Walking New York

A fat lazy idiot tries to walk every street in Manhattan.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

West Side Photos

Even I know the answer to that one, and I went to public school (in Florida, no less). It's 12.

Over on the car-demolishing west side, a cab in ruins.

On Union Square East, somewhere a child is crying.

Block party in the teens between 9th and 10th Avenues.

Any time I see one of those crosswalk light boxes to put my camera on, I feel like a time lapse is mandatory.

Park Avenue Photos: From Top to Almost Bottom

Accidentally caught some blurred birds in this shot of a big construction project on Park in the 30s.

Pershing Square, best restaurant in the city for car exhaust aficionados, on Park and 41st.

Somewhere under the Met Life building, the seemingly popular Beer Bar.

On Park in the 50s or 60s, I think.

The nicest parts of Park in the 70s and 80s have insanely well-manicured medians with tons of fresh flowers and plants. I don't understand why you still see squirrels struggling with gloom on the Lower East Side when nice space like this is available uptown, but perhaps it's a culture issue.

First sign this neighborhood is about to turn bad: a city bus maintenance warehouse on Park Avenue.

The Metro North comes above ground at about 96th Street, and everything takes a turn for the Harlem. Something about active train tracks just makes most areas seem more run down, even in the suburbs, and up here there's not only an elevated train, there's this huge dark brick wall dividing the north and south lanes on Park, and essentially also dividing scarier Spanish Harlem on the east from still semi-UES and Mount Sinai Hospital area on Madison. Here's a better look at the great wall:

And finally, at my next-to-last block, I spotted further proof that we're not in Kansas anymore:

You just don't see that in midtown.

It's Still August Somewhere

Due to a crippling bout of late-summer laziness and a pretty not-time-consuming new job, I haven't gotten around to updating this in a while. I actually haven't done a long walk with camera in a couple weeks, but I have 2 from the end of August that I haven't put up. I'm going to combine them into one map post followed by 2 photo posts, then head out today for another walk downtown and hopefully not take 2 weeks to update it.

So for the future, know that if you don't see an update for a while, I haven't given up or abandoned the walking plan. There's a chance that the walking might take a several month hiatus beginning in the fall, but more on that if/when it happens (Am I moving? Youngest hip replacement surgery candidate ever? Limb donor? We'll find out). Whatever happens, I fully intend to walk every street in Manhattan as soon as I can. And now, let's go to the map...

The above walk all the way up Park Avenue was from August 22. I hadn't done much Upper East Side so decided to take out a whole avenue in one shot. I'm not a huge UES fan (something about a bunch of rich old white people seems so Westchester), but up through the 80s it's still pretty nice. I was surprised to find though that around the upper 90s, Park gets really gritty. I looked it up on Wikipedia when I got home and apparently above 96th is Spanish Harlem. You'll see the photos in the next post, but given that I have to walk every block on the east side between 96th and 110th, there will be a lot more photos coming if I survive.

Back on my home planet of downtown, I did this walk a few days later through Chelsea and over to Union Square. The only notably cool thing happening was a block party on 16th or 17th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, where the two big apartment houses on either side of the street got together for a BBQ on a Saturday evening. Kids threw footballs in the street, they had picnic tables set up, and it felt like a small town, except for the giant apartment buildings and Chelsea Pier driving range nets towering in the background. At least 2 photo posts coming up next.

(Quiz: What 90s after-school TV show was referenced in this post?)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Automat Day

The long-awaited St. Marks Automat (technical name: BAMN!) opened today and although I was considering trying Philly Slim's for lunch in an effort to stay up to date on city cheesesteak trends, I decided I should be part of BAMN's opening day. I was worried it might be very crowded, but it was actually completely empty, probably for 2 reasons. One, it's raining, and as opposed to the sit-down automats of the old days, this is definitely a walking food place. There are 3 stools at a counter, but they seemingly don't encourage people to hang around inside too long. The second problem is that nobody knows what an automat is anymore. Everyone I told about it had to look it up on Wikipedia. Lots of curious people walking by stopped to check it out though, so maybe it'll catch on.

The place itself is surprisingly small, featuring a wavy wall of tiny toaster ovens and change slots. There's also a counter where they sell drinks, fries, and burgers. The most expensive thing there was fries, which is weird, but everything else comes in snack sizes. I got a mac and cheese croquette, pizza dumplings, and chicken nuggets, coming out to $4.75 total, which is very impressive. The only other reasonable place around there to get lunch for that price is Chickpea, which has a falafel for about $4. Chipotle, 99 Miles to Philly, Blue Nine, and the late Roll-n-Roaster all cost about $10 for a normal lunch. I didn't get a drink at the automat and a cheesesteak with waffle fries and a soda would have been much more filling, but I was satisfied.

The place is more cool than it is tasty, as the food seems like something you could buy frozen and cook in your toaster. That's not to say it's bad, it's just nothing really special. Still, a dollar for 4 chicken nuggets and good bbq sauce is a great deal given that street hot dogs seem to cost $1.50 now. And that's basically who the automat will be competing with, street vendors, not surrounding restaurants. Anybody who wants a lunch or dinner with friends in the area will head to one of the sushi places or Paul's, a greasy but good burger place around the corner. But anybody walking around who wants a cheap snack, or the hundreds of people who stroll St. Marks drunk in the middle of the night, will find this place useful.

I wouldn't get the pizza dumplings again, as they were $2, which is expensive for 4 pizza rolls and tomato sauce (a slice at the horrible Ray's Pizza & Bagels on 3rd/St Marks is under $3 I think). For that $2, I could have got a teriyaki burger or chicken sandwich, grilled cheese ($1.50), or 2 desserts (custard puff things and Japanese bagels). A pork roll was a dollar too I think, as were hot dogs, which they didn't have out. Nuggets were dry but fine for a dollar and the bbq sauce was very good. Mac and cheese croquette was a must-try, as I'll go head to head with anyone on the city's best mac and cheese options (S'Mac=disappointment, fancy French restaurant Artisanal=best). The croquette was basically KFC mac and cheese inside of a larger mozzerella stick casing. It was egg roll sized, a few bites worth, and a solid deal at $1.75.

I hope the place survives, but have a feeling it'll be gone by Christmas and we'll go another few decades without an automat. BAMN is the first one in America since 1991, and probably the first new one to open since the 1960s, when fast food came along and made them obsolete. It's certainly a good alternative to street cart food and overall, a worthy addition to the late night East Village food lineup.

I don't have pics as I was going from work, but Gothamist is on the case.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Day 38 Photos - Fallen Retail

Sometimes you cheer when a restaurant fails, especially when it's a Blimpies:

And sometimes it's a little sad, even though the place was overpriced and not that good, to know that in a couple months it'll just be another 42nd St. sneaker store:

The great Manhattan Bennigans experiment fails after less than a year:

Not exactly a Bennigans, but probably the saddest of all for fans of old New York (and Home Alone 2): The Plaza Hotel, which will reopen early in 2007 as a half-condo run by a hotel chain. It'll still be somewhat of a hotel, at least, but I remember hearing that they were auctioning off all the furniture and art, so what's going to be in it?

The final dead storefront is this prime retail space from 42nd St between 6th and 7th Avenues. Kind of a weird block, but I predict that just like Times Square is forever creeping up into the low 50s, touristy neon 42nd Street will keep edging east until it meets Grand Central sometime mid-century.

Day 38: There's Nothing Interesting About Midtown (5 miles)

I've tricked some people into paying me to do work sometimes, so I've gotten pretty busy lately. This walk, weaving through the midtown avenues, is from last Thursday. I have today off, so I'm going to walk soon, but it might not get posted until a few days from now. The process of uploading the photos, shrinking them in Photoshop, and posting them just takes a while sometimes.

Guy with Einstein wig on 34th St

Mattress store Sleepys, which usually occupies the space above hot dog stores, has this amazing showroom on 5th Avenue, with flat screen TVs looping women jumping happily on mattresses, and fancy designs. I'm impressed, but 1-800-MATTRESS still seems easier.

If you're an insomniac drunken college kid or a cab driver, chances are you recognize this spot, on the southwest corner of 53rd and 6th, just outside the blue Hilton monolith. It's the home of Chicken and Rice, amazing and popular street food open from around 8pm to 4am. The guy there in this picture is not the real Chicken and Rice, just some other cart that fills the space during the day, so don't fall for it. You can read more about Chicken and Rice on Wikipedia, and make sure to vote for them in the Vendys, where they got ripped off by the Hallo Berlin guy last year. And if you're ever hungry in the middle of the night and don't mind waiting in line, head to 53rd and 6th.

Food-driven diatribes aside, I passed this on 5th Ave in midtown, a posterboard of the NY papers' coverage of the JonBenet Ramsey case for some kind of Asian news show.

On Sixth Ave in the 50s, an office building has two pretty cool fountains with these globe water-spritzing things.

Did anyone else know there was a subway stop at 53rd and Broadway? I took one of the blue trains up, expecting that after 50th I'd get off at Columbus Circle. But whatever train I was on turned towards Queens and the next stop was this one. Weird.

The only Hooters in Manhattan, on 56th and Broadway, awkwardly crammed in above a parking garage. I've never been there, but obviously want to.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Day 36 Photos - West Side and Midtown

One of the scarier blocks I've seen in Manhattan, 47th between 11th and 12th. Very industrial and Bronxy with the auto shops.

Train tracks running north out of Penn Station, coming above ground around 47th

Down on 11th in Chelsea, a huge old warehouse probably destined for a fancy loft renovation. Classy European car dealership already in place across the street.

On the east side of 47th, the Trump building

Also on 11th, the Copacabana, complete with sparkly walls. Not what (or where) it used to be.

One of a surprising number of parks I passed in Hell's Kitchen

Who knew that mega-popular midtown lunch cart Daisy May's actually came from a little shack on 11th Avenue? The cart, covered in the link above by the pretty solid Midtown Lunch blog, serves BBQ sandwiches and glass jars of sweet tea (you get to keep the jar) to the midtown office building crowd, and although I've never had it, I always wanted to, if just for those free glass jars.

Couple of 11th Avenue birds

All the time I've spent in NY, and this is the first time I've ever seen the Javitz Center. It's nice and modern-looking from the outside, although the area around it is still pretty run-down, and if they have to bulldoze it to build a new Madison Square Garden or Shea Stadium or Penn Station or whatever the plan is this week, I'm all for it.

Day 36: Finishing 47th (6 miles)

Walked over to 11th Avenue and up to 47th, then all the way across. I'd been wanting to do the 47th Street walk since I read an interview with one of the other guys in the NY Post article I was in, who said it was one of his favorite walks. It was interesting, for sure, seeing the change from dingy west side to Times Square to the UN area on the east, but I don't know why it's better than, say, 45th Street from river to river.

I did get stopped by some guy in Hell's Kitchen who told me I should take a picture of water falling from a building by the train tracks or something (there are train tracks running north that come in the outdoors around 47th, I assume from Penn Station). He said something about the water actually being from the ground but looking like it was from a building, because of the angle, but I never saw any water. First time I've actually been stopped, I think, and the guy wasn't threatening at all (he said he was a photographer too), just sort of quirky and possibly insane.

Photos from 11th Ave and along 47th coming next post, but for now, some strange ones...

Somewhere in midtown. I guess this has something to do with Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat's 1995 short story collection of the same name, although that seems like a really obscure reference. And even stranger, I've read that book and saw Danticat speak in college once about it. There also a Haitian restaurant uptown with the same name, which I believe is also influenced by the book, which itself is almost definitely influenced by some kind of Haitian folklore. Anyway, next time I pass it I'll look around more, and if you like dense but rich ethnic writing, check out Danticat.

In lighter news, I spotted a bunch of police horses (plorses?) downtown, including this one in front of a playground in Chelsea.

And outside the Flatiron Building, I ran into this insanely huge dog, which nearly tripped me crossing the intersection, and which may or may not be related to Hercules from The Sandlot.

Coming Soon

I walked Tuesday and today and haven't had a chance to update them yet. Look for Tuesday's tomorrow, at least. But more importantly, see Snakes on a Plane. Right away.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Day 34 Photos - Changing Houston

The most interesting part of the walk, aside from the chicken guy mentioned below, was seeing a part of the city still in the process of changing. Parts of Houston are modern and upscale, and parts are still the same as they were over 100 years ago. And it's not an east/west split. The very upscale Avalon Christie Place apartment building (below) is directly across the street from a very old, run-down kind of building (2nd below):

The stores and restaurants are changing too. Of course Katz's is still going strong on the east side of Houston. A little west of it on the same block is Russ & Daughters, a Russian Jewish delicacy store that has two cases when you walk in. On the left are all kinds of smoked fish and spreads. On the right are dozens of different kinds of dried fruit. Makes for an interesting smell, but it's really a cool place, and apparently one of the last of its kind on the Lower East Side:

And of course, it wouldn't be downtown New York without the required hipstery diner:

And finally, back west somewhere, the entrance to the Highline Building, where the highline begins:

Day 34: Houston Oddities [6 miles]

Walked down the west side, then all the way across Houston and back up the East River. I wanted to cross back over on 22nd but gave up and took a bus back at the end. Still a 6 mile walk, which is decent.

Saw several weird things, but this was the weirdest. I was going to write a long story about this, but it's easier to just sum it up in a sentence. A deputy blogger from Tom Green's website was dragging a frozen chicken down the street and stopped me for an interview:

For the prize of 2nd Weirdest Thing, this oddly threatening no parking sign from the West Village:

Third place in Weirdness was this giant turf soccer/baseball/rugby field in the very-industrial-seeming Pier 54 at Houston and the Hudson River:

And a couple other runners-up in weirdness:

Crazy sky looking south from 23rd and 1st Avenue. The lovable weatherpsycho from this site would surely consider it evidence of a government-controlled weather conspiracy. I always did like Connery in The Avengers movie.

Not particularly weird, but still interesting: the 007 bus.

I consider this pretty weird, a giant factory with smokestacks and all in Manhattan. Here's another view of the smokestacks looking up one of the east Avenues: