Fee: Adults $22.00/Seniors (over 65) $14.00/Current Students with ID $13.00/Free to Members and Children under 12 accompanied by a parent. Free on Friday Nights from 7:00pm-9:00pm. Discount for people with disabilities $13.00-Caregiver Free.
What I love about the Morgan Library & Museum is the level of sophistication and quality of their exhibitions. The museum really makes you think when you tour their galleries and attend their lectures and gallery talks. Their docents and curators bring an exhibition to a whole new level. I always feel like I am taking a college course and will be graded afterwards. They really make you think about the work or what the author or artist is trying to say.
In the late 1700’s, well-to-do dwellers moved to Harlem Heights in the summer, seeking its cool breezes. They also wanted to avoid yellow fever, a summer threat in lower Manhattan, Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth (of the influential Schuyler family) often visited friends here and decided to build their own retreat.
In 1802, they moved in and Hamilton began commuting to his downtown law office, a 90 minute carriage trip. He and Elizabeth also began to entertain friends, colleagues and leader in their elegant home and gardens. Little did Hamilton know that his time at The Grange would be brief.
Witness to Slavery:
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) grew up on Nevis and St. Croix, islands in the Caribbean, where thousands of enslaved Africans labored in…
The bitter winter finally gave way to some warmer weather and I was finally able to continue walking the streets of Manhattan again. It had been almost three months since I finished the Upper West Side but the holidays were particularly busy and full of activities that had me running from the Hudson River Valley to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for Christmas plus a host of holiday activities, fundraisers, dinners at the house with my family, parties, selling Christmas trees and generally a lot of running around. On the first warm (at this point 48 degrees) and sunny day, off I went to continue my walk starting on the Upper East Side and revisiting East 59th Street.
After a long day at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen serving up breads and pastries to the guests, I walked up to the Upper East Side to start my walk of Sutton and Beekman Places by the East River, neighborhoods steeped in history and beautiful architecture. It was a beautiful warm day with the sun shining and that was a plus.
I started the afternoon with lunch at Flip, the restaurant inside the main Bloomingdale’s store on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor). I had been here a few times before when walking the lower part of the Upper East Side. It is located in the lower level of the store and has the most wonderful hamburgers and sandwiches. I had the Bavarian Burger ($18.00), which was delicious and the perfect pick me up after a long day serving other people.
The burger was made with a combination of ground meat and short ribs and was topped with caramelized onions, apple smoked bacon, Brooklyn lager cheese sauce and homemade bread and butter pickles on a pretzel roll served with a side a steak fries. It tasted as good as the description. I highly recommend a trip to Flip when visiting Bloomingdale’s main store. You will find it in the downstairs Men’s Department.
I started my walk at 24 Sycamores Park on East 60th Street. I needed to take a quick rest after that big lunch and it was such a nice day to just relax on the benches and watch the kids play with their nannies. It is such a great little pocket park with an interesting history. It was one of the parks developed for the Upper East Side residents who complained to Robert Moses that there was no greenery on their side of the City. Here I planned my walk around Sutton Place, Beekman Place and Sutton East (between First & Second Avenues), which some people consider part of the Turtle Bay neighborhood.
After relaxing in the park for a half hour and catching my breath from the Soup Kitchen and lunch, I started my walk along First Avenue. This is lined with elegant apartment buildings and a combination of old brownstones and mansions. It depends on what part of the Avenue you live on. The area around Sutton Place and Beekman Place is pretty much self-contained and off to itself. You really have to walk through the side streets and the parks to see the real beauty of the neighborhood and the little gems that make the neighborhood special.
The one thing I have noticed in this part of the neighborhood is that a lot of the stores on East 59th Street from Second to First Avenue have closed down and have joined the rest of the epidemic of empty store fronts in the City. Since I finished the walk of the Upper East Side in December, in just three months about a half dozen businesses have closed down. It will be interesting to see what replaces them.
I started the day walking down from East 59th Street and walked the perimeter of the neighborhood from FDR Drive to Second Avenue from East 48th Street where the United Nations is located to East 59th Street, the border of Sutton Place with the Upper East Side. Here and there lots of buildings and restaurants stand out.
I walked down Sutton Place from Sycamore Park down to the United Nations Building. This official border of Sutton Place is lined with pre-war apartment buildings, modern co-ops and a few brownstones and mansions tucked here and there.
Sutton Place is named after Effingham B. Sutton (1817-1891), a shipping magnate and entrepreneur, who made a fortune during the Gold Rush. He developed a series of brownstones between East 58th and 57th Streets in hopes of reestablishing the neighborhood for residential purposes from its then current state of small factories and commercial purposes. The Sutton Place Parks at the end of each street from East 59th through East 54th Street were established in 1938 when the FDR Drive was built taking away the access to the river. There are a series of five parks now along the East River at the end of each block (NYCParks.org).
At the corner of East 59th Street and Sutton Place starts the series of mansions that line this part of the street. In 1883, this little stretch of roadway had been renamed Sutton Place, a nod to Mr. Sutton, who had constructed that row of brownstone residences in 1875 (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The Vanderbilt and Morgan Mansions on Sutton Place
The beautiful old mansion at 2 Sutton Place was renovated by Anne Vanderbilt, the widow of William K. Vanderbilt. She sold the Vanderbilt mansion on Fifth Avenue that had been built by her husband’s family and bought the Effingham Sutton House. She hired architect Mott B. Schmidt to renovate the home into a 13 room Georgian mansion.
Anne Vanderbilt Mansion at 2 Sutton Place; next door is the Anne Morgan Mansion
Anne Tracy Morgan bought the 3 Sutton Place, the house on the corner of Sutton Place and East 57th Street and merged it with the home at 5 Sutton Place. Mott Schmidt filed revised plans for Anne Morgan’s house at 3 Sutton Place when she bought 5 Sutton Place and had the homes merged. The plans called for the rebuilding of the two structures into a four-story dwelling in American Colonial style with a roof garden and Morgan and Vanderbilt would share a common garden. To create the illusion of a vintage home, Mott reused the bricks from the old buildings on the site. The house was completed in 1922 (Daytonian Manhattan).
The entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion at 2 Sutton Place
As you walk the side streets between East 58th through East 48th Street, these dead-end blocks offer magnificent views of Roosevelt Island and the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront which is quickly changing from old warehouses to luxury high-rises and waterfront parks. Each has its own unique view of Roosevelt Island.
At the end of Sutton Place at the corner of East 53rd Street there is a small park, Sutton Place Park South, overlooking the tip of Roosevelt Island and FDR Park with its beautiful landscaping and stonework. It is a nice place to just relax and enjoy the cool breezes and hear the racket of FDR Drive zooming by.
Sutton Place Park South at the tip of Sutton Place
At 11 Sutton Place was once the home to architect I.M Pei and his wife, Eileen. They lived in the house for 45 years. The four-story residence is now on the market for eight million dollars. Mr. Pei was responsible for some of the most famous and innovative architecture in the twenty century.
11 Sutton Place was home to architect I. M. Pei and his family
This wonderful park should be visited by everyone who visits Manhattan. It has the most spectacular views of Roosevelt Island and the Queens/Brooklyn Waterfront and on a sunny warm day, it is one of the most relaxing parks I have visited since MywalkinManhattan.com started.
Sutton Place Park South
It is nice to sit amongst the cool breezes of the river by small gardens and shade trees. There were two dedications in the park that stood out to me. One was to Clara Coffey and the other was to Bronka Norak.
Clara Stimson Coffey was a landscape architect who in 1936 accepted the role of Chief of Tree Plantings for the NYCParks system and helped design several parks including the Clement Clark Moore Park in Chelsea which I recently visited on my Victorian Christmas Tour (Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight).
Bronka Norak was a long time Sutton Place resident and upon her death, her husband, the late Adam Norak, left an endowment for the maintenance of the flowers, trees and shrubs in the park.
On the west side of Sutton Place is lined with pre and post war apartment buildings each with a doorman that will look you over if you walk around the neighborhood too much as I did. You would think that they would have better things to do.
As I crossed back over East 59th Street, my next part of the walk took me to First Avenue which itself is going through a transition. Many of the old buildings and store fronts are giving way to new apartment buildings. As with the rest of Manhattan, this area is going through a makeover to upscale housing.
On my next trip to Sutton Place after another long day at the Soup Kitchen (the Bread Station is beginning to get to me. Every time we have desserts available, the guests’ pound on me), I walked from Ninth Avenue and West 28th Street to First Avenue and East 59th Streets. On top of all the exercise from running around the Soup Kitchen, I got even more walking in but on a sunny, warm day it does not make much a difference.
I stopped into Jimbo’s Hamburger Place at 991 First Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor) and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for lunch. This small hole in the wall diner has been there for years and is a favorite for many of the older neighborhood residents who seem to know the owners quite well. The food is here is wonderful and the whole menu is very reasonable for this neighborhood.
I had a cheeseburger with fries ($8.50) that tasted as if the meat had just been ground and cooked perfectly with a nice caramelization on the meat. The fries were cooked to order and the whole meal was delicious and hit the spot. What was nice was to talk to people who had lived in Sutton Place. The restaurant has a nice neighborhood feel to it and the patrons had obviously been eating here for years. One woman who sat next to me eats here every day. I guess as you get older and are single you don’t want to cook for yourself anymore.
Jimbo’s Cheeseburger and fries
After lunch, I continued the walk down First Avenue, I stopped at 931 First Avenue which had once been an old elementary school that had been built in 1892 in the Romanesque style. Instead of knocking the school down, the builder incorporated the school into the office tower above and around it. It gives the building a modern twist. As I was looking over the current renovation, I noticed a plaque on the corner wall.
The former P.S. 135 now the Beekman Regent Building
The school sat on the site of patriot James Beekman’s estate, Mount Pleasant, that had once been the British headquarters during the Revolutionary War. James Beekman (1732-1807) was a prominent New York City merchant and came from a family of merchants, lawyers and politicians. His ancestors had been Mayors of New York City and Albany and held positions as Governors of New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania. His grandfather, Gerardus Beekman, had been the acting Governor of New York under British rule (Wiki).
James Beekman whose name is given to Beekman Place
His estate and mansion, Mount Pleasant, had been used by the British as their headquarters during the war. The estate covering what is currently now both Sutton and Beekman Place. This was also the site for the trial of Patriot Nathan Hale.
Nathan Hale had volunteered to go behind enemy lines during the war and was recognized in a tavern by Major Robert Rangers of the Queen’s Rangers. Another story was he was turned in by his own cousin, Samuel Hale, who was a loyalist. Either way, Hale was questioned at the Beekman mansion by British General William Howe and was led to gallows on September 22nd, 1776 (See MywalkinManhattan.com on the Upper East Side. He was hung where there is a Pier One store at present).
Mount Pleasant, the home of James Beekman and his family
The house was moved once to a buff at First Avenue and East 50th Street when the street grid was put into effect and the house was torn down in 1874 at the start of the real estate boom after the Civil War (Untapped Cities).
I continued walking down First Avenue until I reached East 48th and 49th Streets where the road forks into First Avenue and United Nations Plaza. This area is filled with Embassies and offices for the United Nations and Trump World Tower is at end of the neighborhood at 845 United Nations Plaza, so traffic here is rough and the security all around the place is tight.
The Bridge leading to the East River Walk
When I reached the east side of First Avenue and at 51st Street, I took a turn down the road to the river and I went over the pedestrian bridge at the end of the block. This leads into the enclave of Beekman Place, the former estate of James Beekman. As you cross the bridge, you will enter Peter Detmold Park and its extension leading down FDR Drive, General Douglas MacArthur Park.
Peter Detmold (1923-1972) was once a tenant of the Turtle Bay Gardens. He was a veteran of World War II, serving under General George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge in France. Upon his return to civilian life, he was a Cornell graduate and when he moved to the City, became the one of the founders and President of the Turtle Bay Association and the founded the Turtle Bay Gazette. He along with other residents fought to keep the are residential and away from the commercial districts that were creeping into the area. On the night of January 6, 1972, after returning home from a meeting of the East Side Residential Association, he was murdered inside his building. The murder still has not been solved and the park was named after him later that year (NYCParks.com).
Activist, Veteran, Resident of Turtle Bay and fellow Cornell Alumnus Peter Detmold
Before I walked the bridge to the overpass, I walked down the steep stone steps down to the park area. It is a really hidden park. The area is surrounded by stone walls and apartment buildings above. To the left is a dog walk park that is extremely popular with residents and pooches alike. It is always busy.
To the right is a series of garden beds and benches to sit down and relax. There are tables where people were eating their lunches or playing with their dogs and being the beginning of spring, lots of flowers are in bloom. I walked around the area and watched as groups of residents talked and ate their meals or played games. The parks trees were just budding so the park had a canopy covering the top. When you walk through the gate at the end corner of the park, it leads to the General Douglas MacArthur Park and playground. Here you will find the much-needed public bathrooms and they are in good shape.
The General Douglas MacArthur Park and Playground was named for General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), who had a illustrious military career that spanned four wars and five decades. Having served in the Philippine Islands and Mexico, he served in France during WWI. He was called back into service for WWII serving as the Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific and developed the strategy of “island hopping” that turned the tide of the war. He also served in the Korean War as well. After serving as an unofficial advisor to two presidents before retiring in 1951. After that, he retired at the Waldorf Towers in NYC (NYCParks.com).
The park was originally built as part of the UN Plaza then was ceded to the City by Alcoa Associates and became part of the NYC Parks system in 1966. The small playground has a several swings, jungle gyms and tables to play chess along with bed of flowers and shade trees. It is right around the corner from some of the United Nations buildings so the outside can be busy with cars coming and going. The best part is the bathrooms are nice and open until 5:00pm (NYCParks.com)
After visiting both parks, I went back to Peter Detmold Park and went back up the narrow stone stairs and walked over the crosswalk to the riverfront promenade that lines the East River from East 51st to East 54th Streets offering breathtaking views of Governors Island and the Queens Riverfront. On a sunny day, the whole riverfront gleams.
View from the Riverfront Promenade
After walking the Promenade to East 54th Street and walking back, its hard to believe that changes in the riverfront areas in both Queens and Brooklyn in the last fifteen years. The whole coast is lined with luxury housing, boast slips and parks offering excellent views of the East Side of Manhattan.
Once you exit the park, you will notice a small tree lined street with brownstones and pre-war apartment buildings. You have just entered Beekman Place, a tiny enclave of older homes and an assortment of embassies.
I glanced down a small road lined with small brownstones, townhouses and pre-war apartment buildings and proceeded to detour down Beekman Place to tour the road and the side streets, each leading back out to First Avenue from East 51st Street to Mitchell Place.
As you walk down this quiet enclave of majestic architecture, there is a lot to admire in the surrounding buildings and the serene side streets of 50th Street and Mitchell Place. Each block is lined with unique buildings all decorated with plantings.
21 & 23 Beekman Place
Many famous people have lived in this neighborhood. At 23 Beekman Place, stage actress Katharine Cornell and her husband, Guthrie McClintic lived. Ms. Cornell was once considered one of the greatest American actresses on stage, best know for her roles in ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’ and her Tony award winning role in ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’. Her husband was a famous theater and film director whose production company produced all of his wife’s plays (Wiki).
At 21 Beekman Place, Ellen Biddle Shipman, one of the most famous and best regarded landscape architects in the United States known for her formal gardens with a lush planting style. A Radcliffe graduate, she is best known for her work on the Longue Vue Gardens in New Orleans and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University, considered her finest work (Wiki).
As you walk to the end of these streets facing the river, you get the most spectacular views of the Queens waterfront and Roosevelt Island. Along East 51st, East 50th and Mitchell Place you will find an assortment of embassies from countries I am not too sure people might know.
I exited down Mitchell Place at the edge of the neighborhood and passed the Beekman Tower at 31 Mitchell Place. Originally called ‘The Panhellenic’, the tower was built between 1927 and 1928 in the Art Deco style by architect John Mead Howells. It was opened as a residence for women of the Greek sororities who were entering the workforce in New York City but by 1934, the building had male residents. Today this graceful building is being used as a corporate apartment building.
The Art Deco Beekman Tower at 31 Mitchell Place & First Avenue
I walked back up First Avenue, I looked across the street and saw the most beautiful floral displays and flowers for sale outside of Zeze Flowers at 938 First Avenue (See review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). This is more than a store it is more like a museum of flowers. Everything from the window displays with the ‘Man in Moon’ to the exotic flowers enticing you inside you will be taken by the beauty of store.
Once inside Zeze Flower Shop you will admire the beauty of the displays, statuary and the gorgeous orchids that line the shelves and tables. All the tables are lined with all sorts of decorative objects and the walls with vases to hold their carefully cut flowers. The store itself is a work of art and the bouquets and arrangements look like something out of a painting. There is a lot of care in this store and the staff is attentive and friendly.
The beautiful flowers and gift ideas of Zeze Flower Shop
On the way back up First Avenue, I passed the spot of the Beekman Mansion again at First and East 51st Street and admired the renovation of the building which was once a school. The building, The Beekman Regent at 351 East 51st Street, had been designed and built in 1892 by George W. Debevoise, who was the Superintendent of Board of Education at the time as P.S. 135. Later it had become the United Nations School. It now serves as a luxury apartment building that won the 2002 Mercedes Benz Property Award for the ‘finest new redevelopment in the world’ (Beekman Regent history).
The Beekman Regent building at 351 East 51st Street
I continued up First Avenue past a long line of restaurants. I have noticed just in the two weeks that I have been walking the Sutton Place neighborhood, two businesses have closed and the storefronts are empty.
Another restaurant I ate at when walking the Upper East Side at another time was Go Noodle at 1069 First Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). There combination platter at lunch are reasonable and I had a chicken with string beans and an egg roll ($8.50) that was delicious.
I made it back to East 59th Street in time to see the traffic building up on the Queensboro Bridge. The lights from the waterfront started to come on and when I walked back to 24 Sycamores Park, the place was still filled with families. I was exhausted and saved the rest of the walk for another day.
I came back to the neighborhood a week later on a beautiful sunny day after a long day working the Bread Station at Holy Apostles again. These guests love their bread and we were busy again, so it was another long walk up to Sutton Place. Here I started at East 59th and Second Avenue. Technically this area is known as Turtle Bay but some creative people in the real estate industry have called the area between First and Second Avenues between East 59th and 49th “Sutton East” as I saw on some of the buildings. So down Second Avenue I went to visit ‘Sutton East’.
Second Avenue between East 59th and East 48th Streets has become a real hodge-podge of buildings as the area closer to Midtown, between East 48th and 50th Streets have given way to larger office and apartment buildings. Once above East 51st Street, there still is a mixture of older brownstone and smaller apartment buildings that house the mom & pop stores and restaurants that keep the borders of Sutton Place and Turtle Bay unique.
I started my day with lunch at Mee’s Noodle Shop at 930 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) which I had passed a few times when walking back to Port Authority. The menu and the write ups on the restaurant had been very good and there is a lot of creativity to the selection. Since it was Good Friday when I visited, I stuck to all seafood dishes which was a nice choice. The restaurant’s specialty is dumplings and noodles that are made fresh on premise, and you can see them being made as you walk in.
Mee’s Noodle Shop at 930 Second Avenue (Closed in August 2022)
I ordered the steamed seafood dumplings ($6.50) which were a combination of crab, shrimp and scallop. They were really light and had a nice taste to them with the soy dipping sauce. For my main part of the meal, I ordered the Shrimp Lo Mein (Small $7.35/Large $9.20). This was especially good because all the noodles were being made in front of me and were fresh and cooked to perfection. The dish was studded with nice size shrimp and an array of vegetables including a very well cooked Bok choy. The service could not have been nicer especially during the lunch rush.
After lunch I walked the distance of Second Avenue, looking over all the menus on the restaurants that lined the Avenue. There is a lot to choose from. There are coffee shops, Italian restaurants, Continental, German, Thai and several very good pizzerias. What I like about Second Avenue in this stretch of the Avenue is the juxtaposed look of the buildings that give it character. The most action at night seems to be between East 50th and 51st Streets where a lot of the bars are located. This part of the neighborhood I read that the residents here worked hard to fight the city on new construction to keep the character of the neighborhood the way it has been.
A nice place to sit and relax is the Katherine Hepburn Place by Sterling Plaza at Second Avenue and East 49th Street. This little park named after the actress who lived and advocated for the neighborhood is a small area of trees and benches that is nice to rest for a bit. It is nice to people watch here especially the dog walkers who all seem to converge here.
As I walked back up to East 59th Street, I began to notice that again smaller businesses between that and East 57th were beginning to close. It seems that the fringes of the Upper East Side are beginning to blend into this neighborhood. When you reach the top of the block at East 59th Street, you are greeted with the traffic going into the Queensboro Bridge, the tram going back and forth to Roosevelt Island and the sheer movement of people.
On the way back down Second Avenue, I visited La Vera Pizza at 922 Second Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) for a quick slice. The pizza is really good and they make a delicious Sicilian slice ($3.00). The slice was pillowy and crisp and their sauce has a lot of flavor to it.
There is a distinct difference when you cross East 48th Street from the neighborhood as all the brownstones disappear and you see more office and apartment buildings on that part of Second Avenue. From East 58th to East 49th Streets, you will see a transition and change block by block. Some blocks will be all brownstones and small mom & pop businesses and others it will be a new building with a combination of businesses at street level.
From here, I walked block by block and explored the side streets of the neighborhood and there are many hidden gems in way of restaurants, stores and historic architecture to explore.
Starting on East 59th Street a lot has changed since I walked the neighborhood since before the holidays. A lot of the stores that I had passed were gone and the stores were empty. Either to changing times or higher rents, these businesses disappeared right after the New Year so I turned the corner at Second Avenue and walked down East 58th Street and was surprised by the trove of stores and restaurants on the street. There are still a lot of antique stores and florists on the street as well many restaurants. You will also see the most amazing views of the Queensboro Bridge as it extends from Manhattan to the shores of Queens in the distance.
The Queensboro Bridge on East 59th Street
When you turn the corner and enter 58th Street towards the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge, you will see two small brownstones, 311 and 313 East 58 Street. They were built between 1856-57 by Hiram G. Disbrow for his own use. They were built in the Greek Revival-Italianate style with a porch with a picket fence (Streeteasy). 311 is now the home of Philip Colleck Ltd., an antique furniture store where they carry beautiful classic furniture for the home. 315 is still a private home right next to the ramp on the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge. These two interesting little brownstone homes stand out against the modern high rises that dot the rest of East 58th Street.
This pretty much dominates East 57th Street as well until you get to the Morgan and Vanderbilt Mansions at 2 & 3 Sutton Place with the amazing view of Roosevelt Island and the Queens Waterfront. There is a real beauty in the line of old mansions and brownstones between East 58th and 57th on Sutton Place.
The mansions on Sutton Place
East 56th Street is lined with an array of pre and post war buildings as well with more great views of the river at the end of street of the East River on Sutton Place. East 55th Street is about the same but there is a standout with A La Mode, an ice cream shop at 360 East 55th Street.
A La Mode at 360 East 55th Street
A La Mode (see my review on TripAdvisor) is a very cute and engaging ice cream shop that caters to the locals. The selection of homemade ice creams offers a few unusual flavors. I enjoyed a double scoop of Pink Sprinkle (Strawberry with colored sprinkles) and Partly Cloudy (Cotton Candy with baby marshmallows) both of which were colorful and delicious. They also carry an assortment of gifts and clothes for that lucky child. I must have enjoyed eating it because everyone smiled at me on my walk down to Sutton Place Park to enjoy it and the views.
As I rounded the corner onto East 54th Street, I stopped by both Sofia Pizza and Marinara Pizza many times when touring the neighborhood. Sofia Pizza Shoppe at 989 First Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) has been noted as being one of the best slices in the City by several magazines. I would bypass the traditional slice as it was okay ($3.25) but the Sicilian slice ($4.50) was delicious. It had a nice pillowy consistency, and the sauce is loaded with flavor of fresh tomatoes.
Marinara Pizza at 985 First Avenue and the corner of East 54th Street (see my review on TripAdvisor) is a beautiful open restaurant that allows you to look in at all the pizzas. I had a slice from a pizza that just came out of oven, and it was excellent. Their sauce is delicious and well spiced, and the cheese was nice and gooey. Between the slice of pizza here and the sundae at A La Mode while looking at the view at Sutton Place Park at East 54th Street it was the perfect afternoon. People were smiling back at me that I seemed so happy to indulge in my ice cream while walking down the street.
When you get to the end of East 54th by Sutton Place, there is a small set up stairs that will take you to the first part of Sutton Place Park, Sutton Place Park North, with benches that overlook the skyline of Queens and Roosevelt Island. On a nice day, it is the perfect place to soak up the sunshine and relax while looking at soaring skyline.
Walking down East 54th Street from the park you will find the Recreation Center 54 at 348 East 54th Street with the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater next door at 350 East 54th Street. The Neo-Classical building was built in 1911 as a recreation facility for the working classes and has many of the original details inside such as wrought iron staircases and marble baths. Originally called the 54th Street Baths and Gymnasium, the facility has now morphed into complete gaming experience with basketball, volleyball and swimming (NYCParks.org). Really look up to see the beauty of the building.
Recreation 54 Building on East 54th Street
On the outside of the Neighborhood Playhouse School next door, there is a plaque for Sanford Meisner, one of its most famous faculty. He developed the ‘Meisner Technique’, which is a self-investigation for the actor.
The Sanford Meisner Plaque at the Neighborhood Playhouse School
Mr. Meisner, who had wanted to be an actor since he was a child has studied under Lee Strasberg at the Theater Guild for Acting. In 1935, he joined the faculty of The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater which had been founded in 1928. He had served at the Director of the Acting Department until his retirement in 1990.
At the other end of East 54th Street by Second Avenue, there is an interesting and relaxing little public space that is part of the apartment complex, The Connaught Tower. This is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long walk with benches, small gardens and shade trees. In the front of this public space is the artwork by artist Alexander Liberman, ‘POPS209: Accord’, a large geometric sculpture
Mr. Liberman’s, Russian born immigrant as way of France, career as an artist covered many different forms of art including photography, painting, sculpture and retiring as an Editorial Director at Conde Nast. In his sculpture work, he was noted for his use of industrial objects like steel drums, and I beam and then painting them in uniform bright colors. POPS209: Accord is example of that, but you almost miss it as the trees are growing all around it.
After several breaks in this public space, it was off to explore East 53rd Street. As I made my way back to the river passing the southern part of Sutton Place Park and rounding Sutton Place South onto East 53rd. Be careful when walking in this area. You are blind to cars coming on street from Sutton Place South and they may not stop.
What stands here is this small red brownstone at 413 East 53rd Street that sits like a poor sole amongst the large apartment buildings that surround it.
This little building doesn’t look as good as this now on the outside, but it does have a colorful history in the transformation of this neighborhood several times. The property was once part of the Beekman estate in an area of summer homes and estates of wealthy downtown Manhattanites.
After the Civil War and the land boom that pretty much doomed the Beekman’s estate, this area was built up with tenement housing for the working class who worked in the nearby factories and this little house must have built somewhere in the late 1880’s. It has been lived in by several interesting characters.
The house was once lived in by corrupt politicians who were once slum lords in other parts of the neighborhood, then by a prostitute and her pimp and after that to an insurance company which dealt with cremations. After that it became a sheet metal shop and was fought over and sold by the slum lord’s estate (Daytonian in Manhattan).
By the time that Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Morgan built their homes up the road, the little brick building became a clock shop and then for the next several years was an antique reproduction store. Its last incarnation was as a dentist office and the upper two floors was renovated into a luxury home. Now it sits empty and boarded up waiting for the next stage of its history. So much history for such a small building.
As you pass the corner of East 53rd Street and First Avenue, take a peek inside the doorway to 400-402 East 53rd and look at the secret garden behind the locked door. If you glare to the back, you will see the garden that is hidden behind all the buildings on this part of First Avenue between East 53rd and 52nd Streets. If you could only sneak inside to take a peek.
The secret garden hides behind this entrance
Walking further down East 53rd Street, two small wooden homes that stood out among all the luxury buildings and commercial shops on the street. These two little wooden homes are two of the last remaining in Manhattan and are currently landmarked.
The homes were built in 1866 by Robert and James Cunningham, two returning Civil War veterans who returned to an ever-changing City. The area had once been the farm of David Devore and now contained slaughterhouses and factories and was considered ‘sketchy’. The brothers built the two twin wooden homes right before the City changed the building codes banning wooden homes due to fires destroying the City like the ‘Great Fire of 1835, which destroyed most of downtown (Daytonian in Manhattan).
The two homes are built in the French Second Empire Style and have mansard roofs and brick basements and a shared garden in the back of both homes. The brothers leased the homes out until 1870. In the 1920’s 312 East 53rd was leased to Lincoln Kitsten, who founded the New York City Ballet and then to Society Hostess Muriel Draper and her dancer son, John. The homes were landmarked in 1968 and 2000 respectively (Daytonian in Manhattan).
As you cross the street at Second Avenue and walk down the other side of the street heading back to the river, you will pass Éclair Bakery at 305 East 53rd Street (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), which I consider one the best independent bakeries I have tried on my walk since Estrella Bakery in Washington Heights and the now closed Glaser’s Bakery on the Upper East Side.
Éclair Bakery has some of the most delicious pastries, quiches and sandwiches at what I consider very reasonable prices for this part of the city. The Strawberry and Nutella mini doughnuts ($2.50) are pillowy and coated with sugar filled with fresh strawberry jelly and chocolaty Nutella and are three bite wonders.
The eclair’s ($5.75) come in various flavors and are arranged in the case like jewels. The Hazelnut was my favorite. The Quiche with ham and cheese ($5.75) when warmed up has a nice custard like texture and a sharpness due to the cheese. Everything here is delicious, and the service is really friendly.
Do not miss a visit to Éclair Bakery when visiting Sutton Place
East 52nd Street between the river and Second Avenue is filled with mostly pre- and post-war buildings and filled with many embassies and consulates. As you walk toward the United Nations, you will notice that a lot of the smaller apartment buildings and brownstones between East 52nd and East 48th Street have many foreign signs.
Turning the corner onto East 51st Street on Second Avenue, you will see a change in the neighborhood again. Second Avenue is the border between Turtle Bay and Sutton Place East neighborhoods, and you will notice as you get further down the avenue block by block you will see a change between new modern apartment buildings and the smaller brownstone buildings that house the locally owned restaurants. It still is a neighborhood in this section between East 51st and East 49th Streets.
Again, on the corner of East 51st Street and First Avenue, you will pass the site of the Beekman Mansion on the way back to the East River. At the end of street, you will return to Peter Detmold Park. On a beautiful sunny day, take another walk across the bridge to take in the views of the East River and Roosevelt Island or just sit on the benches in the park and watch people playing with their dogs.
There is one little standout building on the Street at 328 East 51st Street. This beautiful little yellow townhouse was built in 1861 and was the home of actress Katharine Cornell when she moved back to the City in 1965. The two tiny sculptures that sit above the doorway are of Julia and Comfort Tiffany, the twin daughters of Louis Comfort Tiffany who were born in 1887. Ms. Cornell commissioned sculpture to artist, Mary Lawrence Tonetti, who was a good friend of her’s and whose son-in-law, Eric Gugler and architect, had designed the actress’s homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Sneden’s Landing (New York Times). Really look at the stonework and grill work of this home.
328 East 51st Street has a beauty of something in the French Quarter
When you turn the corner again to East 50th Street, the area around Beekman Place closer to the East River by the park has more classic brownstones and prewar apartment buildings and the area between First Avenue and the river is its own little enclave. Here the brownstones on the side streets are filled with many consulates. As you walked down to Second Avenue, the streets are lined with pre and post war buildings. Take the time though to walk Beekman Place and Mitchell Place near the Beekman Tower. It is like its own neighborhood.
Walking back and forth down East 49th Street, you will notice this lower part of the neighborhood is changing to more modern buildings and businesses catering to the United Nations around the corner and the same with East 48th Street which is more modern buildings and parking garages for the UN. The classic brownstones give way to the modern buildings of Midtown.
Still, you have two great restaurants between East 49th and 50th Streets, Mee’s Noodles for those wonderful dumplings and noodles at 930 Second Avenue and La Vera Pizzeria on the corner of East 49th Street and Second Avenue at 922 Second Avenue (see reviews on TripAdvisor). My last trip into the neighborhood I made another trip to La Vera Pizzeria and the place was crowded with people getting off work from Midtown. Their pizza is very good, and the service is friendly.
You can see how this part of the City like all others is in a state of transition as the brownstone buildings with their independent businesses are giving way to the more modern structures of today changing it to an extension of Midtown. Still many parts of the blocks have a ‘neighborhood’ feel to it and the area is loaded with interesting buildings, wonderful restaurants, small pocket parks and amazing views of the East River and the outer boroughs changing skyline. It is a wonderful place to just walk around and enjoy!
Steve Tyrell and Neil Sedaka “Laughter in the Rain”. It cheered me up!
I don’t know why but I kept humming this the entire time I walked Sutton Place.
I had planned to go out to Punxsutawney, PA again for Groundhog’s Day but the weather really turned this year. There was an Arctic Vortex (or whatever they are calling it this week) and the weather plunged in Pennsylvania. It was going to be 20 degrees on Groundhog’s Day (that meant 0 degrees that night) and raining when I would drive home on Sunday and I thought that would be over doing it for me.
I later saw that it did go up to 38 degrees that day in Punxsutawney, higher than expected but the overnight Friday night into Saturday was 4 degrees and sorry but the thought of standing in Gobbler’s Knob for five and a half hours in that weather was too much. I did that in 2016 in 30 degrees and that was bad enough. I will wait until next year.
My blog on visiting Punxsutawney, PA in 2016 for Groundhog’s Day:
I then remembered that we have our own Groundhog Festival here in the New York City area at the Staten Island Zoo with ‘Groundhog Chuck’, an event I had heard of in the past. So when I knew that driving to PA was out (I was assisting with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Marcal Paper Factory fire on Wednesday night January 30th, 2019-See The Brothers of Engine One Blog site on WordPress.com that I write), I went online and looked at the festival that they had at the Staten Island Zoo.
My blog on the Marcal Paper Fire right before Groundhog’s Day:
So on a cold morning, I got up at 3:30am in the morning to get ready to go to Staten Island. It was not too much better on an early Saturday morning here as well. It was 19 degrees (versus 4 in PA) in Staten Island but off I drove into the darkness. The trip to the Staten Island Zoo was not that bad. I got to the zoo in forty minutes and there was plenty of parking. I guess not as many people had the same idea that I had. There were only about six other cars in the lot when I arrived.
A group of about ten of us were waiting outside the back gate when someone finally came to the gate and told us we were at the wrong gate. It would have been nice if some zoo personal was directing people to the parking lot (which was dark with not a lot of signage to see) and had a sign to go to the front gate.
When the ten of us got to the front gate we were lucky in that the TV crews had already set up and there were only about ten other people there at the time so we got great views of the stage.
Trust me this is WAY smaller than the festival in Punxsutawney, PA. There were about a hundred and fifty people there that I could see and that included the staff, the politicians, the choir from P.S. 29 and their parents and the crowd of us but that made it more intimate. You were not elbow to elbow with people and did not have to camp out for the night. The Staten Island Zoo did a nice job. I still think they should move it to a bigger area of the zoo so that the kids could see it. Also, it would have been nice to put the choir and the dancing Groundhog (a staff member dressed in a Groundhog costume) on the stage so that more people could have seen them.
The Zoo staff introduced some of the local politicians to the event. Some of them kept it short and sweet and a few others had to make it about themselves and bring up things in Washington DC, which I think at an event like this has no place for it. It is a family event.
Still one of the local politicians made a good MC for the event and then introduced a student from P.S. 29, who played the “Star-Spangled Banner” for us on her violin and that was followed by the P.S. 29 choir, who sang a song about Groundhog’s Day. It was really cute and the kids did a nice job entertaining the crowd (See the video below).
Groundhog’s Day 2019
The Groundhog Ceremony at the Staten Island Zoo 2019 (that’s me in the Spartan knit hat)
Then the band, “Rock a Silly” played their song for Staten Chuck and it was quite clever. (See the band’s video on YouTube below).
The Rock-A-Silly Band with their original song for “Staten Island Chuck” (I give the band full credit for this video-very clever guys!)
The band got the crowd really moving on this cold morning.
After all the entertainment, it was time to hear the report from Chuck and the handlers took him out. There was a little of a commotion and then the report came. In the middle of this ‘deep freeze vortex’ Chuck’s prediction was SPRING IS COMING! Everyone cheered loudly at that. With that, there was a little more entertainment, then I was off to tour the zoo.
The Staten Island Zoo is very nice even in the cold weather. I was able to go into the main building and see the monkey, the reptile and the aquarium exhibits, which were nicely displayed and labeled so that you knew what animals were what. The only problem with the zoo is the space is very limited and surrounded by houses so there is no room to expand, so the living space for the animals is small. Still they look happy and content.
I stopped at the Zoo Cafe for a doughnut ($1.00) and to look at the gift shop. They had an interesting ‘Staten Island Chuck’ stuffed groundhog ($12.00) that I had to keep myself from buying. The zoo gift shop is stocked with all sorts of ‘Chuck’ coloring books, tee shirts and little do-dads as well as plush animals, pencils, shirts and hats. The zoo cafe has the usual hamburgers, chicken fingers and fries on the menu that will appeal to any child.
I walked around the zoo as it started to warm up (now 25 degrees) and went to the outside pens to see the pigs, donkey’s, kangaroos, emus, geese and ducks. The poor emus looked so cold that they were chasing after me with a look in their eyes like either I had food or was going to take them inside. I really felt for the animals in this cold.
By the time I left the zoo, it was 9:45am and the zoo still had not opened. There was myself and two other families left in the early hours zoo and by the time I got back to the parking lot, there were only six cars left.
Even though it was not the crowds of the event in Punxsutawney, PA, it was still a cute event that you should not miss on future Groundhog’s Day when you are visiting New York City. The Staten Island Zoo puts on a good show!
Groundhog’s Day 2020:
In 2020, the ceremony was much toned down from the year before. First, the weather was much nicer than last year. I got up this year at 5:00am and was out the door by 6:15am. The zoo I found out last year is only thirty-five minutes from my house and I did not need to rush. The zoo does not have the crowds of Punxsutawney. Again there were about a hundred or so people at the zoo this morning and when the sun rose, it was warm and sunny about 43 degrees.
The ceremony was only twenty minutes this year. There was no band and no kids choir at the service. Being Super Bowl Sunday, it seemed to me that everyone wanted to get out of there and rushed the whole thing. There were the same politicians with the same lame jokes and it seemed that Speaker Corey Johnson is running for Mayor of New York City (Good Choice!). At least he admitted the jokes were lame and just wished everyone a Happy Groundhog’s Day.
Then they could not even get Chuck out of his Plexiglas pen to hold him up (the Groundhog kept running away. He probably didn’t like the jokes either), so they just announced the weather prediction of an early Spring and then they played a recording of the children’s choir singing and that was the program. We were done in about thirty minutes. It was so quick that a woman walked in with her son at 7:45am and asked if this was the ceremony. The guy standing next to me said that it was already over and they were packing up. She was a little pissed because she said to the guy that she just got dropped off with her son and her husband was parking the car. So much for pomp and circumstance!
After the ceremony, I walked around the zoo again and visited with the monkey’s, kangaroos and sheep. The ostriches and Emu’s were rather friendly this year and seemed more chipper than last year, but it was because it was not as cold. In fact, most of the animals were out this year. So, I just enjoyed my time walking around the zoo and stopped into the Zoo Snack Shop and had another doughnut (Still $1.00) and just relaxes. This year I did buy the stuffed Chuck from the gift shop (he now sits prominently near my Dayton’s Santa Bear, Hamley’s Bear, Macy’s Snoopy and Brooks Brother’s Brooks Bear (I love retail stuffed animals).
After the zoo, it was such a nice morning that I once again walked along the retail stretch of Forest Avenue near the zoo and zig-zagged through some of the stores that were open. People were getting ready for the Super Bowl, so a lot of the food stores were busy with take-out orders. Most of the restaurants were quiet.
I did stop into an old-line Italian bakery, Moretti’s Bakery at 640 Forest Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) and have another doughnut. This time a creme filled powered doughnut ($1.25) and God was that good. They have a very nice selection of baked goods at very fair prices and good service.
Admission: Adults (15 and over) $10.00/Seniors (60 and over) $7.00/Children (3-16) $6.00/Wednesdays after 2:00pm is free to everyone. Free with membership. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The Cafe and the Gift shop are open when the zoo is open.
I gave up a day in Manhattan Valley and took one of the walking ‘trends tours’ with the Fashion Institute of Technology. These theme tours cover neighborhoods that are considered ‘up and coming’ or are already there but at the cutting edge at this point.
What is all really means is that the artists are still struggling, the buildings are not shiny and perfect and the stores and restaurants are in their first generation in the neighborhood mixing with the older neighborhood spots. Red Hook reminded me a small urban neighborhood isolated from the rest of ‘stroller Brooklyn’ closer to Prospect Park.
The tour was lead by Deborah Geiger, the Director of Content from Envirosell. Deborah Geiger, who you will note on ‘MywalkinManhattan.com Day Forty-Seven Touring Bushwick’ (July 9, 2016), lead the tour of Bushwick last summer.
I teased Deborah this time wondering where ‘they were’ for this group. She wondered what I was talking about and I said on every tour I go on for school there is always one pain in the ass who either gets tired, can’t keep up with the tour, their hot or its not what they thought it was when they signed up.
They whine the whole time and want the complete attention of the tour guide the whole time. We had one this time again and thank God this one left the group as soon as we got to Red Hook. He lasted about twenty minutes into the tour and decided to leave. I wish more of them would do this so they don’t wreak it for the rest of us. I really think the college should explain to these people that every tour is different and the fact that it is ‘a walking tour’.
We started our tour for the day at the lobby of FIT, so we had time to see the new “Force of Nature” exhibition at the The Museum at FIT (See TripAdvisor review and my blog “VisitingaMuseum.com”). Don’t miss this as the clothes are interesting and they mounted the exhibition with interesting clothes through the ages.
The Museum at FIT
Then it was a short trip by subway to the tip of Manhattan by the South Street Seaport where we took the IKEA Water Taxi to Red Hook docking by the giant IKEA store on the base of Red Hook. That was fun and what a beautiful day it was to travel by boat.
The ride via New York Water Taxi is complimentary on weekends with the thanks from IKEA. It is a nice way to travel between spots especially on a warm, sunny day.
‘Clothing through the Ages’ exhibition
The trip took only twenty minutes but what a beautiful trip. We got the most picturesque view of lower Manhattan and of the Statue of Liberty. The view of all the buildings is spectacular. This is New York City the way people imagine it all over the world.
Talk about Street Art: Me on a side street with “The Shining”
We landed at the slip where IKEA is located and walked around the harbor area to Van Brunt Street, the main artery of Red Hook, for a quick snack at Baked, 359 Van Brunt Street (See review on TripAdvisor).
Baked Red Hook
It is one of those coffee shops that every neighborhood should have with cool seating, interesting music and the most delicious baked goods. I had the most amazing cinnamon rolls that I have ever had. This giant delight was filled with loads of cinnamon and had the thickest icing. It was a treat. We gobbled our treats down and then headed off to the Van Brunt Stillhouse at 6 Bay Street for a tasting.
The Van Brunt Stillhouse is an artisan distillery that produces high quality whiskey and rum. The owner had been in television and decided to make a career change. He had been dabbling in this for a long time and decided to make it a career. We had a tour of the small Stillhouse with its barreling all around us and a funky tasting room. We were allowed to taste the aged whiskey and get a good mouth feel of the product. After one shot, that was more than enough for me.
We moved on to more touring as we walked to the water to the former warehouses housing the Red Hook Winery at 175 Van Dyke Street for a tour of the facility. The Winery is really interesting as it is housed in an old shipping facility that has been converted into a wedding venue and an art gallery. If you get a chance to visit the winery, it is really interesting. Its not your normal winery as it has three different owners with three different philosophies.
Red Hook Winery 175 Van Dyke Street
They buy their grapes from the North Fork of Long Island and Upstate New York and created their own wines and blends. The collection is rounded off by other high quality New York wines. Our tour guide showed us the barreling method they use and that they still use their feet to crush grapes for the wine. I thought that was an interesting fact. We toured their ‘racking’ method of wine by rotating the barrels and sampling.
The front of the winery is used for tastings and for socializing. The place was mobbed by the time we got there and it was definitely a younger crowd. I was surprised as I thought the next generation was not interesting in these things. People were tasting wines, conversing about them and looking over the selection. It is an impressive room done in light stained colors and surrounded by the selection of wines.
Our next stop on the tour was Cacao Prieto at 218 Conner Street. This is the most unusual factory tour that we tour. When you enter the back of the factory, there is a tree growing in the middle of the building. We all got a kick out that. The guide let us see the small factory with its showroom up front and production areas off to the side. The whole set up is really nice and the chocolate bars are so beautifully designed.
Cocao Prieto at 218 Conner Street
Our next part of the tour lead us Van Brunt Street to the Peninsula Art Space at 352 Van Brunt Street. We walked through the exhibition of ‘Grand Ole Opera’, an exhibition by Brent and Willie Stewart. The Tennessee born artists exhibition is their institutional debut in the United States, also serves as a venue for a related series of noise, metal and rock concerts, staged within a revival tent.
“Within the exhibition itself, cinematic tableau’s reveal a truck turned to AM radio; bizarre trailer-homes containing surreal sculptural landscapes. a perpetually-burning sun projected under a revival ten, which doubles as a stage; the “murder bar”, a nomadic functioning biker bar from the Deth Killers of Bushwick and Romulus and Remus, who nursed at the wolf’s breast and founded ancient Rome, found in a bar-fight”. (Catalogue Pioneer Works)
It was an interesting experience walking through 70’s recreational vehicles and watching B movies on the screen. It was a real ‘red-neck’ experience. The gallery even has a court yard to walk around where more of the exhibition was housed.
After that it was a tour of the Peninsula Art Space at 352 Van Brunt Street for a look at their latest exhibition. While looking at the work of a local artist (interesting perspective of the neighborhood in his paintings), we had a lively debate on the gentrification of the neighborhood and the one the gallery representative lived in, Bed-Sty. We debated the attributes about living above and below Gates Street where all the projects are located. She was amazed that I knew so much but I do read these articles.
Art at the Peninsula Gallery at 352 Van Brunt Street
Our last stop closer to the border of the neighborhood was the Raaka Chocolate Factory at 64 Seabring Street off Van Brunt Street. This is the most interesting candy factory where the owner just fell into the field when travelling abroad and found the cocoa beans.
Raaka Chocolate Company
The factory has created a top of the line assortment of dark chocolate bars that are beautifully packaged. I do have a thing about $10.00 chocolate bars but these are a once in a while treat and the best part is they let you sample all the bars. The best was the lavender and the ghost pepper, which took time to linger on your taste buds when you bit into it. Like most of the factories we visited, we got a sample to the small cottage industries that are developing in this section of Brooklyn. I can go back for a more formal tour and tasting in the future.
We took a pit stop at Dolce Brooklyn for homemade gelato at 305 Van Brunt Street. This store has the most amazing homemade ice creams and gelato (See TripAdvisor review). I had the most delicious home trio of Strawberry Mint, Blueberry Lavender and Raspberry Mint. God , were these refreshing on a hot, humid day.
Me enjoying the Gelato at Dolce Brooklyn (see review on TripAdvisor)
There was a tangy-tartness to the flavors and they really do quench your taste buds. We were talking to the owner, who is French and he and the lady working the counter explained how his wife had gone to Italy to learn how to make proper gelato. I thought that was going to the extremes but it was well worth it in quality. The shop should not be missed on a hot day and it is one of those stores every neighborhood should have with its cool seating and relaxing atmosphere.
On our way back down Van Brunt Street, we stopped to go through some of the local stores and I got separated from the group. With only fifteen minutes left on the tour and totally starved (that was the only bad part of the tour is that we did not have time to stop for lunch), I figured the rest of the group was heading back to the ferry to go to Manhattan.
I decided to get some lunch and stopped at Marc’s Pizza at 326 Van Brunt Street (See review on TripAdvisor) for a slice of pizza and a potato croquette. The food is very good and you will love the atmosphere. The owner is a real character. Over the cash register there is a sign that shows a gun and it reads “We don’t call 911!”. The owner says he asks nicely the first time and then people stop (if you know what I mean). It’s not something you want to test. The pizza is great though and he gives you a nice size slice and his sauce has a lot flavor. The potato croquette is great as well. It’s a nice place for a quick lunch.
Mark’s Red Hook Pizza
I walked around the bottom part of Van Brunt Street, looking at the shops and galleries. I stopped in Foxy & Winston at their gift selection. Not only does the owner have a nice of stuffed animals and stationary but she has the nicest dog to pet. He is so friendly that he distracted me from the group as they left without me. It was no matter it is a nice store that should be visited. I wanted to stay behind to explore some more.
My last stop on the tour was the Rood Gallery at 373 Van Brunt Street. I was attracted by the display in her windows of these little clay creatures by artist Peter Opheim. He makes the most unusual little clay monsters or characters, I don’t know how to describe them. They look like Japanese Pokémon. It was funny that I mentioned that to gallery owner, Samar Maziad. She told me that when Japanese tourist visit the gallery they will buy a few because they think the same thing. The only problem is that they are not cheap. They come with a small painting and certificate and beautifully boxed in a collection but at the same time are several thousand dollars. Their better to look at and admire.
The Rood Gallery at 373 Van Brunt Street
I ended my tour walking around the waterfront at the Pier 44 Waterfront Garden and then walked back to the Erie Basin Park where IKEA was located and where the ferry is located. What a view of the Manhattan skyline! It must be something when its dark outside. These parks are a very nice place to just sit and relax and admire the view.
Still for all its charm and small town feel, Red Hook was still under water when Hurricane Sandy hit and it below sea level. Not an environment that I want to live in. You debate all of this in an up and coming neighborhood but still Red Hook, Brooklyn does have its charm to it. It was a engaging tour and I give tour guide Deborah Geiger credit again for a great touring experience. Its nice when your can meet shop owners and manufacturers who are working to create a real neighborhood.
These ‘trend’ walking tours are taken through the Fashion Institute of Technology Continue Education program and are well worth the price ($45.00). You can visit any part of the city on your own but to really see the neighborhood and experience meeting the business owners and seeing the out of the way places you might miss on your own, they are a lot of fun. You can access all tours on the college website.
I am also an Alumnus of The Fashion Institute of Technology (Class of 93) and a Lifetime member of the FIT Alumni Association.
Also don’t miss my blog about the recent “Barnacle Parade” every October:
I had some business to do uptown on my way back from Chinatown in Lower Manhattan and had to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the afternoon, so I decided to check out the new Q line stops along the new Second Avenue line. The Q line runs all the way from Coney Island with me picking it up on Canal Street. What an amazing trip!
The new construction of the subway lines has been in the works for almost a hundred years and has recently completed four stops along the Second Avenue line that make travelling to uptown Manhattan a real pleasure. The fact that not too many people have caught on to the line yet makes it even better as there is plenty of room to sit down on the brand new cars and you are not squeezing in like on the number 6 line. If you have ever been on the Number 6 subway in Manhattan at rush hour, you know what I am talking about. Sardines are not squeezed in like this.
I have been on the line twice since it has opened and what a pleasure it is to get a seat and relax instead of someone pushing into your back for a three stop trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The subway car is one of the new ones with the blue seats you do not have to squeeze into and you can see and hear all the announcements. The old joke of everyone is ‘mumbling’ over the speaker is still true on most subway cars in the city. With all the racket going on between the cars, the speakers and the occasional person singing and dancing in the subway car (I don’t think they have discovered them yet), you can’t hear a thing. It is so nice to read the paper in peace on this line.
It is interesting to note that they have been trying to build this part of the subway since 1919. This first phase of the subway route was conceived when it was realized that the ‘Fourth Avenue line’ was over-crowded and needed to ease the congestion. In 1927, a rapid transit plan was put out that called for a six-track Second Avenue subway line. These plans were abandoned with the Great Depression in favor for completing the IND line. It was revisited again in the 40’s then World War Two broke out.
In 1965, one year after the Urban Mass Transit Act mandated that federal funding be made available for transit programs, the MTA was founded. The Second Avenue Subway plan was proposed in 1968 with one two-track line stretching from 34th Street to the Bronx. The city broke down in 1972 when the city was granted $25 million in Federal funding. Construction started at East 103rd Street and Second Avenue but construction was halted in 1975 due to the Financial Crisis and the project was abandoned again with only three little tunnels between Chatham Square and Canal Street, 99th, 105th and 110th and 120th Streets. (New York Magazine and Gothamist.com 2016)
With Environmental Impact Studies done in 2004, the project was planned in four phases to be completed between 2004 and 2006. Ground was broken for Phase One in 2007 at 99th/101st Street and the project was to done in four phases with the first to go from 63rd Street to 96th Streets. Phase Two has been planned to start in 2019 with the line expanding to 125th Street with the last two Phases expanding down to Lower Manhattan. This will create the T Line while bringing back the W Line to Queens. All of this will alleviate the traffic on the 6 Line. (New York Magazine, Gothamist.com).
The best part of the subway line on top of the cleanliness is the artwork. The MTA Art & Design had four different artists create the work for the four completed lines. Their works are amazing and you feel like you are in a gallery instead of a subway station:
This creativity starts at 96th Street as you enter the subway with a combination of steel and blue lights and take the escalator down a futuristic tunnel down to the platform and you gaze upon the artwork of artist Sarah Sze. When you see the work from the subway platform, it almost looks like flying papers outside. When you walk the whole platform, you see what she is trying to achieve.
Ms. Sze is a Boston native American artist who has a BA from Yale and MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her specialty ranges from sculpture, painting, film making, printing, drawing and instillation (Artist Bio).
Artist Sarah Sze designing the subway station
Her ‘Blueprint for a Landscape’ when completed with tile masters from Spain who used porcelain to produce the work. It takes a few walks around to see the true detail of the work. The work is made up of fragmented images of scaffolding, birds, chairs and leaves. It is like being outside in a wind storm. The main body of work on the platform you can see the papers flying around and as you take the escalator up, you see the blue and white scaffolding, which took me two trips to figure out what is was. Off to the side, you see the birds in flight. It is like seeing a day in New York City with the different aspects of the city flying by. The most touching part is the ‘Subway’ poem by Billy Collins (born 1941).
As you fly swiftly underground
with a song in your ears
or lost in a maze of a book
remember the ones who have descended here
into the mire of bedrock
to bore a hole through this granite
to clear a passage for you
where there was only darkness and stone
remember as you come up into the light
A touching poem to match the beauty of the art work.
At the 86th Street stop you will be dazzled by the artwork of one of my favorite artists, Chuck Close. I had marveled at his artwork when I lived in Chicago at the Contemporary Museum. You always know his work by the powerful real life images that he presents. He created 12 large-scale works that spread throughout the platforms. Really look at the artwork and you will see that they are made of tiny mosaic pieces.
Artist Chuck Close in tile at the 86th Street stop
Mr. Close is an American born artist from Washington State. He earned his BA from the University of Washington and his MFA from Yale University. His specialty is photography and painting with an emphasis on Portraiture (Artist Bio).
Chuck Close self-portrait
The name plate
It was also the detailed construction of these pieces and the work that went into creating them that is impressive. There are even two self-portraits of Mr. Close in the station proudly pronouncing his work to subway riders. Take the time to really look at the details of each piece even when security looks at you funny (as they did with me twice).
The “Emma” Portrait at 86th Street
The name plate
At 72nd Street, Brazilian artist, Vic Muniz has created a series called “Perfect Strangers” with portraits of real New Yorkers.
Mr. Muniz is a Brazilian born artist who lives and works between New York City and Rio de Janeiro. His specialty is mixed media and photography (Artist Bio).
Vik Muniz’s plaque at the 72nd Street Subway stop
There are portraits of men holding hands, a policeman holding a Popsicle and a man chasing flying papers, who I have read is the artist himself. The artist created this work based on staged photographs on people he knows.
Again really look at the details that created these works. I almost immediately thought I was going crazy when I thought one of them was Daniel Boulud, the famous chef holding a fish in a bag until I read later on that it was him. To see him immortalized in a subway station artwork I thought was a real testament to him as a chef.
Chef Daniel Boulud in tile
The 63rd Street station is not modernistic as the other three stations but still has a sense of newness to it. It is also kept so clean now to match the other stations. Artist Jean Shin work is featured at this station. You really have to go outside the station to see the just of her work which was quoted as being inspired by the idea of illustrating the demolition of the Second and Third Avenue elevated lines.
Her more geometric pieces really show the metal work of a different era as well as her work was based on when “she dug through archives at the New York Transit Museum and at the New York Historical Society and used photographs she found based on the images of everyday riders and pedestrians from the 1920’s through the 1940’s, along with geometric shots of elevated girders being dismantled” (New York Times 2016). It took some reading on my part to figure it out. Again you really have to walk the stop to get the feel of her work.
The best part of these new stops are how clean they are and how well-managed the people from the MTA keep them. The three nights I traveled the new Q Line, the gentlemen from the MTA are constantly mopping and sweeping the cars and the platforms. They take immense pride in taking care of ‘their’ station and it shows in their work. The MTA should proud of how well-maintained these new stations are and should take note for many of their other stations that could use the same TLC.
So this is your opportunity readers to see the subway stops on your way to the Met or the Museum of the City of New York, the Conservatory or even Central Park and see the marvel of how art, commerce and construction and immense creativity on the part of the MTA, the City Planners and dedicated construction workers put their best foot forward and gave the city a living, breathing ‘art museum’ to pass through every day.
But SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! We want to enjoy first before the tourist get there.
The Q Subway line being developed
Update since this Blog: August 1, 2018
According to Our Town Paper of the Upper East Side, the ridership on the new Q line has exceeded expectations as it is stealing riders from the Number 6 line:
The Q/F Stop at Lexington & East 63rd Street: 20,893 riders
The Q/F Stop at East 72nd Street: 28,145 riders
The Q/F Stop at East 86th Street: 23,722 riders
The Q/F Stop at East 96th Street: 17,150 riders
This has eased the Number 6 line by almost 23% to 29% on most of the same stops. Right now there are plans to expand the line to East 125th Street with stops at East 106th Street, East 116th Street and East 125th Street that could be finished by 2029 if the funding from the government comes through. The cost could be around $6 billion; work on Phase One lasted ten years and cost $4.5 billion. The first phase took almost a hundred years to build with most being set up in the early 70’s before the money crunch of the City.
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 and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for chicken pastelitos and cubanitos.
The pastries at Five Star Estrella Bakery are wonderful
If you like hot snacks and sweet desserts, this will be your ‘go to’ place for a quick snack when walking up here. The food here is wonderful and the selection of baked items and snacks is extensive. 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.
Don’t miss Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 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 613 West 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 overwhelmed like you would at one of the bigger museums.
The Hispanic Society of America at 613 West 155 Street
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 grave site early as they do close at 4:00pm.
Trinity Cemetery on 155th Street
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.
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.
Jackie Robinson Park where the students hang out.
Another stop I made was in the Hope Steven 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.
Hope Steven Garden at 505 West 142nd Street
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.
Convent Garden in full bloom at Convent Street and St. Nicholas Avenue
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).
Maggie’s Garden at 564 West 149th Street
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.
Jackie Robinson Park at 85 Bradhurst Avenue
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 (Closed in 2021) 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
85 Bradhurst to Edgecombe Avenues at 145th Street to Manhattan Avenue
As part of my exploration of the city, I took a break from my usual walk of Manhattan and went on a walking tour of one of the city’s most up and coming neighborhoods, Bushwick in northeastern Brooklyn. When I started working in the city in 1990, you would not be caught dead in Bushwick let alone be dead if you went there. It had the highest amount of crime, child mortality, AIDS, drug and gang problems in the whole city and sensible people stayed away. With Greenpoint and Williamsburg now gentrified and everyone pushing east and south, the northern parts of Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East Greenpoint and finally to Bushwick.
I took the tour through the Fashion Institute of Technology (I am an Alumnus Class of ’93) in their ‘Hot Topics’ Talks and Tours program and we had an excellent tour guide, Deborah Geiger who is the Director of Content for Envirosell, a consumer shopping behaviorist, who just happens to live in the neighborhood as well. This was her third time moving there since 2001 and she said she has seen the neighborhood quickly change.
I had been Bushwick once years ago when writing my novel, “Firehouse 101” (IUniverse.com 2005), when the protagonist’s neighbor goes there for a late-night party, and he thinks she is out of her mind. While the neighborhood is still a little sketchy, like all places in New York City, it’s best to look over your shoulder every once in a while, and still keep the eyes in the back of your head.
Our trip started at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I got there so early that I was able to tour the ‘Uniformity’ exhibition at the Fashion Institute Museum. This little museum is a true gem and my three years there as a student I never once went inside.
The school did a nice job with displaying the history of the uniform and the role it played in corporate, government and school structure. I was most impressed with the airline uniforms for stewards and the original McDonald’s uniform. It is a small but very detailed exhibition and should not be missed if you are in the area (located in the Shirley Goodman Building on the FIT campus).
We took the A Train to the L Train when we transferred at Union Square. I swear to God when you travel on the L Train it is like being on a college campus. Everyone looks like they are in their 20’s or else trying too hard to be a ‘hipster’. I have been on the L train a few times and it is like they cloned the some guy and kept manufacturing him. Everyone has the same beard and glasses. At least it is so hot outside that the knit hats are put away (or Thank God that trend is over). The herd seems to get on and off at Bedford Avenue, the heart of Williamsburg. As you go further west, it starts to change again and more diverse once you hit East Williamsburg and Bushwick.
We got off at the Bushwick Avenue and Montrose Stop just above Flushing Avenue which according to the New York Times Real Estate section is the border between East Williamsburg and Bushwick. I guess there is a debate on where Bushwick really starts. We started our tour walking up Bushwick Avenue to Meresole Avenue to look at the street art and the new breweries and clubs opening up along the street. It is amazing what these entrepreneurs are doing with these old factory buildings.
Our first stop the tour was the City of Saints Coffee Roasters at 297 Meresole Avenue. The City of Saints has three locations, here in Bushwick, one in the Village and the other in Hoboken, NJ. This is the main processing plant for the coffee. We were met by Jim Osborn, the head roaster and a partner in the business. He explained to us the whole procedure of how they find the beans in Central America and Africa, how they work with the exporters and then how they are received. We then discussed the process of how the beans are roasted, tested and blended to make the perfect coffee flavor. We then had a tasting of some of the blends and even though I am not much of a coffee drinker the way they mixed the beans in some of the coffees was very impressive.
What I like the most about the store was the artwork and the way the store was set up. The graffiti art was interesting and the open air café really welcomed in the community. You got to see how the whole process was done while enjoying the atmosphere of a coffee shop in Bushwick.
City of Saint Coffee Shop at 297 Meresole Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn
We toured around the neighborhood walking down Johnson Avenue to Varick Avenue then down Ingraham Avenue then back to Morgan Avenue on to Bogart Street to see street art that is on walls around the neighborhood. Some of the street art is interesting but most will be gone as it gets painted on top of by other artists.
Our next stop was the Odetta Gallery at 226 Cook Street. This small gallery faced outside walls filled with more art. It really fit into the neighborhood. The owner of the gallery was explaining how she opened the gallery in Bushwick to be in the middle of the art explosion in this section of Brooklyn and the center of art innovation.
Her current exhibition was by artist Kurt Steger whose exhibition ‘Scribing the Void’ with original musical composition by RSM was on display. The work was very original in that the piece on display was the outline of a rock in Central Park which I thought was a very original idea. What Mr. Steger did over a series of days (he had to work quickly in the park) was take an outline of a rock formation near the middle of the park and then recreate the outline in a pattern in a series of pieces put together in one form. The music came about based on the outline of the piece formation of the rock. The two interplay with each other in the exhibition.
Kurt Steger’s “Scribing the Wall” at the Odetta Gallery
Mr. Steger came to the gallery to talk to our group and that was a real treat as it is always nice to get the artists perspective on their work. I had a nice conversation with him on where the idea for the project came from and some of the art he created. I thought it was interesting when he told me that he created a 9/11 structure that was used as a healing tool by people affected by the tragedy.
He would do readings by the sculpture to help with the healing process. The piece was eventually bought by a hospital to use for that purpose. His work really transcends the overall look to it. His outlook on his work and its meaning was insightful. He and the gallery owner were looking to sell this particular piece to one of the museums that faced Central Park. He was fascinating to talk to that afternoon.
Mr. Steger is originally from California and has lived in Brooklyn for years. He and his wife, Meg Hitchcock have recently moved their studios to the Hudson River Valley. His works are intended to heal our inner nature (Kurt Steger Bio).
Our next part of the tour took us around the industrial part of East Williamsburg to our next stop to the Brazilian bakery ‘My Sweet’, where the owner Paula Barbosa created her small candy and sweet shop at 630 Flushing Avenue. She is known for her delightful little treat, Brigedeiro, which is a type of Brazilian truffle made with condensed milk, cocoa and butter and slow cooked.
These little treats are cooled, rolled into balls and then rolled in nuts or sprinkles. Each is made by hand with much care and each look like a little jewel. She also has a line of flavored homemade popsicles and Brigadeiro bark made with a combination of the mix with cookies. The prices reflect the work going into them as each Brigadeiro is $2.00, the popsicles are $4.00, and the bark is $3.00 per bag.
She got into the business when she was giving them away as gifts and people started asking for them. She then took them to a food fair and got a wonderful write-up from the New York Times and the business just took off. She said she was getting calls from people and could not fill the orders fast enough. Now in a three-man team she turns out these special treats to her customers. I wolfed down a bag of her ‘bark’ in about 15 minutes with the help of many of our touring group. A little expensive but well worth it to visit this quirky little shop in the middle of what looks like a happening area. Plus Paula is charming, welcoming and a pleasure to talk to about her product.
We double backed on Grattan Street to Bogart Street and passed the famous pizzeria Roberta’s. I have been wanting to try their pizza for a long time but good luck snagging a table. The tour guide said it is tough to get into on a weekend. So our trip took us up the road to ‘Syndicated’, a unique restaurant concept at 40 Bogart Street. It is a bar, restaurant and movie theater rolled into one. The front of the building houses the restaurant and bar and the back section is a very nicely decorated theater concept.
Under the direction of Chef Bret Maeris and Managing Partner Tim Chung, they opened this year a very unique watering hole for the neighborhood. Wanting to keep with the tradition of a small independent theater in a neighborhood sorely lacking a movie theater, for $3.00 you can see a movie and order small plates too much on while watching the film. Dennis explained that they are trying to cater to the Millennium crowd while not alienating the older clientele in the area. They had a Keanu Reeves retrospect recently that was very popular. Like Tim explained to us, the current audience were kids when these movies came out and are nostalgic for them. It is pricey with entrees starting between $13-$18 but worth it to try for the experience.
Syndicated Theater at 40 Bogart Street
Tim explained to our group that they are trying to fill a need in the neighborhood. There has to be more entertainment in Bushwick besides bars, so they filled it by adding the theater. The goal is to expand the Bushwick Film Festival and have more places to show movies. Add in people’s love for solid American food and you have a very entertaining concept. The menu includes classics such as fried chicken, burgers, fish and chips and grilled cheese. Great comfort foods for an evening out.
We finally crossed over the border of Flushing Avenue to official Bushwick and turned onto Wyckoff Avenue into an area called ‘JeffTown’ by our tour guide named such because of the subway stop at Jefferson Street. This is where you start to see the more residential side of the neighborhood and the more trendy coffee shops, restaurants and stores. This is the Bushwick that I imagined.
We took a quick tour through the Brooklyn Pop-Up Market at 49 Wyckoff Avenue and explored where small business owners are opening their businesses for the first time to test the waters. It is a unique building of small stores, interesting concepts and people trying to create businesses for the first time. It is worth the trip just to see some of the new food concepts that are opening and interesting gift stores.
As we turned the corner on Troutman Street, we passed an artist who was commissioned to do a painting on the side of the building and he stopped and graciously stopped to explain the project to us. Debbie, our tour guide explained to us that some ‘street art’ just appears and then is painted over and over again and sometimes the owners commission it. How long this painting would last, who knows? In a neighborhood where ‘taggers’ rein you never know.
Our tour was supposed to end at Union Pizza Works at 423 Troutman Street, a neighborhood pizzeria but everyone had other plans that evening. We took the above group picture in front of a mural on Irving Street and then took a quick walk to the end of our tour at Maria Hernandez Park in the heart of Bushwick. This is where the neighborhood comes alive. We all said our goodbyes here with hugs and pictures.
After everyone left, I have to be honest, I did not want to go back to some of the restaurants I passed with the $17 pizzas and $12 hamburgers. I wanted to see what the neighborhood was really all about and you see that in true Bushwick with the residents who have been here for years. I entered the yet to be gentrified east side of Bushwick where the Spanish population dominates and ate locally.
Amanda’s Kitchen Bushwick at 264 Suydam Street (Closed in 2022)
I grabbed some baked goods at Gaby’s Bakery at 238 Knickbocker Avenue on the other side of Maria Hernandez Park and then picked up empanadas’ at Amanda’s Kitchen at 264 Suydam Street and sat in the park and watched the world go by which is something that a $12 hamburger with people who are trying too hard to be hip can’t accomplish. Here was the true Bushwick with everyone intermingling and trying to figure it all out. Even Amanda herself seemed pretty proud when I ordered from her with my broken Spanish. She seemed impressed that I tried so hard.
Gaby’s Bakery Bushwick at 238 Knickerbocker Avenue
After devouring the Mexican pastries and meat pies, I joined the neighborhood block party that was going on between Knickbocker Avenue and Irving Avenue on Suydam Street. I saw families going about life without a care in the world. Maybe things will change for them in a few years as the gentrification of the area continues and their buildings become more desirable being on the park. For now, they were having a good time just barbecuing, playing games and gossiping with their neighbors.
Isn’t that what life in Brooklyn is all about anyway?
This tour was taken through The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Hot Topics ‘Talks & Tours’ program and was conducted by Deborah Geiger, our tour guide, who is the Director of Content for Envirosell, a consumer shopping behaviorist.
Well, I finally finished my tour of Washington Heights. I had spent so much time in the neighborhood that I felt like I lived there. This part of Manhattan took a long time to tour as there is so many interesting things to see and places to visit. It has also been tough with the time change and the days getting shorter. It is now getting dark at 5:00pm.
This part of Washington Heights I started on Sunday afternoon walking from 181st Street from Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue to 167th Street just at dusk. I was also able to tour some parts of High Bridge Park.
I started the long journey at Quisqueya Playground at 180th Street. It’s a nice little part of the park for small children with a pleasant playground and a nice view of the bridge. It is also a good place for a pit stop for the bathroom, which finding a public bathroom can be a chore off the beaten track.
Quisqueya means “cradle of life” and it was named after one of the two aboriginal names for the island of Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic). This was named by Christopher Columbus for the “la Isla Espanola”. The park was created in 1934 and was renovated in 1998. The park is very popular with local children (NYCParks.com).
I crisscrossed the streets back and forth looking at classic pre-war apartments with brownstones tucked in here and there. In some parts of the neighborhood, you might even find a lone wooden home, a through back to a time when this was a more rural area as late as the 1930’s. In the six months that I have been doing this walking project, I am amazed by the number of changes I keep seeing in such a short period of time.
So many merchants along the 180th Street and St. Nichols Avenue shopping districts have either closed or in the process of changing hands. Many of merchants along St. Nichols Avenue have been upgrading their businesses improving the look of their interiors and their selection of products. It is reflected in the way the neighborhood is changing.
All over the streets and avenues, scaffolding is going up around apartment buildings and brownstones. Much work is being done between 187th Street to 183rd Street around Yeshiva University as the school keeps expanding and more students are moving into the surrounding buildings.
The area around Columbia Medical Center is going through a major change as the facility expands around Broadway to Audubon Avenue. Not just in the buildings themselves but the surrounding apartment buildings and brownstones as more people working at the hospital move in as well as the businesses that cater to them. Don’t be fooled though the area still has a rich Dominican flair with lively music being played and great restaurants and bakeries that cater to everyone.
I continued my walk to the corner of St. Nichols and 178th Street where a very busy street vendor was making fresh pastilitos, which were some of the best I had eaten so far. Her chicken pastilitos were filled with a generous portion of well-spiced chicken and beef and were still steaming hot from the fryer. She seemed surprised that I was so enthusiastic about eating them. Her version was really good!
As I munched my way down the various streets, I peeked in stores and restaurants and looked over many of the wares being sold on the street. There is such a great selection of items to buy at very reasonable prices. One woman on St. Nichols Avenue was selling dolls and doll carriages at half the price of the stores. It was the Dominican version of the Lower East Side.
Water Tower in High Bridge Park at West 173rd Street
It was one of those unusually warm days where the temperature went up to 68 degrees making it a perfect day to walk around High Bridge Park. The park was so beautiful and relaxing on a warm day. The leaves were still on the trees with a warm yellow and gold hue to them and I walked past the empty pools by the Water Tower, which was closed off to touring. The tower was built in 1842 and used to transport over 47,000 gallons of water to Midtown from the Croton Aqueduct (NYCParks.com). The tower is currently closed off for renovation by the Parks service.
You could see the High Bridge from the top of the buff. These cliffs really prove that Manhattan is not flat. It still has its rustic look from the Ice Age. The view of the river is just spectacular.
The best part was there were a lot of people out enjoying the day, so you could see how much the population up here uses and appreciates the park. There were a few heated soccer and baseball games going on Sunday and the playgrounds were in full swing both on the weekend and after school. Where the kids are the food vendors are as well. I had my selection of ice creams, meat pies, croquettes and soups to choose from. I made a second trip to El Manantial Bakery at 1220 St. Nichols Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) for Guava pastries and sugary doughnuts.
I ended my Sunday tour at 167th Street touring around the Mirabel Sister’s School, which is home to a whole new school complex and apartment dwelling. This is where IS 90 is located, which was quiet on Sunday but bustling the next day after school. There are four schools in this complex, which is right next to the police station, which means security is very good in this area. The kids had the playground and the park to stretch out in.
On Monday afternoon after a long day in the Soup Kitchen working on prep for the upcoming week, I started my walk on the border of Washington Heights and Harlem at 155th Street. This area is bustling with traffic that is coming in and out of the Macombs Dam Bridge.
I crisscrossed the streets between 155th to 170th Streets. The most impressive housing outside the Upper West Side is located between 157th and 163rd Streets. I have never seen such beautiful apartment buildings and brownstones that have had so much care put into them. So many of them were still decorated for Halloween and upcoming Thanksgiving. There is so much impressive stonework on the buildings you must remember to look up and really see these buildings from both sides of the street.
Halloween in Washington Heights
Still one of the most beautiful sections of this part of the neighborhood is around the Morris-Jumel Mansion and Jumel Terrace with its well-tended brownstones with potted plants and decorations around the doors of these two impressive blocks surrounding the mansion. White lights adorn some of the trees and there is even a Community Garden at 162nd Street that must be nice to plant and sit in on a Spring or Summer Day. The grounds of the mansion were closed that day for a private function, but I had been on them before, and it is a nice place to just sit and relax and enjoy the view of the river.
I walked around the Sugar Hill Luminary Park which needs a good mow and some new landscaping but must have been something in its day when the Harlem elite lived in this area. Pretty much all the brownstones in this area have been snatched up and renovated.
For lunch, I had a slice of pizza at Slice Pizza of Amsterdam at around 180th Street and Amsterdam (Closed in 2018). The pizza is terrible, warmed over from the morning and no flavor in the sauce. There was no taste to it. It’s a pretty restaurant catering to the changes going on in upper Amsterdam Avenue but everything in the cases looked like it had been sitting since the early morning, so they obviously are not getting that much business in the early morning or afternoon until school lets out. Walk by the schools when they let out and eat at one of the street vendors. At least you will know the food is fresh (Yelp reviewers have said that the pizzeria has now closed down for business February 2019).
I walked the entire length of Edgecombe Avenue which lines High Bridge Park and talk about an area in transition. All the apartment buildings that line the park are going through what I call the ‘new window complex’. It’s when a building is being renovated for new residents and high rents. The entire area by the park is being refinished and sandblasted. This little gem of a neighborhood has the most spectacular view of the park and the river.
On my way back to the subway I stopped Estrella Bakery Corp. at 3861 Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) and had the most amazing snack. A potato croquette called a ‘Renelito’, which is mashed potatoes filled with a spicy beef and then breaded and fried. These melt in your mouth, and they are so flavorful. I could not believe how fresh and delicious they were to eat.
I also had one of their Cinnamon roll pastry called a ‘Quesito’ which is a puff pastry rolled with lots of cinnamon sugar and then baked. Both were a bit of heaven and great way to end today’s walk. This is a bakery you should not bypass when in the neighborhood.
There are all sorts of great bakeries and restaurants that line Broadway and the 181st Street shopping corridor. Don’t miss walking around this area at Christmas time when 181st Street is decorated for the holidays.
Please read my other blogs on walking Washington Heights. It was a big area to cover:
Day Twelve: Walking West of Broadway to West 170th Street:
I took time from my walk today to go to the HX 2015 Expo, formerly the International Hotel/Motel Show at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. I visit the show every year for my profession in the Hospitality field. Even though the organizers of the show said that it has changed its focus, I thought the show was smaller than it was last year and is about the third of the size it once was back in 2004 and 2005.
Things have changed so much in our field since 9/11 and the financial meltdown in 2008 and are slowly picking up in our field. I spent the afternoon walking the aisles of bedding, equipment, furniture, inventory data and latest computer programs for the Hospitality field. The show has become a lot smaller when they no longer had food vendors come to the show, which at this show were the busiest vendors. I was able to see the whole show and talk to various vendors in two hours.
Two vendors that stood out to me were Sagra Specialty Equipment & Foods and Sparkling Ice Mountain Spring water drinks. Sagra had the most interesting display of a custom made chocolate fountain that looked like tiers of gravy boats descending down the flow of melted chocolate. The product was called the Cascade Fountain and the presentation was unusual and beautiful at the same time. It was also very easy to clean as all the parts come off and you put them through a wash rather than clean a whole machine in the traditional chocolate fountains.
Sagra Equipment’s Cascading Chocolate Fountain
The Cascade Fountain glittered against the lights and its presentation with the layers of gravy boats created a conversation piece to all the patrons attending the show. Everyone agreed it was an unusual product. The taste of the chocolate was excellent as well as they have their own line of flavors in dark, milk and white chocolate and a caramel sauce as well. The product is designed to work in all chocolate fountains, no oil needed, have a microwave bag and pour in or melt in the fountain basin. The product is gluten free and made in the Belgian-style with imported cocoa beans.
Two other products that Sagra was displaying was their Lollywaffle maker, which looked like a long waffle on a stick. It made a widely talked about impression on the patrons at the booth and make a great presentation to future customers. The demo person was sampling from another machine, the Lollywaffle bites, which were waffle ‘doughnut holes’. Small little round bites placed on sticks that were dipped in the chocolate and handed to us cause some pushing by the people at the stand. It really was the power of their product. Their waffle flavors come in Belgium, red velvet, chocolate, cinnamon bun, pizza on a stick and waffle dog. If the waffle dog had been sampled, there would have been a bigger line at their booth.
The Sagra Equipment “LollyWaffle” machine
The other vendor that stood out was Sparking ICE, a naturally flavored sparking Mountain Spring Water. Their product was delicious. Sparkling ICE combines mountain spring water, natural flavors, fruit juice, vitamins and antioxidants to create a great tasting, zero calorie to make a refreshing sparkling beverage. The two flavors that I sampled were the Orange Mango and the Pink Grapefruit, which were both refreshing and flavorful. The product is currently only available in supermarkets but the company wants to expand into the hotel industry. It is a drink worth trying.
Sparkling ICE flavors
I still think that the show should bring back more food related merchants that are trying to crack into the hotel industry. It might bring a bigger crowd back to the show.