Gym Shopping: Redux

It wasn’t exactly my plan for the afternoon but when I found the 2012 chapter of gym shopping last night, I had a feeling that kind of analysis might be in my future. So this afternoon I headed out to explore some of the options I identified and those that came from my Facebook crowdsource. The plus side? No hard sell at any — they know all the membership info is online anyway so there’s no reason to bullshit the “this sale is gone if you walk out the door”

Planet Fitness

  • No brainer pro here is the price. $10 with a year-long commitment or $15 with a month to month. There’s also a pricier plan that allows multiple gyms but there’s only one remotely convenient to me, so that’s a non factor. The facility is huge and there’s an endless number of cardio machines, so wait won’t be an issue.
  • The main con? The location. It’s relatively near work but at three plus avenue blocks in the wrong direction of my apartment, I can see myself blowing it off. It felt like a slog even on the most beautiful of days, and I can’t imagine how it would be in weather. While I’m a pro at skipping the gym, I want to keep running.
  • Result: I walked out thinking I’d crossed it off the list entirely, but by day’s end it was still in the running.


  • This is the closest to my office and more or less on the way to the train. Major pro. It’s a larger than it appears from the street facility and offers classes. Yeah, classes I’ll never take. It’s full service and the locker room even has a nice steam room. Unexpected pro: rowing machines. I’ve missed those since BOOM Fitness and was happy to see them in Iceland.
  • Con: the price. Even on sale it’s more than I want to pay. I know I’m not going to find a deal like the Sheraton, but I really don’t want to pay in the neighborhood of $70 to run.


  • The $25 rate gives you access to multiple Manhattan gyms but since I was wandering across the 50s I tried the one at East 54th Street. Pro: it’s the best located for home and is sort of on my way home so could work. The Bryant Park one isn’t far from work either, might want to check that out before committing if I go this route. The price is good and the location seemed decently equipped
  • Con: it’s really bare bones, I mean no towel service bare bones. My gym bag can fit a towel but all I think of there is needing to buy more & more laundry. Running clothes are already too much laundry.

Net Net? This is going to be a longer process than I thought, where I envisioned a scenario where I already had a new gym.

Already ruled out:

  • Equinox, way too expensive
  • 92Y, Asphalt Green – location not great and pricier than I want (even with 92Y’s Groupon). Plus I’m thinking midtown (east or west) might be better.
  • New York Sports Club UES – dungeon location
  • New York Health & Racquet UES – way too expensive
  • Retro Fitness – not seven days a week

In contention:

  • each of the above really, Crunch a possible leader despite the price. The one near work is a nicer/larger one than the former BOOM up here. Want to go see the Blink at Bryant Park
  • 24 Hour Fitness – feels like it’s worth exploring, although I think it’s too expensive
  • New York Sports Club – 49th & Broadway. Good location near work. Passport gives me access to multiple locations. Really don’t like idea of going further into Times Square on the weekend, although I could just try harder to run outside then. Gym is really to solve the it’s too dark after work problem.

So, more research and over thinking to come. Not all was lost, nearly 23K steps on the day

Great Saunter 2017

I started the #GreatManhattanLoop project because I knew I could never finish the Saunter. That was ~50lbs ago and before I discovered my Fitbit addiction. Two attempts and five/six years of walking Manhattan later I’ve realized I’m never going to finish the Saunter and I’m OK with that.

Last time I walked 19.5 miles and yesterday? 22.5. No shame in that. While I had a mental image of going all the way in my head I nearly dropped out much earlier so 22.5 miles is way more than a moral victory. More on that later.

Looking back at the photos from last time (and IG for the project) I realize how much has changed. Aside from the opening of Hudson Eats at Brookfield, the Seaglass Carousel is open, Hudson Yards is blooming and the end of the Greenway on the west side is finished. Can only imagine what this walk will look like in ten, fifty or one hundred years.

As I went digging through the #Loop archives I realized that the 2017 Saunter and photos were a walk down memory lane to areas I’ve explored the last few years. Especially when I first “finished” the “Loop”. That’s a fun feeling and why I love the Saunter/Greenway. I was very excited for more/better photos this year because of my new camera. I went to turn it on to take a photo of the Statue of Liberty in the mist and… dead batteries. In my quest to be sure both phones and external battery packs were charged, I forgot to check my iPod and camera. Fail. That’s when I first had an inkling I wouldn’t finish. I didn’t think I could do it without music.

One World Trade and the Winter Garden, May 2017

Even though I was just in Battery Park and the Battery Park City portion of the Greenway for the 9/11 Memorial & Museum 5K, I didn’t get to take it in as I was jogging. The lower portion of the Greenway and its piers were the first walk I did on the loop and places such as the above (so very different five years ago!) and the AIDS Memorial still catch my attention. Wary of last time’s lessons, I switched into my fitflops early and headed north. I was feeling good, although I wasn’t particularly excited. Not sure why. The weather got warmer though and once we crossed 42nd it seemed to go fairly quickly.

I was on/ahead of pace (pre registering & having my packet mailed helped) through Inspiration Point and even the walk from the Lighthouse wasn’t as bad as I was dreading. Yay run training paying off. If it hadn’t been more of a climb to the subway I might have bailed here. I was just tired. At Inspiration Point I paused to change back into my sneakers ahead of the rougher trails in Inwood Hill Park, have a second Uncrustable and take Advil. Quads were in worse shape than feet and I was thinking that if I took Advil while walking it might help (It did – I’m not terribly sore today). By the time I reached the halfway point at Inwood Hill Park for a potty/snack break I’d fallen about ten minutes off pace. If I hadn’t committed to walking at least as far as last time, I probably would have jumped on the train — the 1 train between Inwood Hill Park and the Speedway was a strong pull. I’d decided ahead of this year that I wasn’t going to have sit down breaks, I thought those were my undoing last time. I think part of the reason I was flagging though was I pretty much hadn’t stopped other than for 2-3 minutes since 7:10 AM and it was now 1/1:30. That’s a long time.

I thought at that point that I might have eight more miles in me, which would take me to the point on the Saunter that passes my apartment. Even if I was feeling good, that would be hard to resist. Along the Speedway I once again walked with some folks and that energized me. I was also sneeze powered for a ton of this section. Not sure how much was my allergies and how much was the pollution from the adjacent cars. Almost no cherry blossoms this year which made that section just as desolate as when I first walked it. I pointed out the Brush stairs to a couple of baseball fans and I was tempted to end the walk there again. It wasn’t pain, I just wasn’t loving it. I did enjoy the Horse Fountain, which I was disappointed to miss last time due to pure exhaustion.

When we reached the bottom of Edgecombe – amazing architecture – we learned that we couldn’t head east as planned and instead were to head south on St. Nicholas to 111th Street before walking back east to pick up the Greenway. While I was hoping to get the eight miles from Inwood to home-I had a backup ejection plan at 126th & 2nd Avenue where I could pick up the m15. I had a feeling I was going to take it as I headed over to St. Nicholas.

Almost exactly four years ago (May is my perfect walking month, clearly, from these posts) I said I needed to go back to Hamilton Grange. Yesterday thanks to the St. Nicholas/Edgecombe detour I ended up back there. Unfortunately, both my phone batteries were dead/dying and I didn’t have the stamina to even walk into the park to eke out a photo. I’d been toying with evaluating what I head left when I hit 126th and seeing if I could push on to home, but that’s when I knew I was done. It wasn’t fun anymore. As someone I walked with on the Speedway said, this shouldn’t be an ordeal. As I said last year when I bailed on the Bridge Walk:

There’s no “have to”, especially when something isn’t fun. No winning for martyring.

I think that’s why I’m OK with not finishing the Saunter. I’ve known that the streets don’t interest me as much since 2013, I just need to remember that day of. I have walked the loop. When I turned left on 125th St. I realized just how far west the detour had taken us. Or rather, how much narrower Manhattan is where we should have turned. It was a challenge not to hop on a crosstown bus, but I walked to 2nd where I got off my feet and took in just why my feet were so sore!


end of my Saunter, 4:02 PM

Only just realized the time on making the collage. I’d like to say I’d have walked another eight minutes to have walked 9 hours, But I really don’t think I’d have cared.

Now I want to focus on exploring more of the neighborhoods – especially uptown. I now know how close High Bridge, Coogan’s Bluff and Hamilton Grange are to one another and how relatively easy it is to get there. That’s on my list for this summer.

For now, more Saunter pics:

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Welcome back, NYC’s High Bridge

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A year to the day after I finished my “last major bridge crossing“, I got to walk across the one that has teased me for most of my #GreatManhattanLoop – ing.  After 40-45 years (depending on who is counting) and some $61m, the High Bridge reopened this week.

“The High Bridge is the city’s oldest bridge, dating back to 1848, and stands 140 feet tall, 2,000 feet long and stretches between about West 173rd Street in Manhattan and West 170th Street in the Bronx” ~Zoe Rosenberg

and I’d venture to guess, it’s least known until the press around its reopening hit this week. I couldn’t make it up for the opening on Tuesday (due to an amazing EmptyMet Tour), but knew I wanted to do it as soon as possible. With a walk up Broadway occupying yesterday, today was it.

Tip: Google Maps doesn’t yet know where it is without the coordinates, so use those provided by the Parks’ Department to get to the Park. Failing that, if going from the Manhattan side, High Bridge Tower will get you close enough that you’ll see the stairs.

After a few false starts in getting past 106th St, the m101 took me practically to the Bridge’s door step. Entering High Bridge Park at 172nd, the new signs are immediately apparent-and exciting! While it’s possible to cross between the Bronx and Manhattan on some of the Harlem River Bridges (Macombs Dam likely the most famous), it isn’t as pleasant when there are cars mere feet away.

It’s just a quick five minute walk through Manhattan’s High Bridge Park to the EVIL stairs down. One look at them and one limp down and I knew I’d be using the accessible exit to leave the Park. While many comparisons are made to the High Line, the comparison I most found myself drawing was Poughkeepsie’s Walkway Over the Hudson. The High Bridge is much shorter at about 2,000 feet but with it’s north and south views and virtual panorama of NYC, it was stunning.

I took my time lingering both on the span and in the small park on the Bronx end for reading and photos, but even with reading and photographing all the historical markers, the bridge itself takes about half an hour to explore. The markers are by far my favorite for the way they tell the span’s history. That will be especially helpful once the re-opening press dies down and people search out the history.

TIP: Some more great historical photos here and the best writeup I’ve found of the Bridge’s history.

Although it doesn’t appear that the bridge will ever be open at sunset, I’d like to be there closer to sunset as I think the views will be amazing. With the afternoon sun, walking toward Manhattan is a challenge and photos just don’t seem to work. However I love how it looks when overcast – layer of eeriness and history to it.

Although the restored bridge links Manhattan and the Bronx in a way that hasn’t been possible in generations, I think its relative inaccessibility (an hour plus from the Upper East Side) will keep the numbers down. There’s something to be said, however, for the restoration of High Bridge Park on the Manhattan side as well. Without that and the increased visitation that came with it, I don’t think the Bridge gets done.

Much like the Saunter, I ended my wander up to the High Bridge at Coogan’s Bluff. Partially due to avoiding climbing back up the stairs into High Bridge park and partially to see if going via the M2 was any quicker than the M101. Mostly as an excuse to see the Brush stairs again when my feet didn’t hurt as much as they did at the end of the Saunter. Yep, still magical. Still living baseball history.

The M2 wasn’t any faster especially as the first bus randomly went out of service at 110th, but it was a nice end to an exploratory day.

exploring New Amsterdam

aka another beautiful Sunday with the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy on their Colonial New Amsterdam tour. Until they added some new public tours this spring, this was the last one I hadn’t done so I was pleased to see it offered in the spring as I generally don’t do tours in November and December. I think the seeds of this tour were planted in my brain at Shorakkopoch Rock during the Great Saunter and further while reading James and MIchelle Nevius’ Footprints in New York.

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While blissfully shorter, today’s tour started at Fraunces Tavern whose 300th birthday is coming up sooner than I realized. For as many times as I’ve been to the Museum & eaten at the restaurant, I didn’t know that much about the building or its history. Even if the current building only dates to 1904, it’s still amazing history happened here. [[NB: I learned the year of the current building and a lot more on the Lovelace Tavern from this Forgotten NY Tour, whose only clue as to its age is the comment on the planned rebuild of the Staten Island Ferry terminals. So much has changed in this neighborhood since 2005!]]

From Fraunces Tavern we headed south (or “under water”, as I learned that Pearl St. was the shoreline and where it drew its name from. We passed the old Battery Maritime Building which is slated to be a hotel sometime soon. I wonder what will happen to the ferry service to Governors Island once that happens. From there it was on to Peter Minuit Plaza, whose history  I learned more about recently. Somehow I never noticed the topographic map that allows you to “walk” New Amsterdam with your fingers, nor the Jewish Tercentenary Monument at the flagpole’s base.

After looping around and through Stone Street, home to approximately four billion and twelve historic signs, we ended up nearly where we started, diagonally across from Fraunces Tavern. As many times as I’ve walked that block, I never noticed that I was walking on top of Lovelace Tavern and somehow never even saw the above-ground signs to the Stadt Huys’ history. In my defense though, the potholes are mostly condensed over and nowhere near as visible as in the Forgotten NY link above. There’s some more fun history here.

the first Shearith Israel Cemetery
the first Shearith Israel Cemetery

From there we headed north on Pearl and out of the Financial District/New Amsterdam to Shearith Israel’s first cemetery on St. James south of Chatham Square and practically in the heart of what is now Chinatown. It’s amazing how far outside “the city” that was when you walk uphill from Wall Street to the Brooklyn Bridge and then back down. Walking past the Seaport is just sad with the recent news and more-or-less permanent closure of the museum’s galleries. There are some great images and maps of the cemetery’s history and it was a pleasant surprise to find it open. It turned out it was for a Memorial Day dedication and so we got a nice bit of history about those who were buried there. The 2006 restoration was done with some amazing detail to find new pieces of history.

The guide said, and I agreed, that this tour was a hard one because with the exception of Shearith Israel’s cemetery, we were talking about things that there’s no trace of. It’s not like the other tours where the buildings’ purposes may have changed but they still remain. I found it amazing that there are only two manmade structures that date back to the 18th century: the fence at Bowling Green and (maybe) Fraunces Tavern.

The end of this tour segued nice with Eric Ferrara’s Bowery tour, which I did two or three years ago. I especially liked accidentally finding Collect Pond Park on my way to the West Side after the tour.

Further reading:

Crossing Delancey

with photos.

on a day where crossing 1st Ave. due to the marathon was the bigger odyssey. Luckily, the m15 was (sort of) running and I was able to make it down for the Jewish Heritage Festival.Before I made it to the Festival, however, I caught a peek of a broken-down synagogue on what I realized was Norfolk St through the Seward Park playground. With time to kill, I walked down Essex to Delancey and back up Norfolk for a better look. It turns out it was Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, formerly the Norfolk St. Baptist Church/Alanson Methodist Episcopal Church, now a landmark in some serious disrepair. Sad. While it appears it is no longer in immediate danger of being torn down, it appears that another piece of living history is gone.

From there it was a hop-skip to the Conservancy’s visitor center where, by virtue of the numbers, I did Crossing Delancey with Marty of Manhattan Walks, the guide who I loved from the Upper West Side and Jewish Harlem tours. I was pleased to be joined by Jeff Dobbins of Walks of New York, Howard Teich of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, among others familiar faces from the Conservancy’s tours.

Because I hadn’t planned to go today or put much thought into the tour I was going to take, I hadn’t done my homework. I was pleased when the first stop was the Stanton Street Shul, one of the LES synagogues by which I am most fascinated. Although its congregation was mostly LES immigrant poor, a ton of love and detail was put into this tenement shul, especially the mazalot. There is an amazing amount of history in this 20′ x 100′ space.  While Eldridge St. remains the crown jewel of synagogue restoration, others like Stanton St., Beth Hamedrash Hagadol and Emory Roth haven’t yet been as lucky. I hope that tide turns soon. Stanton St. is amazing as one of the last remaining tenement synagogues (from a high of 700), all which had an interesting role in NYC history.

After Stanton Street, we headed to Clinton St. and Congregation Chasam Sopher, one of the oldest buildings whose continuous history was as a synagogue. It was originally built in 1853 by Congregation Rodeph Sholem, now located on the Upper West Side. Yes, more congregation musical chairs. Chasam Sopher has an interesting history, both in its continued existence as a free synagogue, but also how it suvived the down turn of the 1970s-80s and is now thriving due to the  influx of young Orthodox families on the Lower East Side.

Although the tour continued down Orchard Street, my final stop was at Angel Orensanz, a cultural center whose work I love. I had no idea that it was (one of) the previous homes of Anche Chesed, nor that it was the oldest surviving building in New York City built specifically as a synagogue, and the first synagogue structure built on the Lower East Side. It is now a venue that is available for rent (especially weddings!) and has been home to some amazing cultural programs. I hope that rental income allows it to thrive because this architecture cannot be lost to history.

I was sad to leave the tour, but it whet my appetite for even more exploration of the Lower East Side, which will hopefully come soon.

A walk down Wall Street

I had only vague plans of what I wanted to do after finishing the Trinity Church tour. Walk up to the Lower East Side and explore more of my adopted home? Walk down to Wagner Park and read while taking four million photos of the Statue? Walk the last section of the #GreatManhattanLoop that I did via bike earlier this summer?

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The answer, unsurprisingly, ended up to be none of the above. I’ve been talking about exploring Lower Manhattan a lot and I decided when better to do it then when I was already down there. So I left the church yard and headed across Broadway and east on Wall Street. I had of course seen the Stock Exchange and Federal Hall previously, but never in day light. Come see the vampires of New York! Federal Hall was a miss (aside from a pair of crazy OWS protestors calling the reopening of the Statue the work of Communists) due to the Shutdown as it’s a National Park. Additionally, George Washington is behind scaffolding. What is it with our 18th century historic figures hiding behind scaffolding? The Stock Exchange, however, is phenomenal. I really had no idea how big the building was and I love its grandeur when compared with the more pedestrian American Stock Exchange building.

Intrigued by their Fed at 100 exhibit, I continued down Wall to the Museum of American Finance (48 Wall, former Bank of New York Building). Pleasant surprise: free admission. The exhibit is awesome and not just because I’m a ridiculous banking & economics nerd. It’s really well laid out and accessible to all segments of the population, no matter your level of comfort with the Fed. Plus it has figured of Hamilton and Burrr mid-duel. The museum’s shop is small but good, especially its collection of books.

Speaking of the Fed, I don’t know how many Money & Banking classes I took in school, yet I’d somehow never seen the New York Fed. I wasn’t even entirely sure where it was until I read the release for the Museum’s exhibit.

20 Pine, the Trump Building, Chase Manhattan Plaza and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
20 Pine, the Trump Building, Chase Manhattan Plaza and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

It’s a relatively unassuming building from the Liberty St. side with the only indication of what the building is a plaque on the southwestern corner, but from the Eastern side and Maiden Lane? I actually didn’t realize I was looking at the same building. If you think the NYC skyline is boring or the same throughout, I’d argue you’re really not looking. I love the architecture of the Fed and many of the buildings in this area and I definitely need to find time to explore it more. Ideally after I read a guidebook so I know what I’m looking at. I didn’t recognize the infamous 20 Pine in the photo above until someone mentioned it.

Random thoughts:

  • No. 37 Wall, now home to Tiffany’s has a fascinating history and I love the facade.
  • I had forgotten what a big deal (NYT, Metro) the Duane Reade at 40 Wall was when it opened. The space is still amazing even if the fare (aside from the stock ticker) is the same as all the new locations.
  • Love the Liberty Mural, but it too is a victim of scaffolding and you can’t get even remotely close.
  • The Chamber of Commerce building (and its history/current use) is intriguing and a fun read. The building itself looks like it’s a better fit up by City Hall rather than with the Wall Street area architecture.

openhousenewyork: Trinity Church

I adore openhousenewyork weekend. Last year, it was a Vertical Tour of St. John the Divine. This year I opted for a tour of the Trinity Church Bell Tower. For someone whose time at religious services is limited to weddings and funerals, I am fascinated by church architecture and could easily make a weekend of the church sites. ETA: I’m not the only one. I may need to think of that for 2014.

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I got down to Trinity early (OK, on time, but that’s early in NYC weekend time) and had some time to explore the churchyard, including Trinity Root, which I’d only previously seen through the fence. (Yes, as was the case with St. John’s last year, I had no idea Trinity was generally open and operational.) The story behind the sculpture is a fascinating read and for a time until it was installed, the stump was on display in the Trinity Churchyard. I’m not sure how much of this article is true, but the survival of St. Paul’s in some ways mirrors the survival of NYC after 9/11. When I read My Manhattan, I first learned of the connection between Trinity and St. Paul’s, but the more I read, the more of its history St. Paul shares. That’s a living landmark that can never be lost.

Anyway, derail aside… Trinity Church is amazing in its own right. I was glad that last year’s scaffolding is gone and that the work, which included a cleaning, left the church cleaner than it has been in years. I really didn’t know much about church bells, but I was curious. Yep, curiosity, my main openhousenewyork driver. We were welcomed by David Grider, the principal architect behind the restoration of the belfry in 2007 before climbing (and I do mean climbing including a ship ladder and spiral stairs!) up to the ringing room for an explanation of the bells, ringing and some history. The shutter bug in me, however, was distracted.

View east down Wall Street from the window of the Trinity Church ringing room
View east down Wall Street from the window of the Trinity Church ringing room

While this tour didn’t feature the views that the St. John’s Vertical Tour did, this unexpected view east down Wall Street was amazing and awe inspiring. It’s the reason I decided to explore down that way later in the afternoon.

After the ringers explained the basics of ringing to us, they let us hear the bells in action. I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be such an aerobic workout or one that featured people from all ages. The Trinity Church Ringers are lucky in that many international ringers come there to ring due to the legacy of the church and its bells. Here‘s a decent overview for those similarly confused with a focus on the how and why (PDF) behind “change ringing” and some amazing behind the scenes photos from one of the church’s ringers. Church Ringers, the ultimate Odd Job? Although I was somewhat surprised to learn that the ringers pay to  ring (PDF), but don’t appear to be paid by Trinity.

Our tour and lesson over, we descended to the sanctuary and I spent another hour or so exploring the sanctuary and churchyard. The cemetery there is only one of the three that Trinity has, but I found this one to be the most historic and “home” to the most interesting people. Although Alexander Hamilton is not currently on view, many others old and new are.

Unsurprisingly, I found the churchyard peaceful before heading east into the chaos that was Wall Street.

12,901 steps

12,901 steps, four buses, and one bridge crossed. Twice.

My Sunday, in a nutshell. Was any of that planned? Of course not.

The awful heat wave finally broke and I felt like exploring and reading. That eliminated one of my famous walks since I can’t walk and read, but I really had no plan when I left my apartment. Found myself wandering toward Duane Reade for a drink and decided to hop the M15 even though it only goes to E. 125th St. Ended up not even going that far and after a detour to Target, ended up on the M116 as far as 2nd Ave. where I hopped back on the M15. As it was local,  had plenty of time to decide where I was headed next.

Wasn’t feeling the crowds of Governors Island, and it was still too warm to just sit in Battery Park so I saw which buses headed up the west side and decided that the M5 was a good idea because I could transfer somewhere & maybe go up to the Cloisters. On the ride, I also solved a mystery that had been bugging me since I walked from the UWS to the Lighthouse last year: the Manhattan Mini Storage ad-covered building. It’s the Lee Brothers warehouse on Riverside & 134th St. I need to make some time to wander in that area, hopefully when I actually walk Riverside Drive

I stayed on until the end of the line and realized I was right by the pedestrian entrance to the GW Bridge and decided why not. It’s a really pretty walk, especially near sunset and I loved the aerial view of the Little Red Lighthouse.

Bridges weren’t originally part of the #GreatManhattanLoop, but they seem to have become part of it. So far I have crossed:

  • George Washington Bridge (to NJ and back)
  • Macombs Dam Bridge (to Bronx and back)
  • Wards Island Pedestrian Bridge
  • Triboro Bridge (Randalls Island to Manhattan)
  • Williamsburg Bridge (on bike)
  • Brooklyn Bridge (Brooklyn to Manhattan, Manhattan halfway to Brooklyn numerous times)

I haven’t yet determined all of the bridges you can cross on foot since there seems to be some disagreeing and out of date info around. It looks like this is the most complete list, which leaves me the following:

  • Triboro (Queens to the Bronx, Randalls Island to Queens and the Bronx)
  • Queensboro Bridge
  • Manhattan Bridge
  • Harlem River Bridges
    • 145th Street Bridge
    • Alexander Hamilton Bridge
    • Broadway Bridge
    • Henry Hudson Bridge
    • High Bridge – yes, I’m being optimistic here
    • Madison Avenue Bridge
    • Third Avenue Bridge
    • University Heights Bridge
    • Washington (Heights) Bridge
    • Willis Avenue Bridge

I don’t see most of the Harlem River bridges happening. Walking between the Harlem River Drive and Major  Deegan is underwhelming, as I realized from Macombs Dam and there is no “have to” in this project. There are some gorgeous pics of bridge walks and I need to dig through some of my own. So far GW and Brooklyn win for picturesque for sure.

Wonder where my next walk will take me. I honestly have no idea.

Jewish Harlem

Another Sunday, another day of exploration with the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy (LESJC). Another day of not actually visiting the lower east side with the Conservancy, although I’m desperate to learn more about the neighborhood I’ve somewhat explored the last two Sundays. This time was Jewish Harlem, an area I haven’t explored in really any sense of the word. Not too many photos, not because it wasn’t photogenic (although pieces of Harlem certainly aren’t), but because it was hot. Yes, I think this is the last tour until fall for me. Heat and I are not friends so I was grateful for the shade of the tour’s starting point – the shade of the Adam Clayton Powell office building.

There’s no question that 125th Street is a major shopping thoroughfare today with stores aplenty (soon to be joined by Whole Foods), but standing in the shade provides a nice view of the street’s shopping history including Koch & Co. and Blumstein’s turned Touro College (home of Powell’s Don’t shop where you can’t work protest) with the “Waldorf of Harlem”, the Hotel Theresa, between them.

While the Apollo will always stand out by virtue of its iconic marquee, it’s very easy to get lost amid the chaos of 125th Street and I was grateful when the tour headed south along is it Lenox Avenue or is it Malcolm X Blvd. (yes, Harlem likes to confuse people with its street signs!) to the relative quiet. Quiet and churches.

If you didn’t know that Harlem was once home to the world’s 3rd largest Jewish population (Krakow, 1 and Lower East Side, 2), you wouldn’t know it today. It seems to be the city of churches. Ephesus, St. Marten’s, Mt. Neboh, Abyssinian (not on this tour). Religions of Harlem is an interesting and fairly comprehensive site on the neighborhood’s houses of worship as well as their histories including Harlem’s last remaining active synagogue, the Old Broadway synagogue.

That said, if you knew where to look, Harlem’s Jewish history is hiding in plain site.

“In its churches, of all places, Harlem reveals its Jewish past.” David W. Dunlap

  • Ebenezer Gospel Tabernacle (built as a Unitarian Church and the first north of 42nd Street before converting to Congregation Chebra Ukadisha B’nai Israel in 1918 and then finally to the church it is today in 1942.
  • Harlem’s Baptist Temple Church, under a state or two of demolition since its roof caved in, was a former home of Ohab Zedek, now on the UWS.
  • Salvation Deliverance Church, formerly Institutional Synagogue, aka the “shul with the pool, a predecessor to today’s JCC. Note: link covers a tour very similar to the one I took. A very interesting read from The Riverdale Press.
  • Mount Olivet Baptist Church at 120th and Lenox, formerly Temple Israel
  • Mt. Neboh, formerly the home of Ansche Chessed, now located on 100th St & West End Ave.
  • The Commandment Keepers whose former home beside Mount Morris Park is now under renovation.
  • The neighborhood was also home to entertainment luminaries including Milton Berle, Richard Rodgers, Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, (“The Jewish Caruso”) and Lorenz Hart  as well as the founder of Lane Bryant.

Dunlap’s article, Vestiges of Harlem’s Jewish Past, referenced above, covers this in much greater depth then I could ever imagine. I’ll blame the heat for melting my tour brain.

Aside from its religious history (for Islam, Christianity, or Judaism), the neighborhood has some amazing architecture and history: the Mt. Morris aka Hispano Theater, the Renaissance Theater and Casino, and its many Queen Anne-style homes.  It’s also a treat for the nose and taste buds especially in summer with Sylvia’s, Rao’s, Red Rooster, the Malcolm Shabazz Market. It’s easy to lose a day or more in Harlem.

Above all, it’s a place of change. Harlem Opera House became the Apollo. Harlem’s churches became it’s synagogues, which became its churches. The Lenox Lounge closed and will become…

I’ll have to take the tour again in  2015 to find out.

Currently reading: Joseph Berger’s The World in a City, which I’d started years ago but never finished. Overlaps nicely with this weekend’s tour. Haven’t totally given up on Waterfront but the author’s style makes it almost unreadable.

#GreatManhattanLoop meets CitiBike and Egg Rolls

come again?Last year when I went to Egg Rolls & Egg Creams I had thoughts of completing some of the Lower East Side section of the Loop. Yeah, it didn’t happen. I did some exploring, but not along the river. In truth, some of the same happened yesterday.It was a beautiful day for the Festival, during which I learned a lot about the synagogue’s history. It really is amazing that it was saved and preserved in such wonderful detail. As a result, it stands out as a relic from another era and time among the 21st century chaos that is Chinatown.After leaving the Festival, I retraced my steps along Eldridge Street toward Houston (destination: Katz and Russ & Daughters) when I happened upon Adath Jeshurun of Jassy aka the Emory Roth synagogue at 58 Rivington Street. It’s apparently now a private house, but whatever it is, it’s in a sad state. It really highlights the value of restoring Eldridge Street, which apparently had pigeons roosting in its balconies at one point. The Lower East Side has some amazing history and I definitely need to explore it more.Katz and Russ & Daughters (best twitter bio ever, btw: After almost 100 years, it was time for a Twitter). I honestly didn’t have a great desire to visit, but it seems like one of those NYC Bucket List things. Walking up Eldridge, you hit Russ & Daughters first as it’s further west. When I first saw the marquee, I had no idea what the appetizer part meant–and I thought it was a secondary location. Nope, it means things that go with bagels. Lots more learnings in the blog, and now I’m hungry. I wish I had been yesterday because I’d probably have gotten lox. From there, it’s on to Katz’ which sits along side Lobster Joint and Cold Stone? There’s something very wrong with that.

Some of the change around the Bowery is a very good thing. Harvey Wang has captured a lot of that in his photos (A World of Change on the Lower East Side) and his writing (1,000 men in flop/lodging houses as of 2001, down from 25-75K men sleeping on the Bowery-wow!) Is all of it good? That’s subject to debate, although Annie Polland made a good point when she said:

“If you went to someone who lived in a tenement 100 years ago and said, ‘We’re preserving this tenement,’ they’d say, ‘What? Are you crazy?’” Ms. Polland said. “They’d rather see their grandchildren or great-grandchildren living in a luxury condo. ”

I think there has to be some middle ground between progress and Katz located in what is beginning to look like a strip mall.


That was the end of my planned exploring for the day, and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go next. I happened upon a Citi Bike stand and thought possibly of biking to the craziness that is Magnolia to find Buckeye Balls, but I’m glad I didn’t as they don’t carry them. Does anyone know a bakery in NYC that has them?

I kept wiggling south and vaguely east-ish (still in search of Buckeye Balls) and hit: Essex Street Market and Economy Candy ( drool!) en route to DessertsNYC, which unfortunately is closed. Note to self: check Yelp before departing on wild goose chases. It was then that I essentially gave up on the buckeye ball quest and was again tempted by the CitiBike stand, this time at E. Broadway & Essex and I decided why not give it a whirl.

After a few false starts (machine not working, no available bikes), I got one at Cherry and Market and was off. With that 10 feet of road between the bike stand and the Greenway, I crossed riding a bike on a NYC street off the “bucket list” (nope, still no formal bucket list although I’m working on one — but this is definitely something that would be on it. I miss commuting by bike like I did in Osaka, but there’s no way I’d do it here.  Unsure of my pace on a road bike, I decided to check the bike in at Battery Park and then plan where I wanted to go. A break for a Diet Coke and A/C was nice and I checked out my next bike at State St. across from the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, another of those downtown sites I want to explore. One day. (NB: the $9.95 day pass doesn’t give you the bike for a day, just for unlimited 30 minute increments within the 24 hour period.)

From there it was back north along the path I’d just traced from Market St. to the Battery and up to E. 35th. I originally planned to swap bikes at Houston, but poor planning/timing led to me sucking up the overtime fee and finishing the ride.  The view heading north into Stuyvesant Cove is among the best in NYC with the water and skyline.

I pulled into the Citi Bike Station at E. 35th and the Ferry Terminal and with that, the Loop is done. I walked south along the East River Promenade to 59th St. and there is no Greenway (PDF) between these two points due to the UN. I’ve walked 1st Ave many times. I’ll do it again if the Greenway is ever completed. But for now, it’s done.

Thoughts on finishing it via bike:

  • the 6.21 mile ride was nothing. If I was ever to do the Manhattan Saunter, I’d do it via bike. But not a timed bike like Citi Bike — 30 minute increments is too short for me.
  • It certainly makes dull points (between the Battery and South Street Seaport) go quickly
  • It’s hard to stop and take photos — certainly nowhere near as easy as on foot. It feels more like a race than a meander, which is what I like about the Loop.

All in all, a gorgeous day for a walk/ride and much better than being in the gym.

Onto the next location/challenge.