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New York City Off The Beaten Path: 989 reviews and 1,302 photos
Chris in the Ground Force Garden
Viewers of the BBC TV programme “Ground Force” may remember that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks the team went to New York to help create a garden for local communities in one of its less affluent areas. The area was the Lower East Side, and the garden they created is still there in Suffolk Street. It’s a little more overgrown than when they left it, and maybe not as well-tended as they may have wanted it to be, but it seems that it’s still well-loved and appreciated. A notice on the gate gave information about volunteering to contribute to its upkeep by doing some of the gardening and/or donating plants. And the website below describes some of the ways in which the garden benefits the community:
“the space is a lively community gathering spot for local families, the daycare, and workers on their lunch breaks. The neighborhood hosts three street fairs annually, with the garden as the focal point of the celebrations. The garden and its garden casita are the setting for barbecues and many other community activities.”
The garden was created as part of the New York Restoration Project, founded by Bette Midler, which aims to restore, develop and revitalise underserved parks, community gardens and other open spaces in New York City. The organisation believes “that every individual has the right to a beautiful neighbourhood and the responsibility for contributing to its care”. This spirit certainly seems to be alive in Suffolk Street.
At the north end of Suffolk Street, near E. Housten St. Nearest subway is probably Lower East Side / 2nd Avenue (lines F & V) or you could catch a bus down Lexington
CBGB stands for “Country, Blue Grass, and Blues”, but this venue became famous in the 1970s for playing a very different musical style, punk. Indeed many people consider this the birthplace of New York Punk. Many of the bands Chris and I listened to as students made their names here (the Ramones, Television, the Patti Smith Group, Blondie) so it was in something of a spirit of pilgrimage that we headed for the Bowery to seek it out. Unfortunately, though, the venue closed a couple of years ago. The final concert was performed by Patti Smith on Sunday October 15th 2006. Nowadays the building houses a vintage clothing and record store, but the owners have carefully preserved some of the original features (including a wall plastered with playbills from the club's 10th anniversary shows in 1983 that were discovered during redecoration - see photo 3) and have created something of a shrine to that era.
Next door, in a building also previously owned by CBGBs, is Morrison Hotel, a gallery devoted to music photography, where we saw an interesting exhibition of photographs by Dave Stewart (ex Eurythmics).
315 Bowery, New York 10003
On the east side of Bowery between Houston and Bleecker Streets. Nearest subway stations are at 2nd Avenue (line F) or Bleecker (line 6)
Welcome to Brooklyn
DUMBO is an acronym for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass” and has nothing to do with Walt Disney’s elephant! It is a fascinating part of Brooklyn to visit if you want to see a neighbourhood in transition. What is happening here once happened in various parts of Manhattan such as SoHo and Greenwich Village. This was once an area full of old, decaying factories and lofts, commonly known as Vinegar Hill. Now these are being transformed in to apartments and galleries, and artists are deserting SoHo, TriBeca and Greenwich Village, where rents are becoming prohibitively high, crossing the East River and taking up residence here.
At one time, a small railroad operated along the streets of DUMBO. This Jay Street Connecting Railroad, which served industry and factories in the area, ceased operations in 1958, as trucks increasingly became the dominant form of shipping transportation in the New York City area, but you can still spot its tracks along many of the neighbourhood’s cobbled streets.
Take a walk along Water Street to see some of these tracks and a derelict tobacco warehouse (now part of the Empire-Fulton Street State Park and a popular filming location). You might also like to sample the great coffee and pastries at a small bakery and café along there, where we spent a pleasant and relaxing half hour. The area also has several good restaurants and some smart galleries, both commercial and not-for-profit. We didn’t find the time to explore properly but will definitely be back here on any future visit to New York.
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge or take subway line F to York Street.
Brooklyn Bridge from Empire-Fulton Street Park
If you take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (see my Things to Do tip) you’ll see as you approach the Brooklyn side a patch of green down to your left. This is Empire-Fulton Street State Park, and just beyond it lies Brooklyn Bridge State Park. From each of these you get great views of the bridge and of the Manhattan skyline beyond, and they also provide plenty of spots in which to relax after your walk and watch the daily life of Brooklynites around you – kids playing, parents chatting, dog-walkers, older people resting on benches etc.
Your first challenge though is getting to the parks as you’ll be high above them on the bridge. As you come towards its end, look for the sign pointing you to Brooklyn’s downtown area, and descend the steps to the street beneath (Prospect Street). From here head right down Fulton Street and right again into Water Street, where you’ll find the park entrances opposite each other. There’s a useful map here. Empire-Fulton Street State Park will take you closer to the bridge but we preferred the angle of view from Brooklyn Bridge State Park and it also has an interesting rocky foreshore that frames your shots well. Both though have good expanses of grass and plenty of benches on which to relax and enjoy the fantastic views.
Empire-Fulton Street State Park is currently being renovated and expanded to include an area where an old Tobacco Warehouse once stood – you can see some images on the Old NYC website. Brooklyn Bridge State Park is also a park in transition, being expanded form the little patch of green it is at present to stretch 1.3 miles along the East River from north of the Manhattan Bridge to Atlantic Avenue.
Entrance at Main and Plymouth Streets
In the White Horse Tavern
On busy Hudson Street in the West Village you will find a pub that is as much tourist sight as drinking spot, which is why I have placed it here rather than under Nightlife. The White Horse Tavern is famous as the place where Dylan Thomas drank his last whiskey. In November of 1953, he is said to have beaten his own personal record by downing eighteen shots. Soon after the last drink he stumbled outside and collapsed on the sidewalk. He was taken to the Chelsea Hotel (where he was living at the time) and there fell into a coma; the next morning he was transferred to St. Vincent’s Hospital where he died. One of the rooms here is decorated with several portraits of him, and there is also a plaque commemorating his last visit to the tavern above the bar. Later, in the early 60s, it was a favourite hang-out for the other Dylan, Bob, and other Greenwich Village musicians and writers (Jim Morrison, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S Thompson, among others).
I could easily see why Thomas would come here, as it reminded me very much of a British pub in atmosphere and décor. While today it may have lost much of its bohemian reputation (and crowd), it still appears to be a good place for a drink, with a lot of beers (on tap and bottled) and a laid-back vibe. We were here mid-afternoon, so took our bottles outside to one of the pavement tables as the bar was a bit too quiet for our liking, but I imagine that if you come in the evening you’ll find the place lively and welcoming. There is a menu of basic pub food such as burgers if you need a bite to eat too, and the prices looked reasonable.
567 Hudson St. (at 11th), New York 10014
Plaque at the Stonewall Inn
In my opinion Christopher Street and the western end of West 4th Street that intersects it are among the prettiest in Greenwich Village. Brick terraces, interesting little shops, even cobbles in places – at times it feels as if you must be somewhere in Europe. And while the energy and bustle of most of Manhattan is a major part of its attraction, it is nice now and then to find somewhere more relaxing and laid-back to explore.
But this hasn’t always been the quiet haven it is now. At number 53 Christopher Street is the Stonewall Inn, site of the infamous Stonewall riots of 1969. The following is an extract from Time Out magazine, displayed in their window and quoted on the website:
”It was 1:20 a.m. when eight cops stomped into the Stonewall Inn, a dive in Manhattan's Greenwich Village district that had no liquor license but served watery drinks to a mix of drag queens, street kids, gay professionals and closeted and straight mafiosi (who ran the place). Within two hours, the Village was bleeding and burning as hundreds rioted. How did the nightly saturnalia at Stonewall produce protests that would kick start the modern gay-rights movement? The uprising was inspirited by a potent cocktail of pent-up rage (raids of gay bars were brutal and routine), overwrought emotions (hours earlier, thousands had wept at the funeral of Judy Garland) and drugs…
Later, the deputy police inspector in charge would explain that day's impact: ‘For those of us in [the] public morals [division], things were completely changed ... Suddenly they were not submissive anymore.’ Today gays and lesbians memorialize that night each year with a weekend of rallies, parades and parties – a spectacle as inspiring and raunchy as the Stonewall itself.”
Within weeks of the Stonewall riots, Village residents organised themsleves into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested. And within two years of the riots there were gay rights groups in every major American city, as well as Canada, Australia, and Western Europe. Today a plaque on the wall of the Inn commemorates the riots and the resulting gradual relaxation of both laws and attitudes, as does the sculpture of four white figures by George Segal opposite in leafy Christopher Park. The Inn itself is a popular gay hangout and I imagine a pretty lively one, but when we passed by on a midweek afternoon it was quiet and peaceful.
North-west of Washington Square. The nearest subway stations are Christopher Street (line 1) or West 4th St / Washington Square (lots of lines)
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