Tag Archives: New York City

Day One Hundred & Twenty Two: Walking the Avenues of the Lower part of the Upper West Side from Riverside Boulevard to Central Park West October 5th-November 15th, 2018

It has been nice being on this side of town again. It has been a few months since my last visit to the Upper West Side. I had a long day in the Soup Kitchen working on the Bread Station and of course, they put me on the dessert section handing out cookies and pies. They kept me going until we ran out of desserts half way through service. How I walked all the Avenues from West 72nd to West 58th Streets in some parts, I don’t know.

After Soup Kitchen,  I revisited Lions, Tigers and Squares at 238 West 23rd Street for a sausage and onion pizza square  ($10.89-See Reviews on TripAdvisor and Diningonashoestringinnyc@Wordpress.com), which is a deep dish  Detroit pizza with the cheese baked into the crust and loaded with chopped sweet onions  and spicy sausage. I took the pizza and relaxed on the High-line. I just watched everyone walk by and get jealous watching me enjoy my pizza.

After lunch, I walked up 9th Avenue which leads to Columbus Avenue by West 59th Street. The lower part of the Upper West Side is a neighborhood of extremes. This part of the Upper West Side is rather unusual in that once you pass West 70th Street everything is large block long buildings, new architecture and one of the most impressive cultural arts centers in the world.

In 1967, New York City planner, Robert Moses, had most of the neighborhood, over 67 acres demolished to make way for the new Lincoln Center complex.You can see the difference in the neighborhood as you pass West 71st Street and the change in each block. Some of the more historical buildings made the cut to survive and the rest were demolished. The City pretty much cleared the area of all buildings and housing and redeveloped everything south of West 70th Street from Columbus Avenue to Riverside Drive and the Hudson River to just past West 59th Street. You can see a distinct change in the architecture south of the low 70’s.

The area was once known as ‘San Juan Hill’ and ‘Lincoln Square’ and was the center of the Puerto Rican and Black community more so than Harlem and East Harlem was at the time. The whites were concentrated to the east from Amsterdam Avenue to Central Park West and the Blacks and the growing Puerto Rican population to the west to West End Avenue. The area was slated for demolition and renewal by the city planners.

I watched the neighborhood change from getting ready for Halloween to getting ready for Christmas (it tells you how long I spent on this side of the City), so I got to see how people decorated their homes during the duration of the holiday season.

halloween upper west side

Brownstones decorated for the holidays.

With the exception of some of the historical buildings and the Brownstone area between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, they pretty much looked like they leveled the neighborhood from about West 71st Street all the way down to West 58th Street. Everything here now is relatively new in comparison to the rest of the Upper West Side. It is now filled with large apartment complexes, colleges, schools and office buildings though here and there some of the historic buildings were saved from the wrecking ball. With the exception of a small amount of brownstones and the apartment houses facing Central Park West, most of the buildings below West 71st are only about thirty to forty years old.

My first part of walking the neighborhood was walking down the new extension of Riverside Boulevard which is being built on claimed land that was once part of the railroad tracks. This area of the city has been added to on the shoreline of the Hudson River and the the City is just finishing the extension of Riverside Park with Hudson River Park.

This section of green space hugs the Hudson River from West 72nd Street to West 59th Street with new plantings, paths and playgrounds along the way. During my entire trip in the neighborhood no matter the weather, there were joggers, strollers and residents of the neighborhood sitting on the benches talking. This park has created a new neighborhood on the edge of this part of the Upper West Side.

All along Riverside Boulevard from West 71st Street to the extension by the walls of West 59th Street is lined with innovative luxury resident buildings that have a beautiful views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades. On a sunny day by the park, the views must be amazing from the windows facing the windows.

Turning the corner at West 70th to Freedom Place which dissects the riverfront from West End Avenue, you begin to see the changes that Robert Moses and the City of New York made when they leveled the neighborhood for Lincoln Center and the universities. The architecture changes from from prewar apartments and brownstones to modern buildings of the sixties, seventies up to current construction. These are much bigger more modern structures that change the complexity of the neighborhood.

Freedom Place and Freedom Place South are separated by resident structures between West  66th and West 64th Streets. This area is morphing again as buildings are being sandblasted back to life or being rebuilt. Freedom Place is an Avenue in transition as the neighborhood is changing again and bringing in a whole new set of residents.

Unfortunately though these buildings don’t have the personality of those above West 71st Street. The detail to the architecture is more ‘big box’ then the stonework with carved details. What is does show though is a new modern neighborhood in Manhattan. These is one detail that stands out. On the corner of West 62 Street is Collegiate Garden, a small rose garden with benches to relax. When it was in bloom during the end of the Summer and beginning of Fall it was in full bloom. It was a nice place to just relax and watch people walking their dogs.

West End Avenue in this part of the Upper West Side does not have that pre-war classic look to it. In this section of the neighborhood it is modern apartment buildings dominated by 150 West End Avenue. This complex of modern apartment buildings covers from West 70th Street to West 66th Street. From West 63rd to West 61st Streets from West End Avenue to Amsterdam Avenue is the Amsterdam Houses which were built in the late 50’s when the neighborhood was being leveled.

They are currently going under a renovation. Still it was creepy walking through the complex. Someone threw something out the window when I walked by. Also most of the construction workers stared at me as I walked through the complex as I had to criss cross it several times to walk this part of the Avenues. I still get that debated look on everyone’s face of whether I am a cop or DEA.

Like West End Avenue, Amsterdam Avenue is very similar to West End Avenue dominated by new construction, the Fordham University campus, two high schools one being the famous Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts where many famous actors, singers and performers have graduated from.

This part of Amsterdam Avenue is a place of extremes right across the street from one another. You have the Amsterdam Houses right which were built in the 1950’s right across the street from Lincoln Center which was built in the 1960’s. Literally a huge change in walking across the street.

I walked all through the Amsterdam Houses and got a lot of looks from the construction guys who were working on the renovation of the complex. Like most of the neighborhood, even the complex is going through changes. The whole complex was under scaffolding or under wraps as all the buildings were being fumigated. It is so strange that the City would have built this complex in this area considering what Robert Moses thought of the poor and being across from the new ‘jewel’ of the neighborhood, Lincoln Center.

If you thought you were in some upscale part of the area trust me I was reminded when a bottle was lodged from one of the top floors at me when I was walking around. It is amazing what people will do when someone was just walking around. That was the wake up call to what gentrification is doing to change the neighborhood.  It will be interesting to see what the results of the renovation will look like. The weird part about this complex is that it sits like an island in the middle of a neighborhood that is getting richer and richer.

As you pass the Amsterdam Houses though, you are reminded that this is now a neighborhood of culture. Right across the street from the projects is Lincoln Center, one of the most influential and prestigious entertainment complexes in the world.

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is a 16.3 acre complex of buildings that house the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera. Built as part of the “Lincoln Square Renewal Project” during the Robert Moses program of urban renewal in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the complex spans from  West 60th to West 66th Streets between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.

Under the direction of city planners and civic leaders that included John D. Rockefeller III, almost the entire neighborhood from West 59th Street to West 69th Street from Amsterdam to West End Avenue was leveled of its tenements and the has become home to two college campus, two high schools, the sprawling Lincoln Center campus and many new apartment buildings that now line the streets from the Hudson River to Columbus Avenue.

Over the past fifty years, the entire neighborhood has changed with new buildings for schools and housing on the spot where black and Irish gangs used to do battle. This once area of immense black culture has given way to an upper middle class enclave that now includes the Time Warner Building with the Mandarin Hotel and upscale shops.

As you continue the walk up Amsterdam Avenue, you will pass Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts whose Alumni reads like a Who’s Who in the entertainment world. On the next block up from that is the Martin Luther King High School, which specializes in Law, the Arts and Technology. At lunch hour and after school the neighborhood is teeming with teenagers gossiping and yelling at one another. Nothing has changed in the 35 years since I graduated. The conversations are still the same.

As you cross over the West 70th Street border of the neighborhood, you start to see the older section of the neighborhood and this is the tail end of the neighborhood before everything below was leveled. You will see a distinct change in the architecture and how the city planners must have saved the more historic buildings of the neighborhood bounded east of Broadway.

Passing Sherman Square, a small pocket park on the corners of Amsterdam, Broadway and West 70th Street that is dedicated to Civil War General William T. Sherman once had a past all of its own as the notorious “Needle Park” of the 60’s and 70’s, where drug dealers and pushers used to habit. I had to watch “The Panic in Needle Park” again to see how this stretch of the neighborhood has changed. Between Verdi Square and Sherman Square with the new plantings, trees and freshly painted benches and a branch of Bloomingdale’s around the corner, it is amazing how a city transformed itself in 35 years. The area is now loaded with new housing, restaurants and stores (and its still morphing!).

sherman square

In the lower part of Verdi Square, you can continue to admire what the Art in the Parks is doing with the statue “In Sync” by artist Kathy Ruttenberg. This unusual sculpture looks like a deer mashed with people and the strangest expression on its face. It is part of the project “Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway, a series of sculptures by the artist. It is a cross between some surrealist beast in “Alice in Wonderland” or you would see “Over the Rainbow”. What I loved about her work in this outside show was how depicted nature in such an unusual fashion.

in sync

In Sync by Kathy Ruttenberg

“Kathy Ruttenberg on Broadway: in dreams awake”: features six large-scale, figural sculptures artist on the Broadway malls between 64th and 157th Street. In her first major outdoor installation, Ruttenberg created narrative works, combining human, animal and plant forms that bring alive a wonder world in which different species merge and figures serve as landscapes. The artist employs a variety of sculptural media including paginated bronze, glass mosaic, transparent cast resin and carefully orchestrated LED lighting. The interaction among color and form, opacity and transparency and even light itself used as a medium highlights the inherently theatrical nature of the visual storyteller’s art (Broadway Mall Association 2018).

 

Kathy Ruttenberg’s video on the exhibition

Ms. Ruttenberg was born in Chicago but her family moved to New York City. She received her BFA with Honors from the School of Visual Arts in 1981. It was noted that her work expresses a distinctly feminine perspective with mostly women as main characters and masculine characters depicted in complex but usually secondary roles. The natural world  and our relationship to it underpin her work and feature broadly in her narratives (Wiki). Try to see the works before they disappear in February of 2019.

Sitting at the corner at 171 West 71st Street and Broadway near the intersection with Amsterdam Avenue is The Dorilton Apartments which looks like a Victorian wedding cake. The apartment building is a reminder when apartment buildings were not glass boxes but graced with elegance and loaded with carved marble and statuary.

dorlitan apartment

The Dorilton Apartments

The apartment building was designed by Janes & Leo, the New York based architectural firm of Elisha Harris Janes and Richard Leopold Leo for real estate developer Hamilton Weed. The building is noted for its opulent Beaux-Arts style limestone and brick exterior, featuring monumental sculptures, richly balustraded balconies and a three story copper and slate mansard roof. The building was finished in 1902 (Wiki).

You can see through the gateway in front to the courtyard of the building, something similar to The Dakota and The Ansonia a few blocks away. Residents enter their building through a narrow entrance that leads into a recessed courtyard and the masonry archway over this entrance rises to the 9th floor. The doorway to this courtyard is comprised of a stone doorway topped with globes, all of which is sandwiched in between detailed wrought iron fencing (Wiki). You can see from the building that it sits as a grand dame amongst the new buildings in the area and was spared the wreaking ball by being on the right side of the neighborhood.

As you cross into West 72nd Street, you are greeted by the upscale coffee stands that are now in Verdi Square which lies above Sherman Square. It just goes to show how thirty years has changed this once downtrodden section of the Upper West Side. There is still grit along this side of the Avenue but slowly, like the rest of Manhattan, is covered up by scaffolding and will either be sandblasted or torn down to make way for the next high-rise. Still as written in various other walks, West 72nd Street still holds onto its charms with older shops in its business district that are geared to the locals and not the tourists.

On the way back down Amsterdam Avenue by the corner of West 63rd Street is the firehouse FDNY Engine 40/Ladder 35 made famous by the David Halberstam novel “Firehouse” based on the events of 9/11 which was published in 2002. Mr. Halberstam discusses in his book the tragedy of that day and the companies loosing their members (eleven) in the collapse of the towers.

firehouse

 

The memorial outside the firehouse shows the members who were lost that day. Take time to look over the memorial and say a prayer for these members who gave up their lives to make us safe.

fdny

Engine 40/Ladder 35

After meeting Mr. Halberstam at a book signing, it inspired me to write my novel, “Firehouse 101” a fictional tale taking it from the standpoint of the people were survived and were left behind to pick up the pieces of their own lives. My novel took it from the standpoint of the neighbors and friends where Mr. Halberstam took it from the stand point of the non-fictional lives of the fire fighters lost. I swear for the couple of weeks that I criss crossed the neighborhood and passed this firehouse, I just kept thinking of the sacrifice these men made and how that inspired books to be written.

firehouse 101 picture iii

As you pass the firehouse, you are walking in the back section of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Towards the bottom of the Avenue heading to West 59th Street is Fordham University and Mt. Sinai Hospital campus which run from Amsterdam Avenue to Columbus Avenue as you cross West 59th Street. As you walk from Amsterdam Avenue to Columbus Avenue down West 59th Street, you pass these active campuses.

At the corner of West 59th Street and Columbus Avenue is the William J. Syms Operating Theater that was built in 1891. This is the last part of the old Roosevelt Hospital that was part of the neighborhood. William Syms was a gun merchant, who had had surgery at the hospital. After a successful surgery at the hospital, he wanted to give more than his bill which the hospital would not accept (Wiki).

william syms theater

William Syms Operating Hospital

What he did is upon his death, he left Roosevelt Hospital $350,000 of which $250,000 was to be used for an ‘operating theater’ and at the time used the most innovative materials to keep out bacteria. It had been used for this purpose until the 1950’s and left to ruin. The structure today was gutted and it now going to be used as a private school. The building is now part of modern structure that has been expanded. Look to the details of the building and the signage that is carved in.

As you walk further up Columbus Avenue, you pass the front part of the college and hospital campus and the new construction that happened in the 1960’s to the 1980’s. By the time you get to West 62nd Street to West 66th Street you get to the Lincoln Center complex and its grandeur especially at night with the lights of all the buildings ablaze. It is even more beautiful as we got closer to the holidays when everything was being decorated for Christmas.

Across the street from Lincoln Center is Dante Park which is located at the corner of Columbus Avenue,  Broadway and West 66th Street. This little triangle  of green across the street from the Empire Hotel and Lincoln Center, was originally called Empire park. The park, which was established in 1921 by Americans of Italian decadency and named it after Dante Alighieri, an Italian poet.  At Christmas time, there was one of the most beautiful Christmas trees in the City lit in the park which was part of neighborhoods Annual Winter’s Eve festival, which takes place in the last week of November.

dante park christmas tree

Across the street from Dante Park is the Empire Hotel, a small boutique hotel that has been part of the neighborhood since 1923. The hotel was built by Herbert DuPuy, who had knocked down the original structure in the park and opened this unique hotel on December 5, 1923 (Wiki). It has been part of the neighborhood dining experience since with a series of restaurants over the years that has graced the ground floor. Between the park and the hotel it sits in contrast to the rest of the neighborhood that has been rebuilt over the years.

Columbus Avenue gets interesting once you cross over West 68th Street as the modern structures of lower Columbus Avenue give way to the smaller brick buildings that house a series of homegrown restaurants and stores with an every growing number of national chain stores. Back in 1984, just as the economy was booming due to the rise in Wall Street and junk bonds, Columbus Avenue from West 70th Street to West 84th Street was the new ‘happening neighborhood’ with papers touting it as the next Madison Avenue.

Through several booms and busts in gentrification and the rise of rents, there is not much left of that era except the American Museum of Natural History. On my walk through the Upper West Side in the few months that I have explored the streets of the area, I have started to watch stores and restaurants change hands and open and close with lighting speed. Some have moved further up the Avenue and others have transplanted to other parts of the City.

Broadway has seen the most changes from West 59th Street to West 72nd Street with loads of new apartment buildings and stores built along the street since the 1980’s. I remember all the construction along Broadway in those years and I have never seen this section of the City change so much. Many modern apartment buildings are popping up along the street and this is going all the way up into the 90’s and 100’s now. Still it is interesting to see the old and new structures mix in various parts of the neighborhood.

I ended the walk in the neighborhood by walking across West 72nd Street, looking at the street come to life after work hours. The restaurants started to fill up and people were walking up and down the street heading into stores for dinner. I saw the guys lighting the lights around The Dakota at the corner of West 72nd and Central Park West. It is such a beautiful building.

I walked down to the Museum of Modern Art on West 52nd to see a movie and I just relaxed for the rest of the evening. It had been a long afternoon and my feet were killing me.

Places to Eat:

Lions & Tigers & Squares

238 West 23rd Street

New York, NY  10011

(917) 261-6772

Hours: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-12:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d14124878-Reviews-Lions_Tigers_Squares_Detroit_Pizza-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My blog on Diningonashoestringinnyc@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/766

Places to See:

The Dorilton Apartments

171 West 71st Street

 

Dante Park

West 65th Street & Broadway and Columbus Avenue

Sherman Square & Verdi Square

West 70th-72nd Streets

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

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Day One Hundred and Thirteen: Tour of Historic Pubs and Bars in Lower Manhattan with the Cornell Club-May 9th, 2018

I took some time out of my regular touring and took a historic tour of the pubs and bars of lower Manhattan with the Cornell Club. The club had arranged this tour through one of the local historical tour companies in the City in which we would be touring sections of local historic watering holes. This included the Frances Tavern, Delmonico’s and India House.

We met on the stairs of the National Museum of the American Indian which once upon a time was the U.S. Customs House. Here we met our tour guide and we started our discussion on historic bars and restaurants and their place in lower Manhattan.

The tour started with a talk on the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House building located at 1 Bowling Green. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the Woolworth Building  with construction beginning in 1902 and was finished in 1907 and considered a masterpiece in Beaux-Arts style (Wiki).

The interesting part of the building is when you look up to the roof to see the statuary of ‘The Continents’, also called the ‘Four Continents’ of Asia, America, Europe and Africa. Located on the main cornice are standing sculptures representing the great seafaring nations, representing American seagoing commerce (Wiki and tour guide).

U.S. Custom House.jpg

U.S. Custom House

The interesting part of the discussion was that the U.S. Custom House sits on the site of Fort Amsterdam, the fortification constructed by the Dutch West Indian Company to defend their operations in the Hudson Valley. It was the center of the settlement (Wiki and tour guide).

Our next stop on the tour was walking around Bowling Green Park across the street from the U.S. Custom House. The park is the oldest public park in New York City and is one of the two rumored places that Peter Minuit ‘bought’ the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans in 1626 (the other being in Inwood Park) and had once served as the Council grounds for the local Native American tribes (NYC Parks.org).

Bowling Green Park.jpg

Bowling Green Park

The park was first designated a park in 1733 when it was offered for rent at the cost of one peppercorn per year. There had been a gilded statue of King George III erected there in 1770 and an iron fence (still there and a New York landmark) installed in 1771. On July 9, 1776 at the first public hearing of the Declaration of Independence, the statue was toppled by angry citizens and melted down for ammunition (NYC Parks & Tour Guide). The crowns that used to line the fence had been sawed off and you can still see traces of it on the fences.

The area surrounding the park became a fashionable residence in the lat 18th century and mid-19th century, the area gave way to business and manufacturing. The park has since gone through many renovations, including the most recent 2004 which re-landscaped the park and added new bluestone sidewalks, plantings, gas lamps and hoof benches (NYC Parks & Tour guide).

Just north of the Bowling Green Park is the 7,100 pound statue of the ‘Charging Bull’ by artist Arturo DiModica. DiModica states that “Bronze figure of the bull represents the strength, power and hope of the American people for the future.” This was dealing after the Crash of the Market in 1987. Considered ‘guerrilla’ art when it was illegally installed in front of the New York Stock Exchange during the Christmas holiday season in 1989, the statue was moved to its current location in the Spring of 1989 and been there since.

Fearless Girl

Fearless Girl

Next to the statute, another statue has been cast and placed near the bull. “Fearless Girl” was installed in 2017 the night before International Women’s Day and was created by artist Kristen Visbal and was commissioner by State Street Global Advisers as a marketing campaign for their index fund. The artist says that the statue of the young girl shows her as being “brave, proud and strong.” There has been criticism between the two artists on the meaning of the statutes (Wiki).

Charging Bull.jpg

Charging Bull

The first historic bar we visited was the Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street (See review on TripAdvisor). The restaurant has played a prominent role in history before, during and after the American Revolution,  serving as a headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British and housing federal offices in the Early Republic. It is owned by the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York Inc. and claim it is Manhattan’s oldest surviving buildings with the current being built by Stephen DeLancey, the son in law of New York Mayor Stephanus van Cortlandt in 1719 (Wiki).

Francus Tavern.jpg

Fraunces Tavern

We only stayed at the bar for a short time, looking at the period furniture and some of the museum quality artifacts before some of the members of our group ordered a drink. I have to tell you one thing, they get very testy if you sit a table and don’t order anything. Check out their website at http://www.francestavern.com for the menu’s and full history.

Our next stop on the tour was historic Stone Street, a cluster of historic buildings along Stone, South William and Pearl Streets and Coenties Alley. The street’s stores and lofts were built for dry-goods merchants and importers shortly after the Great Fire of 1835, which destroyed many remnants of New Amsterdam (Wiki).

stone street II

Stone Street

The street had been neglected for years but a partnership between the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission and other city agencies, the Alliance for Downtown New York and Stone Street business owners transformed the area into the lively entertainment area that contains several restaurants and bars (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

The middle of Stone Street now is lined with tables used by all the restaurants for seating and is a very active area during lunch and Happy Hour time. We walked among the busy tables and looked at the menus but didn’t stop here. I had stopped earlier at Justino’s Pizzeria at 77 Pearl Street for a snack (See review on TripAdvisor). Their pizza is quite good although I think that Pranzo at 34 Water Street is better. They give you a better slice and the sauce is much spicier.

After we left the Stone Street Historic area, we walked up Broad Street to see the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Hall District. This is the seat of the financial center and the capital of the financial world.

The New York Stock Exchange at 8-18 Broad Street was built in 1903 replacing the original Victorian structure which had been built in 1865. The building was designed by architect George Browne Post, who was a native New Yorker who studied architecture and civil engineering at NYU. He designed it in Second Empire design (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

Standing on Wall Street, you can see the 1903 building rise ten stories above the sidewalk. Six Corinthian columns steadily rise from a seven-bay-wide podium set between two rectangular pilasters. He complimented the six columns with symmetry of seven with a center flat arched doorway with three more on either side. The podium symmetry continues to the second store, where directly above each street-level doorway is a contrasting round-arched opening. Balustraded balconies between floors provide the classic ornamentation as do lintels with carved fruit and flowers (Architecture of New York Stock Exchange Building & Tour Guide).

new york stock exchange.jpg

New York Stock Exchange

We passed the now closed Stock Exchange building and continued on to Federal Hall at 26 Wall Street. We discovered that this is not the original building but its replacement that was built in 1842.

The original Federal Hall was a Greek Revival structure completed in 1703 and served as New York’s first City Hall. It was where the Stamp Act Congress met to draft a letter to King George on opposition to the Stamp Act and after the Revolution for the Congress of the Confederation held under the Articles of Confederation. It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first Capital of the Newly created United States in 1789 and hosted the first United States Congress. On its steps, George Washington was sworn in as the first President. That building was demolished in 1812 (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

Federal Hall.jpg

Federal Hall

The current structure, completed in 1842 and one of the best surviving examples of neoclassical architecture in New York, was built as the U.S. Custom House for the Port of New York. Later it served as a sub-Treasury building. It is operated today by the National Park Service as a national memorial and designated the Federal Hall National Memorial (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

The statue of George Washington was designed by John Quincy Adams Ward in 1882 and was erected on the front steps of the building, marking the approximate site where he was inaugurated as President of the United States. Part of the original railing and balcony floor where Washington was inaugurated are on display in the memorial (Wiki).

We also looked at the original J.P. Morgan Building at 23 Wall Street or known as ‘The Corner’. The building was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston and built in 1913. It was known as the ‘House of Morgan’ so there were no signs with the Morgan name. The building was designed in the classical architecture and Morgan made sure that it was designed only four feet high (Wiki). When I asked the tour guide why, he basically said everyone knew who J. P. Morgan was and he didn’t have to prove it.

jp morgan building

JP Morgan Building Wall Street

The foundation of the building is constructed deep and strong enough in order to support a forty foot tower if it needed to be built. The company moved its operations to 60 Wall Street and the company sold the building and it has had several owners. Our tour guide said that the building was rumored to be turned into condos (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

We moved down Beaver Street towards Wall Street and our second stop of the tour at Delmonico’s restaurant at 56 Beaver Street. The restaurant has moved and changed since it was founded in 1827. The restaurant has always been since it’s founding a place of society and influence. The restaurant was first operated by the Delmonico family as a small cafe and pastry shop at 23 William Street. Later it would be considered one of the nation’s top fine dining restaurants and the birthplace of such dishes as Baked Alaska, Lobster Newberg and famous Delmonico steak. It was the first restaurant to allow patrons to order from a menu a la carte as opposed to table d’hote. It also claimed to be the first to employ a separate wine list (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

The current location of Delmonico’s was opened in 1926 by restaurateur Oscar Tucci as a speakeasy and this restaurant would continue on until 1986. It has operated in this location at different times as Delmonico’s since and has currently been open since 1998 (Wiki, Delmonico’s History and the Tour Guide).

Delmonico's.jpg

Delmonico’s

I found the restaurant to be very formal and a little stuffy for a tour group to visit since we were not all dressed for the occasion. The restaurant patrons were all dressed up and I had to parade through the dining room in shorts, which are not allowed in the formal dining room. We had a drink at the bar and I found it to be excellent. The service at the busy bar was friendly and very inviting and I was ready to stay for some dinner.  The bar atmosphere was very engaging and we had a nice time there. It is expensive but well worth it once (See review on TripAdvisor).

We walked down the street to The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden located across the street from Hanover Square. The land around this part has been in public used since 1637 and in 1730 became known as Hanover Square in tribute to the House of Hanover. It had been the center for commerce and printing in the beginnings of New York and was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1835. The small triangled parcel was not developed into a park until 1952 and was rededicated with new landscaping until the 1970’s. It has since been redesigned again with new plantings, benches and decorations (Wiki and the Tour Guide).

It was rededicated July 6, 2010 by Queen Elizabeth II as The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden in memory of the 67 British citizens that lost their lives in the September 11th attacks. Originally named the ‘British Gardens’ it was again rededicated and renamed on May 2, 2012 and the ceremony led by the Dean of Westminster Abbey which included other members of the Commonwealth nations (Wiki). It is such a nice place to just relax and the plantings are beautiful. I told the tour guide that it is a very touching place to visit.

Queen Elizabeth II Park.jpg

Queen Elizabeth II Park

Our last part of the tour was a visit to India House now called 1 Hanover Square, which is located at the very end of the Stone Street Historic district. Located at the southern end of Hanover Square and facing the Queen Elizabeth II September 11th garden across the street, the building was built in 1851 and was the site of the nation’s first commodity futures exchange, the New York Cotton Exchange and was designated a National Landmark in 1977 and a New York City Landmark in 1965 (Wiki & the Tour Guide).

India House

India House

The structure was built out of brownstone and designed in the Italian Renaissance style by builder, developer and merchant, Richard F. Carman. It had been the headquarters of Hanover Bank and then the Cotton Exchange. Since then it has operated as a private club since 1913 and now houses restaurants (Wiki).

The main facade of the building has eight bays wide, with the main entrance occupying two bays at the center. Windows on the ground floor are tall and set in openings flanked by paneled pilasters and topped by pediment segmental arches Second floor windows are smaller, set beneath gabled pediments and their floor windows are smaller still with simpler surrounds. The building is crowned by a modillioned cornice (Wiki).

We ended the tour at the restaurant on the bottom level where some of the group stayed for dinner. I headed off to the Wonton Noodle Garden on Mott Street for dinner. After a long tour outdoors and the night getting cooler, a steaming bowl of Cantonese Wonton Soup ($8.95) with a side of pan-fried dumplings ($5.00). This restaurant in the middle of the heart of Chinatown is my main standby when eating in the neighborhood. Like the rest of the Manhattan, I see the traces of gentrification creeping into the area. All you have to do is look at the buildings above.

Wonton Noodle Garden.jpg

Wonton Noodle Garden’s Cantonese Wonton Soup’s (Cure All)

My message to readers, please, get off the cell phones and look around you. You are missing a lot! I have walked this neighborhood dozens of times over the years and my eyes were open by all the changes and by the beauty of the surroundings. I will print more of my travels with the Cornell Club in future blogs. They are very interesting.

 

Places to Visit:

New York Stock Exchange Building

8-18 Broad Street

New York, NY  10004

https://www.nyse.com/

Federal Hall

26 Wall Street

New York, NY  10004

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

23 Wall Street

23 Wall Street

New York, NY  10004

 

India House/1 Hanover Square

New York, NY  10004

http://www.indiahouseclub.org/

 

Bowling Green Park/Charging Bull Statue/Fearless Girl Statue

Broadway & Whitehall Street

New York, NY 10004

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d1605557-Reviews-Charging_Bull_Wall_Street_Bull-New_York_City_New_York.html

Stone Street

New York, NY  10004

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_Street_(Manhattan)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105043-Reviews-Stone_Street_Historic_District-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

The Queen Elizabeth II September 11th Garden

Hanover Square

New York, NY  10004

https://queenelizabethgarden.org/

 

Places to Eat:

Justino’s Pizza

77 Pearl Street

New York, NY  10004

(212) 797-9692

http://www.justinospizzeria.com

Open: Monday-Saturday-10:00am-11:59pm/Sunday-11:00am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d8743404-Reviews-Justino_s_Pizzeria-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Pranzo Pizza & Italian Specialties

34 Water Street

New York, NY  10014

http://www.pranzopizzapasta.com

Phone: (212) 344-8068

Fax: (212) 344-0191

Open: Monday-Thursday-8:00am-8:00pm/Friday-8:00am-7:00pm/Saturday-10:00am-5:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426152-Reviews-Pranzo-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

 

Delmonico’s

56 Beaver Street

New York, NY  10004

(212) 519-1144

http://www.delmonicos.com

https://delmonicos.com/

Open: Monday-Friday: 11:30am-10:00pm

Saturday:  5:00pm-10:00pm

Sunday: Closed

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d459628-Reviews-Delmonico_s-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Fraunces Tavern

54 Pearl Street

New York, NY 10004

(212) 425-1778

Open: Monday-Friday-12:00pm-5:00pm/Saturday & Sunday-11:00am-5:00pm

http://www.francestavern.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d426153-Reviews-Fraunces_Tavern_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

India House/1 Hanover Square

1 Hanover Square

New York, NY  10004

(212) 269-2323

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

http://www.indiahouseclub.org

 

Wonton Noodle Garden

56 Mott Street

New York, NY 10013

(212) 966-4033

http://www.wontonnoodlegarden.com

Open: Sunday-Thursday-10:00am-2:00am/Friday-9:00am-4:00am/Saturday-9:00am-4:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d2370537-Reviews-Wonton_Noodle_Garden-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

 

Day Eighty-Nine: Walking the Avenues of Yorkville/Carnegie Hill from Madison Avenue to East End Avenue 96th-84th Streets August 28-September 5, 2017

After a long day in the Soup Kitchen prepping vegetables for future meals, I started my day uptown at the Samuel Seabury Park on 96th Street off the 6 subway line. It is a good place for a bathroom break in the area with the other being the Samuel Isaacs Park on 96th Street and 1st Avenue. There are not too many public bathrooms in this area.

The one thing I might want to mention that I am beginning to notice and it is not just in the poorer areas is that number of empty store fronts as well as the closing of many older businesses that I had seen in the area from the 80’s and 90’s. I guess the 20 year leases are coming up and they are jacking the rents up sky-high in some areas. When Ottomanelli’s Restaurant, which had been in this neighborhood since 1902 closes, you know there is a problem ( I think they may be camping further uptown now).

The businesses again change closer to the housing complexes with smaller more reasonable restaurants around 2nd and 1st Avenues. This is not a section with lots of upscale shops and restaurants though I think some of the prices at the restaurants are due to the ongoing raise in the rents in the area.

The neighborhood is very diverse in its housing stock depending on the block and in its businesses. Being so close to Central Park gives you a sense of green though there are many nice smaller parks in the neighborhood. Though it is an expensive neighborhood I am sure it is not as expensive as its southern neighbors on this side of the park.

The number 6 subway will take you directly to Samuel Seabury Park at 96th Street, the start of many bathroom breaks. When you are walking the Avenues on the East Side, you need to know where the public bathrooms are located. This is a very active park during the school year. I would think that the city would have these bathrooms in better condition though.

The park is named after the late Judge Samuel Seabury who roots laid in Colonial Manhattan and had fought the corruption of Tammany Hall. Who knew a late Judge could still be so helpful many years later.

Madison Avenue has its unique boutique-ness to it especially further downtown. Above 85th Street, it is more localized shops and restaurants. I had discovered that many businesses from the early 90’s like Sarabeth’s Kitchen were still operating (at much higher prices than I remembered).

One of the most beautiful and unique buildings on Madison Avenue is the Hunter College building at East 94th Street, which looks like a castle. The building is now used for the Hunter College High School and Elementary School, considered one of the best public schools in the city and you need a special test to get into it. The building itself, built as the Squad A Armory in 1896, previously called the Madison Avenue Armory building, resembles a castle. It is constructed out of red bricks and was partially demolished in the 1960’s but bought by Hunter College for the expanding school. Take a good look around the grounds, there is a real beauty in this enchanted castle housing some of the brightest kids in New York City.

Madison Avenue from 96th Street to 84th Street houses lots of local boutiques and restaurants and a few smaller hotels tucked here and there. The buildings are mostly prewar apartment buildings with some new construction thrown in here and there. Its the Upper East Side without the pretension.

Park Avenue is what Park Avenue does best below 98th Street, is an elegant enclave of prewar and turn of the last century apartment buildings with very little business or retail outside of the doctors offices. The Avenue is lined with elegant, old-world buildings with the well-manicured gardens of the street ‘mall’ going from the top of the railroad tracks on 98th Street down to the border of the neighborhood on 84th Street. The mall was ablaze with red and white flowers for the late summer blooms. I don’t think this area has changed much since the 1920’s.

The Avenue was quiet that afternoon less the preppie teenagers walking with their sports gear and mom’s and nannies wheeling kids around. There is always a certain feel to this part of Park Avenue, quiet, elegant and sedate. I am sure its not that way in real life but that is the way it appears to the average person walking down the sidewalk.

One standout building on Park Avenue amongst all the elegant apartment buildings is the Lewis Gouvenour House at 85th Street. The house was named for its owner, a failed investment banker who was related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The house is a red brick neo-Federalist building that was completed in 1914 and it stands out amongst all the apartment buildings in the area. The latest article I read is that the house is up for sale for $8 million dollars but I swear that I saw a cook and maid looking me over when I looked over the house so I am sure it has been sold by this point. Someone was even hanging over the windows cleaning them as I passed.

After turning the corner at 84th Street, I walked over to Lexington Avenue and it is night and day to the enclaves of 5th and Park Avenues. Talk about a busy commercial street. This is where you are seeing changes in the feel of the neighborhood. Many of the retail spaces that I have remembered that were there for years when I moved back to the area in 2001 are long gone. A lot of the neighborhood has been knocked down and many new residential and office buildings have replaced them. Some of my favorite bakeries and pizzeria’s are also long gone. Still my favorite Panera on 86th Street is still there for the Asiago and Cinnamon Crunch bagels that I love to snack on while on my way to the Met.

Here and Third Avenue is where you start to see the ‘For Rent’ signs. It is sad that so many businesses that have been here for twenty years, the leases are coming up and the rise in rents is just sky high for the new owners. I have read more articles on the prices that they want in rent and there is no way the average business can handle this. Even some of the chain restaurants have left the area. If you do not own the building, forget it.

Third Avenue above 90th Street, you will start to see a lot of new construction, as a lot more buildings are going up on both sides of the street.  The Upper East Side is slowly crawling into this area and a lot of the older smaller buildings are starting to disappear. The store fronts between 90th and 93rd are starting to empty as all the older restaurants have closed their doors.

Second Avenue is changing as well in the area of 90th Street and above. This has a totally different feel then the neighborhood above in East Harlem. Slowly though, these neighborhoods are starting to merge as new construction on Second and First Avenue below 96th Street changes from housing projects to private apartment buildings. Even the brownstones are giving way to larger apartment buildings, which is starting to change the character of the neighborhood. It’s a lot of sameness.

I ended the second day in the neighborhood having a late lunch at East Garden Chinese Restaurant at 1685 First Avenue & 88th Street (See review on TripAdvisor). This little hole in the wall Chinese restaurant has lunch specials for $5.95 and a very nice variety of dishes. I had the General Tso’s chicken combination plate with fried rice and a Coke that cost $7.00 with tax and I just about finished it. The chicken was excellent. It was well cooked and the sauce had some pinch to it. The fried rice was less to be desired but overall the meal was very good for the end of this first long walk of the neighborhood.

On the second day of the walk, I revisited Second and First Avenues and covered the rest of the neighborhood that include York, Henderson and East End Avenues as well as walking around Carl Schurz Park for a second time.

I finished up Second Avenue for a second time, looking over the businesses and parks. Slowly I noticed as I looked at menu’s of restaurants and the types of stores opening up that a lot of the mom and pop stores are giving way to more chains and the restaurants are getting awfully expensive even this high up.

There are a few hold outs in way of Chinese restaurants especially closer to the Samuel Isaacs Complex on 96th and First Avenue but even around the projects there soon won’t be too many affordable places to eat. I mean come on, $16.00 for a hamburger? Its a hamburger at the end of the day. For a reasonable meal, you will have to walk up above 100th Street.

There are several little surprises as you walk around the neighborhood. Behind the Ruppert Apartment Buildings on Third Avenue is the Ruppert Park between 90th and 91st Streets, which offered a place of rest after walking around. This block long park must have been a negotiation between the city and the developer to build these huge apartment buildings and the neighborhood really benefited from it. It is a nice meeting place for residents to talk and walk their dogs. Many of the neighborhood seniors seem to like to sit on the benches and talk to their friends. The playground is nice for the kids as they were out in full force before the first day of school started a few days later.

Tucked away on a side street on 91st Street across from the park, this is a plaque dedicated to James Cagney, the actor and singer, who later played tough guys in the movies. He must have lived in this area growing up.

First Avenue is starting to give way from brownstones to apartment buildings in the 90’s and up. On the lower part, the chain stores are starting to dominate while the mom and pop stores still are holding on. There still are a few German restaurants in the neighborhood but they seem few and far between on the Avenues. Its mostly small businesses and a few small shops.

York Avenue and East End Avenue are both tucked below the Asphalt Green playground and recreational area below FDR Drive and 92nd Street. The three days that I walked around the neighborhood, Asphalt Green was crowded with kids playing all sorts of sports, basketball, soccer or even playing Frisbee. The shocking part was getting an ice from the lady selling Spanish ices. Below 96th Street, they start charging $2.00 instead of $1.00 like above 100th Street. I guess they see us coming.

York Avenue is one of those places that looks like New York City with the combination of apartment buildings that look like they are out of the 70’s, elegant but not pretentious and the area looked lived in like the residents have lived there for 40 years. There is a mix of building types that gives the Avenue some character and tucked here and there are small apartment buildings and brownstones.

East End Avenue is dominated by Carl Schurz Park where Gracie Mansion is located. Around the park, there are several beautiful brownstones especially between 86th and 87th Street that give the park that extra graciousness. These brick buildings are carefully maintained and beautifully landscaped and mirror the park across the street.

The small side streets south of the park such as the extension of 84th Street (Gracie Place) house old apartment buildings with excellent views of the park and very nosey doorman, who watched me watching them. Sometimes I wonder what impression I give these people that they stare so much at me or maybe after a year in Harlem, I am getting used to the inquisitive looks.

As I finished up the Avenues in Yorkville/Carnegie Hill, I just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon in Carl Schurz Park, looking at Randalls-Ward Island and Astoria Queens in the distance and admiring the breathtaking view of the river. This section of the park along the river walkway is so picturesque and relaxing. Labor Day had such wonderful weather and it was such a clear sunny day, that is was nice to just sit on a bench and watch the world go by.

All along the river, jet skis zoomed by and an occasional sailboat passed by as well. It was one of those afternoons you see in movies about New York City but sometimes never experience. All I could think about as I was watching the world go by is that this is what people think New York is and they are right. This location on the bend of the river on a nice day you have to experience for yourself to understand how great it is. What was a nice touch was that two people playing the cello and the violin came into the park to perform and collect money. That’s the real New York.

I ended the day eating a late lunch/dinner at a restaurant on Second Avenue named Shorty’s at 1678 First Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor), which is known for their Philly Cheesesteaks. It was pretty good for New York City, where you have to hop the Acela down to Center City for a Cheesesteak at Carmine’s in the Reading Market. Here the bartender told me that they import the hoagie rolls from Philly and cook it on the flat grill and top with Cheese Wiz (God, do I love that on a sandwich). For the $10.00 price and a side of Bay Seasoning fries, it was well-worth the money. It saved the $200.00 trip to Philly I would soon have to make and that chewy cheesy sandwich was a great way to end my trip of the Avenues of the neighborhood. Now the streets await.

Places to Visit:

Carl Shulz Park

Gracie Mansion

Places to Eat:

Shorty’s
1678 First Avenue
New York, NY

My review on TripAdvisor:

 

East Garden Chinese Restaurant
1685 First Avenue
New York, NY

My review on TripAdvisor:

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com

Day Fifty-Five: The Fifteenth Anniversary of the Attacks of 9/11 and the Tenth Anniversary of my novel, “Firehouse 101” September 11th, 2016

I can’t believe that it has been fifteen years since the attacks on the World Trade Center. It seems like a lifetime ago. As the site has been almost rebuilt with the new One World Trade Center (visited earlier in my walk last Thanksgiving) and two visits to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and numerous visits to the site, I think back on my eleven years on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and the path I have lead to this point.

I think that the department has really grounded me in many ways and made me more disciplined. I have been able to help my community in ways that baking items for bake sales and selling Christmas trees never did even though these raised a lot of money for their respective causes. I think I have become a better person and a more aware person since joining the department. I really do think you are born a fireman. It just comes out a time when you recognize it. It was like a calling for me and I found what I was looking for in my life and I would never change it for the world.

Am I the best fire fighter or the most dedicated? That is up for debate after every call. I do know one thing, I have been able to help the people in my community in so many ways and when I hear from perfect strangers in my town or surrounding towns “I remember you. You came to my house and helped so-in-so in my family. Thank you so much for that.”, it makes me feel like a better person.

When I wrote “Firehouse 101” (part of a trilogy of books that take place in New York City, the other two being “Love Triangles” and “Dinner at Midnight”), I was at a different stage of my life and honestly if I had to write the book today, I could not do it. The book helped me grapple with what I saw and heard from other guys on the department when I got home to New Jersey from the island of Guam where I was living at the time.

Firehouse 101 Picture III

How did a ‘preppie’ like me join the fire department? I was writing several articles on 9/11 for the local paper when I got home (basically because would write for free and I volunteered) and I interviewed so many fire fighters in my town on their role on 9/11 that I got sucked in. After a three hour interview with our now former chief and a long service fire fighter that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time with the stories they told me of that horrible day, the chief turned to me and said, “Have you ever considered becoming a fire fighter?”

I really thought about it when I got home and said to myself “Why would anyone think ‘Preppie Me’ would make a good fireman?” Then it really got me thinking of a lot of times I had met firemen along the way in my life and how impressed I was by them. It stayed with me for a long time and then I was helping out with the town’s tree lighting ceremony about a year later and the fireman I interviewed was standing in line behind me for a hot chocolate and I asked how he like the article I wrote. Then out of the blue I asked “Are you still looking for more firemen to join the department?” He then took me over to meet the chief I had interviewed and I asked about joining the department. Two months later I interviewed with my company and five months after that on June 12, 2005, I became a member of Engine One of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and eleven years later I am still going strong as an Exempt fire fighter, member of the Bergen County Fireman’s Home Association, Department Secretary, Company Secretary, Head of our company’s annual barbecue and chicken parm dinner and still writing articles on the department. I  really do think they saw something in me that day that I did not see in myself.

As much as my brothers can drive me crazy at times, there is no other place I would rather be and when push comes to shove, they are there for me. The one true time I saw the ‘Brotherhood’ shine was when my father died and on the night of the wake, they came out for me. The fireman, who I wrote the article about, Fire Fighter Tom Rubino, who will be retiring from the department this year and is our acting Fire Chaplin, read a beautiful speech about my father, whom everyone on the department had known for years at that point and had admired his bravery and hard work after his stroke to get better. It made it even more touching that it was him that read the speech after that night so many years ago. The members of not just my company but other companies as well came out to support me and my father at a very tough time in my life and I will never forget that kindness. It is really a feeling that someone who is not a fire fighter will ever experience. There really is something to being a fire fighter and being part of a community in the fire service.

So on this anniversary of 9/11, I leave you with a section of the book when Alex Livingston, a scion of the famous Livingston family of the Hudson Valley, interviews the fire chief from Firehouse 101 in Brooklyn, New York and his tale of the 9/11 attacks. It tells the story of fire fighter Ryan Callahan, who survived that attacks that day and watched his best friend die next to him.

To all the families and friends who lost loved ones that day, my heart goes out to you. It still is not easy for any of us on the fire service no matter when we joined. I hope one day you can read my novel “Firehouse 101”. It might help you grapple with your pain. If you want to read a funny but touching article on me, read The Gazette newspaper article in 2006 on my life a year later in the fire service “So, yous want to be a Fireman?”

Excerpt from the interview with Carmen Giovanni (who I wanted it to be played in the movie version by musician and actor Huey Lewis)

What exactly happened to Ryan that day?” Alex asked. “At the school or on September 11th?” Carmen replied. “Both,” Alex said now fascinated by it all. He wanted to get the story straight once and for all. “I can only tell you what the men told me. When they got the call on September 11th, this house was the second one to respond from Brooklyn. They were going over the bridge when they saw the second plane hit the towers. The house sent seven men down plus two others who were off duty. Some stayed to man the house, while the others went down to the site. We were going through a shift change, not unlike my own house at the time, so there were lots of men milling around that morning. They got the call early and being so close to lower Manhattan they went. Hilly was never one to wait. One of the men told me that on the ride down, Hilly had said, “When we put this one out, I personally want to catch those rat bastards that did this to our city.”

“What about Ryan that day?” Alex said wanting to get back on the subject. “From what I heard he barely said a word. He was in another world by that point. Others were chatting on and on about what type of plane must have hit when the second plane hit the other tower. Then they were all quiet. Those men saw too much that day,” Carmen added. He paused for a second, looked at Alex and gave him a sorrowful look like he was waiting for a reaction. Alex sat wide eyed and continued to write.

“From what the men told me, Hilly went into the Tower Two to see what they could do and where they should go first. Since there was so much chaos, Hilly took control and helped escorting people out of the building and away from danger. They say he was pretty calm. From what I knew of the guy, he would have had everyone double step and yell at them if they didn’t do it. So he and the rest of the men helped there. From what I heard, they then got a call to help on the upper floors, so Hilly took four of the men with him and told Ryan and Patrick to stay behind to help get the infirmed or injured out of the building. That’s why Ryan and Patrick were alive that day.

The picture of Ryan and Patrick was taken ten minutes before the first tower came down. It had literally knocked their helmets off. All Ryan could remember when he came out of the coma in the hospital was that he and Patrick had gone back to the lobby to help get more people out of he building. They had been helping an older man and the next thing he knew, he woke up in the hospital a few weeks later. Carmen was calm as he explained the story to Alex.

Alex could not believe what he was hearing. It was like a TV movie. So that was the story, that’s what really happened that day. No wonder Ryan wanted to forget it, what a horrifying experience. “So what happened at the hospital when he woke up?” Alex asked.

Carmen thought about this for a minute. Should he continue on? Who was this for anyway? Carmen decided to continue thinking that Alex was a concerned friend. In actuality, Alex was trying to get an idea of the magnitude of what happened that day to one person. He wanted to know what Leslie, Ryan, and Roger were not telling him. Alex felt that he had never been that nice to Ryan the whole time he lived in New York. He began to realize that he felt sorry for himself as Ryan had for himself and what concerned Ryan was much worse.

“One of the men told me that they could not believe that Ryan made it out with just a sprained ankle and a few minor cuts. It was the way he fell. The base of a fountain protected him. Even I couldn’t believe it but that’s where they found him. He and Patrick were still alive. The man they were helping was literally crushed by the beam they found on top of him,” Carmen added. “How did they find them?” Alex asked. Some firemen from a downtown house found them and got them the hell out of there,” Carmen continued, “no one could believe that they survived the first collapse. There was no help for Patrick though; he died after they got to the hospital. The impact was more severe that it appeared, he was suffering from internal bleeding. He died before his parents even knew that he had made it to the hospital. Mr. And Mrs. Callahan had to help the two of them home.” Alex had known that the two families were very close and Patrick and Ryan knew each other since they were practically born. Carmen was not sure how much Alex knew of Ryan.

“His old girlfriend told me about that,” Alex said, “it must be horrible for any parent to bury a child under any conditions but after what had happened on September 11th, it must have been even more traumatizing, especially when it seemed like there was a chance he survived. No one should have had to die such a terrible death.”

Alex had not noticed that during the interview. Carmen’s face turned red them almost to almost purple, like he was holding his breath. Alex was worried and said, “Carmen are you okay? Do you need some water or something?” Carmen looked away then looked back at Alex. He looked him straight in the eye and started a speech that Alex would not ever dream of interrupting.

“You’re right, Alex. No one should have had to die such a horrible way because no one should have had to die that day!” Carmen shouted. “We had so many good men die that day that should not have and why? I’ll tell you why. No one was watching the signs, no one shared information. Everyone letting their egos get in the way. No one had a back up plan, no one understood the big picture. We all went in blind because no one knew. And the city, Jesus Christ, I still can’t believe it. You’d think we would have learned from the bombings in ’93, but we didn’t. We got smug. We thought they couldn’t possibly do it again. They wouldn’t even try. And we warned the city government! We said we needed new equipment but did they listen, NO!!! It was too expensive, we have no money, we have to cut the budget and wait until next year. Jesus Christ, here it is nine years later and we still don’t have it! What the fuck are they waiting for to get hit next? The Brooklyn Bridge? The Empire State Building? I would like to know what the hell they are waiting for. My own brother and I can’t even talk to each other on radio. The police can’t talk to the firemen in this city and that is so fuckin’ ridiculous!” Carmen said now screaming at the top of his lungs. Carmen took a book off his desk and threw it at the wall. He was really pissed!

Then he continued, “Nothing in this god-damned city will ever change. They will spend money on parades and on memorials and then turn around and not want to buy new radios for us because it is too expensive! Well tell me this; would the person who said it would be too expensive to buy us new radios like to explain to over two thousand family members and to over a hundred and fifty widows of fire fighters that there was no money for them? I would like to meet them myself and explain it to them!” Carmen was in a near frenzy.

“I even yelled at that stupid brother of mine to knock some sense into some of his friends in the police department to get the ball rolling. This is such a load of bullshit! When did we let out egos get in the way such that departments won’t even help each other? Do you know how many firemen are former policemen? This is our wake up call to talk to one another and be better organized. If we don’t, I won’t blame the federal government because it won’t be the government’s fault but our own pride and stupidity! We don’t need anymore god damn parades praising us. We need good working conditions. Our firehouses can’t be falling apart and rat infested, we need new equipment to do our jobs and we need better salaries so our men and women can live closer to the city they serve. Do you know that some of our men have to live at home because they can’t make it on the starting salary? Christ, that’s pathetic! Our men aren’t being subsidized by Mommy and Daddy to live on the Upper East Side!” Carmen gave Alex the conclusion to his speech when he swept everything off his desk and yelled at the top of his lungs, “NO ONE HAD TO DIE THAT DAY!!!!”

 

Day Fifty-One: August 8,10 & 11, 2016: Walking in Harlem on the East & West Side 155th Street to 145th Street

I finally finished my two Brooklyn tours through school and was back up in Harlem today. It was a long day of walking as those city blocks across are long. I started at the subway stop at 168th Street and walked down to 155th Street (the subway was not running to 155th Street over the weekend). As usual when I have to walk down Broadway, I stopped at my new favorite bakery, Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway (check out the numerous reviews on TripAdvisor) for chicken pastilitos and cubanitos.

If you like hot snacks and sweet desserts, this will be your ‘go to’ place for a quick snack when walking up here. It is still one of the reasons why I don’t complain about getting off at 168th Street when the C subway is not in service. I like to stop at one of the pocket parks on Broadway to relax and eat. It was a long afternoon of walking.

Estrella Bakery.jpg

Don’t miss this excellent Dominican Bakery on Broadway

My walk over these three days took me from 155th Street to 145th Street from Riverside Drive to Lenox Avenue (there are still some side streets on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park that I have not finished yet). Don’t let these maps fool you, these are long blocks being walked in humid weather.

I started my walk today at the Hispanic Society of America Museum at 155th Street which is on the Boricua College-Manhattan Campus. It shares the campus with the American Academy of Arts & Letters, which closed down in June for the rest of the summer. The Hispanic Society of America is a free museum that is small enough that you can enjoy the visit for about an hour without being over-whelmed like you would at one of the bigger museums.

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The Hispanic Society of America

It was a small but no less impressive collection of Spanish Art from different periods. The Hispanic Society of America was founded as a free museum and research library in 1904 by the American scholar and philanthropist Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955). Over the past century, the Hispanic Society had promoted the study of the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Spain and Portugal and their areas of influence in the Americas and throughout the world. The Museum and Library constitute the most extensive collection of Hispanic are and literature outside Spain and Latin America (Hispanic Society of America literature).

The museum  had a nice crowd that afternoon, (how these people found it I will never know. I never knew it existed) and the galleries were small but the work was impressive. Some of the pieces that stood out were Jouquin Sorallo y Bastida’s ‘Vision of Spain’ created between 1911-1919, with many traditional views of parts of Spain and ‘After the Bath’ done in 1908, which looked more like a contemporary beach scene. The one piece that stuck in my mind was a new piece to the collection, ‘The Four Fates of the Soul’, which showed Death, Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. The sculpture really proved it’s point and made me think that we really are being watched from above. Even the guard as I was leaving said it was a new piece to the collection but people really talked about it as they were leaving.

After the museum, I had about ten minutes to walk  around Trinity Cemetery, which is  a quiet but scenic place. The graves on this side of Broadway overlook the Hudson River and are so peaceful with beautiful views, it makes you think of where you want your final resting place to be located. To live eternity here says something. Even the views of New Jersey  are gorgeous. Be sure to get to the museum and the gravesite early as they do close at 4:00pm.

I began my zig-zag trip of this part of Harlem at 154 Street and from there until 145th Street, the areas between Riverside Drive and Edgecombe Avenue house some of the most beautiful and elegant brownstones that I have seen in the city. So many of the them are under scaffolding as the new population moving up here is putting a lot of money into the renovations of these properties. The results are amazing with wooden doors, elegant metal work cleaned up and lively planters all around the stairs and the windows.

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Sugar Hill Neighborhood

With the CUNY campus just south of this area, you can see that college population is spreading its wings all over the neighborhood as the students, even in the summer, are moving in or living in this neighborhood and invest in buying in the bodegas, restaurants and hanging around the parks. The more diverse population looks like it is really making an effort to work together for this neighborhood. The most beautiful of these blocks is concentrated between Amsterdam Avenue and Nicholas Street so take time to really look at these homes and see the love and care that is put into them.

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Jackie Robinson Park where the students hang out.

Another stop I made was in the Hope Garden at 153rd Street that runs through 152nd Street. This was an empty lot between all the buildings that has now been cleaned up and the neighborhood held their Annual Open House & Barbecue for the neighborhood. It was not much of a turnout at that point of the afternoon but all the neighborhood seniors looked at me like ‘oh oh, another one is moving in’. You begin to pick up on these things when you walk through neighborhoods that have not seen me before.

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Hope Steven Garden

Everyone was really nice though and some of the ladies were explaining how the neighborhood banded together to clean and landscape the garden. The garden now contains peach trees, berry bushes and a grape arbor while supporting a cat colony that lives in the garden. Some of the neighbors were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs and older residents were chatting amongst themselves. No one made a fuss about me eating and since I was not hungry, I did not partake in the barbecue but it looked pretty good.

Most of the residents sat around and chatted with their neighbors or busy working in the garden. As I sat down to rest, two of the women who volunteer here, looked like they wanted to recruit me to do the same as they told me the story of how the city’s water aqueduct runs underneath the garden so they can never build here and how bad the neighborhood had become and how it was coming back to life. It takes a big person to show the immense pride in a neighborhood.

I stopped back in Convent Garden again to visit Ms. Davis, who was chatting the afternoon away while getting her exercise working in their garden. She was telling me that they will be having a jazz concert with food on Labor Day Weekend and invited me to join in. This I don’t want to miss as it is my two favorite things, jazz music and food. The volunteers were really working away at making this garden the well maintained and colorful place that the garden is to the neighborhood. Everything is in full bloom right now.

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Convent Garden in full bloom

The Sugar Hill neighborhood is really impressive and you could see that this was not one of the places that went downhill as the rest of Harlem decayed in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. It was and still is an grand group of homes that their owners take a lot of pride in. Now that the rest of the city has caught up with it, it will be interesting to see what comes out of it the next few years.

Another small oasis exists on 149th Street, which is Maggie’s Garden. It was locked at the time but also another garden taken from an empty lot and brought back to life. Maggie Burnett, are Harlem resident, turned what was once a ‘rickety old house’ when torn down into an urban oasis starting in 1974. Fighting off drug dealers to build the garden, she got some help from New York Restoration Project and its founder, Bette Midler who assisted in 1999 helping clear the site and now it is a garden with trees, flowers, a full vegetable garden and a barbecue. You could not see all that from the locked gates. (Daily News article).

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Maggie’s Garden

I was able to start my walk on the other side of Bradhurst Avenue on the other side of Jackie Robinson Park. I will let you know that the college students from CUNY have discovered the park and were sunning themselves the afternoon I walked around the park. Bradhurst Avenue has a lot of new buildings on it and the businesses include a Starbucks so you know that neighborhood is going through a transition. To let you know though, this transition stops here and the further you get away from the park, the seedier the area gets. By the time you hit Lenox Avenue, gentrification has not hit this area of the neighborhood and you should watch yourself. The buildings are beautiful and there is a police station a block in but it still needs a lot of work on this side of West 145th Street.

The end of the walk that day was at 145th Street and lunch at Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings at 346 West 145th Street which is right next store to Victorio’s Pizza that is more of the rave. The pizza was just average and the sauce did not have much flavor to it. The funny part was to listen to Indian music while eating my pizza.  That was strange. My recommendation is go to Victorio’s Pizza and get it to go and eat it in Jackie Robinson Park. The middle of the park has benches to sit on and the park is really pretty with its slopping walkways and rock work and it’s large trees to sit under.

The entire walk between 155th Street and 145th Street with an extra afternoon walking down Convent Avenue took almost five hours. Again, don’t let these blocks fool you as they are long and you will want to stop in the  parks and gardens and walk around.

Places to Visit:

Jackie Robinson Park

Bradhurst to Edgecombe Avenues at 145th Street to Manhattan Avenue

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/jackie-robinson-park_manhattan

Convent Garden

Convent Avenue & St. Nichols Avenue

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/convent-garden/highlights/7737

Maggie’s Garden

564 West 169th Street

https://www.nyrp.org/green-spaces/garden-details/maggies-garden

Hope Steven Garden

505 West 142nd Street

https://www.manhattanlandtrust.org/contact-us/hope-steven-garden/

Sugar Hill Neighborhood

Between 135th Street to 162nd Street and Edgecombe Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue

http://www.sugarhillmap.com/about.asp

Hispanic Society of America

163 West 155th Street

New York, NY 10032

(212) 926-2234

https://hispanicsociety.org/museum/

Open: The museum is currently closed for renovations. Please check the website for the opening.

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d110237-Reviews-Hispanic_Society_of_America-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/160

 

Places to Eat:

Victorio’s Pizza

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY 10039

(212) 283-2100

Open: Sunday 11:00am-9:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-8:45pm

https://www.victoriospizzaplusmenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10539122-Reviews-Victorio_s_Pizza_Plus-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Estrella Bakery

3861 Broadway

New York, NY 10032

(212) 795-5000

Open: Sunday-Saturday 5:00am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

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

Harlem Brothers Pizza & Wings

346 West 145th Street

New York, NY  10039

(646) 455-0942

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10715273-Reviews-Harlem_Brothers_Pizza_Wings-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905