. It will be more college campus than Harlem or the traditional Harlem that people know.

I had lunch that afternoon at West Place Chinese Restaurant at 1288 Amsterdam Avenue, a small hole in the wall Chinese restaurant that I passed several times (See review on TripAdvisor) and had wanted to try for a long time. The food was wonderful and the portion sizes were plentiful. I had an order of General Tso’s chicken with rice and Wonton Soup with a Coke for $8.00. It could have fed two people easily. The food was as good as anything in Chinatown and the quality was great.

West Place Chinese restaurant

After lunch, I walked down Broadway to 96th Street, passing through the campus that I had walked months earlier. The Columbia Campus is another part of the city that just keeps changing with new buildings being built on old ones or old buildings being sandblasted back to their original beauty. This area is becoming more desirable to live in again and as Morningside Park keeps improving, everything that surrounds it does as well. Even the parks surrounding the campus keep improving with Morningside Park receiving new plantings and Riverside Park getting a spruce up. I got to my destination, West 96th Street and Central Park West by the early afternoon.

I started my day on West 96th Street on the corner of West 96th and Central Park West where some of the trees were still green even this late into the season. I swear Central Park is never not busy. Families were playing in the playgrounds and tourists still walking through the park getting a taste of the real New York. The weather has been so unusually warm this year that it is a pleasure to just walk around.

For the most part, the blocks closer to the both parks, Central Park and Riverside Park, the streets are lined with beautiful brownstones. Most of the side streets between Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue are lined with some of the most elegant architecture from the turn of the last century. It is hard to believe that up to twenty years ago, parts of this area had been bombed out.

I was able to see the last of the Halloween decorations give way to fall themes decorating the brownstones. Like their suburban counterparts, people like to decorate their buildings. Pumpkins and haystacks lined the elegant brownstones and occasionally there was a ghost or witch motif decorating the front.

halloween in Washington Heights

Brownstones decorated for the holiday

Some of the most beautiful buildings outside of the Central Park district were the homes between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive right next to Riverside Park. Old elegant mansions and gracefully carved apartment buildings line the streets between both Avenues. Look up at the craved stone sculptures that line the building. Graceful animals, fierce gargoyles and lattice work line the tops of these buildings. It is time to put down those silly cellphones and really notice how beautifully built these homes were and the care put into them.

Their is a lot of artwork on the Riverside Drive especially around this section of the Upper West Side. The Joan of Arc statue on 95th Street and Riverside Drive gives a description of her life and who she really was in the time of war. I didn’t realize how threatened they were by her that they had to accuse her of being a witch to get rid of her power of persuasion. The statute which was created in 1915 is in a small park within a park, “Joan of Arc Park”, that stands above Riverside Park above the paths. If you want to know more about her life, stop here and read the plaques.

Joan of Arc Park

Joan of Arc Statue in the small park

What stands out between 95th to 94th Streets off West End Avenue is the ‘Pomander Walk’, a small alley behind a large apartment building which contains a series of eight two story Tudor homes with gardens in front. This is hidden behind a gate off 94th Street.

This whimsical little treasure was build between 1920-1922 by nightclub owner, Thomas Healy. He was creating income for a large hotel that he wanted to build on the property. He died in 1927 before he could find funding for the hotel and that’s why it exists today. I have read that today it is hard to find a home in this little strip and a recent two bedroom apartment building sold for $700,000. Pretty good for a dolls house.

Pomander Walk II.jpg

Pomander Walk

The outside of the homes can be seen in on 95th Street and look like a Swiss or German Chalet in the Alps. The detail work was under scaffolding when I first passed it and I wondered if it was a restaurant being fixed up. When you discover the gate entrance, it almost looks like a hidden ‘Land of Oz’. I could see the flowers and plants from the street. It reminded me of some of the small developments in Harlem where a small set of row homes creates its own neighborhood. You have to really look for it or you will miss it.

I was able to walk Riverside Park and enjoy that late foliage. The view of the Hudson River is just spectacular especially from the buffs of the neighborhood. I don’t think too many tourists appreciate this park with it beautiful vistas of the river and its great parks for kids. The trees were a combination of golds and oranges when the sun hit them.

The Upper Upper West is a combination apartment buildings built in the 1970’s and 80’s with more newer buildings being developed along Broadway but here in there in the commercial district some things do pop out at you. This is true of the former ‘Little Plantation Restaurant’ that recently closed on the corner of 93rd Street and Columbus Avenue. Attached to an apartment building, this space looks like a Southern plantation mansion fitted even with a porch swing. I am not sure how long this will last without being a restaurant but make a special trip to the building just see the detail work.

Sol Bloom Playground

Sol Bloom Playground

As I rounded the corners back to Central Park West, I stopped at the Sol Bloom Playground on 92nd Street near the local school to look for a bathroom. This whimsical park on a nice day attracts kids from all over the place and their parents running all over and playing on a the equipment. The park was named after Sol Bloom, a self-made millionaire. He had made his money in his music and real estate businesses. He had built several apartment buildings and both the Apollo and Music Box theaters.

Sol Bloom.jpg

Sol Bloom

I ended the day at the 86th Station totally exhausted having walk the area between 96th Street to 90th Street. The one thing that differs the Upper Upper West Side from Manhattan Valley/Bloomingdale to the north is how much newer it has gotten at the core. So many more newer apartment buildings in this area and more businesses catering to a higher end client. It just seems more like the old Upper West Side above 96th Street.

My second day walking the neighborhood I started after a long day at the Soup Kitchen. Working the Bread station all afternoon with the homeless asking you for pastries all morning long can be wearing. I got through it all. I started this part of the walk with lunch in Yorkville, wanting to try East Garden Chinese Restaurant at 1685 First Avenue again to see if it made the cut for my blog, ‘Dining on a Shoe String in NYC’. It did!

East Garden Chinese Restaurant really blows my mind on how good this place is for lunch. Their lunch specials run $5.95 and you get a very large entrée with a side of rice. Add in a Coke for an extra dollar and you have lunch and dinner. The place is really clean too.

East Garden Chinese Restaurant.jpg

East Garden Chinese Restaurant is excellent!

I had the Chicken with Broccoli with white rice and it was a very large portion. Both the chicken and the broccoli were perfectly and they do give you a nice amount of chicken. The sauce is flavorful and delicious (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.wordpress.com as well). It was both lunch and dinner for me.

After lunch, it was across the street to Glaser’s Bakery at 1670 1st Avenue for dessert (See reviews on both TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC-NOW CLOSED). They make a peach Danish that is out of this world ! ($3.00). I swear this is one of the best bakeries in the city! So much for the places with the $10.00 cookies, Glaser’s is the real thing. Every bite of that Danish was like heaven!

Glazer's Bake Shop

Glaser’s Bakery

I decided to walk across the park this afternoon to get some real exercise and work off that lunch. The park in the late fall is glorious with the gold and yellow leaves and the cool but still warm breezes. I walked along the reservoir and watched the joggers pass me by. I had more than a few tourists ask to take pictures for them but it is so much fun to see the park so alive with people and happy to be there. The park is so graceful in its own way and the fact that so much of it is being renovated by the Conservatory shows that people believe in it.

I love the winding paths and the quietness of the park. Even though these paths have been traveled many times, I felt as if I had seen them for the first time. I had never been to this part of the park before and walking these paths felt like a new adventure. It amazes me that I have been in this park a million times since I was a kid but I still wonder at the parts of it that I have never seen. I walked along the back paths of the lake by the low 80’s and ended up walking to West 82nd Street and Central Park West in the mid-afternoon. The trees were still brilliant with colorful leaves as November was still gripping. We had had such a warm fall that many of the trees turned late much to the benefit of those who like to walk around the neighborhood.

I walked up to 84th Street and Central Park West to resume my walk of the neighborhood. I really like the stores in this neighborhood. They have character. I walked into West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue and West 84th Street, to look at the toys and games. It is one of the classic stores of the city and still holds on to the tradition that kids are not all glued to their cellphones. It has a nice array of games and stuffed animals and assorted pocket knick knacks. It is a place I would have liked to shop at when I was a kid.

John Koch Antiques at 201 84th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) has unique window displays and in the short visit I had there had many wonderful pieces to decorate the office or your home. I liked the sailboats in the window. There was a turn of the last century feel about the place.

John Koch Antiques

John Koch Antiques

Books of Wonder at 217 West 84th Street (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) was enjoyable except they were going through a floor move when I was there and I only got to see the front of the store. It has an excellent selection of classic and contemporary children’s books.

Books of Wonder.jpg

Books of Wonder Book Store

As you turn the corner onto West 85th Street, take time to admire 101 West 85th Street. The building has the most beautiful architecture and beautiful details and built in the 1880’s. The Red House Apartment building at West 85th Street and West End Avenue near Riverside Drive has unique details to it as well. You really have to stop and look up to admire the design of the building. I rounded West 85th Street around West 86th Street and then to West 87th Street.

101 85th Street

101 West 85th Street; look at the details of the building

When walking up the block and turning onto West 87th Street, take time to admire the foliage at Central Park West. The park is truly beautiful on this part of block. The trees are really ablaze with color.

When I arrived at P.S. 166 on 132 West 89th Street, the Richard Rodgers School, is the Manhattan School of Art & Technology. I read the plaque that was dedicated in 2003 to the famous composer. The school was built in 1897 and is one of the few terra cotta gothic designs in the New York Public School system. It is such an honor to a famous composer of musicals such as ‘The Flower Drum Song’ and ‘The King and I’.

The Playground 89 next to P.S. 166 adds a little life to the quiet neighborhood. Even on a slightly warm November day, there were loads of kids running around while their parents relaxed and chatted on the benches surrounding the park. It was nice to see so many families out that afternoon.

As you round the neighborhood on West 89th Street, I walked into the West Side Community Garden at 123 West 89th and Columbus Avenue. This little gem of a park is located behind an office building and is across from P.S. 166. Though not in the full bloom that I saw from the pictures posted in the park from the Summer Opera Program, the trees still held on to their golden hue and some of the plants had some greenery to them. It looks like the community really backs and maintains the park. In warmer months, there is a lot of special events here.

West Side Community Garden.jpg

West Side Community Garden in the Summer

Down the street from the school and the parks is Ballet Hispanico at the corner of 167 West 89th and Amsterdam Avenue. Some of the holiday shows had been posted and looked rather interesting. The building was closed the day I was there.

The last part of my journey of the streets of the neighborhood was crossing West 90th Street for a second time and exploring the avenues. I stopped at the St. Gregory’s Playground near the corner of West 90th Street and Columbus Avenue. this little pocket park on the other side of the West Side Community Garden is in dire need of a face lift. I can see this is something the neighborhood needs as a parent yelled out to me if I was from the NYC Parks Department (I have no clue why I look so important to people when walking around the city. Either I look like a policeman or a city official).

There is another small park behind the Wise Houses, a small public housing project, in this very quickly gentrifying and updated neighborhood.  As I had read online and seen by walking though it (more stares from the residents), the small park has some unique fixtures yet is falling apart when you really look at it. The benches and some of the equipment is in need of repair but I could tell is well used by the residents by the kids running around. Like the St. Gregory playground, it could use a facelift.

The last part of the walk took me back to West End Avenue on West 90th Street and the most elegant row of brownstone homes that lined the avenue. I have noticed on my walk of this neighborhood that the individual homes along the streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue and Riverside Drive and West End Avenue have some of the most unique architecture in the neighborhood.

It must have been something when the whole neighborhood must have looked like this but that is progress. In the middle of the neighborhood, the area keeps updating, modernizing and changing. It seems that the neighborhood is morphing into something a little more upscale like its southern neighbors and less like Manhattan Valley to the north. For now, not quite the traditional Upper West Side but still homey and welcoming to people moving in. I enjoyed my afternoons here.

Take the A or C or 1 subway trains to the Upper Upper West Side. The A train will be express from 59th Street to 125th Street.

Places to eat:

West Place Chinese Restaurant

1288 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10027

(212) 932-9390/9376

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d5065901-Reviews-West_Place-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

DiningonShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/591

 

East Garden Chinese Restaurant

1685 First Avenue

New York, NY

(212) 831-5900

http://www.eastgardenchinese.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12860202-Reviews-East_Garden_Chinese_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/489

 

Glaser’s Bake Shop (now closed)

1670 1st Avenue

New York, NY 10128

(212) 289-2562

http://www.glasersbakeshop.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d930552-Reviews-Glaser_s_Bake_Shop-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/409

 

Places to Shop:

West Side Kids

498 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10024

(212) 496-7282

http://www.westsideskidsnyc.com

 

John Koch Antiques

201 West 84th Street

New York, NY  10024

(212) 799-2167

http://www.kochantiques.com

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/20

 

 

Books of Wonder

217 West 84th Street

New York, NY

(800) 207-6968

http://www.booksofwonder.com

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/42

 

Places to Visit:

West Side Community Garden

123 West 89th Street

(212) 316-5490

http://www.westsidecommunitygarden.org

 

Ballet Hispanico

167 West 89th Street

(212) 362-6710

http://www.ballethispanico.org

 

Playground 89

West 89th Street

New York, NY  10024

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/playground/eighty-nine

Open: Varies with the school

 

Joan of Arc Park

Riverside Drive Between West 96th-West 91st Streets

New York, NY 10025

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-1:00am

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/joan-of-arc-park

 

 

 

Day Eighty-One: Walking Manhattan Valley (the Bloomingdale District) along the Avenues from West End Avenue to Manhattan Avenue from West 110th to West 96th Streets July 31, 2017

 

Manhattan Valley (the Bloomingdale District) is the imagine of what people would think the Upper West Side is like in the 1970’s. It reminded me of an old Woody Allen film. It still has that old New York feel to it before gentrification rolled over the lower part of this side of the island. I think what keeps the neighborhood grounded is the Douglass Housing Complex in the middle of the neighborhood which runs from 104th Street to 100th Street from Amsterdam Avenue to Manhattan Avenue. The Park West Apartment Condo Complex anchors the southern part of the neighborhood.

The fringes of this neighborhood on all sides are quickly gentrifying from the sandblasting of buildings and new businesses along Broadway to almost everything north of 104th Street to 110th Street from Riverside Drive to Central Park West. Everything seems to have scaffolding in front of it, already is being cleaned and buffed or in the process of it. It is a mixture of old and new and it seems that the population likes it this way. The one thing I have to say it feels like a real neighborhood.

The Dutch called the area, “Bloemendaal”, which translates to “Valley of Flowers” as the area was once home to many farms and forests. The whole area was once the summer home to the wealthy residents from downtown and as the city grew, the area was dissected by the street system. There are still many pocket parks, community gardens and playgrounds plus it is bounded by Riverside Drive and Central Park.

My day began with another busy day at the Soup Kitchen. I admit I don’t think that in this economy I don’t think it is going to be getting slower. We’re consistent every time I am there. Not the 1500 meal days we used to have but it still gets busy. I work the busy  extra Bread station and they love their raisin bagels when we have them. I did not get of there until 12:30pm.

I started the walk at 110th Street with lunch at my new favorite Chinese restaurant, Hunan Chen’s Kitchen at 1003 A Columbus Avenue (See TripAdvisor review and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I had an order of their Orange Chicken and it was out of this world. The food there is excellent and for the size of the portion and the quality of the dishes, this place should be on everyone’s map. The orange chicken was perfectly cooked, crisp from the deep fry and the fried rice is good for a lunch portion. Their egg rolls are quite good as well.

Hunan Chen's Kitchen.jpg

Hunan Chen’s Chinese Restaurant

(Note to all readers: I have added a new blog site along with ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ to accompany ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. The new site is called ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com’, where I will be featuring restaurants I find on my travels around the island and beyond for under $10.00. There have to be more people like myself who are on a budget).

I had my lunch on the benches by the entrance of Morningside Park and on a sunny day, there is nothing like it. It must be a favorite of the neighborhood because I found myself with a crowd around the benches. I guess the park’s lurid past is behind it now as I watched a soccer game from the bench as I was eating. It is a nice place to relax and gather your thoughts.

Morningside Park

Morningside Park

After lunch, I started walking the Avenues that go up and down the neighborhood. This side of the island is a little smaller than the East Side of the park, six streets as opposed to eight. It was still quite the walk.

My first street was Manhattan Avenue and this street is just as juxtaposed as the other neighborhoods uptown. You can go from luxury brownstones to the projects in just one block. Lining Manhattan Avenue from 106th to 105th Streets are some of the most picturesque brownstones with front gardens and potted plants that you will see in the city. Each one is nicer than the other and seem unique in their own way because of their design and their plantings. I can imagine how they must decorate around the holidays.

Once you pass 104th Street, the large Fredrick Douglass Houses start to dominate the neighborhood.  I think that the project has kept this part of Manhattan from fully gentrifying as it dominates the whole core of the neighborhood from 104th to 100th Streets from Manhattan Avenue to Amsterdam Avenue. Like most of the housing complexes I have walked through, everyone pretty much ignored me. Tables of older Dominican men played cards and dominoes on a nice day, young mothers were in the playgrounds, which were nicer then most of the complexes I have seen and one family even had a lemonade/snack stand near the Youth Hostel on Amsterdam Avenue between 104th and 103rd Streets.

Fredrick Douglass Houses.jpg

Fredrick Douglass Houses

Manhattan Avenue stops at 100th Street in front the big Central Park West Condo complex which looks like middle-class housing to me. All I know is that they want you to stay out of the complex. There are signs all over the place that the through ways are for residents only and there is security all over the place. I won’t be able to walk through that too quickly.

Columbus Avenue below 100th Street joins the rest of the Upper West Side with shops and restaurants and a large Whole Foods which is a nice place to go to the bathroom if you need it and to fill up water bottles. Above 100th Street, it is dominated by the housing complex and then it changes back to small stores and prewar apartments.

A nice stop is the ‘Mobilization for Change Community Garden’ at Columbus Avenue at 107th Street. What a beautiful pocket park. It has colorful flower beds to walk through and there are elevated vegetable gardens that residents plant in and all the plants are in the stage of maturity that herbs are standing tall and vegetables are ready to ripen. It is a nice place to sit and relax.

The people there are very nice and talk about their role in helping make the garden what it is today. Take time to walk the path through the garden. This garden was created in the late 1980’s, when the neighborhood was not so nice and it was a dumping ground. The community really transformed this lot into something special.

Mobilization for Change Community Garden

Mobilization for Change Community Garden

Columbus Avenue dissects the Park West Village Apartment complex, so you get to see the planted gardens and paths that lead through the complex. Behind that, starts the modern shopping district. This area is totally being rebuilt and there are new buildings all over this section of the neighborhood. I was not able to walk through the complex as security is all over the place. There are also cameras all over the place. So I just walked around it.

At the bottom of Columbus Avenue, a new complex of buildings has been built with all new shops and a new Whole Foods are right across from the Douglass Houses. 100th Street is the obvious border of the Upper West Side to this neighborhood. This is when you see the community really mixing. I saw a lot of Whole Foods bags heading up the road. The Whole Foods is nice because it is also a place with a nice public bathroom and a place to fill your water bottle. The only other option is the Fredrick Douglass Park and their bathroom which needs a lot of work.

Amsterdam Avenue is a continuation of what it is uptown. A transformation of a neighborhood depending on the block that you live on. Everything above 104th Street and below 100th Street is quickly improving with old prewar apartments under scaffolding and new restaurants replacing old ones. Little by little the area is starting to change. Even the Amsterdam House, a public housing unit, is getting a make over right across the street from Fredrick Douglass Park.

At Amsterdam Avenue and 104th Street is the Youth Hostel that sits on the fringe of the Fredrick Douglass Houses. I was wondering why there were so many twenty year olds in this area walking around and speaking so many languages. (These kids fill all the reasonable restaurants in the area that inspired my blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com”).  There are so many great restaurants in the area where you can eat for under $10.00 and I wanted to let everyone know that they are there). This area gets very active later in the day when everyone comes back from visiting other parts of the city.

Between 100th and 99th Streets, St. Michael’s Church dominates the street with the most beautiful stained glass windows and the architecture is amazing. Really take a good look at the detail work of the building. On the way back up, walk through the Fredrick Douglass Park and watch the neighborhood come alive. There are kids screaming in the pool, hipster types playing soccer in the field and mothers from all over the neighborhood playing in the park with their kids and socializing with one another. This is where the neighborhood really mingles and you see it come alive.

St. Michael's Church.jpg

St. Michael’s Church

Rounding Broadway is where you see the real changes happening in the neighborhood. Broadway is where the neighborhood shines with its diversity of businesses and housing. Being two blocks from the Douglass Houses, it also shows how the fringes of this neighborhood are starting to change. Older businesses are next to newer hipper restaurants and it makes a nice mix. Some of the most interesting buildings are in this area and really look up as you walk around or you might miss it.

The most interesting aspect of Broadway is the landscaped ‘Mall’ that runs in the middle of the street and gives nature its due throughout the neighborhood with trees and flowers lining the middle and benches to relax and just walk the world go by.

At 107th Street and Broadway is Straus Park, dedicated to Isidor and Ida Straus who died in the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. The Straus family had ownership of Macy’s Department Store at the time and had been very prominent in the business world. I remembered when I had worked at Macy’s that there had been a park dedicated to them.

Straus Park II.jpg

Straus Park

This graceful park is lined with trees, flowers and bushes and is beautifully landscaped to match the Broadway Mall across the street. There are lots of benches to relax in and the park is well maintained by the neighborhood. The four days I spent in the neighborhood there was always someone weeding, pruning or watering something. It is a nice place to take a book or get some writing done. Many of the residents socialize here and it is a nice gathering place. The memorial dedicated to the two of them is simple and graceful and fits into the park nicely.

The park also dissects the streets, where Broadway and West End Avenue fork and separate into two different streets. Walking down Broadway when you reach 103rd Street, artist Joy Brown has another one of her ‘people’ statues that I had seen further uptown. Here the adult was walking with her child. These statues are whimsical and almost like a animated character in 3D. Many of her statues line Broadway at various streets uptown.

joy-brown.png

Joy Brown’s Statue on Broadway

On the island on Broadway between 106th and 107th Streets look to the bottom of the wall and you will see the most interesting artwork in memory of Duke Ellington. Look by the walls by the benches and you will see the mosaic on both parts of the wall.

Being so humid that day, I made a pit stop at McDonald’s. I stopped for one of their frozen strawberry lemonade’s. I swear, that drink is one of the best things to drink on a humid day. It cools you inside and out. I ordered a medium and I did not need to drink anything for the rest of the walk. I was totally refreshed.

Take a look at the Metro Theater, closed now, to see the interesting Art Deco details on the building. It would be nice if this could be opened in its original shape but for now it stands boarded up awaiting its fate. A lot of Broadway is now being lined with new apartment buildings and shops that are connecting it to the rest of the Upper West Side.

Metro Theater.jpg

Metro Theater on Broadway

West End Avenue is onto itself as a more residential block. I get the impression by the people walking around this street that they take themselves a little too seriously. Everyone I saw had this determined look on their faces. I could not figure out why.

The buildings that line the street between 106th to 96th Street are mostly prewar apartment houses with detailed marble carvings. The side streets are lined with a combination of old brownstones and smaller apartment houses. Planters with small trees and flowers dominate the buildings and give it a more European feel to them. One of the most beautiful buildings on the block is at 925 West End Avenue.

925 West End Avenue.jpg

925 West End Avenue

It is a marble building where you see numerous faces and animals carved into the marble. There are two similar buildings like this in the neighborhood but this one is most spectacular. Look at the grill work and the windows and it will make you fall in love again with the treasures that the city offers.

I took a detour off West End Avenue to walk down several of the side streets to see how nicely the buildings blended into Riverside Park. The block between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive are the most gentile part of the neighborhood and show off some its oldest architecture.

Riverside Park.jpg

Riverside Park

This is a classic New York neighborhood showing the ‘old’ New York. As I said earlier, there is something very mid-70’s to early 80’s about this part of the Upper West Side. Its changing but not like the hyper-luxury buildings further downtown. Its like walking around the city at a time when New York City was getting better for New Yorkers not a real estate investment from abroad.

 

Places to Visit:

 

Strauss Park

West End Avenue & 107th Street

New York, NY  10025

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/strauspark/

Open:  Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-1:00am

 

Morningside Park

West 123rd-West 110th along Morningside Avenue

New York, NY  10026

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/morningside-park

Open: 6:00am-1:00am

 

Mobilization for Change Community Garden

955 Columbus Avenue

New York, NY

https://communitygarden.org/find-a-garden/gardens/mobilization-for-change-community-garden/

https://www.facebook.com/MFCGarden/

 

Places to Eat:

 

Hunan Chen’s

1003 Columbus Avenue A

New York, NY  10025

(212) 222-1118

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4980909-Reviews-Hunan_Chen_s_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/24

 

McDonald’s

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/541

 

Things to See:

 

Joy Brown Statues (now closed)

http://joybrownstudio.com/

http://broadwaymall.org/public-art/

Video on the Exhibition:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/joy-brown-on-broadway-nyc

 

Duke Ellington Memorial Mosaic

On the Broadway Island from West 106th-107th Streets

 

Day Sixty-Nine: Walking SoHA in Morningside Heights from 125th Street-110th Street from Riverside Drive to Fredrick Douglas Boulevard March 3rd-March 30th, 2017

What a difference a week makes! I started the first part of my walking project last Friday night when it was 73 degrees outside and just spectacular. People had been out in the parks with their strollers and dogs and kids were playing sports all over the park even into twilight. Now it was about 43 degrees and back to being winter. The kids who were on their winter break really lucked out. They had a week of unseasonable weather to enjoy.

I started this part of the walk on Morningside Drive walking up the hill facing the park. It is some walk but I am sure in warmer weather it would be a lot more pleasant. You really do get your exercise walking this part of the neighborhood. Going up and down hills can take a lot out of you. What I liked best of this part of SoHA was the architecture. It had a combination of college campus appeal with the classroom buildings, the quad and the dorms mixed in with the pre-war buildings which have been renovated back to their original beauty.

Morningside Park

Morning Side Park keeps improving every year

I think the appeal of Morningside Heights is the college atmosphere mixed into the urban setting and the fact that the area is so much safer than it was even ten years ago. This is not the urban campus of my father and my cousin, who are both Alumnus of the school. There has been a big change especially in Morningside Park which borders the neighborhood with Harlem.

Morningside Heights II

Morningside Heights is an urban campus for Columbia University

Even in the middle of winter, the warm weather has done strange things to Mother Nature and the park was starting to bud and bloom a month and a half early. As I walked up and down Morningside Drive, I took a walking tour of the park for a second time. This ice-aged formed park really has a beauty to it when you look up close. The rock formations mixed in with the steps and the flowers peaking up and starting to bloom early adds to the grace of the park. The park just needed some TLC.

The park is full of long paths through the rock formations and offer nice views of the neighborhood below. There are several paths that go up and down the hills so be prepared to walk. By the pond toward the middle of the park, there is an interesting statue donated by respected banker, Alfred Seligman ‘The Bear and the Fawn’ with a little bear overlooking a fawn playing his flute. The statue was designed by American artist Edgar Edward Walter. Before the dedication of the statue, Mr. Seligman who was head of the National Highways Protection Society, died in one of the first documented highway accidents (Daytonian).

The detail work is beautiful and the statue is one of those things you would miss if you did not walk the length of the park. When it was a working fountain, it must have really graced the park. I walked up and down the paths and stairs before I exited the park at 110th Street.

Bear and the Faun

‘The Bear and the Faun’ by artist Edgar Edward Walter

I walked around 110th Street to Amsterdam Avenue and walked up past the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and walked around the church and its gardens and statuary.  Down the long paths of plantings and around the bends of the property, I came across another interesting statue. At the center of the park, there is a breathtaking statue  called the “Peace Fountain”, created in 1985 which shows a unusual look at the battle between good and evil by artist Greg Wyatt, who was an artist in residence at the church.

Greg Wyatt artist

Artist Greg Wyatt

Mr. Wyatt has graduated from Columbia College with BA in Art History and studied at National Academy of Design. He bases his work on the philosophy of the “spiritual realism’ merging realistic images and abstract forms of space, form and energy (Wiki).

 

Peace Fountain St. John the Divine

The ‘Peace Fountain’ by artist Greg Wyatt

Really take some time to look over this statue and its detail work with all the animals, demons and angels. You have to see the figures from all sides to see all the characters in their stances and how it works into the battle of the forces. It is a very powerful statement of good conquering evil. It depicted the Archangel Michael versus Satan. On a warm summer day, it must be a beautiful park. It is a tough call now at the end of the winter.

Walking up Amsterdam Avenue, you hit the heart of Columbia University that runs from 114th Street to about 120th Streets. For pretty much the rest of the neighborhood until you hit 125th Street, this area is all geared to the university. The area is graced with graceful old buildings, some the turn of the last century and many pre-war apartment buildings on the side streets.

The best is when you walk to 116th Street and that leads you in the Quad in the main part of the Columbia campus. This bustling area by the library was full of students who were socializing and sunning themselves on the warmer days. During the breaks from class, the students flooded the streets looking for something to eat or running back to their residence halls.

Columbia University Quad

The Columbia University Quad at 116th Street

Outside the entrance to the Quad, just above 116th Street, there are several food trucks at night that cater to the Asian students offering Chinese, Japanese and Thai food. Take a serious stop and try the food. I had a delicious ‘pork sandwich’ that was chopped roast port on a steamed bun for $4.00, a nice treat after a long walk and I was able to eat it in the Quad. It could have used a little sauce to it but it was still loaded with pork and was a nice size. This steaming chopped pork sandwich was just one of the items that were offered at a very reasonable price to the students. There are noodle dishes and dumplings all around the $3.00-$7.00 range and at lunch and dinner the lines can get quite long. Bring cash.

Amsterdam Avenue like its counterpart neighborhood by the CUNY campus is dotted with great restaurants and coffee shops that cater to both the locals and the students alike.  I had concluded my first day walking the Morningside Heights neighborhood that evening with dinner at V & T Pizzeria, a local eating establishment located at 1024 Amsterdam Avenue (See the review on TripAdvisor). It is the typical red sauce Italian-American restaurant that you would expect from Little Italy not from uptown.

V & T Pizzeria

V & T Pizzeria at 1024 Amsterdam Avenue in Morningside Heights

The food was really good.  I had a house salad with a creamy Italian dressing that was typical for an old-fashioned restaurant with the iceberg lettuce and chopped tomatoes but still good. I was in the mood after a long walk for a meatball hoagie. The sandwich was huge! The only problem was that the meatballs were not that good. I mean they were big and had a nice sauce but the meatballs were average with not that flavor. It was disappointing but the other food coming out looked good, so it will give a reason to come back another time.

Meatball sandwich

The meatball sandwich was okay

I continued up Amsterdam Avenue touring up the sides of both the campus and the edge of the neighborhood that lined the park and you get to see the transition of the area by 123rd Street when you see the General Grant Housing Project, a huge complex that lines the edge of the neighborhood between 123rd Street to 125th Street from Broadway to Morningside Drive.  This complex as nice as it looks from the outside has its share of problems on the inside. I had to walk through the complex a couple of times when walking through 124th Street extension and when I was walking the length of LaSalle Street to Amsterdam Avenue and no problems. It looks like a complex in Miami Beach.

General Grant Houses

The General Grant Houses sit at the edge of the Morningside Heights neighborhood

It is in this area the new extension of Columbia University is taking place between 125th Street and 135th Street along Broadway across from the projects. Once those buildings open this summer that will completely change this part of the neighborhood bringing more students up to this part of the area and all the restaurants along the Broadway stop of the 1 Train and along this part of 125th Street will start to change as you are seeing it now. Old bodegas and cut rate restaurants that catered to the people in the projects are now changing to more upscale restaurants, bars, coffee shops and shops. Broadway alone has three Starbucks and they were all full the entire time I walked the neighborhood. There are some serious changes it will make to this part of Morningside Park.

Walking down Broadway really puts you into the heart of the neighborhood and through the campus. Everything here pretty much caters to the college and the faculty and students. All the restaurants have their own uniqueness to them with the Columbia symbol prominently  displayed on the windows. I found it is nice to get take out and sit in the Quad and eat while watching the students. Two days into touring the area the weather was around 60 degrees so it was nice to eat outside and relax and see the world go by. Reality set in as the winter weather set back in and it was 34 degrees again and back inside I went.

It was a quick walk up Claremont Avenue, the heart of Barnard College, the girl’s school of the college. This is area is being rebuilt and sandblasted as the college is expanding into the neighborhood. Most of the buildings between here and Riverside Avenue are filled with prewar apartments and student housing. Just be aware to prepare to walk on the street as some of the sidewalks are closed off. When it is all done it is going to look even more beautiful with the new buildings and renovations so close to Riverside Park, which in itself was a nice walk during the summer months.

Barnard College II

Barnard College

As I walked the upper streets of the neighborhood, you can see more money is being put into the parks and historical parks in this part of the city. Sakura Park,  which is lined with flowering trees still in winter hibernation, are beginning to see the first sign of spring as the buds are bursting early. On the warm days, there were a lot of students studying or playing games. The park is dedicated to the Japanese in parts with a giant Japanese Lantern Statue  by the International Building that is quite detailed.

Sakura Park

Sakura Park in the Spring months is pretty amazing

This park leads into Riverside Park and the newly renovated Grant’s Tomb (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This area for years was over-grown and vandalized with the decline of the neighborhood, which is no longer the case. The tomb has been sandblasted back to its original beauty and when I passed it over the summer was lined with American flags. It is only open at certain times of the week, so plan accordingly.

Grant's Tomb

Grant’s Tomb National Memorial

Next to Grant’s Tomb is a small monument called the Tomb of the Amiable Child (see my review on VisitingaMuseum.com), which should not be missed. On the path close to the park, you will see this small marble urn surrounded by fencing. It is a somber site for a small child who died in the are in the 1700’s .

Tomb of the Amiable Child

The Tomb of the Amiable Child

In Riverside Park I was able to walk over the summer and got a feel for how beautiful the park really is as it hugs the Hudson River. It is a great place to jog, ride a bike or picnic. It has gotten more popular over the years as the park has improved itself with more TLC from the community. The Friends of Riverside Park have done a nice job raising funds and awareness for the care of the park and it shows in the plantings and paths that have improved over the years. In the warm months, the place is in full bloom and with the view of the Hudson River the look is quite spectacular.

When walking the lower streets of the neighborhood on the west side of the park is full of prewar apartments and resident halls for the students as well as buildings that cater to the university. I don’t think there was one bad street on this side of the park. The area is very self-contained for the university and the buildings have an ‘old New York’ feel about them being built at the turn of the last century.

For the blocks between 111th Street to about 120th Street west of Morningside Park it is all about the university with class space and offices and a small Greek Row in the middle of the neighborhood. On the Claremont Avenue section of the neighborhood just west of Riverside Park is where Barnard College, the Woman’s College of Columbia is located and is expanding. More buildings are going up or being added to as the University expands.

This expansion continues in the area above Tiemann Place near the edge of the park and the river. The University is building a new ‘glass box’ section of campus between 125th and 133rd Streets along the river and the buildings should open up within the year. That is changing the whole complexity of the neighborhood around 125th Street in this part of the neighborhood. The upper reaches of Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue’s as well as this section of 125th Street between Marginal Street to Amsterdam Avenue is either getting new restaurants and shops that are catering to the college students or are being knocked down or renovated to cater to the changing population once those four buildings open up across the street from the housing projects.

Columbia Campus Extension

The Columbia University extension above 125th Street is changing the neighborhood

For lunch that afternoon, I ate at Koronet Pizza at 2848 Broadway for a jumbo slice of pizza (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). This slice is pizza is HUGE and could feed two hungry people very easily. The jumbo slice is part of an 32″ pizza and the pizza was delicious. It has a very flavorful and spicy tomato sauce and uses a good amount and quality of cheese. It took a awhile to devour that delicious slice of pizza. The restaurant attracts a nice mix of neighborhood people, college students and professors and has a good ‘family feel’ about it.

Koronet Pizza

Koronet Pizza at 2848 Broadway has the biggest slices around

On the tip of the neighborhood between LaSalle Street and 125th Street are the Morningside Apartments and the General Grant Houses, which both look more like mixed income apartment buildings than public housing. I really toured the area on this trip. The area landscaping and playgrounds are much better than most housing projects that I have seen in the city and they look better taken care of than most of the housing projects in this area of the city.

This corner of the neighborhood is also home to various small parks such as The West Harlem Piers Park at 125th Street and Riverside Park with benches and paths for walking and enjoying the views of the Hudson River and the cliffs of New Jersey. This is a great area in the summer to listen to music or watch the sun set. The St. Clair Rose Garden is right off St. Clair Place by the underpass and steps leading to Grant’s Tomb. It will be nice to see how this garden looks in the summer months.

West Harlem Pier

The West Harlem Pier Park offers amazing views of the Hudson River

As I traveled east along 124th Street, I walked the island from west to east and it does change from one side of the island to the other. I crossed the boundaries of Morningside Heights to SoHA to Spanish Harlem and you can see the difference from block to block.

Pretty much the blocks west of Fifth Avenue are a mix of pre-war apartment buildings, turn of the last century brownstones and new pocket apartment buildings with a mix of small neighborhood gardens in between the buildings.

On my third day of the walk around the neighborhood, I was able to walk the streets between 124th Street to 120th Street west of Mount Morris (Marcus Garvey) Park. This area between Mount Morris Park West to Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue) is the Mount Morris Historical District, which is full of beautiful and graceful brownstones which are carefully bring renovated. A good portion of the neighborhood is under scaffolding (as most of Harlem and Washington Heights has been) as the buildings are being restored by their owners.

Mount Morris Park

Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)

The stonework of most of these buildings is so detailed and unique with carvings of leaves,  vines and faces gracing the outside of the buildings. Some have stained glass features around the doors and windows and the outside steps have been sandblasted and fixed to new with potted plants and an occasional Christmas feature still decorating the outside of the home.

Mount Morris Historical District

Mount Morris Historic District

This area is also home to many small Community Gardens which at this time of the year are still under snow. There is the ‘Our Little Green Avenue Park’ at 123rd Street, the Joyce David Wilson Garden at 123rd Street, the Five Star Garden at St. Nicholas Avenue at 121st Street and Harlem Art Park at 120th Street at 3rd Avenue. These parks are small pocket parks taken care of by the neighborhood or street associations. I did not get much of a feel for them when they were under six inches of snow.

Five Star Garden Harlem

Five Star Garden Park at 121st Street in the Summer months

To tell you how the neighborhood is diverse in its housing is when you get to 124th Street and 1st Avenue where you have a luxury apartment building across the street from the Wagner Housing Project and the entrance to the Triboro Bridge and Louis Cuvillier Park which is under a renovation. You can see where new restaurants are popping up to cater to these new residents on 1st Avenue, 124th and 125th Streets.

The Wagner Houses I hate to say is a scary area even during the day. I always felt like I was being watched by everyone from the residents, to the Con Ed guys working in the area to the police looking out for the kids leaving school on 120th Street and Paladino Avenue by the river.  People just kept saying hello to me like they were trying to tell me that they saw me there or in the case of the police just watched but tried to ignore me. I see this a lot in Harlem.

Wagner Houses

Walking around the Wagner Houses can be a little intimidating

One saving grace to the whole experience by the school was the bodega, Pleasant Finest Deli, on the corner of 375 Pleasant Avenue and 120th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor), which I could tell catered to the kids coming out of school with sandwiches under $3.00 and piles of chips and snack cakes for fifty cents to a dollar. The deals at this store were amazing and the owners looked like they were happy to see me. Just listening to the foul mouthed parents was interesting. The way they berated their children just floored me. Some of these women should never have had kids.

That evening I went to midtown to eat at the Land of Plenty Chinese restaurant by Bloomingdale’s at 204 East 58th Street (see review on TripAdvisor), a restaurant I have wanted to try for several years when it was ranked the number on Chinese restaurant in New York City by the Village Voice. The food and the service were just excellent.

Land of Plenty Restaurant

The Land of Plenty Restaurant at 204 East 58th Street

I had the most delicious soup dumplings that were made for me and I did not even have to hike down to Chinatown for them. They just burst in my mouth when I bit into them. I had a Shredded Pork with a Sweet Miso sauce with scallions and their Ten Ingredient Fried Rice for my main meal which both were delicious and flavorful. The Sweet Miso  sauce really had a tangy spiciness to it. The service was friendly and welcoming. A definite must when shopping at Bloomies.

Ten ingredient fried rice

Their Ten Ingredient Fried Rice is amazing

I continued on to the east side of Morningside Park, where the Morningside Heights extends as I walked the area from 125th Street to 110th Street that now extends to Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, the new ‘Restaurant Row’ of the neighborhood. This area is dominated by beautiful brownstones of many unique designs, pre-war apartment buildings and many local businesses that are in the midst of change. The neighborhood bodegas are giving way to new restaurants, art galleries and boutique bakeries that are catering to the new residents who are buying all those buildings under scaffolding and the current residents who look like they are enjoying the change.

Along the way I have seen so many gorgeous buildings being restored. The most beautiful is the Washington Irving Building at 203 West 112th Street. This graceful building has the most beautiful stonework and detailed accents to the outside it, you literally stop and just want to stare at it. I have only seen buildings like this midtown buildings on Park Avenue and in the Village.

Washington Irving Building

The Washington Irving Building at 203 West 112th Street

Small pocket parks and community gardens continue to dominate the areas that once housed brownstones. These future flower and vegetable gardens are all over parts of the neighborhood such as the ‘Electric Ladybug Garden’ at 111th Street. There is a distinct  elegance to the area around Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue) with its tree lined island with trees and flower plantings waiting for the Spring to come.

The area that is rapidly changing the most is Fredrick Douglas Boulevard which among the new businesses is being known as ‘Central Park North’, with several businesses adopted the SoHA (South of Harlem) signature. I have never seen so many expensive restaurants with entrees over the price of $15.00 in one area. I don’t even find the menus that exciting or innovative. They just look like bars with food being served.

On my last day in Morningside Heights, I tested the boundaries and walked the entire length of 116th Street from one side of the island to the other. You see more local businesses along the 116th shopping corridor with many soul food, seafood, pizza and local chicken places dominating to a very diverse population. Closer to the Columbia campus, you have more upscale places to eat but once you cross Fredrick Douglas Boulevard and head toward Spanish Harlem, it can be anything from the latest African cooking to island cooking from Jamaica to fast food and the chain restaurants to local bakeries serving empanadas and doughnuts. You can eat your way through the entire street and it would take months to do.

On the streets from 119th-115th Streets from Morningside Park to 5th Avenue are lined with a series of brownstones and pre-war apartments which hug the ‘Mount Morris Historical District’ or just outside of it. These blocks are going through a tremendous change right now as students and recent graduates are spreading out from the traditional borders of the neighborhood, which means the west side of the park and moving into this section especially to the 5th Avenue border. Crossing Fredrick Douglas Boulevard means even pushing the traditional boundaries of the neighborhood and going into SoHA. By the time you cross Lenox Avenue below 115th Street, you hit the long line of housing projects from 112th-115 Streets and even the streets surrounding the projects are being fixed up.

I have never seen so many new restaurants and stores opening up especially opening up this economy. All of these pocket businesses are opening right next to the traditional neighborhood stores and you can see that changing for the next few years. There are so many small luxury housing projects going up in every corner of the neighborhood that will need to be catered to and the local population seems to like the additions to the many blocks as I see a diverse crowd in all the businesses. Even most of the newer businesses in the area are adopting the SoHA name.

SoHA

Not everyone is happy about the SoHA name in Harlem

Pretty much everything west of Fredrick Douglas Boulevard and west to Morningside Park is considered part of the Morningside Heights area now as the last of the empty buildings are being renovated and a lot of the Mount Morris Historical area is under scaffolding. There is a lot of pride in this neighborhood as it keeps changing and improving itself.

On my last night in Morningside Heights after walking almost 28 city blocks, I indulged a little and had dinner at LaSalle Dumpling Room on 3141 Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor). Make this a stop if you are visiting Columbia campus because the food and the service are excellent. All the dumplings are made fresh on the spot per order and come out cooked as light as a feather.

LaSalle Dumpling II

LaSalle Dumpling at 3141 Broadway should not be missed

The Pork & Crab Soup Dumplings are excellent, full of juiciness and flavor and the pan-fried pork dumplings are light and delicious and were perfectly cooked. I also tried the Dong Jing Rice Bowl which was a combination of white rice, sautéed beef, egg, onions and cheddar cheese in a brown sauce and the combination worked nicely (even though the onions were not necessary). The service was excellent.

LaSalle Dumpling

 

The Soup Dumplings here are excellent

This section of SoHA is catering to the large and growing population of college students and those post-graduates who want to live in the area. It is more of an extension of the Upper West Side than traditional Harlem. Take a walk around soon because it just keeps changing.

Just don’t call it SoHA to the wrong person!

 

Places to Eat:

 

V & T Pizzeria

1020 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY  10025

(212) 663-1708

Home

Open: Sunday & Monday 11:30am-11:00pm/Tuesday-Saturday 11:30am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d459365-Reviews-V_T_Pizzeria-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

LaSalle Dumpling

3141 Broadway

New York, NY 10027

(212) 961-0300https://la-salle-dumpling-room.business.site/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:30am-9:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10834141-Reviews-La_Salle_Dumpling_Room-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Koronet Pizza

2848 Broadway

New York, NY 10025

(212) 222-1566

https://www.koronetpizzany.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426021-Reviews-Koronet_Pizzeria-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/273

 

Land of Plenty

204 East 58th Street

New York, NY 10022

(212) 308-8778

http://www.landofplenty58.com/

Open: Sunday & Saturday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday-Friday 11:30am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3175158-Reviews-Land_of_Plenty-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Pleasant Finest Deli

375 Pleasant Avenue at 120th Street

New York, NY 10035

(212) 348-6666

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12379766-Reviews-Pleasant_Finest_Deli-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Morningside Park

Morningside Drive

New York, NY  10026

(212) 639-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/morningsidepark

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-1:00am

 

The Columbia University Quad

New York, NY  10027

https://www.columbia.edu/

https://undergrad.admissions.columbia.edu/photo/van-am-quad

 

Sakura Park

500 Riverside Drive

New York, NY  10027

(212) 369-9675

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-1:00am

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/sakura-park

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/sakura-park/history

 

Riverside Park

Along the Hudson River West Side of Manhattan

New York, NY  10027

(212) 369-9675

Open: Sunday-Saturday: 24 Hours

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riverside-park

https://riversideparknyc.org/

 

Grant’s Tomb National Memorial

West 122nd Street & Riverside Drive

New York, NY 10027

(212) 666-1640

https://www.nps.gov/gegr/index.htm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/park-features/riverside-park/virtual-tour/grants-tomb

Open: Sunday 9:00am-5:00pm/Monday & Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105812-Reviews-General_Grant_National_Memorial-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1354

 

Tomb of the Amiable Child

554 Riverside Drive at West 124th Street

New York, NY 10027

Open: 6:00am-1:00am

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riversidepark/monuments/1206

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/630

 

West Harlem Piers park

Marginal Street & 132nd Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 369-9675

Open: 6:00am-1:00am

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/west-harlem-piers

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/west-harlem-piers/events

 

St. Clair Rose Garden

On the hill at St. Claire Street

New York, NY  10027

https://foursquare.com/v/st-claire-rose-garden/4dd5923ed1647fcf3e1d4aa2

 

Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)

6316 Mount Morris Park West

New York, NY  10027

(212) 369-9675

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marcusgarveypark

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marcus-garvey-park/events

 

With the smaller Community Gardens, please check their websites or the NYCParks.com site for hours and days open:

 

Electric Ladybug Garden

241 West 111th Street

New York, NY  10026

Welcome to the Garden!

Open: April to October

 

Our Little Green Avenue Park

West 123rd Street

New York, NY  10026

https://greenthumb.nycgovparks.org/gardensearch.php

 

Joyce David Wilson Garden

West 123rd Street

New York, NY  10026

(212) 369-9675

Open: See NYCParks.com site

 

Harlem Art Garden

West 120th Street & Sylvan Place

New York, NY  10035

(212) 369-6975

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/harlem-art-park

Open:  Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-11:00pm

 

Five Star Garden

252 West 121st Street

New York, NY  10027

(212) 369-6975

Five Star Garden

https://www.opengreenmap.org/greenmap/healthy-living-harlem/five-star-garden-3512

 

Day Sixty-Seven: Walking SoHA (South of Harlem: Morningside Heights, South Harlem & Spanish Harlem) from 125th Street to 110th Street from river to river February 22, 2017

I started the day walking 125th Street again on a beautiful sunny February day. It must have been 62 degrees out, sunny and glorious.  The kids in the city like in the suburbs were off from school for the winter break, so everyone was outside in the parks enjoying the warm weather. The streets were crowded with people walking their dogs, students from Colombia walking around between classes and neighborhood children playing football and baseball in the parks.

With all the area above 125th finally complete, I have started to walk the neighborhoods below traditional Harlem and above the Upper East and West sides. Morningside Heights is the area bordered by Morningside Avenue to 110th to 125th to Riverside Square Park, South Harlem is from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, South Harlem is bordered again from Fredrick Douglas Boulevard to Fifth Avenue from 110th to 125th Streets and Spanish Harlem from 5th Avenue to FDR Drive  from 110th to 125th Streets. So this time to make it easier I have broken it up into three sections to do the walk.

I started the walk today at 125th Street at Morningside Avenue walking shoppers and tourists milling around the shopping district at 125th Street. The whole shopping district is going through a transformation from old cut-rate stores and family businesses to a series of chain restaurants, stores and gyms. Every business you find in a suburban strip mall are coming to Harlem from TJMax and Rainbow to Red Lobster and Olive Garden. It is pretty shocking how fast it has changed but even more how the flavor of the area is being adjusted to tourism.

Apollo Theater

The famous Apollo Theater is surrounded by Red Lobster and Whole Foods now

Another surprising aspect of the neighborhood is how nice it has gotten. Gone are the days that Colombia University had to practically erect walls to keep the neighborhood out. Colombia students like their fellow SUNY students thirty blocks up are starting to move in and take over this neighborhood. The South Harlem area is awash with scaffolding of people renovating the buildings and new restaurants and shops.

Morningside Park, which pretty much is the traditional border between the university and Harlem has been renovated over the past twenty years and is no longer the dismal overgrown park that you would get mugged in if you entered. My dad went to Colombia in the 60’s and my cousin in the 80’s and in those years, you would never enter the park. In 1993-95, the park was renovated and had new plantings and equipment installed in the park, giving it the same cheerful appearance of any other park in the city. Does it have it’s share of problems still? Like any park in New York City after dusk, you have to watch yourself.

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Morningside Park near Columbia University

Because of the weather being so warm at this time, the park was being spruced up with park employees raking and cleaning up the beds and lawns. The garbage was being picked up as well and the park looked clean and well planted. With it being February, not much is in bloom but you can see where tulips and daffodils are starting to pop up in the soil. Lots of people were jogging in the park, walking with baby carriages or playing sports. A far cry from the needle and crack cocaine days in the 80’s. You can see the new landscaping and water features that have been created in the park and at dusk the lights actually work.

I traveled down the road planning on visiting the park again in more detail. I turned at 110th Street and walked the entire length of 110th from west side to east side and talk about a street of extremes. As you walk towards Riverside Park, you have Colombia to the north and the very top of the Upper West Side to the south. The buildings on this side of West 110th have been sandblasted back to their original elegance and from what I can see of the residents had never really gone down hill with the rest of the neighborhood.

Riverside Park 110 Street

Riverside Park by 110th Street

Amsterdam Avenue north of 110th Street has some interesting restaurants that I will need to try and I am discovering the holes in the wall that must cater to the students. Many have reasonable lunch specials and some have creative menus. I stopped in Riverside Park for a bit to relax before the long walk and the park was busy with nannies and mother’s with their kids in the 110th Street Tot Playground. The place was teaming with toddlers having a good time. The park still has not had the hint of Spring but having traveled this area last summer, it is a beautiful park when in bloom.

I walked down to Columbus Avenue and walked around the newly planted park area and discovered Hunan Chen’s Kitchen, a tiny hole in the wall restaurant at 1003 A Columbus Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor and on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).   This little restaurant has only one table and is so small you can barely turn around. What is lacks in atmosphere, it makes up in food and service.

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Hunan Chen Kitchen off 110th Street at 1003A Columbus Avenue

The lady who works the counter could not have been friendlier and accommodating. The prices were so cheap that you can order a nice meal for under $10.00 that could feed two people and for $5.00 you can buy a nice snack in their appetizer and soup section. I ordered an eggroll and a pint of Roast Pork Lo Mein. I must have gotten a pound of Lo Mein that was steaming hot and loaded with roast pork. It was delicious and well seasoned. The eggroll could have had more roast pork in it but was still plump and well-cooked. I was able to eat in on the benches in Morningside Park at the entrance at 110th Street. It was nice to people watch on a warm day and fun to see the students finally utilizing the park for pleasure.

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Roast Pork Lo Mein with egg roll

After lunch, it was a the long walk to the northern stretches of Central Park and the Harlem Meer. This section of the park was packed with people. Seniors were fishing in the Meer (lake) and the kids were playing in the playground by the Lenox Avenue entrance. This area had been replanted and fixed in the late 90’s and again in the early 2000’s by the city with the help of the Central Park Conservatory. People were taking pictures of the ducks or chasing the pigeons around the park.

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The Charles A. Dana Discover Center and the Harlem Meer

I had an interesting afternoon at the Charles A. Dana Discover Center located on the Meer and reading how the area was so influential in the Revolutionary War. Much of the battles had taken place in this area and the forts were located right in the park boundaries. The Battle of Harlem was not far from this spot and it was amazing how the area went back to nature once the war was over. The panels tell the story of the area and you should take about an hour and really read about the areas part in the war. On such a beautiful day the park really sparkled and it looked like a lot of adults were playing hooky on such a nice day.

Crossing Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue is the start of the extremes of 110th Street. You will pass what was once public housing but looks like it is going ‘market rate’ with renovations and once you pass the border of Madison Avenue, you will enter Spanish Harlem and a series of public housing projects. Again this area was alive with people but the mood of the area is completely different.

The Spanish influence was all over the place. On the walls of the stores and in the restaurants and signs as well as the music. There must be at least four or five housing projects in this area in various degrees of maintenance. Some were well maintained like by the Lehman Houses. By the  Houses, it got a little scary. I would not venture in that area at night. At the end of 110th Street, you have the East River Houses, that look like a more pleasant middle-class looking development.

Lehman Houses

Lehman Houses (be careful walking around them)

I walked around Thomas Jefferson Park, a space of green that needs a serious renovation. The park could use a little sprucing up from what I could see. I did not want to enter the basketball grounds due to a scary looking group of teens and walked around the edges of the park.  Just south of the park on New Street, Zip Car seems to have their headquarters and the whole lot is lined with cars.

Thomas Jefferson Park II

Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem

The funny part about 110th street in this area is that it is dotted with new housing, bars and restaurants. The 20 year old set is starting to move into this area. On a rather seedy stretch of 110th, I was always looking over my shoulder until I saw some 20 year old ‘hipster’ with shorts on and an expensive IPhone playing that I felt like a jerk. Either I was the one worrying or he was putting himself at risk.

I stopped for a snack at El Chevere Cuchifritos, a Spanish restaurant, take-out place and bakery at 2000 Third Avenue for some pastilitoes. I ordered them with my broken Spanish which seemed to pass fine as the woman waiting on me understood what I said. I ordered a chicken and beef but got a cheese and they were good but not as good as some I have had in Washington Heights. They are reasonable at $1.50 each and very fresh. They have a nice selection of reasonable hot foods to take out and I just munched on them on the trip back up 110th to Fifth Avenue.

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El Cheve Cuchifrito Bakery at 2000 Third Avenue

Fifth Avenue from 110th to 125th Streets was where I was lining my walk to concentrate in this area. I walked up and down Fifth Avenue to Marcus Garvey Park and walked around the park which was packed with people walking their dogs by the dog park and kids playing in the playground. Even though the avenue is lined with public housing, the area is dotted with new developments  especially on the north and west parts of the park.

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Marcus Garvey Park (Mount Morris Park)

The west side of Marcus Garvey Park is the Mount Morris Historical Area. This stretches from about 124th Street to 118th Street and has the most beautiful and graceful brownstones the line the side streets by the park. This area like the rest of Harlem is being sandblasted and renovated back to an earlier era and people are snatching up these homes.

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Mount Morris Historical District

I finished this park of the walk by walking down Fifth Avenue through the Taft Homes that line the streets and back down 110th and back up Morningside Avenue and then down Manhattan Avenue to finish off the walk for this part of the visit to the area.

This is a huge area to cover so I will be breaking the visit down into three sections to really see what the neighborhood has to see and offer. I have already walked the boarders of 125th Street and 110th Street and will continue on to do the avenues first and then the side streets. So join me as we explore the newest in ‘hip’ areas, SoHA.

Places to Visit:

 

Mount Morris Park (Marcus Garvey Park)/Historic District

120th to 124th Street by Madison Avenue

New York, NY

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marcus-garvey-park

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Morris_Park_Historic_District

 

Thomas Jefferson Park

2180 First Avenue

New York, NY  10029

Open: Sunday-Saturday 6:00am-10:00pm

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/thomas-jefferson-park

 

Harlem Meer/Charles A Dana Discovery Center

Central Park North

New York, NY  10029

(212) 860-1370

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm

http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/harlem-meer.html

https://www.centralpark.com/things-to-do/attractions/harlem-meer/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d291434-Reviews-Harlem_Meer-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d4563063-Reviews-Charles_A_Dana_Discovery_Center-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Places to Eat:

Hunan Chen’s

1003 Columbus Avenue Store A

New York, NY  10025

(212) 222-1118

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-10:30pm/Monday-Thursday 11:00am-10:30pm/Friday & Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4980909-Reviews-Hunan_Chen_s_Kitchen-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/24

 

El Chevere Cuchifritos

2000 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10029

(212) 427-3952

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-4:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d12179355-Reviews-El_Chevere_Cuchifrito-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905