Day 2302

Still at it!

April 19th, 2018

I'm still walking and posting; I'm just working through a huge backlog of photos right now. The latest posts (below) are much more recent than they appear — the dates you see are the dates I took the pictures, not the dates I published the posts.

Day 1337

On Sept. 9, 1977

August 28th, 2015

Abraham D. Beame, mayor of the City of New York, planted this tree, the first of 75 trees donated for the beautification of our community by the Third Ave. Merchants' Assoc.

The guys I ran into yesterday who were assembling the world's largest tennis ball mosaic told me about a free Songs of the Soul concert today in Manhattan. While waiting in line for the concert, I looked down at the base of an American elm on Third Avenue near 23rd Street and noticed this plaque.

Beautifying a community may seem like a joyful cause, but Mayor Beame probably wasn't in the sunniest mood during the planting ceremony. As this blog points out, September 9 was the day after he lost the Democratic mayoral primary.

Day 1336

A piece of a record

August 27th, 2015

After leaving Mount Hebron, my family and I headed to lunch at Annam Brahma, in the heart of Sri Chinmoy territory. When I saw these guys — obviously disciples of the late spiritual leader — walking down the street carrying a large panel of tennis balls, I was initially puzzled.

But then I remembered Sri Chinmoy was born on August 27. And I knew his followers, among them the world's foremost record-setter Ashrita Furman, like to set an unusual world record in his honor on his birthday each year.

This year's record? The world's largest tennis ball mosaic. 10,084 balls for the guru's 84th birthday.

His 76th birthday, the last one he was alive to see, was celebrated with a 76-foot-tall pencil that prompted a visit from the cops after it was picked up by satellite surveillance.

That's Ashrita crawling over the mosaic to smooth out the seams where the individual panels meet.

It looks to me like the mosaic is 140 x 72 balls, with one extra ball at each corner. Which does indeed add up to 10,084.

In case you're wondering, the reason I knew Sri Chinmoy was born on the 27th is that the original 1996 version of what is now the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race was 2700 miles long, a distance based on his birthday. Then he increased it to 3100 miles the following year because hey, why not, and he was born in 1931.

Day 1336

Yiddish theatrical memorial

August 27th, 2015

Today my family and I paid our annual visit to my grandparents' gravesite at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens. Afterward, we walked over to the neighboring Yiddish Theatrical Alliance section, where my aunt and uncle were delighted to discover Molly Picon is buried.

The memorial above reads:


Day 1335

The old PS 79

August 26th, 2015

Built in 1885, the former Public School 79, "a rare example of High Victorian Gothic school design in Manhattan", has been converted into an apartment building. The name of the school is still faintly legible above the main entrance.

Here's a bird's-eye view of the old school, which extends much deeper into the block than is apparent from the street. And here's a photo from 1920, shot from approximately the same angle as the one at the top of this post.

(I took these pictures down in the East Village after finishing my official walk uptown.)

Day 1335

A lush and fecund isle

August 26th, 2015

This is what late August* looks like on the artificial island built around the central pier of the Macombs Dam Bridge, one of the seven swing bridges over the Harlem River that can pivot open to allow large watercraft to pass by. Each of the seven bridges has a water-level structure that lines up with the movable span of the bridge when it's swung open, but this is the only one of those structures that is filled in with soil.

Visible in the far distance are some northern Manhattan landmarks. From left to right: the Four Sisters (Bridge Apartments), the High Bridge Water Tower, and Yeshiva University's Belfer Hall, with the High Bridge in front of it.

* You can use Street View to inspect the vegetation (or lack thereof) at various points over the past several years.

Day 1335

Scripture on Summit Ave

August 26th, 2015

Emblazoned on the wall of this apartment building (zoom in) is a somewhat abridged version of the much-debated Bible passage 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (not "II Corinthians 6:9", as the mural states).

Day 1335

As best I can tell, this imposing stone edifice on Summit Avenue was erected sometime between 1911 and 1921 by St. Alban's Episcopal Church, and it served as both house of worship and rectory. (The main entrance is on the other side, accessible via a staircase and walkway leading up from Ogden Avenue.)

Sacred Heart, a Roman Catholic parish, purchased the building in 1943 and renovated it, naming the refurbished chapel St. Eugene's. Records from that time indicate the building also contained classrooms.

Sacred Heart still owns the building today, although I'm not sure how or if it's currently being used. Until recently, it was home to the main office of the Highbridge Community Life Center, a community services organization founded by nuns that operated from the late 1970s until 2014.

The center made the news in 1987 when Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega attended a fiesta here while he was in town for the United Nations General Assembly (where he had forcefully denounced President Reagan in a speech the day before). The center's director told the NY Times: "I had heard he was looking for a place like the Bronx where he might - you know - hang out with some poor people . . . So we asked him over."

UPDATE (Aug. 24, 2017): Sacred Heart has sold the building and the surrounding lot to a developer. This is the first time in more than a century that the property has not been owned by a church.

Day 1335


August 26th, 2015

Day 1335

I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: This may be the final one of these signs that I'll see on this walk. I've covered essentially all of the substantial territory (in the Bronx and Harlem) where the hundreds of other such signs can be found, but I'll likely end up coming back a couple of more times to walk new streets/paths or little bits I've missed.

Day 1335

94-96 West 169th Street

August 26th, 2015

It wasn't too long ago that there was a house — two conjoined houses, actually — standing at the top of these stairs. The structures were torn down in 2014 after suffering extensive fire damage.

Day 1335

Back in business

August 26th, 2015

After some 40 years or more, the High Bridge is finally open to the public again. Unfortunately, it's now enclosed by tall, ugly safety fencing running the entire length of the structure.

The bridge was completed in 1848, its stone arches carrying the Croton Aqueduct (located inside it), a desperately needed artery of fresh water and tremendous feat of civil engineering, across the Harlem River into Manhattan in monumental fashion. It became a popular sightseeing destination; well-dressed promenaders would come to stroll along the bridge's pedestrian walkway and take in the sweeping views of the Harlem River Valley.

Starting in the 1960s or '70s, the bridge, no longer used to carry water, was closed to the public. An oft-repeated story is that it was gated off because people had been throwing things from the bridge at ships passing below — and there was at least one well-documented instance of that happening with a Circle Line tour boat in 1958 — but I suspect the city just didn't want to spend the money to maintain and secure an aging, pedestrian-only structure in a poor, high-crime area.

Even during the years it was closed, however, the bridge did continue to serve one small local population: kids from the Bronx who would climb around the gates and cross it to get to the Highbridge Park swimming pool on the other side in Manhattan.

Day 1335

Steel arches over the Harlem

August 26th, 2015

Standing beneath the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, we're looking across the Harlem River into the Bronx. Visible to the left (north) is the Washington Bridge (not to be confused with the nearby George Washington Bridge).

Day 1335

This sculpture by Christina Jorge, much of which is made of potato chip bags, is also part of the Oh Sit! exhibition in Highbridge Park. Its title is a play on Sunday in the Park with George, the musical inspired by Georges Seurat's pointillist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Jorge's potato chip lady is something of a bodega-fied version of the most prominent figure in Seurat's painting, a fashionable female parkgoer sporting a rather voluminous bustle (who also happens to have a pet monkey in tow).

Day 1335

Small horse, tall chair

August 26th, 2015

This intriguing Herb Rosenberg piece, whose not-so-intriguing title — A horse named NSA - Keeping an eye on you — sounds like a description of a bad political cartoon, is part of an exhibition in Highbridge Park called Oh Sit! 14 Sculptors Consider the Chair.

The exhibition consists of the work of — you guessed it — nine sculptors "respond[ing] imaginatively to the notion of sitting or using a chair." (As it turns out, 14 Sculptors is not a tally of participating artists, but the name of the group to which they belong.)

From the Parks Department's website, some more great artspeak: "Oh Sit! is framed as an imperative, a command—a way of asking the viewer to look and really consider the concept 'chair' both objectively and subjectively."