Walking New York

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

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Day 4: Bryant Park, Tudor City, and Some Big Buildings (4.25 miles)

Shorter walk today because I stopped a lot to take pictures and ran out of time. First, the most important thing: the food cart on the southwest corner of 33rd and 6th Ave has the best pretzels ever. I've been eating a lot of street pretzels lately, because I figure the carbs are good fuel for the walking and they're still moderately healthy. Usually, you get a pretzel from the pile sitting on the cart, which have been soaking up air pollution for most of the day and getting attacked by flies. Then you put mustard on it and walk into somebody at a crosswalk, and you end up with a pretzel-shaped mustard stain on your shirt. But the guy at 33rd and 6th (southwest corner, don't forget), has the solution.

I bought a pretzel, expecting one of the ones sitting out. But he opened a drawer from inside the cart and took out a brown paper bag with a pretzel inside. It was already salted and had been sitting in this heating drawer probably all day, which had slowly steamed it into soft amazingness. Anybody who's ever had a hot dog at a baseball game knows that the hot dog buns pulled from the heater drawer under the spinner are the best you can get anywhere. This is the same concept. Then, I asked for mustard and instead of awkwardly coating the pretzel with it, he put some onto a piece of aluminum foil, folded it up, and I had a big, makeshift mustard packet.

I'm sure other carts in the city do this, but so far, all my pretzel experience has been with the rock-hard, germ-infested variety, which are still good when eaten with enough mustard.

So on to the walk. I headed up 6th Ave, which is fairly boring, even with Herald and Greeley Squares. I always consider that area to be like a big suburban mall, with rows and rows of stores like Foot Locker, Wet Seal, and, obviously, Macy's. All they need is a Sunglasses Hut and a Dippin' Dots in the middle of an intersection.

Bryant Park, on the other hand, is very impressive, and probably the cleanest and nicest park in the city, although I still favor Union Square as far as atmosphere goes. My main reason for walking by there today was that somebody sent me this list from AOL Cityguide, celebrating the 10 best public restrooms in the city. Some are obvious, like Lincoln Center, Saks, or the SoHo Grand, but the one that stands out the most is Bryant Park (also the only one with the entrance outside).

I went into the bathroom with my camera, but due to some rightfully concerned patrons, couldn't get a picture in. It was small, but nicely decorated and very clean. I did get a picture of the outside, with an entrance that has a bouquet of flowers and tall mirror.

I stepped into both the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building lobbies, and I'll put some pictures of those into their own posts. The most interesting part of the walk was Tudor City, a three block strip of apartments that's actually elevated over 42nd Street. I couldn't get a picture that really showed this, so I'll try to get one next time I'm over there to finish 42nd, but you walk up a long flight of stairs on 42nd just before 1st Avenue, and suddenly you're in a tiny piece of 1920s New York, with no chain stores, a nice spacious park and playground, and rows of big apartment buildings. 41st and 43rd streets actually ramp up to Tudor City, but 42nd runs underneath it, so you can actually stand on the street and look down over a railing. 43rd Street is another quaint slice of old New York, but with the United Nations building literally towering over the end of it. It's very surreal, and I had no idea it was there. Definitely the best find yet, I would say, and I will get better pictures of it next time. For now, this picture shows pretty well how the old apartment buildings contrast with the super-modern UN. And the best part is that the UN site used to be a slaughterhouse (irony!), so none of the buildings have what would have been an amazing view of the UN and the East River.

Final note: I'm now saving photos at a much bigger size, and although they'll appear the same on the blog, if you click any one of them, they'll open much larger. They're also saved at 50% quality so they load faster, which is why some of them will have a little bit of a blur or digital feel to them.

Day 3 Photos - On the Hudson

Soccer field on 24th at the West Side Highway

Where the city's salt hangs out in the summer

Giant bottle on the Hudson in midtown (represents people who took ships here, with a cabin design inside)

Riverside Park has ducks (geese?)

Memorial bicycle (click to enlarge)

Day 3: West Side (5.75 miles)

Walked west on 24th to the Hudson and all the way up to 91st, then over through Riverside Park and back to the subway. The Hudson, like the East River, has a heliport, but with no signs divulging absurd Hamptons trip prices. There's a giant warship somewhere around 50th Street that I'll explore more in depth when I actually walk that street. It had a museum with cannons and things, and I think the ship was called the Intrepid.

Nothing else that interesting happened, except when I ignored a detour sign in Riverside Park and ended up squeezing my way through a sliver of a dirt path about a foot from the West Side Highway (below).

At least there was a guardrail. I think that's the George Washington Bridge in the background, and I'll make sure to take more pictures of Riverside Park when I walk those streets later on.

The reason I didn't make it back to form the full rectangle is that it was 600 degrees in Manhattan today, and walking on the water, there were no buildings to block the sun. So the left half of me got very overheated and sunburnt, and I ended up taking a subway back downtown from 86th.

I've also noticed that I can walk like 7 miles straight and be okay, but then if I walk up one flight of stairs, I feel dizzy and exhausted. If I walk up one flight normally, without the walking before, I'm okay. There has to be some kind of scientific reason for this, and whatever it is, I know the solution: more escalators.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Day 2 Photos - United Nations and a Mutilated Cab

United Nations

Guards take down flags outside the UN

I should probably know what this is, but I can't think of it. Anyway, slayed dragons on the UN lawn is fun symbolism, no matter how you look at it.

Under the bridge at 23rd and the FDR

Any ideas as to how a shredded cab would end up in a gravelly construction site? Me neither, but I bet Jimmy Hoffa's under there somewhere too.

Day 2 Photos - 23rd Street and the East River

Scary guitar man at 23rd and 7th

One of three 7-11's in Manhattan

On the East River

Stacked signs on the FDR

$525 per person? How much does a whole helicopter cost?

Day 2: Big Square (6.5 miles)

Walked east on 23rd to the river, then up to 59th, back west to 7th, and down to 23rd again. I also got in a little bit of 8th Ave later. The walk on 23rd was pretty uneventful except for the Asser Levy pool, which I'll take better pictures of when I walk that way again. The river was pretty nice but unlike the Hudson, there's no way to walk all the way up. The sidewalk breaks multiple times and at least once, I ended up actually walking on the FDR itself because a sidewalk unexpectedly ended.

I was actually walking sideways on a sliver of sidewalk (above) for part of it, and then that ended too and I was standing on the FDR, facing oncoming traffic. That's why I ended up on 1st Avenue for the rest.

I have a lot more quality pictures than I thought I would, and so I'm going to start doing separate posts for them. Like today, I have about 10 pictures I want up, and so instead of listing the 10 at the bottom of this post, I'll do a couple photo-only posts (with captions) just to break things up.

Thanks to Gary from Runs Brooklyn, who passed along this report from the NY Department of Transportation, and in testing the bumpiness of New York's streets, they determined that the area of Manhattan I'll be walking has about 338 miles of streets. All of Manhattan has just over 500, but I'm going to stay south of 110th Street for now. All of New York City has about 6000 miles of streets, with somewhere around 1700 of them in Brooklyn, so Gary has a much tougher task ahead than I do. Anyway, I'm keeping 500 miles in the subhead for the blog, because it sounds better than 338, and once I finish this, I do plan to cover Harlem next.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Still Day 1: Down Broadway and Up the West Side Highway (7.5 miles)

July 12 Walk

Managed to get a walk in this evening between thunderstorms, although I didn't bring a camera. Below are a couple pictures I took earlier this week at places along the walk, including Union Square and City Hall Park.

The walk up the west side was was nice because it was quiet and kind of hazy on the water. The financial district at night though is dark and abandoned like Philadelphia. I missed some great pictures, including a pier that houses the city's garbage trucks, and there was one I especially would have liked to get. In a bus stop on Broadway somewhere in SoHo, a homeless woman had her cart inside the stop and sat on a sheet on the ground as it got dark, with a teddy bear sitting beside her. It was nice, to know that even in homelessness, stuffed animals still provide some comfort at night. So I threw a quarter at her and ran away.

Note: The image above (and the ones I'll be using consistently) come from gmap-pedometer.com, a nice mod of Google Maps to allow multiple entry points. The numbers represent miles. I found the site at this guy's blog, which is basically exactly the same thing I'm doing, but with running instead of walking, and Brooklyn instead of Manhattan. It might look convenient that I started this right after he was featured in the Daily News, but I just found his blog today and it's definitely a coincidence. Also, I wouldn't touch the Daily News if there were bars of gold inside.

City Hall Park

Union Square


Day 1: Rain Delay

Day 1 might be called by rain. While I could walk without my camera, I refuse to walk without an iPod, and after last week's proof that God hates technology, I think I should wait until it clears up. Maybe I'll get a couple miles in late tonight, but until it stops raining completely, there won't be any pictures.

Some camera details: I have a really nice digital SLR that I use for taking good pictures, but I also just used up a graduation gift Best Buy card to get a cheap, tiny camera that should take decent enough pics to post on here. That way, if it's raining a little or if I don't want to carry the heavy camera, I can keep this one in my pocket. Rain pictures are fun anyway.

Alright, time to bask in this excuse not to exercise. I'll be watching TV for the next 10 hours.

Where to Begin

I'm 22 years old and most days I do nothing. This is an attempt to do something.

Although I've spent a lot of time in New York in the past, I just moved here officially after graduating college. Every day I spend inside, I get more cynical and sheltered. Time to go outside, get a tan, pull a hamstring, learn something.

I'll be spending the next few months walking around a lot. My goal is to cover every street in Manhattan south of 110th (maybe next year, Harlem). That's every tiny side street and every avenue, from Broadway to Collister, Central Park West to Trimble Place. If it's on Google Maps and it's walkable, I'll do it.

Along the way, I'm going to take some pictures and notes and post them here. My first goal is to actually keep this up and to eventually complete the walk, even if it takes years. My second goal is to make this blog as good as possible, and I see it as being part photoblog, part travelogue (travelblogue?), with maybe some interesting restaurant finds and weird stuff along the way.

The first thing I'd like is if somebody could figure out an estimate of how far I'll be walking. New York is about 2 miles wide from 23rd Street up to 110th, and so to walk each one of those streets would 174 miles. Add in the avenues and it's up to at least 250 miles in that area. Although the area south of 23rd is geographically smaller, it strays from the grid pattern and has lots and lots of small, diagonal, sometimes single-block-long streets. It also becomes wider at 14th Street, then narrow down by Battery Park. All in all, a very rough estimate of the total amount of walking I'll have to do might be somewhere around 500 miles. If somebody has a way of getting a more accurate figure, please post a comment with it.

So if I averaged 5 miles a day, I could do this in a few months. But realistically, with weather conditions, time factors, and the possibility that someday someone might give me a job, I won't be able to do 5 miles every day. I expect it to take all year.

I won't promise daily updates, but I'll come as close as possible, and after I walk I'll post an updated map with how far I've gone, as well as some photos and anything interesting I saw along the way.

Let the walk begin...