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:

Tribeca 2017: I Am Evidence


(left to right, Trish Adlesic, Geeta Gandbhir, Helena, Mariska Hargitay, Kym Worth and Tribeca staff after the screening)

How can a person be evidence?

The film of that same name, currently screening at Tribeca Film Festival aims to answer that question by shining a strong spotlight on the unbelievably large rape kit backlog that is still facing America after it was first discovered in New York City in the mid 1990s.



There are more than 200,000 rape kits that have gone untested and in working on Detroit’s backlog of more than 10,000 Kym Worthy and her task force came to find out that their backlog touched 39 other states. I don’t think forty is the outside limit by any shot.  There’s no doubt that the untested rape kits touch victims nation and worldwide.


For more on why I AM EVIDENCE is necessary, here is Mariska Hargitay (producer) and a panel of the directors and two survivors from after last night’s screening.

It’s fitting that Trish Adlesic, Oscar/Emmy nominated for her work on Gasland and Gasland Part II (environmental devastation and public safety hazards of fracking), is involved with this film because the same issues that led to the Flint water crisis are a problem in the rape kit backlog in Detroit. Even when the police responding recognize that rape is a crime and the victim’s testimony should be accepted as credible, there’s still no money to test the rape kits, just like there isn’t money for clean water. Two parts of a major crisis facing not only middle America, but Americans as a whole. Sadly, disproportionately, those who can least afford it.

I’ve been a proud supporter of the work of Joyful Heart for a long time, but this is one of their most important projects. It is impossible to say “No More” when jurisdictions have the ability to stop rapists with evidence in their possession, but don’t have the finances or tools to stop them. I was aware of the rape kit backlog but until I watched the film, I had no idea the depth and breadth of the backlog. The saddest was knowing that if Helena (Los Angeles)’s kit had been tested in an appropriate amount of time, then Amberly (suburban Ohio), wouldn’t have been raped by Charles Courtney Jr.

It was a natural partnership for Joyful Heart to partner with End the Backlog to bring this movie to fruition and for Joyful Heart to serve as the social action partner for the film. Thank you Joyful Heart for allowing us to help you help the survivors. One of the most important takeaways from this film, whether you see it live or not is that going forward, “No one can say now that they didn’t know”.

In the words of I AM EVIDENCE, this is the time and an opportunity to “Turn your outrage into action”. The time is crucial.  Texas is trying, but federal funds are at risk. While the issue is bigger than any current occupant of the White House, the issue of treatment of and respect for women is huge. Part of the reason the backlog exists is because we live in a culture where women reporting rape are not believed to be credible:

“it exists because of this victim-blaming attitude that’s so pervasive in our society. It’s just not a small group of people making bad decisions; it’s so deeply engrained and entrenched in our thinking. What was she wearing? Why was she out so late? You can hear from the men in the film that it’s almost normal and acceptable. We have to change it on a systemic level because these attitudes have obviously devastating consequences.“ ~Mariska Hargitay

Here’s how you can start to take action. You can also:

  • Donate to End the Backlog through Joyful Heart
  • Sign Up for Joyful Heart’s social action campaign
  • Follow @EndTheBacklog for this and other helpful tips on what you can do locally.

I hope that Kym Worthy is right. I hope we do END THE BACKLOG in our lifetimes. It’s on us to do our part though. There are no magic wands.


40,000 steps

In. One. Day.

40,000 steps and 16.6 miles
40,000 steps and 16.6 miles

It’s not my personal best. That honor still goes to the Saunter. But it’s my best since that day and was also a product of Shorewalkers. The thing I’m most proud about? Nearly 6 of these miles were after I bailed on the official walk.


I’ve had a thing for bridges for a while now and in the words of the famous Jack, who I had the pleasure of meeting today, “There are a lot of bridges on the east side of Manhattan.”When I saw the Shorewalkers June newsletter I saw they were doing one of the three annual  and was initially bummed that it was taking place on a Friday. When I realized the date was wrong and it was today I decided to do it. Did I mention that was yesterday?


So I knew I wasn’t going to finish. I’ve actually made a lot of progress with walking the bridges, but I liked the idea of trying to do all at once. I was nervous though because I remembered hating both the Williamsburgh (for its incline) and Triboro (proximity to car exhaust). I decided I was just going to take it as far as I could and play “the end’ by ear.

We met at the Municipal Building where Thomas Kinsella’s 1872 words served as a nice start to the walk. It was just after 9 AM and the Brooklyn Bridge crowds weren’t too bad. From there it was an uphill walk through DUMBO to the Manhattan Bridge which has stunning views but is by far the ugliest and loudest of the bridges. Back in Manhattan it was a nice wander through Chinatown and pit stop in Seward Park before crossing into Brooklyn again on the Williamsburg Bridge. I took that for the first time in 2013 on Citibike and remembered hating it for the long slog over land (no view) and the incline. Both still true. At this point the group split and some hopped on the bus to LIC while some opted to walk that portion. Fresh off the bus and on fresh legs, we crossed back into Manhattan on the 59th St. Bridge.

After a pit stop at Bed & Bath Walt opted to take the Greenway up to 103rd rather than 1st Ave as initially planned. If the group had gone up 1st I’d have taken the bus on this leg since I knew I wouldn’t make it past my street without peeling off. As we walked from Carl Schurz north along the greenway to Wards Island, I found myself thinking of something I said nearly three years ago:

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’s no “have to”, especially when something isn’t fun. No winning for martyring. The heat was getting to be too much especially with the car exhaust so when they turned right to cross the Wards Island Bridge, I went left and over to 1st Avenue. I was done. I wasn’t in pain like when I stopped the Saunter, I’d just had enough and wasn’t enjoying the walk. I do want to do the Washington and Henry Hudson** and plan to join this walk when it starts at the GW in the fall and heads south though.

After re-charging with an iced coffee at Dunkin and some down time in Target’s AC, I set off again. Destination unknown. Knew I wanted to do sunset though so I headed crosstown on the m116 before landing in Riverside Park. When I realized tomorrow was Father’s Day, I knew where I wanted to spent sunset. Soldiers & Sailors of course. I stayed there and read for a while before it got crowded with prom pictures so I instead headed south where I was treated to this. How i know i wasn’t feeling the official walk? I barely took any photos.

From sunset I caught the m79 home via 16 Handles and an extra lap around the block to hit 40K. I didn’t do 30 miles, but I had a magical day.

sunset from W. 80th and the Hudson River
sunset from W. 80th and the Hudson River

Three forts, not a single stamp

a selection of the NPS stamps available on the National Mall and at Arlington House
a selection of the NPS stamps available on the National Mall and at Arlington House

I am such a failed NPS Passport Stamps collector.

I fell in love with the idea of the stamps while in New Mexico and Colorado last year and went on a mad dash to collect all of the stamps available when I went to DC in March.

Last week we went to St. Augustine and while I wasn’t sure there were any NPS sites, I meant to grab my Pass and Passport. I didn’t, and of course found out the Castillo San Marcos was indeed an NPS site. Because we didn’t go in, nothing stamped. You’d think I’d have learned.


See the building on the right? Castle Williams. Castle. Fort. National Parks. Fail. See also: Castle Clinton in Battery Park. I have exactly zero of the NYC stamps because I forever forget my book.


my inner Japan, 2016

You can take the girl out of Japan, but you can’t take the Japan out of the girl. Specifically, the love of cherry blossoms ingrained in me in April 2002 in Himeji and then again during April 2006 in Hiroshima.

This El Nino’ed winter meant an early and short peak for this year’s blossoms. I was hoping to get to Brooklyn Botanic Garden this weekend because I don’t think the blossoms will last until Sakura Matsuri later this month, but it’s supposed to snow. Oh Mother Nature. So much for some April steps.

These are the last few weeks, mostly in Central Park, and a mad cap dash through the Park today before they all freeze tomorrow.

SVU Set Visit

with Mariska Hargitay and Bobby Burke. Photo credit: Dina Sliwiak

No,  it wasn’t an April Fools’ joke. On Friday, April 1, 2016, I was able to visit the set of Law & Order: SVU

with Mariska Hargitay and Bobby Burke. Photo credit: Dina Sliwiak
with Mariska Hargitay and Bobby Burke. Photo credit: Dina Sliwiak
with Mariska Hargitay. Photo credit: Christian Tyler
with Mariska Hargitay. Photo credit: Christian Tyler

No,  it wasn’t an April Fools’ joke. On Friday, April 1, 2016, I was able to visit the set of Law & Order: SVU as a result of a Kickstarter and a dear friend. More specifically, Warren Leight, the showrunner since season 13 donated a visit to set as part of a Kickstarter for the 20th anniversary of the 24 Hour Plays. A dear friend backed the Kickstarter when it ran in the fall of 2015 and come April 1, 2016, we were on the set of SVU, a show we have both watched for most of its existence (albeit some of it in USA marathon catch ups).

Note: I will be able to share a little more once the episode that we watched film airs in May.

After a quick intro to the show via its production office we were off on a mini tour of the set, which included the hallway outside the courthouse (the last remaining artifact from the Mothership set!), the bullpen, Interrogation Two, the DA’s conference room, and a multi purpose room most often used as the show’s Rikers’ set. It was last seen in Season 17, Episode 15 “Collateral Damages”.   Later during the visit we also saw additional pieces of set, including the morgue, the hospital and a flexible space that can be customized to each episode’s needs.  I think my favorite parts of the set were the details of the bullpen – including the elevator doors and precinct map and the plaques to a number of people. Some of the plaques were for SVU characters and some that appeared to be regular members of NYPD. There is a lot of attention to detail on the set. We also learned that the court room and some parts of the DA’s office are shot on location at the 60 Centre Street building where they frequently shoot.

It was on the tour where we got our first glimpse of the actors filming that day as Bobby Burke (IAB Captain Ed Tucker) passed us while we were looking at the Rikers’ set. From the bullpen we were able to have a peak at Mariska Hargitay (Olivia Benson), Kelli Giddish (Amanda Rollins), Peter Scanavino (Carisi, aka New Guy) and Ice T (Fin Tutuola) rehearsing a scene that we later watched tape from Video Village. As someone who doesn’t watch much TV, it was amazing to see how many angles are required to get the scene exactly as the writers and director want it. I also found it interesting to see how many different ways they can cue one another.

We watched most of the scenes we saw filmed from “video village” where the writers and many of the other behind the scenes staff of SVU  watch the filming through two monitors. Through headsets at our seats we were able to listen to the actors as they spoke. Due to the proximity between video village & the areas of set where they were filming on Friday, we were able to observe a lot of interaction between the writers, director, actors and other show staff as they fine tuned scenes and lines while filming. The collaborative process is amazing and I learned how un final even a “final” draft of the script can be. By the visit’s end, we’d seen four scenes filmed and I really look forward to seeing the episode air to see which of the takes stick. A quick 30 second scene takes a lot of work to film. Among the most interesting things I learned was how the final Tuckson scene in Unholiest Alliance came to be through the various takes and how it ultimately was set in the hands of the editors.

While in video village we met two of the show’s writers, Rob Cohen & Brianna Yellen as well as Amanda Slater. We also got some fun show trivia from the PA who guided us around during the day. We also had a quick opportunity to meet Warren Leight when he came into the room to discuss a few items. I definitely came away with the understanding that a television show set is a true whirlwind.

Besides quickly seeing Bobby Burke during the set tour, the first actor interaction was with Ice T when he came out of a scene being filmed in Benson’s office. He spoke with us for a few moments – and seemed genuinely welcoming. I was also taken by how relatively short he was. Later in the day we were also introduced to Kelli Giddish when she came into video village.

Surprisingly, and not, the two actors with whom we were able to spend the most time were Mariska Hargitay and Bobby Burke. Both were fantastic to speak with and learn from. It was actually Mariska who wanted us to have the chance to speak with Bobby and she brought him into video village to meet us. While I don’t think I’ll ever ship Tuckson, I really learned a lot about the two actors’ thoughts about the characters’ relationship (in general, and in the season 17 sense). I also learned a fair amount about what Bobby & the writers see in Ed Tucker and his character’s evolution over the time he has been on SVU. While this is easy to say as I don’t watch much TV, I can’t honestly think of an actor who is less like his character than Bobby Burke is. He’s the polar opposite of pre season 15 Ed Tucker and was a pleasure to spend time with.

Mariska was every bit the beacon of light that she comes off as in interviews and that I’ve read about in other fan interactions. I treasured every moment we spent with her and bizarrely? Didn’t feel as star struck as I feared I might. The non SVU highlight of our conversations? Talking theater. It was among the first topics that came up when she asked my friend what else we were doing while she was in town. Alas Hamilton wasn’t on the week’s agenda, but pre-ordering Hamiltome was. I was also floored that she remembered my name to make further introductions amid remembering lines for the scenes they were filming. While I love Olivia Benson, I admire Mariska more for the work she has done with Joyful Heart, No More and others. Amazing advocate.

It was interesting to discuss scenes from past episodes with the writers and the actors. There were things they were aware of and recommended that we weren’t. Both Bobby Burke & Mariska gave us the “homework” of watching Amaro’s 180, a season 15 episode. It was a homework assignment I thoroughly enjoyed. And there were things that we’d noticed that weren’t top of mind for them-an interesting and enlightening discussion. Due mostly to Bobby Burke being on set, we found ourselves discussing Perverted, the season 11 episode in which Benson is framed for murder and Tucker perp walked her out. It served as an interesting contrast to the current Tucker as well as to how Tucker treated Nick in Amaro’s 180, which is why that came to be homework. Both actors wanted us to see & understand Tuckson. While I’m 99.9% sure that will never be my ship, I walked away with a new understanding of it and as I promised when Mariska asked, I remain open minded about it. As I mentioned briefly when Unholiest Alliance aired, I’m still glad Tucker wasn’t found to be dirty. I feel even more strongly about that now that I had the chance to meet Bobby Burke – he’s a wonderful gentleman and I think he & the writers are going to develop Tucker in interesting ways.

As someone who wandered away from SVU before Chris Meloni left and caught up when falling back in love with the show a few seasons ago, I don’t feel the 1.0/2.0 distinction as strongly as some do. I miss Stabler but can enjoy the current show as solid story lines and interesting characters. With all the subsequent cast changes, it’s almost as if they’re two different shows with only Benson as the link. I do sometimes think of the newer seasons as a spinoff.

Stabler may be gone from SVU, the character and the actor were a topic of frequent conversation during our visit as Meloni’s episode of Inside the Actors Studio had aired the night before we visited set. There were SVU components  to his interview that aired as well as the portions that Bravo put online.  [For a great write-up of the full taping, here is @bones_booth’s post.] Between the recent selfies as well as the photo post for his birthday, it’s safe to say that Chris isn’t far from Mariska’s mind. I doubt that Elliot is far from Benson’s either. I wish I’d thought to ask her where she thought Stabler was now as that’s not a topic I’ve seen covered in any interviews.

So many questions I found myself wishing I’d asked. It was a wonderful afternoon but of course not long enough. Visiting a TV set wasn’t anything I ever thought I’d see myself doing but when this opportunity presented itself, I knew there was no question. It was educational in learning how a TV show “works” but also wonderful to meet the actors, writers and others that make the show go behind the scenes.

Here’s to another 17 years of a wonderful show.

Welcome back, NYC’s High Bridge

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.

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:

19.5 miles of the Great Saunter

as I’ve touched on before, the Great Saunter was the idea behind the #GreatManhattanLoop when I first started walking Manhattan. Due to a combination of not being in town on that Saturday and knowing I wasn’t up to that distance, I walked the Loop in segments before finally finishing in May 2013.

In May 2015, the stars finally coincided for me to attempt the Great Saunter. I didn’t finish it (and apparently most don’t), but I (mostly) enjoyed the 19.5 mile walk around Manhattan’s shoreline including some places I knew of but had never gotten to photograph, like Pumpkin House.

Historical markers on the Broad St. side of Fraunces Tavern
Historical markers on the Broad St. side of Fraunces Tavern

Saturday, May 2, came bright and early-especially early with registration beginning at Fraunces Tavern at 7am. As I learned later from a Shorewalkers volunteer, there were 1,070 folks preregistered and they expected that 3-400 had joined at various points along the route.

Castle Clinton in Battery Park
Castle Clinton in Battery Park
One World Trade behind the Winter Garden
One World Trade behind the Winter Garden

The first miles of the walk go around the southern tip of Manhattan through Battery Park and up the west side through North and South Coves and Battery Park City. I’m pleasantly surprised with how relatively construction-free Battery Park is and it looks like the SeaGlass carousel might finally become reality. I enjoyed the quick view of Castle Clinton aka South West Battery in this National Parks’ Centennial year. Amazing to think that was once in the harbor. The opening of One World Trade last fall for office space and the Observatory later this month is amazing. I also can’t believe this was less than three years ago but that site will never not be arresting.


New York Central Railroad 69th Street Transfer Bridge
New York Central Railroad 69th Street Transfer Bridge
Treelined Cherry Walk in Riverside Drive
Treelined Cherry Walk in Riverside Drive
White and pink cherry blossoms on the same limb
White and pink cherry blossoms on the same limb

I didn’t take many photos along the early part of the route in part due to wanting to keep pace and, in part, because I had many from my May 2012 walk. The only exceptions were the New Whitney and the fairly new North River Lobster Company. Alas, it was too early in the day for lobster and we walked on through Riverside Park which is the stretch of the Greenway I feel as if I know the best. I walked it in February and two weeks ago in a premature attempt to see cherry blossoms. The no photo thing-which I knew I’d need to keep up if I wanted to keep up with the group-died as per usual when I saw cherry blossoms. Aka why there’s a whole Flickr album dedicated to them. Plus the whole stretch from W. 89th up to the George Washington Bridge is gorgeous in all seasons.

Alas, it was at this point when I started to drag after maintaining pace for the first 11+ miles or so. At West Harlem Piers Park, I changed my socks and repacked my bag* in an attempt to keep my water bottles from stabbing me. I slugged past Riverbank and into Fort Washington. I was already dreading the walk up from the Lighthouse, even though it’s one of my favorite spots in the city.

Pumpkin House, north of Castle Village
Pumpkin House, north of Castle Village
Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point
arches of Fort Tryon Park
arches of Fort Tryon Park

I limped through this stretch of Fort Washington despite being eager to see the Pumpkin House and Fort Tryon Arches now that I knew what they were and normally loving Castle Village and being fascinated by Inspiration Point. In short, I still didn’t get the appreciation feeling I was after back in 2013. I thought the end was in sight when the greenway ended, however I didn’t know the route that the Saunter would take through Inwood as the Greenway is a bit of a myth at this point. It was a slog, and by this point I mostly decided I was done.

Shorakkopoch Rock
Shorakkopoch Rock

On the final limp to the flagpole and lunch break at the 16 mile mark, I finally found Shorakkopoch Roch (full name & details). The whole story is little more than a fanciful myth, but it’s a fun market to NYC’s history. While I broke for lunch-and to change to my flip flops-I gave some thought about how far I really wanted to go. Now that I knew I wasn’t going to finish, I wasn’t concerned about pace.

Coogan's Bluff
Coogan’s Bluff
the John T. Brush Stairs up to Coogan's Bluff
the John T. Brush Stairs up to Coogan’s Bluff

I won’t lie-as I left Inwood HILL Park at Isham the A train at 207th was tempting. But I’d made the decision to go as far as 155th for three reasons:

  • that’s the end of the Greenway. So much of the rest (save for 116-59th which I’ve done more time than I can count) is city streets and I’m no more interested in that then I was in 2013.
  • It was a commitment. Once I was on the Greenway (aka the Speedway) I was going to 155th as there was no out.
  • I wanted to see what changed on that section as well as with the HighBridge‘s continued construction

I had forgotten about the biggest upside – cherry trees! – which made the northern stretch of the Speedway gorgeous. Their soft soil a nice treat under my super sore feet. As I moved toward the southern end, I thought about something else that would be near 155th. The restored Polo Grounds Stairs had reopened in 2014 after years of talk and being “a mystery” as recently as 2010.

While walking along a portion of the Greenway that paralleled the “Harlem River Driveway” and trying to figure out whether Coogan’s Bluff was truly accessible, I turned to the right and there they were! I just had to figure out how to get there with a cement barrier in my way. This portion of the Greenway was either new since 2013 or a portion that I never found since it carried me above the street level of the Polo Grounds Houses.

I walked down to 155th and doubled back – only sports history could make me do this at this point – up Edgecombe and Coogan’s Bluff came into sight. Climbing up on the exposed rock was beyond me at this point but I sat at the top of the stairs before gingerly making my way down where i rested on a picnic bench and communed with the ghosts.

“This is the last piece of real evidence that the Polo Grounds existed, other than the plaque that indicates where the approximate location of home plate was,” said Gary Mintz, president of the New York Giants Preservation Society. … “This is historic ground and should be preserved and treasured any way possible. The Giants’ history in New York was tremendous and judging by the legions of fans today, the New York Giants and San Francisco Giants haven’t been forgotten in New York.” ~ Gary Mintz

It was the perfect place for my saunter to end – and end it did when I boarded the M2 Bus and headed south. I have no regrets. I stopped enjoying the walk somewhere between miles 14 and 16 and there is no shame in walking 18+. It’s always the west side that I’ve found prettiest and the city streets of the east side – which I know well – don’t appeal to me in the same way as the Greenway does. Maybe I’ll finish when they finish the Greenway.

the John T. Brush Stairs from Coogan's Bluff
the John T. Brush Stairs from Coogan’s Bluff

*I looked like quasimodo. I was in awe of all the slim line packs people were carrying. Some of mine was exacerbated by shedding my fleece at the start. I vow not to look like a turtle if I do this again. Eight sandwiches and a box of granola bars were six too many

2015 walking related goals:

  • Visit the Little Red Lighthouse when it’s actually open.
  • Walk the High Bridge (and explore High Bridge Park) if/when it finally opens
  • Finish re-reading Philip Lopate’s Waterfront which I’m super primed for now
  • Read Walking Manhattan’s Rim, despite the mediocre reviews. Manhattan’s Greenway has changed since I started this walk and want to know more about the last decade of change.
  • Read The Power Broker, if I can get my hands on a copy, or something else on Robert Moses and/or Jane Jacobs.

Second Hand Rose

The Lower East Side Conservancy Tour‘s meeting site, “the former Yiddish Arts Theater (now a multiplex)” is Second Avenue in a nutshell. And while the tour of the Jewish Rialto is one I’ve wanted to do for about three years, it felt even more timely in light of the recent fire.

The arts & culture of the neighborhood was the draw of this tour for me, but in the end it was the architecture & history that I found just as appealing and intriguing. The tour began at the aforementioned former Yiddish Arts Theater. The 2000+ version of Joni Mitchell’s Taxi appears to be “they tore down paradise and put up a multiplex.” Or in NYC, a Chase Bank or a Duane Reade. On this half mile of Second Avenue alone that applied to:

  • the Yiddish Arts Theater
  • the original Second Avenue Deli
  • the Filmore East, among other theaters in that building

I fear the same may ultimately true of the vacant lots formerly known as 119-123 2nd Avenue.

The buildings and stories I found most interesting along the tour were:

  • the former Loew’s Commodore, later the Filmore East. “The neighborhood died hard: drugs, thugs, murders and so did the Fillmore. It will live forever in my memory.” The Apple Bank that now stands there was closed today, but I’m definitely going back when it’s open to see the ghosts. I truly wonder if the Lower East Side/East Village has undergone more change than any in the city
  • the Saul Birns building, the site of Ratner’s 2nd Avenue (history and Delancey ties here). Although I’m an NYU grad, I’m glad they  didn’t win that battle. More on the man here and the building here.
  • the Community Synagogue, former St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church whose congregation was decimated in the Slocum Disaster but which partially lives on in Yorkville. While this is generally considered to be an unknown disaster despite being the largest loss of life until 9/11, I was familiar with it. I don’t recall where I learned about it, but I’ve thought about it in the last few years since I moved to Yorkville and walk past the “new” church nearly daily. I was pleased to find the plaque a few weeks ago when I discovered the Community Synagogue. After the tour, I walked to Tompkins Square Park in part to see its memorial to the sinking (easy to miss) as well as to cross it off my NYC Bucket List. For some reason it retained its 1980s status in my brain. Nope, oasis definitely fits

Oh and the blog’s title. She and Sophie Kalish aka Sophie Tucker, the Last of the Red Hot Mammas.

Everyone knows that I’m just Second Hand Rose
From Second Avenue