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.
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.
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:
DEDICATED TO THE ETERNAL MEMORY OF THE MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN YIDDISH THEATRICAL PROFESSION WHO WERE MURDERED BY THE NAZIS AND OTHER TYRANTS
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.)
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.
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.
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.