Specialty Walk #1 – Walkway Over the Hudson: Friday, October 23, 2015

Just because I’ve finished walking Bay Ridge doesn’t mean that I’m finished walking!  I plan to continue with a series of “Specialty Walks” – walks that make New York (city and state) the great place that it is.

Today Roxy and I tackled the Walkway Over The Hudson, a 1.28 mile walkway (bridge) that connects Highland to Poughkeepsie.  Before it became the Walkway, is was the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge.  It opened to rail traffic in 1888 and was a key transportation hub linking western raw materials to the eastern industrial centers.  A fire in 1974 severely damaged the bridge.

The Walkway Over The Hudson opened in October 2009.  At 212 feet above the Hudson River, there are amazing views of the river as well as the surrounding mountains.

I didn’t have a lot of information before we started out, so I was concerned about how easy it was to get to and how “dog friendly” the park is.  Rest assured it was both very easy to find and dog friendly all the way!

It’s a quick 10-15 minute drive from exit 18 on the Thruway.  There is parking at the Walkway.  However, it’s a $5 fee – cash only – with the cash being folded a certain way and stuffed into little slots.  No change could be given.  I asked around for a bit to see if anyone had change.  No one did.  But one really nice gentleman said that you could either park along the road or in the lot “next door” for free.  “Next door” being the “Rail Trail” lot.  Terrific!  Free is good.  No change required.  So we parked and were immediately met with the splendor of fall

WWOH1

I miss the Hudson Valley in the fall.  Today’s visit took care of that!  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such vibrant color.

WWOH2

After going through a little park/parking lot type area (complete with food trucks and porta-potties) you continue onward and can see the walkway ahead of you.  To your south you see the Mid-Hudson Bridge

WWOH4  WWOH3

To the north you see the Catskill Mountains in the distance

WWOH8

OK, they’re WAY in the distance.  Hard to see in the picture.

WWOH9

another view to the south

WWOH11

another view to the north

WWOH12

The above is the west bank of the river (Highland)

WWOH14

And then some great trees on the east bank of the river (Poughkeepsie)

WWOH15    WWOH16

Both of the above shots are taken from the east side looking west.

On the left is a picture of the current Walkway.  On the right is a shot of the original steel underneath the Walkway.

WWOH23     WWOH18

Now headed back to the west bank (Highland) there are some great hills and beautiful shots of fall

WWOH19     WWOH21

WWOH24     WWOH25

It was a gorgeous day for this walk.  The weather was nice – a breezy day translated to gale force winds on the walkway.  The sun was shining.  Roxy was happy to be in the country.  It couldn’t have been a better day.  I highly recommend this walk to everyone!

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Day 20 – Sunday, October 18, 2015

WE DID IT!!  We have officially walked every street AND PARK in Bay Ridge!  We finished the streets on Friday, but today’s walk takes it one step further and includes all of Shore Road Park and the Shore Road Promenade (which is the bike path along the water) to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

And for your viewing pleasure – the final map, with today’s route in red.  Keep in mind we weren’t actually IN the water, but close enough – as we did get wet –

Bay Ridge Map

I said on Friday that it was the peacefulness, the homes and the parks that I love about the area.  I intentionally left one thing out of that list, as I was saving it for today.  That’s the water.  I need to be near the water.  With Shore Road Park and the Promenade only a few blocks away, it’s the perfect place for me to be.

We started at the north end of the Narrows Botanical Garden, which is the northernmost end of Shore Road Park, and we started walking south through the park system.

The first main entrance to Shore Road Park is at 73rd (ish) Street:SRP 1

Once you step through the gate, you get a sense of what lies ahead

SRP2

fields, open space, paved trails and views of the Bridge.  The park varies in width – sometimes it’s wide enough for ball fields and open space, sometimes it’s just a path

SRP3

and sometimes it meets up with Shore Road, and there seemingly isn’t any park at all.

At around 92nd Street, you come to a terrace, much like the one at Owl’s Head.  Here there are benches underneath old, old trees and concrete chess tables

SRP4  SRP5

Once you get past the terrace, the park narrows and you’re forced to follow the trail up to Shore Road:

SRP6

and then in the higher 90’s you come back down a path to more fields:

SRP7    SRP8

SRP9

Now who wouldn’t want to play soccer with a view like that?

SRP10

or tennis with a view like this?

And then continuing back up to Shore Road, the park ends at the corner of 4th Ave and Shore Road – where Cannonball Park is:

SRP11

But to make the loop, and get to the Promenade, you turn right and head over the Belt Parkway.  Once over, you’re faced with this beauty:

SRP12

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge, constructed in 1964 connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island.  Interestingly enough, it’s the only bridge in NYC that you can’t walk over – except on Marathon Sunday.  The bridge is quite an architectural feat.  It’s the longest suspension bridge in the country, and number 11 in the world.  The Golden Gate Bridge is ranked number 12 in the world.  And it’s a darned expensive bridge to drive over too – just sayin’.  People don’t usually get to see the undersides of bridges, unless they’re on boats, but not here! Thanks to the Shore Road Promenade, you can stand right under it and see it’s engineering:

SRP13

It’s sort of disorienting.

From there, we start north on the Promenade, headed home.  On the left is the water – the Narrows.  And on the right is the Belt Parkway.  On the other side of the Belt Parkway is Shore Road Park.

It’s about 2.25 miles each way (south and then north).  As you round the bend heading north you can start to see the next sight – lower Manhattan:

SRP14

That view alone is a reason to walk this path – every day.  And as you get closer, you can see all of NJ, the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan.  It’s like having the world at your fingertips:

SRP16

with the bridge behind you

SRP15

Continuing northward, we come to the 69th Street Pier.  It’s also known as Veteran’s Memorial Pier.  It’s located at the end of 69th Street (Bay Ridge Ave), on the west side of the Belt Parkway.  From the end of the Pier, you can see this view of Manhattan:

SRP17

and this view of the Bridge:

SRP18

On any given day or night, people from all over the neighborhood congregate here.  Some eat lunch at the picnic tables, some ride bikes, some play on scooters, and some go fishing.  It really is the cornerstone of the neighborhood.

SRP19

And with that, we leave the pier and head home – freezing from the wind and both completely exhausted and exhilarated.  This has been quite an experience and I’m so glad you were able to to share it with me.

And this concludes this version of “Bay Ridge Walker”.  But it’s really just the beginning.  Stay tuned for “Specialty Walks” where I see more of what makes NYC so great – beyond Bay Ridge.  🙂

end sign

Day 19 – Saturday, October 17, 2015

If you’ve followed this journey at all, you might have noticed that Roxy has accompanied me on my walks.  All of them…except one.

She wasn’t with me on Day 9 – Sunday, June 21.  On that day (rather evening) Steve and I went for a walk after his Father’s Day dinner.  Roxy wasn’t with us.  I wanted her to share in my accomplishment so that she could tell all of her doggie friends “I walked every block in Bay Ridge”.  To give her that same sense of satisfaction, I re-created the walk.

Meet Damon:

Damons feet

the rest of him was unavailable for a photo.  And you’ll have to trust me when I say “he was smiling”.  Damon was in charge of the map.  You see, I saved the map from that walk, as I knew I wanted to recreate it.  I carefully highlighted the streets we needed to re-do, and left him in charge of crossing them off as we walked.  Check out this “kid’s” work:

Redo map

with those skills, he should get into every college.

We concentrated on the areas between 80 & 86 Streets, between 3rd and 4th Aves.  The streets are residential, the avenues are commercial.  And the restaurants!  Yum!  I enjoyed this walk as much as I did the first time – for the company and to see the neighborhood on a weekend:  a time when I’m usually not here.

And now Roxy can also say “I’ve walked every block in Bay Ridge.”  I’m so proud of her.

But we’re not done yet, folks.  Stay tuned… 🙂

Day 18 – Friday, October 16, 2015

Saving the best for the last!  You heard that right!!  The last!  As TECHNICALLY, TECHNICALLY, I’ve now walked every BLOCK in Bay Ridge.  There are a couple of “loose ends” I need to tie up, but every street block has been walked!  Check out the map:

Bay Ridge Map

I have a great sense of accomplishment.  It felt good to complete it, but there’s also a weird sense of loss.  Now I’ll never be able to say “I’ve never been down this block before.”

This was one of my favorite walks.  Not just because it’s “the last” (although it’s really not – you’ll see…) but because this walk epitomizes some of the reasons for my love of the area:  its sense of peace, its parks (two of three were covered here) and its suburban style homes.  It’s suburbia in a urban world.  I walk this area often – sometimes more than once a day.  And now that I’ve seen “everywhere else” can I honestly say that there’s nowhere else in Bay Ridge where I’d rather live.  I’ll stay right here.  And now you’ll see why:

Two short blocks from the house, on the corner of 68th Street and Colonial Road, is the entrance to Owl’s Head Park.  When we were first looking for a place here, our land lady said “people live here for the park”.  She was right.  At the entrance to the park is a brick wall and a sign:

owls head entrance

I’m sure most of you will recognize the standard green NYC Parks Department sign on the right, but what about the “EWB” metal sign on the left?  What’s that about?  These are some of the original gates from when the park was known as “Bliss Park”, named after Eliphalet William Bliss, in the late 1800’s.  These gates were supposedly found “in storage” and were re-installed in 2002.  The park has an interesting history.  Rather than recount it for you, here’s a link that takes it back all the way to the beginning:

http://bklynr.com/the-forgotten-history-of-the-owls-head/

Once you enter at that gate, ahead of you is a grand sloping hill –

owls head hill

Roxy loves that hill.  Please don’t tell NYPD, but sometimes I let her off the leash to let her run up.  That oddly shaped tall pine on the right might just be my favorite in the park.  There were more trees on the top of the hill, but sadly we lost many with Hurricane Sandy.  This hill is a very popular place to go sledding in the winter.

Continuing to the right are the basketball courts.  This little guy makes sure that no one cheats:

owls head owl

Continuing a little further on the left is one of the largest skate parks in the city.  On weekends, the place is packed.  At 11am on a school day – not so much:

owls head skate park

From there, you can take the path up the large hill.  On our way up, this “thing” came out of nowhere and swooped right in front of us.  Scared the bejesus out of us!  This “thing” was a huge, gorgeous red tailed hawk who then flew up into the tree ahead of us.  We watched him for awhile and then he took off, making several loops around the terrace.  “The Terrace” – the area at the top of the hill that has recently undergone a renovation which included re-doing the pavers and the benches.  I can often be found up there, reading or doing work in the shade:

owls head terrace

Once you get to the other side of the terrace, you’re at the back end of the hill, overlooking the water.

owls head overlooking water

On the left side, you can just see the 69th Street Pier.  The land on the other side of the water is Staten Island and the orange boats are the ferries.  To the right of Staten Island is New Jersey (which you really can’t see in the picture) and the Statue of Liberty.

So then following the grass, you end up at the bottom of the hill, and the beginning of Shore Road.  Shore Road is the “Fifth Ave” of Bay Ridge.  I’ve even heard it referred to as Bay Ridge’s “Magnificent Mile”.  So we turn left on Shore (the only way you can go) and we head to our next stop, the Narrows Botanical Gardens (NBG).

lily pond

Walking along Shore Road to the main entrance of NBG, you come across this lily pond.  It is the only street side lily pond in the city.  Every year the NBG stocks it with fish and water lilies.  All of my pictures of water lilies are from this garden.  It’s so peaceful and beautiful.  Soon they will remove the plants and the fish and it will be a hollow shell (actually an old children’s sand box) for the winter.

The main entrance for the NBG is on the west side of Shore Road where 71st Street ends – directly across from Xaverian High School.  The entrance has this beautiful wrought iron gate and a path through the trees.  Beyond, you can see the harbor and Staten Island:

entrance NBG

Once you walk down that path, turn right, and you’re at “the loop” (another spot where Roxy can run in endless circles).  The wood fencing usually isn’t there, but they had their fall festival last week and the fence has not yet been removed.

NBG loop

On the north and south ends are the rose beds.  The west side is the “fragrant walk”, which has some of the most fragrant flowers I’ve EVER smelled.  I call this garden “mine”.  I’m here all the time.  I really don’t know what I would do without it – my sanctuary.

Once we loop around, we’re back at 71st and Shore Road.  When you’re exiting the garden, on the south east corner of 71st and Shore is this lovely apartment building – and on the right, what it looked like in 1936:

71 and shore      71 and shore 1936

I love its Tudor-ness.  I’m a sucker for it.

Continuing south on Shore Road, the houses start to grow and we start to get into Magnificent Mile territory.  But first, we approach 80th Street, where we find a house with a windmill

Windmill on shore

Cute, right?

But now we turn onto 80th into an area that is my favorite.  Halfway down 80th Street, there is a street called Harbor View Terrace – which is two blocks long (between 80 & 82) and has the most magnificent Tudor-esque houses you’ll see anywhere (excluding England).  All of these are on Harbor View:

Harbor View  Harbor View 2

Harbor View 3  Harbor View 4

Harbor View 5

And I’m not the only one who’s madly in love with these houses.  There were signs up on the telephone poles and trees saying that “Blue Bloods” was taping there – just a few hours after our walk.

So we continued to 82nd Street and headed west back to Shore Road.  Interestingly, Harbor View Terrace has no view of the Harbor.  It’s Shore Road that has the water view.  There are two dead end streets on the west side of Harbor View – and the houses at the dead ends have a view…a gorgeous view.

So now we’re back on Shore Road, headed north towards home.  These are the mansions that overlook the water.  They’re all built on the “hill”, or the Ridge from where the area got it name. All of these are on Shore, between 82nd and about 79th.  The first one is a ranch style home that always reminds me of the house on “The Brady Bunch”:

ranch on shore  houses on shore 1

In the picture on the right, there is a white house on the left.  This is one of the houses that is on one of the dead end streets off of Harbor View Terrace.  Those end houses face sideways, so the sides of the house get the Harbor View.

And then continuing northward:

houses on shore 2  houses on shore 3

houses on shore 4  houses on shore 5

houses on shore 6

A pretty special part of the world.  And with that, we headed back home, feeling very accomplished.  And though we’ve walked every street block, there are still some things I want to show you – so stay tuned! 🙂

Day 17 – Friday, September 25, 2015

“Prime Bay Ridge – Part 1”

Real estate agents call it “Prime Bay Ridge” – the area between 75th (Bay Ridge Parkway) and 86th(ish) Streets, from Shore Road to Ridge (ish).  The area seems to expand and contract based on the real estate agent’s needs.  The area closest to Shore Road being the most exclusive.  I call it “expensive suburbia”.

If you look at my map (today’s color is dark blue):

Bay Ridge Map

you’ll see that I focused on the “prime blocks” of 76th to 91st, between Narrows and Shore Road.  That’s only one “avenue” block, but quite a number of streets – for a grand total of about 7.5 miles.  Oh, and check out how few blocks I have left to do!

We headed south on Narrows, and once we hit the new territory (76th Street), we would turn left down a street and head to Colonial.  Then we’d cross the street and and walk the opposite side of the street back to Narrows.  We ended up doing each street block twice.  Roxy doesn’t like walking the same block twice.  I don’t think she’s talking to me anymore.

The further south you go, the bigger the houses get.  This monster (I mean mansion) on Narrows Ave just before 77th Street was an abandoned lot when we moved here.

narrows bet 76 & 77

There is also an entrance on 77th.  I don’t know which is the main entrance.  You can look at the car on the street to give you a sense of scale.  But to have so many windows…!

Turning left on 77th Street, we come across the more typical houses that are on the street blocks in the 70’s.  Some are single family, some are duplexes.  These blocks remind me of Suburbia, USA:

77 street

One of my favorite houses in the neighborhood is on 79th between Narrows and Colonial.  I love it’s mixture of “farm” and “city”, and in the summer the wisteria grows through the pergola style roof.  It also has an interesting shape – that’s I think what reminds me of a farmhouse.  If anyone’s wondering what to get me for my big birthday in a few years…:

79 bet narrows and colonial     79 bet narrows and colonial 2

Turning back onto Narrows, the houses start to get bigger.  And as we hit the next few blocks, the houses on the streets start to grow.  Lots start to grow.  And suddenly – for only a few blocks – you’re walking in the middle of one of the wealthiest areas around.

And as we turn onto Narrows, we start to do something we haven’t done in awhile – walk up and down hills.  This part of the neighborhood is hilly in spots.  This group of houses on Narrows between 79th and 81st is situated high on the hill.  I bet the other sides of the houses have great views of the water.

narrows bet 79 & 82

The house that is in between those two trees is my favorite.  It has this Italian villa feel to it.

As we turn down 80th, you’ll see that the houses get bigger still, a little more spread out, and have some nicely well-manicured lawns:

80 lawns between narrows and colonial

And then we come back to Narrows, and that’s when the beauty, size and scale of the residences really shine.  It’s hard to tell from this picture:

narrows at 81

but that brick house is quite large and really marks the beginning of the grand homes. This one makes me think of the brick houses that I hear are in the south.

And then we turn onto 81st Street.  The street seems to open up.  We are awash in sunlight, amongst the multi-multi million dollar homes.  A Maserati was parked in a driveway.  I had never seen greener grass.  Or felt more out of place.  These are all on 81st Street.  The first two are neighbors, just as they are below:

81 bet narrows and colonial white slate     81 bet narrows and colonial

I love the shape and “Tudorness” of the one on the left.  It’s hard to see here, but it has a gorgeous slate roof.

A bit further down the block:

81 bet narrows and colonial 3

There’s another, larger home directly across the street from this one that I did not take a picture of.  The homeowners were outside and taking a picture would not have been appropriate.  Suffice to say, the others paled in comparison to “photo not available”.

And then on 82nd Street:

82 street

another granddaddy of a house.  I should also mention that most of these houses have patios and pools in the back.  They’re usually fenced in and you can only catch a glimpse of what’s going on back there by looking up the driveways and catching a break in the fence.

Heading back towards Narrows, I should mention that the Gingerbread House (scroll back a couple of posts) is located on Narrows between 82nd and 83rd – so right about where we are now.

It’s funny – it’s not that I’m in awe of the size of the houses, their beauty, their land, their weird ornamental fountains;  but I’m surprised that they’re HERE.  In New York City.  When you think of NYC, you think (or at least I did) of Times Square, the people, the congestion, the high rises, the fast pace of it all.  Here it’s different.  There’s still a good deal of wealth, but there are homes, and yards, and water, and peace.  I don’t think I saw more than 5 people in the whole 4 hours we were out today, and one of them was a bus driver waiting for his next route to begin.  That’s what draws me here.  To the peace and quiet within NYC.  It exists.  You just need to find it.  Like this guy:

sad angel 83

He’s on 83rd.  He sits in a peaceful state on top of a brick entryway.  He’s found his peace.  Either that or he’s pissed he couldn’t see the Pope.

The area between 83rd and 85th gets a little wonky with Ft. Hamilton High School in the way.  I’ve already shown you a picture of the front, but here is one of the back, taken from a walkway that is essentially Narrows Ave, connecting 83rd & 85th Streets (there is no 84th because of the school):

back ft hamilton hs

I like the back of this building more than the front.  When they added on to the school, they put the addition on the front.  It’s not as clean looking as it is from the back.  I was surprised to see that we could walk right up to it in the middle of a school day.  Perhaps the back is less guarded.

Now that we’re south of the school, the houses start to get smaller, and we return back to a more “normal” type of block.  Between here and 88th Streets we’re back to the single family brick or Tudor houses, with a couple of larger ones tossed in.  Once you’re south of 88th Street you start to get into the large multi unit buildings that we wandering around on our last walk.

Off of 89th Street, there is a private, dead end street called Shore Court.  It had big “no trespassing” signs, but we were determined to head down.  Luckily it’s only a block long, so we did it with relative ease, but I have to say – I was a little nervous.  I did manage to grab a quick picture of the awfully adorable Tudor style buildings that graced both sides of the street:

Shore Ct

Where Narrows Ave and 89th Street merge (which is where the trees are in the far right corner of the picture) is another one of those “walks”.  This one is called Colonial Gardens and is right next to the white Spanish style house that I showed you when Cressa and I went on our walk.  These “walks” really remind me of the mews in London, and I would buy a house on one in a heart beat:

Colonial Gardens

After going south to 91st, we met with old territory and turned back and headed north on Shore Road.  I didn’t have a bunch of time left (I needed to be at Damon’s school at 2:30) so I decided to walk the few short blocks between Shore and Narrows, just to 83rd Street.  From there I would head back up Narrows to Xaverian.

On the corner of Shore and 86th is a home/pediatrician’s office.  I love the look, the canopy, and the corner location:

corner 86 & shore

And as we came back up Narrows, at 80th Street I was able to get a picture of one of the newer houses in the area.  It was just completed this past spring.  When we moved here a small, brick ranch house stood on the property.  It was for sale.  We talked about winning the lottery.  But someone else must have beat us to it, as they put this up in its place:

Narrows and 80

From here we headed to school to meet Damon and then home.  Roxy did not want to go to the school.  I had to pick her up and turn her left onto 71st instead of right.  We fought.  I won.

We did 7.5 miles (18,400 steps) today.  We only have a few blocks left, and then we tackle Shore Road Park.  This will be the last post for a couple of weeks, as I’m out of town beginning Tuesday, but I’m back on Columbus Day and we’ll wrap it up then!   🙂

Day 16 – Tuesday, September 22, 2015

With the cooler weather, and a shorter than usual to-do list, Roxy and I decided to hit the road a day earlier than I thought we would.  Wearing a jean jacket instead of sunscreen, we headed south down Ridge Blvd to try to finish up the area south of 92nd Street.  And guess what?  It’s time to retire that map!!

retired map

This is the map that I use to keep track of the blocks.  Steve enlarges it so that I can see ALL the streets, and I use alternating red and blue pens to keep track.  I keep notes of the pictures on it, and a fold it up (in case you couldn’t tell from the tear on the crease) and put it (and the pen) in my pocket.  When I hit new territory, I take it out and cross off each block as I finish it.  But it’s time to retire this one.  The next one has the far western portion of the neighborhood.  Bye bye map!  It’s been real.

So here is the full, updated neighborhood map.  Today’s color is dark olive green – on the SW portion of the area.

Bay Ridge Map

As you walk down Ridge (which they were repaving and scared the heck out of the dog) you come to this weird triangle where it meets Colonial/Marine.  (Colonial becomes Marine at this point).  It’s an odd little juncture, and at the northernmost end of it is this rather large house:

ridge and marine meet

It looks like it could have been an “important” house back in the day, but I have absolutely no information about it.  It’s for sale, though.  If you’re interested.

There weren’t too many new blocks to cover, and in between Marine and 3rd, it’s mainly the typical brick row houses or barrel front houses.  This adorable brick home is located on 97th Street.  It’s hard to see in the picture, but again, there are some sort of stained glass crests in the front windows:

97 bet 3 and marine

After zig zagging for a few blocks, we found ourselves at the very end of 3rd Ave – facing the bridge:

end of 3 ave

So now it was time to turn up Shore Road and work our way back north (towards home), filling in the areas between Shore Road and Marine Ave.  On the corner of 99th Street and Shore Road is Xaverian’s “Sister School”,  Fontbonne Hall Academy:

Fontbonne

This building has a history.  It was the home of “Diamond Jim” Brady and actress Lillian Russell.  From the “Images of America:  Bay Ridge” series:

old Fontbonne  Fontbonne 1930

The photo on the left is from 1912, and the one on the right is from 1930.

This lower section of Shore Road is where you can find the large apartment (maybe condo) complexes.  They range in height from 6-8 stories.  Some are new, some are old.  Some are huge complexes taking up entire city blocks and have manicured grounds.  Some are tall and narrow and have no grounds.  And a good deal of them are Art Deco.  I’ve decided that when I’m ready to downsize and move into a building, THIS is where we’re going to go.

As we turned down 95th Street, we came across this beauty:

119 95 st   119 95 st side

This is 119 95th Street.  It is also referred to as the Farrell House. It was originally built around 1845 and was declared a landmark in 1999.  It originally faced west overlooking the bay.  The house was turned to face south after Mrs. Farrell could no longer bear the grief of viewing the ships and water that had claimed the lives of her husband and son at sea.

This is an old photo (date unknown) of 95th Street, taken looking toward the Narrows where the Farrell House originally stood:

old 95 street

As I turned one of the corners, I happened to look up and saw the weirdest thing:

weird addition

It seems to be some sort of addition on the roof of that building that has some sort of other mis-matched structure on top of it.  Any thoughts as to what it might be?

And then before I knew it, we were back at the corner of 92nd St and Colonial, where Cressa and I started the other day.  At the corner is one of the smaller, Tudor-style apartment buildings.  Pretty cool:

Alan Abby

So we followed Colonial back up to the house.  Once Roxy was headed towards home (and she DOES know where home is) she picked up the pace and it was a straight shot home.  A great 4 hour, 7 mile walk.  There’s a great sense of satisfaction knowing that from here on out, we’re north of 92nd, and much closer to home.  The end is in sight!  🙂

Day 15 – Saturday, September 19, 2015

Human companionship!

Meet Cressa:

cressas feet

Cressa is a friend of mine and fellow stage manager.  She originally hails from the state of Washington.  I’ve known her for a little over a year, and it seems like every time we chat, we discover we have one more thing in common – the latest being old books and the subway system.  Since Cressa was joining me, we chose a “highlight” route.  I wanted to show her the neighborhood in it’s full glory, and if that means a circuitous route, so be it.  The humans were very excited for this walk; the canine not as much.  I think she’s a little angry at me.

Today’s map color is orange.

Bay Ridge Map

You’ll see that we left from my house and walked west towards Shore Road and the water.  There was a desire (on both our parts) to see a combination of the larger homes as well as the history of Ft. Hamilton.  I wanted to save Shore Road for a walk of its own, so I didn’t take many pictures.  I plan on doing a full “Shore Road” walk later, so you may get some repeat info – sorry for that.

We started over 71st Street to Shore Road, right next to Xaverian High School.  They were having their car wash fundraiser.  Silly kids offered to wash the dog!  Over the years I’ve taken seemingly millions of photos of that corner, as that’s where I enter the Narrows Botanical Gardens.  So here’s a photo of the corner that you likely haven’t seen – from the “Images of America:  Bay Ridge” book:

71 and shore 1936

This is a shot taken in 1936 – where 71st Street dead ends into the Narrows Botanical Garden.  Where the photo ends at the bottom left corner is Xaverian High School.  The bottom right corner is the garden.  As we started our walk, this was our view some 79 years later.  I can say that the trees grew a lot over the past 79 years!  The apartment building in the photo is still there and looks pretty much the same.

Next stop on the tour is quite probably my favorite section of the neighborhood – between 80th & 82nd Street, and between Shore Road and Narrows Ave are 2 dead end streets (Colonial Court and Harbor Lane).  They are connected to a small road called Harbor View Terrace.  Those three streets have the most amazing houses.  The very last houses on Colonial Court and Harbor Lane have stunning views of the water.  The houses are situated sideways and are tucked away on the land at the top of the hill.  I don’t have any pictures (yet – saving for Shore Road walk) but I did take a photo of the map so that you could get a sense of the size of the lots.  In this “zoomed in” picture, it’s interesting to see how the sizes of the houses change and how much land each house has, as opposed to neighboring blocks, where the houses are attached and yards are “shared”:

computer screen map

On Narrows Ave, between 82nd & 83rd Streets (taking up the length of the block) is my favorite house in all of Bay Ridge.  The “Gingerbread House”:

Gingerbread house

At first, I thought *I* gave it that nickname.  But as I’ve been doing more reading and research, I’ve learned that, well, pretty much everyone calls it that.  It’s made entirely of stone,and has the most amazing rounded roof.  A stone fence lines the perimeter of the property.  They plant the geraniums every year.  It’s been on and off the market for years.

Here is a link to a NY Curbed article about the house.  The article also has pictures of the interior:

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/05/14/nycs_insanely_adorable_gingerbread_house_returns_for_105m.php

I have a pretty significant birthday coming up in about 4 years, if anyone is wondering what to get…

Continuing on:

The property across 83rd Street from the Gingerbread House is Fort Hamilton High School.  Fort Hamilton HS is the main HS in this area.  That land that it was built on was where the old Crescent Clubhouse stood.  The first Davis Cup tennis match was played there, with President Theodore Roosevelt in attendance.  Here is a picture of the Crescent Clubhouse:

Crescent clubhouse

which was torn down to make way for Fort Hamilton High School in 1941:

ft hamilton hs 1941

and where some of Damon’s friends attend school today:

ft hamilton hs

It doesn’t look like it’s changed too much over the past 75 years or so.

Continuing south on Shore Road, we came to a house that has intrigued me for as long as I’ve lived here.  It’s a white, “Spanish-style” house that looks like nothing else in the area:

spanish house

It needs some work, but it looks like it could have been something very special long ago.  Maybe Don Quixote lived there or something.  Do you see the taller building to the right of it?  That is actually one of two buildings that are now the Shore Hill Towers Senior Center:

senior center

Those towers were built around 1960, when the old Shore Road Hospital (at 91st and Shore) was razed.  The Shore Road Hospital was a converted mansion:

shore road hospital

I’m sure that the mansion and later the hospital was too small to meet the needs of the neighborhood.  But it saddens me to see such beautiful architecture being torn down in favor of the newer, nondescript towers.  That’s quite a mansion.

Once we made it to 92nd Street, we crossed over the 92nd Street footbridge and walked along the water (crossing underneath the Verrazano Narrows Bridge) and back up to 101st Street and John Paul Jones Park.  The park is also known as “Cannonball Park” as it has a cannon and cannonballs there.  It is also at the west end of the entrance to Ft. Hamilton Army Base.

Cannonball park

Blocked by the cannon, this a close-up of the base of the monument:

cannonball park monument base

The cannon is an 1865 Rodman Gun.  Here are a few pictures.  The one on the left from 1952 and the one on the right is from 1970:

Cannonball park 1952  Cannonball park 1970

Again, it still looks pretty much the same today.  One of the interesting things about Cannonball Park (aside from the artillery) is that you can stand at the top of the “hill” (more like a very slight incline) and you can see the open water of the ocean and the beginning of the Narrows.  It’s from that location where you can really understand the importance of Fort Hamilton and the securing of our waterways.  You can track how easily ships can get from the ocean, up through the Narrows, and to the Hudson and East Rivers and to Manhattan.  Keep up the good work, Fort Hamilton!

Now we’re into “new territory” for the walk – the area between 101st and 95th Streets, between 3rd and 4th Aves.  It’s a little less “new territory” than usual, but it was hotter than we thought, and Roxy’s not having too much of this today.  We were getting the side eye and sometimes had to drag her along.

On 97th Street, between 3rd and 4th Aves we found a street sign that said “Barwell Terrace”.  Not only had I never heard of that street, I couldn’t FIND a street!  We looked around a bit and found a small (4-6 steps) staircase that looked like it led to a house.  Oh no, my friends – at the top of the steps is a little patch of greenway, with houses on either side.  Think of the “walks” on 94th Street, or the mews in London:

Barwell Terrace

That picture was taken from the top of the stairs.  There are more houses on the right, but they’re obscured by the tree.

We continued zigging and zagging, looking at the different architecture, questioning the crests in the stained glass, comparing neighborhoods, and finding cool blocks – like this one one Marine Ave (which becomes Colonial Road):

marine ave tudor building

We both love the Tudor style buildings and for a brief moment we both thought we could have been in England again.  England or 4 blocks from the R train?  You tell me.

When we made it to “old territory” we were at 95th Street, where 4th and 5th Aves meet.  From there I was able to show Cressa the sites from the last walk where “Saturday Night Fever” was filmed:  Kelly’s, The Grand Union (now Staples), the coffee shop (now car dealership), and my favorite sign: “hyperactive driveway”.  And of course my second favorite sign:

Bay ridge sign

Getting hot, needing water, and in fear of killing Roxy, we decided to head home.  Cressa’s heard about the Bay Ridge restaurants so we chose to walk up 3rd Ave.  When we hit 79th Street it hit me!  Bam!  I could show her the house in “Saturday Night Fever” that was Tony’s.

SaturdayNightFever_house

That was what it looked like in the movie.  And today:

221 79 street (snf)

A bit of a renovation…

From there we walked Ridge Blvd to 74th, showed Cressa the huge mansions on the top of the hill and then walked down the stairs to Colonial, and back to home.  Whew!  What a great day!  All told, it was about 18,000 steps and 7.5 miles.  That’s (2) 7 mile walks for Roxy and me this week.  I’m thrilled!  This is Roxy’s opinion:

Roxy 920

I’m going to give her a couple of days off, so we’ll walk again towards the end of next week.  And by my best calculations, we only have 2 or 3 more walks to go!  🙂

Day 14 – Wednesday, September 16, 2015

19,124 steps

7.88 miles

1 tired dog.

1 tired human.

So tired (and behind schedule) that I couldn’t write yesterday after our walk.  By the time we got home (walked from 10am-3pm) I needed to catch up on everything I didn’t do: shower, run errands, and then do the prep work for the actual writing.  “What prep work?” you might ask?  Updating the map, going through the pictures, going through the “history” book, making sure that I have the locations correct, etc.  Who knew that there would be more to this than just walking?

Check out this map!

Bay Ridge Map

Look at all that new blue at the south and west!  And check this out – instead of starting down Colonial, like usual, I switched it up a bit.  We left from the Narrows Botanical Garden (my haven of peace) and started south through the Shore Road Park system – a string of parks along the bay.  At 80th Street, we crossed over the Belt Parkway and walked along the Promenade to the 92nd Street footbridge.  92nd Street being the street I left off at on the last walk (and also one of 4 places to cross over).  From the top of the 92nd Street footbridge, you can get a nice view of the Verrazano Narrows and the VN Bridge.  Beyond the bridge is open water.  It was a glorious morning!

Verrazano from 92

The easiest way to get to the eastern side of the neighborhood from here (the far west side) is to cross straight over 92nd Street.  Roxy thought that was a good plan, so that’s what we did.  As we walked from west to east, you could see the neighborhood change.  It goes from large homes with manicured lawns to smaller, almost bungalow style homes.

This beauty is on 92nd between Ridge Blvd and 3rd Ave.

doll house 92 bet ridge and 3

It reminds me of an overgrown Victorian doll house.  I love it, but it’s a little too big for me.

At 3rd Ave we start to hit the restaurants and delis and butchers and all things delicious.  Quiz:  Which ethnic group is predominant in this area of the neighborhood?

Answer:

fire hydrant

Hysterical, right?  Seconded by the Greeks, though I have yet to find their painted hydrants.

As we’re now in the section of “new territory”, Roxy and I start zigzagging through the 90’s between 3rd and 4th.

It’s interesting to see the neighborhood as it changes, and to see what those changes are.  Here’s a great example of a smaller, older “bungalow style” house.  It’s in need of a renovation, but you can get the sense of what it used to be:

small white house 93 bet 3 and 4

And directly across the street, you have the renovated brownstones:

new construction 93 bet 3 and 4

A mixture of old and new – right across the street.

And then once you get one more block west, you get to this:

end of the R line

Quite literally, the end of the line.  And we’re not all the way south yet.  On the R, the line ends about 7 blocks from the end of the earth.  And the R line is the only one to serve the neighborhood.  It keeps our rent down.

This area of the neighborhood has both cultural and historical significance.  The 1977 hit movie “Saturday Night Fever” was set and filmed here.  I’m not gonna lie.  I sometimes sing “Staying Alive” as I’m walking down the street.

4th and 5th Avenues meet at 95th Street.  In this 2 or 3 block area, there are several SNF (Saturday Night Fever) locations.  The first is Kelly’s Tavern.

kellys tavern front  back of kellys

(picture on the left is the front of the building on 4th Ave, and on the right is the back of the building on 5th Ave)

And here is a shot of it from the movie:

Kellys Tavern Saturday Night fever

Directly across 5th Ave, is the location of the Grand Union.  From the movie:

Grand Union Saturday Night Fever

And today:

Staples 1  Staples 2

Yup.  The Grand Union has become a Staples.  I’m there A LOT.  I’m sort of like Norm from “Cheers”.

I did not take a picture of the third location, but the coffee shop that they’re sitting in (in the photo of the Grand Union) is now a car dealership.  I forgot to take a picture.  Mostly because “why take a picture of a car dealership?”

And there is also the historical significance.  This is part of the neighborhood is called “Fort Hamilton”, as the Fort Hamilton Army Base is located at the southernmost part of the land.  Fort Hamilton has been (and still is) instrumental in securing our waterways.

Here is a link to the Fort Hamilton’s Webpage giving the history of the Fort:

http://www.hamilton.army.mil/History.aspx

The first bit of history on my little 8 mile stroll started with this – a monument right in the little triangle where 4th and 5th Aves meet.  This monument is a World War 1 memorial, and was dedicated in the 1920’s.

ft hamilton monument  WW1 dedication

The photo on the left was taken by me yesterday.  The photo on the right was taken at the dedication ceremony in 1920.  Directly behind the monument (in my picture) is the car dealership that used to be the coffee shop in Saturday Night Fever.  In the photo on the right, there is a large white building just beyond the monument.  That house is now the site of the Staples store.

My favorite sign is spray painted on the sidewalk on 5th Ave, between 94 & 95 Streets.  It’s actually painted twice – once in each direction:

fave sign 5 bet 94 and 95

“Hyper-Active Driveway”!  Hysterical.  Every time I see it, I say “do you need Ritalin?”  And then I laugh.  And then people look at me weirdly.

We reach the furthest eastern road, Fort Hamilton Parkway.  It runs N/S and directly over parts of it is the entranceway to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  It’s very noisy over there.   Cars, trucks, dogs barking (yes, a dog was on the upper porch of a house, barking at Roxy, scaring the bejesus out of her) – all sounds blend into one loud hum.  Along the eastern side of Ft. Hamilton Parkway is a fairly run down park, John J. Carty Park.  It also has a few scenes in SNF – basketball scenes.  Photo not available (more accurately “photo not taken”).

We continued walking down Ft. Hamilton Parkway, and on the corner at 99th Street, is St. John’s Episcopal Church.  It’s an adorable small structure and reminds me of the Tudor style architecture that is prevalent in the neighborhood.

St Johns Episcopal church

And I love the cobalt blue in the signs.  Hard to see in the picture, though.  Roxy and I got closer to investigate, and we found a historical description of the church, in the form of a plaque on the corner:

St. John's sign

I’ll let it speak for itself, but the list of Generals who worshipped there is quite impressive.  More impressive, I think, is the next thing I found on the grounds – this tree:

St Johns tree

In case it’s too small to read, the larger sign says:  “This tree was planted by General Robert Edward Lee while stationed at Fort Hamilton from 1842-1847.  The tree has been restored and this tablet placed upon it by the New York Chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy April 1912.”

The smaller sign says:  “This tree replaces the old one on this site.  New York Division U.D.C. 1935”.  This has, naturally, rekindled my love of history.  I now need to go back and read about Lee and his time in NY.  Thanks, tree!

So we continued to the very end of Fort Hamilton Parkway (at 101st Street – the last street) and came to the entrance of (you guessed it) Ft. Hamilton:

entrance to Ft Hamilton

I’ve been “on base” once to take Damon to a dance when he was in 8th grade.  I’ve always wanted to go and wander around.  If you click on the link above, there are, in addition to the history, some great pictures.  I’ve heard that it’s not too hard to get on base.  Once my walk is done (and I don’t have Roxy with me) I’ll try and do that.  It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me.  One can see the backs of buildings if you’re driving along the Belt Parkway, but I’ve never been able to see the fronts.  There will be more info coming on the area around Ft. Hamilton coming soon!

By now, we’re dragging, almost out of water and ready to get home.  But we’re a good 40-45 minutes away.  Roxy lied down in the middle of the sidewalk for awhile.  I checked my phone.  We need a better system in getting home.  I guess we just have to wait this out… so we wait…. and wait…and finally Roxy pops up, as if to say “OK Mom, I’m ready!”  So we take 101st Street to 4th Ave and continue zig zagging, filling in the unseen streets, and doubling back.  It’s the doubling back that kills us.

As we head back west, we get to 95th St and 4th Ave (again) but here we’re able to get a great shot of St. Patrick’s Church:

St Patricks church

It’s a huge, beautiful building and one of the main Catholic churches in the area.  They also have their own elementary school.

And as we continued west, we walked along 94th Street.  There are two “walks” on 94th Street.  A “walk” is a walkway, with houses along each side.

Lafayette Walk  Hamilton walk

The photo on the left is Lafayette Walk and the one on the right is Hamilton Walk.  I think that the owners of the houses on Lafayette Walk got tired of people like me taking pictures of their cute places and put up large fences and shrubs.  Hamilton Walk give you a better idea of what they actually look like.

We continued 94th Street to Marine Ave (which becomes Colonial) and took it all the way home.  We were tired.  Roxy was probably thinking that I was trying to kill her.  We had a great day.  So much fun seeing the diversity of the area, the culture, the history all wrapped up into one.  🙂

Day 13 – Saturday, September 12, 2015

I’m BAA-AACK!!!

Far, far too much time has passed between walks.  Between the hot weather, the “Great College Tour of 2015” (driving not walking  – though I could have walked through Connecticut faster) and then the rain; walking was nearly impossible.  But now that we’re settled into the school year and the weather is finally cooperating, I’ll be hitting the road more regularly.

I’m still finishing up on the eastern side of the neighborhood, from 3rd Ave east to the highway; all the way south to 92nd Street.  It’s still taking me about 30-40 minutes to walk to that area before I actually “start walking”.  But now the neighborhood “narrows” and isn’t as wide from east to west.  Today’s section is the red/orange on the map:

Bay Ridge Map

This area is a pretty even mix of car dealerships, restaurants, and residences.  The car dealerships are nothing to write home about.  Bay Ridge Honda is probably the biggest.  The restaurants are also starting to look the same.  I did say to my human companion (Steve (photo not available)) that we should try some of the restaurants south of 86th Street.  They look tasty.  My canine companion (Roxy (you’ve seen plenty of photos)) picked up a delicious food scent outside of Cebu.  We’ll have to try that some day.

As we were walking around 4th Ave and 89/90 Streets, we found this little street, “Forest Place” that runs diagonally behind a car dealership.  There are 2 large houses on the street, which seems to be in the middle of the dealership’s parking lot:

Forest Place

Which came first?  The dealership or the houses?

Once we finished north of 92nd Street, we headed on home – zig zagging 89-92 Streets to Ridge Blvd.  On the blocks between 89 & 91 Streets, and between Colonial and Ridge, stands Visitation Academy.

Visitation Academy 1  Visitation Academy 2

Visitation Academy is a Catholic girls schools, from nursery school to 8th grade.  It’s a huge, imposing building.  Only the Ridge Blvd. side of the “compound” is visible.  the rest is walled in by a huge concrete wall.  There is no way to see inside.  Come to think of it, in all the times I’ve walked past, I’ve never seen anyone on the grounds – except for the guy sitting on the stairs in the picture.  I know that the school is still in use, but the whole thing remains a mystery.

Directly across the street (on Ridge) is the cutest section of row houses.  They have somewhat of a “southern” feel to me.  I wouldn’t say “no” to any of them:

Ridge bet 89 and 90

Cute, right?

And with that, we headed down 91st to Colonial, and then to home.  We’re all a bit tuckered out, but boy oh boy was it good to get out and about again.

It’s great to be back with you all again! 🙂

Day 12 – Sunday, August 9, 2015

What a beautiful day to get back to walking!  The clouds were light and fluffy and there was a nice cool breeze as we headed out the door.  Knowing that the next few weeks are jam packed with college visits and vacation, I was determined to get as much walking in as possible.

The best laid plans….

Good intentions….

We headed east – to the eastern boundary of the neighborhood.  To the area we seldom visit, as it takes far too long to get there.  Essentially we walked for 45 mins (each way) to cover a grand total of…wait for it…wait for it…about 30 blocks.  From here on out, everywhere we go will be closer to home.  Don’t get me wrong – I was thrilled to be on the road again, and happy to be in an area I rarely see.  But for the almost 4 hours and 7 miles of walking, I would have liked to cover more than 30 blocks.  Today’s walk is in the light purple on the east side of the highway.

Bay Ridge Map

As you can see, we didn’t cover too much new ground.  But what we saw was awfully cute.  It’s a bit loud on some of the streets, as they border the highway, but at the same time there is also some seclusion.  There is  definitely a “can’t get there from here” feel to it.  Streets dead end.  Others are service roads to exit ramps.  And there are only a few places (92 and 86th Streets) where you can cross over the highway.

7th Ave is the official “border” of the neighborhood.  The Dyker Heights Golf Course is on the other side of 7th Ave.  Roxy wanted to run around on the greens.  Nope. Silly dog.  They do have a nice dog park in the corner of the park, by Nathan’s, but the dogs that frequent that run are on the larger side and guess who’s chicken?

So we didn’t visit the dog park, and instead covered the main streets of Parrott Place (yes, it really does have 2 P’s), Battery Ave, and Dahlgren Place.  At first I thought Parrott Place would win the award for “cutest”, but I was mistaken.

Parrot Place

Cute, right?  Nice homes, well kept, quiet area.  But then later I turned up Battery Ave and stumbled upon these even cuter places:

Battery Ave 1

Adorable.  Not to be outdone are the places directly across the street:

Battery Ave 2

I like those little round rooms in the front.  They’re everywhere in the neighborhood, and I want one.  Maybe Santa will bring me one for Christmas (along with my new chair for the booth).

I am continually surprised by the diversity in the architecture of the neighborhood.  The houses in these two photos are directly across the street from one another.  Did one architect design one side of the street and then another one do the other side?  Were they built at the same time?  When?   I’m also surprised that this is NYC at all.   As a kid I traveled into Manhattan and thought that every part of NYC looked like Midtown.  Skyscrapers.  Billboards.  Traffic.  Now that I live in an “outer borough” (and at the far end of it) I am seeing my perceptions of NYC change.  The areas are neighborhoods.  People have houses.  Drive cars.  There are beaches.  There are actually LOTS of beaches.  The eye care place on the corner knows who I am when I go to pick up Damon’s contacts.  I like the “small town” feel that this section of Brooklyn has.

Further to the south, there are two areas that I desperately want to explore, but that are not open to the public.  One is Poly Prep School.  Roxy made some new friends through the fence:

Poly prep  Poly prep ducks

She watched them for awhile as I tried to figure out a way to get to the second place we can’t get to:  Fort Hamilton Army Base.  Fort Hamilton was established in 1825 to serve as part of the New York Harbor defense system.  I’ve been on the base once to take Damon to a school event at the officer’s club, but I needed special permission to do that.  There will be more on Fort Hamilton later when I get to the very end of my walk…you’ll see why…stay tuned!

Until then, here’s one more shot of the city’s most treasured (and most expensive) bridges – taken from 92 Street, where you can cross over the highway.  🙂

Verrazano 92 Street