Tag Archives: Verdi Square Giuseppe Verdi Statue

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

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

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

Lions & Tigers & Squares.jpg

Lion’s and Tigers and Squares

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

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

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

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

halloween upper west side

Brownstones decorated for the holidays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sherman square

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

in sync

In Sync by Kathy Ruttenberg

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

 

Kathy Ruttenberg’s video on the exhibition

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

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

dorlitan apartment

The Dorilton Apartments

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

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

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

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

firehouse

 

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

fdny

Engine 40/Ladder 35

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

firehouse 101 picture iii

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

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

william syms theater

William Syms Operating Hospital

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

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

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

dante park christmas tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places to Eat:

Lions & Tigers & Squares

238 West 23rd Street

New York, NY  10011

(917) 261-6772

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

My review on TripAdvisor:

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

My blog on Diningonashoestringinnyc@Wordpress.com:

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

 

Places to See:

The Dorilton Apartments

171 West 71st Street

 

Dante Park

West 65th Street & Broadway and Columbus Avenue

Sherman Square & Verdi Square

West 70th-72nd Streets

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

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Day One Hundred and Six: Walking the borders of the Upper West Side from West 84th Street to West 72nd Street to Central Park West to Riverside Drive March 10th-2018

It took a long time to finish the Upper East Side neighborhood above 72nd Street and I wanted to return to many of the historical spots to get more research in so it took longer than I thought.

After a long day in Soup Kitchen (I swear I should do these on separate days) in the Beverage Station, I left the Soup Kitchen exhausted again. I can not believe how demanding the homeless can be.

I took the Number One Subway up to 86th Street and walked down to West 84th Street and Central Park West to walk the ring of the neighborhood. Returning to West 84th Street was like visiting an old friend. I had not been on this side of town in months.

I have walked the length of Central Park West many times in this project from 110th Street past 59th Street back to the Port Authority many times on this project in various seasons and it is interesting to see the park at various times of the year. Still, not matter what season, Central Park is always busy. Whether it is people walking their dogs, people jogging on paths or kids playing in playgrounds, the park is always in use no matter what the weather is during the year.

As you walk Central Park West, take time out to really look at the architecture of the buildings and the beauty of the stone work and the carvings. You will not see this in modern buildings. From the sandblasted outsides of buildings to the redone gilded lobbies, you can see a change in the personality of the structure.  People are bringing grace back to the apartment buildings and much care.

As I walked past the ‘Museum Mile” of the Upper West Side in the New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West and the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West and 79th Street both displayed their upcoming shows. If you get a chance, go see the “Unseen Oceans” and “Senses” exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History. Both tell a different story and the new “Unseen Oceans” exhibition helps us discover what lurks a depths we have never been. There is a whole new world to discover here.

At Central Park West and 77th Street, check out the statue of Alexander Von Humboldt, the famous Prussian geographer, naturalist and explorer. Von Humboldt had explored South America to a great extent back in 1700’s as well as extensive exploration in Europe. The Humboldt Squid is named after him as well as he invented the safety lamp for exploration. The statue by noted artist, Gustaf Blaeser, was dedicated in 1869 and was moved to this location much later. It is being conserved by the Central Park Conservatory.

Alexander Von Humbrolt statue.jpg

Alexander Von Humboldt statue

From West 84th Street on Central Park West to Columbus Avenue, it is always a treasure trove of interesting brownstones. To believe that only 25 years ago, this place was almost abandoned, you should see the transformation now with all this old buildings being sandblasted back to life. There is a lot of TLC (tender loving care) going on in the West Side of Manhattan.

Really look at the architecture on West 84th Street from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue and watch the faces watch you starting with 239 Central Park West laden with faces of men and women surrounding it. As you pass all the brownstones, really look at the carvings of the faces in all the archways and doorways. You never know who is watching from all angles.

Unlike the East Side, where every Avenue seems to being torn down for another apartment building or office tower, the West side of the island is keeping more of its charms. I just do not see the same changes going on in this part of the island as the zoning seems different. Here most of the streets are under scaffolding to sandblast these buildings back to their original glory with new owners. One thing is for sure, the ownership is changing. I have never seen so many kids running around after school.

Like the Upper East Side, this side of town has its share of schools and there are plenty of kids walking home in groups or with their parents. The conversations are very similar to the ones I heard cross town. Politics, relationships and problems with classmates. It is a amazing the conversations you hear in restaurants, bakeries and on the sidewalks.

The one thing that does not change on the streets of New York is how pampered their pets are. I have never seen so many well-groomed animals. Not to the extent of their East side counterparts (who have about six to eight upscale grooming places) but I can tell people love their dogs.

As I passed down West 84th Street, I visited many businesses I had been to so many months ago like West Side Kids at 498 Amsterdam Avenue, John Koch Antiques at 201 West 84th Street and Books of Wonder at 217 West 84th Street all of which have become some of my favorite stores on the West Side.

Also, when you reach West End Avenue, pause to look at the lines of brownstones surrounding the block and the beautiful stonework and carvings on each brownstone. The block as well as most of the blocks between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive are classic and detailed in their architecture.

Riverside Drive changes from block to block. Some of the blocks are protected under the Historic districts that they are part of and other blocks are high rise apartments. The West End Historical District runs from about West 80th Street to West 79th Street. Here you will find an array of artistically designed mansions with their large windows and whimsical turrets. These homes are tucked into and around the surrounding apartment buildings.

The West End Collegiate Historic District encompasses even a bigger area of this part of the neighborhood covering from West 79th Street to West 70th Street from Riverside Drive to parts of Broadway. This historic district contains many famous and prominent apartment buildings, brownstones and churches including the Collegiate Church on West End Avenue, the Ansonia and Astor Apartments on Broadway and the Chatsworth Apartments (which are under current renovations) at West 72nd Street.

The pre-war architecture and Victorian style of these buildings are unique to NYC now and should be protected. This type of structure are in danger of being knocked down and replaced with larger more modern construction. Note this in my writing of the Upper East Side which is going through so many changes right now.

Walking along Riverside Drive starting at West 84th Street is a treat. There is that juxtaposed mix of buildings with Victorian mansions tucked next to pre-war apartments with a few modern buildings thrown in. All of this is facing Riverside Park, which for most of the time I was walking the neighborhood was still in winter dormancy.

At West 81st Street and Riverside Drive inside the entrance to the park is the River Run Playground, your first source of public bathrooms. The park was quiet on a winter afternoon but after a few visits to the neighborhood and the weather getting warmer, the kids came out in droves with their parents tagging along.

The beauty of River Run Playground is in the details of the park. The bathrooms have the most beautiful monkey designs molded into the gates so you have to look up for them. The park itself is oval in design filled with every whimsical play thing a child could want. What I liked about the park as it got warmer was the hill overlooking the park. The Riverside Park Conservatory and the local neighbors planted the hill with all sorts of Spring flowers which are now popping up. Crocuses, Tulips and Daffodils will line the hills overlooking the park and the river and already it is quite a site.

The beauty of Riverside Drive is that there are many parks within the park. At the entrance to the park at West 83rd Street is the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Park and Gardens. The 12,000 square foot plaza, enclosed by gardens planters, crabapple and locust trees and a polychromed granite wall, is part of the West Side Improvement. The massive Riverside Park expansion directed by Parks Commissioner, Robert Moses and designed by Gilmore D. Clarke and Clinton Loyd was completed in 1937. In 1990, the perimeter gardens were designed and planted by David T. Goldstick. In 2001, the plaza was renovated by Mayor Rudy Gouliani in partnership with the Riverside Park Fund (NYC Parks.org).

Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Park

Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Park

The plaza and gardens has served as a place of contemplation and remembrance of the victims of Nazi brutality. The plaza takes it name from the modest granite plaque at its center and was one of the first Holocaust monuments in the United States, the plaque and its surroundings were dedicated on October 19, 1947 by Mayor William O’Dwyer.  A crowd of 15,000 attended , including 100 survivors of the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps. Each year on April 19th, people gather here in memory of the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto, who rose up against their Nazi captors and the six million other Jews martyred during WWII. This plaza is a place a beauty and contemplation and is a nice place to just relax and think (NY Parks.org).

At Riverside Drive and 76th Street is the Neufeld Playground, a recently renovated park with two playground for kids of various ages. The best part of the playground is the public bathrooms and like John Jay Park on the East Side, they are open until 5:00pm so this is a great place to make a pit stop and relax on the benches.

Henry Neufeld Playground.jpg

Henry Neufeld Playground

The park was named for Henry Neufeld, a prominent cardiologist and scholar who held many prestigious positions in the medical field in his career and worked with the World Health Organization.

When you exit the Neufeld Playground, you will nice an Robert Ray Hamilton fountain, an empty fountain with an eagle statue topping it. The ornate, baroque styled marble fountain is named for Robert Ray Hamilton, the great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton, the great statesman, who was a prominent businessman, landowner and politician in his own right. He bequeathed $9,000 to the city to create and install it. It is one of the finest and last surviving examples of the decorative horse troughs that once lined the city landscape. It was used for horses to drink in when they were making their way along Riverside Drive (NYC Parks.org).

Robert Ray Hamilton Statue.jpg

Robert Ray Hamilton Statue

At the corner of Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street, just inside the park is a statue dedicated to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Known for her many civic and charitable contributions to the government at the time one top of being a teacher, women’s rights activist and raising five children during the Presidency, she fought for the rights of people.

Eleanor Roosevelt Statue.jpg

Eleanor Roosevelt Statue

The statue was done by sculptor Penelope Jencks and Michael Middleton Dwyer and the architects on the project were Bruce Kelly and David Varnell. The monument lies at the threshold of the Riverside Park and is one of a sequence of civic monuments along Riverside Drive honoring people of historical significance (NYC Parks.org).  Its a nice place to just relax and watch the world go by. This is also the end of Riverside Park which ends at West 72nd Street.

One building that stands out right across the street from the beginning of Riverside Park is the Chadsworth Apartment Building at 344 West 72nd Street built in 1904 designed by architect John D. Scharsmith for owner George F. Johnson. It was designed to face the park in an English garden fashion. It was lavishly designed in detail to attract the wealthy patrons of Fifth Avenue, who had started to abandon their mansions after the turn of the 20th century (Wiki).

Chatsworth Apartments.jpg

Chatsworth Apartments

Done in a brick and limestone exterior, the detail work on the building is magnificent. Carved angels, faces and flowers line the building and the iron work of the lamps and banisters are just breathtaking. You really have to look beyond the scaffolding to see the true beauty of this building.  They just don’t build apartment buildings with this type of detail anymore.

Across the street from the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt sits an unusual twin mansion, one of the many you will see lining West 72nd Street until you hit Broadway. Most of these old homes are now office and shops but you can see the real beauty in them when at one time this part of the West Side by Riverside Park had been fashionable.

This ‘twin’ mansion was actually two homes with a courtyard created in between the two homes. The Beaux Arts home on West 72nd Street was owned by the Sutphen family and the right plainer mansion was owned by the Prentiss family both designed by mansion architect C.P.H. Gilbert. Both descended from old Colonial families, the Sutphen family were the first one to build their mansion and it was finished 1902 and the Prentiss Mansion was built in 1900. The architect built the courtyard to compliment both homes (Wiki).

West 72nd Street is a real hodge-podge of architecture and buildings as it looks like the shopping district is in a constant state of flux with stores and restaurants opening and closing at record speed due to the increases in rent. Still the street has a 70’s feel about it as there are still some holdouts stores from the ‘old days’.

One stand out restaurant/deli that fit the bill was the West Side Cafe & Pizza at 218 West 72nd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue (see Reviews on TripAdvisor and my blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). The place is clean, the food is reasonable and delicious and the prices are more than fair. Their selection of items is also extensive. This is why I ate there four times on my trip to the Upper West Side.

West Side Cafe & Pizza

West Side Cafe and Deli

My first trip there, I just wanted a slice of pizza just to have a snack. A slice here ($2.50) is pretty large and was delicious. They know how to make a marinara sauce. Even though it was warmed over, the quality was excellent. While I was ordering my slice, I saw someone ordering a sausage, egg and cheese on a buttered bagel and it looked so good that when I was walking the streets of the same neighborhood, I had to go back and order it.

So I ordered it on a combination bagel ($4.99) and ate it in Riverside Park. I swear it was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I had ever eaten. The flavors combined beautifully. The sandwich was also huge!

Some of the merchants on West 72nd Street even had a 70’s feel to them. I stopped at Stationary & Toy World Store at 125 West 72nd Street. This is such a great store with floor to ceiling of toys, games, school supplies and anything a kid in the 70’s and 80’s would need for the beginning of the school year. I swear I felt I was in a time warp back thirty years. The best part about the store that it was busy with families so that was encouraging at a time.

stationary and toy world

Stationary & Toy World Store

Another great store with a 70’s feel is Westsider Records at 233 West 72nd Street, which is lined from top to bottom with records. Even the guy who works the front counter looks like he works at a record store. There were records that I have not seen in thirty years. It even looks a record store that should be on the Upper West Side.

In the middle of the neighborhood is the famous Verdi Park and Sherman Square, the former ‘Needle Park’ from the movie, “Panic in Needle Park”. This is no ‘Needle Park’ anymore with a Bloomingdale’s Outlet Store and a Haagen Dazs right on the park. Sherman Square is just south of the neighborhood but Verdi Square was just as bad.

Now Verdi Square is renovated and dedicated to opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi. The statue was designed by Pasquale Civietti in 1906 (NYC Parks.org). The park itself is surrounding by some of the most beautiful Victorian architecture especially around Broadway with the Ansonia Apartments and the Apple Savings Bank, the former Central Savings Bank. Now the park is nicely landscaped with flowers and plantings with a fancy coffee stand.

Verdi Square

Verdi Sqaure

Another great place is Malachy’s Donegal Inn at 103 West 72nd Street. I visited the restaurant twice while visiting the neighborhood and it is a real experience to get to know the locals who like to eat there. If you want to meet neighborhood locals, this is the place to come.

The last part of the walk on the way back to Central Park West was passing The Dakota Apartments. One of the most prestigious addresses in New York City and named for its isolation placement in the city at the time. The apartments were built between 1880 and 1884 designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh. Built in the Renaissance and English Victorian design, you can see the detail work all over the building (Wiki).

dakota.jpg

The Dakota Apartments

Even though the building in currently under scaffolding, you can see the detail work in the iron work of the fencing around the building with the face of Neptune (I think) facing everyone who walks by. You can also peak into the courtyard to see where carriages once arrived. It is an amazing building.

The borders of the Upper West Side are steeped in history and loaded with some of the most beautiful buildings and statuary and facing two of the most magnificent landscaped parks in the city. The residents here are very lucky.

Places to Visit:

Alexander Von Humboldt Statue

Central Park West at West 78th Street

New York, NY 10024

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/central-park/monuments/1637

 

New York Historical Society

170 Central Park West

New York, NY 10024

nyhistory.org

(212) 873-3400

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d136143-Reviews-New_York_Historical_Society_Museum_Library-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2954

 

American Museum of National  History

Central Park West at West 79th Street

New York, NY 10024

amnh.org

(212) 769-5100

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d210108-Reviews-American_Museum_of_Natural_History-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Verdi Square

West 72nd Street

New York, NY

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/verdi-square

 

Riverside Park

From West 84th Street to West 72nd Street

New York, NY 10024

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

 

Neufeld Playground at Riverside Park at West 76th Street

New York, NY 10024

https://riversideparknyc.org/places/neufeld-elephant-playground/

 

Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Park & River Run Playground & Robert Hamilton Fountain

Riverside Park at West 81st Street

New York, NY 10024

https://riversideparknyc.org/places/warsaw-ghetto-memorial/

 

Eleanor Roosevelt Statue

Riverside Park at West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10024

https://www.nycgovparks.org/park-features/riverside-park/virtual-tour/eleanor-roosevelt-monument

 

Places to Eat:

West Side Cafe and Deli

218 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 769-9939/8815

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4959470-Reviews-West_Side_Cafe-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/599

 

Malachy’s Donegal Inn

103 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 874-4268

malacysnyc.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d527768-Reviews-Malachy_s_Donegal_Inn-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/683

 

Places to Shop:

Stationary & Toy World

125 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

stationaryandtoy.com/shop

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/200

 

Westsider Records

233 West 72nd Street

New York, NY  10023

(212) 874-1588

http://www.westsiderrecords.com