Different Walks For New York States Of Mind

Walk on by | © Lachlan Hardy/Flickr
Walk on by | © Lachlan Hardy/Flickr
Photo of Caroline Ely
9 February 2017

With its wealth of detail, navigable (if insanely busy) streets, subtle surprises, and showy views, New York City is designed for walkers. From peaceful, meandering park pathways to cacophonous walkways between boroughs and over bridges, we profile seven walks that offer immersions in the city’s different moods and landscapes.

The Manhattan Bridge

Bridge, Building
Map View
Manhattan Bridge
Manhattan Bridge | © Phil Dolby/Flickr
While tourists pack the historic and visually-stunning Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge offers a grittier, noisier New York passageway with its own brand of charm. Built in 1901, this pioneering suspension bridge stretches a little over a mile. Alighting on the Brooklyn side will take you into the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown. Chain-link protective fence, steel girders, graffiti, and noisy trains blowing by only feet away make the walk intense, but the stroll offers grandeur, too, with mind-blowing views of the Brooklyn Bridge to the south and big ships cutting through the water directly below. The densely packed Chinatown neighborhood and gems like the gleaming Woolworth Building grow nearer with the approach into Manhattan. The celebrated 1915 marble arch and colonnade at the borough’s entrance ends the walk on a heroic, uplifting note.

East Broadway

Visitors to New York often congregate on Canal Street in search of the Chinatown vibe. A more powerful distillation can be found on East Broadway – a wide street lost-in-time amid mostly hundred year-old stone tenements. Changes have arrived; the looming Forward Building, once home to a Yiddish Marxist newspaper, now houses expensive condominiums. But East Broadway has maintained a rumpled, old-fashioned feel. Barbershops, wedding stores, street vendors, and hidden mini-malls ply trade in Chinese. Beneath the Manhattan Bridge, the New York Supermarket East Broadway turns over an overwhelming array of meat, wriggling live seafood, produce, and goods. The Sung Tak Buddhist Association at East Broadway and Pike Street beckons with an outdoor statue, as worshippers show appreciation by offering fruit, flowers, and stockpiles of cooking oil. Wander down to Doyers Street’s 1920-vintage Nom Wah Tea Parlor, which offers small plates in an attractively worn atmosphere, or stop off at the charmingly raffish 169 Bar.

East Broadway – NYC | © Marcela/Flickr

Brighton Beach Avenue

Revitalized Coney Island and the newly popular Rockaway get most of the New York beach attention, but the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach offers a dense, lively variation on the urban seaside. Strolling east on the boardwalk from Coney Island leads to a row of Russian restaurants directly facing the Atlantic Ocean. With names like Tatiana and Volna, the eateries feature gaudy décor, Russian and international fare, and an amazing people-watching scene. Turning north onto North 6th Street leads to Brighton Beach Avenue. This hopping boulevard, overhung by the elevated F and Q subway lines, teems with sidewalk bakeries, delis, and grocery stores labeled in Cyrillic writing and packed with Russian delicacies. Saint Petersburg Global Trade House, the biggest Russian bookstore outside of Russia, also offers ‘Faberge’ eggs, and kits for painting nesting dolls. One Brighton Beach Avenue attraction that money can’t buy is unpredictability, such as men in Cossack uniforms performing a red-carpet welcoming sword dance at the door of a nightclub for a bride and groom arriving by horse and carriage.

From Brighton beach to Coney island | © Mon Œil/Flickr

Riverside Drive

Memories of New York’s Gilded Age flourish on elegant Riverside Drive – a hilly, winding road bordered by lush Riverside Park and the Hudson River to the west. Exploring this area lets walkers enjoy magnificent residential architecture in an atmosphere of exclusivity and tranquility. A walk here might begin at 107th Street just short of Riverside Drive at the Roerich Museum – a lovely townhouse dedicated to the memory of explorer, statesman and Russian mystic, Nicholas Roerich. The foundation holds Himalayan artifacts and Roerich’s borderline kitschy but inspired paintings. Heading south on Riverside Drive will take visitors past Art Deco skyscrapers and ornate Belle Epoque fancies adorned with faux-Gothic arches, rosettes and heraldry. Notable buildings include the Cliff Dwelling at 96th Street – a 1916 extravagance covered with friezes of bull skulls, spears and Native American motifs – and the Chatsworth at the bottom of Riverside Drive at 72nd Street – a mighty, 1904 Beaux-Arts pile decorated with sculpted stone putti and stags. The ornate Soldier and Sailor’s Monument at 89th Street features river views, two mounted cannons, and an imposing turret commemorating Civil War combatants. Savor the sights in tranquility, because with no bars or shops, Riverside Drive offers peace and quiet.

The old Upper West Side 13: The Chatsworth (detail) | © Bosc d'Anjou/Flickr

East 49th Street

Midtown Manhattan can be a grind, but heading east on 49th Street with a few detours along the way will land you in oases of rest and good energy. A personal peace march could start at Christie’s New York on 49th Street between 6th and 5th Avenue. Open to the public, the famed auction house brims with artwork by big names like Warhol and Basquiat. Collections turn over frequently, so Chinese ceramics or Louis Quinze furnishings might be on display in a hushed, savvy atmosphere. Proceeding east on 49th Street leads to the Instituto Cervantes New York between 2nd and 3rd Avenue; it was once an artist’s enclave, now it’s a landmarked Spanish cultural center. Visitors are welcome to tiptoe into the institute’s hidden courtyard to enjoy the garden, with its seductive greenery framed by ivied walls. Traveling a few blocks north and east to 47th Street will lead you to the Japan Society – a mid-century showcase for Japanese culture and art between 1st and 2nd Avenue. Finally, the Holy Family Catholic Church nearby offers a place to rest and think, with a mini-waterfall, bridge, and quaint 1965 metalwork and statuary.

Grand Central Terminal | © Randy Lemoine/Flickr

Green-Wood Cemetery

Cemetery, Park
Map View
Green-Wood Cemetery
Green-Wood Cemetery | © Marcela / Flickr
What green space is as majestic as Central Park, but less crowded? And quieter – almost eerily quieter? For those open to communing with the departed, Brooklyn’s landmarked Green-Wood Cemetery offers 478 acres of old trees, shady paths, gentle slopes, echoing chapels, and a staggering collection of ancient and modern monuments. The cemetery’s main entrance at Fourth Avenue and 35th Street boasts a stately, three-spired Gothic revival arch from 1864, as swans glide nonchalantly in a nearby pond. Maps can help you find the graves of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, and other ‘permanent residents’, with plenty of stone angels, mausoleums, and weathered gravestones to trigger contemplation along the way. Trolley tours are available for those daunted by the cemetery’s sprawl. The gates close at five, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to make your exit. Beguiling as Green-Wood is, you won’t want to spend the night.

West 22nd Street, Manhattan

What’s the most attractive route to take to the Chelsea gallery district? West 23rd Street may be the area’s main drag, but the stretch of West 22nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenue is one of Manhattan’s prettiest blocks. Lined by trees and handsome brick row houses with metal stoops, it’s a relaxed, gracious byway in an area energized – or overrun, depending on your point of view – by the High Line. Continuing west to the Hudson River you’ll pass Clark Clement Moore Park at Tenth Avenue; a detour south on 10th will lead to the High Line Hotel, refurbished from the landmarked former General Theological Seminary, built over the 1880s. Clark Clement Moore, writer of The Night Before Christmas, once lived on the seminary grounds. Back on 22nd Street, walkers can go under the High Line and enter the pulsing heart of the art world.

High Line Hotel, 180 10th Avenue, New York, NY, USA +1 212 929 3888

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