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 criss-crossed 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
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.
High Point Bridge and Tower
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.
El Manantial Bakery at 1220 St. Nichols Avenue
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 dwellings. 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 criss-crossed 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 the 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.
Morris-Jumel Historic District
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. 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.
5 Estrella Bakery
Places to visit:
Water Tower at High Bridge Park at 173rd Street
Washington Heights, NYC
Places to Eat:
5 Estrella Bakery
New York, NY 10032
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
El Manantial Bakery
1220 St. Nichols Avenue
New York, NY 10032
My review on TripAdvisor: