Monday, June 30, 2014

The Great Saunter 2014 - East Side

In my previous blog, I wrote about joining the Great Saunter which started on the west side of Manhattan. By 1 pm, we were resting our weary feet and having a little break for lunch in Inwood Hill Park, the park contains the largest remaining forest land on Manhattan Island. 

After the break, we resumed our walk, this time along the east side of Manhattan. At 207th Street, I came upon some street artists hard at work. At the right by the pillar are images by Spanish street artist Bàlu Naiz.

We continued walking east until we reached the Harlem River Drive, which looked so pretty with all the blooming spring flowers.

Then we passed by the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse where Harlem River Drive curves into the edge of the Harlem River.

Located on the Harlem River immediately south of Sherman Creek, the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse reestablishes the historic presence of recreational boating facilities on Manhattan’s northern waterfront.
To avoid harming the fragile intertidal environment, the boathouse is designed as a floating structure, as were the earlier boathouses located on the site. The facility is accessed from the promenade atop the nearby embankment through a gated entrance and down a series of ramped fixed piers leading to floating docks.
I had previously went inside the Boathouse during last year's Harlem River Festival. If you'd like to see some pictures, here's the album on Flickr.

From the Boathouse the three big bridges over the Harlem River are clearly seen - the Washington Bridge, the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, and the oldest surviving bridge in New York City, the High Bridge, which was designed with a pedestrian walkway but was not used for vehicular traffic. It has been closed to pedestrian traffic since the 1960s, but the Parks Department is currently restoring it and aiming for completion in Winter 2014.

By then, we have been walking for about seven hours, and seeing the cherry trees in full bloom have somehow eased some of the tiredness I felt.

Soon , we could see the High Bridge Water Tower which was built in 1872 to provide fresh water to northern Manhattan residents, who were at a higher elevation than the aqueduct. After water crossed the High Bridge, it was pumped into a reservoir next to the tower (now the site of Highbridge Pool), and then into a water tank in the tower.

I have some close-up pics of the tower and the bridge (from what you could see of it) taken on a previous walk along the High Bridge Trail, here's the album on Flickr.

From the Harlem River Greenway, we went up the Harlem River Driveway and passed by Coogan's Bluff, a large cliff extending northward from 155th Street in Manhattan and once was the site of the fabled Polo Grounds, the home of the New York Giants (baseball), and the first home of the New York Mets. I can see the John T. Brush stairway from where I was walking, the renovation of the stairway is expected to be complete by Winter 2014.
From atop Coogan's Bluff, above and behind the Polo Grounds, the stairway went from Edgecombe Avenue, between 157th and 158th Streets, down to the ticket booths behind home plate. The stairs also gave people a way to reach the Speedway, a once-popular Harlem River promenade, in addition to seeing some of baseball's greatest and worst teams.
For nearly a half-century, however, the stairway has played a different role, carrying tenants to a high-rise housing project that replaced the Polo Grounds, and until recently they had crumbled into a dim reminder of a once-proud, bygone era.

At the end of the Harlem River Driveway where it connects with 155th Street is the Hooper Fountain.
It is named after businessman John Hooper (1812-1889), who left $10,000 to the cities of Brooklyn and New York for two fountains "whereat man and beast can drink."

We then continued walking along Edgecombe Avenue, across the Jackie Robinson Park. The street yielded one treasure, one of Manhattan's remaining free standing houses, the Nicholas C. and Agnes Benziger House. Constructed in 1891, the property was acquired by the city in 1989 to provide permanent housing for homeless adults.

After reaching the end of Edgecombe Avenue at 145th Street, we walked further east and crossed one of the many pedestrian overpass along the Harlem River Drive. Looking back I saw the 145th Street Bridge, and the end of the overpass which will take us back to the Harlem River Greenway.

At the Harlem River Park near the Third Avenue Bridge, there are lots of murals on the walls. This is one of them, Untold Stories / Storytellah's Mural.

Across the Harlem River, one of Peter Tunney's Grattitude billboards rises high in the South Bronx for everyone to see.

We went up another pedestrian bridge and when we were back along 128th Street, I nearly missed Keith Haring's Crack is Wack mural, standing on the playground with the same name.

Then it's up another pedestrian bridge to get back to the greenway.

At the end of the pedestrian bridge, I got a great view of the Harlem River span of the RFK Triborough Bridge.

Walking further, I could see the Randall's Island Pedestrian Bridge, it straddles the part where the Harlem River meets the East River.

Walking along the Bobby Wagner Walk I had this view. The walk was built in 1939 as part of the construction of the FDR Drive and is the oldest portion of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway.

Ten hours after we first started walking, we have reached Carl Schurz Park in the Upper East Side. Across the park is the northernmost part of Roosevelt Island, where its lighthouse stands.

The northern part of the East River Greenway has great views of Roosevelt Island and the Queensboro Bridge. Near the Manhattan side of the bridge is Alice Aycock's East River Roundabout, its current location was designated as the future site of Andrew Haswell Green Park, named for the 19th-century planner who had a hand in the creation of Central Park, Riverside Park, the New York Public Library and the 1898 consolidation of New York’s five boroughs, among other visionary plans. When I passed by the area, however, all I saw underneath the structure was a dog run.

After the bridge, we had to get off the greenway again as there is still no access to the waterfront because of the United Nations complex. No flags were flying that Saturday and the Secretariat Building looks great after its renovation.

Across Tudor City is the long abandoned and unused Waterside Pier. City officials have announced earlier this year that it will be replaced with a new pier that contains public park space.
Demolition of the abandoned pier, which is riddled with cracks and strewn with garbage, will begin later this year. The new 800-foot-long pier will open to the public by the end of 2015.

Near PS 281, I passed by this glazed tile mural Δε Σοφíα (Towards Wisdom) by Jesse Bransford which is part of Public Art for Public Schools.

Across the East River, the new high rises of Long Island City were hugging the waterfront in Queens. The iconic Pepsi sign is still there, you can see it on the lower left side on the photo.

We've finally reached the homestrech, walking along the East River Park. Across the Williamsburg Bridge, the warehouse of the former Domino Sugar Company was still standing. It is scheduled to be demolished later this year.

By the time we arrived at the Two Bridges, the neighborhood between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, it was already blue hour.

We rounded off the southern tip of Manhattan and as we passed by Pier 15, there seemed to be a celebration going inside that night. No stopping for us though, we're nearly at the end of the Great Saunter!

Fourteen hours after starting, I finally reached the Fraunces Tavern where it all began.

That was one great but very tiring walk. Would I do it again the next time? I'm not really sure, but it was a very interesting and educational walk for me, and I'm so glad I got to join in the Great Saunter and walk the 32 miles along Manhattan's perimeter. Here's my proof!

Hope you all enjoyed walking along with my Great Saunter. For the rest of my photos, here's the album on Flickr - The Great Saunter, 05.03.14

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Great Saunter 2014 - West Side

Last May 3 I joined the Shorewalkers group for The Great Saunter, a day long hike that explores Manhattan’s 32-mile shoreline, visiting more than 20 parks and promenades of Manhattan Island.

We walked along the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a foreshoreway for walking or cycling around the island of Manhattan. It is separated from motor traffic, and many sections also separate pedestrians from cyclists. There are three principal parts - the East, Harlem and Hudson River Greenways. This post features walking along the Hudson River Greenway, which covers the west side of the greenway.

The Great Saunter started with a registration at the Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan but I was late as there were a lot of changes to my train schedule due to the train derailment the day before. I got off at the City Hall Station and had this great view of the new and the old New York on a beautiful spring day.

I hurried to Battery Park City so I could join the group and passed by Tom Otterness' The Real World at the Nelson Rockefeller Park.

I joined the group as they turned north on the pedestrian path of the Hudson River Park. New Jersey was shining across the river that morning.

Near the Meatpacking District we passed by the New Whitney Museum which is still under construction. It is slated to open in spring of 2015.

For the 2014 Whitney Biennial, it's only offsite piece was The Artists Monument by Tony Tasset, which can be found just a little further from the museum's future home.
The multicolored acrylic panels that adorn Tasset’s Artists Monument are etched with the names of 392,486 modern and contemporary artists, ranging from Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol to emerging artists with a single exhibition to their credit. By building this pointedly horizontal monument in public space, with the artists’ names listed alphabetically and the colors arranged randomly, Tasset symbolically flattens the hierarchies that exist between lauded and unknown artists and instead celebrates the entire community.

We also passed by a ghost bike, a project of the New York City Street Memorial Project. Last April 6 was the 9th Annual Memorial Ride to honor the memories of those who died on the city's streets. 

I stopped near Pier 83 for a late registration for the walk. Pier 83 is home to Circle Line offering sight-seeing cruises and charters. I also featured Pier 83 in a previous post featuring my walk along the West Side Highway.

After the registration I got my participant number, a map, a cap and water .. all I need to continue with the Great Saunter. We were walking northbound and on our left running parallel to the West Side Highway is Hudson River Park, which was looking lovely that spring morning.

According to the park website an expansion of its northern end is currently underway which will help create an improved physical and visual connection with Riverside Park South on the Upper West Side. That is something to look forward to! 

Across the West Side Highway is the future Space New York —megaclub Space Ibiza‘s first U.S. outpost, the current structure features a huge mural by Spanish graffiti-artist Belin.

By the mid-morning we were at the southern end of Riverside Park South. Spring really brings out the best in the city's parks.

Our walk also caught the tail end of this year’s Model 2 Monument public art exhibit at the park, which was on view only until May 15. The exhibit is the third in a five-part partnership between the Art Students League and the New York Parks Department. Here's one of them Preservation: High and Dry by Anna Kuchel Rabinowitz.

The crabapple trees lining the Riverwalk path along Riverside Park were blooming, and I could see the George Washington Bridge in the distance.

The end of the Riverwalk marks the start of Cherry Walk, which is the northernmost part of the park.
The Cherry Walk extends along the river from 100th to 125th Street. In 1909 the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York presented 2,000 cherry trees as a gift to the City. Some surviving trees of the original planting of 700, part of the same batch of trees planted in Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin, can be found along this stretch of Riverside Park.
I have written about walking in spring along the Cherry Walk in two previous blog posts, it's always a lovely experience being surrounded by the pink and white blossoms as you walk along the greenway.

As we exited Cherry Walk, the pathway led to the West Harlem Piers Park. The public art installations in the park are by New York artist Nari Ward, the stainless steel mosaic sculptures reference the eyelet guide found on fishing poles.

Still going forward north, we walked along the street level of Riverbank State Park. I remember when I was here last year, at the upper level of the park, looking for the Sing For Hope piano. The upper level of the park has great views of the New Jersey Palisades and the George Washington Bridge.

North of the Riverbank State Park is Fort Washington Park which has a newly renovated playground. The park has one of the best views of the George Washington Bridge.

Under the George Washington Bridge is the Little Red Lighthouse. It is open only five times a year, every second Saturday of June to October. Here is a previous post about my visit to the lighthouse two years ago.

As we followed the greenway from back to where it runs parallel to the Henry Hudson Parkway, I could see the retaining wall of Castle Village. It looked like it was recently tagged, although it boggles the mind where these street artists perched just so they can create their brand of art.

We also passed by the Pumpkin House, it got its name from the shape of its lighted windows and the orange glow of sunset so that it resembles a jack-o'-lantern especially at dusk.

A few yards later, we reached the Inspiration Point Shelter, looking pretty in white. I first saw it a couple of years ago after some research on the Fort Tryon arches. It has great views, too, of the palisades and the George Washington Bridge. For more photos of the shelter, check out my previous post about my walk to the structure.

A little further across the Inspiration Point Shelter, the arches of Fort Tryon Park stand out. If ever you're in the area, I am definitely recommending a visit to the park.

From the greenway, I could see the park at street level but there is so much more to see at the upper level. The gardens are beautiful, and aside from the arches, the park also houses The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.

We're now on the last leg of our walk along the Hudson River Greenway, I could see the road stretch out all the way to Inwood Hill Park where we had a break for lunch and a little rest.

From the parkway level, we had to go down to the local street level to access the park's southern section.

This was the scene I saw as we entered Inwood Hill Park, a great spring day should include kite flying.

I was busy looking at the pretty leaves of the trees and looking forward to resting my tired feet so I forgot to look for and take a picture of Shorakkopoch Rock in the park.  Good thing I wrote about it in a previous post.

Took this pic just before we reached our rest area in the park. Inwood Hill Park, like the other parks we passed earlier that day, was blooming in spring colors.

After lunch and rest, we resumed our walk this time along the east side of Manhattan. That walk is covered on Part 2 of this blog.

Did you enjoy walking along the Hudson River Greenway with me?

For the rest of my photos during the Great Saunter, here's the album on Flickr - The Great Saunter, 05.03.14